Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve never had a “real” hamburger nor hotdog in my life.
The most common response is always:
“What about when you were a kid?!”
Here’s the thing, from a very young age (as long as I can actually remember), I was disgusted by the thought of eating flesh.
Therefore, I refused to eat it.
I remember when I used to go to other kids’ birthday parties, I’d have to pack my own lunch (usually a PB&J) because I wouldn’t eat whatever was on the barbecue.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t into a lot of other typical junk foods which kids tend to gravitate towards.
Trust me, I was nowhere near the health nut that I am now.
But, that being said, I was never into meat either.
In fact, when I was young sometimes I felt “forced” to eat a few bites of chicken in order to be “polite.”
I would put the smallest piece in my mouth, and when I started chewing I’d be looking around the table thinking:
I feel like I’m eating the leg of the person sitting next to me. There’s flesh in my mouth. FLESH. Oh my god, I’m eating a leg right now. I can’t do this.
Then I’d try to find some sort of nonchalant way to spit it into my napkin without anyone noticing.
One of my favorite things about leaving for college was the freedom to decide what went into my body (let’s just say there were also a lot of non-related food substances going in at that time).
Because it was finally in my control, I never ate meat again- not even to be polite.
Still, I wouldn’t consider myself “healthy.”
As you know, you can eat vegetarian (or vegan) and not be getting adequate nutrients.
Plus, I was partying a lot.
Like, A LOT.
So, I’m sure my insides weren’t super happy with me.
Seven years later, I went to Ethiopia for a month to implement Go Light Our World (GLOW)’s first solar project.
During my time there, I only ate local food (which is BOMB, might I add).
Towards the end of my trip, I realized all of the vegetarian options I’d eaten didn’t have any dairy in them.
And I felt great.
Don’t get me wrong- I hadn’t been eating a ton of dairy before.
I’d been repulsed by eggs my entire life (eating chicken period is pretty gross, if you think about it), but I did start eating them when I began traveling extensively out of sheer convenience more than anything.
I hadn’t had a glass of milk since I was about 5-years-old, because- once again- the concept grossed me out even at that age.
However, I’d always been a cheese addict- and easily had it daily.
Probably multiple times a day, actually.
When I returned back home to San Diego after my month in Ethiopia, I decided to keep dairy out of my diet more experimentally than anything.
I just wanted to see how I felt.
I didn’t put any hard “rules” or restrictions around my shift towards veganism- I just sort of eased right into it.
I told myself if I felt like I wanted to have dairy, then I would.
No shame nor judgment- just taking it day by day.
But here’s the thing- I felt so great that I never actually craved dairy (well, cheese) the way I thought I might.
It wasn’t a struggle for me at all, which I know isn’t the case for a lot of people.
That being said, I get SO many questions about my diet on a daily basis.
But guess what?
I’m not a nutritionist.
I have zero credentials nor qualifications when it comes to diet.
I know what works for me, what makes me feel best, and what makes me feel like shit.
I’m happy to share my experiences with you, but I’d like to do so with one emphasis in mind:
Your body’s response might be similar to mine, or it might be totally different.
Neither one is more “right” nor “wrong” than another.
It just is.
The point is to see what’s out there- to hear about other people’s health journeys in an effort to get to know yourself a little better along on your own.
It’s important to realize that there wasn’t a HUGE jump for me to go from being a lifelong vegetarian to vegan.
And, like I explained before- it happened incredibly organically, which (I think) is why it felt effortless.
I also think it’s important to recognize that I was brought up with a very health conscious mom.
One who was into a lot of these (now trendy) superfoods, tonics, cleanses, etc, before they were A THING, like they are now.
This alone has sort of set the standards for my palate, as well as my gut and energetic body- meaning, these are the sorts of foods I naturally crave.
Even as a child, I never had to force myself to eat the broccoli and cauliflower off of my plate- in fact, I’d usually go up for seconds.
And, especially at that age, I wasn’t doing it because I knew it was good for me, nor because I wanted to lose weight, or be trendy.
There was nothing forced about it.
Needless to say, I think it’s quite obvious how my upbringing (with food and nutrition) also added to ease of my transition.
Having friends from every different corner of the world, I know that culture plays a HUGE role in food consumption, cravings, and how we’re brought up.
Which is why I wholeheartedly recognize how the transition from being a meat eater to a vegetarian, or even vegetarian to vegan- is a helluva lot more difficult for other people, than it was for me.
This point circles back to the idea of NO COMPARISON.
I’d like to share with you my philosophy on veganism:
I believe veganism was born from compassion.
Whether it’s compassion for yourself and your own health, your compassion for the environment, or compassion for animals (or maybe a little bit of all three)- the underlying theme is the same.
To be honest, I find it to be similar to religion in a way.
You’re apart of a community, you feel great, and you want to preach this lifestyle to the masses.
Unfortunately (again, similar to religion), oftentimes the more extreme people get about it- the more they lose sight of the core value itself.
Compassion is replaced with judgment, shame, criticism, and even violence.
Because of this- I’d say vegans get a pretty bad wrap.
And I get it, I really do.
But, this is also why I’m here- attempting to redirect the focus back to compassion, instead of dogmatic beliefs.
So, let’s practice compassion first with ourselves, shall we?
If you’re in a place that you’re working on moving your way towards vegetarianism and/or veganism, I’d like to offer my two cents as a support along the way.
1.First and foremost:
I’m a strong believer in small changes making a big difference.
Take it slowly.
For instance, you could start by eating vegan or vegetarian only a few designated days a week.
Or, two out of your three daily meals could be vegan and/or vegetarian.
Maybe some days will be more difficult than others.
2. If or when that happens, this leads me to the second point:
MEET YOURSELF WHERE YOU’RE AT.
No comparison includes comparing yourself to who you were the day, the week- hell, even the HOUR before, as well.
3. Intense cravings, or even just the comfort of missing certain food/dishes, leads me to number three:
Look up replacement options.
Personally, I’m not into meat substitutes AT ALL (as in, I don’t even eat Portobello mushrooms because it reminds me too much of meat).
But that’s just me, and my preference.
You might love these meat substitutes- and that’s great too.
You do you.
There is SO MUCH INFORMATION out there for cheap and easy veg recipes.
I mean, the Internet is a blessing and curse this way, right?
We can be bombarded with “inspo” to the point we feel like a failure, or completely inadequate.
But, on the other hand, we have a million and one resources literally at our fingertips- so why not utilize them in a constructive way?
4. Fourth, and what I found to be there the most important part of my personal transition (which may or may not resonate with you):
Notice how you feel.
Checking in energetically.
This concept might be totally foreign to you, and that’s okay.
Maybe even the word meditation is enough to make you want to shutter with discomfort.
Again, that’s okay.
No need to label it one thing or another.
Maybe just try on carving out a few minutes of your day to do that little internal inventory check.
Notice how you feel after certain foods or substances go into your body.
Our bodies are so damn intelligent.
I PROMISE that yours will let you know when something makes it happy, versus when something irritates it.
5. Fifth the foundation from which all of this is built:
Know that by choosing meat and dairy free options alone, you are acting with compassion.
Compassion for the Earth.
Compassion for the animals who often suffer at our expense.
But, let’s not forget about compassion for ourselves.
Be gentle with yourself along the way.
Maybe that means not labeling your eating habits as one thing or another.
Or maybe that means not berating yourself if you have a slice of pizza with cheese on it.
Notice what works for YOU.
Notice what helps you function as your highest self.
And work on maintaining that in your own way.
And, just so you know, this is a judgment-free zone.
I’m just here to not only offer what’s worked for me, but to also share some of my favorite recipes.
Because, let’s be real, I fucking love food.
And I hope to spread that love as far as it’ll go.
I was prescribed birth control before I was even sexually active.
That was 15 years ago, and I’ve been on it ever since.
And, I don’t know about you, but I absolutely DREAD going to the gyno.
I mean, c’mon, I don’t think anyone ENJOYS having a stranger poke around between their legs while trying to make meaningless conversation (as if asking me about my job is going to distract me from the fact that you’re scraping my cervix).
Also can I get a raise of hands of who else has been judged by a medical professional when they answer honestly about how many sexual partners they’ve had?
Or, how about this: who’s been shamed for having revealed their complete medical history including pregnancy termination?
Who else has been given the once over with disapproving eyes by someone they’re meant to TRUST with their health when they explain embarrassing symptoms?
I’ll get into all of my personal experiences with all of these instances in bit, but for now- I’d just like to put those questions out there, with the firm belief that at least ONE of you can relate.
But hey, maybe not.
Maybe none of this resonates with you at all.
Maybe you have a kind, compassionate doctor.
In fact, I hope you do.
But, here’s the thing- with my lifestyle of always being on the road, I don’t have a regular doctor.
So, every time I get a check up- whether it’s routine, or symptomatic, I typically have to see someone that I’ve never seen before.
And, oftentimes, I’m in extremely conservative and/or religious countries- two factors which play a role in the judgmental responses to my honest answers.
All in all, I don’t feel safe there.
In turn, my anxiety around gyno visits has been getting so bad that I actually lose sleep before appointments.
Sometimes, I even cancel last minute because I just can’t face that kind of discomfort, nor face the risk of hearing bad news.
Because of this, I’ve been pushing off some reoccurring issues rather than addressing them full on.
I was (am) scared, embarrassed, and ashamed.
Simple as that.
In the last few weeks, the issues started getting in the way of how I do my job(s).
I was unable to go on the excursions during my last retreat, because it was too painful for me to ride a bicycle.
I also had to skip days out to the temple because I was bleeding (irregularly).
And, finally- I had to cancel my project visitations, because the symptoms were not letting up (on and off for 6 weeks), so I knew I needed to be nearby a good hospital rather than escape into rural India.
Because my work is my passion, and my passion is my work- this was the final straw.
I decided to cave and see a doctor here in India.
It’s important to note that before this, I’d asked my boyfriend to schedule me an appointment in Australia (where I’m headed after this).
The week of said appointment- he called me to tell me that only male doctors were available, so he wanted to double check with me whether or not I’d be comfortable with that before confirming the time.
This simple text message triggered a MASSIVE response not only mentally/emotionally, but also physically as well.
Even the THOUGHT of a strange man in between my legs made me physically sick to my stomach.
To be totally honest, I sort of had a meltdown.
I started crying to the point I couldn’t catch my breath.
My heart was racing, as my body temperature skyrocketed, and my hands shook almost uncontrollably.
It was in that moment- alone in a small, dirty hotel room in Bangalore, that I knew I needed to re-examine what the hell was going on.
It was there that I realized how much my mental and emotional trauma regarding my sexuality was undoubtedly manifesting itself physically.
And I needed to get to the bottom of it.
Once I cancelled my trip to see Go Light Our World (GLOW)’s solar projects- I moved into a more comfortable (ie: CLEAN) hotel, and booked an appointment (with a woman) at a nearby hospital.
After I settled into my new space and took a hot shower, I had a chance to actually reflect on the source of my intense reaction.
I rolled out my mat, lit some incense, and laid down in a reclined butterfly position using one of the bed’s bolsters underneath my spine, and one of the bed cushions underneath my head.
I draped a sarong over my eyes, placed both my hands on my bare belly, and started to connect to my breath
It was here that I let myself just BE with all those gross, horrible feelings rearing their ugly heads.
I’ve found that getting as physically comfortable as possible (ie all the cushions, aroma therapy, blankets, etc) helps me to settle into that space of total DIScomfort mentally and emotionally.
I’m able to sit (or lay, in this case) with myself as I am.
And I’m able to get a little more clear where certain feelings are coming from, why they get triggered, and what work I can do to move forward.
After an emotional evening with myself, and myself alone, I was (thankfully) able to vent these experiences to a few close girlfriends via voice notes.
When I heard their responses, I realized that I’m nowhere near alone in these reoccurring issues, symptoms, fears, etc.
My conversations with them are actually the catalysts which inspired this post.
I’m a strong believer in doing as many things (if not ALL things) with intention.
That being said, I’d like to say that my intention(s) in writing this post is to not only be a therapeutic exercise for myself by publicly sharing about something that often evokes a sense of shame, and causes me to shut down rather than open up.
But, I’d also like this piece to also be a reminder for someone (even if it’s just for ONE person) who is going through, or has gone through, similar experiences- that you’re not alone.
I guess this means I have to start from the beginning in order for you to fully understand.
So here it goes.
I should mention that this could come off as quite explicit, and might be difficult to read if you have sexual trauma of your own.
The choice to continue to read from here, is purely your own.
As I mentioned before, I was prescribed birth control before I was even sexually active. This was due to the discovery of ovarian cysts, which caused me incredibly painful periods in high school.
I’m talking so painful that I would pass out, throw up, have to leave school early- the whole works.
Apparently the “only thing” that would help ease some of these symptoms, was pumping a 15-year-old girl full of hormones.
I must admit, at the time, I thought it was pretty cool.
I mean, I wasn’t even having sex, but it sounded so GROWN UP being on the pill.
It almost made all the poking and prodding and ultrasounds worth it.
Fast forward another year and a half, and I’d lost my virginity to my (then) boyfriend.
A few weeks later, that same boyfriend’s best friend drugged and raped me at a party.
Although I was thankful to be on birth control (because of course he didn’t use a condom), I wasn’t so thankful that he gave me High Risk HPV.
This is when my gyno dread really started.
Here I was, a 16-year-old girl who was already living with the shame of being a rape victim (also being bullied at school for being a “slut” because of it), and now living with the fear that comes with a lifelong disease, as well.
I know that nowadays it seems like everyone and their moms have HPV.
But at the time, I felt completely alone.
I’d never even heard of it.
And when you hear the word “cancer” often associated with it, let me tell you- it’s pretty fucking terrifying.
I was so young, and so inexperienced- yet also felt incredibly tainted already.
It was a total mind fuck.
However, I was always diligent about yearly paps despite the discomfort of the examinations.
Let’s move forward another 7 years.
Those 7 years were as “normal” as anyone’s teens and 20s can be.
I had a handful of serious, as well as not-so-serious boyfriends, as well as quite a few flings in between.
I went to a party college, and I fit into that mold perfectly.
Despite losing my best friend to drugs my freshman year, I continued to dabble with them myself on and off throughout the years.
I was 22-years-old at the time that I started dating a guy (also a drug dealer, might I add) who had been my friend for years.
A guy who I ended up being with for nearly two more years after that, even though he was physically violent with me within the first few weeks of us dating.
The violence came in waves, as did his affection and (what I’d mistaken at the time to be) love.
I’d decided I’d had enough after his 26th birthday when he threw me against the wall of my apartment in a fit of rage- knocking the wind out of me, and leaving me with a bruised body (and heart) the next day.
He left shortly after his outburst, and when I went to the bathroom I noticed that I was bleeding.
It was alarming because I wasn’t on my period, nor was I meant to be anytime soon.
However, in the midst of what was happening between us- I actually forgot about it by the next day.
That instance provided me with the courage to break up with him FOR GOOD- to finally move forward, without looking back.
Two days later, I had blood in my underwear again.
When I saw it, I was reminded of the spotting from the other night.
With a heavy, sinking feeling of dread- I knew right then and there that I was pregnant.
I just knew.
Regardless of that intuitive knowing, I took a test to confirm my (at the time) worst fears.
I’d also like to add that I was still on birth control at this point.
I guess I was just fertile af.
I know a lot of people won’t agree with this, but that’s okay.
Because it wasn’t their choice to make, it was mine.
But, at the time (and even now), I felt that the only option for me was to terminate the pregnancy.
I had involved myself with an evil, abusive man- and I wasn’t going to bring an innocent being into such an ugly situation because of my mistakes.
