As I’m getting ready to embark on my second Ayahuasca Retreat at Nimea Kaya in Peru, I thought I’d share my preparation process this time around.
Because this ancient plant medicine is one that works on every level of your being (physical, mental, spiritual), I believe it’s important to cleanse and connect to each of these layers beforehand.
It’s important to note that everyone’s process if different.
Meaning, what works for me, might not feel effective for you.
Although there are, of course, some purifying recommendations/requirements for everyone (especially when it comes to diet, prescription and recreational drug use)- the rest of these practices are simply ones I’ve adopted for ME.
Try what works, and leave the rest.
Create your own based on your needs.
Above all, enjoy the journey.
It will undoubtedly be a wild one that’s about to change your life.
1.Food and Drink Dieta:
Regardless of where you decide to do your retreat and/or single ceremony, you’ll likely be asked to alter your food and drink consumption from the shaman/leader of the experience. The Ayahuasca diet is essentially how I eat anyways, so I don’t change much personally.
Below is a variation of Nimea Kaya’s advice on the matter:
-Start adjusting your diet at least 2 weeks prior to your retreat start date in order to effectively cleanse the body.
-Definitely eliminate pork and red meat in this time. If you eat meat, fish and chicken are okay.
-Definitely eliminate alcohol in this time.
-Do your best to cut back or fully eliminate: processed foods, fried food, refined sugars, highly salted foods (small amounts of mineral salt is okay), gluten, caffeine and dairy.
If this sounds nearly impossible to you, and you don’t know what the hell to eat once all of this is eliminated- check out some of my recipes for nourishment AND satisfaction.
2.Prescription and Recreational Drugs:
I do not take any prescription drugs, so I cannot comment on this directly.
PLEASE make sure to tell your shaman/retreat leader EVERYTHING you are taking to ensure a safe experience.
I’d also advise that you speak to your healthcare professional about your prescriptions, as well.
Both the retreat leader and the healthcare professional should be the ones to inform you what you need to wean off, and how to do so safely.
It’s suggested to stop all recreational drug use at least 2 weeks prior to the retreat.
This includes cannabis (even if you use it medicinally) and psilocybin (even if used medicinally).
It’s important to remember that both cannabis and psilocybin are also powerful plant medicines with intelligence of their own.
Letting go of all other plant medicines prior will help to create proper energetic space for Ayahuasca.
It’s generally suggested to abstain from sex and masturbation at least one week prior, AND one week after your ceremonies.
Realistically, this won’t be an issue for me (sad face)- but, it’s important to note, nonetheless.
People often question this one, and I get it.
I suppose the best way to think about it is a preservation of vital energy that can be used towards your healing process, rather than pleasure.
4.Trauma and Violence:
Nimea Kaya suggested we avoid watching, listening to, or reading about traumatic and violent events.
I haven’t seen many other retreat centers make this suggestion, but I figured I’d stick to it before my first retreat.
I’m really happy that I did for a variety of reasons.
The biggest one being that it revealed to me just how much these things are/were present in my life- especially in the form of entertainment.
Cutting out these forms of entertainment (movies, shows, music, and podcasts) showed me the true impact they have/had my psyche.
And, to be honest, this cleanse has now changed my taste (especially in movies and shows) completely.
This is an incredibly sacred journey, therefore it’s VITAL to enter into it with intention.
Because the line between intention and expectation can often be blurred, I usually sit with a variety of intentions in my daily meditation for days/weeks before boiling it down to just ONE that feels the most “right” in my body and heart.
What the heck does that even mean?
Well, I think it means something different for everyone as your intuitive hits might feel different than mine.
Think of your intuition as a muscle.
Use your meditation time (or simply moments of stillness) to use that muscle.
The more you use it, the stronger it will get.
This means that you have, say, 3-5 possible intentions for your retreat.
Sit with each one individually- repeating it, visualizing it, understanding the WHY behind it, and then noticing how you FEEL in response to it.
Keep in mind, the sensations indicating “yes” or “no” might be very subtle, which is why I’d suggest sitting with each one more than just one time.
If none of this makes sense at all (I don’t blame you), then the best way to come up with an intention for your retreat is to close your eyes, tune in to your breath, place a hand on your heart, and notice what it’s asking for.
Observe your heart’s reason for wanting to do this retreat.
Understanding that your heart’s wisdom will likely be different than your mind’s intellect.
For example, the intention for my first retreat was to return home.
The intention for my second retreat is forgiveness and acceptance.
Personally, I prefer to work with an intention that is somewhat vague- so that Ayahuasca can show me whatever I need to know along the way.
I find that when I get TOO specific, then I start getting into that expectation mindset.
However, I know plenty of people who have gone into ceremonies with super specific intentions and/or questions about their lives- and they were given exactly what they needed.
Feel into what your needs are, and go with that.
Although I have a pretty regular meditation practice already, I prefer do my best to increase the volume and length of my stillness leading up to the retreat.
If you’re brand new to meditation, and the word alone intimidates you- no worries.
You’re not alone.
Like I mentioned before, just take a few moments of each day to close your eyes, slow down and even out your breath, and listen to your heart.
This can range from 30 seconds, to 30 minutes.
Whatever you’re comfortable with, and have time for.
You can also find guided meditations on Calm, AloMoves, 1GiantMind, and Youtube.
I find that the more I meditate, the more connected I am both to myself and to something greater (Source, God, Divine, whatever you believe in).
Plus, I feel more grounded and clear.
These are all qualities I personally need to ramp up before skyrocketing off into the cosmos with Ayahuasca.
I don’t have a regular journal practice.
Sometimes I write every day, multiple times a day, and sometimes weeks or months go by before I jot down my thoughts.
Leading up to my first retreat, I made a point to journal at least once a week.
I also made a point to write letters to Ayahuasca herself as my journal entries.
Sounds pretty hippy dippy, I know.
But, for me, I found it soothing.
I also found that it helped me connect to her in a more grounded way, as I wasn’t only in communication with her while I was tits deep in a crazy trip.
I'm committing to these same journaling practices this second time around, as well.
8. Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable:
This is something that I’m choosing to consciously incorporate before my second retreat.
Now that I have the experience of the first one under my belt, I know just how intense the ceremonies can be.
And, to be honest, I’m more afraid going into this second round than I was the first BECAUSE of my previous experiences.
That being said, I’m choosing to face my fears and/or sit in discomfort a little longer than I normally would in everyday situations.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, this might be something as small as staying in a difficult yoga posture for a few breaths longer than I want to.
Or, it might be something bigger like abandoning my plans and dedicating a month to really training/learning how to surf in Nicaragua- even though it scares the shit out of me.
I’m making the choice to say YES to things that I’d rather say NO to (obviously still prioritizing my worth while doing so), and to observe how discomfort lands in my body, mind and heart.
Breathing through hardship more mindfully, surrendering to what is as opposed to what I want it to be.
All things that, for me, are a lot easier said than done.
Which is how I know I need to keep doing them.
9.Less Social Media:
This one is a little difficult for me simply because social media is a huge part of my job.
However, I also believe it can also be a source of distraction and disconnection (don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice/necessary to numb out and scroll) for me, as well.
Leading up to the retreat (meaning about 2 – 4 weeks before), I start minimizing my time scrolling- and really just use it for work-related purposes.
Post and ghost, ya know?
And, during the retreat itself, I don’t use social media at all.
10.Communication and Relationships:
The same way that we cleanse our bodies through diet, and our minds through meditation- I believe it’s important to cleanse energetically by tuning into how we communicate (to ourselves and others), and who we currently have in our lives.
I do my best to notice my inner dialogue during this time, and redirect negative self-talk to more empowering language, instead.
I also do my best to notice what and how I’m speaking to others about- working to avoid gossip and violent language altogether.
Please know that I am nowhere near perfect at this.
But I do believe awareness is the first step.
Plus, this has proven to be a super useful practice I've carried with me well beyond ceremony prep.
As far as relationships go- there are some people in my life who I love dearly, but who also drain the hell out of me.
I press the pause button on these relationships leading up to the retreat so that I can preserve the energy I'd have otherwise spent on them, to use for my own healing process, instead.
Before my last retreat, I let go of a few people.
Most of those people ended up circling back to me.
And, when they did, our relationship was healthier and more balanced than ever.
However, there are others who have remained on the outskirts- as I now realize that our season of friendship has expired.
Although the loss and letting go can certainly be painful, it’s also necessary for growth.
I found that total transparency in releasing these relationships is what allowed me to feel really good about moving forward.
Honest, but compassionate language- letting them know why I needed a break, but also letting them know that I love them.
Best of luck on your journey, my friends.
You've got this.
I get a lot of questions about how to stay healthy with such a globe trotting lifestyle.
I also get a lot of questions of how the heck I manage to eat vegan when I’m traveling to countries that most people assume have NO options.
Before I dive into answering both of these questions with more specific tips- I think it’s important to note (once again) that I’m not a health care professional nor nutritionist.
These are examples of what works for ME.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work for YOU.
I’d also like to add that this blog isn’t about pushing veganism on anyone.
Because, once again, although this way of life allows my body to thrive- maybe it doesn’t work for you in that same way.
The point here is really to offer general tips of total well being- some of which include what I eat in order to cater to my plant-based diet in a fulfilling and nutritious way.
Essentially- you can take what works for you from this piece, and leave the rest.
Trial and error through your personal experience, and cultivating a more in-tune relationship with YOUR body is going to be a helluva a lot more valuable than any advice from me (or anyone else for that matter).
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1.Echinacea and Zinc:
Because airplanes can be a breeding ground for illness, I start smashing these two supplements 1 – 2 days prior to my departure.
For me, these have been the most effective in warding off any unwanted colds that tend of happen on long, international flights.
2.Healthy Travel Snacks:
I’m not a fan of plane food.
Even when I order the “special” vegan options- they’re usually pretty dismal.
This means I always come armed with my own goods to ensure I’m sustained with NUTRITIOUS fuel, rather than empty carbs and highly processed options.
Unfortunately, when traveling internationally- you often can’t take fresh fruit and veg with you (every country is different).
So this means I opt for roasted veggies and dried fruit (with no added sugar), instead.
I’m also a hummus fanatic, so I tend to bring a little jar with me for the veggies- which is a great option for protein.
It’s important that the hummus is unopened, and in a marked 100 ml container- because otherwise they might confiscate it (again, every country is different here).
Again, for more sustenance- nuts or nut butter are perfect (note that nut butter should also be sealed and in a marked 100 ml container, as well).
This last trip, I brought some of my homemade Juice Pulp Crackers and Autumn in Oz Cookies.
If you don’t have time to make something like these- then quinoa cakes, or raw vegetable crackers are great munchies.
If you’d rather have more of a full meal- then something like a simple Soul Bowl would be a nourishing option.
Regardless of how long you’re flying, you can’t go wrong with a short 15-minute stretch session prior to boarding.
This is especially helpful if you tend to get pain/soreness in any particular part of the body.
I tend to focus on hips to alleviate any tension in the low back.
This is more applicable for international travel with different time zones.
I’ve found my digestion has been one of the biggest contributors to jet lag, because when the body is used to eating on a certain sort of schedule- then it becomes more awake or more tired accordingly.
I’ve found that it helps me to start eating in accordance with my destination’s time zone while on the flight.
2.Echinacea and Zinc…again:
Yep, keep downing these two magic makers.
Even if you don’t feel so much as a tickle in your throat- they’ll both help to boost your immune system, so you can’t really go wrong.
3.Feel Good Practices and Topical Applications:
I tend to get really dry on planes, so I always pack a small thing of Jojoba or Rosehip oil for my face, as well as some sort of hand cream.
If I have a super long flight, sometimes I even use a cucumber face sheet to rehydrate (which feels freaking amazing).
I’m also a fan of aromatherapy, as I find it incredibly soothing even when I’m tired, irritable, and feel pretty dang gross.
My go-to on flights in lavender oil.
Just a little dab on the wrists, or on the soles of my feet if I’m trying to sleep.
I also find music to be a big contributor to my mood.
I love listening to calming tunes when I’m traveling, because I find it just chills me out a bit more.
And the more relaxed my mind is, the more relaxed my body will become- which is crucial when you’re scrunched up for hours on end.
Which leads me to the last one- and that’s back to stretching.
Whether it’s in my seat, or getting up and hanging in a rag doll forward fold in the back of the plane- just getting my circulation going, and my joints unwound feels like heaven.
These are all just little examples of what makes me feel a little more human (especially on LONG trips), but I’m sure you’ll find your own.
All of these are also awesome because they don’t take up a ton (or any) space as far as packing goes.
Meditation and/or breath work is also a great option here, especially if you battle with anxiety in the air.
1.Full or Half Day Fast:
Alright, I know this might not be for everyone- but this has really changed my jet lag.
Like I said before, I’ve personally found that digestion is a big contributor to my mind and body getting out of whack when constantly changing time zones.
I started doing half day fasts upon arrival, and have recently gone to 24-36 hours, instead.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, because fasting can be super challenging.
Especially if you’re going some place that’s known for its cuisine!
But, I’ve found this has really helped to recharge and energize me for the duration of my trip, as I don’t battle with jet lag for as long, or at all.
If water fasting feels like it’s out of the question- then go for a juice or coconut water cleanse.
As long as you’re on liquid only, it gives your digestion a chance to rest and reset.
If you're interested in learning more about my personal fasting journey/practice, click here.
Because travel literally uproots us and transports us somewhere else, this means that Vata (or qualities of the Air Element) are increased.
An excess of Vata can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and general feelings of flightiness.
This means it’s important to ground down wherever you are.
What does any of that mean?
Well, grounding means we’re turning up qualities of the Earth Element.
One of my favorite parts of the Earth Element that I like to focus on is the idea of HOME.
This means, I pack a few things that allow me to feel at home no matter where I am in the world.
As you guys know, I love my SuperFeast tinctures and teas- so these come with me around the world.
Something as simple as maintaining my tea-making ritual in the morning gives me that sense of routine that pulls me back down from the clouds and onto the Earth.
As I mentioned before, I love aromatherapy.
This means I always travel with incense, Palo Santo and White Sage (yeah, I’m THAT chick).
All of these evoke a sense of peace and comfort, and give me the same cozy feeling of my own living room.
Any other practices that I’d typically do at home (for me it’s usually to do with my morning routine) I continue to do when I travel.
A few examples are morning meditation, journaling, and gratitude.
Do what works for you here.
Maybe this means packing a super old, comfy shirt that makes you feel like you’re being hugged.
Maybe it’s a crystal, or a specific essential oil.
Figure out what gives you that feeling of HOME, and bring that with you abroad.
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with getting grounded.
And I think you guys will know what I’m going to say here:
Yoga, meditation, breath work, journaling.
These are my go-to’s, because they’re simply a part of me, and when they fall to the wayside- I can feel the shifts mentally any physically.
These are also great, because you don’t need a whole lot of space.
Even when I’ve stayed in the shittiest, smallest hotels rooms- I still always managed to find enough space to roll out my mat.
Another thing I often do is go for long walks every day.
This is a great way to get acquainted with wherever you are, and also to get some exercise.
Unfortunately this isn’t always possible everywhere I go due to safety, bad pollution, non-pedestrian friendly roads.
I just work with what I got.
You practices might be different, and that’s okay.
Do what feels best for you in order to come back to yourself even if you’re away.
4.Supplements and Tinctures:
Clearly you’ve realized I’m an advocate for Echinacea and Zinc.
I keep downing those for the first few days after arrival just to make extra sure I don’t get anything nasty from the plane.
Everyone’s supplements are going to be different, so I’d just say keep taking whatever you’re taking at home.
I’m not going to share all that I’m taking, because they might not be relevant for YOU and your needs.
If you’re in a country that has unclean water, or is notorious for bad food poisoning- activated charcoal tablets are always my favorite option for funny tummy syndrome.
As mentioned above, SuperFeast offers a great variety of herbs, tonics, and mushroom blends.
Check them out to see if any of their products are suitable for your needs.
Apple Cider Vinegar is also a lifesaver.
I drink it before every meal.
Same with lemon water (hot or room temp).
Both of these support liver function, and alkalinity in the body.
Colloidal silver has also been an awesome addition in supporting my immune system.
I’ve also fallen in love with YourSuperFoods, as they have quite a large variety of superfood blends that come in TRAVEL SACHETS!
This is wonderful, because they don’t take up hardly any space, and there’s no risk of the powders getting everywhere in your bag.
These are great additions to any drink if you need an extra boost of nutrition.
At this point, you’ve burned through your healthy plane food/snacks- and you’re ready to eat locally.
As someone who’s vegan, and often travels to places where people have never even heard this word- I actually find this challenge more fun than I do frustrating.
Let’s just jump to the worst-case scenario:
Everything is super meaty or fried.
I can just about guarantee you that there will be produce stands wherever you are.
Even in the most remote, desolate places- I’ve managed to get my hands on fresh produce coming straight from the farm.
Obviously, some areas are more plentiful that others- so you just gotta work with what you got.
Go for fruits and vegetables that are LOCAL to the region you’re in, rather than imported.
This is great, because it also means you might be trying something brand new, too.
Fruits with peels are easy as far as contamination goes, but if you’re eating something raw without a peel- make sure to clean with filtered water before consuming.
Vegetables can actually be super dangerous to eat raw (depending where you are), so either thoroughly clean with filtered water, or cook them.
If you don’t have cookware or a stove- no worries.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought my own produce, and then brought it back to my guesthouse and asked them to cook it for me (usually only places where vegetarian options are scarce to none).
This works out for everyone- because they still get paid, rather than me eating out- and I get to have something that serves my body’s needs.
Another great resource here for my fellow plant eaters is the Happy Cow app, which lists restaurants and eateries with veg options and reviews from customers.
Here’s the thing- you might be going some place that you don’t have to HUNT for your meals, which is always a bit of a relief.
If that’s the case, the best advice I can offer is sticking closely to whole foods.
It’s always fun to try local cuisine- which isn’t always the healthiest thing.
I say everything in moderation is key.
For me personally, I’m strictly vegan- so I don’t actually make exceptions for local food that has meat or dairy.
However, this is also because I haven’t had meat or dairy in SO LONG that it actually makes me sick.
And who wants to be sick on the road?!
The most I can do is my best, but at the end of the day- when other people are preparing you food, you can never be 100% certain what goes into it.
This is especially true when you’re also dealing with a language barrier.
Like when I go to India and ask for no ghee in my curries and dhal, do I really think they don’t put it in every time?
Not at all.
Did I do my best?
Yeah, I did.
If you’re someone who isn’t as fussed about staying within a certain boundary- then eat what feels right to you.
Maybe that means trying something fried, or an especially yummy sugary desert.
Just know that if you usually eat clean, and then you binge hard on holiday- then it might make you feel shitty.
Take it all in stride, rather than going balls to the wall.
Let yourself enjoy your travel in every sense (including the yummy food), but also honor your body at the same time.
If feel you’ve overdone it at any point, a great way to reset is a half or full day of fasting (water, coconut water, or juice).
I feel this deserves a separate category, because I’m a major snacker.
My brother says I rarely eat a whole meal, because I’m constantly grazing- which is pretty accurate.
This is even more accurate after my 10-day fast in Thailand, as my stomach shrunk so much that there’s just not space for full meals.
And I hate wasting food- so lately I tend to have one full meal, and small snacks in between.
My advice here is similar to that of above:
Stick to whole foods as closely as possible.
Sure, it’s often easy to find a produce stand and stock up on your favorite fruits.
But what about if you want something else?
I’ve been especially surprised how challenging it can be to find yummy snacks without sugar, palm/corn oil, or preservatives.
I’ve been a lot more anal about checking labels since dealing with this Candida crisis, and I’ve been shocked at the way in which even seemingly whole foods still have a bunch of bull shit in them.
If there’s a label, read it.
If not, ask the shop keeper.
Some of my favorites that I’ve been able to find just about everywhere are:
Nuts, nut butter, rice cakes/quinoa cakes, dried beans/peas, dried fruit.
Again, most of these manage to sneak in nonsense (especially sugar), so check before you buy.
I’ve found the best bet is usually going to a small roadside shop, rather than a big super market (well, at least in some countries).
The larger shops tend to have more processed food.
However, depending where you are- the larger shops might also have a health food section, so it’s worth a look nonetheless.
Just a quick example of this would be on my most recent trip to Thailand.
I went to one of the largest stores on the island, and I walked out empty handed because even the packaged nuts had sugar and palm oil.
I stopped at a shack on the side of the road to get more dragon fruit, and noticed some of her other goods.
She had fresh peanuts from her farm for about 5 cents a pack.
And, look, eating a bit of sugar or palm oil isn’t going to kill you.
You don’t want to get to the point that you’re stressed about not knowing exactly what you’re about to consume, because stress is a heck of a lot more detrimental than one not-so-healthy snack.
Just do your best.
Trust your body’s ability.
And ALLOW the food you put in to be the fuel and nourishment you need.
I hope these tips and tricks contribute to the value of your next trip.
Happy travels, my fellow nomads! XO
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.
The other day when I was flying back from LA back to Perth, the woman in front of me was watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.
For whatever reason, her screen kept catching my eye.
And, as someone who doesn't keep up with much of ANYTHING in pop culture nowadays- let alone the freaking Karadashians- I clearly had no clue was was actually happening each time the flashy images of beautiful women grabbed my attention.
What I DID know, was that nearly EVERY time I looked up- at least one person on the screen was holding a plastic water bottle.
I don't know about you, but for me- I've realized that I have an almost PHYSICAL reaction when I see someone drinking out of a plastic water bottle.
I think this reaction is especially reserved for those who can clearly afford to drop $20 bucks on a reusable option, instead.
You know, those who actually have a CHOICE in the quality of water they consume.
Which is why it's safe to say that by the plane had landed- I was sufficiently ANGRY at the damn Kardashians for promoting something that's so destructive to our planet.
I could be wrong, but given the brand of water was almost always the same- I'm gathering they were sponsored by this company to use them on the show.
However, this is pure speculation- I don't know it to be true.
But, let's just assume this IS a true statement for moment.
Don't you think there are some big eco brands out there who would also be willing to throw money at that type of advertising?
Don't you think this particular family can afford to just DO THE RIGHT THING, even if they don't make a damn cent from it?
Man, the frustration is real.
I mean, I thought we were past this.
Not only did I think we were past this, but I actually thought that being a little more earth conscious was even TRENDY and COOL at the moment.
Then I realized, maybe this is true to me based purely on the people that I surround myself with (both physically and virtually).
Because, when I thought about it- during my short 8 days in LA, I saw more people drinking out of plastic bottles than I had for my entire two months in Australia.
I didn't get it.
How could a part of the world that's meant to be progressive, trend-setting, and fully developed- also be so far behind ethically?
Does money really speak so loudly, that you can't hear your heart?
That you can't see the deterioration happening all around with your own eyes?
The real question is:
What will it take for us, as a collective, to wake up?
I've said this about a million and one times before, but I'll say it again:
I'm a HUGE believer in that concept that small changes can, and DO, make big differences.
Similar to my blog about transitioning to veganism (click here to read), the intention of this blog is meant to come from a place of compassion.
Compassion for our planet, but also compassion for ourselves as we journey towards a lifestyle that might feel unnatural, or like a lot of extra work.
The point is for all of us to get accumulate knowledge and tools which help us make more informed decisions.
And, look, I know that the intro to this whole post is dripping with judgment- I won't even try to deny that fact to be true.
Not that it's an excuse, but just as an explanation- that judgment isn't coming from a righteous place in thinking that I'm better than the Kardashians because of my lifestyle choices.
It's coming from a place in disappointment in knowing that these women are educated enough to know the state of our planet.
And disappointment in knowing just how influential they really are.
I know my audience size is laughable in comparison, but hey- small changes make differences, right?
So, instead of just complaining about it, I wanted to put something together that can be a reminder to all of us (myself included) of how we can improve as a collective.
Knowing that it's OKAY if you forget your reusable bag one day, or accidentally drink out of a plastic straw without thinking about it.
Just try to do better next time.
Just try to remain mindful even in the mundane moments.
DISCLAIMER: Some of these products were gifted, though not for the purpose of writing a blog to review them. Any brands I name here are ones that I believe in, ones that I use, and ones that I have/would spend full price on.
Due to the Kardashian rant at the beginning, I thought I'd start with water.
I use Klean Kanteen over Hydroflask, because not only am I not too fussed about the temperature of my drinks- but I also just like how much lighter Klean Kanteen is simply because I travel a lot.
I used Nalgene for a long time, which is quite a bit cheaper.
But, at the end of the day, they're still plastic, right?
Plus, I really didn't like how easily those bottle collected mold ( especially whilst living in the tropics).
If buying a reusable bottle is truly out of your budget, or you just don't have any vendors nearby- you can still make a difference with your single-used bottles.
Simply use them more than just that.
More than once!
And when it's time to get a new one, get creative in thinking of ways that you might be able to use the bottle for another purpose.
If you’re living in a place that has contaminated water coming out of the tap, you might think this means you have to buy shitloads of plastic bottles in order to stay nourished.
There are plenty of options here for all price ranges.
There are (on the more expensive side) installed filter devices for sinks, taps, and refrigerators.
And then, there are cheaper options like the handheld Brita filter.
If it’s within your means, you can invest in a distiller.
Or check into water delivery services near you (usually alkalized water companies offer this).
If you’re traveling to an area with unclean water, or just wanted a convenient on-the-go option- then LifeStraw is a great choice (this can also attach to your reusable bottle!).
There's also a new app recently launched called FindTap, which helps people to find places they can refill their bottles near them.
This is worth downloading and using if you're located in the US (especially in LA!!!).
Perhaps all of this sounds way out of your budget, or simply out of reach given where you’re located.
But guess what?
That’s okay, because there’s still the option to REDUCE plastic- even if it’s not eliminated altogether.
The best bet here would be to buy the largest jug of water you can at your local market/shop (usually about 10 liters), along with a stand/dispenser for it to make the pouring process easier.
When that jug empties, you can return it to be refilled and reused.
Again, not eliminating plastic altogether.
Which still makes a huge difference.
This one undoubtedly comes with a bit of controversy.
But, considering I’ve written about it before- I’ll just come out and say it:
Going plant based is better for our environment.
Cutting meat and dairy out might sound damn near impossible for you.
If that’s the case, then why not consider smaller steps instead?
One plant based meal each day.
Or just one day that’s all plant based each week.
For more insight on this transition, check out my 5 Tips Towards Veganism blog.
There are, of course, a ton of wonderful plant-based brands out there.
But want to know what’s better than any of them?
Going to your local farmer’s market to buy fresh, organic produce yourself.
3. SHOPPING & STORAGE
This goes hand-in-hand with food in terms of the shopping/selection process.
There are SO many options for reusable bags nowadays.
Everything from stylish brands like Seed and Sprout and Kappi (both of which I use and love).
To the $1 bags you can buy at check out.
I think the trick for most of us is simply REMEMBERING to bring the damn bags with us, right?
If that’s the case, I’d invest in bunch of the ones that fold into a small ball/shape so you can chuck them in your existing purses, backpacks, etc.
I bought a pack of 20 on Amazon, and keep them everywhere so it’s nearly impossible to forget a bag anymore.
They also come in handy for all the produce I buy, so I don’t have to use those thin plastic bags that the shops provide.
Lastly, if buying a reusable bag truly isn’t within your means- then, same as before, simply use your plastic bags more than once in an effort to reduce your waste.
4. HYGIENE & BEAUTY
Have you ever stopped to think about how much waste we, as women, accumulate simply by having a period?
