Monday, July 22, 2013

Mango Madness

Upon arrival to Vieques Island for my house sitting assignment, the homeowner offered the other new house sitter and I a tour of his garden. It was beautiful to see the trees we were to care for and to know they would be providing us with mango, papaya, bananas, pomegranate, and starfruit to enjoy.

Starfruit in the garden.

We were lucky enough to be able to harvest some mango as well as bananas before the homeowner's departure - as you always want to pick fruit here before it is fully ripe so that you be able to enjoy them - and not attract rodents into the garden. It was wonderful to make delicious banana smoothies and enjoy some dehydrated as a special treat.

What I particularly was loving was the mango from our garden. It was amazing and juicy! Not like any other mango I have ever tasted!! They were so delicious, I was having one regularly for breakfast and often a second one later in the day and was fully appreciating their immense flavor. I had developed a habit of sucking every last drop of tasty juice from the inside of the skin as well as off of the seed inside as I didn't want any of that juicy goodness to go to waste.

A delicious mango smoothie with fresh sunflower sprouts.

I was taught how to cut and peel a mango...which is very easy. What I wasn't told was how to eat a mango...

Is there really a wrong way to eat a mango? YES! :)

Sucking every last drop of tantalizing juice from the skin and the seed inside of the fruit is not the smartest what we were told as children of not allowing anything to go to waste - is not a statement that applies to the mango.

So to make the story a little more interesting, I had jumped right into the thought frame upon my arrival - 'how can I be a contribution?' :) I was seeking out things that interested me like working with kids and found this wonderful program through Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust called MANTA.

It was exciting when the organizer of the Trust called me back and asked if I could make it to the Trust by 11 AM. I looked at the clock and thought, 'Yes - definitely'. It was fun to have my first volunteer assignment on the island.

The Trust invited me to share in 'Tree Day' with the young children of Vieques visiting the 400 year old Ceiba Tree (Tree of Life) and the mangrove trees. They also allowed me the opportunity to help with a group from the Windom Spanish Immersion School in Minneapolis, MN for a day trip where we would provide snorkeling, sailing, pedal boating activities for the students, parents, and chaperones. Being from Wisconsin it felt like being with neighbors and was a wonderfully enriching experience helping many kids and parents snorkel, often for their first time. (I will write more about these experiences later and other magical synchronicities.)

400 Year Old Ceiba Tree on Vieques Island.
During this activity I was noticing the feeling of a cold sore coming up on my lip - which looking back would have been a welcome event. I went home and tried everything to get it to calm down. Instead the most horrendous outbreak ensued beginning around my mouth and spreading to my nose and chin. It became alarming when a numbness began to occur in my lips and tongue - almost as if I had been given Novocaine by the dentist. It was awful. Then the rash spread to my chest, arms, back, and finally my legs.

It was a two week allergic event that was extremely painful and I did not want to leave the house. The only place that could offer me any solace was being in the ocean - snorkeling and sharing in the beauty of the fish and the reef in the warm salt water.  It provided my heart relaxation and body comfort. This time also offered me an opportunity to consider many things - like how could something that is so good create such an incredible reaction - and how can this event be a contribution to me? Finding the silver lining has always been one of my strong points.

It took about four days of the inflammation and rash for me to really begin trying to figure out, what the heck is this reaction being caused by? I had stopped on my way back in from snorkeling to visit with the other house sitter and mentioned that I wished to figure out what was going on with my skin. Ted asked me 'what are you allergic to?' I said the only thing I am allergic to is cashews.

He mentioned a recollection of a conversation with a local on Vieques who could not go near a mango tree due to a severe allergy - and did I know mango is in the poison ivy family? If there was ever a light bulb moment, this was it! Big blazing 1000 watt light bulb! You have to love those great - aha - moments. :) Cashews are in the poison ivy family! An earlier conversation with my sister, Toni, regarding my cashew allergy - she shared this fact with me about this relationship to poison ivy and cashews containing urushiol.