Plus, I didn’t want to be connected to this monster for the rest of my life. And, if he was the father of my child- that would inevitably be the case.
All of that being said, I still felt it was his right to know what had happened, and what I planned to do- so I told him.
He didn’t take it well.
But he was “there for me” nonetheless.
For the sake of not dragging out this story anymore so than I already have- I’ll cut it short by saying unfortunately this event was the one that brought us back together.
The day he brought me home from the operation was the only time he ever got me flowers.
Not that I’m necessarily a flowers kinda girl.
But you have to realize, this was really one of the only thoughtful gestures he’d ever made for me.
The sweetness didn’t last, of course.
Once I was on the mend, he made sure to tell me what a horrible person I was for killing our baby.
All the time.
He also told his parents about it, as well.
His mom made a point to call me crying asking why I deprived them of a grandchild.
The only good thing about this experience was that the doctor put in an IUD when I’d had the operation, which made my hormones a whole lot more balanced, and also my periods a whole lot less painful.
Surprisingly- despite the abuse and the trauma of the abortion- I actually felt in tune with my body and my sexuality at the time.
I loved that I didn’t have to take a pill every day.
I trusted the durability of the device.
And I enjoyed the mild periods.
However, the continual berating from my boyfriend about the subject was a brutal cross to bear.
But now, I will say this- I still don’t have an ounce of regret for that decision.
And for that, it made the rest of the bull shit a little more tolerable.
Okay, let’s move on another 6 years.
These 6 years were some of the most pivotal in my life.
First of all, that abusive relationship came to an explosive end on my 24th birthday- which landed me in the hospital, and the guy in jail.
The physical injuries that occurred were nothing in comparison to the emotional beating I’d taken.
I lost plenty of “friends” who called me a liar, took his side, or just didn’t have enough of a backbone to take a side at all.
I was forced to unravel years of abuse, to see parts of myself that I hated, and to try- just try- to love myself again.
The light at the end of the tunnel for me was the justice I was sure he’s serve after what he did to me.
There were multiple witnesses, testimonies from the cops who arrested him (they caught him LITERALLY washing my blood off the walls), as well as the simple fact that I was telling the truth.
And I was sure that truth would prevail.
Unfortunately, after nine months of doctors, lawyers, and courtrooms- I was wrong.
Truth and justice don’t always prevail (at least not the way I thought they would).
He was let off of EVERY charge.
He walked free.
The verdict sunk me into a deep depression, that my dad quickly snapped me out of about a week later.
He gave me a talk that inspired me to follow my dream of starting my own non-profit and relocating to Kenya.
This is when GLOW was born.
The next 6 years were ultimately my journey of healing, travel, mothering my dream, my vision, and working on my overall well-being.
This is when I did my yoga teacher training, became vegan (which, in turn, caused my HPV to lie dormant since!), started GLOW Yoga Retreats, began using Instagram- and so much more.
This time period deserves a blog post in and of itself.
I’d rather not digress too much from the topic at hand (aka, my vagina).
So, here we are- summer of 2017.
I had started seeing (and sleeping with) a guy (who is now my current boyfriend fyi) that I’d been friends with for awhile.
We were both living in the Philippines on a tiny island where everyone knows EVERYONE’S business.
Because of our environment, I didn’t really want people to know about “us” until I was certain that I’d wanted it to be anything worth knowing about.
One day, we escaped up North so that we could be as lovey dovey as we wanted and not have to worry about anyone seeing us together.
Let’s just say, one thing led to another, and we ended up having sex in the ocean.
Apparently, that was a big mistake.
You’d think that being almost 30, I’d know that- but I guess I just needed to learn the hard way.
Within 48 hours, I started having pain…umm…down there.
It’s important to know that at this point in my life I’d yet to experience a UTI, a bladder infection, yeast infection, or any of the common sort of issues that women face regularly.
With the exception of traumas already mentioned, I had always had a pretty healthy situation down there.
I was also on my second IUD at this point, because the 5-year lifespan of my first had already come and gone.
I was lucky enough to be numbed when the old one was removed, and the new one was put in- so I’d still yet to actually FEEL the pain of the whole IUD procedure.
To be honest- I didn’t really give my lady bits a whole lot of thought (beyond regular hygiene and care, of course), simply because I didn’t HAVE to.
However, even though I had nothing to compare it to- I also knew that something was not right.
Like REALLY not right.
So, we went to the “doctor” on the island (I say this in quotes because I really have no idea how qualified this person in a one-bedroom shack of an office really is).
After my examination she concluded I had vaginitis.
That’s, like, the least conclusive thing EVER.
She gave me a suppository, a pat on the back, and sent me on my way.
I was told to put the suppository in at night, wear underwear when I sleep because some of it will seep out, and it should clear up in 3 days.
Well, I can assure you that is not what happened.
What did happen was that I had an allergic reaction to the medicine (something I found out almost a year later, mind you).
And, by wearing the underwear and trapping everything in- it actually made it WORSE.
I’m no doctor, nor scientist (clearly), but all I know is that our vaginas are super a super fucking delicate ecosystem.
There’s already a whole lot going on down there when it comes to moisture and temperature, so when you put something in that you’re not only allergic to, but something that’s also adding to the moisture and turning up the temperature (due to the fever)- things will get ugly.
Whatever infection I had got so bad that my fever skyrocketed in, and I got insanely sick (if you know me at all, this will come as no surprise to you- you know how my body responds to illnesses).
Because there’s no actual hospital nor qualified health care on the island, I took a two-hour flight to Manila to get the help I desperately needed.
Much to my surprise (and gratitude), Michael came with me- taking care of me every step along the way.
This is when things took a turn for the worse.
To be honest, this next part is still difficult for me to write about.
But the point is to share my story, so here it goes.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Philippines is primarily Catholic, which- in turn- means it can be pretty conservative (especially when it comes to sex-related topics).
So, when I met with the doctor and told her that yes, I’d been pregnant before- but no, I didn’t have any children- her face immediately changed.
Look, I know there’s a high chance that my emotional state might’ve exaggerated this whole experience. But, I also know that my judgment of energy is typically pretty spot on.
When I sense judgment, it’s usually because it’s actually there. Whether that other person would ever admit that or not is another story.
That same doctor all but sneered when I told her that, no, Michael and I weren’t married.
Her face was aghast when I told her I didn’t know how many sexual partners I’d had in my lifetime.
Then she examined me.
Let me just interject here to say that I was in a great deal of pain to any sort of touch.
It was difficult for me to WALK.
I couldn’t wear anything other than a dress, because having any sort of fabric even just graze against me was excruciating.
Tears were rolling down my face before she even started the examination, but by the time she was done- I was hyperventilating with pain.
And, I could tell you for damn sure that she didn’t care.
Once she finished, she told me (stone faced) that I had herpes.
Then attempted to walk out of the room.
Sure, drop a bomb on me that I have a lifelong disease, and then leave me to process that alone.
I was obviously in shock, but managed to get a few questions out before she went on her way.
In that time, she told me she didn’t need to run a test because she could tell just by looking.
She also went onto say that unless I’d gone outside of the relationship- then Michael had clearly cheated on me, and that I should break up with him.
Luckily, all of this unsolicited advice truly didn’t bother me because of the status of our relationship- and the simple fact that I trusted (and still do) him.
But, fuck, imagine if your DOCTOR- a person of authority- insisted your partner was cheating on you and that you have a chronic disease.
WITHOUT TAKING ANY TESTS.
Due to my plethora of experiences with ridiculous doctors, I insisted on getting ALL the tests done- pap, culture of the rash area itself, and blood.
I ended up having to be in the hospital for 5 days.
In that time, every single nurse and doctor there treated me like I was an American harlot.
Every examination I had left me crying in pain because of how callously and indifferently they treated my wounds.
During these 5 days, Michael also went to the lab to get tested himself.
A completely separate doctor there went on to tell him that I’d cheated on him, and that he should break up with me.
Seemed to be a reoccurring theme in the place, right?
All of Michael’s tests came back negative.
When I asked for the results of mine, they kept saying it would take time.
Finally, they told me that they came back positive.
She even said the words, “I told you so.”
It’s safe to say that I wasn’t in a good place mentally.
I felt like I was finally damaged beyond repair- depressed, disgusting, broken.
I wanted to give up on life right then and there.
When I was discharged from the hospital, a different doctor was reviewing my charts for me before I went.
In that time, she said that all the tests came back negative.
I cut her off, and asked her to repeat what she’d just said.
She looked at me strangely, repeating that they’d all been negative.
I wanted to punch her in the face and hug her at the same time.
Keep in mind that in this span of time, I had already begun the process of accepting this disease I thought I was living with forever.
I started looking into supplements and natural remedies to keep outbreaks at bay.
I’d even written my mom a long email in my pain killer induced state- telling her everything.
And, I love you mom, but her response also made me feel a whole lot worse too.
Then, after all that- I have a doctor tell me that the tests were negative.
What the actual fuck.
She looked at me like I was stupid, telling me that false negatives happen all the time- but they’re still confident that’s what it is.
Essentially letting me know not to get my hopes up.
But I couldn’t get those results out of my mind.
Plus, I was all about hope- and I was clinging to what was left of mine.
In the year and half since that incident, I’ve had 4 pap smears and blood tests from 4 different doctors.
They’ve all been negative.
When I told one doctor about the experience, she told me it sounded like I was allergic to the suppository medication- and that she’s seen reactions like that before (I had photos).
I’ve never had an outbreak.
Not because I’m healthy, and mindful- but because I don’t have fucking herpes despite one judgmental doctor’s false diagnosis.
I'd like to clarify here that although I think (I can't be 100% sure, of course) that religion played a role in this judgement and unprofessionalism- I don't blame Catholicism, nor the entire Filipio race/culture, by any means.
As most of you probably know, Filipinos are often the most wonderful caretakers in the medical field, and outside of it.
My experience should not be read as a way to clump ALL people of a certain race or religion into just one generalized box. Because that's far from the case.
But the thing is, that experience changed me.
Not only has my female ecosystem never really been the same since- but my sexual drive and self-love have also been at an all-time low, as well.
Like I said, I finally felt damaged beyond repair.
Although the diagnosis was incorrect, I still just felt horrible in my own skin and extremely uncomfortable with my sexuality.
There was (and still is) a thick coat of shame, which suffocates any of my feelings of being sexy or beautiful.
Not to mention the frequent physical discomfort since then.
I’m suddenly much more sensitive to EVERYTHING:
Wearing leggings or bathing suits for too long, bicycles, sitting for long period of time without changing clothes (long flights and bus rides), humidity, dry cold, surfing (straddling the board).
The list goes on and on.
I’ve had to modify huge chunks of my daily life.
Some activities I’ve had to cut out altogether (I haven’t surfed in a year, because of it).
However, despite how much these reoccurring issues have been getting in the way of my life- I’ve also been terrified to go to the doctor to try to get things back on track for good.
My healing process has sort of been like running on a hamster wheel- running constantly, but moving nowhere.
Sure, I’ve continued to get check ups, but other than that- I haven’t had a whole lot of answers.
After my meltdown last week in my Banglore hotel room, I knew that it was time to seek those answers in a way that felt right to me.
I certainly value doctor’s opinions, modern science and medicine- TO A DEGREE.
But I also value the wisdom of my body, my intuition, and Eastern practices, as well.
During that meditation, I realized there was a reason that there was no scientific explanation for the reoccurring symptoms and physical irritation that keeps happening.
I realized that even if it felt like I had moved on from the stories of my past, they were still stored quite deeply in my body- and I still have a lot of work to do in order to get to a more balanced and healthy place.
This is why I’ve decided to write this post- an attempt just to just start getting these stories OUT of me.
And, to actually start the healing process OFF the hamster wheel, instead.
This is also why I decided to get my IUD taken out.
To be totally honest, up until this point- I hadn’t even realized that I’ve been on some form of birth control for over 15 years.
That’s half of my life.
I find it very alarming that consuming a strong hormonal substance was such an ingrained, REGULAR part of my life that I didn’t even give it a second thought for 15 years.
How could I ever tune into the natural rhythms of my body if there’s an unnatural substance standing in the way?
In my opinion, I can’t.
At least not right now.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not promoting unprotected sex.
Nor will Michael and I be careless with our intimacy. Especially after already having experienced an abortion, I don’t ever want to go through that again.
So, we won’t be entering this chapter lightly, by any means.
But we will be entering into it together- exploring the effects of certain foods and drinks, as well as maintaining a regular fasting practice, and exploring a variety of movement therapies.
The point is that I want to keep getting to know myself.
I want to get to know my body better- to understand what it needs, to observe where it’s storing trauma, to notice areas that are imbalanced, and to recognize which substances trigger different physical reactions.
Because god knows this last year and a half has been a brutal whiplash of ups and downs when it comes to my relationship with my sexuality and my body.
And, truth be told, this toxic relationship with myself (one which has been built on shame)- has had a damaging ripple effect into my relationship with my partner, as well.
I want to return to a space of pure, honest love and acceptance for myself- as well as for those around me.
And, guess what?
I can tell I’m already on the right path to do just that.
Even though getting my IUD hurt like hell, I still felt an energetic release after.
I was like a huge weight had been lifted, and despite the cramping- there was also a massive sense of relief.
I’ve had the same reaction since writing this post- discomfort mixed with liberation.
But hey, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years on this planet- it’s that oftentimes the greatest lessons and moments of growth come from being completely uncomfortable.
So, bring it on.
I think we can all agree that the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) industry is oversaturated.
In fact, I think we can all agree that calling it oversaturated would actually be an understatement.
It can certainly be daunting and downright overwhelming when it comes to picking a YTT- especially after you’ve heard the horror stories, right?
As most of you know (or at least those who follow me on social media), I’ve been in India for the last month completing a 300 hour training with Trimurti Yoga.
And, based on my posts- I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been really happy with my experience.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a TON of inquiries about the school itself.
Well, to be honest, even before I was here- I would get regular messages from both friends and strangers, alike, asking about YTT recommendations.
Your questions have been the inspiration for this post.
Plus, like I said before, I know how overwhelming the process can be when it comes to picking just one school.
Because, let’s be real, YTT is expensive.
So, why would you want to part with such a large chunk of change if you’re not going to get the experience you really want?
I get that.
Which is why I hope all this blog will alleviate even just a bit of that stress.
Before I get started, I think it’s important to note my background in the industry as far as the previous trainings I’ve done, the style I’m interested in, and my general teaching philosophy- so that you’ll understand why I’m reviewing my experience with Trimurti Yoga in such an enthusiastic way.
My Yoga Background and Past Trainings:
I was first introduced to yoga around the age of 12, as my mom was a yoga teacher at the time.
I went to her classes irregularly throughout my adolescence, but it never really resonated with my completely- it was more of a physical outlet and something fun to do with my mom over anything else.
I continued to practice pretty regularly once I left for university.
But, again, I had a purely physical focus in that it was something to keep me flexible and open despite running and playing other sports.
It wasn’t until I was 24 that yoga began to resonate on a deeper level than just the physicality of the practice.
I’m not going to go into my revelation of breath here, because that story deserves an entire separate post.
Needless to say, I signed up for my 200 hour YTT shortly after my 26th birthday.
I had just come back to the States after living abroad for two years in Kenya and Indonesia, and was having a really difficult time settling back into Western society.
My disconnection and discomfort grew to the point that I fell into a pretty deep depression.
So, I did what a lot of people do- and I signed up for YTT at my local studio (CorePower, Encinitas).
If you live in the States, then it’s more than likely you already know about CorePower.
However, if you don’t- then allow me to fill you in.
CorePower is a corporate yoga studio chain around the US.
The philopshy and sequences are Baptiste inspired Vinyasa, as well as Bikram inspired hot classes, and I think there are even a few Yin classes sprinkled in there nowadays, as well.