To be honest, I didn’t really think about it because for the last 8 years I’ve had the IUD- which meant I didn’t bleed enough to need products to contain it.
Now that I’m birth control-free, this topic is really on my mind.
For my first cycle, I went to a local health shop to buy organic, non-bleached tampons with cardboard applicators.
These, of course, were about three times the cost of regular tampons.
But, for me, I thought it was worth it.
Mostly because I didn’t want toxic chemicals going into my vagina, but also because I knew I’d have a menstrual cup by the time my next cycle arrived.
I used Lunette Cup this month, and I have to say it’s a game changer.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it as tell you it’s a super easy adjustment in terms of just getting it in and comfortable.
Because it’s not.
It takes a little practice, and a little getting used to.
But the good news is that once you DO find the right placement- you can keep it in for 12 hours.
AND, there’s zero waste.
You simply wash after each removal, and reuse.
Another option are investing in some period underwear.
I haven’t personally tried these yet enough to recommend one brand over another, but I’ve had friends who rave about them.
I think I’ll try some out at least to sleep in, rather than having something inside of me all night.
If all of these options are out of budget, or simply inaccessible based on your location- the best recommendation I can make would be to use tampons with cardboard applicators rather than plastic.
This alone will make a big difference.
It’s pretty simple- the more natural the ingredients are, the better it is for our planet AND for our bodies.
That’s not to say that everything I use is 100% natural, because it’s not.
But the of it majority is.
Think about it, if it irritates your skin, your mouth, your eyes, etc- how do you think our oceans or soil feel when these products are eventually deposited there?
Dr. Bronner's is clearly a favorite when it comes to hygiene, because I use their soap can be used for my body, face, hair, and also for dishes and other cleaning needs.
This means, I always buy the largest bottle I can find.
Although I use it for just about everything, it still lasts a long time!
You can dilute it as needed.
They now also make a variety of other personal care needs (toothpaste, chapstick, etc).
For deodorant, I use a salt crystal (I forget the brand, and the logo has rubbed off by now- but it’s from Bali).
I love it for two reasons: I’ve found it works the best for smell/sweat.
And also because it essentially lasts forever, which translates to less waste.
For skin, I mostly use oils (coconut oil or almond oil) to moisturize.
And then Tea Tree and Oregano oil for blemishes and/or infections.
I use Apple Cider Vinegar (usually Bragg’s, or any other organic brand I can find) or Rose Water as a toner.
However, everyone’s body and skin is different in how it reacts- so these things might not work for you.
In fact, they might even IRRITATE your skin, so make sure you DILUTE them A LOT if it’s your first time trying them.
Another few favorites:
Paw Paw by Manda for my lips or any other dry areas.
And then, I also JUST (as in the delivery man knocked on my door while I was writing this) received a skincare package from Blessed by Nature, which offers a variety of natural, organic and cruelty-free beauty products.
Lastly, Bioclarity is another awesome option for natural, plant-based skincare.
If these options are out of your reach financially, or if the products just aren’t available in your region- then look into the natural ingredients that ARE available around you, and just make your own products based on your skin's needs.
One of my good friends decided to make her own products, and she even wrote a blog including her tips and mixtures (click here to read).
I want this to stand alone to in an effort to emphasize how important eco-friendly sunscreen is.
Similar to other products, if you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the label- how do you think our bodies and our oceans will be affected?
I use brands who protect my skin from getting burned AND protect our reefs from getting bleached/destroyed.
My two favorites are Manda and Surf Yogis.
If you’re unsure on what’s “reef safe” or not, just look at the label.
Oxybenzone is a common chemical in many sun creams that is said to kill coral.
PACKAGING AND TESTING:
One more thing to include here is packaging, because I think we can all see how much unnecessary plastic can come with one simple tube of oil or lotion.
Typically, most brands that are natural (or mostly natural)- will already be pretty tuned into the sustainability of their packaging, as well as the ethics in testing their products.
But it’s always good to double check.
Is the product tested on animals?
Do they use plastic containers?
If you know they DO use plastic, and there AREN’T refillable options once the container is finished- then see if you can reuse that container for something else before throwing it away.
But hey, if you make your own products, then you don’t have to worry about this part at all!
Do you think about where the water goes that runs down your sink?
Do you think about the fact that if we’re using soaps and detergents with toxic chemicals, these will inevitably contaminate our planet?
Similar to the Hygiene and Beauty section- more natural products will be kinder to our bodies and the Earth.
I think I’ve established my love for Dr. Bronner’s already, so that’s already a given for dish and hand soap.
Try to find an eco brand laundry detergent in your area.
But if you can’t, just do your best to avoid the plastic pods.
There are eco brands for all things cleaning (floors, glass, bathroom, etc), and there are also mixtures that you can make yourself for these things, too.
I haven’t made my own cleaning products, so I can’t speak to this concept more than just mentioning it above.
Nowadays, most developed areas offer a biodegradable option for trash bags (these brands will vary depending on your location).
These still take a LONG TIME to break down in landfills, and they tend to be twice the price of “regular” plastic bags- but in my opinion, it’s worth it.
And it’s better than nothing.
The same can be said for the greener brands for ziplock bags, saran/cling wrap, baking paper, aluminum.
If you don’t have a green option available, just see if you can fine tune your awareness of consumption when using these products.
If you’re in a habit of using a lot of paper towels/napkins, perhaps you can switch to reusable washable cloths instead (both for cleaning and eating purposes).
This concept sort of ties everything together into a pay-it-forward concept.
We can help others go a little greener by actually providing them with the tools, products, devices, etc.
See where the need is, alongside this particular person’s interests- and create the perfect eco gift just for them.
This could be anything as simple as taking them out to an amazing vegan meal (or making one from them), to a whole bag full of goodies for the home and body. Remember, small changes make a big difference.
Meaning that even just gifting someone ONE reusable canvas bag might mean that HUNDREDS of plastic bags won’t be used.
The change starts with me.
The change starts with you.
The change starts with US coming together as a collective consciousness.
So, let’s do this.
One step at a time.
I think we can all agree that the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) industry is oversaturated.
In fact, I think we can all agree that calling it oversaturated would actually be an understatement.
It can certainly be daunting and downright overwhelming when it comes to picking a YTT- especially after you’ve heard the horror stories, right?
As most of you know (or at least those who follow me on social media), I’ve been in India for the last month completing a 300 hour training with Trimurti Yoga.
And, based on my posts- I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been really happy with my experience.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a TON of inquiries about the school itself.
Well, to be honest, even before I was here- I would get regular messages from both friends and strangers, alike, asking about YTT recommendations.
Your questions have been the inspiration for this post.
Plus, like I said before, I know how overwhelming the process can be when it comes to picking just one school.
Because, let’s be real, YTT is expensive.
So, why would you want to part with such a large chunk of change if you’re not going to get the experience you really want?
I get that.
Which is why I hope all this blog will alleviate even just a bit of that stress.
Before I get started, I think it’s important to note my background in the industry as far as the previous trainings I’ve done, the style I’m interested in, and my general teaching philosophy- so that you’ll understand why I’m reviewing my experience with Trimurti Yoga in such an enthusiastic way.
My Yoga Background and Past Trainings:
I was first introduced to yoga around the age of 12, as my mom was a yoga teacher at the time.
I went to her classes irregularly throughout my adolescence, but it never really resonated with my completely- it was more of a physical outlet and something fun to do with my mom over anything else.
I continued to practice pretty regularly once I left for university.
But, again, I had a purely physical focus in that it was something to keep me flexible and open despite running and playing other sports.
It wasn’t until I was 24 that yoga began to resonate on a deeper level than just the physicality of the practice.
I’m not going to go into my revelation of breath here, because that story deserves an entire separate post.
Needless to say, I signed up for my 200 hour YTT shortly after my 26th birthday.
I had just come back to the States after living abroad for two years in Kenya and Indonesia, and was having a really difficult time settling back into Western society.
My disconnection and discomfort grew to the point that I fell into a pretty deep depression.
So, I did what a lot of people do- and I signed up for YTT at my local studio (CorePower, Encinitas).
If you live in the States, then it’s more than likely you already know about CorePower.
However, if you don’t- then allow me to fill you in.
CorePower is a corporate yoga studio chain around the US.
The philopshy and sequences are Baptiste inspired Vinyasa, as well as Bikram inspired hot classes, and I think there are even a few Yin classes sprinkled in there nowadays, as well.
My training was the 200 hour Vinyasa intensive, which means I didn’t focus on any of the other styles they offered (they had separate trainings for each one).
If you’ve practiced with me, you’ll probably find this all quite surprising- as I don’t teach at ALL like someone who works in a corporate chain studio.
But here’s the thing, this training helped me realize exactly that.
Although there are many elements that I didn’t agree with throughout the course- I also give full credit to this place for helping me become a clear, articulate teacher by only using my words.
I also really value the fact that I did the training at home over the course of several months.
We would meet three times per week for lectures, teaching practicum, and test- but otherwise, our hours for asana practice were up to us to fulfill in our own time (it worked out to about 5-6 classes per week, which was pretty typical for me anyways).
I felt that I was able to really soak in the information in a more complete way, rather than it all being crammed into four weeks and 12 hour days.
I also felt that we had a TON of teaching experience throughout the training- even starting from the very beginning.
The real emphasis of CorePower 200 hr is to teach people how to teach by using their words, instead of using their bodies to demo the whole time.
There was also a huge emphasis on alignment and anatomy, so I left feeling really confident in this area, as well.
That being said, there WASN’T a huge emphasis in the roots of the practice.
Sure, we had philosophy lectures, we learned the 8 limbs, and a bit about chakras- but, let’s just say, it was definitely a Western approach to an Eastern practice.
I started teaching right away (not at this studio, because the teaching method didn’t resonate with me), and I found my authentic voice as a teacher simply through experience and exploration in my self-practice.
Again, I could (and I probably will) write an entire post about this concept of finding your voice as a teacher- as these nerves and apprehension of a new teacher are also something I commonly get asked about.
Moving on- three years after my 200 hour, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the origin of the practice- so, what better way to do so than to venture to India and learn from the source?
I had never been to India, so I had never practiced “real” “traditional” yoga before, but I did it anyways.
I did tons of research, picked a school, and started my 300 hour training at Om Shanti Om last April in Rishikesh (one of the country’s yoga capitals).
During my time there, I also had quite a few messages flooding in asking about my experience and whether or not I’d recommend here.
Here’s the thing- there’s a reason I’ve never written about the school publicly before.
I don’t want to sit here and bag on it, because I don’t think that’s fair.
What I’ll say is, I did get what I needed out of it in that it was a completely 180 difference from my 200 hour- which was a really interesting contrast to notice.
However, I will say that the biggest disappointment about this school (as well as many others in Rishikesh, especially) was that it was much more focused on making money, rather than the quality of the training.
For instance, there 300 hour course was combined with the 200 hour- only you just do an extra 100 hours at the end.
This means you’re reviewing a ton of information you already know, and you’re learning with students who have never taught and are completely new to a lot of these concepts.
Also, they allowed students who signed up for 100 hours to simply jump in and join at any point of the existing trainings.
This means that new people can just show up on random days, and they also get to pick and choose the classes they want to learn- which generally gives it a completely different dynamic to a typical training where you have a group of people learning and growing together over a certain period of time.
That being said, although I was learning a lot of familiar information- considering it was coming from such a different teaching perspective, it was definitely interesting to digest.
Also, it was a Hatha Yoga school, which is clearly a much different style than Baptiste inspired Vinyasa in an American yoga studio chain, right?
I mean, our Anatomy classes at Om Shanti Om didn’t mention one muscle or bone in the body like we did at CorePower- instead we talked about the internal lunar cycles of humans in relation to the external lunar cycle, and how that effects us energetically.
So, like I said- I felt that I got what I needed out of it.
That just doesn’t mean that I would recommend it to others, especially when 200 hour students were telling me that they felt they were leaving knowing just as much about teaching as they did before they came.
I felt so bad for them when they told me this that I used to give them private lessons (not physical lessons, but teaching methodology lessons) during our breaks, and in the evenings after class.
However, I’ve also met people who have trained there and loved it.
And, if you look it up, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of great reviews, as well.
So, I guess just take this information as nothing more than simply my opinion.
This pretty much brings us to the present.
I’ve been teaching for nearly four years, and I just finished my second 300 hour course in India- although this time in Dharamsala instead of Rishikesh.
I mention the locations, because (for me) this is also an important factor in where I choose to train.
Again, this is my opinion- but I found Rishikesh to be a bit of a circus.
I called it Yogi Disneyland.
There is LITERALLY a studio or school on every corner, and it’s PACKED with yogis from around the world.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a special energy to place like this.
However, I just found it a little hectic at times, and definitely not as peaceful as I’d imagined the Himalayas to be.
The plus side is that it is incredibly beautiful.
It was great to swim in the Ganga every evening after class.
And there are tons of talented artisans, teachers, and beautiful shops.
Dharamsala, on the other hand, is much more rustic and serene.
There are areas in the main towns which can be loud and crowded, but if you’re staying around Dharamkot or Bagsu, it’s the perfect balance of a variety in cafes and shops, but still quiet enough to be enjoyable.
Don’t worry, I’ll dedicate a section to the location later on.
Lastly, I just want to note my teaching style and philosophy, as I believe this is important in understanding why Trimurti resonated to deeply with me.
People often ask, “What kind of yoga do you teach?”
A question to which I often answer, “I just teach yoga.”
I find it really difficult to label my classes (like how you might see on a studio schedule), because they don’t fit into one certain box.
First of all, you should know that my classes are usually two hours long- unless I’m teaching in a place that only allows 90 minutes.
I find it really difficult to offer a COMPLETE session in anything less than an hour and half (and even that timeframe is a struggle for me).
This is usually because I like to open with a 10-15 meditation, and close with a long savasana, as well.