From that moment I began researching, and discovered a condition non-affectionately termed 'mango mouth'. I looked at google images. Researched the mango correlation to poison ivy and found that the urushiol is found in the skin and seed of the mango. Urushiol is a natural protection for the tree that helps to keep insects away from the fruit. Fresh mango generally has a higher content of urushiol in the skin than mango found in grocery stores on the mainland as the storage time helps the urushiol to dissipate some. It was likely that my reaction was worse because of the correlation of already being allergic to cashews and because I was attempting to savor every last drop of juiciness out of that skin.

For the next week and a half I tried to do everything in my power to calm the symptoms. I researched making compresses and tinctures. I made a poultice from fresh arnica one evening - it was as though there was a memory releasing from a very distant time. It was a moment of feeling a love for the Earth, for having fresh arnica in the garden and for the blessing of this herb to provide comfort at a time of great need. The doTerra melaleuca and lavender oils mixed in a coconut oil base were also very helpful as they provided instant relief for hours that I could continuously count on. The rash finally ran it's course and with some valuable lessons learned.

Being a contribution to others has always been a part of the legacy I wish to create - to make the world a better place. This time though also had me contemplating my own needs and how to best be a contribution to my own well being. It gave me some time to look at my life at what I need to and want to change. To live from a place of survival has been my history...treading water. It is time to honor the magic that is available in knowing that all things are possible and to create a life that is thriving. I made a declaration to me during this time to find a way to be a contribution to others that will also contribute to me in all necessary areas of living life to it's fullest. I can't think of a more fulfilling way to be and to live life.

A good mango is delicious and should be well respected. Watch this video from on how to cut a mango. It is best to allow the fruit closest to the skin and around the seed to be discarded. Not everyone has a reaction to urushiol - but being cautious and aware when eating fresh mango is advisable - especially if you have past experience with reacting around poison ivy or have a cashew allergy.

Some say that I may still be able to eat mango taking these precautions, which may be a possibility. I now have homeopathics on hand in case of a future reaction, though it may be a while before the temptation lures me into another round of 'mango madness'.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

No Matter What, Everything Is All 'Right'

What an amazing day it has been exploring a few new places that I had not yet discovered on Vieques Island. It ended with one of those moments that offered an opportunity to re-frame and choose another perspective, that turned out to be completely magical.

The vehicle assigned to Ted, the second caretaker who occupies the other floor of the property that we are caring for, has been having some mechanical issues. Since we needed to drop off the vehicle at the mechanic shop, I accepted the invitation to stop at Mosquito Pier to see the location that many go to for local fishing and snorkeling, as well as to Fortin Conde de Mirasol - the last Spanish fort built in the Americas, which is now a museum and only about three minutes drive from the house.

I got out of the vehicle near the pier, which is at the end of a mile long roadway. It is always fun for me to analyze the symbolism in the environment. On one side there were hundreds of rock stacks, which at a glance resembled people standing guard on the windy side of the pier where the waves were crashing. Definitely a very masculine setting and went very well with the 'no entry beyond this point' sign that leads to the actual pier.  The only way to explore beyond this point is to get in the water, which is always my preference anyway. :) But this will wait for another day.

On the other side, the sun was creating a shimmer against the surface of the still water with pretty purple flowers growing along the shoreline. Here we have the feminine. The pier is a great example of balancing the energies of yin and yang.

We jump back in the car rather quickly as we have a schedule to keep. There are kitties that are going to be wanting to be fed soon and Esmerelda gets quite feisty with her little growl when she is hungry. :)

Our other stop is El Fortin Conde de Mirasol, 'the Fort'. Driving up the hill my attention is drawn to a beautiful Flamboyant Tree. These trees are very appropriately named as they have vibrant colors that are stunning and immediately catches one's eye. Jumping out of the car we each go off exploring and to take notice of the ocean and city view of Isabel Segunda below. We head quickly back toward the car and I ask Ted if he would take a picture of me under the tree. "Of course", he said - and I also return the favor and take a quick shot of him before we head back to the house.

That evening before turning in for the night, I was searching for my purse. After retracing my steps three times I came to the conclusion that I must have left it in the car. I decided to wait and check on it in the morning and trust it would be safe locked in the car.