My training was the 200 hour Vinyasa intensive, which means I didn’t focus on any of the other styles they offered (they had separate trainings for each one).
If you’ve practiced with me, you’ll probably find this all quite surprising- as I don’t teach at ALL like someone who works in a corporate chain studio.
But here’s the thing, this training helped me realize exactly that.
Although there are many elements that I didn’t agree with throughout the course- I also give full credit to this place for helping me become a clear, articulate teacher by only using my words.
I also really value the fact that I did the training at home over the course of several months.
We would meet three times per week for lectures, teaching practicum, and test- but otherwise, our hours for asana practice were up to us to fulfill in our own time (it worked out to about 5-6 classes per week, which was pretty typical for me anyways).
I felt that I was able to really soak in the information in a more complete way, rather than it all being crammed into four weeks and 12 hour days.
I also felt that we had a TON of teaching experience throughout the training- even starting from the very beginning.
The real emphasis of CorePower 200 hr is to teach people how to teach by using their words, instead of using their bodies to demo the whole time.
There was also a huge emphasis on alignment and anatomy, so I left feeling really confident in this area, as well.
That being said, there WASN’T a huge emphasis in the roots of the practice.
Sure, we had philosophy lectures, we learned the 8 limbs, and a bit about chakras- but, let’s just say, it was definitely a Western approach to an Eastern practice.
I started teaching right away (not at this studio, because the teaching method didn’t resonate with me), and I found my authentic voice as a teacher simply through experience and exploration in my self-practice.
Again, I could (and I probably will) write an entire post about this concept of finding your voice as a teacher- as these nerves and apprehension of a new teacher are also something I commonly get asked about.
Moving on- three years after my 200 hour, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the origin of the practice- so, what better way to do so than to venture to India and learn from the source?
I had never been to India, so I had never practiced “real” “traditional” yoga before, but I did it anyways.
I did tons of research, picked a school, and started my 300 hour training at Om Shanti Om last April in Rishikesh (one of the country’s yoga capitals).
During my time there, I also had quite a few messages flooding in asking about my experience and whether or not I’d recommend here.
Here’s the thing- there’s a reason I’ve never written about the school publicly before.
I don’t want to sit here and bag on it, because I don’t think that’s fair.
What I’ll say is, I did get what I needed out of it in that it was a completely 180 difference from my 200 hour- which was a really interesting contrast to notice.
However, I will say that the biggest disappointment about this school (as well as many others in Rishikesh, especially) was that it was much more focused on making money, rather than the quality of the training.
For instance, there 300 hour course was combined with the 200 hour- only you just do an extra 100 hours at the end.
This means you’re reviewing a ton of information you already know, and you’re learning with students who have never taught and are completely new to a lot of these concepts.
Also, they allowed students who signed up for 100 hours to simply jump in and join at any point of the existing trainings.
This means that new people can just show up on random days, and they also get to pick and choose the classes they want to learn- which generally gives it a completely different dynamic to a typical training where you have a group of people learning and growing together over a certain period of time.
That being said, although I was learning a lot of familiar information- considering it was coming from such a different teaching perspective, it was definitely interesting to digest.
Also, it was a Hatha Yoga school, which is clearly a much different style than Baptiste inspired Vinyasa in an American yoga studio chain, right?
I mean, our Anatomy classes at Om Shanti Om didn’t mention one muscle or bone in the body like we did at CorePower- instead we talked about the internal lunar cycles of humans in relation to the external lunar cycle, and how that effects us energetically.
So, like I said- I felt that I got what I needed out of it.
That just doesn’t mean that I would recommend it to others, especially when 200 hour students were telling me that they felt they were leaving knowing just as much about teaching as they did before they came.
I felt so bad for them when they told me this that I used to give them private lessons (not physical lessons, but teaching methodology lessons) during our breaks, and in the evenings after class.
However, I’ve also met people who have trained there and loved it.
And, if you look it up, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of great reviews, as well.
So, I guess just take this information as nothing more than simply my opinion.
This pretty much brings us to the present.
I’ve been teaching for nearly four years, and I just finished my second 300 hour course in India- although this time in Dharamsala instead of Rishikesh.
I mention the locations, because (for me) this is also an important factor in where I choose to train.
Again, this is my opinion- but I found Rishikesh to be a bit of a circus.
I called it Yogi Disneyland.
There is LITERALLY a studio or school on every corner, and it’s PACKED with yogis from around the world.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a special energy to place like this.
However, I just found it a little hectic at times, and definitely not as peaceful as I’d imagined the Himalayas to be.
The plus side is that it is incredibly beautiful.
It was great to swim in the Ganga every evening after class.
And there are tons of talented artisans, teachers, and beautiful shops.
Dharamsala, on the other hand, is much more rustic and serene.
There are areas in the main towns which can be loud and crowded, but if you’re staying around Dharamkot or Bagsu, it’s the perfect balance of a variety in cafes and shops, but still quiet enough to be enjoyable.
Don’t worry, I’ll dedicate a section to the location later on.
Lastly, I just want to note my teaching style and philosophy, as I believe this is important in understanding why Trimurti resonated to deeply with me.
People often ask, “What kind of yoga do you teach?”
A question to which I often answer, “I just teach yoga.”
I find it really difficult to label my classes (like how you might see on a studio schedule), because they don’t fit into one certain box.
First of all, you should know that my classes are usually two hours long- unless I’m teaching in a place that only allows 90 minutes.
I find it really difficult to offer a COMPLETE session in anything less than an hour and half (and even that timeframe is a struggle for me).
This is usually because I like to open with a 10-15 meditation, and close with a long savasana, as well.
Most people see my practice on social media and assume I’m Ashtangi or into Power Vinyasa, because I’m flexible and strong.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
I move, and teach SLOWLY on the mat.
I want people to take time to actually FEEL the postures, rather than rushing through them and missing those micro-moments of release (another reason why my classes are long).
There is undoubtedly a Vinyasa element to my sequences in that they flow from one section to another, and I have a huge emphasis in transitions.
However, I typically start with two long-holding yin postures (hence the extended mediation in the beginning).
And I tend to close with a long cool down as well (not really yin in this case, as I don’t want people to overstretch considering they’ve just done a complete practice).
When I’m teaching full time, I don’t usually theme my classes- because, for me, the exploration of yoga is a theme in and of itself.
I encourage introspection through slow, mindful movements- and closing the eyes throughout.
I’m also a huge advocate for intentions/mantras/affirmations, as I believe the breath binds the mind to this internal focal point.
My biggest aim is to simply create a safe space for my students to explore themselves.
I don’t feel a need to cram that experience into a box labeled one particular thing other than just YOGA.
Because, for me, this is my yoga- which is why I want to share it with others.
How is this relevant to my most recent training?
You’re about to find out.
Trimurti Yoga and Their Philosophy (through my eyes):
One of my good friends and fellow yoga teachers in Siargao recommended Trimurti to me last year when I told her that Michael (my boyfriend) wanted to do his 200 hour in India.
She did her 200 hour with them several years back, and wanted to go back for their 300 hour at some point.
I hopped on their website to check it out for myself, and I was super interested by their 200 hour option for multi-style.
This means that instead of focusing on just one lineage, they learn Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa over the course of the month.
Then, I got super distracted when I started looking at their 300 hour course option with Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Five Elements.
I’d done a 100 hour course with an Ayurveda doctor in Tamil Nadu last year, and had Ayurveda theory lectures in each of my prior trainings- but I still felt like I was only scratching the surface.
I loved the fact that the course offered a variety of styles (Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Yin), but the overall focus was on the healing and philosophies of Ayurveda, TCM and the Five Elements above anything else.
Michael and I already knew we wanted to go to Dharamsala at some point, simply because we’d heard amazing things about the place- and we didn’t have a chance to make it up to the Himalayas during our India trip last year.
When I checked out the dates each course, I was immediately drawn to the May option because it fell over my 30th birthday, and I thought what better way to ring in a new decade than with my man in the mountains doing and learning about what I love?
We signed up five months in advance, which qualified us for the early bird discount (I don’t remember the exact pricing, but you can check out their website to find out exact numbers).
Although I don’t remember the total I paid given the conversion rate and all that, I do know that it was a super reasonable price- and I feel that I received the full value of my payment through the teachings and classes.
I’ll get into logistics of booking later as far as recommendation for the various packages, but for now, I’d like to focus on Trimurti’s focus, philosophy and approach to our classes.
Trimurti (in my opinion) serves as a bridge- connecting the Western approach to an ancient Eastern practice and philosophy.
Considering the diversity in my past training, and the fact that I value elements of both Western and Eastern practices of yoga- this was perfect for me.
Just to give you an example about what I mean as far as the physical practice goes- there was one morning where we had a very traditional Hatha sequence taught by Vamsi (an Indian teacher).
And then the same evening, Vamsi co-taught a partner/acro yoga class with another teacher (from Spain).
(I note where the teachers are from simply to show the diversity in the team as far as their backgrounds and styles.)
To give you an example beyond the mat- we’d learn about ancient practices of Ayurveda and TCM according to old texts, but then we’d learn how to apply this knowledge to modern day needs.
For instance, meridian points that are useful for standard physical ailments for those sitting at a desk all day.
Or yoga sequences that are useful for those suffering from anxiety and depression (two epidemics which seem to always be on the rise in our society).
I can’t tell you how much I truly appreciate this approach to teaching, in that it’s incredibly useful for me.
I love the idea of making ancient practices RELEVANT to our modern day students.
I love the idea of also serving as a bridge- connecting the East to the West in my own teaching.
The other important thing to know about Trimurti as far as teaching methodology goes is their view on anatomy and alignment- as I know this may or may not resonate with everyone the way that it resonated with me.
Trimurti believes in the functional approach to each posture, rather than strict traditional alignment being the ONLY way that the asana is “right.”
For instance, they drive home the point that everyone’s skeletal system is different- meaning certain shapes are simply inaccessible to certain people depending on compression in the bones.
This will either sound like common sense to you, or be totally foreign- and either way, it’s okay.
Here’s the thing, we definitely touched on this idea in my first training.
However, the focus there was still definitely always on the deepest expression of each pose- striving for something that might be physically impossible for some people.
My second training didn’t acknowledge this concept at all.
Some of you might have heard this about Indian schools in that there’s not a whole lot of mercy that comes with adjustments and alignment.
To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, let’s just say that five- yes FIVE- people left my training with knee braces at Om Shanti Om.
Teachers would sit on you to push you further, or stand on your inner thighs to press them to the ground- as they were really focused on that traditional expression of each pose without really understand the physical restraints we’ve created with our Western lifestyles.
Trimurti could not have been more different in that their emphasis was the function of the pose.
What are you supposed to be feeling, and where?
If you have to take a certain modification or variation to get there- then that’s cool, do your thing.
Your body, your yoga.
I think we see this more often when it comes to beginners, understanding their need to use props and all that when they’re starting.
But what about hyper flexible people, or those who are double jointed/hyperextend their joints?
Where do we draw the line?
This is the beautiful thing (in my opinion) about Trimurti’s philosophy- they put that responsibility on the student.
After all, like I just said- your body, your yoga, right?
What I mean is- if you see a student pointing their toes instead of flexing their feet in seated forward fold, you wouldn’t tell them that’s WRONG, therefore it’s not even a yogic version of forward fold (according to Trimurti).
You would tell them the intention of the pose- are you opening the hamstrings, or releasing the low back, are you strengthening or stretching, or a little of both?
Tell them what you want them to FEEL, and let them figure out the best way to arrive in that sensation.
I’m telling you all of this because as yoga teachers, or aspiring yoga teachers- I know this might be controversial for you.
I think this is especially true for practitioners and/or teachers of certain lineages.
And here’s the thing- that’s completely fine.
I’m not here to change your mind, and I know that Trimurti isn’t here to change anyone’s views either.
This is simply THEIR approach, which is certainly an interesting and not-so-common way to lead a training.
If it completely rubs you the wrong way, this might be a good indication that the training isn’t the best fit for you.
However, you could also think of it as a challenge in the sense that it will certainly broaden your mind, and has the opportunity to solidify your beliefs one way or another.
Lastly, I’d like to note Trimurti’s belief in diversity.
I think this is already pretty clearly illustrated with the bridge metaphor, as well as their vast teaching team, and variety of styles.
But, I think it’s another important concept to drive home in considering to sign up with them depending on your preference for practicing.
Again, if you’re a dedicated Ashtangi- I would say this training might not be the best choice for you, given that all of the asana classes are quite different from one another.
This doesn’t just go for Ashtanga, but any style- if you’re really only about one certain practice, that’s great.
However, you might feel disappointed with this training then- because it’s so broad, and offers a little bit of each, rather than a lot of just one.
That being said, although I could also see how this training would be challenging to some because of this- I could also see how it might be super beneficial.
How do we know for sure what we like and don’t like until we actually try new things?
Maybe you’d leave knowing you don’t want to dive deeper into one of the styles offered- but maybe you’d leave with a new inspiration.
Trimurti Yoga Logistics with Booking:
If you’ve checked out their website already (linked throughout), you’ll see that there are a variety of packages and prices with each training.
I just wanted to let you know what Michael and I decided here, and our experience with our choices.
I chose the option that did NOT include food nor room, only the training fee.
Michael chose the complete package, which DOES include food and room.
First of all, we knew we were going to share a room- so there was no point for us both to book a room if we would only use one.
And, based on my training in Rishikesh- I knew that I’d be ordering off of the menu even if I had food included, so what was the point of paying double?
Also, we wanted to try to have some meals together- so I could always run down and have lunch or dinner with him and just pay out of pocket, no problem.
I’m super happy with my choice, because I like getting to choose what I eat.
There are tons of great cafes in this area, so it was nice to try new places and not feel like I had to eat the same thing every day for a month.
Don’t get me wrong, this choice is absolutely a luxury, and something that’s also relative to the location.
If you’re looking at a certain school, I’d highly recommend to do some research about the area it’s in before deciding on a package- because it’s possible that it won’t have a lot around to choose from anyways, and it’s better to just have it all within the school.
It’s important to note that sometimes it’s difficult to eat just anywhere in India, especially if you have a delicate stomach.
Even if there are street vendors close by, you should consider your chances of getting sick based on sanitation.
You wouldn’t want to miss days of your training, just because you wanted to save a few bucks on food.
It’s not worth it.
However, it’s also important to note that this same food issue can even happen at the cleanest and most consistent places.
It’s so common here, which is all the more reason to be a bit more conscious at least during your training, so you get through it feeling as good as possible.
Because Dharamsala is more touristy- there are a lot of great cafes that are catered to vegans and vegetarians which are relatively “safe,” so I had no problem.
Although when I asked Michael if he was happy with his package that included food- he said he was.
This is mostly because his school was a bit more isolated than mine.
Not hugely, but it’s about a 10 minute walk to Bagsu (a place with good cafes).
And, 200 hour students only have one hour breaks for meals- whereas we had one hour for breakfast, and two hours for lunch.
You might think that’s plenty of time to eat- but you need to remember, this is India.
If you got your food in less than 30 minutes, that would be a damn miracle.
If he had two hours for lunch, he might have reconsidered- but trying to rush a meal into one hour is actually pretty tough here, so having it all provided there at the school was convenient and less stressful.
Plus, he said the food was really good- and he was pretty happy with the portion size, as well.
As for the room- we were super happy with our room.
Keep in mind, you don’t spend a lot of time there given that you’re at school about 12 hours a day- but it’s still nice to have a decent place to lay your head at night.
I think our worked out to be about $12/night.
I know, I know- that doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not.
But, you should know that there are also places to stay here that are half the price (or less) that are the same quality.
