November 18th was one of the most dazzling and rapturous days of my life, and it's a good example of how I function.
It started out in a usual way. I was editing a film with my work partner, checking emails, drinking more coffee than I should. Then this email popped up in my box. The header said, "blurb" and it was from an entrancing storyteller and visionary activist named James O'Dea who I just met at a leadership conference in Long Beach California.
I gasped and my pulse quickened because I knew what I was about to see would probably make me squeak like a schoolgirl. I clicked, and the following appeared on my screen:
Butterfly on the Road gives us an authentic taste of what it is like to step into your power, and live the great adventure of spirituality and service." (James O'Dea, visionary activist, author and former president of IONS and Director of the Washington Office of Amnesty International www.jamesodea.com)
I hate to admit it, but yes, I squeaked like I thought I would. It's a little embarrassing, but I get so excited sometimes. My heart and being exploded with gratitude because James endorsed my book, Butterfly On The Road. Some of you may know about it. If not, you can learn about it here.
I asked James to endorse my book when I met him in California. What blew me away is that I didn't even have to send him an email reminder to get this quote. I was actually planning to email him on that day, but he emailed me before I could email him. When fishing for endorsements in the past, it hasn't always been this rapid or easy.
I am very excited about O'Dea's work, and it's an honor to have his support. When I heard him speak I couldn't stop myself from crying tears of joy. I've been looking for a new way to be an activist, and I felt like he eloquently externalized the questions and thoughts on spiritual activism that have been brewing within me for the past three years.
As with anything exciting, especially when it comes to the progress of my book, I knew I had to call my mom right away. She's my biggest fan and she loves to get updates. The night before, Chris Guillebeau who wrote The Art of Non-conformity also endorsed my book so I had plenty to share.
What's interesting is that James O'Dea was born in Ireland and just about anything or anyone associated with Ireland makes my mom happy because my family is 110% Irish and proud of it.
I called mom, shared the news, and she pointed out the auspicious timing of it all. Yes, she was thrilled about the whole Irish connection, and she reminded me that this day was also my grandpa's birthday. My grandpa is long gone from the plane of human existence, but he's definitely as Irish as it gets.
Before this phone call, I had planned to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the afternoon. After the phone call, my intuition said, "Go to the American Museum of Natural History instead. Your grandpa has a sign for you there". Ok, I know it sounds crazy, but with stories like these, you can't complain that you're bored.
It also made sense to go to the Museum of Natural History because I wanted to celebrate the life of my grandfather. He took me there as a child to see the dinosaur bones. That place holds some of my fondest memories of him.
I didn't know what waited for me at the museum, but I knew I had to go. I ran through the chilly New York City streets in winded anticipation. I whizzed past hundreds of intrepid New Yorkers on the sidewalks, all while taking in the smells of car exhaust, roasting chestnuts and street cart hot dogs along the way. As I stormed the entrance to the museum, I saw my sign. It was a big beautiful butterfly on a large 5x7 banner. It was a sign for the live butterfly exhibit that is currently at the museum (if you're in NYC, check it out!).
That was it, the butterfly! It was the butterfly of my book, but it was more than that. The butterfly is the symbol of my life. I always see its appearance as a confirmation that I'm on my path.
This whole butterfly thing started when I was 21. My teacher Kali Baba, a well-known shaman in the Kathmandu Valley, named me Butterfly in Nepali. He named me this because I could never stay in one place for too long and because I've always been on a path that looks so random and nonlinear. Baba and I both know that even though my journey looks so sporadic at times, I know exactly what I'm doing. It's not chaos in my mind, and I believe it's the same way for the butterfly. The butterfly knows where it's going.
I bought a ticket to the butterfly exhibit, which was a heated greenhouse where there were hundreds of them, all in butter-flight. Most of them had big floppy wings, and looked so graceful when they weren't crashing into me. One butterfly just sat on my head for what seemed like a minute. I even saw two of them mating. It was such an emotional experience for me. I could barely hold back the tears, and my grandpa's presence was real in that moment. He was there with me once again.
After the butterfly exhibit I explored the rest of the museum. I went to all the places where I remembered going with my grandpa. I saw the dinosaur bones, the stuffed animals, the exhibits of ancient people and even the famous Easter Island head.
Then I got to the Asian wing. That was a trip. As I wandered around in awe, I realized that I have been to most of the countries in the displays--from Afghanistan, to India, to Thailand and many places in between. At the head of the wing, I saw an old Shiva statue. The second I saw it, I knew why it was there. One of my spiritual teachers named Rudy donated it to the museum long before I was born. I know this story, because one of his students shared it with me years ago. There was only one Shiva statue there, so I knew this was the one. A day later, I called that friend to confirm, and she said I was right.
Aforementioned Shiva statue, shot with my iPhone
AMAZING! My world is so big, yet so tiny. It used to be that I would go somewhere in the world, and run into a friend or a friend of a friend without even trying. That became a guarantee for me after a certain amount of travel. Now this weird thing that happens to me has expanded to objects. I went to a very famous museum and instantly identified a statue and the person who donated it years ago. Bizarre...
My most cathartic realization is that when I visited the museum as a child, my grandpa wasn't just showing me relics of the past. He was showing me my future. He showed me the foreign lands that I would visit, so far away from New York City. In a way, he even showed me my spiritual teacher Rudy because I know for a fact that the Shiva statue was there when I visited as a child.
This was a full life circle for me, and just one glimpse of the many miracles that I've experienced during my month-long visit here in NY. I'm deeply grateful that I can be here now. I'm just about to dive into my 30's and it's the most auspicious timing for me to have this kind of life review.
What I wonder now is if my grandpa showed me more of my future during this recent trip to the museum. Were the butterflies a symbol of what is yet to come? I guess I'll only know in good time.