Paglalakbay – Journey

Paglalakbay in Tagalog means “journey”. I was invited to write a wellness column for the Manila Mail, an online and quarterly printed paper in the Washington DC area. The name of my column “Paglalakbay” was a word I chose to describe not only the healing practices I use but my inner and outer journey on the path to healing. Here is my introductory article:

In June of 2016, I left with my 7 year old son and drove 2500 miles to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. My mother had died after living with the effects of a stroke for 5 years. I was devastated by this and from a lost pregnancy. My son had been intermittently ill for years with a need for frequent antibiotics. The stress was chronic, seemingly on the outside, with enough turbulence and un-ease that I could no longer center myself in a lasting way. Unfairly to myself, I couldn’t seem to stop the self-blaming thoughts of “How could I possibly be a healer with so much suffering in my family?”

As it turned out, the 2 week journey became 6 weeks, and the 6 weeks became a year. For the first time in his life, as we traveled, my son flourished. He had no illnesses or antibiotics for more than 18 months. Now 3 years later, with over 120 United States National Parks and Monuments visited, he maintains his good health, and we travel the country for 2-3 months at a time while keeping our residence and connections here in the Washington DC area. I have had intermittent bouts of illness and great health, and the learning from this has not only influenced my abilities as a physical therapist, yoga teacher, and healer, but deepened the wisdom and care I have been able to offer when I teach in the Pacific Northwest, Utah, or in the Washington, DC area. 

What was it that brought us “home” and healed us? This question is one of the intentions behind this column “Paglalakbay”: to share our journey of healing and wellness in hopes it will inspire others to heal. The journey for each one of us is constantly evolving. Nothing ever stays the same! We must learn to allow and live into the periods of knowing and not knowing, of expansion and contraction, and of our constant changing connection within, our community, and that which births us all. But how in the world do we do this? What are the constants that can buoy us during turbulent times? Is it just prayer, letting go into something larger? From experience, that is one very vital piece and I believe a core root of our health. However it is up to each one of us to take it one step further into the expression of the sacred which is our bodies and minds. This is my 2nd and equally important intent in this column: To include steps and practices to heal our bodies and minds. 

From my earliest years, my mother trained me to be a healer. And like most healers, the “wounded healer” brought me to healing practices time and time again. When I was a child, after my Lolo died, my mother started to supplement our rosary practice with the practice of yoga. It was a bit unusual, although in the early 70’s in Hawaii I suppose anything “goes”. But even as I grew into adulthood, leaving my yoga and rosary practice, something always brought me back. 

Have you heard the adage, “Suffering is optional, pain is not”?

In my particular case, what brought me back to healing practice was pain and suffering. I was highly driven – still am, distracting myself with projects and activities, even while practicing prayer and successfully helping others. Yet I was fooling myself and keeping my mind in an endless loop – often breathless – of anxious “must get this done”. I was running from pain and as a result, causing great suffering inside and out. Over time, after sitting in quiet with enough trees and beautiful vistas surrounding me, I was able to practice the tools I offer so well to my son, to my physical therapy patients, and wellness/yoga clients: tools such as breathing techniques, prayer practices, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga in nature. I became more aware of my Filippino-American culture and its impact on my psyche and health. I became aware of how much time and energy I put into disappearing in the background so as not to offend, fueled in part by racism in my early childhood in Virginia. That awareness helped to bring pieces of me together into greater wholeness, of deepening understanding and connection that helped to reverse symptoms of heart disease. My son also “came back” and he healed significantly.  

I hope to have you on this journey with me and hope that you will benefit from what I share! In my next article I will address specific steps and techniques to bring about greater calm, awareness, and healing. For more information about my classes and to connect with me, you can reach me at info@ritanaomi.com or at ritanaomi.com . 

Here is to our journey together! Blessings to all…

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