I often get requests to share all of my tattoos and their meanings.
But the truth is, I’ve never really been drawn to do so for a variety of reasons.
First of all- I have 19, so it would take awhile.
Second of all- I guess there’s just a larger part of me that likes to have those conversations in person.
However, the story behind one of my most recent tats is one that I’m inspired to share here because I think it’s an important message to spread.
Last month I was lucky enough to spend a few days at The Cove Bali at Balian Beach.
I’m holding GLOW Yoga Retreats 7 Chakras in Bali Retreat there in October- so I wanted to have a good feel it prior to the retreat.
I actually shared at the time how Balian means “healer” in Balinese.
This hit home for me at the time given that I was in the depth of a horrible depression & battling with ongoing illnesses.
Their angel of a driver, Putu, asked me if I was interested in visiting the local healer during my stay.
I’ll be honest, I’m especially skeptical about “healers” in Bali after the whole Eat, Pray, Love movement.
Although it wasn’t on the top of my to-do list, I agreed to check her out simply so I could make a credible recommendation to my retreaters in the fall.
He told me all about her, and even reassured me that she was his family’s personal healer- but I remained indifferent.
On the morning I was meant to see her, Putu came to me and said:
“I have some news, it’s either going to be good or bad- I don’t know yet.”
I simply said, “ok, what is it?”
“The healer called me this morning, and she said she can’t see you,” he began.
“That’s ok, I didn’t even really care too much about going-“ I started to explain.
“No,” he cut me off.
“She told me to tell you not to come because she said it’s very important you realize something. She wants you to know that you don’t need to see her, because you can heal yourself.”
With tears in my eyes, I just laughed.
He felt bad, and continued: “I don’t know what this means. She’s never said this before! I’m so sorry. I’m sure we can still go if you want.”
I stopped him, and said, “no. This is more than enough. This was just the reminder I needed.”
And it was.
That was the beginning of my true healing journey.
Let me be clear in saying that this woman didn't "heal" me with her words.
Nor did the sacred island of Bali.
Just like she said, I COULD HEAL MYSELF.
It just took some time opening my eyes and my heart to tap into the tools I already had to do so.
Don't get me wrong, trusting in outside sources played a HUGE role in helping to pull me out of this depression.
As most of you know, I started seeing a therapist.
I also see an acupuncturist at least once a week.
I've gone to multiple allopathic and naturopathic doctors, alike.
And, I also seek out therapies like infrared saunas, colon hydrotherapy, fasting, etc- all of which are not within the comfort of my own home.
Although these practices and these people have been instrumental in my progress- it really wasn't until this same week in Bali that I had what felt like a light switch just flip ON in my brain.
What did it turn on?
It turned on gratitude.
It turned on positivity.
It turned on rationale.
And it turned on this strong sense of confidence in KNOWING I could, and I WOULD get myself back to full health again.
It was only a few days after this instance with the healer that I watched the documentary Heal on Netflix.
I've already written about this briefly on my Instagram, so you've probably already read how deeply this film effected me (if you didn't catch it, you can read the post here).
What I didn't mention was how some of the last words of the documentary are:
YOU CAN HEAL YOURSELF.
The reminder hit home.
I know a lot of people will roll their eyes at this whole post.
I mean, c'mon- here I am saying how a healer in Bali told me I could heal myself, and then I watched a documentary that said the same thing- and now POOF I'm cured!
But, it wasn't as simple as that.
One movie and one shaman didn't fix me.
My mindset did.
My choice to believe wholeheartedly in my own capability again.
My choice to not give my power away to people in white coats, or ANY professional- but to trust my relationship with my mind and my body first and foremost.
My choice to be GRATEFUL for hardships and blessings, alike.
My choice to have faith in all of this darkness.
Faith in being caught by something greater when the time was right.
I know it's not easy to simply tell someone to "be positive" when they're depressed or anxious.
In fact, if you're anything like me, that's the last thing you want to hear.
Because it's SO much easier said than done, right?
But the truth is, our minds our so incredibly powerful- that when we are able to get to that place of being thankful for ALL that comes our way, and get to that place of seeing silver linings- then we're able to thrive again.
I've had so many people tell me that I look like I'm glowing.
That my voice sounds brighter, my skin is radiant, and my eyes are shining again.
They ask me what my secret is?
How did I not only get back to a good place, but what appears to be an even BETTER place than I was in before?
When I think of the answer to that question- I come back to this week in Bali.
I come back to these women's words:
She can heal herself.
This moment was the first of many that propelled me forward into a new direction of gratitude, faith, and confidence.
There were, and continue to be, a million micro-moments in between that continue to push me onto this path- but this was certainly the catalyst.
Which is why I got these words tattooed permanently on my skin in traditional Hanacaraka (Balinese) writing.
I know I will probably lose sight of this reminder again at some point in my life.
And, seeing it on my body will help me keep it in the forefront of my mind.
Plus, this tattoo is not only an homage to my ability of overcome a very dark few months, but also a symbol of recognition and gratitude for the darkness itself.
Without the pain, the loss, the heartbreak- I wouldn't be where I am today.
