Serendipity, noun:  when someone finds something that they weren't expecting to find.

During our stay in the Philadelphia region, we tried to catch up with family and friends we would not be seeing for a long time. Some of the friends we really wanted to see were Zach and Jocelyn (along with their newborn baby Liam). However, Hurricane Irene had different ideas for the weekend we had planned on seeing them and we were never able to connect.

Zach, Jocelyn, and Liam at Philly Airport
Fast-forward to September 26th as we pull up to the Philadelphia Airport’s International Terminal lugging our suitcases and backpacks for the trip across the pond. After a brief wait in line, we are busy shifting luggage around as we put our bags on the scale and pray we don’t get charged extra fees for overweight or oversize luggage (so much for ultra-light travel on this leg of the trip : ). There is a couple next to us with a crying baby and Neda thinks to herself “thank goodness we are not doing this trip with a baby - that would make it even harder!". But then, right after the first bag goes on the scale, the mother of the baby turns around and it’s none other than Jocelyn! The baby was Liam and there is Zach comforting him and getting him to settle down!

I am ambivalent about ideas of fate or destiny, but this one was just too much to wrap my head around. The only people we had wanted to see and missed while in Philly were standing right next to us as we got ready to head out of the country! They were leaving for a wedding in Belgium on a flight that left at the same exact time as our flight to Bulgaria! It was truly serendipity. And it got me thinking about the idea of finding something you weren’t expecting.

From the perspective of our Zen training, it seems life is always the most vibrant when you are expecting nothing from it. When we embody this state of "no-goal", it seems that life provides just what you need when you need it. Perhaps instances of serendipity are the subtle teachings of the universe telling us to expect less in order to receive more.

Stara Zagora & Bulgaria on the map - also visible are Greece, Turkey, Serbia, & Romania
We touched down in Bulgaria on Tuesday afternoon,jet-lagged and exhausted, yet thrilled to see Neda’s Dad Petko waiting for us at the airport. A 3 hour drive to Stara Zagora (see above) and we arrived at our destination for this part of the trip.

We’ll take the next few months for Jeff to immerse himself in the study of Bulgarian and for Neda to reconnect with the country of her origin. Along the way we are looking forward to spending time with Nadia (Neda’s Mom) and Petko and to traveling around Bulgaria to see friends and new sites. As we travel, we’ll work on looking at how our expectations can often blind us to what is right in front of us and attempt to strip away our projections of the future to fully embrace the present.

Nadia's homemade Surme! (stuffed pickled cabbage) Fukoosni! (that's delicious in Bulgarian)
September Concert at Union Square
Neda and I just got back from a long weekend in NYC where we got to see our good friends Dave and his fiancée Abbey as well as Mike and his girlfriend Christine. Being in New York City over the weekend of 9/11/11 was a very special experience. While the news channels trumpeted warnings of attacks and did their best to sow fear into the hearts of Americans, New York was vibrant and alive with music, festivals, and sumptuous food. It was almost as if the teeming mass of the city was practicing a form of civil disobedience against fear - buoyantly going about their lives as an affirmation of living life with an open heart. We passed drum circles, impromptu theater happenings, Chinese dancers (see video below), and a live “September” concert in Union Square honoring the memory of 9/11 by celebrating life through song.

At the concert I realized as I listened to Declan Bennett croon about freedom, that while our nation has been waging a “War on Terror” this past decade, a more important battle goes on in each of us every moment. How do we personally work with fear? Whether it is of terrorists, of taking a chance on a hobby that scares you, or of a new idea. When fear consumes us, it acts as a voracious fire that burns its way into all of our thoughts and offers to act as our very identity. We willingly take on this false identity because we believe that indulging in the fear will keep us safer. And in some ways it does keep us safer, but at what cost?

Overcoming fear...with beer!
The problem is that our relationship with fear is parasitic, not symbiotic. It weakens the host it feeds upon. The trick that New Yorkers seemed to understand this past weekend is that you can’t put the fire of fear out by running out of the forest. Instead, you create a fire-break – an open space where the fire simply burns itself out. By celebrating and remembering with all of New York this past weekend we made space for fear and then overcame it the only way it has ever been overcome – through laughter, song, merriment, and an open heart.

For other pictures of NYC click here:

For pictures of our day trip into Philly while Dimitre was visiting click here:

For pictures of the wonderful Labor Day Seafood BBQ at Heidi and Scott’s click here:

For pictures of Mom’s B-day Picnic click here: