How traveling can change your life

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Traveling has been, and will always be one of my greatest teachers. I recently returned home to Seattle from a life changing trip to Costa Rica. Prior to this trip, I had not left the country for almost 8 years. The last time I left the country, I had been traveling around Mexico and Belize with my dear friend and soulmate. During our travels we kept saying to each other that things were too good to be true because everything and everyone we had encountered thus far was fantastic. But we were right, it was too good to be true, because my friend ended up drowning in the ocean in Puerto Escondido. I miss her everyday. I’ve spent the past several years healing and grieving her passing, living life each day knowing that there are no guarantees, and our existence is precious. Don’t take things or people for granted.

I caught my first travel bug my junior year of College. I took a quarter off from my studies and worked to save money to go backpack around Europe with a good friend from my childhood. We saw incredible places and art and architecture, we met all kinds of interesting and wild people. I fell in love with Scotland and vowed to go back someday, which I did a year later and stayed for 8 months. When I returned to Washington State, which has always been my true home, I got a job as a Barista at a coffee house. Thats where I met Brittany, and we decided to go travel around Mexico and Central America. We planned to go to Costa Rica, but never made it.

Returning home from the nightmare of Brittany drowning, I had no idea what to do or where to go next with my life. All I could do was live moment to moment. Everything in Seattle reminded me of my friend. I felt lost, I felt uninspired and complacent. So one day I decided to move to California. I had some friends there. It was sunny, it was something different. I packed up my VW Jetta and drove south. I saw friends in Portland for a few days, I couch surfed with a pot farmer in Chico, and a software designer in the central coast. I visited an old friend in San Diego who was in the Navy there. Then I went back north to the vicious beast of a city Los Angeles, where I stayed for two years. I had a good friend there. And a guy I liked. I bought a little sailboat and sailed and partied all of the time to try to subdue the confusing emotional state I was perpetually in. Being on or in the water has always contented me, and somedays it was scary and painful to be in the ocean where Brittany was swallowed up, but a bigger part of me felt even more connected to her. I think thats why I bought a boat. She would have said to do it too.

One day I found myself going to yoga at a popular donation based studio in Santa Monica. I had done some yoga before, but nothing that had a profound affect on me. My teacher in Santa Monica was the first teacher that gave me that profound awareness, the yoga high. I drank the koolaid, and I couldn’t get enough. Being in that practice space, on my mat, with Travis’ voice guiding me was where the real healing began for me. I realized my time in Los Angeles needed to come to an end, and that my path was to become a yogi. I sold my boat, said goodbye to my friends, and drove home to Seattle. I called my old boss at the coffee house and asked if I could come back and work, and he said he had been waiting for me. I worked hard and began researching yoga schools to study at. I went to Maui and studied with two incredible teachers. Getting deeper in my yoga practice, allowing myself to address my pain and confusion through spirituality and being in nature on a beautiful Island in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. I had found my calling. I came back to Seattle and began teaching yoga. After 5 years of teaching, I planned to teach my first solo lead yoga retreat in Costa Rica. A place I had been compelled to go to for the past 8 years. I finally made it there, doing what I love, and sharing my wisdom with others. I went through an array of thoughts and feelings. It was both relaxing and challenging to be there. I was putting out a lot of energy into guiding the retreat group, but also having moments of self reflection. I felt raw and vulnerable. I was able to peel away some layers of myself that I hadn’t been fully ready to address before. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with kind people and an easy going way of life. People there seem to understand what is most important in life. Its said to be one of the happiest countries in the world, and its one of the most sustainable ones too. The energy of the land and the people is wise.

The last night I was in Costa Rica my group and I went to the beach to watch the sunset. We ran into the ocean and body surfed. My friend who came along on the trip with me and I looked at each other and shared a moment that we both knew would never ever happen again. We smiled and laughed and decided right then and there. To let go.

Home in Seattle again. Single for the first time in 5 years. I have my true loves though; yoga and traveling. Today is a new day, and I’m ready for whats next.