How could I not be grateful for that?
Expectation versus intention.
This was my biggest takeaway during my 9-day fast in Thailand.
I went into the cleanse with what I thought was an intention, but I realized about halfway through that it was actually an expectation.
One that wasn’t lived up to- causing frustration, angst, and disappointment in its wake.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely tough to sit with such emotions in the middle of a very physically intense fasting experience- because it was.
But it was also exactly what I needed in order to fine-tune my awareness of the difference between entering into something with an intention, rather than with an expectation.
Let me be more specific:
I thought that my detox would evoke a sense of clarity both mentally and physically.
I went into it anticipating the desire to WANT to be disconnected from the outside world- whether it was social media, or just simply text messages between friends and family- I assumed that I would relish in my introspection.
Why did I think all of this?
Well, based on previous extended fasts I’d recently done (one was 4 days, and one was 3 days), this was exactly how I felt.
I would be buzzing with this really pure, clean energy that inspired new ideas for growth (both business and personal).
And in that time, I wasn’t interested in what felt like the pettiness of social media- or the small talk chatter of random texts.
It was like being on this other plane of consciousness that only craved really soul stirring connection.
So, I figured if I felt this day after only 3 or 4 days- then I was FOR SURE going to be on another level after 10 days.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be difficult.
However, I still had this vision in my head that although it would be tough- I’d still be in this overall blissful state of total creative abundance.
Boy, was a I wrong.
You’ll find out soon why that just simply didn’t happen.
But before I go into a recap of my day-today, I just wanted to circle back to my initial point of differentiating expectation versus intention.
Do you see how the lines can easily blurred there?
I really believed I was entering in with the INTENTION of clarity and inspiration, but I was actually going into it EXPECTING to feel that was a result of what I was about to experience.
I had attachment to those beliefs.
So, when my mind and my body didn’t act according to those attachments- I was really disappointed in myself.
Luckily, I was able to catch myself in this process before falling too far down the rabbit hole.
Once it became clear to me the difference between the two- I was able to acknowledge when I was acting and/or reacting from a place for intention or expectation.
I was also able to get clear about what my intention for the fast ACTUALLY was.
This became really useful for me to lean into when the going got rough.
Because even in those moments, hours, and DAYS of pain- I was able to look at the pain as a source of healing.
It gave the entire experience more meaning, rather than it simply being something that I suffered through for.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the details of the fast itself.
Where it was, the approach, and what my day to day looked like.
After a lot of research, I did my fast at The Spa in Koh Chang, Thailand.
I paid full price for this experience, this is not sponsored AT ALL.
In fact, I wouldn’t even necessarily recommend this place.
However, rather than leaving a full review of the resort here, I’ll just share my review on TripAdvisor in case you want to learn more about the place itself.
Other fasts that I’ve done have been with only water, coconut water, or juice.
I’ve never coupled a water fast with any other detox methods before this.
This was an AGGRESSIVE approach to detox.
We drank Benzonite Clay and Psyllium Husk with lemon water 5 times a day, every 3 hours (from 7 am to 7 pm).
This particular combination is a detoxification drink in and of itself- helping to actually PULL toxins out of you.
An hour and a half after the drinks, we’d take 2 different kinds of supplements.
3 Liver Booster tablets that contain: Garlic, Reishi, Cinnamon, Laurel Clockvine, Goji Berry, and Phyllanthus amarus.
3 Colon Cleanser tablets that contain: Turmeric, India Gooseberry, Cherbulic Myrobalans, Senna Alexandrina, Ginger and Cumin.
1 shot of Grape Seed and Milk Thistle in liquid form.
In the evenings before bed, we’d take a probiotic to help rebuild the flora in our intestines.
In addition to all this, we had self-administered colonic treatments twice a day.
The morning would be coffee and water (17 L).
And the afternoon would be garlic and water (17 L).
Again, these is a detoxification method all on it’s own.
Coupling it with the drinks, and with the fast was brutal- but also very effective.
The package I got also included a green drink every day (which I didn’t take), and also a special Thai stomach massage daily.
The massage really helped soothe my stomach in between colonic treatments, and kept things flowing well.
You can also have a clear mineral broth twice a day if you need, as well as coconut water as needed.
I had the mineral broth once (I’ll share below), and it definitely helped bring me back to life.
However, I wanted to stick to water as closely as I could for the duration.
Every morning would start at 7 am, where we’d be weighed and our blood pressure was checked.
My focus was NOT to lose weight.
This was used more as a way to monitor general health.
It’s really important to prepare your body AND your mind before you embark on an extended detox.
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t.
But, your body will probably have a more violent reaction to the detoxification process once it starts.
Although I already eat pretty clean, I really tightened the reigns on my diet to really only eat whole foods.
I cut out ALL processed food and ALL refined sugar.
I’m already caffeine-free, but if you’re not- then this would be a big one to cut back on so you don’t get withdrawals.
I was also a lot more diligent about my intermittent fasting, and even did several mini-fasts in preparation.
The three days prior to the cleanse, they recommend to eat all raw.
