My Utopia Experience, Part 2
Thank you so much to everyone who read my Utopia Experience Blog, all of your comments touched my heart and your support is greatly appreciated!
It is still taking time to get acclimated. I have suffered from reverse culture shock before, generally after spending time in third world countries; however, this case is a bit different… Even though it has only been about two weeks, Utopia is beginning to become a distant memory.
So many lessons have been learned and I realize the impact that each and every pioneer had on me. Relationships of any kind are invitations for growth and evolution towards our highest selves. They allow for reflection and propose an opportunity to look within at areas we may need to work on. I am connected with each and every pioneer simply because we shared the same space. Sharing space with people has an effect on us whether we realize it or not. This week’s blog reflects on the relationships I shared in Utopia.
Since leaving Utopia, I’ve talked to Amanda, Ernesto, Hex, Rob, and Cal on the phone. I’ve spent time with Dedeker, Josh, and Chris in LA. I’ve messaged briefly with Mike. And wherever the other pioneers have settled post Utopia, I wish them well. I imagine it has been interesting for all of us as we adjust back into the world.
I struggled with whether or not to write this blog because many advised me that this might be futile because people have already formed their opinions about the relationship dynamics in Utopia based on what they’ve seen on the show and the live feeds. This may very well be so, and if you know anything about me, and just as you witnessed while I was in Utopia, my purpose is never to change anyone’s opinion. I accept that my reality is different than yours; we may see eye-to-eye on some things, and on others we may totally disagree and that’s ok.
My purpose in writing this blog is to shed some light on my friendships with the pioneers from my perspective. Their reality of our friendship may be different because we are different people and we have different thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I choose to see through a lens of love and compassion. Sure there were challenges with some of the pioneers, which I may discuss, and I only always wish them the best. I’m writing this from a place where I may understand and learn the lessons each relationship provided.
Please note that although the live feeds were playing 24/7, it is still challenging to capture the subtle energies that existed in Utopia. The struggle was real and it was hard. As a viewer, you cannot experience the heat of the desert, the feeling of hunger, subpar sleeping conditions, and the reality of living with 14 people with different personalities from various walks of life. All of the conversations between us were not captured. Even if you were tuned in all day long, 24/7, the holistic view of our experience was unable to be perfectly portrayed.
I spoke to Amanda, Ernesto, and Cal about writing this blog post. Although I haven’t had time to check the feedback my fellow Utopians have received on social media, I’ve heard through the rumor mill that some people have had a tough time and I’ve received a few comments here and there about my friendship with Cal that were not true. Amanda agreed that it was a good idea to write this for the sake of clarity and it may help the other pioneers through any struggles. When I spoke to Ernesto, I shared my fears that people may have negative things to say, and he felt that if I write from my heart with love and share my experience, there is no right or wrong. So I ask you to hear me with an open heart and an open mind.
And so, here goes…
Initially I was hesitant to participate in the experiment. I felt that it was a set up to create drama, BUT after finding out about the live feeds and learning that there was no competition aspect, I felt that the checks and balances existed for people to feel inspired to put their best foot forward and work together to create a Utopia.
I chose to participate in Utopia as an act of service—to show the power of self-care and a personal practice. Through a daily, committed practice of meditation, yoga, healthy eating, and constructive interpersonal dynamics through patience, love, and compassion we can achieve a healthier, happier, more conscious existence. Gratefully, I achieved exactly what I set out to do and I am overjoyed at the impact my presence had in Utopia and beyond.
After being part of a competitive culture for so long, it was challenging for some of the pioneers to fully trust each other, and there were times I felt it too. Despite any attacks that may have happened behind my back, I choose to see through a lens of love and compassion. We have all been hurt this lifetime in some way or another that results in wounds, consciously or subconsciously, that manifest via conflicts in relationships, reactions to situations, insecurities, feeling unhappy, getting triggered by others etc.
The great news is we have the power to transform. We can choose to work on ourselves to achieve personal growth and heal these wounds. We can choose to look at every situation and person that is presented in our lives as a lesson. Everyone is a guru, a teacher, and an opportunity for growth.
