Away for the holiday! Season’s greetings from a far away place…

Dear Family and Friends,

If you are reading this it’s most probably because you’ve emailed me to be in touch during the holiday season. As I’m so far from home, it’s always a nice feeling around Christmas and New Years to hear from people I don’t see let alone speak to for most of the year. So for this, I thank you for your message. Know that even though I won’t be able to read it for a few weeks, I can feel your love and warm wishes for the new year.

This year, I’ve decided to head to Barcelona for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’ll be traveling alone to enjoy the buzz of a new city around the holidays. One may think it’s a bit sad to be alone during this time of year – and that may well end up being the case – already being so far away from family and friends is a challenge, let alone at the holidays, when I’ve spent 25 of my 27 years in New York around a fireplace drinking egg nog and basking in the comfort of doing the same thing year after year. There is something so divine in repetition, isn’t there? Such traditions are truly very special and a big part of me misses profoundly the warmth and familiarity that comes with the holidays. Yet, as my mother has repeated to me often in varying contexts throughout my life, especially during my adolescent years, I’ve never been one to follow convention. This statement has been said both positively where I think she’s pointed to my propensity to create my own paths, instead of choosing the easy road, and also negatively, where I’ve sometimes gotten myself stuck in the trenches of life having tried to pave my own way but ended up, for lack of a better term, in deep shit or muddled in defeat from what was probably a losing battle from the start.

That being said, this year, following two days in beautiful Barcelona, I’ll head to a small Spanish town called Santa Maria de Palautoredera for a Vipassana meditation retreat where I will be for 10 days. Vipassana in Sanskrit means “clear seeing” or “insight” and is a meditation technique that leads one on a path towards mindfulness through firstly focusing on the breath. As a seated meditation tradition, once the breath practice has begun, a natural awareness of the body and mind quickly follow, and one is set on the task of confronting the discomfort of what can be perceived as physical pain and mental turmoil.  Sounds fun, right? The end result, they say, can be a complete clarity of mind where the experience one endures leads to a face to face confrontation with the inner self, that chattering voice that haunts us as it perpetuates our deepest fears and anxieties. The principle of Vipassana lies in the belief that in facing such inner demons, one can also be set free from them, liberated from the perception of how one always assumed the world to be, how one has conjured, through years of life experience, the self to be. It is towards an emancipation from this inner struggle that Vipassana can teach one to let go and learn to “see” the world a bit clearer, for what it actually is.

While there are a million other things I could be doing this winter break, including visiting friends in other parts of Europe or traveling back to NY for a bit, or even just staying put in Florence, I truly believe there is no time better than now for me to work on deepening my understanding of my inner being; of facing the deep rooted pains of the past as well as attempt to settle and clarify my mind in this present moment.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Cancer, born in July, a summer baby who is so sensitive towards the universe that when I close my eyes during a full moon, I can almost feel myself swaying with the tides, or because I am a middle child between two brothers and always felt that I had to perform or do something extreme in order to confirm my place in the family structure, or maybe it’s just my competitive nature that wants to prove to myself that ‘I can do it!!’ – for whatever reason, I am so grateful for this opportunity. To get away, shut down, take a break from talking, from listening, no cell phone or computer allowed, not even books or journals permitted. Rather, to encompass for the first time in my life the mysticism of being in complete silence, breathing, sitting and yes, confronting and suffering the voices that are so deep within, are what my body, mind and soul are calling me to explore.

With that, I thank you again for your love and for thinking of me. I am so lucky for my family and friends, for my life and for having you in it. I will surely be in touch when I am back to “civilization” and will be happy to share with you whatever I learn during my time away from the hustle and bustle that is everyday life. I’m sure after 10 days of silence, I’ll have a lot to say!!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Love,

Lauren

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About Lauren Raffaela

Ciao ragazzi, mi chiamo Lauren. I am writing from Florence, Italy where I am in school for a Masters in Museum Studies. When not in school I spend my days strolling the streets, trying to look like a local. I love to people watch, go jogging before the city is awake, have small talk with old ladies and am constantly stopping to read menus in restaurant and cafe windows just to see what they're up to. My favorite gelato flavor is noccioloso and I try to control my intake to one (or two...) a week. My blog focuses on my adventures and discoveries - both about this beautiful city (and country) and about myself. If you would like to touch base or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment on my posts and I'll be sure to get in touch. Grazie and ciao!
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