Most people see my practice on social media and assume I’m Ashtangi or into Power Vinyasa, because I’m flexible and strong.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
I move, and teach SLOWLY on the mat.
I want people to take time to actually FEEL the postures, rather than rushing through them and missing those micro-moments of release (another reason why my classes are long).
There is undoubtedly a Vinyasa element to my sequences in that they flow from one section to another, and I have a huge emphasis in transitions.
However, I typically start with two long-holding yin postures (hence the extended mediation in the beginning).
And I tend to close with a long cool down as well (not really yin in this case, as I don’t want people to overstretch considering they’ve just done a complete practice).
When I’m teaching full time, I don’t usually theme my classes- because, for me, the exploration of yoga is a theme in and of itself.
I encourage introspection through slow, mindful movements- and closing the eyes throughout.
I’m also a huge advocate for intentions/mantras/affirmations, as I believe the breath binds the mind to this internal focal point.
My biggest aim is to simply create a safe space for my students to explore themselves.
I don’t feel a need to cram that experience into a box labeled one particular thing other than just YOGA.
Because, for me, this is my yoga- which is why I want to share it with others.
How is this relevant to my most recent training?
You’re about to find out.
Trimurti Yoga and Their Philosophy (through my eyes):
One of my good friends and fellow yoga teachers in Siargao recommended Trimurti to me last year when I told her that Michael (my boyfriend) wanted to do his 200 hour in India.
She did her 200 hour with them several years back, and wanted to go back for their 300 hour at some point.
I hopped on their website to check it out for myself, and I was super interested by their 200 hour option for multi-style.
This means that instead of focusing on just one lineage, they learn Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa over the course of the month.
Then, I got super distracted when I started looking at their 300 hour course option with Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Five Elements.
I’d done a 100 hour course with an Ayurveda doctor in Tamil Nadu last year, and had Ayurveda theory lectures in each of my prior trainings- but I still felt like I was only scratching the surface.
I loved the fact that the course offered a variety of styles (Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Yin), but the overall focus was on the healing and philosophies of Ayurveda, TCM and the Five Elements above anything else.
Michael and I already knew we wanted to go to Dharamsala at some point, simply because we’d heard amazing things about the place- and we didn’t have a chance to make it up to the Himalayas during our India trip last year.
When I checked out the dates each course, I was immediately drawn to the May option because it fell over my 30th birthday, and I thought what better way to ring in a new decade than with my man in the mountains doing and learning about what I love?
We signed up five months in advance, which qualified us for the early bird discount (I don’t remember the exact pricing, but you can check out their website to find out exact numbers).
Although I don’t remember the total I paid given the conversion rate and all that, I do know that it was a super reasonable price- and I feel that I received the full value of my payment through the teachings and classes.
I’ll get into logistics of booking later as far as recommendation for the various packages, but for now, I’d like to focus on Trimurti’s focus, philosophy and approach to our classes.
Trimurti (in my opinion) serves as a bridge- connecting the Western approach to an ancient Eastern practice and philosophy.
Considering the diversity in my past training, and the fact that I value elements of both Western and Eastern practices of yoga- this was perfect for me.
Just to give you an example about what I mean as far as the physical practice goes- there was one morning where we had a very traditional Hatha sequence taught by Vamsi (an Indian teacher).
And then the same evening, Vamsi co-taught a partner/acro yoga class with another teacher (from Spain).
(I note where the teachers are from simply to show the diversity in the team as far as their backgrounds and styles.)
To give you an example beyond the mat- we’d learn about ancient practices of Ayurveda and TCM according to old texts, but then we’d learn how to apply this knowledge to modern day needs.
For instance, meridian points that are useful for standard physical ailments for those sitting at a desk all day.
Or yoga sequences that are useful for those suffering from anxiety and depression (two epidemics which seem to always be on the rise in our society).
I can’t tell you how much I truly appreciate this approach to teaching, in that it’s incredibly useful for me.
I love the idea of making ancient practices RELEVANT to our modern day students.
I love the idea of also serving as a bridge- connecting the East to the West in my own teaching.
The other important thing to know about Trimurti as far as teaching methodology goes is their view on anatomy and alignment- as I know this may or may not resonate with everyone the way that it resonated with me.
Trimurti believes in the functional approach to each posture, rather than strict traditional alignment being the ONLY way that the asana is “right.”
For instance, they drive home the point that everyone’s skeletal system is different- meaning certain shapes are simply inaccessible to certain people depending on compression in the bones.
This will either sound like common sense to you, or be totally foreign- and either way, it’s okay.
Here’s the thing, we definitely touched on this idea in my first training.
However, the focus there was still definitely always on the deepest expression of each pose- striving for something that might be physically impossible for some people.
My second training didn’t acknowledge this concept at all.
Some of you might have heard this about Indian schools in that there’s not a whole lot of mercy that comes with adjustments and alignment.
To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, let’s just say that five- yes FIVE- people left my training with knee braces at Om Shanti Om.
Teachers would sit on you to push you further, or stand on your inner thighs to press them to the ground- as they were really focused on that traditional expression of each pose without really understand the physical restraints we’ve created with our Western lifestyles.
Trimurti could not have been more different in that their emphasis was the function of the pose.
What are you supposed to be feeling, and where?
If you have to take a certain modification or variation to get there- then that’s cool, do your thing.
Your body, your yoga.
I think we see this more often when it comes to beginners, understanding their need to use props and all that when they’re starting.
But what about hyper flexible people, or those who are double jointed/hyperextend their joints?
Where do we draw the line?
This is the beautiful thing (in my opinion) about Trimurti’s philosophy- they put that responsibility on the student.
After all, like I just said- your body, your yoga, right?
What I mean is- if you see a student pointing their toes instead of flexing their feet in seated forward fold, you wouldn’t tell them that’s WRONG, therefore it’s not even a yogic version of forward fold (according to Trimurti).
You would tell them the intention of the pose- are you opening the hamstrings, or releasing the low back, are you strengthening or stretching, or a little of both?
Tell them what you want them to FEEL, and let them figure out the best way to arrive in that sensation.
I’m telling you all of this because as yoga teachers, or aspiring yoga teachers- I know this might be controversial for you.
I think this is especially true for practitioners and/or teachers of certain lineages.
And here’s the thing- that’s completely fine.
I’m not here to change your mind, and I know that Trimurti isn’t here to change anyone’s views either.
This is simply THEIR approach, which is certainly an interesting and not-so-common way to lead a training.
If it completely rubs you the wrong way, this might be a good indication that the training isn’t the best fit for you.
However, you could also think of it as a challenge in the sense that it will certainly broaden your mind, and has the opportunity to solidify your beliefs one way or another.
Lastly, I’d like to note Trimurti’s belief in diversity.
I think this is already pretty clearly illustrated with the bridge metaphor, as well as their vast teaching team, and variety of styles.
But, I think it’s another important concept to drive home in considering to sign up with them depending on your preference for practicing.
Again, if you’re a dedicated Ashtangi- I would say this training might not be the best choice for you, given that all of the asana classes are quite different from one another.
This doesn’t just go for Ashtanga, but any style- if you’re really only about one certain practice, that’s great.
However, you might feel disappointed with this training then- because it’s so broad, and offers a little bit of each, rather than a lot of just one.
That being said, although I could also see how this training would be challenging to some because of this- I could also see how it might be super beneficial.
How do we know for sure what we like and don’t like until we actually try new things?
Maybe you’d leave knowing you don’t want to dive deeper into one of the styles offered- but maybe you’d leave with a new inspiration.
Trimurti Yoga Logistics with Booking:
If you’ve checked out their website already (linked throughout), you’ll see that there are a variety of packages and prices with each training.
I just wanted to let you know what Michael and I decided here, and our experience with our choices.
I chose the option that did NOT include food nor room, only the training fee.
Michael chose the complete package, which DOES include food and room.
First of all, we knew we were going to share a room- so there was no point for us both to book a room if we would only use one.
And, based on my training in Rishikesh- I knew that I’d be ordering off of the menu even if I had food included, so what was the point of paying double?
Also, we wanted to try to have some meals together- so I could always run down and have lunch or dinner with him and just pay out of pocket, no problem.
I’m super happy with my choice, because I like getting to choose what I eat.
There are tons of great cafes in this area, so it was nice to try new places and not feel like I had to eat the same thing every day for a month.
Don’t get me wrong, this choice is absolutely a luxury, and something that’s also relative to the location.
If you’re looking at a certain school, I’d highly recommend to do some research about the area it’s in before deciding on a package- because it’s possible that it won’t have a lot around to choose from anyways, and it’s better to just have it all within the school.
It’s important to note that sometimes it’s difficult to eat just anywhere in India, especially if you have a delicate stomach.
Even if there are street vendors close by, you should consider your chances of getting sick based on sanitation.
You wouldn’t want to miss days of your training, just because you wanted to save a few bucks on food.
It’s not worth it.
However, it’s also important to note that this same food issue can even happen at the cleanest and most consistent places.
It’s so common here, which is all the more reason to be a bit more conscious at least during your training, so you get through it feeling as good as possible.
Because Dharamsala is more touristy- there are a lot of great cafes that are catered to vegans and vegetarians which are relatively “safe,” so I had no problem.
Although when I asked Michael if he was happy with his package that included food- he said he was.
This is mostly because his school was a bit more isolated than mine.
Not hugely, but it’s about a 10 minute walk to Bagsu (a place with good cafes).
And, 200 hour students only have one hour breaks for meals- whereas we had one hour for breakfast, and two hours for lunch.
You might think that’s plenty of time to eat- but you need to remember, this is India.
If you got your food in less than 30 minutes, that would be a damn miracle.
If he had two hours for lunch, he might have reconsidered- but trying to rush a meal into one hour is actually pretty tough here, so having it all provided there at the school was convenient and less stressful.
Plus, he said the food was really good- and he was pretty happy with the portion size, as well.
As for the room- we were super happy with our room.
Keep in mind, you don’t spend a lot of time there given that you’re at school about 12 hours a day- but it’s still nice to have a decent place to lay your head at night.
I think our worked out to be about $12/night.
I know, I know- that doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not.
But, you should know that there are also places to stay here that are half the price (or less) that are the same quality.
So, if you’re a confident traveler and happy rocking up to a place and then searching for the cheapest room on foot- then you could absolutely do that here for a lot less than what you would pay in the included package price.
If you go that route, I’d recommend you arrive at least a few days early, though- because sometimes it’s tough to find a place that has availability in one room for a whole month given that this is high season in the mountains.
If you’re happy with it being taken care of for you, then I’d just go with the included rate.
Know that any additional cost to the training (food and room) are paid directly to the restaurant and the guesthouse- meaning Trimurti does not profit from this at all, and you would pay the same price to those same places should you book them independently.
I think it really just depends on your how comfortable you are traveling, and whether or not you’re already familiar with the area, or not.
Please keep in mind- this is my experience from Dharamsala only, so I cannot vouch for the quality of the rooms and food with any of the other trainings.
Day to Day in Trimurti Yoga YTT Training:
A few people asked me for an example of my day to day with the school, which I’m not going to go into too much detail about considering their sample schedule is on their website if you want to look it up.
But I will offer a little sample of both mine, and Michael’s typical day- as well as the overview of each of our courses.
I’ll start with myself:
Our mornings technically started at 6 am, but this first hour of the day was dedicated to our self practice.
This means that the shala would be open already if you wanted to go there as early as 6 am, but if you prefer to practice in your own room- you can do that do.
They made it clear that self-practice doesn’t have to be physical- it can be meditation, journaling, or it could even just mean sleeping in a little extra.
It’s basically an hour to help us maintain a sense of balance throughout the month so that we can operate as our best selves.
We all meet in the shala by 7 am for the morning asana practice, which is two hours.
Because we were studying the Five Elements in both Ayurveda and TCM- our morning practice would be relative to whichever element we were studying at the time.
Regardless- morning classes were often strong and energizing.
9 am, we had one hour for breakfast, which we usually just got across the street at Trek and Dine because it’s close, and relatively fast- which is important for only a one hour slot.
We met back in the shala at 10 am where we would have some sort of theory lecture for either an hour, or an hour and 20 mins (depending on the subject).
We’d have a short 10-15 minute break, and then another theory lecture for roughly an hour or so, until lunch.
Essentially, 10 am – 1 pm is carved out for theory, which was often divided into two different classes with a break in between.
I think there were a few times we had the same subject for the entire 3 hours, but we still always got a break about half way through.
1 pm – 3pm was lunch, where we were also expected to study and work on homework considering we had such a long break.
We met back at 3 pm – 5:30 pm for another theory class (or two), again with a break about half way through.
And then, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm we had an evening practice, which was usually Yin.
If it wasn’t strict traditional Yin, then it was Yinish- and certainly mellow/restorative nonetheless.
Our classes were Monday through Saturday, and then Sunday was our day off to do whatever we wanted.
Michael’s schedule was almost the exact same, except they were required to be in the shala at 6:30 am for 30 minutes of mantra chanting before their asana practice at 7 am.
And, like I already mentioned, they had only one hour for lunch- so they had an extra hour of theory, and less time for self-study.
As far as the big picture timetable- Michael’s course covered Hatha during the first week, Ashtanga during the second week, and Vinyasa during the third week.
The fourth week was dedicated to the student teaching practicums where they were allowed to choose which style they wanted to teach for their certification.
During this final week they also covered an intro to Yin, Prenatal, and Yoga Nidra.
Our course was a bit different because we had a different focus.
If you’re familiar with the Five Elements in Ayurveda in and TCM, then you’ll know that they’re actually not exactly the same- making 7 Elements in total.
Our first week covered the intro to the course and Earth.
The first part of the second week covered Water, and the second half Fire.
The third week covered Air, Space, Wood and Metal- as they have a lot of overlapping qualities.
The fourth week was Yoga Therapy, where we taught our teaching practicum of a yoga therapy class designed for a super specific group of people (ie people with mental or physical disorders, or people from a certain location, or generally anyone with a specific need).