What I’ve come to observe about people that do “the work” and commit to personal growth, is that if we are truly secure with our abilities, and ourselves, we don’t feel the need to have to prove a point or be “right” all the time. Would you rather be “right” or happy?
If you’re happy with your life, it is easy to choose to live without the need to defend. If you feel fulfilled in life, it shines through with your presence, and inevitably you become an example for change and for the greater good.
We can even take it a step further and say that when you’re happy with yourself, you appreciate and choose to celebrate the unique gifts of others. Each and every individual deserves to be celebrated—we are all equals on this earth, and we are here to share with each other. We each have a purpose on this planet to share our light in some way. There is enough abundance to go around—no need to be in competition.
Over the past two years, while devoting my life to self-improvement and choosing to examine my behaviors and reactions through yoga, meditation, various healing practices, reading books, and more, I’ve organically come to many of these realizations and it is part of my dharma to share.
Insulated on the picturesque land of Utopia, it was easy to forget the world beyond the fences. To be honest, there were moments I completely forgot about the cameras or assumed no one was watching. This experience was the Olympics in terms of putting all of my self-work to the test. And boy was I tested!
Now having had the time to take in all of the love and support on social media, I realize there is a void in the lives of many viewers. My mom even shared with me that she feels a change in her life without the live feeds. Based on the messages I’ve received, I can see many of you want closure, have questions, and want to understand the dynamics that occurred within Utopia because you couldn’t read our minds.
Naturally I had stronger connections and friendships with some pioneers than others. I am grateful to each and every one of them. Each one taught me valuable lessons.
Lets begin with the Newtopians. I truly enjoyed how open Rhonda was to discussing various topics; especially around topics we held different beliefs. Our talks demonstrated what I believed to be possible in Utopia, people rising above their differences to live in harmony and create a Utopia. There was always dialogue with Rhonda—even if we didn’t agree with each other; we could always hear each other.
I appreciated Katie’s courage in following her passion to come to Utopia. I admire her openness and vulnerability to share so much about her life. She spoke her mind and stayed true to her beliefs while in Utopia.
I celebrate James’s bravery in coming to Utopia. It was so important for him to shed light on the fact that in parts of America, people are still not open and accepting of homosexuality. I’m so grateful for his boldness and beauty, which he shared in Utopia. He was a reminder that self-love and self-care is so important, because what we do for ourselves we do for others. We deserve to take a break from the stresses in life to pamper ourselves, whether by painting our toenails or getting a haircut.
Although I didn’t have much time to get to know Jeremy, I appreciated his boldness in showing us who he is and what he stands for. His hard work ad initiative didn’t go unnoticed in Utopia.
5th Ave Dave—I have a sweet spot for Dave in my heart. Having lived such a challenging life, he came to Utopia and was open to growing into his best self, which he has proven to the world since leaving Utopia. Dave was often misunderstood—all he needed was love. Although he may have reacted at times, he was always honest with himself when the anger and hurt would subside. I really wanted to invite Dave back into Utopia and introduce him to empowering tools like yoga and meditation for persona growth and I know Amanda was open to sharing behavioral tools for him. I’m so happy he has found peace with Pastor John and I wish him an exciting, healing journey!
Pastor John wonderfully displayed leading by example. We all appreciated that he never tried to force his beliefs on anyone. He attracted those who wanted to hear his message. He emanated kindness and compassion. It is so wonderful to see all the positivity that came from his presence in Utopia and how he has continued sharing his message with the world.
Who would have thought a hillbilly and a doctor from NYC could be friends?! Our friendship shows how people can choose to rise above their differences and the stereotypes to work together in a peaceful way. Red was so funny, amusing and kind! I truly enjoyed our time together. Believe it or not we share the same birthday. Despite having the nickname Red, we were always able to find peace and compromise. One of the best food orders ever placed in Utopia was when Red and I worked as a team. Red was also a natural at yoga and I applaud his openness to try something different. I was sad to see him go but also happy for him to be back in his Utopia with his wife and son.
As the youngest of the Utopians Bri was quite brave for taking on so many responsibilities. I watched her grow in Utopia and I appreciate how she was able to transform with all the feedback she received. She took ownership for mistakes and learned from them, and was brave enough to admit it—I admire that so much about her. She was a beautiful free spirit always laughing and she brought lightness to the group’s fun times. We shared really great hugs and cuddles too. I love the fact that she chose project love for her turn in charge. I hope she is back to her fun-loving spirit and having a blast!