Since I was already at the resort, I essentially just had papaya salad multiple times a day (they used apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and cayenne pepper in leui of fish sauce and sugar) and fruit.
On the last day, I decided just to juice as this always helps me enter a water fast more smoothly.
That meant that my Day 1 of the fast really was my second day without solid food.
Below, I’ll give you a short breakdown of my days, just so you can have a little insight into the rollercoaster of emotions and energy that came and went.
The first day tends to be the most uncomfortable, as your body is getting used to not eating. I find that it’s when I feel the MOST hungry, which is more out of habit than necessity.
Again, this was actually my second day without solid food, so I was actually surprisingly okay.
I definitely felt hungry, but I took it really easy the entire day in a conscious effort to conserve my energy.
I went for a short 2 mile walk in the morning, and did a Yin practice in the afternoon.
Other than that, I essentially just read and relaxed in my room or by the pool.
I didn’t do the colonic treatments that day, because my energy was really low and I thought it would make me feel worse.
I struggled to sleep throughout the night, and woke up often feeling hungry and overly tired.
After hardly any sleep, my body was in more physical pain than necessary.
I was too tired to even cry, and could barely drag myself out of bed to be weighed and checked in the morning.
When I did, they found that my blood pressure was alarmingly low.
I was really nauseous, and ended up throwing up for most of the morning.
I had shooting pains in my stomach, and all of my joints ached.
These are all common signs of detoxing.
Again, I opted out of the colonics, because I just didn’t think my body could handle it in the state I was in.
I’m happy I honored my body, although I wonder if it would’ve helped to flush out some of the toxins that were causing me so much pain.
I spent most of the day on my bed, or in my bath.
The only thing that got me through the day was playing repeated mantras by Khrishna Das.
Chanting was my yoga that day, as asana was out of the question for me.
I closed my eyes, felt the vibrations of each word and prayed for healing.
When my blood pressure continued to drop, they urged me to drink the mineral broth in the afternoon.
I’m really happy that I did, because it definitely helped to bring me back to life.
I slept well through the night.
I woke up with a burst of energy in the morning after a full night’s sleep.
This tends to be the day that people’s body starts tapping into reserves, and that clean, clear energy arrives.
I felt that to be true in the morning, and I went for another short 2 mile walk.
By mid-morning, my energy was wavering.
I also started my period.
Although it was only light spotting, I had cramps, and generally felt depleted.
This was the first day that I did the colonics.
The coffee one in the morning went easily and fast.
The garlic one in the afternoon took a lot longer to get through, and was more uncomfortable.
After both of them, I felt really good- fully flushed out, and lighter.
I did another Yin practice in the afternoon, yet still didn’t sleep well again this night, as I was hungry and my thoughts were racing.
This was by far the worst day for me.
I had horrible anxiety for almost the entire day.
I wasn’t anxious about any one thing in particular- there was just something energetically happening both within me and outside of me, which was stirring up a lot.
I was also bombarded by a few different text messages from people who with issues I simply didn’t have the brain power to cope with.
However, rather than letting it go and dealing with it once I had broken the fast- I engaged a lot longer than I should have.
Everything was even more intense given that my period arrived in full force on this day, as well.
I was surprised by how much I was bleeding, considering I was barely hanging onto 100 lbs at the time.
I was bloated and cramping, which initially made my colonic treatments painful. However, by the time I’d gone through the entire 17 L of liquid, I felt a little relief in my cramps, which was a pleasant surprise.
I struggled to do much of anything this day.
I was lucky enough to just take a few rounds of deep mindful breaths without my mind spinning out of control.
My physical practice was nonexistent, as my mind was the thing that needed work.
I resorted to another walk, light stretching, and two massages, instead.
This was also the day that the difference between expectation and intention became crystal clear to me- as part of my brain funk had to do with disappointment with myself for not feeling clear and inspired.
Once I had this AH HA moment, I was able to take back the reigns to my wandering thoughts, rather than be a victim to them.
I had a hang over from anxiety the day before, and was left with remnants of angst throughout the day.
However, I felt much lighter than the day before- and not quite as out of control mentally.
I enjoyed a walk in the morning, a gentle practice that actually had some flow to it, and spent most of the day by the pool reading.
I also busted out my journal and wrote for a long time, which helped to untangle existing question marks on my heart.
Although my period was still (surprisingly) in full force, and I still had cramps and bloating- I didn’t feel quite as heavy as the day before.
At this point I’d gotten somewhat used to the physical discomfort of the fast AND my period, and settled into the routine of drinks, supplements, colonics, and massages.
I woke up with the same clear, clean energy as Day 3.
So, naturally I went for a walk and then stepped on my mat for more of a “regular” style practice.
This felt AMAZING, considering I’d barely done more than two or three down dogs in the last week (I was getting really light headed from being inverted due to my dropping blood pressure).
After my morning colonics, I decided to rent a motorbike and go for a drive as I had a bit of cabin fever going on.
I ended up driving for about 3 hours, doing a big loop of the island.
I went to a grocery store to get snacks for breaking the fast in the days to come (yes, this was somewhat torturous), and was so disappointed by what was available.