During our time, we had every kind of asana practice- Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin, Restorative, Acro/Partner.
We also covered a few meditation techniques like Yoga Nidra, candle and eye gazing, etc.
Our practices incorporated acupressure points from TCM, as well as physical postures from Ayurveda depending on the element we were focused on that day.
And then we also learned a bit of Thai Massage, dove into Dance Therapy, and a few other healing practices other than yoga.
Now that I’m done, I can say with confidence that the schedule and overall layout of the classes built one another in a really easy and complimentary way.
When I asked Michael about his feedback- he said that although he’s enjoyed the training, he also found it pretty overwhelming at times.
To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me- given that when you’re starting 200 hours, it’s pretty likely that all of this information is brand new to you.
This means you’ll probably have more to retain in a pretty short amount of time.
When you’re doing 300 hours, you already have this foundational knowledge, and probably even a basic understanding of other topics through your own self-study and teaching experience, as well.
Sure, it was still a lot of information in a short amount of time- but I personally found it totally manageable.
I’m really happy, and super grateful for my teaching and my training journey thus far- as it seems every experience has served its purpose at the appropriate time.
I wouldn’t change my choice in trainings, even the ones that didn’t fully resonate with me- because each of them still brought powerful aspects to my current teaching.
I’m glad that my first course was local to where I was living at the time, and I had several months to digest an overwhelming amount of information.
However, I know that not everyone has access to quality trainings in their hometown.
Also, I know a lot of people who say they’re happy they went away for a month intensive course rather than staying home, because they felt they wouldn’t have been as immersed in the training if they were still living their regular day-to-day life in between.
Plus, a lot of people use trainings as a reason to travel to a new place- and even get a holiday out of it before or afterwards (don’t expect the training itself to be a holiday- you literally have NO time to yourself).
I completely understand both sides of the coin, so I think it really just comes down to YOU.
What are you looking for?
What’s important for you?
What do you need?
And then also the logistical question of simply what’s available, and what’s your budget?
These are all things I highly recommend knowing before choosing anything.
Location (Dharamsala, India):
I’m going to keep this part brief, as this isn’t a travel blog, nor the focus of this piece.
However, as I mentioned before- location is also a part of the equation if you’re choosing any intensive training abroad.
Dharamsala is known to many as the home to the Dalai Lama- which creates a beautiful energy to the place, as a whole.
It takes about 12 hours by bus from Dehli, or just over an hour by flight (also from Dehli).
The bus is not a sleeper, but it does have big reclining seats, which are WAY more comfortable than you’d find on a long flight.
Plus, traveling by road is obviously much cheaper- but that really depends on your budget, I suppose.
We took the bus, so I can’t speak much regarding the flight.
But I do know that the airport is about an hour away from where the schools are- so that’s also something to consider with your timing.
The 200 hour and the 300 hour shalas are about a 15 minute walk from one another.
Keep in mind, we’re in the mountains- so although the distance isn’t far from one to another- it’s important to note that you’re either going up or downhill for entire walk back and forth.
Because Michael booked the complete package including a room, our guesthouse was at the bottom of the mountain closer to his school.
This meant I had to walk up the mountain every morning to get to class- which I was fine with.
This was also something that the owner told me beforehand, so that we could decide who would do the walking.
I was happy to have nice little warm up before class, but I know this could also really bother someone who isn’t as into walking.
The 300 hour shala is in upper Dharamkot, and the 200 hour shala is in Lower Dharamkot.
The closest major towns are Mecleod and Bagsu.
Mecleod is quite busy (a little hectic for my liking), although it’s nothing in comparison to the rest of the country.
It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from Upper Dharamkot, and you’re going downhill the entire way.
This means that it’s an uphill journey on the way back, which is pretty steep.
If you absolutely don’t want to deal with all of this breathlessness and booty building, then you can always take a tuk tuk or a taxi.
Bagsu is very nearby Lower Dharamkot (in fact, some people don’t even Lower Dharamkot as a place at all, and just group it together with Bagsu).
It takes about 7 – 10 mins to walk here from Lower, and about 15 – 20 mins to walk here from Upper.
I much prefer going into Bagsu when I need something from the shop, rather than going into Mecleod.
There are a quite a few cute shops in the here, and some great cafes as well.
Because my training was in Upper Dharamkot- I was able to explore quite a bit in this area as well.
There are also some really nice cafes here (I say here, because that’s where I’m writing right now!), but not the same quality selection in shops.
This entire region- from Mecleod to Bagsu- is known for a backpacker hub for yogis and other spiritual seekers.
There are quite a few yoga schools here, although not the overwhelming amount that you’ll find in Rishikesh.
It’s not the best place for those standard Indian good which you’ll find in other parts of the country (like jewelry and textiles), but it is a great place to get lost in the great outdoors.
There are tons of beautiful walks just outside your doorstep.
I haven’t had a chance to do the more touristy things just yet as I only finished school a few days ago, and Michael is finishing today.
We plan on doing an overnight camping mission on Triund mountain (overlooking the snowcapped Himalayas), and checking out some of the bigger temples.
We went to one of the waterfalls already, but still want to see the one in Bagsu.
Keep in mind, it is summer here now (late May), so the water isn’t exactly pumping- but the weather is perfect.
The mornings and evenings are cool, and the days are pleasantly warm.
We had weird weather when we first arrived, in that it was complete monsoon- and freezing (it was hailing!).
This is not typical for this time of year (thanks global warming), but if you come at this time, I’d definitely pack warmer clothes regardless.
Because it’s high season here (as the rest of the country is sweltering hot, so everyone flees up to the mountains), it can get super busy on the weekends, especially.
That being said, it’s best to do the hikes on weekdays (if you can) to avoid crowds.
Which leads me to the point that it would be great to arrive a few days early, and leave a few days later than the training if you want to have a chance to also experience the place beyond the four walls of the shala.
All in all, I love this area- as it offers a sense of peace, which most of the country can’t really claim.
I am feeling homesick for the ocean, but the mountains and 50 shades of green certainly offer a soothing sort of energy whenever I’m feeling low.
Being here as also made me feel pretty grateful for those after class swims in the Ganga during my training in Rishikesh- which is something I definitely took for granted at the time.
I know I’m a water baby, and am sensitive to my surroundings and weather- perhaps even more so than others.
So, as much as I’ve loved it here, I don’t see myself rushing to get back here anytime soon- mostly for the fact that I just really crave having some sort of body of water nearby if I’m going to be in one place for an extended period of time.
I know that if people are drawn to the Himalayas for their YTT, then they’re usually torn between Dharamsala and Rishikesh.
I’d definitely recommend trying to at least GO to each place, even if you only train in one.
They’re so different from one another, and each offer a vibrant energy that shouldn’t be missed.
Constructive Criticism about Trimurti Yoga:
Look, I don’t have a whole lot to say here- but also, let’s be real- nothing is perfect.
I know I’ve said this a million times already, but keep in mind these points are all my opinion- which means something that might seem like a downfall for me, might actually be a highlight for you.
I really don’t have a whole lot I’d change about my training.
There were, of course, a few teachers who I resonated with more than others- but I wouldn’t say that as a strength nor a weakness, as that’s just personal preference.
Overall, I was super impressed with the teaching team- and I definitely learned something from each of them.
I think the thing I appreciated most about the training was that a lot of our lectures were more like discussions.
We were a group of 21 people, most of whom are already experienced teachers (we had a few people who had only recently finished their 200 hour), which meant we all had something to offer.
I loved how the teachers opened up the space for us to talk openly about our opinions, approaches, and experiences based on our own studies and teaching.
That being said, I don’t think it’d be the most beneficial environment for someone who has not done a 200 hour training yet to learn in.
I say this because there was one girl there who hadn’t done her 200 hour yet, and she told us how lost and confused she felt.
I don’t blame her!
I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes.
I think that could simply be fixed by asking a student beforehand about their past training- as it does already state on the website that you must have already done a 200 hour course.
I suppose this puts the responsibility on the shoulder’s of the student, and I really don’t know if the girl was asked and lied, or what.
So, that’s just a small thing to note.
I also think that the theory lectures in the last week fell off a bit.
What I mean is, it felt like some classes were put in there to fill time slots, rather than functionality- and they didn’t feel as fulfilling as others where we were really learning new things.
It was kind of nice to have a bit of a break with these filler classes, as our brains were pretty damn tired.
I think it just started to bug me when we were then getting out late, and missing breaks- yet we were having filler classes, instead.
Those are really the only main points I’d change in mind- which, like I said- are not that major anyways.
I want to tell you a bit of Michael’s feedback, and then also my brief glimpse of his course from my eyes, as well.
First of all- he really liked the concept of multi-style, because he not only learned a lot, but he also honed in on exactly what his interests in teaching are.
Like I mentioned before, he did feel that it was a bit overwhelming at times- but I don’t think that’s a fault of the school, but rather the timing of the course (something that would likely happen with any 200 hour intensive).
He (and his classmates) had a big problem with the philosophy teacher.
The man is a gem of a human.
He's an older Indian male who is the epitome of a TRUE yogi- qualities that I think are relevant to that bridge metaphor in East meets West.
I completely understand how including someone like him in a course would be beneficial, in that students can see the more ancient (and dedicated) ways of the practice.
However, although he’s a great person- he’s really just not a great teacher.
He doesn’t let you write any notes during his classes, and he sort of just talks in circles for hours on end (I know because we also had two lectures with him).
We only had two hours total with him, which I already found difficult enough.
However, we had the foundational knowledge to understand his circular talking a bit- whereas in 200 hour, they were often completely lost as to what the hell he was even talking about (as I would be too if I were in their position).
When I asked Michael on Week 3 if he knew what the Yamas and Niyamas were, he said yes- although not because of the teacher, but because it was in the book.
I find that to be a real shame as a new teachers first exposure to philosophy.
And I know it put a pretty bad taste in their mouths about the subject.
Like I said, I can see how someone of his stature would be valuable to the students to an extend.
However, for him to be the sole teacher of philosophy seems to be a bit of waste- especially when there’s another Indian teacher on the team who can teach these same concepts in a much more relatable way.
As for my observations about Michael’s course- I only had a small glimpse, and that was during his teaching practicum.
I was already finished with my course, so I went to his class to support him.
First of all, I think it’s important for a new teacher to be required to teach a full-length 1 hour class as their final.
I think this would give themselves, and their teachers a better indication for their ability to structure and hold space for an entire class.
Because they had 31 students (which I also think is WAY TOO MANY people for a YTT), their final classes were 2 hour sessions, split between groups of 5 people- meaning they taught about 30 minutes each.
Actually, I shouldn’t say this is because they have 31 students- because this might be what the do regardless of the number of students.
I don’t agree with this method because it’s completely different to teach a 30 minute section of a class, versus putting together an entire sequence from beginning to end.
For instance, think about how different it would be if you only taught savasana for your final, versus teaching the peak posture.
I think to see a student’s true capability, and to be able to accurately critique/help them as they prepare to transition from student to teacher- you have to see if they can actually teach an ENTIRE class.
The other thing that I found extremely problematic was their feedback, which I stayed to listen to after the class.
They’re brand new teachers, of course they’re going to have a LOT of things to work on- so, please don’t think I’m ripping on them.
I’m always super proud of anyone who puts themselves out there, and offers a piece of their heart through teaching.
It takes major guts- so I do appreciate that.
However, I also think it’s imperative to point out areas that could use work, rather than only showering them in praise- because that’s not realistic.
Plus, this means they’ll walk away from the training thinking they don’t have ANYTHING to work on because they never got any constructive feedback- and that’s how they’ll continue to teach real students in real life.
I mean- c’mon- wouldn’t you rather hear these critiques from your peers and your teachers that you’ve been learning from for the last month, rather than getting a bad review from an angry student.
Or worse- getting sued, or accused of something horrible (because that’s the sad reality we live in nowadays).
I think it’s important to prepare teachers for the reality they’re stepping into- and that means pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I found this super surprising when I sat in on their feedback, because ours was completely different.
First of all, the owner of the school leads 300 hour- and only teaches one theory class for 200 hour.
So, I’m not sure if something has been lost in translation somewhere along the way there.
Because when she would give us feedback, she would even say how she was always the one looking for at LEAST one thing to improve- even when people’s classes seemed damn near perfect, and none of us could think of anything to change- she’d still find something.
Not in a nitpicky, nor malicious way- but in a way that wanted us to always strive for MORE.
And in a way that showed us we could always grow and improve.
I personally find this endless possibility for growth to be so much more inspiring, rather than the false safety of hand-holding.
But again, that’s just me.
I know not everyone appreciates direct communication the same way that I do, and they might need a bit more nurturing- which is fine.
I just don’t agree.
I don’t agree, because I believe it hinders the future teacher’s growth, and because it can also be problematic- or even dangerous- for their future students.
Lastly- there’s one thing that both Michael and I were a bit disappointed in with both of our trainings.
This is something that is more universal, than it is specific to this school- but I think it’s something worth pointing out either way.
We didn’t like the idea that if you pay for the course, then you’re just about guaranteed a certificate regardless of your performance.
We didn’t notice much of a divide in my group, as all of us were very eager to be there, and eager to earn.
There was one couple who separated themselves from the group, who was late to just about every single class, and who just blatantly missed entire sections- which was a bit disheartening considering the community and support with the rest of our group, but at the end of the day, it was their choice.
Michael’s group had a bit larger divide (probably because they had more people), with people who were on time and went to everything- versus people who (to put it plainly) slacked.
Like I said, it’s their choice- and the experience is what they make it.
However, it doesn’t seem right that those same people will receive qualification in the end when they did half the amount of work.
I want to clarify something here- I’m also grateful for this flexibility in that I missed several days when I was sick and hospitalized.
I assumed this meant I couldn’t get the certificate because of the hours I missed, which I was actually fine with considering I didn’t go for the piece of paper- I went for the experience.