 

 

 

 

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Cultivating deep conversations with yourself

The body is your temple ~ Sage advice.

Some phrases are statements of truth, some phrases are simply opinions. The phrase “ the body is your temple” is a statement of truth. The body in which you dwell and call home, is the only one you’ve got. That being said, I recommend you start to have a really deep conversation with it.

When you are wildly intrigued by something or someone, you tend to pay attention to it in great detail, to study it, to master it. How about applying that curiosity and intrigue to yourself?

We are born and we die with the same body, yet some people go through life with little awareness of their own body. The practice of Yoga teaches us to connect deeply with our bodies, finding the connection between our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual self; that there isn’t much of a separation between these governing bodies of the self until death, when the physical body shuts down. Where the spirit goes remains a mystery. That is left open to individual interpretation and religion, which is of course a very personal topic, and something I will leave up to you to “find your own myth” as one of my favorite minds, Joseph Campbell would say.

There is the philosophy that there lies different sheaths (or) layers of being, often referred to as the Koshas. There are believed to be 5 koshas; The food body, the energy body, the mental body, the wisdom body, and the bliss body. Yoga and accupunture practices help one wake up so to speak, to the interconnectivity and balance of these koshas. There is a great sense of disconnect many people have with their sense of self. People misunderstand what is going on with their bodies and seem to rely more so on outside sources to tell them what is and isn’t good for them. When one allows oneself to begin to recognize and listen to their body, one can begin that long deep conversation, and the benefits of that long deep self conversation become seemingly endless. You can learn to feel and listen to what your body is trying to tell you; what feels right and good, what feels wrong and questionable, and you can then begin to have that internal dialogue of what it means to honor the self. Certain movements with consistency and depth nurture and strengthen your body, opposed to movements that strain your body. Certain foods have the power to do the same. This day in age, a lot of people have terrible diets. Much of the food made convieniently available to us is overly processed or treated with harmful chemicals. Whether it be due to lack of resources and education on proper nutrition and  healthy living, or lack of finances to sustain a healthy diet, or just laziness. I say if there is a will there is a way, for everyone to live and eat well. For years society would not only listen to, but TRUST the FDA and USDA, only to learn it is just as corrupt as most money hungry corporations that don’t really care about you or me. The better you are treating your body on a regular basis, the more you will want to feed it with clean and healthy food. The more positive reinforcing thoughts and actions you cultivate, the more content your state of mind. The more mindful exercise and body work, the better your body feels.

What you put into your body is important, as is what you feed your mind. As is what you do with your body. Everything we absorb and ingest affects our state of being. Every movement we make creates muscle memory. If you don’t eat a balanced, nutrient rich diet, you can not only affect your physical health, but it can affect your mood. If you don’t move in a conscious, caring way, you affect your bodies comfort and longevity. Having a healthy body inspires a healthy state of mind and vice versa. If you continuously have negative thought patterns , those negative thoughts create stress and anxiety, and in turn can cause disease and dysfunction in the body. Your lifestyle affects your character , and your destiny.

This article isn’t to suggest that its bad to eat a cheeseburger and drink a milkshake with whiskey in it and then sit on your couch all evening. This article is to suggest becoming greatly aware of what your body wants and needs and when it should and should not have or do certain things. This article is about finding balance and moderation everyday. With all the advice and information out there, our self awareness and understanding can become clouded. Thats why it is a practice in itself to have a conversation with yourself. To live mindfully is to live well, and to live well and mindfully is to understand balance and moderation and the uniqueness of your existence. I encourage you to begin a regular practice of cultivating deep conversations with yourself, and see what happens.

What does it mean to let go?

Letting go is something we talk about often in yoga. But its so much easier said than done.  Recently, one of my friends and fellow yoga teachers mentioned that it bothers her when yoga teachers say “just let go.” Something I am admittedly guilty of suggesting time and again. It led me to ask myself the question, What does it really mean to let go? Furthermore, how do we go about doing it so it doesn’t just sound like some hippie dippy cliche term that only people with perceivably legitimate first world problems can say? Just let it go. Drop your fears, your stresses, your doubts, your limitations, your trauma, your anger, your pain. Easier said than done, I know.