So, if you’re a confident traveler and happy rocking up to a place and then searching for the cheapest room on foot- then you could absolutely do that here for a lot less than what you would pay in the included package price.
If you go that route, I’d recommend you arrive at least a few days early, though- because sometimes it’s tough to find a place that has availability in one room for a whole month given that this is high season in the mountains.
If you’re happy with it being taken care of for you, then I’d just go with the included rate.
Know that any additional cost to the training (food and room) are paid directly to the restaurant and the guesthouse- meaning Trimurti does not profit from this at all, and you would pay the same price to those same places should you book them independently.
I think it really just depends on your how comfortable you are traveling, and whether or not you’re already familiar with the area, or not.
Please keep in mind- this is my experience from Dharamsala only, so I cannot vouch for the quality of the rooms and food with any of the other trainings.
Day to Day in Trimurti Yoga YTT Training:
A few people asked me for an example of my day to day with the school, which I’m not going to go into too much detail about considering their sample schedule is on their website if you want to look it up.
But I will offer a little sample of both mine, and Michael’s typical day- as well as the overview of each of our courses.
I’ll start with myself:
Our mornings technically started at 6 am, but this first hour of the day was dedicated to our self practice.
This means that the shala would be open already if you wanted to go there as early as 6 am, but if you prefer to practice in your own room- you can do that do.
They made it clear that self-practice doesn’t have to be physical- it can be meditation, journaling, or it could even just mean sleeping in a little extra.
It’s basically an hour to help us maintain a sense of balance throughout the month so that we can operate as our best selves.
We all meet in the shala by 7 am for the morning asana practice, which is two hours.
Because we were studying the Five Elements in both Ayurveda and TCM- our morning practice would be relative to whichever element we were studying at the time.
Regardless- morning classes were often strong and energizing.
9 am, we had one hour for breakfast, which we usually just got across the street at Trek and Dine because it’s close, and relatively fast- which is important for only a one hour slot.
We met back in the shala at 10 am where we would have some sort of theory lecture for either an hour, or an hour and 20 mins (depending on the subject).
We’d have a short 10-15 minute break, and then another theory lecture for roughly an hour or so, until lunch.
Essentially, 10 am – 1 pm is carved out for theory, which was often divided into two different classes with a break in between.
I think there were a few times we had the same subject for the entire 3 hours, but we still always got a break about half way through.
1 pm – 3pm was lunch, where we were also expected to study and work on homework considering we had such a long break.
We met back at 3 pm – 5:30 pm for another theory class (or two), again with a break about half way through.
And then, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm we had an evening practice, which was usually Yin.
If it wasn’t strict traditional Yin, then it was Yinish- and certainly mellow/restorative nonetheless.
Our classes were Monday through Saturday, and then Sunday was our day off to do whatever we wanted.
Michael’s schedule was almost the exact same, except they were required to be in the shala at 6:30 am for 30 minutes of mantra chanting before their asana practice at 7 am.
And, like I already mentioned, they had only one hour for lunch- so they had an extra hour of theory, and less time for self-study.
As far as the big picture timetable- Michael’s course covered Hatha during the first week, Ashtanga during the second week, and Vinyasa during the third week.
The fourth week was dedicated to the student teaching practicums where they were allowed to choose which style they wanted to teach for their certification.
During this final week they also covered an intro to Yin, Prenatal, and Yoga Nidra.
Our course was a bit different because we had a different focus.
If you’re familiar with the Five Elements in Ayurveda in and TCM, then you’ll know that they’re actually not exactly the same- making 7 Elements in total.
Our first week covered the intro to the course and Earth.
The first part of the second week covered Water, and the second half Fire.
The third week covered Air, Space, Wood and Metal- as they have a lot of overlapping qualities.
The fourth week was Yoga Therapy, where we taught our teaching practicum of a yoga therapy class designed for a super specific group of people (ie people with mental or physical disorders, or people from a certain location, or generally anyone with a specific need).
During our time, we had every kind of asana practice- Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin, Restorative, Acro/Partner.
We also covered a few meditation techniques like Yoga Nidra, candle and eye gazing, etc.
Our practices incorporated acupressure points from TCM, as well as physical postures from Ayurveda depending on the element we were focused on that day.
And then we also learned a bit of Thai Massage, dove into Dance Therapy, and a few other healing practices other than yoga.
Now that I’m done, I can say with confidence that the schedule and overall layout of the classes built one another in a really easy and complimentary way.
When I asked Michael about his feedback- he said that although he’s enjoyed the training, he also found it pretty overwhelming at times.
To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me- given that when you’re starting 200 hours, it’s pretty likely that all of this information is brand new to you.
This means you’ll probably have more to retain in a pretty short amount of time.
When you’re doing 300 hours, you already have this foundational knowledge, and probably even a basic understanding of other topics through your own self-study and teaching experience, as well.
Sure, it was still a lot of information in a short amount of time- but I personally found it totally manageable.
I’m really happy, and super grateful for my teaching and my training journey thus far- as it seems every experience has served its purpose at the appropriate time.
I wouldn’t change my choice in trainings, even the ones that didn’t fully resonate with me- because each of them still brought powerful aspects to my current teaching.
I’m glad that my first course was local to where I was living at the time, and I had several months to digest an overwhelming amount of information.
However, I know that not everyone has access to quality trainings in their hometown.
Also, I know a lot of people who say they’re happy they went away for a month intensive course rather than staying home, because they felt they wouldn’t have been as immersed in the training if they were still living their regular day-to-day life in between.
Plus, a lot of people use trainings as a reason to travel to a new place- and even get a holiday out of it before or afterwards (don’t expect the training itself to be a holiday- you literally have NO time to yourself).
I completely understand both sides of the coin, so I think it really just comes down to YOU.
What are you looking for?
What’s important for you?
What do you need?
And then also the logistical question of simply what’s available, and what’s your budget?
These are all things I highly recommend knowing before choosing anything.
Location (Dharamsala, India):
I’m going to keep this part brief, as this isn’t a travel blog, nor the focus of this piece.
However, as I mentioned before- location is also a part of the equation if you’re choosing any intensive training abroad.
Dharamsala is known to many as the home to the Dalai Lama- which creates a beautiful energy to the place, as a whole.
It takes about 12 hours by bus from Dehli, or just over an hour by flight (also from Dehli).
The bus is not a sleeper, but it does have big reclining seats, which are WAY more comfortable than you’d find on a long flight.
Plus, traveling by road is obviously much cheaper- but that really depends on your budget, I suppose.
We took the bus, so I can’t speak much regarding the flight.
But I do know that the airport is about an hour away from where the schools are- so that’s also something to consider with your timing.
The 200 hour and the 300 hour shalas are about a 15 minute walk from one another.
Keep in mind, we’re in the mountains- so although the distance isn’t far from one to another- it’s important to note that you’re either going up or downhill for entire walk back and forth.
Because Michael booked the complete package including a room, our guesthouse was at the bottom of the mountain closer to his school.
This meant I had to walk up the mountain every morning to get to class- which I was fine with.
This was also something that the owner told me beforehand, so that we could decide who would do the walking.
I was happy to have nice little warm up before class, but I know this could also really bother someone who isn’t as into walking.
The 300 hour shala is in upper Dharamkot, and the 200 hour shala is in Lower Dharamkot.
The closest major towns are Mecleod and Bagsu.
Mecleod is quite busy (a little hectic for my liking), although it’s nothing in comparison to the rest of the country.
It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from Upper Dharamkot, and you’re going downhill the entire way.
This means that it’s an uphill journey on the way back, which is pretty steep.
If you absolutely don’t want to deal with all of this breathlessness and booty building, then you can always take a tuk tuk or a taxi.
Bagsu is very nearby Lower Dharamkot (in fact, some people don’t even Lower Dharamkot as a place at all, and just group it together with Bagsu).
It takes about 7 – 10 mins to walk here from Lower, and about 15 – 20 mins to walk here from Upper.
I much prefer going into Bagsu when I need something from the shop, rather than going into Mecleod.
There are a quite a few cute shops in the here, and some great cafes as well.
Because my training was in Upper Dharamkot- I was able to explore quite a bit in this area as well.
There are also some really nice cafes here (I say here, because that’s where I’m writing right now!), but not the same quality selection in shops.
This entire region- from Mecleod to Bagsu- is known for a backpacker hub for yogis and other spiritual seekers.
There are quite a few yoga schools here, although not the overwhelming amount that you’ll find in Rishikesh.
It’s not the best place for those standard Indian good which you’ll find in other parts of the country (like jewelry and textiles), but it is a great place to get lost in the great outdoors.
There are tons of beautiful walks just outside your doorstep.
I haven’t had a chance to do the more touristy things just yet as I only finished school a few days ago, and Michael is finishing today.
We plan on doing an overnight camping mission on Triund mountain (overlooking the snowcapped Himalayas), and checking out some of the bigger temples.
We went to one of the waterfalls already, but still want to see the one in Bagsu.
Keep in mind, it is summer here now (late May), so the water isn’t exactly pumping- but the weather is perfect.
The mornings and evenings are cool, and the days are pleasantly warm.
We had weird weather when we first arrived, in that it was complete monsoon- and freezing (it was hailing!).
This is not typical for this time of year (thanks global warming), but if you come at this time, I’d definitely pack warmer clothes regardless.
Because it’s high season here (as the rest of the country is sweltering hot, so everyone flees up to the mountains), it can get super busy on the weekends, especially.
That being said, it’s best to do the hikes on weekdays (if you can) to avoid crowds.
Which leads me to the point that it would be great to arrive a few days early, and leave a few days later than the training if you want to have a chance to also experience the place beyond the four walls of the shala.
All in all, I love this area- as it offers a sense of peace, which most of the country can’t really claim.
I am feeling homesick for the ocean, but the mountains and 50 shades of green certainly offer a soothing sort of energy whenever I’m feeling low.
Being here as also made me feel pretty grateful for those after class swims in the Ganga during my training in Rishikesh- which is something I definitely took for granted at the time.
I know I’m a water baby, and am sensitive to my surroundings and weather- perhaps even more so than others.
So, as much as I’ve loved it here, I don’t see myself rushing to get back here anytime soon- mostly for the fact that I just really crave having some sort of body of water nearby if I’m going to be in one place for an extended period of time.
I know that if people are drawn to the Himalayas for their YTT, then they’re usually torn between Dharamsala and Rishikesh.
I’d definitely recommend trying to at least GO to each place, even if you only train in one.
They’re so different from one another, and each offer a vibrant energy that shouldn’t be missed.
Constructive Criticism about Trimurti Yoga:
Look, I don’t have a whole lot to say here- but also, let’s be real- nothing is perfect.
I know I’ve said this a million times already, but keep in mind these points are all my opinion- which means something that might seem like a downfall for me, might actually be a highlight for you.
I really don’t have a whole lot I’d change about my training.
There were, of course, a few teachers who I resonated with more than others- but I wouldn’t say that as a strength nor a weakness, as that’s just personal preference.
Overall, I was super impressed with the teaching team- and I definitely learned something from each of them.
I think the thing I appreciated most about the training was that a lot of our lectures were more like discussions.
We were a group of 21 people, most of whom are already experienced teachers (we had a few people who had only recently finished their 200 hour), which meant we all had something to offer.
I loved how the teachers opened up the space for us to talk openly about our opinions, approaches, and experiences based on our own studies and teaching.
That being said, I don’t think it’d be the most beneficial environment for someone who has not done a 200 hour training yet to learn in.
I say this because there was one girl there who hadn’t done her 200 hour yet, and she told us how lost and confused she felt.
I don’t blame her!
I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes.
I think that could simply be fixed by asking a student beforehand about their past training- as it does already state on the website that you must have already done a 200 hour course.
I suppose this puts the responsibility on the shoulder’s of the student, and I really don’t know if the girl was asked and lied, or what.
So, that’s just a small thing to note.
I also think that the theory lectures in the last week fell off a bit.
What I mean is, it felt like some classes were put in there to fill time slots, rather than functionality- and they didn’t feel as fulfilling as others where we were really learning new things.
It was kind of nice to have a bit of a break with these filler classes, as our brains were pretty damn tired.
I think it just started to bug me when we were then getting out late, and missing breaks- yet we were having filler classes, instead.
Those are really the only main points I’d change in mind- which, like I said- are not that major anyways.
I want to tell you a bit of Michael’s feedback, and then also my brief glimpse of his course from my eyes, as well.
First of all- he really liked the concept of multi-style, because he not only learned a lot, but he also honed in on exactly what his interests in teaching are.
Like I mentioned before, he did feel that it was a bit overwhelming at times- but I don’t think that’s a fault of the school, but rather the timing of the course (something that would likely happen with any 200 hour intensive).
He (and his classmates) had a big problem with the philosophy teacher.
The man is a gem of a human.
He's an older Indian male who is the epitome of a TRUE yogi- qualities that I think are relevant to that bridge metaphor in East meets West.
I completely understand how including someone like him in a course would be beneficial, in that students can see the more ancient (and dedicated) ways of the practice.
However, although he’s a great person- he’s really just not a great teacher.
He doesn’t let you write any notes during his classes, and he sort of just talks in circles for hours on end (I know because we also had two lectures with him).
We only had two hours total with him, which I already found difficult enough.
However, we had the foundational knowledge to understand his circular talking a bit- whereas in 200 hour, they were often completely lost as to what the hell he was even talking about (as I would be too if I were in their position).
When I asked Michael on Week 3 if he knew what the Yamas and Niyamas were, he said yes- although not because of the teacher, but because it was in the book.
I find that to be a real shame as a new teachers first exposure to philosophy.
And I know it put a pretty bad taste in their mouths about the subject.
Like I said, I can see how someone of his stature would be valuable to the students to an extend.
However, for him to be the sole teacher of philosophy seems to be a bit of waste- especially when there’s another Indian teacher on the team who can teach these same concepts in a much more relatable way.
As for my observations about Michael’s course- I only had a small glimpse, and that was during his teaching practicum.
I was already finished with my course, so I went to his class to support him.
First of all, I think it’s important for a new teacher to be required to teach a full-length 1 hour class as their final.
I think this would give themselves, and their teachers a better indication for their ability to structure and hold space for an entire class.
Because they had 31 students (which I also think is WAY TOO MANY people for a YTT), their final classes were 2 hour sessions, split between groups of 5 people- meaning they taught about 30 minutes each.
Actually, I shouldn’t say this is because they have 31 students- because this might be what the do regardless of the number of students.
I don’t agree with this method because it’s completely different to teach a 30 minute section of a class, versus putting together an entire sequence from beginning to end.
For instance, think about how different it would be if you only taught savasana for your final, versus teaching the peak posture.
I think to see a student’s true capability, and to be able to accurately critique/help them as they prepare to transition from student to teacher- you have to see if they can actually teach an ENTIRE class.
The other thing that I found extremely problematic was their feedback, which I stayed to listen to after the class.
They’re brand new teachers, of course they’re going to have a LOT of things to work on- so, please don’t think I’m ripping on them.
I’m always super proud of anyone who puts themselves out there, and offers a piece of their heart through teaching.
It takes major guts- so I do appreciate that.
However, I also think it’s imperative to point out areas that could use work, rather than only showering them in praise- because that’s not realistic.
Plus, this means they’ll walk away from the training thinking they don’t have ANYTHING to work on because they never got any constructive feedback- and that’s how they’ll continue to teach real students in real life.
I mean- c’mon- wouldn’t you rather hear these critiques from your peers and your teachers that you’ve been learning from for the last month, rather than getting a bad review from an angry student.
Or worse- getting sued, or accused of something horrible (because that’s the sad reality we live in nowadays).