When I voiced this to our head teacher, she told me that I could make it up with other homework- and we could work together to come up with something fair on both ends- which I definitely appreciated, because I felt supported.
So, who knows- maybe she had the same conversation with the couple in my group who also missed a lot (although by choice, not by illness- I may add).
I really have no way of knowing, and I’m not interested enough to pry about it.
I do know that Michael was much more bothered by this in his group, and I can see why it would be not only frustrating, but also scary to think that those people can teach classes to real people now.
But, as I mentioned- this happens with just about every school.
Overall Feedback for Trimurti Yoga:
As a whole, I can say with confidence that Trimurti seems to value quality over making money, and cranking out ill-equipped teachers.
I do honestly believe that each member of their team (the ones who I met anyways) enjoys their position, and puts their entire self into what they share- which I really appreciate.
I also appreciate the size of the team, in that none of them are burnt out, and offering half of themselves as a result.
In fact, the owner told us that most of them ask for MORE hours each day/week- which is not something you hear with most jobs.
Despite the large groups, I felt adequately supported with an appropriately sized teaching staff.
And Michael felt the same way.
None of this negates my constructive feedback, as I still stand by these critiques regardless of the many highlights.
However, I would absolutely recommend Trimurti for anyone doing their 200 hour or 300 hour training.
I can’t speak for the quality of their shorter courses, as I haven’t done any of them (yet)- but I can imagine they’d be equally satisfying.
As I’ve said countless times throughout this post, I think it’s important to recognize what YOU want in a training first and foremost before listening to my recommendation.
I wrote this using as much detail as possible so that you would know WHY I liked it.
Based on the WHY, you can decide if those qualities resonate with you or not.
I can say that overall, the good UNDOUBEDTLY outweighed the bad (to put it in the most black and white terms as possible) in my experience.
But the reality is that life isn’t black and white.
There are plenty of gray areas.
And, it’s usually within those gray areas where the WHY’s and the HOW’s and the ROOT of these seemingly simple answers really live.
At the end of the day, only YOU know what works best for YOU.
Maybe you’re still in the process of figuring that out, and maybe you’ll only figure that out once you experience something you really DON’T like.
The most I can say is to try to accept each of these experiences as teachers.
Even the tough ones have a chance to shed light on what we DO want in contrast to what we DON’T want.
The only way we’ll ever really learn is through our own personal experience, as other’s people’s second-hand opinions and recommendations can only get us so far, right?
The best advice I can give you right now is to simply take the leap.
If you’re drawn to YTT, and you feel that it’s the right time for you to dive in- then I can tell you with confidence that it IS.
Do your research, but try not to get lost in the endless stream of reviews, and blogs, and outside opinions in the process- because these overwhelming factors just might stand in your way of taking the leap at all.
Remember, regardless of your experience- it WILL be teacher if you let it.
So what are you waiting for?
I’ve had several random encounters over the last two days which have inspired this piece.
Actually, scratch that.
I don’t really think that anything is TRULY random.
In fact, these stories were clearly presented to me for a reason.
Maybe that reason is to get me writing again.
(it’s been awhile)
Or maybe that reason is to simply evoke a deeper sense of introspection to a combination of resurfacing themes in my life.
I want to start off by saying I’m not exactly proud to be American.
Although, I don’t think this statement will come as a surprise to those who know me.
It might sound harsh, but hey, that’s me- brutally honest to the core.
The sour taste in my mouth about my country showed up about eight years ago, when I left for my first sola trip abroad (to Ghana).
It started as just a minor embarrassment for small things.
Like the shockingly low statistic of Americans who hold passports.
Or, my own ignorance to worldly views and matters, which seemed to be common knowledge amongst the other travelers who I met on the road.
My disconnect grew each time I came back to the States from these experiences.
I found (find) it harder and harder to connect with people- even some of my best friends- as our lives continue to fork in two very different directions.
The final chord was cut when our “justice” system failed me five years ago.
“What’s the point of being here if my voice doesn’t matter? What’s so great about being a resident of ‘the greatest nation’ if I’m silenced and unprotected?”
These are thoughts that ran relentlessly through my mind in the wake of our court’s failure.
So I left.
And, to be honest, I haven’t really looked back since.
It’s funny, because this occurrence could have inspired a completely opposite reaction, right?
It could have pushed me to be an advocate for the other voiceless survivors living in my very own country.
It could have motivated me to stay put, and seek justice through others’ victories.
But, clearly this wasn’t the case.
I could not have put myself any farther from my born roots that to plant myself on the other side of the world.
Sure, my own experiences of abuse were some of the initial catalysts which revealed a deep sense of knowingness about my path.
A knowingness that told me I’m on this planet to help alleviate other’s suffering.
However, rather than walking my dharma on home soil- I started comparing suffering, instead.
What I mean is, I had this mentality that because there were parts of the world where people lived in unfathomable poverty (unfathomable to a privileged, white Californian girl like myself, that is)- their hardships were greater ours’, as US citizens, could ever be.
I know, I know- that doesn’t make much sense at all.
But this was something that I would just have to figure out on my own through my own experiences.
It’s so easy to notices all the differences when you travel.
The contrast in food, culture, looks, architecture- you name it- there’s a whole spectrum of colors and textures across this little blue and green marble we call Earth.
But what about the similarities?
What about all the ways in which we, as humans, are so intrinsically the same?
We all crave love.
We all seek connection.
We all experience loss and triumphs, alike.
We are daughters.
We are brothers,
We are mothers and fathers.
We are a best friend, a soul mate, and an enemy.
We are entrepreneurs, CEOS, and labors.
We’re all just trying to “make it” in our lives- in whichever way that may be.
We have the same light of excitement in our eyes when we fall in love.
We have the same pit in our stomach when we experience heartbreak.
My travels have taught me how incredibly complex human nature is.
But more importantly, my travels have taught me how simple we really are once we strip past the layers, and actually look at the centers of our beings, instead.
Pain is pain.
Joy is joy.
Nothing more, nothing less.
So, what’s the point of these ramblings- you may ask yourself at this point.
And, hey, I don’t blame you.
This has been quite a longwinded introduction, after all.
What I’d like to do now is to share a not-so-random collection of stories I’ve heard over the last two days- which not illuminate the beautiful simplicity of human kind, but also remind us to open the eyes and ears of our hearts in order to receive the wisdom of everyday prophets.
I got to the Pakistan Consulate as soon as it opened.
I was unnecessarily nervous at the thought of my visa being rejected, as I had flown all the way to LA just for this application.
It’s a lengthy and tiresome process to go through in order to assure your credibility, and true desire to go to the country, and this was my last chance before flying out of the States later that night.
As I anxiously wiped my sweaty palms together, the older woman in front of me (the only other person in the waiting room when we arrived) turned around.
“Are you applying for a visa?”
“Yeah. Are you?”
“Yes, I hope I get it,” she replied with a smile that nearly split her wrinkled face in two.
I’m not kidding, her grin was so wide, it was impossible to not to return the favor.
It was also impossible not to let her excitement dissipate my nerves (at least a bit).
“Have you been before?” I asked.
“Not yet. But I can’t wait. This country is so beautiful. I need to see it with my own eyes,” she replied- still smiling, of course.
“Are you going to Lahore? I am. I’m going to see the city for a few days, and then some small treks,” she went on.
“Me too,” I told her.
“I only have one week, but I think it will just have to be enough for my first time.”
“You’re going all the way to Pakistan for a week?!”
I’m always shocked (and somewhat impressed) when people go so far for such short periods of time.
And, I’ll be honest- I was even more blown away due to her age.
“Oh no, of course not! I’m going to Paris first, and Nepal after. I’ll be gone for a total of a month,” she laughed in response to the surprised expression on my face, I’m sure..
“Oh wow, so you must travel a lot?” I asked somewhat embarrassingly.
“I’ve been to over 70 countries, and I’m not stopping until I’m gone,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“Where are you from?” I asked, noticing her slight accent.
“The Philippines,” she replied. “I moved here after the war a very long time ago. But the Philippines will always be my home.”
“I spent quite a bit of time there over the last two years!” I proclaimed almost proudly.
“Really?! I don’t ever meet people here who have been to my country. That’s so wonderful to hear. I hope this means that things might be changing with young people like you then,” she said with a nod.
“I hope so too,” I said in agreement.
“When I came here after the war, I started a family and I worked hard. So hard. I was a mother and a wife. Now my children are grown, and my husband is….gone,” she trailed off.
“Do your children enjoy going back to visit the Philippines with you?” I asked to redirect her sadness.
“My children don’t understand their roots. They are American through and through. And me, I am a Filipina, but I am also an American. Me, I am the whole world, I think. There is so much to see. We always think we have time, but don’t really. All we have is now, right?”
“Most of my friends, and even my family- they all think I’m crazy for traveling how I do. But, I say, if we want to see the world- then we have to go. That’s how it starts. Just go. It doesn’t matter if it’s far, or difficult or scary. Just go.”
I was on cloud 9 once I got my visa. After a grueling 3 hours of intensive interviews, paperwork, and more questioning- I had it.
I am going to Pakistan.
My heart thumped, and I somehow felt a little lighter.
We went for a walk on the Venice Boardwalk after lunch- stopping to look at shops, laughing at the endless characters, and enjoying the cool breeze coming off of the Pacific.
I went into a sunglasses shop towards the end (my kryptonite).
I finally decided on a pair, and headed to the register to check out with the sales person who had helped me.
He resized the wire to make sure it wasn’t too big on my face, as I explained how I like it a bit tighter because I spend most my time in the tropics- which means I’m always a little sweaty, so the glasses slide down my nose.
He asked where I lived, and I laughed awkwardly the way I always do to fill the pause between my answer and such a (seemingly) simple question.
“I don’t really live anywhere at the moment. I travel,” I explained vaguely.
“Oh really? So you’re just visiting?” He asked with interest. Clearly my answer wasn’t what he expected.
“Yeah, just visiting. I actually came to LA just to apply for my Pakistan visa. I fly out tonight,” I went on with a more detail than I actually meant to reveal. I think it was my excitement seeping through. Apparently I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
“Pakistan?” He asked as if he hadn’t heard me correctly.
“Yep,” I said with a smile.
“Isn’t that a, ummm, pretty- well, isn’t that a, ummm, basically Muslim country?” He lowered his voice, and his eyebrows damn near raised into his hairline.
“It’s not ‘basically’ Muslim,” I laughed. “It just IS Muslim, just about through and through.” I’m not gonna lie- I was enjoying his uncomfortably at this point.
“Right, well, exactly. Yes, I mean, I know it’s Muslim. I just wanted to make sure a young woman such as yourself knew that also.” He said, while clearing his throat.
“Yep, I know. I’m super excited to go,” I said, staring him straight in the eyes.
He looked down, and I picked up on something.
“Where are you from?” I asked, somewhat gently. Because I mean, c’mon, you can’t just go assuming someone with brown skin isn’t American.
“I’m American!” He said somewhat indignantly.
“Ah, ok….” I began.
“But I was born in Iran. I came here in 1971,” he went on softly.
“Really?! I’d love to go to Iran! I’ve heard incredible things. Hopefully next year,” I said trying to catch his gaze again.
“Is that right? You know you would have to cover your hair there? This doesn’t bother you?” He looked up.
“Not at all,” I replied simply.
“Well!” His face transformed as that imaginary barrier between us dissolved.
“When you come to my country, you’ll see real beauty. And I mean true, stop your heart beauty. People think all we have is the desert, but no! We have mountains, and forests. And the coast. The coast! Every shoreline is different there, you know?”
“Is that right?” I responded with a tone that gently encouraged him to continue.
“Ah yes! You must see! But, you also must be careful when you swim because we have more things living in our waters than you’ve seen anywhere else in the world. I can promise you that,” he went on proudly.
“Really? Like what?” I entertained.
“Millions, I mean MILLIONS of jellyfish. And sharks so big, and so fast you don’t even know they’re coming until it’s too late. When I was a boy, I was on a fishing boat with my father. I stuck my feet overboard because I was hot, and he yelled at me to put them back in the boat. He told me stories of how sharks stole little boys from boats that way, and I never did it again,” he laughed with a childlike expression on his face, and a far off look in his eyes.
“Well, I won’t be swimming then. Duly noted,” I replied laughing with him.
As he finished packing up my glasses, he held my gaze once more.
“I hope you go to Iran. My country won’t disappoint you, I’m sure of it.”
“I’m sure it won’t either,” I said, taking my new package from his outstretched hand.
“I think you’re brave. I don’t know if people tell you that all the time, or not. Sorry if they do, and I’m saying it again. But I just wanted you to know, because I’ve never met an American- an American WOMAN, no less- who wanted to see my country,” he said, shaking my hand as our exchange came to an end.
“Thank you,” I replied simply.
“Plus, if you go all the way to Pakistan, this means you HAVE to also see Iran. You decide which one is better for yourself. Although I think you’ll agree with me that nothing compares to my country. Especially Pakistan,” he said with a friendly wink and exaggerated eye roll that made me laughingly roll my own eyes right back.
I forgot to fill the gas tank of my rental car before I turned it back into the dealership.
I rushed to the closest station (where fuel was a whopping $5 per gallon!) before returning the car, and then heading to the airport to catch my international flight.
My card was unexplainably declined three times at the pump, so I stomped my way into the store in a huff.
“I’m just trying to fill up my tank,” I said impatiently handing the cashier my card as if it were his fault.
“Ok, madam. No problem. How much would you like?” He asked calmly.
“Full please. Number one,” I replied hurriedly.
“Certainly,” He said with a nod and slight bow as he accepted my card.
I went outside and filled up the tank, tapping my foot while I pumped as if that could actually speed up the process.
As I started to go back inside to get my card, another woman cut in right before me. Once I got inside, I saw another guy at the counter- making me third in what like a nonmoving line.