We all have our own set of issues we dwell on. Work stress, money problems, relationship and family challenges. Child hood trauma, which we may or may not be aware of on a fully waking conscious mind kind of level. Emotional and mental stress, cellular memory, all of these factors contribute to tension that builds in our mental and physical body. When we come to the yoga mat, we are given a sanctuary in which we can begin to release, and let go, so to speak, of all of the tension society and life inevitably creates. The fact is, many people tend to suppress these stress inducing realities that we all face at some point or another. Some people simply are at a loss as of how to deal with these realities. Society has conditioned us to disconnect with our underlying truths.

By having at least the intention to let go, we can begin to address what exactly it is we are holding onto that makes us feel weighed down and lacking the tools to relieve ourselves of it. When we allow ourselves to be aware of the tension creating entities, we can begin to learn how to let go through movement and meditation.

We hold onto ideas and feelings created by our mental and emotional states of being, based on incidents and experiences throughout our lives. Some of the experiences seemingly tattoo our hearts and memory, henceforth affect us on much deeper, long lasting levels than we could imagine. If its trauma, sometimes that can create great stress and in turn even affect our health and our physical body.

So when we say “let go”, we have a lot of work ahead of us. It starts with being willing to even go there, to those sometimes dark and tangled places within us. To start the journey of unraveling the mess so we can see some light come through, and begin to understand what it means to let go. That letting go is maybe more of a state of mind, a philosophy, a practice in itself, a tool to help you wake up and free you from what is keeping you from feeling more consistently at ease.

In company with the many joys life graces you with, life will inevitably continue to through a profusion of challenges your way. If we can learn how to manage the philosophy of what it means to let go, we create space for ourselves to not only process our experiences, but to create space for the new ones, with an open mind and a healthy heart. When we can get a grip on letting go of the major things that weigh us down, the little things start to matter less, and life suddenly becomes a lot better.

Start with right now. Embrace the theory of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Don’t be afraid to be in vulnerable places within yourself. As lovely and relaxing as yoga can be, this practice isn’t a bed of roses. Practice and all is coming.

Addicted to Loving ?

Addiction to people. Is that a thing? That fine line between loving someone, and having a co-dependent-attachment driven relationship. Most of you have had this kind of relationship. Almost as if the other person involved, or the relationship itself is like a drug. Like the best drug you have ever had. Your experience with “it” has been so incredible, birds flying high-nothing can touch you- happy. So much so, that you just cannot imagine not having it. And then there is the come down. You feel sad, unfulfilled, at a loss of control, that the only thing that will make you feel better again is getting your fix. You know that when you are about to do this drug again that it maybe not the best idea for your long term health, but yet you do it again because you want that feeling of elation, and it turns into this perpetual cycle, spun out of control, to which you don’t have an answer of when or how or if you should stop. You ask yourself if the come down is worth the high. Subconsciously, on some level you have decided it is. Your friends grow concerned for you. Some enable you. You stop doing it for a while. You feel good. You relapse, you feel great. Then you come down again. And find yourself asking the same questions.

I’ve not been addicted to any drug. But I have had a remarkably profound connection with someone who caused me to analyze a relationship or person as a drug. To the point where I can maybe even get away with talking about how some drugs aren’t so bad. For example, coffee. Coffee is a strong drug. But its not necessarily bad for you. In fact, coffee has been proven to be a powerful antioxidant, it stimulates the mind, it brings people together. It represents ritual. However, too much coffee is not a good thing; It can dehydrate you, make you shake, make you crash, some people are so caffeine sensitive, they cannot drink coffee.