I think it’s important to prepare teachers for the reality they’re stepping into- and that means pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I found this super surprising when I sat in on their feedback, because ours was completely different.
First of all, the owner of the school leads 300 hour- and only teaches one theory class for 200 hour.
So, I’m not sure if something has been lost in translation somewhere along the way there.
Because when she would give us feedback, she would even say how she was always the one looking for at LEAST one thing to improve- even when people’s classes seemed damn near perfect, and none of us could think of anything to change- she’d still find something.
Not in a nitpicky, nor malicious way- but in a way that wanted us to always strive for MORE.
And in a way that showed us we could always grow and improve.
I personally find this endless possibility for growth to be so much more inspiring, rather than the false safety of hand-holding.
But again, that’s just me.
I know not everyone appreciates direct communication the same way that I do, and they might need a bit more nurturing- which is fine.
I just don’t agree.
I don’t agree, because I believe it hinders the future teacher’s growth, and because it can also be problematic- or even dangerous- for their future students.
Lastly- there’s one thing that both Michael and I were a bit disappointed in with both of our trainings.
This is something that is more universal, than it is specific to this school- but I think it’s something worth pointing out either way.
We didn’t like the idea that if you pay for the course, then you’re just about guaranteed a certificate regardless of your performance.
We didn’t notice much of a divide in my group, as all of us were very eager to be there, and eager to earn.
There was one couple who separated themselves from the group, who was late to just about every single class, and who just blatantly missed entire sections- which was a bit disheartening considering the community and support with the rest of our group, but at the end of the day, it was their choice.
Michael’s group had a bit larger divide (probably because they had more people), with people who were on time and went to everything- versus people who (to put it plainly) slacked.
Like I said, it’s their choice- and the experience is what they make it.
However, it doesn’t seem right that those same people will receive qualification in the end when they did half the amount of work.
I want to clarify something here- I’m also grateful for this flexibility in that I missed several days when I was sick and hospitalized.
I assumed this meant I couldn’t get the certificate because of the hours I missed, which I was actually fine with considering I didn’t go for the piece of paper- I went for the experience.
When I voiced this to our head teacher, she told me that I could make it up with other homework- and we could work together to come up with something fair on both ends- which I definitely appreciated, because I felt supported.
So, who knows- maybe she had the same conversation with the couple in my group who also missed a lot (although by choice, not by illness- I may add).
I really have no way of knowing, and I’m not interested enough to pry about it.
I do know that Michael was much more bothered by this in his group, and I can see why it would be not only frustrating, but also scary to think that those people can teach classes to real people now.
But, as I mentioned- this happens with just about every school.
Overall Feedback for Trimurti Yoga:
As a whole, I can say with confidence that Trimurti seems to value quality over making money, and cranking out ill-equipped teachers.
I do honestly believe that each member of their team (the ones who I met anyways) enjoys their position, and puts their entire self into what they share- which I really appreciate.
I also appreciate the size of the team, in that none of them are burnt out, and offering half of themselves as a result.
In fact, the owner told us that most of them ask for MORE hours each day/week- which is not something you hear with most jobs.
Despite the large groups, I felt adequately supported with an appropriately sized teaching staff.
And Michael felt the same way.
None of this negates my constructive feedback, as I still stand by these critiques regardless of the many highlights.
However, I would absolutely recommend Trimurti for anyone doing their 200 hour or 300 hour training.
I can’t speak for the quality of their shorter courses, as I haven’t done any of them (yet)- but I can imagine they’d be equally satisfying.
As I’ve said countless times throughout this post, I think it’s important to recognize what YOU want in a training first and foremost before listening to my recommendation.
I wrote this using as much detail as possible so that you would know WHY I liked it.
Based on the WHY, you can decide if those qualities resonate with you or not.
I can say that overall, the good UNDOUBEDTLY outweighed the bad (to put it in the most black and white terms as possible) in my experience.
But the reality is that life isn’t black and white.
There are plenty of gray areas.
And, it’s usually within those gray areas where the WHY’s and the HOW’s and the ROOT of these seemingly simple answers really live.
At the end of the day, only YOU know what works best for YOU.
Maybe you’re still in the process of figuring that out, and maybe you’ll only figure that out once you experience something you really DON’T like.
The most I can say is to try to accept each of these experiences as teachers.
Even the tough ones have a chance to shed light on what we DO want in contrast to what we DON’T want.
The only way we’ll ever really learn is through our own personal experience, as other’s people’s second-hand opinions and recommendations can only get us so far, right?
The best advice I can give you right now is to simply take the leap.
If you’re drawn to YTT, and you feel that it’s the right time for you to dive in- then I can tell you with confidence that it IS.
Do your research, but try not to get lost in the endless stream of reviews, and blogs, and outside opinions in the process- because these overwhelming factors just might stand in your way of taking the leap at all.
Remember, regardless of your experience- it WILL be teacher if you let it.
So what are you waiting for?
I keep mentioning how I haven’t written anything in a long time, but I haven’t included without any real reasoning as to why.
Although I’ve thought about it quite a lot recently, the answer wasn’t especially apparent to me until last week.
I mean, c’mon- nothing like a $10 palm reading from a strange psychic to clear everything up, right?
The realization I came to is this:
I’ve always slipped into the whole ‘tortured artist’ box a little too easily.
What I mean is that most of my writing thrives in the wake of tragedy or hardship.
The words come up and out almost effortless when I’m processing a difficult turn of events.
Which, to an extent, makes sense.
It’s a great way to heal.
On the other hand, it would also be nice for this same creative expression to exist even when life is going smoothly.
I’m not quite sure what it is, but I think deep down I almost find it somewhat boring to drone on and on about how wonderful things are going, as opposed to the sharing the deep and dark details of pain.
I think there’s also a part of me that feels a bit guilty about this notion, as well.
How fucked up is that?
Why should I feel guilty about creating such a unique and powerful lifestyle?
Why should I feel guilty about my unwavering confidence in the fact that I’m finally walking the path crafted for me, and me alone?
Sounds a little crazy, right?
Yeah, I agree.
But, here’s the thing.
I’m pretty sure this guilt comes from a place of not wanting to brag, or show off, or have that whole LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME thing going on.
Although, this mentality doesn’t really make much sense either.
Because writing about loss, abuse, and sorrow is a helluva lot more vulnerable than sharing all sunshine and rainbows.
Which means that these grievances will undoubtedly bring on the spotlight much more so than snippets of an ordinary day, or stories about how perfectly everything is aligning, right?
The point of this post, and many hereafter, is to break this mindset of guilt.
To break this pattern of only offering words which are born from anguish.
This is my public declaration to recommit to my writing practice.
To disclose everyday ramblings, adversities, and triumphs, alike.
And to figure out why the hell I’m more comfortable writing in the dark, than in the light.
Am I afraid to be fully happy?
Or, maybe it’s not fear- maybe the resistance is a defense mechanism, building walls around my heart to prevent it from cracking again.
And, maybe writing about it makes it all a little too real.
Makes it all sound a little too good to be true.
I think it’s a combination of all these elements- fear, defense, and reality.
This is why I’m giving myself permission to just BE.
Feel free to come along for the ride.
I’ve had several random encounters over the last two days which have inspired this piece.
Actually, scratch that.
I don’t really think that anything is TRULY random.
In fact, these stories were clearly presented to me for a reason.
Maybe that reason is to get me writing again.
(it’s been awhile)
Or maybe that reason is to simply evoke a deeper sense of introspection to a combination of resurfacing themes in my life.
I want to start off by saying I’m not exactly proud to be American.
Although, I don’t think this statement will come as a surprise to those who know me.
It might sound harsh, but hey, that’s me- brutally honest to the core.
The sour taste in my mouth about my country showed up about eight years ago, when I left for my first sola trip abroad (to Ghana).
It started as just a minor embarrassment for small things.
Like the shockingly low statistic of Americans who hold passports.
Or, my own ignorance to worldly views and matters, which seemed to be common knowledge amongst the other travelers who I met on the road.
My disconnect grew each time I came back to the States from these experiences.
I found (find) it harder and harder to connect with people- even some of my best friends- as our lives continue to fork in two very different directions.
The final chord was cut when our “justice” system failed me five years ago.
“What’s the point of being here if my voice doesn’t matter? What’s so great about being a resident of ‘the greatest nation’ if I’m silenced and unprotected?”
These are thoughts that ran relentlessly through my mind in the wake of our court’s failure.
So I left.
And, to be honest, I haven’t really looked back since.
It’s funny, because this occurrence could have inspired a completely opposite reaction, right?
It could have pushed me to be an advocate for the other voiceless survivors living in my very own country.
It could have motivated me to stay put, and seek justice through others’ victories.
But, clearly this wasn’t the case.
I could not have put myself any farther from my born roots that to plant myself on the other side of the world.
Sure, my own experiences of abuse were some of the initial catalysts which revealed a deep sense of knowingness about my path.
A knowingness that told me I’m on this planet to help alleviate other’s suffering.
However, rather than walking my dharma on home soil- I started comparing suffering, instead.
What I mean is, I had this mentality that because there were parts of the world where people lived in unfathomable poverty (unfathomable to a privileged, white Californian girl like myself, that is)- their hardships were greater ours’, as US citizens, could ever be.
I know, I know- that doesn’t make much sense at all.
But this was something that I would just have to figure out on my own through my own experiences.
It’s so easy to notices all the differences when you travel.
The contrast in food, culture, looks, architecture- you name it- there’s a whole spectrum of colors and textures across this little blue and green marble we call Earth.
But what about the similarities?
What about all the ways in which we, as humans, are so intrinsically the same?
We all crave love.
We all seek connection.
We all experience loss and triumphs, alike.
We are daughters.
We are brothers,
We are mothers and fathers.
We are a best friend, a soul mate, and an enemy.
We are entrepreneurs, CEOS, and labors.
We’re all just trying to “make it” in our lives- in whichever way that may be.
We have the same light of excitement in our eyes when we fall in love.
We have the same pit in our stomach when we experience heartbreak.
My travels have taught me how incredibly complex human nature is.
But more importantly, my travels have taught me how simple we really are once we strip past the layers, and actually look at the centers of our beings, instead.
Pain is pain.
Joy is joy.
Nothing more, nothing less.
So, what’s the point of these ramblings- you may ask yourself at this point.
And, hey, I don’t blame you.
This has been quite a longwinded introduction, after all.
What I’d like to do now is to share a not-so-random collection of stories I’ve heard over the last two days- which not illuminate the beautiful simplicity of human kind, but also remind us to open the eyes and ears of our hearts in order to receive the wisdom of everyday prophets.
I got to the Pakistan Consulate as soon as it opened.
I was unnecessarily nervous at the thought of my visa being rejected, as I had flown all the way to LA just for this application.
It’s a lengthy and tiresome process to go through in order to assure your credibility, and true desire to go to the country, and this was my last chance before flying out of the States later that night.
As I anxiously wiped my sweaty palms together, the older woman in front of me (the only other person in the waiting room when we arrived) turned around.
“Are you applying for a visa?”
“Yeah. Are you?”
“Yes, I hope I get it,” she replied with a smile that nearly split her wrinkled face in two.
I’m not kidding, her grin was so wide, it was impossible to not to return the favor.
It was also impossible not to let her excitement dissipate my nerves (at least a bit).
“Have you been before?” I asked.
“Not yet. But I can’t wait. This country is so beautiful. I need to see it with my own eyes,” she replied- still smiling, of course.
“Are you going to Lahore? I am. I’m going to see the city for a few days, and then some small treks,” she went on.
“Me too,” I told her.
“I only have one week, but I think it will just have to be enough for my first time.”
“You’re going all the way to Pakistan for a week?!”
I’m always shocked (and somewhat impressed) when people go so far for such short periods of time.
And, I’ll be honest- I was even more blown away due to her age.
“Oh no, of course not! I’m going to Paris first, and Nepal after. I’ll be gone for a total of a month,” she laughed in response to the surprised expression on my face, I’m sure..
“Oh wow, so you must travel a lot?” I asked somewhat embarrassingly.
“I’ve been to over 70 countries, and I’m not stopping until I’m gone,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“Where are you from?” I asked, noticing her slight accent.
“The Philippines,” she replied. “I moved here after the war a very long time ago. But the Philippines will always be my home.”
“I spent quite a bit of time there over the last two years!” I proclaimed almost proudly.
“Really?! I don’t ever meet people here who have been to my country. That’s so wonderful to hear. I hope this means that things might be changing with young people like you then,” she said with a nod.
“I hope so too,” I said in agreement.
“When I came here after the war, I started a family and I worked hard. So hard. I was a mother and a wife. Now my children are grown, and my husband is….gone,” she trailed off.
“Do your children enjoy going back to visit the Philippines with you?” I asked to redirect her sadness.
“My children don’t understand their roots. They are American through and through. And me, I am a Filipina, but I am also an American. Me, I am the whole world, I think. There is so much to see. We always think we have time, but don’t really. All we have is now, right?”
“Most of my friends, and even my family- they all think I’m crazy for traveling how I do. But, I say, if we want to see the world- then we have to go. That’s how it starts. Just go. It doesn’t matter if it’s far, or difficult or scary. Just go.”
I was on cloud 9 once I got my visa. After a grueling 3 hours of intensive interviews, paperwork, and more questioning- I had it.
I am going to Pakistan.
My heart thumped, and I somehow felt a little lighter.
We went for a walk on the Venice Boardwalk after lunch- stopping to look at shops, laughing at the endless characters, and enjoying the cool breeze coming off of the Pacific.
I went into a sunglasses shop towards the end (my kryptonite).
I finally decided on a pair, and headed to the register to check out with the sales person who had helped me.
He resized the wire to make sure it wasn’t too big on my face, as I explained how I like it a bit tighter because I spend most my time in the tropics- which means I’m always a little sweaty, so the glasses slide down my nose.
He asked where I lived, and I laughed awkwardly the way I always do to fill the pause between my answer and such a (seemingly) simple question.
“I don’t really live anywhere at the moment. I travel,” I explained vaguely.
“Oh really? So you’re just visiting?” He asked with interest. Clearly my answer wasn’t what he expected.
“Yeah, just visiting. I actually came to LA just to apply for my Pakistan visa. I fly out tonight,” I went on with a more detail than I actually meant to reveal. I think it was my excitement seeping through. Apparently I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
“Pakistan?” He asked as if he hadn’t heard me correctly.
“Yep,” I said with a smile.
“Isn’t that a, ummm, pretty- well, isn’t that a, ummm, basically Muslim country?” He lowered his voice, and his eyebrows damn near raised into his hairline.
“It’s not ‘basically’ Muslim,” I laughed. “It just IS Muslim, just about through and through.” I’m not gonna lie- I was enjoying his uncomfortably at this point.
“Right, well, exactly. Yes, I mean, I know it’s Muslim. I just wanted to make sure a young woman such as yourself knew that also.” He said, while clearing his throat.
“Yep, I know. I’m super excited to go,” I said, staring him straight in the eyes.
He looked down, and I picked up on something.
“Where are you from?” I asked, somewhat gently. Because I mean, c’mon, you can’t just go assuming someone with brown skin isn’t American.
“I’m American!” He said somewhat indignantly.
“Ah, ok….” I began.
“But I was born in Iran. I came here in 1971,” he went on softly.
“Really?! I’d love to go to Iran! I’ve heard incredible things. Hopefully next year,” I said trying to catch his gaze again.
“Is that right? You know you would have to cover your hair there? This doesn’t bother you?” He looked up.
“Not at all,” I replied simply.
“Well!” His face transformed as that imaginary barrier between us dissolved.
“When you come to my country, you’ll see real beauty. And I mean true, stop your heart beauty. People think all we have is the desert, but no! We have mountains, and forests. And the coast. The coast! Every shoreline is different there, you know?”
