Wednesday, October 18th 2017

A spiritual pull to travel: Going within in Yelapa

A seeker is drawn to a visionary woman and the Mexican sanctuary she created — and discovers her authentic self

marla-and-photosmall1GUEST COLUMN: MARLA HUNTER-BELLAVIA — From the moment I read about the space Isabel Jordan had created in Yelapa, Mexico, I knew that I was meant to go there. To visit an open palapa nestled between jungle and ocean, away from the touristy crowds, was just what I needed.

And I was excited to think that I would meet the 81-year-old visionary.  Isabel Jordan left  her prestigious position as the Assistant to the Provost (the first woman ever to be appointed to this position) at UC Santa Cruz in California to make a life in a remote village in Mexico for thirty-plus years. She knew that the job she was doing wasn’t her life’s purpose, so she followed a different path. I wanted to learn more, and decided to follow her footsteps.

When I sent off my first email to inquire about availability, I had no idea that Isabel had passed on. She was a total stranger to me. But when I found out that I would never meet her, I cried.

Shakti Gawain writes in Living the Light that, “When we, as individuals, first rediscover our spirit, we are usually drawn to nurture and cultivate this awareness. This often involves withdrawing from the world to one degree or another, and going within.”

I had already started my withdrawal from the world when I quit a stressful job in politics in exchange for a commitment to self-care. This withdrawal was definitely what I needed. But I needed more.

roofsmallAnd it was as if Isabel was watching over me, gently nudging me to come. I didn’t know why, but the spiritual connection to her and Casa de Isabel would not stop tugging at me.

So I trusted my intuition and I went, despite a barrage of “practical” thoughts that raced through my mind, threatening to deter me if I let them.

My stay for five nights in what felt like a tree house in paradise (pictured at right) was so peaceful. It was an opportunity to move to my own rhythms and freely choose how I would spend my time without schedules and expectations of others to influence me. On some days, that resulted in absolutely no human interactions. Yet I felt deeply connected.

In those quiet moments surrounded by nature, I felt a shift into my self. I was free to be me. I didn’t have to wear any masks or push myself to do something that didn’t feel authentic. It was blissful.

Even though I never got to meet Isabel Jordan, I swam in the ocean where her ashes were strewn, and I spoke with people who miss her deeply. I even got to bring home an item from the “takeaway pile” clothing that I tell myself she wore as I wrap it around me like a big hug.

marla-gate2Back home now, I have thought about the lessons from my stay in the Yelapa tree house. Being in Isabel’s space reminded me that following your heart is not selfish. For, in that journey, one can create something of value to share with others. In doing so, we have an opportunity to leave a legacy that may reach far beyond what we originally intended or imagined.

Isabel has touched me in a way that I will never forget and I am so grateful that she took the risk to leave her “ordinary” life in California to create a sacred space for others to enjoy in quiet retreat.

After visiting this sacred space, I am newly inspired to carve my own authentic path even if it doesn’t seem reasonable or practical at times. Life is an adventure and our intuition is our guide. There’s no time like now to start the journey.

For more information about Isabel and her space in Yelapa, visit Inside Mexico and  Casa de Isabel.

A writer in British Columbia, Canada, Marla Hunter-Bellavia is on a journey to live a life of purpose, meaning, authenticity and inner peace. Follow her blog, A Seeker’s Journey of Authentic Living and Wellness.

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8 Comments on “A spiritual pull to travel: Going within in Yelapa”

  1. sounds wonderful marla! i need to go!!

  2. I 'retired' from the world after my first awakening and in the wake of 9/11 to practice and write. The challenge is not so much the details of the retreat, but as they say in Zen, to return to the marketplace.

  3. I house sat in Marin County for two and a half weeks with my wife. We new May would be a big month for us, as it was our third month in the Bay Area and we were still on the midst of big change. I was determined to figure it all out for the next stage of my life as I had recently completed my graduate degree, gave up everything on the East coast and arrived West with my arms open wide.

    We completed our visit after two and a half weeks of nothing working out like I had hoped - the retreat time didn't pan out, I worked less than I had hoped, and I wasn't making any clear progress on an answer to what to passionately focus on for the next decade, let alone few years.

    I was disappointed as we left on a Tuesday morning. Later that morning. in opening my journal to write, I spontaneously 'got' my life, what it had been about, the patterns, the dreams, the focal points, the 'failures'. I saw the strand that wove through all my life. There had been gifts during those two weeks in Marin. I laughed, as "who I was" had been right under my nose and reflected in my frustrated questioning.

    I still am working on getting a financial grounding and agree with Mick. The epiphanies are wonderful and bring me meaning and clarity, yet there is ever the question of how to be in the world, lined up with that clarity.

  4. I am so sorry you didn't get to meet Isabel. She was my neighbor in Yelapa. A truly amazing soul, and a beautiful person, inside and out. She had quite an affect on everyone she met and will be in our hearts forever.

  5. On my "journey" I didn't go anywhere. I stayed within and began surrendering (releasing) false ideas, views, thoughts, concepts. This took time. The particular practices that were central to my experiences came from Buddhism and its meditative, contemplative and mindfulness practices. The existential experiential changes arose on their own. I'm still practicing.

  6. I recall a journey to the forest edge of the Yelapa jungle in 1982 and that sure changed my life when a jaguar came to eat the leftovers from our New Year's fish dinner!

    Animals and I are in love.

    Glad to hear the magic of Yelapa still flows.

  7. Nearly 30 years ago I was a young "brother" in a Christian Mystery School (The Holy Order of MANS)- stationed in a brother house in Des Moines Iowa. As all young men do,I struggled with desires for the worldly life. After a few months of that particular inner battle, I decided to leave the house and go to California - to sit under a tree and meditate til I reached enlightenment (as the Buddha had done).

    Ah, youth!

    Well, one day in December, while the first snow of the season was falling, I packed a change of underwear in my lunchbox and got on the bus that usually took me to my job. But, instead of going to work, I got off at the interstate and began hitch hiking - just me, the snow, three dollars in my pocket, and a change of underwear.

    Suffice it to say that my three dollars didn't last very long. And, when I sat under my tree, a growling stomach sent me on my way.

    But the most amazing part of my adventure was the journey back to my home town in Southern New Jersey - through a couple of big snow storms and a torrential shower, not to mention sleeping in a ditch one night and covering myself with tumbleweeds to stay warm (Califiornia desert).

    Here's the best part: During that trip, every time I thought of food or lodging, it would appear. Once, I stood on the side of the road thinking about how great an apple would taste - and a guy pulled up to give me a ride. Yes, there was a bag of fresh picked apples on the seat beside him!

    Another night (that night of the pouring thunderstorm in Ohio), I was standing at an onramp, soaked, cold and hungry - just dreaming of a nice hot steak.

    Then, a van pulled up; the door opened, and a smiling young man looked out and said. "Hey man, Jesus loves you. Hop in. I've got a couple of steak sandwiches here - and one of them's for you."

    There was more. But, in a nutshell, this life-changing journey taught me one important thing...I was protected. "Somebody" was looking after me.

    That sense has never left me.

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