Even something as simple as nuts had added sugar, palm oil, and preservative.
WHAT THE HELL!?
In the end, I ended up just getting heaps of dragon fruit and papaya from the fruit stands on the side of the road- as there were NO healthy options of whole foods at the store.
I couldn’t believe how utterly exhausted I was simply after driving (and probably also from the midday sun).
Other than my afternoon colonic and evening massage, I was in bed for the rest of the day- day dreaming about the fruit stacked in my fridge.
The other somewhat interesting thing that happened this day was the weird smell that I started producing from my armpits.
Again, funky odors are a part of detoxing.
In a weird way, these things actually made me feel GOOD because they were evidence that yucky stuff was leaving my body.
I slept horribly the night before, which left me feeling sluggish for most of the day.
I was still bleeding, cramping and bloated- which officially made it the longest period I’d had in over 15 years.
I couldn’t believe I even had anything left to bleed at this point, because I was only 96 lbs.
My intention for this day was to try to be absolutely present with all of the sensations that arise, because I knew this would be my last full day of the fast- and who knew when I’d do something like this again.
I did my best to meet myself where I was at, but- truth be told- I was really hungry, and couldn’t wait for it to end.
I my colonics felt especially uncomfortable due to the sensitivity my nether regions from my period.
All in all, I felt heavy and horrible other than a slight burst of energy I got after my afternoon garlic treatment.
I used this burst of energy to go for a walk, and enjoy a short, gentle practice.
Luckily, I fell asleep early and actually slept through the night.
It was funny that I actually didn’t wake up hungry on this day.
Probably because I KNEW I would be breaking the fast in the afternoon.
In other words, my mind had let my body know that this was over soon.
I woke up rested and energetic, ready to start the process of breaking the fast.
This required one last colonic treatment of only warm water (17 L) first thing in the morning.
Followed by a flora rebuilder to be injected through the colonic tube, as well as a probiotic drink.
These were all meant to be done over the next 6 hours- so I still had a half of a day of only water (not even detox drinks or supplements in this time).
After my colonic, I went for a long walk- feeling great in the beginning, but pretty fucking exhausted towards the end.
I managed to make it to exactly the 8 day mark before breaking my fast with papaya.
It was the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
In fact, I actually cried before I put it in my mouth.
My relationship with food will never be the same again.
I think I had a harder time with this than most people.
My body really struggled to accept food again.
Which was torture because I wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS, but I simply didn’t have space in my stomach!
After the third day of eating, I actually got sick (throwing up) from trying to eat too much.
I was in bed all day with a headache and nausea.
I ate totally raw for the first four days after.
This meant mostly just papaya salad, regular green salad, papaya fruit, and dragon fruit.
I also had wheatgrass shots during this time, and managed to find raw cashews to munch on in small amounts.
It’s been almost a week since breaking the fast, and I can say that my stomach is still no where near the size it was- but I’m slowly working up the stamina to fit more and more.
Now that I’m in Bali and have access to incredibly beautiful food, I’m still eating all raw- although I’m able to have a larger variety here on a raw diet.
I’m also enjoying refined sugar free, raw deserts- which is making my life complete right about now J
I learned so much from this experience.
Almost too much to articulate (which is why it’s taken me a lot longer than I thought it would just to write this piece!).
But, I’ll do my best to voice what stuck the most.
I’ve already made clear my realization about intention versus expectation- that’s a big one.
And it’s one that I’m really happy to have learned here, before embarking on another fast or retreat of this nature.
As I mentioned above, my relationship with food has totally changed.
I have so much more GRATITUDE for what I consume now, rather than mindlessly eating what sounds and tastes good.
When I catch myself eating really quickly (which is a default of mine), I do my best to slow down and actually feel each morsel.
Another thing I’ve got in the habit of since breaking the fast is silently acknowledging the food I’m about to consume by simply saying (in my head):
“You are nourishing and healing my body. Thank you.”
I make sure to say this with EVERYTHING I consume- even the deserts and treats that are more for my heart than for my body’s fuel.
Another big thing I learned from this experience is that I much prefer to fast on my terms- rather than booking an experience in advance.
What I mean is, every other fast I’ve done has naturally occurred because my body was CRAVING a detox.
Usually I start out juicing, and when that feels good- then I transition into just water.
But it’s always been organic.
This was not.
This was something I planned and booked months in advance.
Although I understand the purpose of doing so, I also think that this way of fasting is not for me.
Well, for one thing- having my period so heavily and painfully during the week made everything that much more intense.
If I were just FEELING into what my body needed- it would NOT be fasting.
However, because it was already booked and paid for- I kind of felt like I HAD to, otherwise it would’ve been a big waste.
In the future, I’d rather FEEL than PLAN.
This leads me to my last take away, and that’s doing regular maintenance on my body, rather than one big radical shift.
What I mean is that instead of having things get so bad that I feel like I want to throw my phone out the window, and to fast for 10 days straight- I’d rather continue with continual detox protocols DAILY, as a preventative measure to having another break down.
I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting regularly for about a year now.
However, after this- I’m more confident in being strict with this practice.
