“Smile. Breathe and go slowly.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
This is a glimpse about finding courage to set off on a journey in order to serve and all that we uncover about the world and ourselves when we do. Patricia Wickman is a compassionate, wise and adventurous soul. One of her greatest gifts is how beautifully she blends her many roles as wife, mother, yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Practitioner, educator, dancer, friend and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Patricia is a blessing to all who know her. I am grateful to call her friend and wish to thank her for sharing her story so openly so that others may also find the courage to travel—both in the world and to inward lands to meet themselves.
Patricia, what does spirit mean to you?
It is something that persists beyond the physical body. When I was 27, my 25-year-old brother passed away from lymphoma. After he died, I came to realize that his spirit was somehow still present both around and within me. I feel connected to him on a regular basis and this helps to shape my understanding of spirit. Spirit to me is also intimately connected to nature. When I think of the word spirit, an image of beautiful and untouched wilderness comes to mind. Spirit to me is pristine, natural and wild.
How have you connected with that aspect of yourself?
I am always wary of talking about my religion, as people have preconceived notions about it. In our home growing up, we avoided discussions about both religion and politics—especially as mealtime conversation. However, when referencing spirit and sharing the process of glimpsing my own, I find it impossible not to mention it.
When I was 21, I served a mission for my church. This is the custom of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is voluntary. For a year and a half, I entered a period of service and renunciation. I did not watch movies, listen to popular music or read any of the great literature I love. Instead, I pared down my needs and focused solely on service.
While waiting for my visa to go to Portugal, I spent a few months in Lynn, Massachusetts. This is a town with a lot of poverty. We learned the saying “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin, you never go out, the way you go in.” This period was eye-opening for a middle class, sheltered girl like me! It awakened my spirit in a way that only having this experience could.
My fellow missionary and I were assigned to work specifically with the Cambodian community in Lynn. This work was very meaningful. We were invited into people’s homes. They shared meals with us and several of them opened up about their stories of how they came to the United States to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide. Hearing their stories caused me to look outside of myself.
I then went to Portugal and spent many months doing service projects and sharing my faith with people on the streets. It was hard work putting myself out there day in and day out. There was a lot of rejection but when I look back on that time, it was as if I had been hooked up to God’s IV. I was in the flow and the rejection did not have a negative effect.
For the last three months of my mission, I was fortunate to move to the edenic island of Madeira near the Canary Islands. It was there, in that beautiful and pristine place enjoying clean air, clean water, fresh food and delightful people that the connection to my spirit and to the earth reached a full moon-like completion. I had very few worries or concerns of lack. I did not miss what I did not have in terms of material accumulation. I was removed from the consumer-driven culture back home and fully present to the world around me and to my soul.
The only currency I was exchanging at that time was love in the form of service. It was completely freeing. When I separated myself from a lifestyle of needing things and climbing ladders, I realized that simply giving and receiving love was very satisfying. It took time, almost a year and a half to move from those everyday mundane concerns to that level of crystal clear living. I experienced my body, mind and spirit in a new way. Fortunately, even now, when I feel disconnected from my spirit, I can return to that deep well of clarity just by recalling that time in my life.
What tips do you have for those who desire that level of clarity but cannot leave their life for a mission or an extended retreat?
That is something I have had to learn for myself as a busy mom, wife, and healer! My mission experience showed me that it takes time to clear away mind and spirit clutter. That realization makes me have compassion for myself these days. Although I meditate and pray on a daily basis now, the clarity I seek is often mixed with my to-do list and random thoughts about my day. That sacred time of singular focus in my life was wonderful and amazing.
Six years after my mission, when I was in the thick of caring for my two toddlers, I was in a library and a audiobook by Thich Nhat Hanh jumped off the shelf and into my hands. He became an important teacher in my life. He helped me to integrate the clarity I experienced on that island with the mundane. He acknowledged the sacred within ordinary household tasks and reminded me that there need not be separation between the holy and the everyday. Washing dishes, hanging out clothes, changing diapers, preparing meals for my family and walking around during the day can all be infused with the sacred. By being mindful and approaching life in this way, existence becomes a prayer.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
How does your passion for eastern philosophy, yoga and Ayurveda blend with your faith?
I have always been interested in eastern philosophy, literature and culture. I love how yoga and Ayurveda feel inclusive and provide a way for me to connect on a spirit-level with people hopefully without alienating them. I view my spirit as a room. I feel my life has been a process of inviting more into that room—more teachers, more wisdom, more students, more friends, more love. I just saw “Into the Woods” and appreciated the lyrics, “Why does it have to be either or? Why can’t it be and?”
My life has been an odyssey of traveling and collecting new languages and experiences. I studied French Literature in college, learned Portuguese on my mission, Spanish as a newlywed living in Spain and then the language of yoga and Ayurveda.
With each exploration of a new culture, I feel as if I have grown a branch to my soul. I am like a tree with roots growing down and branches growing upwards in all directions. This perpetual growth has introduced me to new ideas and many beautiful people. Seeking knowledge and wisdom has been a blessing that has shaped, defined and brought meaning and depth to my life. I feel one of the roles of my spirit in this lifetime is to help build bridges. I love to connect seemingly disparate paths like my religion and my profession in delicate and creative ways.
“Our own life has to be our message.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
How does your new endeavor of beginning an online Ayurvedic school fit into all of this?
I intend for my life to be an expression of my faith in God and this is how I desire to do it: Loving and caring for my family, being a teacher and connecting on a healing and heart level with the people I meet along my path. This is my soul’s joy and purpose. I love my work of seeing clients one-on-one, but I feel limited in the way I am able to assist individuals in making lasting changes in their diet, lifestyle and body-mind spirit patterns. An hour to two hour-long session does not allow us time to explore the profound wisdom of Ayurveda.
Another huge reason I decided to start the school was that I had several requests from people who wanted me to train them to do what I do. My school has the magic ingredients of time and community—time to dive deep, to explore, to journey together as a tribe of mindful wellness seekers. This is why I have chosen the theme of going on a hike on a big mountain. This is my way of expanding possibilities and breadth for myself as a teacher and for my students. It is my spirit’s contribution to the global evolution and broadening of consciousness that is occurring right now.