Facing Inner Tigers, Authentic Courage, & the Life of Pi

Yesterday, I was compelled to go see the movie Life of Pi. I decided that it is a film  I need to see by myself, as I'm currently on the  path of self-discovery that requires that I do some meaningful things on my own.

And so...

There I was in the dark watching the Life of Pi -- A boy loses his entire family in a shipwreck and he is left alone with nothing but a lifeboat,  zebra,  hyena, gorilla and lion. It is a long story as to how a  wide-eyed Indian teenager found himself in such a precarious situation. Understanding requires that you go see the film.  Please do...

The movie pushes you into the uncomfortable space called "alone-ness." On the sea, with no land in one to talk to...thoughts of the past, terrifying present, and uncertain future drumming through your head. You can't pull out your iPhone...turn on your car radio...or invite a friend over to save your soul. only have your thoughts and the expansive world around you.

The character named Pi has  a choice. He can either be swept away into oblivion as result of his fears - the pains of losing his family - or find meaning in it all. Finding meaning requires that he has unyielding courage - owns a thing called purpose - and clings to a concept named faith.

Courage. Purpose. Faith.

It is easy to get all whacked out in the modern world when someone throws out the word faith. It implies for many that one is willing to believe in fairy tales or is tied to religious dogma that binds humanity. Early on the the film, Pi's father argues against the idea of faith and urges his son to rely on science.  Regardless, Pi is forced to survive on the endless sea and finds himself with no choice but to leave his fate to the elements. A highly spiritual boy, at one point in the movie he throws his hands towards the sky and cries out to God..."what do you want from me!!! I submit everything I have to you. I have nothing else to give." He sobs. The ocean that surrounds him is vast. Still no land in sight. Silence.

I've found myself in that space in time a handful of times. When I was told that my father had died unexpectedly when I was 10, I cried out hysterically. When I lost one of my dearest friends in a car accident, panic raced through my limbs as i realized I'd never talk to her again. And recently, ending love for the sake of differing journeys has led me to feel as though I am on the lifeboat -- asking the universe "why?"

I've really tried over the past few weeks to face my pains and fears head-on. When feeling the urge to turn on the radio to drown out an intense feeling that rages through my mind and body, I've worked to resist the impulse and dared myself to feel it...and then let it pass. Or when asked by a friend if I wouldn't like to go on a date to replace what I've lost instantly, I've said no. Another friend told me jokingly...just start drinking and time will pass in a blink of an eye. I knew he was being sarcastic...but it really is no joke...I know many people who have taken that approach to loss and one day awoken to the fact that they still had to face their loss/pain.

My mission is to arise from challenge authentically. I don't want to bury my pain or fill my void with something out of desperation. I seek something new -- to set out on a journey in which I can arrive in a new land -- a truly bold and courageous individual.

In order for Pi to survive, he had to do two things: (1) Face himself. Know himself. Be himself and (2) Face the tiger that has survived the shipwreck with him (once again to understand why there is a real life tiger that survived the wreck with him...go see the movie). The Bengal tiger that survived was quite vicious, but he relied on Pi to feed and care for him. Pi at one point decided that he would need to kill the tiger if he were to survive (for the tiger had already eaten all of the other animals on board), but as a Hindu with a love for all living creatures couldn't do it. And so...he seeks to tame the tiger.

He realized that in taming the tiger -- in taming the mind -- in saying no to fear -- survival could be attained. Killing the tiger would be a cop-out -- for after killing the beast there would undoubtedly be another challenge that arose.  In taming the tiger, he could have a fearless companion with which to survive. Pi now had a purpose that extended beyond himself. He was determined to save two souls -- his own...and the tiger.

Without a doubt, our minds have raging tigers within them. Tigers that if left untamed will consume us and negatively impact those we love. The greatest minds throughout history have revealed that the only way we can tame the tiger is to find silence - get acquainted with our pains - and make friends with them.  Forgive. We tell ourselves some wild stories and we think by telling them, we will find true freedom. For example...mine used to equal..."My dad died when I was 10, this is why I am vulnerable and fearful." I am not sure how many times I have told that story...thinking that it would free me from something...but it imprisoned me.

I know now that it takes much more than that. I must be still and face the tigers that rage within my soul. I can focus on the 10-year-old I was when my dad died in my mind's eye...and wrap her up in a warm embrace. I can tell that child about courage...purpose...and faith. The wounds then can heal for real. My new story then can be transformed into what I am doing in the present...and how the courage I have gained by weathering my very own shipwreck is empowering me to undertake an authentic journey. One that will unfold in beauty and love.

What stories are holding you back? I promise that when you get down to the root of your challenges and feel the rawness of your truth, you will survive. It isn't as scary as it seems...

"Life is an act of letting go." - Pi - From the movie Life of Pi

- Post by Jen Engevik


Acceptance, Reality... and a Bittersweet November

November will forever have a different meaning to me. It has become a month (as of this year) that has forced me to face really experience (like the first time again) what it feels like to be alone. Not that I don't have family members and friends...but to not have a partner in which I can confide -- share my deepest fears, sorrows and triumphs.

Such a loss makes me think deeply about what I am made of. Sometimes what I find is very hard to stomach and other times I discover this bold creature who thinks she can take on the world.

I know I will live through this November -- and if God willing there will be another November in 2013 -- and a handful more to experience.

The process of healing from loss doesn't come with a guidebook or a manual. I am learning it is about putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on. It's about one day waking with dread that can only be washed away when you weep as the sun rises in the East. And another day finding yourself able to rise in peace - go the whole day without a tear - and when the sun sets in the West find your shoulders shaking as you bawl for what you have lost.

On Monday I was lucky enough to return to Marianne Williamson's lecture. She spoke a bit about the feelings that come along with losing someone that we love. She spoke of how powerful the union of two human beings is -- how a partner occupies the most sacred part of who we are. And when that is gone, the void usually inspires deep sadness, and even panic. Yet, she reminded the audience one must not forget that all over this planet are people in pain. Healing can be advanced by realizing the power of empathy and reaching out to others.

Williamson challenged the audience to recognize the "Big Game" from the "Small Game." She then defined the Big Game as a life dedicated to the service of others - of using our talents to provide love and goodness to others. The Small Game on the other hand is buying into limitation - to our pains - endlessly thinking of our past choices and the people who have "caused" our inability to move forward.

There are a few things I am sure of:

- I can and will pull through. You can too if faced with loss, I know ;-)

- We can choose to see the bigger game...or be a victim of the smaller one

- The future is unknown...the moment contains all the power we need

While I know that I will be okay, it still doesn't take away the fact that my November is a painful one. Still, everyday I must wake knowing that I may weep...that my body and mind may be weary...that I may miss the one I have loved for days, months, and maybe years to come. And that is okay -- for true love is eternal.

May we not turn love into hate for the sake of self preservation.

"Accept your situation," I was told by a friend. Accepting is painful...reality can be a bitch...but it is the only way to "new places cookin'" as my first yoga teacher continues to say to this day.

Make it a beautiful weekend -- oh you weary at heart...and fulfilled folks all the same.


Jen Engevik

The Truth About Love, Pain and Miracles

I was lucky enough to listen to author/lecturer Marianne Williamson on Monday in Los Angeles. Having never attended one of her lectures, I didn't know exactly what to expect.

My reason for going was that I had recently read a couple of her books and wanted to hear her firsthand. Also, I have  been going through my own personal challenges and needed some inspiration.

Marianne entered the building from the lobby, not a posh greenroom that is removed from those who came to hear her speak. I was instantly impressed by this, as she revealed her willingness to connect with others and not hold herself as superior. Being that the evening was a day before the 2012 election, she spoke on the history of the United States and why it has long been a place of opportunity. Marianne also shared the importance of standing up for what is right and taking action when needed. And if for any reason that there is an injustice committed by the government, we should get out in the streets and make our voices heard.

Following her inspiring speech, she allowed for members of the audience to ask questions. During this period, she stepped down from the stage and stood near whomever was asking the question at a given moment. Seeking to connect with those she took questions from, she looked them in the eye and listened so very carefully. For me, the exercise was a demonstration as to how I should listen to others and offer support.

I am wired to feel everything around me...and everything within me. While many people can divorce themselves from their feelings, I have been given a heart that bleeds. For years I have tried to learn to toughen it, but I was told by a very wise woman named Elli the other day that my heart is what makes me who I am. "You don't need to be tough Jen," she said. "You need to be strong. There is a big difference between being tough and being strong."

And so it goes...after being in the presence of Marianne Williamson and listening to her speak, I realize that it is OK to allow for my heart to lead me. She teaches there are two main elements in this world: love and fear. In the end, love is truth...and fear is an illusion. Fear encompasses all of the lies that we tell ourselves about the world in which we live. This is why children are so very amazing. They have the ability to live see the world in all its glory and pour themselves into the moment.

I feared loss recently and that's what I received on so many levels. But, I have learned over the past couple of months that boldness for me is standing firm and offering the best of me that I can give...regardless of whether or not I get the same in return. And out of my willingness to give, there will arise a beautiful future.