Because, if I’m honest, there were times before where I felt almost guilty about not joining in to eat after 5 pm.
Whereas now, I know that I feel like shit the next day if I eat too late- so I’m not going to do something just because it makes other people comfortable.
Also, I plan on doing weekly detoxes.
This might not mean water fasting every week, but at least all liquid for 24 hours (even juicing is okay) just to give my digestion a chance to slow down.
I’ll also stick to my regimen on water fasting on the New Moon- because that’s a ritual I’ve grown to love.
These smaller detoxes will help keep my body in a clean, healthy, and strong state- rather than pushing it to the point of needing some major cleanse.
Also, when I’m detoxing my body, I will also be detoxing my mind by stepping away from social media once a week, as well.
Putting up more strict boundaries there will help my head stay a little clearer.
That’s not to say that I won’t ever do a long fast again, because I can see it being something that will become a part of my yearly routine.
However, I think that by doing the maintenance in between- I won’t feel like I NEED it as much as I needed this last one.
Plus, I now feel totally comfortable doing it on my own.
So, I probably wouldn’t go back to a detox center again- unless something came up with my health to where I thought it would be better if I was monitored.
Overall, I’m so grateful to have committed to this experience.
It was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever WILLINGLY done.
But that’s the beauty of it.
Now that I’ve conquered it, I feel like I can fly.
I feel incredibly vulnerable when I’m teaching yoga, as I’m offering my interpretation of an extremely sacred (not to mention ancient) practice.
It’s intimidating as hell.
And, as someone who’s had an ongoing struggle with simply being vulnerable at all- teaching did NOT come easily to me.
A limiting belief I’ve carried with me throughout most aspects of my life of “I’m not good enough,” coupled with the fear of putting myself out there- held me back from offering regular classes for nearly a YEAR after my first YTT.
I would actually black out with fear when I’d get up in front of a class.
I’d go as far as to say I might have even HATED it when I first started.
However, given all the knowledge the practice itself offers us- I decided to strip down my fear, sit with it & understand it a little more.
I realized the root of it was simple:
I’m afraid people won’t like my class.
Once I faced that truth, I realized something pretty dang obvious.
That WILL happen!
There will be plenty of people who will walk into my class once, and then never again.
Not because there’s anything wrong with ME as a person or as a teacher, but simply because it didn’t resonate with them.
It’s the same way that we don’t connect with EVERY person we come in contact throughout life, right?
I had to learn that although I can’t control people’s reactions to what I’m sharing- what I CAN control is the extent to which I show up as an instructor.
For me this means putting genuine energy & thought into creating SAFE & loving sequences.
It means creating, and then holding, a space where people can learn without judgment or fear.
It means leaving my own shit outside, and letting the time be just for the students.
The reality is that even when I show up in these ways, there will be still be people who don’t like it, or don’t return.
And that’s okay.
Because I know i did my best in that moment.
That’s not to say their feedback isn’t valuable, because it certainly is and I always welcome it.
But the reality is that you just can’t please everyone.
All of these feelings have been unearthed again when I accepted the offer to teach on Alo Moves.
This was an opportunity that I actually spent time manifesting into reality for about six months prior to receiving the email from them- so, I’m not saying I wasn’t thrilled.
Because I was.
I was beyond excited.
But I was also beyond afraid.
Being on a platform with so many INCREDIBLE teachers started to excavate that same “I’m not good enough,” mentality, which- in turn- let my fear of not being liked get really loud once again.
When I thought about how my classes were going to be just be out there, on the internet for anyone and everyone to experience, watch…to judge.
This fucking terrified me.
However, given that I’d already gone through this same process as a new teacher, I was able to handle it with the tools I accumulated all those years before.
Rather than letting my fear hold me back from saying YES and showing the hell up- I let it challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone with as much confidence as I could channel.
That’s not to say I wasn’t still scared the first day I stepped onto set.
Because I was.
I was shaking and sweating.
A jumble of nerves.
So, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I’m capable.
I reminded myself that I poured MONTHS of planning, energy, preparation and LOVE into each class.
I reminded myself that although I’ll undoubtedly make mistakes, I am showing up as my best self in this moment now.
And that’s the most I can do.
I reminded myself that being afraid is okay.
In fact, these nerves are a GOOD thing- whether you’re a brand new teacher, or whether you’re a season vet in the industry.
Because it means you CARE.
Since releasing the classes, I’ve had to remind myself of all this all over again.
Most importantly, I’ve had to remind myself of the notion that I can’t please everyone.
For example, there’s been feedback from one person saying it was the best class they’ve ever taken, and they loved the cues and pace.
Then there's someone who said they thought it was too slow, and confusing
Another who said it was too fast, as they prefer to hold each pose longer.
One person who wrote that they prefer a teacher not to talk so much, while another said they wish I said more.
You get the point.
Again, all of this feedback is absolutely VALUABLE.
I appreciate honesty- always.
The key is taking what works, and leaving the rest.
Imagine if I tried to take it ALL on?
Not only would I be stretched in a million different directions- but I’d have also lost my own authentic voice in the meantime.
And then what?
Well, my classes would likely resonate with even LESS people.