We all have our thresholds, our tolerances… apply that to your said metaphorical drug like relationship and then compare. At what dose is it good for you, at what dose is it no longer a good thing. And how do you go about monitoring and regulating your decided healthy limit. So much can factor in. I might be somewhat addicted to coffee, so saying i’ve never been addicted to any drug was probably a lie. I could live without coffee. I just don’t want to live without coffee. I like waking up in the morning and making coffee. I find joy and comfort in the smell wafting through my house. Sitting and drinking a hot cup while I read or write and get ready for my day. Meeting a friend for a walk and getting coffee. Taking a long drive with some coffee. I’m not going to quit drinking coffee. But perhaps I don’t need to drink 5 cups a day. The healthy choice would be to balance my consumption with water, or tea, or booze…just kidding…kind of.  Or nothing. Sometimes nothing is exactly what we need to do. Take a step back and hopefully reconnect with ourselves.

The moral of this piece is to moderate accordingly. Watch your habits. Get to know yourself. Practice getting to know yourself, being true to yourself, and loving yourself as hard as you love whatever, or whoever your so called addiction is. Everything can and will fall into place. None of this is easy. Thats why we practice. Thats why I write.

Afflictions of the self

I love yoga asana, but lately my practice has been focused internally; more off the mat than on. Deep self reflection and growth are occurring. Sometimes asana helps me work through it. Sometimes sitting and meditating, being alone in nature, or talking to a good friend or writing is my practice.

The Kleshas (afflictions) of Yoga are often referred to as the seeds of suffering. They are negative patterns we develop that keep us from reaching samadhi (enlightenment).

The 5 kleshas are: Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to life. But there are also believed to be as many as 108 afflictions; another significant factor of the number 108 in yoga and buddhism.

Todays blog is about my own battle with these afflictions. I hope that it can bring some insight into your own practice, primarily your practice of real life-Yoga off of the mat.

During the youthful years of our lives, we tend to be quite focused and caught up in imagery. What we watch, what we read, what we hear, what we learn, all factor into this image of what we want to be; what we think we should be. Then we grow up a little more through experiences life hands out. These images are in hindsight a kaleidoscope of emotional chaos and beauty, and when the focus settles a little more clearly and we are able to take a breath and calm our mind, we find that maybe what we really need is to let go of the images we thought we needed to represent, and just be what we actually are. That part takes guts. Because what we actually are sometimes is nothing close to the idea of what we thought we were or what we want to be. And the only way we will ever reach that ideal of the self is through deep and honest examination of who we truly are.

We all have parts of ourselves which we prefer not to address because we don’t care to come to terms with the realness of those parts. So we try to sweep it under the rug. Its only when we start to recognize that those negative traits are actually hurting us and keeping us from being happy. Once we realize that, we have a decision if we are going to examine that part of ourselves and try to emerge from it, and overcome it, or if we are going to let ourselves dwell in the negative patterns, hence continue to create a cycle of negativity -thus lack of fulfillment.

For a long time I suppose I just thought it was everyone else making me feel the way I do sometimes. I had to finally admit to myself my deepest insecurities were my own doing, and I was continuously creating the same patterns in my relationships because of my lack of understanding of myself, moreover my unwillingness to change.

Its been said that you have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else. I have heard that expression my whole life, and it wasn’t until recently that I actually “got it.” If I love myself, faults and all, I can love another for who they are, without transferring my patterns of negativity  onto them. Maybe my faults aren’t really faults, maybe they just make me wildly-uniquely-beautiful-lovable-take me or leave me- me.

Realizing when something is an issue only because I created it to be so in my own mind. The mind can be dangerously powerful. Sometimes against our greater good.

I recently fell in love with someone. The kind of love that makes you realize you can have everything you want, and you deserve it. The- you want to give it back like there is no tomorrow kind of love. The kind of love that has forced me to address my patterns of jealousy and insecurity as my own bullshit. To simply let myself be loved without attachment because love has no attachments it just IS. When its real it is this constant energy that you cannot subdue regardless of your patterns of escaping who you really are. Jealousy is a very real, very ugly, very mind altering emotion, that we all experience to some degree or another. I hate it. When I notice the green eyed monster emerging for within me, I literally start to feel like a different person. A person I don’t want to be, with thoughts and feelings I don’t ever want to take me over. But they have a tendency to do just that. And this is why I brought you here today. My work, my practice is to break those habitual thoughts that in no way serve my well being, or the well being of those I love.