Marianne suggested that we ask ourselves the following questions:

(1) Who am I?

(2) Where should I go?

(3) What should I do?

When I apply these questions to myself, my initial (lazy) response is, "I have no clue." But in all reality, my answers are...I am Jennifer Engevik...I have a bleeding heart...and my heart allows for me to write and to connect with others in a special way. I should go where ever my path leads me...where ever it unfolds so that I can do what I'm meant to do...see the things I'm meant to see.  I'm thinking I am meant to share all sorts of thoughts and not try to bury my bleeding heart. Rather, I need to be true to love...the ultimate truth. And through that love, I will become strong and help others to do the same.

Toward the end of the evening, I asked Marianne a question about soul mates. I had long craved a soul mate and thought I had finally met mine...and so I asked her how I let go of this being I have loved so deeply. She looked at me and said, "you need a miracle Jen."

Last evening, I went to bed a wreck after learning that one of my USC classmates had died unexpectedly of a seizure. I had seen him just a few months ago and he gleamed when he spoke of his wife.

On his Facebook page, yesterday his wife of less than a year wrote the following words:"Joel and I had the absolute fun time together and it was simple and easy. I had never met anyone just like me. I had never believed in soul mates until Joel and I met. From the day we met, we were never apart. I am completely and utterly lost without him. Thank you to my best friends for feeding me when I could not and refused to eat and trying to hydrate me. There are only a few times in one's life when you find a true best friend and someone you want to share your life with. Love your friends and significant others. Life is precious and short."

For nearly four hours last night I wept for her, for me, for anyone who has ever lost someone they adore.

In my rawness and pain, I am seeking boldness to carry me forward. Marianne suggested that I need a miracle...and after learning of Joel, I realize that the miracle for now is that I am alive writing at this very moment. This miracle will then turn into another...which will turn into another.

May I and everyone else that I know...and don't know...dare not to bury our pains  and our hearts. Facing pain hurts like hell...but when we dare to stare it in the eyes...our tearful sobs make us ready for what is to come and who we are meant become.

- Jen Engevik

Kindness and Bold Living

Auntie Arlene with Grandson Casey in 86'

Yesterday, September 5, 2010 and the day prior, I stood beside the bed of my Auntie Arlene. My father's sister, now nearly 82-years-old, has been one of the strongest and boldest individuals I have ever known. As a college school nurse, she would share her excitement for achieving goals with students and tell them they would indeed become something if they stuck to hard work and found within themselves a glimmer of self respect. They listened and several times returned for confidence building sessions with the spy grandmother of 7.

Following the death of my father when I was 10-years-old, she was there for my family. While her heart broke at the loss of her little brother (10 years younger than she), she stood strong and took us into her house until we were ready to re-visit our real lives...which all of the sudden didn't include my father. And in his place, she'd come watch me play baseball...hoot and holler my team to victory.

Auntie Arlene is now feeble and frail. The truth is that I have a hard time accepting she may not be long for this world. For the past two days, I spent time with her. Stroking her gray hair, rubbing her shoulders, singing songs and crying a bit with her. Over and over again, she shared  her love for me and that I must never forget. And then sometimes, she'd fade off into a place I wasn't to be a part of -- some place that I fear -- a place that she both welcomes and fears. She spoke about her father and how he's there, about her brothers who are there...I just listened to her talk of this place. Is it heaven? Is there a heaven? Is there another dimension that she has been given some sort of access to?

Today, I am back to making a living -- to trying to "keep my eye on the ball" and I find it a challenge. For when faced with the loss of someone you adore...things just don't quite stack up as you once thought they should. I'm reminded of the soul, the journey of life -- and no matter how hard I work or how bold I attempt to be...I will one day find my candle about to burn out...and people wishing me well on a journey that they can't be a part of.

And right now, all I am left with is a desire to be kind -- to be kind to those I love -- to be kind to myself -- to be kind to this thing called life. Being kind to life means that I don't take one second for granted...that I let go of past pains, of irritations, of fear of failure, of fear of success, of fear of loss, off fear of gaining -- kindness comes in many shapes and forms --  kindness to body, kindness to spirit, kindness to fate, kindness to beings, kindness to aspirations, kindness to limitations.

I came across a poem yesterday that struck me to the core. It speaks to my soul because there are times that I just feel that I've lost so much...and I know that I will lose more...and yet with loss of all types...there comes bittersweet gifts such as realizing that kindness is one of they major keys to boldness...

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

-Post by Jennifer Engevik of Project BE Bold

Make it a Bold Day!!!