“I just need to get my card,” I wanted to say as an excuse to cut to the front. But I bit my tongue, and stuck to my foot tapping method instead.
The cashier was carrying on friendly conversation with both customers in front of me, and I took deeper and deeper breaths.
Finally, I got to the front and reminded him about my card.
“Certainly,” he said with his obligatory nod and bow.
I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“Are you going back to your country?” He asked while waiting for my transaction to process.
“Excuse me?” I asked, confused.
“Your country. Are you going back there now? Is that why you’re in a hurry?”
“Oh no, I’m from here,” I mumbled. I swear his eyes glinted mischievously at the sight of my cheeks growing warm with embarrassment.
“Is that right? I thought you must be from some European country. I saw your big bag, and I know Europeans like to travel. Not Americans,” he said with a chuckle.
“Ah, I see,” I couldn’t help but laugh at his reasoning, as well.
“You must not be from Los Angeles though?” He asked, nodding at my attire (I may or may not have looked like a bag lady).
“Nope, I’m just visiting,” I replied, still laughing at his transparency.
“Great. And what do you think of this place?” He asked, sweeping his arms wide as if he were a proud mayor, or leader of some sort.
“It’s a little crazy for me,” I said honestly.
“Me too,” he laughed.
“So where are you running away to then?” He went on.
“India,” I answered with a smile.
“Where are you from? Are you from there?” I trailed off somewhat awkwardly. After all, he looked and sounded Indian- but with my luck, I’d be wrong.
“No no! Me? I’m not Indian! I’m Sri Lankan!” He said with pride.
“Oh right, of course,” my cheeks burning again.
“India is a very nice country through. Very, very nice,” he continued with that same twinkle in his eye confirming that he was offended by my assumption
“It is,” I agreed.
“Have you ever been?” I asked, even though the my payment had long since cleared, and I was holding my card in my hand again.
“No, not yet. It was so close to me before. So close. I could have gone then. But, it was so important for my family that I come here to work. Now I’m here, and it’s far- so far. Just like my country.”
“Yes, it is quite far, isn’t it? It’s going to take me almost three days to get there!’ I told him with exaggerated proclamation in an effort to un-knit his brows bunched together with sadness.
“I will get there some day,” he said with assurance.
“I know you will,” I agreed.
“For now, I work here every day. I work for my family. I work for myself. And I work so that I can also travel one day like you, madam,” he said somewhat shyly.
“It sounds like you’re a hard worker,” I told him with a smile.
“Of course! Why should I be here if I don’t work hard? I know my friends may think I am lucky to be here in America. But the truth is, there is no luck. I am here because I tried. I really, really tried.”
“I can tell,” I told him honestly.
“Do people tell you that you’re lucky too?” He asked.
“Yes! All the time! They think that I travel because I’m ‘lucky,’” I said using my index and middle finger to make air quotes.
“And this is not luck either. You tried, madam. Even I can see that,” he observed.
“Thank you. I have tried,” I agreed.
“I hope you feel like me, and you feel proud. Maybe it’s this,” he said tapping his temples. “This power we have in our minds which other people mistake for luck.”
“Maybe it is,” I said, softly pondering the idea.
“Well, you should go! You have a flight to catch. If you fly over Sri Lanka, please wave to my country from the plane,” he chuckled.
“If I’m not completely delirious or sleeping, then I most certainly will,” I told him jokingly.
He leaned over the counter and dropped his voice as he said, “Greet India from me. Make sure to let Her know I’ll be there when it’s my time.”
“I will,” I promised- mimicking his same conspiring whisper.
And I walked out the door.
Although I’ve been traveling for 8 years now, somehow I still struggle with telling time and catching the right flights.
Yeah, doesn’t make any sense, I know.
But sadly, it’s the truth.
This is my embarrassed way to explain why I was taking an Uber AWAY from the airport on Monday night.
Because, if you’ve been following along, you might remember I kept saying my flight left Monday night.
Turns out it didn’t leave at 12:30 am, but actually 12:30 pm on Tuesday.
Which brings us here- to my Uber from the airport, back to a friend’s house at 11 pm.
I don’t have a US sim card, so my phone relies on Wifi to function.
The airport was PACKED, so the Wifi sucked.
It was good enough to order an Uber- but cut out soon after- which meant I couldn’t see which car was mine, the license plate, driver, etc.
I managed to find the pick up area for Ubers and Lyfts (I say managed to find, because I have an incredibly horrible sense of direction which only gets worse when I’m frazzled).
Since I didn’t know much of anything about my ride, I just went up to the window of everyone who pulled up with an Uber sticker on their windshield.
One guy pulled up who didn’t have a sticker, but a makeshift sign reading UBER in the same lower left hand corner of everyone else.
I walked up to his window, and pointed at his janky little sign asking, “Uber?”
“Yes. You need ride?” He replied in somewhat broken English
“Yes, I do. But I already ordered one. For Kayla? Do you know?” For whatever reason I started speaking in the same fragmented sort of sentences.
“Yes, I can take you.”
“No no. I already ordered. For Kayla,” I repeated, leery of hopping in the only car without the proper sticker who was offering to just ‘take me.’
“Sure, I can take you,” he said again, smiling.
“No. I already have a ride. My name is Kayla. Do you have this order?” I don’t know why I kept repeating the same thing, clearly he wasn’t my driver.
“Yes yes, I take you, Kayla,” he said as he opened the door and took my heavy pack from my back.
“But wait, are you my driver? Or are you just taking me?” I asked suspiciously furrowing my brow at his politeness.
“Sure, I take you.”
Yeah, this clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
I snapped a photo of his license plate and reluctantly got into his car, still unsure if I was making the right decision.
However, I was also exhausted and annoyed at my own stupidity for getting to the airport an entire day early.
I just wanted to lay down.
So I stayed in the car.
He came around to the driver seat after packing away my things, and closing my door.
As soon as he got in the car, he must have sensed my leeriness.
I’m not gonna lie, when I put my guard up- it’s nearly tangible. Even to complete strangers.
“Do you want to check your phone to make sure I drive you?” He asked, carefully.
“My phone only works with Wifi, and it’s not working out here,” I replied curtly, as if this were somehow his fault.
“Ah ok. I can turn on my hotspot for you? You can check that way?” He continued generously.
“Ok, sure,” I answered, narrowing my eyes at his kind offer.
“Yes yes, no problem at all. You can use my hotspot. We’ll wait here until you check,” he said, fiddling with his phone uncomfortably.
“Thanks,” I replied in the same short tone.
“Let’s see, Kayla you’re going to…” he went on to repeat my friend’s address (which I’m omitting for her own privacy).
“Yes!” I exclaimed with a sudden rush of relief.
I laughed a bit, wondering why he hadn’t just said that from the beginning.
“Okay, Madam Kayla. My hotspot is on, you can check.”
“No, no I believe you. You know my address. I saw the order on your phone. It’s okay,” I answered, softening the hard edges of my previously harsher tone.
“I insist, Madam Kayla. Please,” he begged, making eye contact with me through the rearview mirror.
“I believe you,” I said, patting his shoulder. “It’s okay, let’s go.”
“Okay, Madam. Thank you,” he smiled.
We drove in silence for a few minutes.
“So, how long have you been driving for Uber?” I finally spoke to break the residual tension in the air that I’d created.
“Only one year.”
“One year, that’s nice. Do you like it so far?” I asked, trying to engage him in a feeble attempt to apologize.
“Yes, I do. I’ve only done it for one year because that’s how long I’ve been here. One year, exactly. To this day, in fact,” he said somewhat proudly.
“Oh really? So you’ve only been in the States for a year? Or in LA?”
“In the States. Today is my one year anniversary.”
“Wow, that’s awesome!” I said encouragingly. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Egypt,” he answered tentatively, shifting his gaze up to meet mine briefly again in the mirror.
“Have you ever been?” He then asked with a chuckle, as if he already knew the answer.
“Not yet, unfortunately. But, I’m planning to go next year. I can’t wait!”
“Really?” He almost did a double take with my response.
“Yes, of course. I’ve been wanting to go for awhile, I just haven’t prioritized it I guess. But next year, it’s definitely happening. I’m really excited.”
“Wow, okay. I haven’t met anyone here who wants to go to my country,” he said wistfully.
“Really? I’ve know quite a few Americans who have been, or are planning to go,” I answered with reassurance.
“Is that so, Madam?” He asked with raised brows. “I haven’t. I don’t usually tell people, unless they ask. And even then, people don’t always like the answer.”
“Well, people can be ignorant. I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t much to offer. I was at a loss for words.
“This is true, I know. But it still hurts my heart. My country has some issues, but it is still my favorite place in the world. I wish people could see this beauty through my eyes.”
“I can imagine,” I said gently. “Do you still have family there?”
“Yes, my wife and my son. They are still there, and I miss them every day.”
“Oh wow, of course you do!” I said, sympathetically.
“I get to go visit them next month since I’ve completed my first year here,” he went on happily. “And soon, I’ll have saved enough to bring them over here with me.”
“That’s great! Have they been here before?”
“Not yet. We won the visa lottery, you see. So we can all come, but we thought it would be best if I came first and saved enough for us to be comfortable. It’s difficult to be apart, but when they come it will be worth it.”
“So is this your only job? Or do you do other things to save more?” I asked, curiously.
“This is my only job, but I go to school at night. I’m getting my degree for engineer.”
“Wow, really? That’s incredible. You work very hard,” I complimented him. “What did you do for work in Egypt before you came here?”
“I was an engineer,” he said simply, as if it were common sense.
“What? Then why are you getting your degree here?” I asked, confused.
“Because no one will recognize my experience or credentials from Egypt when I’m here,” he shrugged.
“Seriously? How long have you been in the industry?” I asked, incredulously.
“I was an engineer in Egypt for 36 years before I came here.”
“Thirty six years?! And you still have to get a degree here?!” I was (perhaps ignorantly) shocked.
“Yes,” he shrugged again.
“That’s horrible,” was all I could muster. I felt irrationally angry at his injustice.
“Is it?” he asked.
“Is it horrible?” he repeated.
“Yes. I mean, I think it is.”
“Because that’s been your career your whole life, and you come here and no one even recognizes the experience you have. You have to start completely over.”
“Sometimes starting over isn’t a bad thing. Starting over means I’m learning new things every day. Challenges force us to learn more quickly than comfort,” he replied easily.
“I guess that’s true,” I said, although I was unsure.
“Starting over may be difficult now, mostly because I miss my family. But starting over also means I have this new chance that so many people want. Not just people in my country, but people all over the world. They all want this chance that I got. Me. How could I win this and not be willing to make some sacrifices? I know Allah has blessed me with this chance, so I must take it. I must have faith that He knows what’s best for me,” he said adamantly.
I sat silently, sensing it was on a roll, and not wanting to interrupt his free flowing thoughts.
“My faith gives me comfort in the discomfort. My faith gives me strength when my heart hurts without my family. My faith guides me, and holds me when I’m alone. I trust this faith,” he said, touching his heart with his right hand.
“I think that’s a really beautiful way to live,” I finally interjected softly.
“I think so too. Faith is the most beautiful part of every day. Even on the days when I drive people who are angry, and mean, and hate me because of my accent or the color of my skin. I just believe even these people are my teachers. I’m always learning, you see. Whether I’m in school or not, I’m always learning. We all are,” he reminded me.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” I agreed as my vision got blurry with tears at the thought of strangers being so unexplainably hateful to such a kind man.
“And tonight, you are my teacher too, Madam Kayla. You have reminded me that it’s still possible to find people here who will listen, and who won’t judge me for being from where I’m from. You have made me feel proud of my country, and proud of my work. Which is something I didn’t even notice that I’ve forgotten,” he touched his heart again.
“No, thank you for your grace with my impatience. I’m sorry I was rude earlier. I was just a bit nervous to get in a car with a man…”
“I don’t blame you, Madam. That feeling you have here,” he cut me off, pointing to his stomach now as he spoke.
“That feeling is usually the right one,” he went on. “Don’t forget that. Especially you, as a woman. You women have this powerful connection to that feeling. Even more powerful than man! Can you believe it? Yes, you must always listen to your stomach first, then your heart. This will carry you far.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
“You stomach, your heart, your faith. This is all you need. I think I can even promise you that to be true,” he said smiling as he pulled up to my friend’s house.
“Thanks for the ride. Best of luck on your studies. Enjoy your family during your visit next month,” I said, as I got out and began collecting my things.
“Good night, Madam Kayla. May God be with you on your travels,” he replied with a smile and slight bow of the head.
I closed the door, and he drove off into the night.
I took an Uber to back to LAX in the morning.
My driver was Indian.
He was so excited when I told him that’s where I was heading for the next 7 weeks.
When I asked him if he still went back to visit his extended family there, his answer was so beautiful, it made me smile and tear up all at once.
I found so much truth in his words.
It made my heart ache for my own family- as these last three weeks of nonstop togetherness have been exactly what I needed.
The hardest part of my lifestyle is missing the ones that I love most.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing when I miss so many poignant moments.
His words made me think about this concept even more.
And maybe his words will inspire that same introspection for you.
“Of course I go back to see my family every year. I cannot live without them, otherwise I am just a machine.
You know, American are like this. Like machine.
They turn on their switch in the morning & go go go all day. In the evening they turn off their switch & they are done.
Is that a way to live?
To me, that’s no life at all.
In India, we believe in joint family. Everyone is together. We live together, celebrate together, we grow old together.
If you lose your job, another one can support you. Another one can pick you up when you fall.
In America, when you lose your job- you’re alone.
Everyone is working too hard to have time for others. Even their family!
If you fall, you stay down.
If you lose a job, you stay empty and alone.
This country can dry you up if you’re not careful.
We must remember to come back to the reason we have life.
Without them, man is a machine.
And no one wants that.”
The first time I came to Kenya was over 4 years ago & I stayed for 3 months.
The country captured my heart in a way I hadn't expected.