It was so beautiful to watch Rob transform in Utopia. I would often tease him about the sweet, sensitive guy he was becoming. We shared many laughs and “toots” together. I felt comfortable with Rob because believe it or not, Rob and I have very similar roots given we are from a similar region and share the Italian American culture from the NY/NJ area. This was a big part of why we bonded. Rob reminds me of my dad and I would always tell him this. It was amazing to watch Rob reflect on his reactions and see the lessons he could learn from them. It was always beautiful to observe him when he was eager to be in Utopia, eager to work, eager to engage and eager to grow. I’m so happy for him and Jess and wish them a beautiful life together.
Mike brought comedy in Utopia to a whole new level. He often had me laughing so hard I would pee a little! Sure there were challenges to be faced and he often made light of difficult situations, which I appreciated. From dressing up to creating shows to his many characters, I truly enjoyed Mike’s presence in Utopia. We occasionally had philosophical talks and connected due to our previous lives in NYC. Maybe because of his connection to yoga, as he used to practice daily, Mike was aware that Utopia is a state of mind and he reminded me of this in Utopia and I will forever be grateful for this lesson. I also admire his boldness and honesty when he shared his life challenges with the group. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
Kristin and I knew how to share laughs. We often sat next to each other during the performance nights and it was such a pleasure to just laugh with her. We shared laughs upon Cal’s arrival and I appreciated how she made light of his unique demeanor. After the cameras turned off I asked her about deleting my emails, which she did admit to, and I admire her honesty. I have no hard feelings towards her at all. I so very much appreciate her creativity and enthusiasm with song writing and I loved singing the lyrics, “with love I will survive,” because after all this is indeed true. Love is the glue that holds things together. Love creates miracles. It isn’t a Utopia unless love is abundant and I’m glad Kristin found a way to spread the message of Love as well.
Taylor had a sweetness about him that was slowly being revealed. I loved watching Hex and him fall in love and it’s so wonderful they are continuing their relationship post Utopia. It was great to see him in his playful moods singing or dancing. We shared a love for oatmeal and honey. I wish him well and won’t be surprised to see his sexiness break into the modeling world!
Hex! I love this girl! I can’t wait to watch her on Saturday Night Live. She always knew how to make us laugh. Her honesty through humor was very much appreciated and was a breath of fresh air in Utopia. I also admire her dedication to always give back. When we talked on the phone this week I was so grateful that she took bits and pieces of our life talks home with her. I celebrate that she came to Utopia and began a business from some scraps, and eventually inspired many of us to create in this way. I also admire how she took the initiative to teach herself something she knew nothing about and the end result was beauty. Hex also had a way with words so that we were all able to hear her. It was beautiful the way she stood up for the things she believed in. Hex was also a peacekeeper in Utopia and tried to remain as unbiased as possible and I appreciated this about her. I wish her much abundance and success in her life, she truly deserves it.
Towards the last few weeks of Utopia Chris and I finally began to connect. My fondest memory of Chris is when we cooked together by the fire for #TBT. Interestingly we have more in common with the ease and simplicity we choose to live our lives. I appreciate all the art and music influence he brought to Utopia. Listening to him play the guitar was a real treat! He is a very talented individual and I hope he has the opportunity to share it with the world!
Bella taught me many things about myself—most of all patience and compassion. I accepted her exactly where she was at and for this reason I believe she opened up to me about her past. I was open to learning about gardening from her and I hope she knows I appreciate all of her efforts. Bella was like an onion, there were many layers to her and we slowly began to learn about how talented she is as an artist and it was always a pleasure to see her smile and laugh. All Bella wanted was love and to be treated with kindness. I was so grateful to have another Utopian value health and wellness too, and I was beyond ecstatic she was able to get us that reverse osmosis water filter too! She shared with us what a challenge it was to be around people, and after this experience, I wish her so much love and constructive companionship in her life.
