How I Lost My Vices and Found Myself

It was a sticky summer night in the middle of July. Outside the sky was clear, full of stars, and the moon was shining brightly with a halo of silver. Inside the club, there was music, the sound of voices, glasses clinking, people toasting, smells of different colognes. Plenty of noise. My life was made of noise. It was chaotic, and I used to love it. But not that night. In the center of the dance floor, I stopped for a moment, and I looked around. Everything was the same. My friends were not different. However, something had shifted in me. Suddenly, I realized that I was not part of this environment anymore.  It no longer gave me the sense of security and pleasure it had in the  past.

A sense of belonging is attached to growth. If you are not growing, then you are dying. I felt like I was. It had been happening for a very long time. I clearly remember the first time I made Salt Lake City my home. I was mesmerized with the Rocky Mountains so full of snow in winter, the sounds of the birds and life blooming in the spring, the hot days of summer. I was 23 at the time, and pretty much fresh out of college and far away from my family. 

Shortly after moving to the city, new friends appeared. They became my family because they could understand my frustrations around love, dating, and life in general. My friends and I lived for the weekends, for the joy of dancing, laughing, drinking. The moments of instant gratification at the expense of forgetting who I was.

However, there is no escaping it. Your soul is always speaking to you even if you are ignoring it. I became so good at it. How do you do it? More alcohol, more unhealthy relationships, more drugs, more chaos and drama. More of anything, anywhere and anytime. I reached that level that night at the club. The air became unbearable. I felt a big pressure on my chest. I ran outside for some fresh air. 

When I finally made it home that night and I fell asleep, I started having the first of many dreams that would repeat over and over for months. In all of them, I was traveling somewhere but for some reason I would either miss the plane, forget my passport, or I was at the wrong gate. In other dreams, I was inside a train. I did not know how I got there and what I was doing there. The train was speeding so fast, and everything was moving, and I knew I needed to jump and go to the next train that was passing by. Mostly I woke up sweating and wondering what these dreams meant. I know for sure that I had to moving, but to where?

The dreams finally stopped one morning after taking my dog to the park. While he was sniffing the leaves and playing with a stick, I started looking around and a thought came to my mind. Salt Lake City was not my home. I started feeling so sad; the beautiful mountains, the friends, the life I had created in the last 15 years did not make any sense to me, and I knew that I needed to leave the city, or I would die.

I decided to call my mom in the middle of the day, and I told her that I wanted to move back home to figure things out. She agreed, thinking that I was not being serious. In less than 2 weeks I quit my job, sold everything, got the paperwork needed to take my dog out of the country and sold my car just 2 hours before heading to the airport. I headed back to the country I have not called home in more than 15 years.

The long flight took me to an unknown land, a place with a different language and customs that were foreign to me. The only thing that still linked me to Colombia was my family. Everything went smoothly for a couple of weeks. Before leaving Salt Lake City, a therapist recommended getting more into mindfulness, to be more present, to appreciate things and to meditate. I struggled with the concept for weeks, but with time, it got better.

Once in Colombia that is what I did: I started my mornings meditating. Even with my eyes closed, I just played a guided meditation, and I allowed myself to be guided. When it became manageable, I added a gratitude practice. Daily I journaled about three things that I felt grateful for. I believe those simple practices held my life together when I thought many things did not make sense.

One morning when I was meditating, a thought appeared in my mind and told me that I had made the wrong decision moving back home. I became so scared. The thoughts were wild even with my eyes closed. They were telling me things like I needed to come back to the US, back to Utah and try to restart my life again. Out of nowhere a voice so powerful jumped from my chest and said: “YOUR TIME IN SALT LAKE CITY IS OVER”. I opened my eyes thinking that someone was around, but I was alone. At that moment, the guided meditation I was listening to on my phone ended. I tried for days to find a logical answer to the whole situation. But guess what? There is no logical answer when you are on a spiritual journey.

I gave up my urge to return to Utah and listened to that voice, whatever it was. About two weeks later while I was with my family for a Sunday lunch in the countryside, another spiritual manifestation took place.

My family members were walking along a path, while I was walked behind them. Immediately one of the trees on the path caught my attention. It was so tiny and brand new. I could tell because the leaves were small and greenish. It was a tangerine tree, and one small fruit was hanging from one of the lowest branches. It was still green and so tiny. I continued looking at it and in that instant the colors changed. They became like the ones you see in the movies when somebody dies and goes to heaven. All the colors had this special radiance. They were glowing. Next, I felt a sensation of heat on my chest area, and I got the experience of Divine love. Then my whole body was love: my hands, my arms, my skin, my head, my heart. I was under this spell where everything was love. All the chaos on the outside did not matter because I was loved by a fruit on a tree! The closest I can describe this experience would be the sensation of holding a smiling newborn in your arms with its tiny face and hands.

I don’t know how long I was there looking at the fruit that was giving me love, a love that I thought I did not have inside myself. However, I was sure I had stepped into another magical dimension. I looked around to see my family walking so far away from me, they looked like they were part of an old painting.

The experience was so short and powerful and after so many years, I know that it was the key that opened the door to my journey in spirituality. From that point, I realized that a Higher power was giving me clues. It never spoke on those occasions, but it gave me plenty of tips along the path.

Shortly after those experiences, I moved to a city that I had always wanted to live in so I could be next to the ocean. I made Miami my home. I learned to practice yoga, and I found love with a partner that not even in my wildest dreams I thought was possible. I have met so many spiritual people that continue to increase my experience of love.

I know sometimes that the only thing we see is pain and darkness. But from my own journey, I can tell you that it’s just an illusion. Remove the veil! It doesn’t matter where your spiritual practice takes you: practicing yoga, drinking green tea, saving the planet, meditating, praying, charity work. The secret is to be consistent and never give up, especially on yourself because remember, you are magnificent. From the bottom of my heart, please remember that you are always loved.

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About Javier Villalba

Born in Colombia and raised in very religious values. I went to a private catholic high school. I got lost and I found myself meditating, journaling and being grateful daily. However, I have not always been successful on those practices. But consistency is the key. I am also an aspiring author and currently working on my first novel because I believe everybody deserves to tell their side of the story. I love long walks by the beach. I get excited by sunsets, hiking, good books, great conversations and people trying to save the world. You can connect on Instagram @whereisfrankjay

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