“Is that right?” I responded with a tone that gently encouraged him to continue.
“Ah yes! You must see! But, you also must be careful when you swim because we have more things living in our waters than you’ve seen anywhere else in the world. I can promise you that,” he went on proudly.
“Really? Like what?” I entertained.
“Millions, I mean MILLIONS of jellyfish. And sharks so big, and so fast you don’t even know they’re coming until it’s too late. When I was a boy, I was on a fishing boat with my father. I stuck my feet overboard because I was hot, and he yelled at me to put them back in the boat. He told me stories of how sharks stole little boys from boats that way, and I never did it again,” he laughed with a childlike expression on his face, and a far off look in his eyes.
“Well, I won’t be swimming then. Duly noted,” I replied laughing with him.
As he finished packing up my glasses, he held my gaze once more.
“I hope you go to Iran. My country won’t disappoint you, I’m sure of it.”
“I’m sure it won’t either,” I said, taking my new package from his outstretched hand.
“I think you’re brave. I don’t know if people tell you that all the time, or not. Sorry if they do, and I’m saying it again. But I just wanted you to know, because I’ve never met an American- an American WOMAN, no less- who wanted to see my country,” he said, shaking my hand as our exchange came to an end.
“Thank you,” I replied simply.
“Plus, if you go all the way to Pakistan, this means you HAVE to also see Iran. You decide which one is better for yourself. Although I think you’ll agree with me that nothing compares to my country. Especially Pakistan,” he said with a friendly wink and exaggerated eye roll that made me laughingly roll my own eyes right back.
I forgot to fill the gas tank of my rental car before I turned it back into the dealership.
I rushed to the closest station (where fuel was a whopping $5 per gallon!) before returning the car, and then heading to the airport to catch my international flight.
My card was unexplainably declined three times at the pump, so I stomped my way into the store in a huff.
“I’m just trying to fill up my tank,” I said impatiently handing the cashier my card as if it were his fault.
“Ok, madam. No problem. How much would you like?” He asked calmly.
“Full please. Number one,” I replied hurriedly.
“Certainly,” He said with a nod and slight bow as he accepted my card.
I went outside and filled up the tank, tapping my foot while I pumped as if that could actually speed up the process.
As I started to go back inside to get my card, another woman cut in right before me. Once I got inside, I saw another guy at the counter- making me third in what like a nonmoving line.
“I just need to get my card,” I wanted to say as an excuse to cut to the front. But I bit my tongue, and stuck to my foot tapping method instead.
The cashier was carrying on friendly conversation with both customers in front of me, and I took deeper and deeper breaths.
Finally, I got to the front and reminded him about my card.
“Certainly,” he said with his obligatory nod and bow.
I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“Are you going back to your country?” He asked while waiting for my transaction to process.
“Excuse me?” I asked, confused.
“Your country. Are you going back there now? Is that why you’re in a hurry?”
“Oh no, I’m from here,” I mumbled. I swear his eyes glinted mischievously at the sight of my cheeks growing warm with embarrassment.
“Is that right? I thought you must be from some European country. I saw your big bag, and I know Europeans like to travel. Not Americans,” he said with a chuckle.
“Ah, I see,” I couldn’t help but laugh at his reasoning, as well.
“You must not be from Los Angeles though?” He asked, nodding at my attire (I may or may not have looked like a bag lady).
“Nope, I’m just visiting,” I replied, still laughing at his transparency.
“Great. And what do you think of this place?” He asked, sweeping his arms wide as if he were a proud mayor, or leader of some sort.
“It’s a little crazy for me,” I said honestly.
“Me too,” he laughed.
“So where are you running away to then?” He went on.
“India,” I answered with a smile.
“Where are you from? Are you from there?” I trailed off somewhat awkwardly. After all, he looked and sounded Indian- but with my luck, I’d be wrong.
“No no! Me? I’m not Indian! I’m Sri Lankan!” He said with pride.
“Oh right, of course,” my cheeks burning again.
“India is a very nice country through. Very, very nice,” he continued with that same twinkle in his eye confirming that he was offended by my assumption
“It is,” I agreed.
“Have you ever been?” I asked, even though the my payment had long since cleared, and I was holding my card in my hand again.
“No, not yet. It was so close to me before. So close. I could have gone then. But, it was so important for my family that I come here to work. Now I’m here, and it’s far- so far. Just like my country.”
“Yes, it is quite far, isn’t it? It’s going to take me almost three days to get there!’ I told him with exaggerated proclamation in an effort to un-knit his brows bunched together with sadness.
“I will get there some day,” he said with assurance.
“I know you will,” I agreed.
“For now, I work here every day. I work for my family. I work for myself. And I work so that I can also travel one day like you, madam,” he said somewhat shyly.
“It sounds like you’re a hard worker,” I told him with a smile.
“Of course! Why should I be here if I don’t work hard? I know my friends may think I am lucky to be here in America. But the truth is, there is no luck. I am here because I tried. I really, really tried.”
“I can tell,” I told him honestly.
“Do people tell you that you’re lucky too?” He asked.
“Yes! All the time! They think that I travel because I’m ‘lucky,’” I said using my index and middle finger to make air quotes.
“And this is not luck either. You tried, madam. Even I can see that,” he observed.
“Thank you. I have tried,” I agreed.
“I hope you feel like me, and you feel proud. Maybe it’s this,” he said tapping his temples. “This power we have in our minds which other people mistake for luck.”
“Maybe it is,” I said, softly pondering the idea.
“Well, you should go! You have a flight to catch. If you fly over Sri Lanka, please wave to my country from the plane,” he chuckled.
“If I’m not completely delirious or sleeping, then I most certainly will,” I told him jokingly.
He leaned over the counter and dropped his voice as he said, “Greet India from me. Make sure to let Her know I’ll be there when it’s my time.”
“I will,” I promised- mimicking his same conspiring whisper.
And I walked out the door.
Although I’ve been traveling for 8 years now, somehow I still struggle with telling time and catching the right flights.
Yeah, doesn’t make any sense, I know.
But sadly, it’s the truth.
This is my embarrassed way to explain why I was taking an Uber AWAY from the airport on Monday night.
Because, if you’ve been following along, you might remember I kept saying my flight left Monday night.
Turns out it didn’t leave at 12:30 am, but actually 12:30 pm on Tuesday.
Which brings us here- to my Uber from the airport, back to a friend’s house at 11 pm.
I don’t have a US sim card, so my phone relies on Wifi to function.
The airport was PACKED, so the Wifi sucked.
It was good enough to order an Uber- but cut out soon after- which meant I couldn’t see which car was mine, the license plate, driver, etc.
I managed to find the pick up area for Ubers and Lyfts (I say managed to find, because I have an incredibly horrible sense of direction which only gets worse when I’m frazzled).
Since I didn’t know much of anything about my ride, I just went up to the window of everyone who pulled up with an Uber sticker on their windshield.
One guy pulled up who didn’t have a sticker, but a makeshift sign reading UBER in the same lower left hand corner of everyone else.
I walked up to his window, and pointed at his janky little sign asking, “Uber?”
“Yes. You need ride?” He replied in somewhat broken English
“Yes, I do. But I already ordered one. For Kayla? Do you know?” For whatever reason I started speaking in the same fragmented sort of sentences.
“Yes, I can take you.”
“No no. I already ordered. For Kayla,” I repeated, leery of hopping in the only car without the proper sticker who was offering to just ‘take me.’
“Sure, I can take you,” he said again, smiling.
“No. I already have a ride. My name is Kayla. Do you have this order?” I don’t know why I kept repeating the same thing, clearly he wasn’t my driver.
“Yes yes, I take you, Kayla,” he said as he opened the door and took my heavy pack from my back.
“But wait, are you my driver? Or are you just taking me?” I asked suspiciously furrowing my brow at his politeness.
“Sure, I take you.”
Yeah, this clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
I snapped a photo of his license plate and reluctantly got into his car, still unsure if I was making the right decision.
However, I was also exhausted and annoyed at my own stupidity for getting to the airport an entire day early.
I just wanted to lay down.
So I stayed in the car.
He came around to the driver seat after packing away my things, and closing my door.
As soon as he got in the car, he must have sensed my leeriness.
I’m not gonna lie, when I put my guard up- it’s nearly tangible. Even to complete strangers.
“Do you want to check your phone to make sure I drive you?” He asked, carefully.
“My phone only works with Wifi, and it’s not working out here,” I replied curtly, as if this were somehow his fault.
“Ah ok. I can turn on my hotspot for you? You can check that way?” He continued generously.
“Ok, sure,” I answered, narrowing my eyes at his kind offer.
“Yes yes, no problem at all. You can use my hotspot. We’ll wait here until you check,” he said, fiddling with his phone uncomfortably.
“Thanks,” I replied in the same short tone.
“Let’s see, Kayla you’re going to…” he went on to repeat my friend’s address (which I’m omitting for her own privacy).
“Yes!” I exclaimed with a sudden rush of relief.
I laughed a bit, wondering why he hadn’t just said that from the beginning.
“Okay, Madam Kayla. My hotspot is on, you can check.”
“No, no I believe you. You know my address. I saw the order on your phone. It’s okay,” I answered, softening the hard edges of my previously harsher tone.
“I insist, Madam Kayla. Please,” he begged, making eye contact with me through the rearview mirror.
“I believe you,” I said, patting his shoulder. “It’s okay, let’s go.”
“Okay, Madam. Thank you,” he smiled.
We drove in silence for a few minutes.
“So, how long have you been driving for Uber?” I finally spoke to break the residual tension in the air that I’d created.
“Only one year.”
“One year, that’s nice. Do you like it so far?” I asked, trying to engage him in a feeble attempt to apologize.
“Yes, I do. I’ve only done it for one year because that’s how long I’ve been here. One year, exactly. To this day, in fact,” he said somewhat proudly.
“Oh really? So you’ve only been in the States for a year? Or in LA?”
“In the States. Today is my one year anniversary.”
“Wow, that’s awesome!” I said encouragingly. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Egypt,” he answered tentatively, shifting his gaze up to meet mine briefly again in the mirror.
“Have you ever been?” He then asked with a chuckle, as if he already knew the answer.
“Not yet, unfortunately. But, I’m planning to go next year. I can’t wait!”
“Really?” He almost did a double take with my response.
“Yes, of course. I’ve been wanting to go for awhile, I just haven’t prioritized it I guess. But next year, it’s definitely happening. I’m really excited.”
“Wow, okay. I haven’t met anyone here who wants to go to my country,” he said wistfully.
“Really? I’ve know quite a few Americans who have been, or are planning to go,” I answered with reassurance.
“Is that so, Madam?” He asked with raised brows. “I haven’t. I don’t usually tell people, unless they ask. And even then, people don’t always like the answer.”
“Well, people can be ignorant. I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t much to offer. I was at a loss for words.
“This is true, I know. But it still hurts my heart. My country has some issues, but it is still my favorite place in the world. I wish people could see this beauty through my eyes.”
“I can imagine,” I said gently. “Do you still have family there?”
“Yes, my wife and my son. They are still there, and I miss them every day.”
“Oh wow, of course you do!” I said, sympathetically.
“I get to go visit them next month since I’ve completed my first year here,” he went on happily. “And soon, I’ll have saved enough to bring them over here with me.”
“That’s great! Have they been here before?”
“Not yet. We won the visa lottery, you see. So we can all come, but we thought it would be best if I came first and saved enough for us to be comfortable. It’s difficult to be apart, but when they come it will be worth it.”
“So is this your only job? Or do you do other things to save more?” I asked, curiously.
“This is my only job, but I go to school at night. I’m getting my degree for engineer.”
“Wow, really? That’s incredible. You work very hard,” I complimented him. “What did you do for work in Egypt before you came here?”
“I was an engineer,” he said simply, as if it were common sense.
“What? Then why are you getting your degree here?” I asked, confused.
“Because no one will recognize my experience or credentials from Egypt when I’m here,” he shrugged.
“Seriously? How long have you been in the industry?” I asked, incredulously.
“I was an engineer in Egypt for 36 years before I came here.”
“Thirty six years?! And you still have to get a degree here?!” I was (perhaps ignorantly) shocked.
“Yes,” he shrugged again.
“That’s horrible,” was all I could muster. I felt irrationally angry at his injustice.
“Is it?” he asked.
“Is it horrible?” he repeated.
“Yes. I mean, I think it is.”
“Because that’s been your career your whole life, and you come here and no one even recognizes the experience you have. You have to start completely over.”
“Sometimes starting over isn’t a bad thing. Starting over means I’m learning new things every day. Challenges force us to learn more quickly than comfort,” he replied easily.
“I guess that’s true,” I said, although I was unsure.
“Starting over may be difficult now, mostly because I miss my family. But starting over also means I have this new chance that so many people want. Not just people in my country, but people all over the world. They all want this chance that I got. Me. How could I win this and not be willing to make some sacrifices? I know Allah has blessed me with this chance, so I must take it. I must have faith that He knows what’s best for me,” he said adamantly.
I sat silently, sensing it was on a roll, and not wanting to interrupt his free flowing thoughts.
“My faith gives me comfort in the discomfort. My faith gives me strength when my heart hurts without my family. My faith guides me, and holds me when I’m alone. I trust this faith,” he said, touching his heart with his right hand.
“I think that’s a really beautiful way to live,” I finally interjected softly.
“I think so too. Faith is the most beautiful part of every day. Even on the days when I drive people who are angry, and mean, and hate me because of my accent or the color of my skin. I just believe even these people are my teachers. I’m always learning, you see. Whether I’m in school or not, I’m always learning. We all are,” he reminded me.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” I agreed as my vision got blurry with tears at the thought of strangers being so unexplainably hateful to such a kind man.
“And tonight, you are my teacher too, Madam Kayla. You have reminded me that it’s still possible to find people here who will listen, and who won’t judge me for being from where I’m from. You have made me feel proud of my country, and proud of my work. Which is something I didn’t even notice that I’ve forgotten,” he touched his heart again.
“No, thank you for your grace with my impatience. I’m sorry I was rude earlier. I was just a bit nervous to get in a car with a man…”
“I don’t blame you, Madam. That feeling you have here,” he cut me off, pointing to his stomach now as he spoke.
“That feeling is usually the right one,” he went on. “Don’t forget that. Especially you, as a woman. You women have this powerful connection to that feeling. Even more powerful than man! Can you believe it? Yes, you must always listen to your stomach first, then your heart. This will carry you far.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
“You stomach, your heart, your faith. This is all you need. I think I can even promise you that to be true,” he said smiling as he pulled up to my friend’s house.
“Thanks for the ride. Best of luck on your studies. Enjoy your family during your visit next month,” I said, as I got out and began collecting my things.
“Good night, Madam Kayla. May God be with you on your travels,” he replied with a smile and slight bow of the head.
I closed the door, and he drove off into the night.
I took an Uber to back to LAX in the morning.
My driver was Indian.
He was so excited when I told him that’s where I was heading for the next 7 weeks.
When I asked him if he still went back to visit his extended family there, his answer was so beautiful, it made me smile and tear up all at once.
I found so much truth in his words.
It made my heart ache for my own family- as these last three weeks of nonstop togetherness have been exactly what I needed.
The hardest part of my lifestyle is missing the ones that I love most.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing when I miss so many poignant moments.
His words made me think about this concept even more.
And maybe his words will inspire that same introspection for you.
“Of course I go back to see my family every year. I cannot live without them, otherwise I am just a machine.
You know, American are like this. Like machine.
They turn on their switch in the morning & go go go all day. In the evening they turn off their switch & they are done.
Is that a way to live?
To me, that’s no life at all.