It had been about fifteen minutes that I had been laying down and all of a sudden, I sat straight up in bed and had one of those - "oh shit!" moments. I remembered taking my purse off and setting it in the grass by the Flamboyant Tree while my picture was being taken. My mind was so focused on the beauty of this tree that I had forgotten to pick it back up!!

Oh, my mind began to race as I thought about how my original driver's license was in there. Which Richie, the homeowner, had told me to photo copy and put scotch tape on to carry with me and to leave my original at the house. Had I listened? 'No!' My house, car, post office, and other property keys were all in my purse. The immediate reaction was to think, 'Jacqueline, how stupid!' 'How spiritual of a response is that I thought?' 'That isn't very magical or helpful thinking!'

I started to think about how we were at the Fort near closing time. There was a fence with a locked gate. Many people probably would not have ventured over by the tree. It was likely safe and I thought of it as being protected. In the next moment in my mind, I thought, 'At least it isn't raining'. In that instant a downpour began! :) How is that for timing!! My heart told me, 'Have faith and trust that everything is unfolding as it is suppose to'. 'Don't judge the experience.' I drifted off to sleep - my mind settled that everything was all 'right' - no matter what the outcome is.

Upon waking to feed the kitties at 5:30 am, I jumped on the computer to check the hours of operation at my new favorite stop, 'the Fort'. The website I looked at said they are open from 8 am - 4:30 pm. I got myself all ready to start the day and grabbed my emergency spare set of keys and headed up to the Fort, so I would get there when the gate opened.

I looked at the sign on the entrance gate, which informed me they didn't open until 8:30. So much for the information age and being early. :) I decide to run down to the store to pick up a few items and head quickly back up to the Fort to be first in line again for when the gates really open!

Sitting out in my car, I am once again waiting. Dang it is hot out! The sun is beating in the car window. I have to roll down the windows to get some air and a flurry of mosquitoes begin to attack me. I have a love for all things living...but mosquitoes, do they really have a purpose beyond being bat food?

Looking at my cell phone, it is now 8:45. The gates aren't open. A couple drive up in hopes of checking out the fort, wait a few minutes and drive off. I look up at the Fort and can see a security guard. 'Why is he not opening this gate my mind begins to ponder?'

I am swatting at the many mosquitoes who are continuing to invade my space. My mind starts to wander as I wonder, 'What am I missing?' 'What is it you want me to see?' There must be something magical that is around me that I am not noticing, so I get out of the car to begin looking at my surroundings. A man rides up on a horse. He finds a way into the Fort and I can hear him chastise the security guard. Why aren't you opening the gate? I smile and internally am thanking him as he rides off in another direction. The security guard remains up at the fort declining to walk down to open the gate.

A couple of wild horses walk by me and they are sweet. A momma and her colt. Around me are some wildflowers as I stroll up the lane by the Seagate Hotel where a couple ride out on horseback. I snap a few photos to distract me from the itching that my body is enduring from the continuous biting.

It is now 9:10 am. A car pulls up and a gentleman jumps out to open the gate. I am immensely thankful and quickly climb into my vehicle to drive up the hill to discover the fate of my purse. As I pulled up the steep incline and looked to my left where the tree is located, the most amazing and magical scene is before me, as if it were painted by the hand of God.

These two gorgeous wild horses were standing within two feet of where I had left my purse! My faithful and beautifully wild friends laid down under the tree and let me get very close to them. Because of past experiences that haven't been very positive with horses, I refrained from trying to pet them as I wasn't certain how they may react...but there was an outpouring of love as I sat down a couple of feet from them for about 20 minutes and connected to the heart of the female.

Tears were streaming down her face and I began to wonder about her history and all of the wild horses that I see roaming the highways and beaches, and wishing my dear friend Amelia Kinkade were with me in this moment to offer her insight and animal communication skills.

The wisdom from my heart had this to share - 'The magic that is present is here for every one of us, whenever we choose to open our hearts and our minds to the experiences that life brings to us'. Thoughtless accident? I prefer to think of it as Divine Design.

