I can’t believe it! I’ve been living as a resident in France now for a year and a half! Pretty sure I was passing out with an anxiety attack in my French class about this time last year.
Life abroad has been an amazing, inner-strengthening experience. Thinking back, I used to get so incredibly upset over the most uncontrollable of things…as if that would help! Now, crap comes at me left and right as it always does and has, but I’m letting it roll off my back more and resting in trust.
I know there are other expats the world over facing unbelievable difficulties as they adjust (or don’t) to life in another land. And there are those ex-expats who’ve returned home to discover that they’ve changed and no longer seem to fit in. We’re a different breed…expats…with unique concerns and needs. So I want to share the things that have truly helped me in the hopes of helping others like me.
To what to I attribute the shift that took place within me?
It started with a decision. I remember the day. I was doing what bored expats do, watching a Star Trek Voyager episode online, during which the cool-headed Vulcan, Tuvoc, was teaching the character Kess how to focus her attention. Something struck like lightning. In that moment, the knowing that that’s what it all comes down to…the ability to control our focus….became a reality for me. And I decided right then and there that I was going to apply myself toward focusing my attention on the positive, on what I desired, and on my own happiness above all else. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time I’ve come to this decision in my life (I seem to have a short memory!), but something was different this time. Something struck deeper, was understood more intently. It was a “pivot point” that changed the direction my life was going…which was down hill!
As a result of my decision, I turned my attention to meditation on a daily basis. I’ve meditated off and on for years, but now it became a matter of life and death to apply what I’d learned over the years. Taking time every day to stop and empty myself of my fears, worries, judgments, criticisms, and need to control was crucial to changing the way my mind had been wiring itself since moving abroad and the stresses that entailed. I learned to spend hours just sitting, feeling the sun, smelling the grass, enjoying the breeze, watching the sky. Like most people, I had to work through the guilt and idea of “doing nothing”; I knew deep down that I was actually doing something more important than anything else could ever be.
SPACE FOR GROWTH
As a result of my decision to be happy and my dedication to meditation, I started to grow again in ways that felt beautiful. I practiced self-inquiry diligently and began to question my sense of self and the identity I believed myself to be…as well as the identity I believed I lost as a result of moving overseas. This added so much space to my life…space to accept things that previously would have driven me mad. I began to live less in the past, though I had a pretty good handle on that one to begin with, and less in the future, which had always been my weakness, prone to catastrophizing and projecting struggle and negativity into tomorrow. It’s so much easier now to notice when I’m doing that out of mere habit and to bring myself back to the moment…a moment which is a lot more pleasant that my warped imaginings!
Life isn’t perfect. I am and will always be a work in progress, I suppose. But now I can live with that. Meditation has been so powerful and so important to my ability to withstand my expat experience that I’ve decided to reach out to other expats to promote the practice of meditation among us. We are a unique group of people with unique issues…facing isolation, the breaking apart of the known and comfortable, overcoming and often failing to overcome language barriers, going through challenges the likes of which others can’t even imagine. Meditation is a lifeline throughout those experiences.
So, in addition to offering meditation locally, I plan on offering meditations via on Facebook through the International Daze page now renamed Expat Sanctuary. These will be video meditations that you can tune into and watch at your leisure. Please like and follow the page where I will continue to share my writings as well as tools and tips for improving well-being and inner happiness, all with the Expat in mind. Think of it as a place to turn to to retreat from the challenges of living abroad and as a reminder to spend a few minutes every day stopping, emptying and refreshing the body, mind and spirit.
What has been your greatest challenge to peace of mind as an expat and what have you found to help?