In India, we believe in joint family. Everyone is together. We live together, celebrate together, we grow old together.
If you lose your job, another one can support you. Another one can pick you up when you fall.
In America, when you lose your job- you’re alone.
Everyone is working too hard to have time for others. Even their family!
If you fall, you stay down.
If you lose a job, you stay empty and alone.
This country can dry you up if you’re not careful.
We must remember to come back to the reason we have life.
Without them, man is a machine.
And no one wants that.”
The first time I came to Kenya was over 4 years ago & I stayed for 3 months.
The country captured my heart in a way I hadn't expected.
Or, perhaps it was the IDP community (Internally Displaced Persons) who I worked with that should
take credit for such a claim.
Either way, 6 months later I sold everything I owned, bought a 1 way ticket & moved there in pursuit of my dream to start my own non-profit.
As many of you know, this is when & this is where Go Light Our World was born.
What many of you don't know is what happened to me upon my return.
Because, quite frankly, I don't like talking about it.
But it's time.
So here it goes:
Since the projects that I had set up at the first IDP Camp where I was originally working were already sustainable- I decided to move on to another camp in need.
The members of the first camp took this choice very personally.
They felt I was abandoning them, despite my choice to continually visit on almost a daily basis & still help out in the school.
When their hostility started to become violent, I (understandably) decided to leave the camp altogether.
Shortly after, they started following me home on a daily basis- threatening me, throwing stones at me, even SPITTING at me.
It got so bad that I had to move.
I uprooted everything & moved to another town about 40 minutes away.
I didn't tell anyone where I lived.
The only person who knew was my assistant (who lived with me) & her sister.
I came to find out later that she was actually the culprit initiating the hatred & continually telling them of my whereabouts in exchange for a cut of the ransom once they were finally successful in kidnapping me (they made it very clear that this was their end goal).
I think the most afraid I ever was in the situation was about a month after I'd moved when they followed me out to the new camp where I was working (which is a solid 90 min drive into the bush). There was an all out brawl between the two communities & I was grabbed as they tried to shove me into a car.
Luckily a man called Francis (my motorbike driver and member of the new IDP Camp where I was working) saved me- which is not only something I will never forget, but is also a memory that still brings tears to my eyes, as well.
To make matters worse- the general security of the country was quite unstable at the time (it wasn't even safe for local women to be out past sunset).
I relied on public transportation to get around & our buses would get robbed on a regular basis.
One time it was even at gunpoint.
A girl in my neighborhood was kidnapped by her own driver who had worked with her host family for years.
He even stole all the clothes she was wearing & finally dropped her off at the gate completely naked.
Despite the fact that my apartment was surrounded by a 40 ft concrete wall complete with electric wiring & a Gaurd with an AK47- it still got broken into.
To say I was living in fear would be an understatement.
I was so paranoid that I couldn't sleep more than 2 or 3 hrs every night.
And (of course) the lack of sleep wasn't helping my sanity or general well being.
This was also the time in which my allergic reactions were getting out of control & I was hospitalized on almost a monthly basis (I have no doubt this physical reaction was mirroring my mental instability).
When I decided to go to Indonesia to scout projects, I planned to come back after just one month.
I left my fully furnished apartment & everything I owned except for the small backpack I brought with me- because I had every intention of returning.
But I didn't.
Not only did I get bit again before I left- forcing me straight off the plane & into the hospital.
But I also felt the massive weight of anxiety lifted from my chest, as well.
Once I'd removed myself from the situation, I was able to observe how unhealthy my living situation actually was with a new sense of clarity.
And I made the choice to value my well being first.
I went through every array of emotions once I'd decided to stay in Indonesia.
There were days where I would still suffer from anxiety.
And night where I'd wake up from flashback/night terrors in cold sweats & panic.
Then, there were days where I was angry.
Angry at myself for feeling like a quitter.
Angry at every stupid insect that sent me to the hospital.
And angry that the people who took my trust & broke my heart.
As I continued to find out more about the betrayals, lies & stealing that had happened right under my nose- I was convinced that I would never go back to Kenya again.
I can't pinpoint what exactly initiated my change of heart- but I do know that it happened about a year & a half ago when I was still living in San Diego & staring at the large map on my wall.
I decided I needed to go back & make peace with a place that damn near broke me.
So that's just what I did.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about my return despite the structure of my visit & the credibility of my local partners.
Because I most certainly was.
But I CAN say that my nerves dissolved almost completely the moment I landed.
I couldn't be happier with my decision to come back.
Not only have I seen major growth within the security & development of the country, but I've also come to terms with just how far I shoved all of those experiences down.
When it was happening, I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to scare people who loved me & were already worried with me being gone.
Afterwards, I suppose the trauma silenced the truth & the shame of perceived failure masked the healing.
There was also this sense of wanting to still protect a place & a group of people that I continually love.
Now I feel a new sense of liberation that's pretty god damn sweet.
And I can say with certainty that I'll be back again.
Probably sooner than later this time around
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a high school girl asking if she could do her Leadership Project on me.
Because there isn't any information on Go Light Our World's site about my personal story in the creation of the organization, she wanted to ask a few questions.
Surprised & flattered, I agreed without hesitation.
Our encounter has gone on to inspire my choice to share more (because it certainly has been a wild ride to get where I am today):
I went to Africa for the first time over 6 years ago.
Although those 3 months living & teaching in Ghana certainly planted the seed of passion to one day start my own non-profit, it didn't take long for me to wander off of this path once I returned back to California.
Not only did I jump into a new, serious relationship, but I also allowed myself to get sucked back into a world of drugs & partying that I thought I'd left behind all those years ago when I lost my best friend to an overdose 5 days before my 19th birthday.
To make matters worse, the relationship almost immediately became abusive- verbally, emotional & physically.
I felt trapped, although I knew the choice was mine to stay.
I felt incredibly alone, although I was surrounded by so many people.
And, i felt stuck in a world of paradox, contradiction & overwhelming shame for a year & a half.
I thought the only way out was to actually GO as far as possible.
So, I clung to the dying remnants of my dream & begun to plan my next trip to Africa & Asia for the following year.
This was my escape.
Unfortunately, things came to an explosive end 3 months before my planned departure.
It was the night of my 24th birthday to be exact.
A night where a fight became so violent that I ended up in the hospital, and the guy was arrested & taken to jail.
A night where I experienced the legitimate fear of losing my life for the first time.
And, a night that shattered my soul- landing me at (what I consider to be) my rock bottom.
Not only was I suddenly involved in a court case, unable to work because of my physical injuries- but I was also mending a broken heart that still resulted at the loss of even the most twisted kind of "love."
Despite the ugliness of that night; I found the aftermath to be questionably worse.
For the next 3 months, most days were consumed with doctor appointments & meeting with lawyers.
I was in physical therapy three times a week to get my right hand back to full functioning.
(Handstands were out of the question. In fact, I was told not to count on being on my hands much at all after that.)
Nights were sleepless- as dreams turned to nightmares each time my mind replayed scenes of that night.
It always felt so real & so terrifying over & over again.
Even in the safety of my own bed, I could feel the weight of his hand around my neck.
I could feel the warmth of blood pouring from my head- seeing only red through just one eye, as the other was swollen shut from the impact of being thrown face first into a rock wall.
The lack of sleep only contributed to my nearly crippling anxiety that robbed my body of holding onto any extra weight.
I struggled to maintain even 100 pounds.
It didn't help that each time I sat in a courtroom, I had to see him.
I had to point him out to a judge as i looked him in the eye & battled the schizophrenic reaction of wanting to smack the smug grin off of his face & beg him to forgive me all at once.
It also didn't help when all of our mutual "friends" began dropping like flies.
To put it mildly- everyone thought I was a liar.
Or just plain crazy.
I was told that I shouldn't go to Africa anymore as the process of the trial worsened.
If I wasn't there to testify in front of the jury, it could hurt the case tremendously.
But I didn't care. I refused to let him take this away from me too.
So I went anyways.
A choice that naturally changed the course of my life once more.
It was here that I fell in love with the IDP (internally displaced people) community in Kenya (perhaps because I could relate to their feelings of being displaced, violated & betrayed).
It was also here that I created my first sustainable community rehabilitation projects- something I was now sure that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
After 6 months, i reluctantly went home for the sole purpose of testifying until i was blue in the face.
And guess what?
After losing the trial, I felt like my entire world had crashed down around me.
I realized that I was able to endure each hardship & betrayal over the last 9 months by holding onto the hope (the CERTAINTY, even) for justice.
When I heard the words, "not guilty" fall from the judge's mouth- all of that hope was suddenly stripped away.
I felt like it was all for nothing.
A grand waste of time & heartache.
I continued to wallow, until one morning when I took a snowy stroll with my dad.
He looked at me & said:
"I know that you're disappointed with the outcome of the trial- we ALL are.
But the longer you allow this to keep you down, the longer you allow him to have control over you.
What do you want to do?
You're young, healthy, smart and CAPABLE.
You can do anything you want starting right now.
You want to start your own non-profit?
Then go. There's nothing holding you back here anymore."
Within 3 weeks, I sold everything I owned, bought a one-way ticket to Kenya & filed the paperwork to officially start Go Light Our World (GLOW) just a few months before my 25th birthday.
When I first started GLOW, I didn't have the singular focus of solar, as I do now.
I was still primarily invested in the IDP community & interested in creating entire community rehabilitation projects that would generate sustainable increased income.
I was also passionate about improving education, which is was drove me to construct a nursery school at the new Camp where I was working.
I named the school after my best friend who had passed away & I thought my heart was going to explode that morning the doors opened to the public for the first time & 50 children flooded in with wide grins & bare feet.
I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I had never been so sure of it.
Unfortunately, there was a greater plan out there telling me otherwise.
I started having severe allergic reactions to various insect bites- landing me in the hospital on a monthly basis.
My immune system was shutting down & each instance became worse than the last.
Finally, a specialist looked me in eye & said:
"If you stay here, this is going to kill you. You chose the wrong way of life."
Being the Taurus that I am, I stubbornly refused to believe the doctor when he told me the sickness would kill me if I stayed.
I felt too invested in the projects, too invested in the IDP community & too invested in the creation of Go Light Our World- my BABY, my DREAM- to let a few hospitalizations stand in my way.
I felt that if I left Kenya, then everything I had worked so hard for would simply crumble & I'd be back at square one, probably more lost than ever before.
So I didn't leave then, even with that grave warning.
I did, however, compromise by promising both the doctor & my mom (who flew in from Europe) that if I got bit again, then I would go.
And, in the meantime, I would go to Asia for a month to scout prospective regions for similar work- so if I did end up leaving Kenya, I would at least have something else to fall back on.
Again, a bigger plan got in the way of my own.
I was bit again 3 days before my departure for Indonesia.
Although I didn't tell anyone about the bites, it ended up being pretty obvious when I was forced to jab myself with my Epipen in the KL airport- and then go straight off the plane to the hospital in Bali.
Long story not so short- I never went back to Kenya.
I abandoned my fully furnished apartment there & survived a year in Indo, traveling across upwards of 20 islands with the only backpack that I'd packed for a month.
Everything with GLOW was put on hold, as it took me that entire year (& then some) to get healthy again.
I worked with a few communities in Timor & Rote, but nowhere seemed to strike the same chord as the Motherland did.
I felt that same familiar ache of loss, confusion- but mostly just utter failure.
Instead of seeking reasonable solutions, I just beat myself up over all that I let fall apart, instead.
I accepted defeat. I didn't fight to keep my dream alive in the face of one tiny hiccup.
Finally, it got to the point where I ran out of money & I was forced to move back to California.
I'd been out of the country for 2 years & adjusting back to the pace of Western culture was jarring to say the least.
It was here in this time of deep discomfort & depression where everything changed.
Suddenly the burden of my shortcomings & failures seemed too heavy to hold.
I was incredibly lost & I didn't know where to begin looking for answers to claw myself out of such an abyss.
This was when i discovered meditation.
Although I had been practicing yoga for years, I was still mostly drawn to the practice from a physical aspect at that point.
When I began to incorporate meditation & journaling gratitude into my daily life- I started to notice an internal shift occur as I lessened that death grip of control & surrendered to trusting a greater process, instead.
Shortly after, I decided to go through my teacher training course- not so much because I was interested in teaching, but because I wanted to have a better understanding of the practice as a whole.
During my program, the philosophical language & ideals stirred a part of my soul that I had accepted as dead already.
This was when I chose to resurrect my dream of Go Light Our World.
And, I brought it back to life with full force.
Rather than continually focusing on all that I had done wrong- keeping me stagnate in terms of progression- I began to seek solutions & modify, instead.
I decided to have the singular focus of solar not only to keep the vision clear, but also because I saw how solar solutions have the power to impact all aspects of people's lives.
One of my biggest problems before was that I wanted to do everything.
I wanted to help everyone I met.
I wanted to save the world.
Not only is that unrealistic, but if it's not done thoroughly- then it's not sustainable, either.
Choosing solar ticked all the boxes for me: helping all people & the planet with sustainable solutions to poverty.
Having just completed my teacher training, it seemed only natural to teach a few donation classes in the park to get the ball rolling on fundraising for my first project in Ethiopia.
But, never in my wildest dreams did I foresee how those few simple classes would evolve into what I'm doing today.
The thing was, I had finally stopped fighting the current by forcing my own agenda into a greater plan.
I let go, instead.
Allowing for the real growth to occur.
Let me to bring you up to speed on where exactly this wild journey has led me to today.
I brought Go Light Our World back to life & completed my RYT 200 hr just over 2 years ago.
Teaching that one fundraiser class in the park, suddenly sparked an idea that allowed me to tie together my love for yoga & philanthropy in a more seamless way.
I reached out to teachers across the globe (most of whom I'd only connected with through Instagram & had yet to meet in person), asking them if they'd teach a donation-based class in their community over the same weekend worldwide.
I was blown away by the unquestioning generosity & enthusiasm of just about everyone I asked who said YES.
On that one weekend, there were about 35 teachers who taught.
Some classes were big, while some had no more then 3 people.
But guess what?
Every single amount added up to raise almost $6k- funding nearly half of GLOW's pilot project with community yoga classes alone.
This first project took place in Ethiopia in April 2014, where we illuminated 250 homes that were otherwise relying on kerosene fueled lamps for light.
Since then, GLOW has expanded to Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Philippines & Indonesia.
With the help of incredible local partners in each country, I have refined our model to be completely sustainable by offering a variety of products through a micro loan system- allowing even small donations to multiply in value as they're continually paid back.
GLOW has now provided light to upwards of 3,000 homes, 6 hospitals & 4 schools in our 2 years of operation.
We have also built (and are currently building) 4 Solar Centers in areas that would otherwise not have access to such technology.
These Centers have also helped to create about 40 jobs.
Now, our MAIN source of fundraising comes from yoga.
Those same teachers who said YES 2 years ago, now voluntarily teach global retreats with me to fund our projects.
From Mexico, to Bali, to Philippines & now preparing for our first Africa retreat next month in ZANZIBAR- it still takes my breath away each time I sit back & actually observe the growth & overwhelming support that's occurred.
Thank you for helping me shine.
Facebook thought I’d like to know what my one year “memory” looked like today.
Seeing it evoked that feeling of remembering this moment as if it were only yesterday and an eternity ago all at once.
Have you ever feared for your life?
To the point of actually believing your time on this planet just might up as a hyperlapsed movie reel of your existence races from one corner of your mind to the next.
Three times to be exact.
The first time was on my 24th birthday as my boyfriend (at the time) dangled me over a 15ft ledge holding me with just one hand clasped around my throat- squeezing tighter as fury consumed his eyes.
I had never seen that kind of unbridled hatred before.
And at the sight of it- I remember thinking, “I don't want to die here.”
