Monday, June 10, 2013

The Journey

I still have two or three posts to write about my time in India, but today is not the day...

I have been talking a lot lately about how things just seem to be falling into place for me. It's truly an amazing feeling to trust in the Universe and just let things happen. I wasn't always this way, and I think for my readers to understand better where I am coming from, I should explain a bit more.

Last year (2012) didn't get off to a great start for me. I was managing a Starbucks store, therefore working full-time, which most of you probably realize is much more than 40 hours a week. In addition I had decided that I could take a full load at school, meaning 12 graduate credits and still teach several yoga classes a week. The result was utter chaos. According to Ayurveda, I am a Pitta, and a very strong Pitta at that, so I can handle a lot, but last year I took on too much and the first thing I let go of was the thing I love the most...Yoga. I had to stop teaching yoga to focus on school and Starbucks (because that's what paid my bills).

I had a beautiful apartment that was too expensive, I had a car payment that was too expensive and a taste for Lululemon clothing that was outside my means... I made ends meet every month, but just barely. I knew I needed to get out of the cycle, but I didn't really know how to do it. I would look at cheaper apartments, but they didn't have the amazing ocean view, or the swimming pool or the closet big enough to be a spare bedroom (and that would comfortably hold my ridiculous Lulu collection).

I kept trucking along thinking if I could just make it through the semester everything would get better, but then half way through the semester I got a phone call that my grandmother had passed away. She had been in and out of the hospital, but last I had heard she was recovering and was to be released from the hospital later in the day, and yet she passed away in the hospital. Now all of my family and extended family are important to me of course, but my grandmother that passed had a huge part in shaping who I am today. For my twelfth birthday she sent me PETA's vegetarian starter kit along with an annual subscription to their little magazine. Within 6 months of receiving that gift I made the decision myself to become vegetarian. My grandmother (along with my aunt) also had a lot of land in Southern California and while she probably could have sold some of the land or used it to build rentals, she used that space to foster abused animals and try to find better homes for them. Among those animals were circus horses, Emu's, Raccoon's, chickens, goats, pigs, an abundance of "lassie dogs" and many more...

Needless to say, the loss of my grandmother (who, by the way, I was never allowed to call Grandma) was not a good experience for me. Even though I had already been studying yoga for a few years and knew that she was just reuniting with her Infinite Self and in a happier place, it's still hard for the "survivors" to understand.

The same week that I lost my grandmother, a very close friend of mine also disappeared from my life. Just "poof" gone. Slowly throughout the next few months, a couple more friends decided to drop out of my life. Were they abandoning me? At the time, I would have said yes, however now, I know that's not what happened at all.

I was allowing myself to get too stressed over things that really didn't matter that much. My relationships suffered because of it, and my friends had to protect themselves from my self destructive mind set. Not self destructive in a suicidal way, maybe self depricating is a better term. I just wasn't being kind to myself and was constantly judging myself and trying to be "the best" at everything I did, whatever that means. I can't  blame my friends for abandoning ship, who wants to be around someone who is negative all the time? I certainly don't.

One week a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her to learn Reiki. Initially I thought "I don't have time for that" but something told me I should go. So off I went to fill up a weekend that my mind told me I should use for studying. I would say that weekend learning Reiki was the first step off my path of self destruction and a start into opening up and listening to my intuition and to the Universe.

Reiki and Yoga tend to be very much in line with each other. In yoga we send Prana- or vital energy, through the body to promote health and one-pointed concentration. Reiki is a healing technique used to guide Ki- or vital energy, through another's body to help them relax and reduce stress. Both practices have the same goal of reducing stress. With yoga taking it a step farther to ultimately unite yourself with your true Self. However, I feel like by learning and practicing Reiki, I have been able to open up more energy channels and come closer to my True Self than with yoga alone.

Once I had Reiki under my belt, I decided to go see an Ayurvedic practitioner to help me find some balance in my too stressful life. She was another big help in allowing me to see the bigger picture in things. With some natural herbs and guidance to help balance mind and body (which in Ayurveda seems to mean digestion) I continued to feel better and better and began to trust even more in the Universe.

After my "brutal semester" I really started trying to turn a new leaf. I knew this person I had become wasn't the real me. I took a study abroad course in Costa Rica. One: this gave me a nice long break from Starbucks, which was much needed at the time. Two: the experience was amazing. I was able to bond with a new friend and by this point Reiki had really become a big part of my life. I was starting to open up and just trust in what the Universe offered. Everytime my friend (Danielle) would ask me about something or say something negative (but usually funny) I would just tell her "you just gotta open up to the Universe man, just gotta open up!". She would laugh and roll her eyes calling me a "crazy hippy" and then proceed to tell me how amazed she was at my ability to open up. I think her encouragement really helped me to believe in myself and my ability to let things happen instead of forcing them.