My yoga mat is a good place to take that intention. One thing I admit about myself as a practitioner is that I have a fear of falling because I don’t trust that I can hold myself up. Why am I afraid of falling? Because I don’t want to lose control? Why don’t I trust the tools I have in my practice? The mental overload of getting hurt becomes so great that I tell myself its not worth it to just go for it. But the infinite wisdom of my higher self reminds me that  even in mastery one can make mistakes. There is no such thing as perfection. Own your fears. Own your faults. Own your setbacks. Only then, with practice, will they go away. My intention is to deeply examine those afflictions I have on and off my yoga mat. My asana practice is simply a form of understanding myself better. The ultimate realization the the mind should not be my higher power.

Teaching Yoga When you’re having a bad day

Theres something interesting about the profession of teaching yoga. That when you show up to teach, you assuringly have to leave your baggage at the door, in an attempt to maintain the “holier than now-guru-peace and love rules all- mentality. I can try to do that. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not. I’ve always been a sensitive being, wearing my heart on my sleeve with a face that cannot even minutely hide my true feelings.

The other day I was experiencing anxiety in a way I never had before. Things had been building up and I completely broke down. All I could do is cry. I had just minutes before yoga students were going to walk through the studio doors to attend my evening Hatha yoga class. I was mustering up everything I could to try to conjure up the yoga teacher mentality I have practiced as a life style for years now. But I could barely keep a straight face. I could barely breath. And I had to teach a yoga class to a room full of students. Anticipating the dreaded questions of “how are you?” when there was no way I could look them in the face and respond “great-fine-,etc” and not be completely translucent. I’m all about authenticity in my practice, and I preach it to no end when I teach. It would be inauthentic to tell a student I was fine when I was near an anxiety attack. What I could do is be honest and say it wasn’t the best day, and proceed to use whatever energy I had to create a good practice for the students who showed up.

I feel like this is a situation that us yoga teachers can find ourselves in more often that most people would expect. The thing is, just because someone is a great yoga teacher, or has an admirable practice, a great philosophy and attitude towards life, doesn’t mean they have it all figured out. Yet we are expected to smile and praise sunshine and rainbows when shit gets hard. We are all initially drawn to the practice of yoga to better ourselves, and the deeper we go into the practice, the more we dig up, and its not always pretty. It can be downright challenging, and scary, and very painful. As teachers, we use our own lessons to pass on to others. Allowing our students to know that we don’t have it all figured out could go both ways; they either respect and connect more to us, or they feel let down. I choose to be real. News flash- just because you spend your life practicing yoga doesn’t mean you don’t still have afflictions. Practicing yoga helps us ameliorate our afflictions though, and emerge into greater more enlightened beings. But never will any of us be perfect.

My good friend attended my class that evening. She held me in her arms as I cried and then I splashed my face off with cold water and went into the practice space to teach. I felt like throwing up the whole time, as I told my students to let go and be present and breath. After class my friend and I were walking to our cars and she told me it was an amazing class, one of the best hatha classes she has ever been too. I told her that was odd to me because I felt like I was going to throw up the whole time and she responded surprised and just gave me a hug and told me that my rawness and sensitivity is what makes me such a good yoga teacher, and to embrace that in myself.

Your yoga teacher doesn’t have it all figured out. But they are on the path to it, and respect them for sharing that path with you, and wanting you to find that awareness as well.

The light within me honors the light within you. In darkness and in Light.

Namaste.

Banana avocado salad over black beans and polenta 



What you need :

A few slices of polenta ( I prefer organic) 

1 can of Black beans 

1 banana 

1 ripe avocado 

What to do: 

Grill the polenta 

Add some spices to the beans as they heat up. I like a dash of each of these ; cayenne pepper , cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, a touch salt to bring the flavored out. 

Slice your avo and banana 

Layer the cooked polenta , beans and the salad on top – finish with a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!