But, more importantly, they wouldn’t even resonate with me- likely leaving me feel unfulfilled, unconfident, and confused.
I remember when I first started teaching- I was still going to studio classes regularly.
This was in California, where there are a TON of killer teachers.
Plus, I have an advanced practice- so I would attend advanced classes with seasoned instructors.
I remember how it seemed to effortless for them- sequencing, cuing, adjusting, demonstrating, including a consistent theme, the music- ALL of it just felt seamless.
And, although the class felt amazing, I’d usually walk away thinking:
How the hell do they do that?!
I’m over here just trying to make sure I remember the whole sequence correctly.
I found it really overwhelming.
Clearly returning to that limiting belief:
“I’m not good enough to do this.”
As I mentioned before, I had to untangle a lot of bull shit mentally in order to step into my personal power and find my voice as a teacher.
I needed to work on flipping my perspective.
Understanding that, sure, that class might’ve seemed perfect- but, guess what?
That teacher also started from the beginning, too!
The difference between them and me wasn’t that they were “better.”
It was the fact that they had TIME and EXPERIENCE under their belts.
And the fact that they believed in themselves.
I’m writing this piece, because I get a lot of new teachers asking me how to begin.
How to conquer their fears.
How to find their voice.
Based on my experience, the advice I want to give to you is this:
Develop a dedicated self-practice (if you haven’t already).
I believe this is crucial, because it helps reveal what YOU want to teach.
Rather than regurgitating other people’s cues and sequences, you’ll experience what YOU’RE excited to share.
FEEL into even the most familiar postures.
This has helped me with my cuing, immensely.
Because, once again, instead of just memorizing and repeating what you’re “supposed” to say- you’re explaining it from YOUR experience.
Get curious about even the most familiar postures.
This goes with the idea of feeling into them.
Shift your weight slightly differently than you might in the most traditional variation, close your eyes, wiggle a little, etc.
Notice what comes up.
Notice what resonates.
Practice on friends, family, and other teachers FIRST.
Practicing your classes on people you trust, and people who trust you creates a safe space for you to learn how to refine your craft BEFORE offering paid classes.
This is purely my opinion, but I just don’t believe most 200 YTT are ready to teach as soon as they graduate.
Especially because most programs are SO condensed now.
I forced my friends and family to take my classes a million and one times (I still do!), so that I could ask them how it felt in their bodies, ask for their feedback, and most importantly- make sure what I create feels safe and accessible.
As someone who’s naturally quite flexible- it’s important for me to get that feedback from people who have different body types.
Sure, it’s okay to have a challenging class- but I also want it to feel ACCESSIBLE with appropriate modifications and adjustments.
Say YES, even when it scares the shit out of you.
Same as most things, the only way you get better is by PRACTICING.
So, even if you don’t feel “ready,” say yes.
It will be SUPER uncomfortable at first (maybe even for weeks or months), but the more you say YES, the easier it will become.
Way easier said than done, right?
Yeah, well this will get easier the more you say YES, and the more confident you get in YOUR practice.
Sometimes it means exuding confidence on the outside, but freaking the fuck out on the inside.
And that’s okay.
At this stage, you will have prepared and practiced your sequence.
And you will be showing up with the intention of offering something heartfelt.
Believe in that.
Believe in your ability.
Share how YOU want to share.
Again, feedback is important- but it’s important to remain true to yourself as you take what works, and leave the rest.
For instance, if someone tells you after class that they didn’t feel warm enough to enter Warrior III that early on in the sequence- that’s something worth considering, right?
Especially because it touches on the SAFETY aspect of the class.
However, if someone tells you they wish you’d talk about more spirituality topics, because your classes feel too physical- then you need to ask yourself if that feels true to what you want to share.
Perhaps you don’t have anything spiritual to offer at the moment.
That doesn’t make you a “bad” teacher.
It just means, maybe your style isn’t compatible for this particular person.
Rather than forcing yourself to speed up your spirituality process in order to be something you’re just NOT yet- let it come organically.
And, remember, maybe this won’t ever be something you’re comfortable sharing when you teach.
Continual study: Stay in the student seat.
The same way our yoga practice is limitless, so is our teaching practice.
We’re never done learning.
And, if you think you have it all figured out- then that’s probably when you need a refresher course the most.
I personally save a chunk of cash every year for a training, immersion, or some sort of continual education.
This doesn’t mean you need to do a destination course or retreat, or something super fancy every year.
Maybe it means you invest in an online module.
Or invest in a 3-day immersion in your hometown.
Yes, self-study is crucial.
But I also think fully sitting in the student seat regularly is very important in order to keep growing.
Remember that we're always evolving.
That being said, your teaching likely will, too.
What you want to offer when you first start out might be COMPLETELY different to what you want to offer in five years.
If you're anything like me, you might have trouble surrendering to this natural ebb and flow- and that's okay.
Just try to become aware of it.
If your practice shifts, embrace it.
Know that it's shifting in that direction for a reason.
In turn, the students who are attracted to you/your style might also change.
Again, that's okay.
As long as you're teaching from that aligned, authentic place- you'll draw in those who resonate.