By the time Fall semester rolled around I had a plan in place, yet one that I could easily back out of should my intuition tell me it wasn't right. Yet as the semester rolled on, both my intuition and the Universe (one in the same perhaps?) told me it was the right thing. I quit my job at Starbucks, returned my car to the dealership I bought it from (with no return for me, but at least I didn't have to pay them to take it) and put my bed, my surfboard and my obscene Lulu collection in storage. I took off with the ultimate goal of going to India to deepen my spiritual/yoga practice, but first a short stop in Bangladesh to do research for my thesis.  Those stories are in other blog postings on this site, so feel free to read through them at your leisure.

Today's post is about accepting what is. Sometimes we don't always understand the things that happen in our lives. Sometimes we wonder "why me", "why now", "why this". Yet in the end everything happens for a reason, and when we look back, I think we can understand it better.

Had the friends that dropped out of my life, not dropped out when they did I may not have taken the opportunities I did to go to Bangladesh or even Costa Rica. One of those friends I had planned on moving in with to save on rent, so if that scenario had panned out, I wouldn't have wanted to give up my cheaper rent to go to Bangladesh, but because I was still in my way to expensive (yet amazing) apartment I wanted nothing more than to just get rid of everything and see where the Universe would take me.

Last week while auditioning to teach yoga at Yoga Hawaii, the studio owner asked me if I ever integrated themes into my classes. I told her no. Not anymore. I used to, but somewhere along the way I lost that aspect of my practice. I tell stories sometimes, and I definitely drill the anatomy portions of it, but as far as running a theme throughout my class to keep students minds in the practice as much as their bodies, I had forgotten.

So, taking her advice, this past week I started with my favorite theme. Ahimsa. I used to teach ahimsa in every single class. I would talk my students through the translation: non-violence, and I would relate it mostly to animals, and a vegetarian diet (thanks to Sigi, the grandmother I wasn't allowed to call Grandma). At the end of class I would hand out vegetarian recipes to offer my students meal ideas to break out of the meat and potatoes diet that consumes the Idaho countryside.

Yet this week, when I threaded the theme of Ahimsa through my classes, I took a different approach. I asked my students to focus on Ahimsa (non-violence) to themselves. In an Asana practice this means focusing on what your body is telling you. Not trying to "compete" for a pose with the person next to you, as yoga is non-competitive. Not pushing yourself into a pose too deeply that it creates strain or discomfort in the body, but at the same time not becoming lazy in a pose. Finding that "sweet spot" where you create a nice comfortable stretch, allowing the muscles to tone slightly, without any risk of injury. To take it a step further, not judging yourself when you don't come into a pose as far as you think you should be, or when random thoughts "pop" into the mind when the goal is to clear the mind in yoga. At the end of class I offered ideas for them to take Ahimsa "off their mats" and into their daily lives by choosing positive thoughts over negative ones and helping others to do the same. So many times when it seems like our world is crashing down, if we take a deep breath and trust in the Universe, when we come out on the other side we realize that everything happened exactly as it should have.If we can try to find the positive right away in a situation, we can reduce the build-up of stress.

I wish my grandmother was still here and I am not happy that she passed away, yet I know that she is in a better place. In Reiki II we take a meditative journey to find our spirit guides. When I took my  journey, I opened a door to find a field full of butterflies, as I walked past the field and to another door, I found my guides: Sigi (grandmama) and Daisy (beloved pooch). Had my grandmother not already been in spirit form, she would not have been available as my guide. While it may seem weird to have a dog as a guide, I always saw my dog as a reincarnation of my great grandfather (Sigi's father) who came back to watch over me. Since I never met my great grandfather and only saw a couple of pictures of him, it makes sense that my spirit guide would take the form of the dog rather than the man.Now, whenever I see a butterfly, it reminds me that my guides are always close by, watching over me. This may sound really out there to many of you, and that's okay. 15 months ago, had I read about this I would have thought the person writing was crazy as well. We all take our journeys and find our paths when we are ready. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be, doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. I hope that if you haven't already, you too will find a way to open up to the Universe and allow your True Self to be your guide.

(on a side note- I contemplated deleting this last paragraph, as I do worry that it's a little too "out-there", however, the handful of people that I have shared this story with have all been surprisingly supportive and encouraging sharing similar stories in their own lives. Maybe that is why I have found those people in my life recently, like my friend Tanja from Switzerland whom I met in India, or any of the people I have done Reiki with, because we are on similar paths. Even the Navy SEAL I recently met whom I didn't share my story with, but who told me about a book, that basically hits home with the things I have been talking about.  I hope you find some value in my story and whether you think I am a "crazy hippy" or an intuitive being, I'd love to hear your comments!).


  1. Nita told me you had a blog and I'm sorry it took me so long to look it up. I really like reading your story! I've just returned from a 6 month motorbike trip across Mexico and I still don't know what I'm going to do now. Time to open up to what the universe has to offer!