That was the night that I found my voice.
The night that my screams saved my life, and my pursuit of justice- my determination to be HEARD- thereafter just might have saved someone else’s, as well.
The second time was in the back of an ambulance flying down the bumpy village roads of Uganda-my head pressed into the chest of a big breasted nurse who softly sang traditional prayers of healing, as tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and my entire body silently screamed with pain.
An allergic reaction to a tick bite had turned septic after an impromptu “surgery” went awry, and I was being rushed to the city for emergency treatment.
I remember thinking, “My mom. I have to see my mom again,” as the nurse continued to pray from above.
This was the night that I found my breath.
The night that I muted the noise- the fear, the pain- simply by tuning into the rhythm and strength of my breathing, instead.
The third time was about 10 days prior to this photo being taken- as I glanced down at my hands and noticed that they were blue just moments before my legs gave out and I became uncontrollably ill in the shower of a Manhattan hotel room.
After two weeks in the hospital without answers, yet prevailing symptoms- I felt my body continue to fail me in ways that I had yet to experience in my 27 years of life.
I remember thinking, “I’m scared,” each time one of those brain melting fevers took over without warning.
This was the time that I found a new depth in my heart.
The time that I discovered actual strength in vulnerability.
A realization which has propelled me forward throughout this entire year.
It was here in this very hospital room that I made the choice to silence my pride and follow my heart.
A decision that led me across the world in pursuit of exploring the final possibility of rebuilding a relationship with the person who I believed just might’ve been the love of my life.
Yeah, I know- this might not seem like a big deal to most people- but for me, my ego has always stood in the way of romantic pursuits.
Despite the love and compassion I so easily share with my students, with the communities where I work, and with my family and friends- I still struggle to give and receive that same love freely with my partners.
My struggle is one that’s born from fear.
Whether it’s fear of looking stupid, or fear of simply not being enough nor worthy- I’ve almost always allowed this demon to rule with an iron fist.
I’ve never been the one to go out on a limb in vocalizing my feelings first, let alone be the one to follow that gut instinct or heart’s desire across the globe, either.
But there I was, in my hospital bed, staring at three identical flower bouquets from three different men- when I realized that (despite their tidal wave of concern and comfort) there was still only one person that I actually wanted to hear from in my time of need.
I might have showed up to Australia empowered with my choice to be vulnerable, my choice to choose love over fear- but I’d be lying if I said that this made it any easier to pick up the pieces of my heart once I left.
Yet, somehow- I still did.
And I managed to come out of this summer a completely different person than I was going into it.
My numbness was replaced with inspiration.
And my reservations were replaced with confidence born purely from my choice to finally give a few specific (and nearly life-long) fears the middle finger once and for all.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that although patterns may be broken, there’s still always room for them to fall back into place.
The point is that despite all that's been found in these moments of fear, of suffering, and pain- it's still quite easy to suddenly be lost once more.
And when I look at this one-year memory, I can still taste the 3 words, 8 letters- fresh on my lips, as that familiar flutter of hope wiggles its way back into the center of chest.
When I look at this memory I think about all that’s changed in a year, and all that’s stayed the same.
I wish I could say that I’ve managed to stay hospital-free between now and then.
But, unfortunately, I just can’t seem to break a record of 365 days of health while living abroad.
In the last week, I’ve managed to land myself, once again, in an un-electrified clinic with nurses desperately jabbing at my veins in the dark- conjuring that feeling of steadfast satisfaction for every solar project that I’ve ever seen through.
And also that feeling of longing for one person in particular, even after we’d tried and failed for what we promised each other to be the last time after four long years.
When I look at this memory, I can’t help but to wonder how many more will have to pass before the butterflies in my stomach finally die.
I went on a date on the 13th of February. It was the first time I’d been on one in…who knows how long?
Scratch that. Let’s be real. I know exactly how long it’s been.
Who am I trying to kid?
September. Early September.
(and, yes- maybe that’s even being generous)
So, I go on a date.
For the first time in six months.
(was it even a date? A casual night of dinner and drinks in the city. I don’t know- you decide)
I can’t say it was anything out of this world- I mean, there weren’t sparks flying by any means.
But still, it was a nice way to pass my final evening in Manila.
Well, he was sweet.
He looked at me when I spoke, and listened with his eyes more than his ears.
There was some sort of electricity there, I swear- vibrating, luminous.
The night ended with a polite kiss on the cheek.
Warm lips pressed to the side of my face without tenderness, but rather a simple kindness, instead.
“See you soon, yeah? Travel safe. And take care of yourself,” he said before I stepped out of the car and into the house.
Words falling from his mouth.
Light pouring from his eyes.
When I left the country the next morning, I can’t say that I paused for even a moment to think of the night before.
Nice man, sure.
But, not one who would continually linger in my mind.
We kept in touch afterwards.
Exchanging cordial messages of nothingness really.
A friendship was born, above anything else- a kindred connection that can only be found between the fellow world citizens of the Earth.
“I want to come to Flores at the end of the month. You’ll still be there, right? Let’s meet up in Komodo!” He wrote me on the 4th of March.
“Yes! Perfect timing, I’ll be in the Western part of the island the entire last week of March. You should definitely come out- the diving is incredible, and it won’t be too crowded. We know of a sweet place to stay, so you should just book a room there too,” I wrote back on the 6th.
After sending, I began checking my inbox regularly- almost anxiously so.
Why was I suddenly so transfixed by receiving a response when we often took a few days in between messages to respond to one another?
Why did my gut clench each time I noticed he hadn’t even READ my message yet?
Why was a dark cloud of nagging interrupting my thoughts?
Why could I not shake the feeling of something being just plain WRONG?
I continued to await the response that would never come for 3 full days before I found out the concrete answer to all of my WHYS.
He would never read my message, after all.
It was too late, you see.
He was already dead.
It’s taken nearly two months for my brain to catch up with my heart as I sit here now and try to articulate my reaction to this tragedy.
To be totally honest- I still don’t fully understand the intensity of my emotional response.
It’s not that I have yet to experience death.
Because I have.
I held my grandmothers hand as she took her final breaths.
Catching my hysterical mother in my arms as she collapsed with pain in the face of such unwavering finality.
I lost my best friend 5 days before my 19th birthday.
Bewildered with a dull, constant hurt I didn’t know was possible.
Yes, I’m familiar with the excruciating pain of someone being violently ripped out of your life without reason.
And, this is the thing- although Jenny’s death was sudden and unfair- my emotional devastation after the fact made SENSE.
I had lost someone I loved.
But this isn’t the case now. I had only known him for a grand total of three weeks- a mere blink of time in the midst of a lifetime.
And, as I said before- we were not pursuing anything more than a friendship - so, it wasn’t as if I was stricken with a deeper sort of romantic or intimate loss, either.
The longer I’ve examined each emotion as it bubbles up to the surface, the more I’ve come to this conclusion:
It’s simply not going to make sense.
Because death never really does.
Sometimes I cry in the shower because tears always feel a little less sad (or real?) when there’s already water pouring from above.
(I’m pretty sure this is a perfect example of my struggle to be outwardly broken in just plain sight.)
Other times, I’m angry.
I’m fuming at the idea of those last words, “take care of yourself.”
Take care of Myself?! What about you?! Why weren’t you taking care of YOURself?!
I’m irrationally mad that he could just go and DIE only three weeks after his 29th birthday in a different part of the world than even his family?
How could he do that to them?
It hurts to swallow when I think of this.
And, my hands clench into sweaty fists as pangs of shame rain down in livid pelts.
Shame at the reminder of my own fantastic selfishness in choice of lifestyle.
What if it was me?
If I died on the other side of the world from my family, after not seeing them for months at a time.
Sometimes I can’t breathe from the suffocating weight of guilt even at mere thought of my mother’s hypothetical grief
Death (and other great tragedies) have a way of sharpening our focus on the value of life.
Catalysts which trigger that truly Carpe Diem way of living.
More often that not, other travelers I meet have quit their jobs, bought the ticket, and ran free not because of a joyous instance- but rather from an intense heartbreak or disaster, instead.
We have this mentality of: “if not now, when?”
We say things like, “I want to experience the world before I die.”
But what happens if we die during that experience?
We’d say at least we were fulfilled.
We’d say at least we led a vibrantly colorful life.
I say we, because I’m a part of this world citizen tribe.
I say we, because this has very much been my own response before.
But, since the sudden loss of my new friend- my perspective has been torn more distinctly in two.
When I have those moments of- what if it were me that was gone?
There’s a large part of me that rests in assured contentment with my time here on Planet Earth.
I’ve lived passionately.
I’ve loved and been loved.
I’ve traveled many lands, eaten many foods, and been doused in a variety of cultures within each community which I’ve served.
I’ve been blessed with a certain richness of life well beyond the confines of financial standing.
Yet, the other part of me cowers behind a shadow of doubt in recognition of all the moments that I’ve missed (or will miss) in the wake of pursuing my dreams.
The weddings I won’t attend.
The children I might never see born.
The tiny micro-moments of bliss found just living in the ordinary.
I think I may always struggle with such internal warfare- battling between desire to wander endlessly, while yearning to plant roots with peace.
Although Simon’s death painfully magnified this paradox- his passing also unearthed the softest parts of my heart along this journey of discovering my own definition of home.
It’s kind of tragically wonderful how such a grand misfortune can inspire vulnerability and newfound strength, isn’t it?
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around the WHY when it comes wonderful people dying young.
But what DOES suddenly make a whole lot more sense to me is this:
If you love someone
If you miss someone
If you’re scared
If you’re lost
ask for help.
If you’re broken
If you’re excited
Over the past two months, I’ve taken a leap in trusting these vary principles- revealing those tender (and terrifying) pieces of the soul in a way that’s propelled me forward to places I’d never expected upon starting this whole adventure just five months back.
I am afraid.
I am unsure.
I am breathing.
I am liberated.
I am grateful
for the good and the bad
the ugliness and beauty, alike.
Because both anguish and joy are reminders that I'm fucking ALIVE.
And that is reason alone to rejoice.
I asked her what happened, although I already knew.
The scar carved from her swollen, purple eye down to her jaw matched those which sliced across both of her wrists before running up the entire length of her lean, weathered arms.
Her body had become an irate map of violence. Each mark a symbol of proclaimed territory, of perceived weakness.
Of ownership, even.
Engraving her skin empowered the immorality of such memories, no doubt. Etching their way from her body's canvas, right into her heart.
And then- of course- into my own, as well.
"He only comes at night," she whispered without looking up.
"The alcohol can make someone a monster, you see. And the darkness- oh, the darkness will mask the violence, and swallow your screams. When we live in darkness, we live in silence."
She gestured to the small, solemn girl glued to her side.
Her skinny limbs littered with a spectrum of fading blues & angry violets; colors so heavy they weighed the corners of her mouth down into a permanent frown.
"I named her Angel, because I believe she will be saved from this life I've been given. And it's true. Don't you see? This is not only light. This is hope. Soon, my voice will be completely free."
This is just one of many stories that has made a comfortable home in the center of my being.
One out of HUNDREDS that I've heard. Sometimes every single day.
These are the moments which often manifest themselves into reawakened fear and self-doubt of my own. The simplistic honesty of such words beginning to fester, and then thrive, in the deepest part of my core- curdling years of internal repair and newly cultivated self-love.
I can feel it. All of it.
I can feel the toxicity bubbling up within, threatening to spill out and cover those around me with that same suffocating pain if I don't take the time I so desperately NEED to remove myself from these beautiful, but often extreme environments.
And, the thing is- I love the work that I do.
I get absolutely high off of each five-hour jungle trek out to these remote villages, and sleeping on wooden planks under nothing but a star-studded blanket of velvet sky.
More often than not, my heart is exploding with gratitude for those who so generously house me, feed me, and keep me safe.
For those who have so little, yet offer so much.
These are the people who have illuminated my life over the years.
The ones who have inspired me to live the life that I've created. And the ones who unknowingly contribute to my constant evolution of highest self.
But there's another side to it, too.
A side that is typically goes unrecognized- completely unseen, even- especially through the glorified snippets of information and stunning images shared through social media platforms.
Amidst this bombardment of illuminated moments, there still lies a daunting darkness.
One that I've struggled to find the balance between over the years.
Teetering the line between wanting to give my whole heart to alleviate the hardships of others, yet losing parts of myself in the process.
In the past few years, I've come to appreciate the genuine vitality of emotional stability in this line of work.
When I first started out, I dove in headfirst- giving to everyone, except myself.
I never considered the repercussions of internalizing such heart-breaking moments, because I was too focused on how to "fix" them, instead.
To be completely honest, I felt like an asshole if I even spent a moment feeling bad for myself, or comparing my hardships to those of the communities with which I worked.
I diminished the worth of my own pain, because I felt the burden of unfairness in the ovarian lottery of life.
I felt that whatever I was going through (or had gone through before) was essentially irrelevant when I was living with people who struggled to eat more than just one meal a day.
Yet, over the years, I've realized how unnecessary it is to compare one person's hardships to another.
The reality was that when I was struggling mentally or emotionally, I was unable to offer my full potential of self in regards to serving others.
If I didn't take time to mediate on the value of my own thoughts, my own reactions, and my own feelings- then I only perpetuated those innate feelings of inadequacy even further.
I told myself that I didn't have the right to feel certain ways.
That I wasn't worthy of taking time to indulge in even just one day of complete relaxation, let alone removal from the environment, altogether.
This is still something that I still struggle with in my line of work.
I still have that nagging voice in the back of my mind. A tugging sensation at bottom of my heart that feels like the weight of guilt in the face of happiness and comfort.
Because, no, it's not fair.
It's not fair that I although I work in these remote villages for weeks at a time, I can still go back to the comfort of my guesthouse at the end of each experience. Relishing in the luxuries of things like electricity and hot water.
Sipping tea and writing about it all on a laptop as though it were all a dream, rather than a reality being lived by millions in that exact moment.
It's not fair that I just because I was born in another part of the world, I have the option to seek justice for the same violent wrongdoings that Angel and her mother suffer from each and every day.
It's not fucking fair that so many people live in silence.
Live in fear.
Live without ever receiving love, or seeing hope.
The difference between my present day reflections on this unfairness, and those which nearly ate me alive years ago- is that I can acknowledge when this tidal wave emotions gets to be too much.
When I simply need to take a god damn break. To reflect, to decompress, and to filter through all that dark, gooey toxic stuff building up within.
The past two weeks have been dedicated to just that.
After spending several months out in the field, I needed this break more than I realized.
In fact, I tried to write about Angel's story weeks ago when I first met her, but nothing came out.
I sat down COUNTLESS mornings, hands hovering above the keyboard, waiting for the words to spill through my fingertips with ease.
Instead, I continued to dream in visions of red each night.
My subconscious conjuring blood-stained memories back to life in the darkest hours of the night.
I would wake with a face wet with fresh tears, and a throat full of strangled screams.
Yeah, the past few weeks have a been difficult for me, as I've struggled to readdress some old scars which have resurfaced in the wake of doing work that I truly love.
Yet- despite the difficulties- writing here now, I can say that I finally feel like I'm coming out of it on the other side of it all.
With less than 24 hours to go before embarking on yet another five-week-long project, I couldn't be more grateful.
Grateful for granting my own feeling worthy.
Grateful, then, for the time I took to invest in such internal repair.
I'm grateful for liberated words which fell out the mouth of Angel's mother, and into my heart.
Hell, I'm even grateful even for all the fucked up shit (yes, those are the only words that adequately explain it all) which has brought me to exactly where I am today.
Most of all, I'm grateful for that unwavering light refusing to be extinguished, even in the face of the most grueling darkness.
It's time to let it shine.