Whoa- that’s a lot!
But guess what, if I can do it- you sure as hell can.
And that's the point to all of this:
There's no difference between you or I.
One of us is not "better" than the other.
Realize that our different experiences and offerings just mean that, as a whole, we have the chance to reach even MORE people simply by being, and showing up exactly as we are.
There’s a reason you’re on this path of teaching.
So take the time to figure out that reason, figure out what fires you up- and SHARE that with the world.
You’ve got this.
As most of you know, I’ve been struggling with a variety of physical and mental health issues lately- ones which are very heavily linked to one another (but that’s an entire post altogether).
Since being pretty public about these topics, I’ve had so many people (mostly women) reach out to me to let me know they’re going through similar things- or have gone through it before.
In such messages, one of the most common things they write is:
“Thank you for talking about this. I don’t feel like enough people express their struggles. I’ve been dealing with the same feelings lately, and I haven’t known how to get through it.”
After receiving hundreds (literally hundreds) of messages like this, I’ve felt a variety of emotions come up.
Comfort in knowing we’re never truly alone, even if we feel like we are.
Sadness for their pain.
And confidence in my choice to show up authentically through ALL the stages of my life- even if the vulnerability feels a little awkward or embarrassing at the time.
All of that being said, I wanted to share a few tools I’ve leaned into during this “dark period.”
As I’ve reiterated before, I’m not a professional in these areas, in that I don’t have a background or any sort of credentials in psychology, nor health care.
I’m simply sharing a few things that have brought even just a GLIMMER of light into each day, in hopes that you find that same spark yourself if you feel like you’ve lost it, too.
I won’t dwell on this one too long, as it speaks for itself. I put this at the top of the list, because I think turning to a professional is the safest option to ensure you’re getting proper care.
However, I fully recognize that putting this option at the top of the list is proof of my privilege.
Because, let’s be real- therapy is NOT cheap.
I get that.
I found it hard to part with a few hundred extra dollars a month at the beginning, as well.
But then I realized that not only is my mental health is invaluable, but I’m also fortunate enough to have that money- so why not INVEST in my total well-being?
I should also mention that it took me a few tries to find someone that I actually clicked with, which made the financial aspect feel even MORE wasteful.
But, damn, now that I’m working with a woman I know I can trust and reach out to at any time- it’s made the other attempts so worth it.
I feel totally held by her.
I feel totally heard by her.
And I feel totally safe with her.
Nothing compares to that.
It's also important to note that therapy can come in all shapes and sizes.
Find a method that works for YOU.
Personally, I've found acupuncture to be just as beneficial for me as the sessions with my therapist.
The acupuncturist I see also holds a super safe and nurturing environment, that truly encourages HEALING.
Plus, she hooks me up with crazy herb concoctions that taste like ass, but do a great job at kicking my yeast infections to the curb.
Point being, maybe talk therapy isn't your thing.
Maybe acupuncure isn't either.
I'd just like to encourage you to see what's out there, before dismissing the idea of tending to your mental health.
Insert eye roll here, right?
I know, I know, everyone always talks about this idea of focusing on what you’re grateful for.
And, I don’t know about you, but when I’m that down and someone says something like that- all I can think of is:
How the fuck is seeing the beauty in a random flower, or a sunset ACTUALLY going to magically cure me right now?
I’ll be straight with you- it doesn’t work like that.
It’s a practice- a process that, overtime, helps to shift your overall perspective.
Here’s my take on it- it’s OKAY to feel all those feelings associated with darkness (sadness, pain, hurt, anger, resentment, etc).
In fact, I think it’s important to feel them all.
The danger lies not having those reactions to events.
The danger lies in dwelling in these spaces.
The longer we dwell, the more all of those yucky feelings fester and thrive off of one another- and the more difficult it becomes to pull ourselves out of it.
Because, let’s be realistic here, it’s a helluva lot easier to stay in that space of moping, pity, whatever you want to call it- rather than fight to pull ourselves out of it.
Incorporating a gratitude practice into my day-to-day life has forced me to see light in areas where I might otherwise only see gloom.
I use Five Minute Journal (the app) every morning when I wake up.
There are also hardback copies you can buy, as well- but given my lifestyle, having it on my phone has been super handy.
Since I’ve had my (let’s just call it) break down, usually the first thing I write to be grateful for every morning is just:
That’s how simple it is.
Some days I find beauty and abundance in most things, while other days I truly struggle to come up with even three.
But, I try.
And I think that’s the point in all of this.
I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into the details of exactly what this entails for me.
I will say, however, this has helped to keep me grounded during a time of extreme uncertainty.
As I mentioned above, I do Five Minute Journal just about first thing when I wake up.
I avoid checking social media and/or emails until I’ve had even just a short meditation, and full ARRIVAL into the new day.
The great thing about a morning routine is that it’s something I can take with me everywhere, anywhere in the world.
However, there will need to be adjustments made- no doubt.
I was surprised how unsettled I felt a few days ago the first morning I woke up in Bali, simply because I didn’t have my own kettle for my morning tea ritual.