What different perspectives are available when things seem to not be going our way? Can we ask the Universe to show us the magic in these experiences? Can we open our hearts and faithfully trust that all is working out in Divine order? Will we grow impatient that the Universe is not matching our scheduled timetables? Will we be so focused on what is 'wrong' that we will completely miss the 'rightness' of the moment? Will our lives be dictated by what we should have, would have, or could have done? Will we live our life to it's fullest capacity for being and bringing joy? Will we be open to receiving what beauty and gifts the Universe has in store for us? What will you choose?

Yes, these faithful friends were watching my purse for me. It was exactly where I had left it and had not been touched by the rain storm the night before. "What else is possible?" And, "How does it get any better than this?" I couldn't have planned a more beautiful and magical moment to experience...and it all happened by sure faith and trust that everything occurs for a reason and staying present with my heart.

Remember, 'no matter what - everything is all 'right''.

Thank you for sharing this blog with others who you feel may enjoy it.

*** Copyright by Jacqueline Bambenek, Vibrational Energy Solutions ***

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Journey Of My Heart...

Laguna Beach, CA - May 2013

The journey of my heart has led me to many destinations over the years. With a deep yearning for greater purpose and to learn to live in the stillness no matter the storm, I have opened my heart to receiving the many lessons that this time has offered. 

In 2009, I left my home in Wisconsin, to go on a spiritual pilgrimage that led me to Sedona, AZ, Ashland, OR, and Mount Shasta, CA. I was thankful that my brother Roger was able to join me as he offered a great amount of spiritual support.

The quest was to discover the greater meaning behind life's trials, to move forward and to forgive. At the time, I had no idea the extent of where this adventure would take me. My heart was grieving the loss of my life and identity as I knew it. I learned to accept with gratitude the trials because within each is an offering of blessing for what has come before that helps us to realize who we are, our capacities, and how to relate to others who are going through challenging times as well.

Since 2009, this awakening has led me to the island of Gran Canaria, to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, to the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains in California, to my current destination in the Caribbean on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.

Much of my journey over the past few years was connected to the mission of the non-profit organization in which I worked for, whose dedication was to the spiritual regeneration of humanity through the spiritual retreat centers that they operated. It was a mission that was very complementary to my heart and in the direction that I wished to focus energy.

With impending changes on the horizon, it gave my heart time to evaluate what it needed. With each passing change, my heart ached a little more until I reached a point where all I could hear my heart call for were the two simple words I had uttered several times as a mother...'time out!'

The realization hit me that I needed a time out. A neutral space to focus on providing nourishment to my listen to the Earth, to be in nature, to see the magic and possibilities in greater depth, to re-discover me. Who am I? What are my dreams? What is next? What can I do to be self sustaining - that will also benefit others? These are questions that I am granting myself the time to evaluate.

I want to treat my body as a temple...for the miracle that it is. Thinking of everything it does every second to remain breathing is a miracle no matter what it looks like. Being healthy, happy, solid in my core understanding of Spirit within, and clarifying what my gifts are to further assist others is at the top of my list. This adventure in self discovery is honoring the space to provide love and nourishment for me.

This new chapter of the quest was sparked when I learned that my position would be terminated when the management was shifting from a non-profit to a for profit status. I was invited to apply for a job with the new management, but punching a time clock, wearing a uniform, being told how I can and cannot sign my emails, and conforming to the standards of 'Corporate America' were a little hard for me to swallow. It was a difficult decision because the offer would be with a wonderful company...where I had already developed some beautiful friendships.

Realizing that it had been a huge feat for me to break out of the pattern of needing others approval and freeing myself from the box of others 'standards', the decision called for honoring my Spirit. It would be self defeating to put myself in this situation. So, I decided to listen to my heart and look for a new plan.

I had remembered a subscription service from years back when I had dreamed about living in exotic places called 'Caretaker Gazette'. It seemed it was time to bring some old dreams back to light. It only took two issues to see an interesting ad, calling for a house sitter to care for a small home, garden, and four cats off the coast of Puerto Rico. I responded and quickly began conversations with the homeowner.

I continued to ask my favorite Access Consciousness questions, "What else is possible, and how does it get any better than this?" and letting the Universe come up with possible alternatives for my life that allowed me to stay in integrity and keep promises that were already made.