It was wonderful to have Aaron as one of the pioneers from the onset. His patience and passion for cooking around the fire in the early days was so greatly appreciated. Although we had our differences regarding the food situation, I never had any personal issues with him. In fact, I wish I had gotten to know him on a more personal level. It was wonderful to do yoga with him the few times we did. And despite all of the plots I have heard about against me (as I still haven’t watched any footage nor do I intend to), I forgive him and I hold no grudges. I only wish him the best and hope that he is open to learning all the lessons this experiment has provided.
Josh and I had a great friendship. We had the ability to be honest with each other and he wasn’t afraid to say what was on his mind. Even through the few communication challenges we faced, we were able to learn and grow from them. I appreciated his work ethic and the fun he brought to Utopia with Blanco Choco-latte. I also hope that Josh sticks to his commitment to grow as a person because he was beginning to transform and self-reflect in Utopia. Josh really wanted us to work together to create a Utopia and I appreciate all of his enthusiasm and his efforts! Sending him love in SLC.
Dedeker and I are connected on many of our beliefs regarding celebrating women, meditation, spirituality, essential oils, open-mindedness, and more. I love that she allowed for the branching out of “church” to be more inclusive of all the different beliefs that existed within Utopia with her Humanist Bible, a compilation of various philosophical texts. This created space for life discussions, which we both cherished so much in Utopia. I loved that we came together for meditation and goddess circle, as they were the two highlights of Utopia for me. I was excited for her blossoming love with Jake, and I fully support her polyamorous lifestyle choice and applaud her for her openness and courage with sharing. I loved when she brought mindfulness to Utopia as a pillar of her time in charge. She was also very resourceful with her abilities to create with what was available such as cheese, soap, knitting, and jewelry. She was a hard worker and also committed to creating a Utopia. We connected more and more as time went on, and I’m very grateful for all the hugs we shared. I know that we will continue to see each other given we are both in the LA area.
Based on social media feedback, there are many misconceptions around my interactions with Cal and thus I will spend a bit more time to explain my perspective of our experience together.
Despite his proposal for yearlong relationship, we were just friends and he was always a gentleman and never tried to kiss or sleep with me for the record. Sure we cuddled as I did with many other Utopians as well. His intention for the proposal was a pure one—to show what a constructive, healthy loving relationship looks like. As I said during my interview before arriving in Utopia, I was open to love and a relationship in Utopia but it had to happen organically. I do think a healthy, constructive relationship would have been a wonderful thing for people to see because many relationships are unhealthy given the divorce rate is almost 60%. Plus, love is inspiring! As you know from watching I didn’t outright agree because I didn’t genuinely feel a romantic connection with Cal. Life must unfold naturally; I am not comfortable when things are forced.
When Cal came to Utopia, it was exciting to have another Utopian versed in many of the same books and authors I have found to be so inspiring and transformational. One philosophic topic we often discussed was masculine and feminine roles, which are not gender specific. Although I often did not agree, and still do not agree with his word choice, communication skills, delivery tone or methods, nor many of his assessments of myself and others, I appreciate his openness to reflection for the sake of personal growth not for the sake of “strategy.” Just as Cal continues to work on himself and grow, his delivery and approach to things were not perfect and I’ve shared this with him. Cal rubbed some people the wrong way, including myself, with all the “strategy” he used. Strategy is a masculine trait and thus not something I prefer to use as a feminine female. Cal’s attempt to utilize the best person for the job by asking people to do various things, and his many requests for resolutions and to form a trial to show the flaws of the government system was with the pure intention to bring about changes in Utopia so that we could try new things, because after all many of us signed up for the experiment to try something different. It was difficult to see this and many people felt “manipulated,” and at times I did too and I shared this with him. I often shared there are more transparent ways to approach the situation and create change, but he disagreed given the fact we were on a timeline and because people didn’t trust each other.
As I often pointed out to him when he shared his opinions about the other Utopians, including Amanda, those assessments are based off of his reality, his experiences, and his conditioning, not mine. I always shared with him that I preferred not to participate when he shared less than positive opinions about other Utopians, especially when it came to Amanda. It often caused me to distance myself from him because I don’t prefer to be around negativity, even if it is someone’s truth. Given we live in a world of duality, I can see the “good and bad”and the “positive and negative” in all beings and situations, but I choose what to focus on. Just because I observe something from my perspective doesn’t mean I have to shed more light on it or share it with other people, especially when it isn’t “positive,” because what we focus on expands.