This jolt of annoyance just made me realize how sacred the first few hours of my morning are to me- so I quickly adjusted accordingly.
This one is big.
It’s so important to have people who know what you’re going through.
Then the weight won’t feel quite so heavy.
That being said, I think that as valuable as the online world is- it’s much more important to have support from “real” people in your life.
What I mean is, people you actually KNOW.
People you’ve spent time with, laughed with, cried with, experienced bits of life with.
However, your go-to people might not be in your immediate area.
This when technology is a God send.
I swear, sending long voice notes with my girl friends every day has been enough to make me smile EVERY day.
Even if I’m smiling through the tears.
I’m so grateful for the people around me lifting me up- family, friends, and loved ones.
And I hope you have even just ONE person like this in your life you can rely on.
Let them be there for you, even if you don’t want to.
Let them love you.
This one is very multifaceted, and can be whatever you make of it.
Maybe that means detoxing from social media/technology, relationships, or food.
Whatever it may be- usually these super low moments are a reminder that certain energies we’re letting into our sphere are NOT serving us.
It’s our job to figure out what those are.
And it’s out job to cut them off, or at least phase them out.
It’s pretty simple- does this practice, person, or thing lift you?
If the answer is yes, then keep it.
If the answer is no, then BYE.
If the answer is unclear, then see what happens if you lessen the amount of time you dedicate to this person, place, or experience.
Observe how you feel.
Look, you guys already know I’m vegan.
You know I have a dedicated fasting practice.
So I’m not going too continue to repeat myself there.
Also, you and I are at totally different point in our lives- so I’m not going to tell you what to eat, when to eat, how much of it to eat.
All I’ll say is that remember your body is a vehicle.
The higher quality fuel you put into it, the better it will perform.
Food/eating habits are so connected to depressive states.
We either overeat all the things that we crave, but might not serve us.
Or we don’t eat at all, because there’s just no appetite.
Maybe you don’t experience either of these things.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, just notice what you’re putting into your body during this time.
Notice how it makes you feel physically, energetically, emotionally- not just while eating, but also after.
I find that when I clean up my diet, I FEEL better on all levels.
However, it’s super important to note that if I eat something that “unhealthy” (has refined sugar, is processed, not organic, WHATEVER), and I feel good about eating it- then that’s OKAY.
The last thing you need when you’re depressed or anxious is to put yourself on a strict diet- because that’s just going to cause more worry.
All I’m suggesting is be mindful of what goes in, and how the output feels.
Be gentle and loving with yourself.
Everyone has a movement of choice- whether it’s yoga, surfing, running, hiking, skipping, snowboarding.
DO MORE OF THAT.
Or, if you can’t do MORE, then just do it at all.
I get it, sometimes it’s hard to just get the fuck out of bed.
But that’s when you need it most, I promise.
Even five minutes will help.
Moving your body means you’re moving the energy that’s within you, rather than letting it stay in that stagnate, festering phase.
My go-to movements are yoga (obviously), even if it’s just a couple deep breaths and stretches.
This is seriously my therapy.
Waiting until it cools down- putting in my headphones, listening to voice notes from loved ones, sending them back, and just MOVING all those ruminating thoughts around.
I’m not putting this at the bottom, because I think it should be prioritized last.
I just think it’s important to have at least somewhat of a foundation as far as mental health goes, before extending yourself to others.
We all know the idea of not being able to give from an empty cup, right?
Yeah, well that applies here.
I don’t know about you, but when I fall into a depressive state- I fall hard.
I don’t see nor feel ANY light.
But, then I start to claw myself out.
And after a few weeks, or months, I come back to myself a little more and recognize that OF COURSE there’s hope.
Of course there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s just going to take awhile to get there.
But at least that shred of hope is back.
It’s in this time that I feel comfortable serving others.
What does this mean?
Well, it can mean just about anything.
First of all, I’d suggest letting your act of service also be something that you actually ENJOY doing.
For instance, I miss teaching yoga.
So, I just offered to teach free classes to any women who contact me while I’m in Ubud over the next few weeks.
This feels great for me, because I love teaching.
And it feels great for them- because yoga is fucking awesome, and because it’s not a financial burden.
That’s just a small example.
Essentially, this totally depends on YOU- where you live, what’s needed, you’re skills, interests, etc etc.
Whatever you do- let it come from a place of truly just wanting to give, rather than wanting to get better.
This can be tricky.
And maybe it’ll take a few tries, and a few options to figure out what that means.
But when you know, you know.
You’ll feel it.
It will feel selfless, rather than selfish.
I know, I know- the whole argument that all good deeds are selfish, because they make us feel good in some way (hello, I grew up watching Friends).
I agree with this to a degree.
Although the act might make us feel good, it’s the intention we enter into the act with that matters.
Are you doing it to serve YOU?
Or are you doing it to serve THEM?
Get clear on that before jumping in.
Just a Final Few Reminders:
You’re not alone.
You have the tools AND the answers already within you- it’s just going to take some work to unearth them (and that’s okay!).
Light exists due to the contrast of darkness- it’s there.
Don’t lose faith.
You’ve got this.
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.”
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.