My favorite meditation place at Sunrise Ranch.
A video on gratitude and the 'Law of Attraction'.
In my interactions with the homeowner, some wonderful synchronicities were showing up.  He was a musician, an author, and an artist...all qualities that I was looking to bring out through my gifts during my time of self discovery. He was offering me his office and half of his home to create in while he returned to New York City for five moths. During one of our emails, he mentioned, "I forgot to tell you about our beaches of Vieques...50 steps from the house is 'Glass Beach'".

What he didn't realize is one of the ways that I would unwind on my weekends off is to go to Laguna Beach and run the shoreline with my boyfriend. We would stop at Sea Glass Beach and sit in the sand picking up sea glass. I would sift my hands into the warm sand, giving my love to the Earth and the ocean. Finding each piece of glass would fill my heart with gratitude, as if it were a treasure.

As I continued my investigations on Vieques the pattern of synchronicity continued. I discovered that on Vieques Island, they have one of the brightest bio-luminescent bays on the planet. Six months prior, I was mesmerized by a photograph taken of bio-luminescent waters off the coast of the Maldive Islands. My heart was captured by the moment and I must have stared at the picture for an hour, pouring my love out and appreciating the beauty of our Earth. (Google search 'maldive islands bioluminescence' and click on images to view and you will likely have a similar feeling of being in awe.)

The homeowner then sent me a copy of his book, 'Transform8tion'. Okay, Universe, how else possibly could the stars be aligning in my favor. This little book resonated with everything that I had been studying for over the past decade.

My brother then told me, "you don't want to go to is toxic and was a major bombing site of our Navy". I researched further and discovered he was right. Our US Navy had used Vieques Island for 60 years - pouring down millions of pounds of bombs, agent orange, grenades, and taking over approximately 1/3 of the island while displacing many of the natives of this land.  

The bombing experimentation ceased ten years ago and the land once used by our military is now protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. Whether it is toxic or not is still being determined. Studies have been done that do not show levels of toxicity. There are also claims of higher than average cancer rates, which has yet to be confirmed, and there are many conflicting beliefs. From what I can see it is a beautiful island occupied by many amazing and wonderful people as well as a plentiful amount of wildlife - including wild horses, sea turtles, iguanas, and a large array of many colorful fish.

When I evaluated my brother's concern, the realization came to me that if I wanted to give more love and healing energy to the Earth and humanity, this would likely be the best possible place for me to be.

When I finally received the call with the offer for being 'one of the caretakers' for this wonderful man's property and cats.  My smile reached from ear to ear as I could feel how greatly aligned with my heart this choice was.

In the spirit of wanting to learn how to play the guitar, I asked if one was available on site or would I have to bring my own? He replied that he had a little Martin Backpacker guitar that I would be welcome to play - which is identical to the one that I own. It seemed as though Divine guidance was at work and had called me, chose me, to be on Vieques Island. This has been a wonderful blessing.

Being in a great relationship with a wonderful man, it was difficult to tell him of my desire to make this arrangement for much needed time for 'me'. I am grateful he was able to support my decision with understanding and has chosen to continue being a wonderful contribution in my life.

So this journey is very much about love. Loving the Earth, loving her beautiful creatures, and loving 'me'. A time to heal, to grow, to honor, to listen, to trust, to love, and to contribute. Thank you for joining me on the journey of my heart.

In gratitude, love and service.


Note: In keeping the accuracy of my story in tact, The Emissaries of Divine Light later established that their plan for changing management at Glen Ivy Center would not work. As of June 30, 2013, they have closed Glen Ivy Center, and the future of this beautiful and sacred land is unknown at this time.

In gratitude to all my dear friends at Glen Ivy who are also writing a new chapter as they move forward. Also, my love is with the amazing facilitators I have been blessed to be able to work with in booking your programs. My love to each of you and most sincere apologies to those that we were unable to follow through on our agreement to host your programs at Glen Ivy.

(Please feel free to comment and sharing this journey with others through Facebook is appreciated.)

*** Copyright by Jacqueline Bambenek, Vibrational Energy Solutions ***