Eventually I limited such discussions with him and oftentimes chose not to react because his opinions were so strong and my purpose is not to try to change people’s minds. And trust me, he didn’t sway my opinions. Quite frankly it was energy depleting to discuss various topics with him because he was so absolute with his opinions. In Utopia I accepted everyone exactly as they were. I wasn’t there to “fight” or create drama. There were times I felt insulted by Cal and I would choose to not engage this sort of behavior and often times I would just allow the words to pass on by because often times people just need to vent and there is no reason to waste my energy on pointless arguing. Also, the behaviors we choose to give attention to, be it positive or negative reinforcement, is propagated, just as when we condition animal behavior. I know what is true in my heart and I’m secure enough with myself that I didn’t need to keep defending myself.
After taking time away from Cal, I began to observe his actions. Actions speak louder than words. He would only ever do things for the community and he was very generous with food and the other things he had to share. I appreciated his hardworking, innovative presence in Utopia. I appreciated his support in reminding me to take a break and rest because there was always something to be done. Cal was on a mission because he wanted to bring something different to Utopia and he wanted us to succeed. I completely agreed with the idea of creating a cooperative way of life where we all enjoy each other’s company to “get things done” in an enjoyable, fun process focused manner. I’ve read the rules from his farm and absolutely agree with their way of life, it is simple, constructive and promotes personal growth. If there is space for us to continue to reflect to each other in a constructive way I am always open to that and we have since leaving Utopia. I only wish him the best with his endeavors and I plan on visiting his farm someday.
Ernesto and I had a strong heart connection. I’m so enjoyed our “doc talks” on the dock, dishwashing time (he was the best dishwasher in Utopia), and our serious talks about life. It was beautiful the way he opened up to me about his past with his wife. We could go to each other with anything and everything, and we could also have fun! I most enjoyed when we talked to each other in Spanish. Introducing yoga and meditation to him was a gift because he was such a natural and he experienced profound effects during his first few times. I hope he continues to practice. Our hugs were truly magical and uplifting. Though we truly enjoyed being in each other’s presence this was not a romantic connection. I’m so grateful to have met him. His calming, silent, and strong presence was a part of my Utopia. My greatest lesson from Ernesto was the reminder of the power of silence. In silence we can hear and those who choose to be on the more silent end of the spectrum are more purposeful when talking. Sending him a big fat hug and so much love.
My relationship with Amanda was my favorite. Before existing in Utopia, my best friend Jo was “my person,” the person I shared everything with and I was so grateful my friendship with Amanda was just as honest and constructive. Our “lunchtime hour” allowed us to escape from the challenges in Utopia. The beautiful thing about our relationship was that despite our differences in beliefs, we always managed to find the parallels. We believe in gratitude and giving thanks for everything, and thus we blessed our food and chose to see the positivity and love in all things and people in Utopia. We believe in choosing love and giving love to everyone and even more to those who are angry and not at peace. Our friendship only validated #oneness.
When it came to any challenges or difficulties we could reflect honestly to each other. We always saw eye to eye on all matters in Utopia and it was refreshing to share a bond with another strong female presence. We laughed and cried together. We never tried to change each other’s minds about things or force each other to do anything the other one didn’t want to do. We would stay as unbiased as we could through all of the inevitable changes in Utopia.
It was so beautiful to be a part of her pregnancy on a day-to-day basis and during her examinations. I was always looking out for her best interest in terms of food and her activity level. She is such a courageous woman to have decided to be a part of Utopia during her pregnancy. I’m thankful to have had a sister during my time in Utopia. Oh yes, and now she is quite the hugger! We look forward to working on a future project together, possibly a lunchtime talk show of sorts, once baby bear enters the world. I talked to her mom on the phone the other day and I can’t wait to visit her in Seattle. I appreciate our continued communication post Utopia, sending so much love to my sister Amanda.
Thank you to those who requested I take the time to share some more of my experience in Utopia. Sending love, light, and positivity to all of my fellow pioneers. Wishing you all the best!