Or, perhaps it was the IDP community (Internally Displaced Persons) who I worked with that should
take credit for such a claim.
Either way, 6 months later I sold everything I owned, bought a 1 way ticket & moved there in pursuit of my dream to start my own non-profit.
As many of you know, this is when & this is where Go Light Our World was born.
What many of you don't know is what happened to me upon my return.
Because, quite frankly, I don't like talking about it.
But it's time.
So here it goes:
Since the projects that I had set up at the first IDP Camp where I was originally working were already sustainable- I decided to move on to another camp in need.
The members of the first camp took this choice very personally.
They felt I was abandoning them, despite my choice to continually visit on almost a daily basis & still help out in the school.
When their hostility started to become violent, I (understandably) decided to leave the camp altogether.
Shortly after, they started following me home on a daily basis- threatening me, throwing stones at me, even SPITTING at me.
It got so bad that I had to move.
I uprooted everything & moved to another town about 40 minutes away.
I didn't tell anyone where I lived.
The only person who knew was my assistant (who lived with me) & her sister.
I came to find out later that she was actually the culprit initiating the hatred & continually telling them of my whereabouts in exchange for a cut of the ransom once they were finally successful in kidnapping me (they made it very clear that this was their end goal).
I think the most afraid I ever was in the situation was about a month after I'd moved when they followed me out to the new camp where I was working (which is a solid 90 min drive into the bush). There was an all out brawl between the two communities & I was grabbed as they tried to shove me into a car.
Luckily a man called Francis (my motorbike driver and member of the new IDP Camp where I was working) saved me- which is not only something I will never forget, but is also a memory that still brings tears to my eyes, as well.
To make matters worse- the general security of the country was quite unstable at the time (it wasn't even safe for local women to be out past sunset).
I relied on public transportation to get around & our buses would get robbed on a regular basis.
One time it was even at gunpoint.
A girl in my neighborhood was kidnapped by her own driver who had worked with her host family for years.
He even stole all the clothes she was wearing & finally dropped her off at the gate completely naked.
Despite the fact that my apartment was surrounded by a 40 ft concrete wall complete with electric wiring & a Gaurd with an AK47- it still got broken into.
To say I was living in fear would be an understatement.
I was so paranoid that I couldn't sleep more than 2 or 3 hrs every night.
And (of course) the lack of sleep wasn't helping my sanity or general well being.
This was also the time in which my allergic reactions were getting out of control & I was hospitalized on almost a monthly basis (I have no doubt this physical reaction was mirroring my mental instability).
When I decided to go to Indonesia to scout projects, I planned to come back after just one month.
I left my fully furnished apartment & everything I owned except for the small backpack I brought with me- because I had every intention of returning.
But I didn't.
Not only did I get bit again before I left- forcing me straight off the plane & into the hospital.
But I also felt the massive weight of anxiety lifted from my chest, as well.
Once I'd removed myself from the situation, I was able to observe how unhealthy my living situation actually was with a new sense of clarity.
And I made the choice to value my well being first.
I went through every array of emotions once I'd decided to stay in Indonesia.
There were days where I would still suffer from anxiety.
And night where I'd wake up from flashback/night terrors in cold sweats & panic.
Then, there were days where I was angry.
Angry at myself for feeling like a quitter.
Angry at every stupid insect that sent me to the hospital.
And angry that the people who took my trust & broke my heart.
As I continued to find out more about the betrayals, lies & stealing that had happened right under my nose- I was convinced that I would never go back to Kenya again.
I can't pinpoint what exactly initiated my change of heart- but I do know that it happened about a year & a half ago when I was still living in San Diego & staring at the large map on my wall.
I decided I needed to go back & make peace with a place that damn near broke me.
So that's just what I did.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about my return despite the structure of my visit & the credibility of my local partners.
Because I most certainly was.
But I CAN say that my nerves dissolved almost completely the moment I landed.
I couldn't be happier with my decision to come back.
Not only have I seen major growth within the security & development of the country, but I've also come to terms with just how far I shoved all of those experiences down.
When it was happening, I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to scare people who loved me & were already worried with me being gone.
Afterwards, I suppose the trauma silenced the truth & the shame of perceived failure masked the healing.
There was also this sense of wanting to still protect a place & a group of people that I continually love.
Now I feel a new sense of liberation that's pretty god damn sweet.
And I can say with certainty that I'll be back again.
Probably sooner than later this time around
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a high school girl asking if she could do her Leadership Project on me.
Because there isn't any information on Go Light Our World's site about my personal story in the creation of the organization, she wanted to ask a few questions.
Surprised & flattered, I agreed without hesitation.
Our encounter has gone on to inspire my choice to share more (because it certainly has been a wild ride to get where I am today):
I went to Africa for the first time over 6 years ago.
Although those 3 months living & teaching in Ghana certainly planted the seed of passion to one day start my own non-profit, it didn't take long for me to wander off of this path once I returned back to California.
Not only did I jump into a new, serious relationship, but I also allowed myself to get sucked back into a world of drugs & partying that I thought I'd left behind all those years ago when I lost my best friend to an overdose 5 days before my 19th birthday.
To make matters worse, the relationship almost immediately became abusive- verbally, emotional & physically.
I felt trapped, although I knew the choice was mine to stay.
I felt incredibly alone, although I was surrounded by so many people.
And, i felt stuck in a world of paradox, contradiction & overwhelming shame for a year & a half.
I thought the only way out was to actually GO as far as possible.
So, I clung to the dying remnants of my dream & begun to plan my next trip to Africa & Asia for the following year.
This was my escape.
Unfortunately, things came to an explosive end 3 months before my planned departure.
It was the night of my 24th birthday to be exact.
A night where a fight became so violent that I ended up in the hospital, and the guy was arrested & taken to jail.
A night where I experienced the legitimate fear of losing my life for the first time.
And, a night that shattered my soul- landing me at (what I consider to be) my rock bottom.
Not only was I suddenly involved in a court case, unable to work because of my physical injuries- but I was also mending a broken heart that still resulted at the loss of even the most twisted kind of "love."
Despite the ugliness of that night; I found the aftermath to be questionably worse.
For the next 3 months, most days were consumed with doctor appointments & meeting with lawyers.
I was in physical therapy three times a week to get my right hand back to full functioning.
(Handstands were out of the question. In fact, I was told not to count on being on my hands much at all after that.)
Nights were sleepless- as dreams turned to nightmares each time my mind replayed scenes of that night.
It always felt so real & so terrifying over & over again.
Even in the safety of my own bed, I could feel the weight of his hand around my neck.
I could feel the warmth of blood pouring from my head- seeing only red through just one eye, as the other was swollen shut from the impact of being thrown face first into a rock wall.
The lack of sleep only contributed to my nearly crippling anxiety that robbed my body of holding onto any extra weight.
I struggled to maintain even 100 pounds.
It didn't help that each time I sat in a courtroom, I had to see him.
I had to point him out to a judge as i looked him in the eye & battled the schizophrenic reaction of wanting to smack the smug grin off of his face & beg him to forgive me all at once.
It also didn't help when all of our mutual "friends" began dropping like flies.
To put it mildly- everyone thought I was a liar.
Or just plain crazy.
I was told that I shouldn't go to Africa anymore as the process of the trial worsened.
If I wasn't there to testify in front of the jury, it could hurt the case tremendously.
But I didn't care. I refused to let him take this away from me too.
So I went anyways.
A choice that naturally changed the course of my life once more.
It was here that I fell in love with the IDP (internally displaced people) community in Kenya (perhaps because I could relate to their feelings of being displaced, violated & betrayed).
It was also here that I created my first sustainable community rehabilitation projects- something I was now sure that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
After 6 months, i reluctantly went home for the sole purpose of testifying until i was blue in the face.
And guess what?
After losing the trial, I felt like my entire world had crashed down around me.
I realized that I was able to endure each hardship & betrayal over the last 9 months by holding onto the hope (the CERTAINTY, even) for justice.
When I heard the words, "not guilty" fall from the judge's mouth- all of that hope was suddenly stripped away.
I felt like it was all for nothing.
A grand waste of time & heartache.
I continued to wallow, until one morning when I took a snowy stroll with my dad.
He looked at me & said:
"I know that you're disappointed with the outcome of the trial- we ALL are.
But the longer you allow this to keep you down, the longer you allow him to have control over you.
What do you want to do?
You're young, healthy, smart and CAPABLE.
You can do anything you want starting right now.
You want to start your own non-profit?
Then go. There's nothing holding you back here anymore."
Within 3 weeks, I sold everything I owned, bought a one-way ticket to Kenya & filed the paperwork to officially start Go Light Our World (GLOW) just a few months before my 25th birthday.
When I first started GLOW, I didn't have the singular focus of solar, as I do now.
I was still primarily invested in the IDP community & interested in creating entire community rehabilitation projects that would generate sustainable increased income.
I was also passionate about improving education, which is was drove me to construct a nursery school at the new Camp where I was working.
I named the school after my best friend who had passed away & I thought my heart was going to explode that morning the doors opened to the public for the first time & 50 children flooded in with wide grins & bare feet.
I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I had never been so sure of it.
Unfortunately, there was a greater plan out there telling me otherwise.
I started having severe allergic reactions to various insect bites- landing me in the hospital on a monthly basis.
My immune system was shutting down & each instance became worse than the last.
Finally, a specialist looked me in eye & said:
"If you stay here, this is going to kill you. You chose the wrong way of life."
Being the Taurus that I am, I stubbornly refused to believe the doctor when he told me the sickness would kill me if I stayed.
I felt too invested in the projects, too invested in the IDP community & too invested in the creation of Go Light Our World- my BABY, my DREAM- to let a few hospitalizations stand in my way.
I felt that if I left Kenya, then everything I had worked so hard for would simply crumble & I'd be back at square one, probably more lost than ever before.
So I didn't leave then, even with that grave warning.
I did, however, compromise by promising both the doctor & my mom (who flew in from Europe) that if I got bit again, then I would go.
And, in the meantime, I would go to Asia for a month to scout prospective regions for similar work- so if I did end up leaving Kenya, I would at least have something else to fall back on.
Again, a bigger plan got in the way of my own.
I was bit again 3 days before my departure for Indonesia.
Although I didn't tell anyone about the bites, it ended up being pretty obvious when I was forced to jab myself with my Epipen in the KL airport- and then go straight off the plane to the hospital in Bali.
Long story not so short- I never went back to Kenya.
I abandoned my fully furnished apartment there & survived a year in Indo, traveling across upwards of 20 islands with the only backpack that I'd packed for a month.
Everything with GLOW was put on hold, as it took me that entire year (& then some) to get healthy again.
I worked with a few communities in Timor & Rote, but nowhere seemed to strike the same chord as the Motherland did.
I felt that same familiar ache of loss, confusion- but mostly just utter failure.
Instead of seeking reasonable solutions, I just beat myself up over all that I let fall apart, instead.
I accepted defeat. I didn't fight to keep my dream alive in the face of one tiny hiccup.
Finally, it got to the point where I ran out of money & I was forced to move back to California.
I'd been out of the country for 2 years & adjusting back to the pace of Western culture was jarring to say the least.
It was here in this time of deep discomfort & depression where everything changed.
Suddenly the burden of my shortcomings & failures seemed too heavy to hold.
I was incredibly lost & I didn't know where to begin looking for answers to claw myself out of such an abyss.
This was when i discovered meditation.
Although I had been practicing yoga for years, I was still mostly drawn to the practice from a physical aspect at that point.
When I began to incorporate meditation & journaling gratitude into my daily life- I started to notice an internal shift occur as I lessened that death grip of control & surrendered to trusting a greater process, instead.
Shortly after, I decided to go through my teacher training course- not so much because I was interested in teaching, but because I wanted to have a better understanding of the practice as a whole.
During my program, the philosophical language & ideals stirred a part of my soul that I had accepted as dead already.
This was when I chose to resurrect my dream of Go Light Our World.
And, I brought it back to life with full force.
Rather than continually focusing on all that I had done wrong- keeping me stagnate in terms of progression- I began to seek solutions & modify, instead.
I decided to have the singular focus of solar not only to keep the vision clear, but also because I saw how solar solutions have the power to impact all aspects of people's lives.
One of my biggest problems before was that I wanted to do everything.
I wanted to help everyone I met.
I wanted to save the world.
Not only is that unrealistic, but if it's not done thoroughly- then it's not sustainable, either.
Choosing solar ticked all the boxes for me: helping all people & the planet with sustainable solutions to poverty.
Having just completed my teacher training, it seemed only natural to teach a few donation classes in the park to get the ball rolling on fundraising for my first project in Ethiopia.
But, never in my wildest dreams did I foresee how those few simple classes would evolve into what I'm doing today.
The thing was, I had finally stopped fighting the current by forcing my own agenda into a greater plan.
I let go, instead.
Allowing for the real growth to occur.
Let me to bring you up to speed on where exactly this wild journey has led me to today.
I brought Go Light Our World back to life & completed my RYT 200 hr just over 2 years ago.
Teaching that one fundraiser class in the park, suddenly sparked an idea that allowed me to tie together my love for yoga & philanthropy in a more seamless way.
I reached out to teachers across the globe (most of whom I'd only connected with through Instagram & had yet to meet in person), asking them if they'd teach a donation-based class in their community over the same weekend worldwide.
I was blown away by the unquestioning generosity & enthusiasm of just about everyone I asked who said YES.
On that one weekend, there were about 35 teachers who taught.
Some classes were big, while some had no more then 3 people.
But guess what?
Every single amount added up to raise almost $6k- funding nearly half of GLOW's pilot project with community yoga classes alone.
This first project took place in Ethiopia in April 2014, where we illuminated 250 homes that were otherwise relying on kerosene fueled lamps for light.
Since then, GLOW has expanded to Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Philippines & Indonesia.
With the help of incredible local partners in each country, I have refined our model to be completely sustainable by offering a variety of products through a micro loan system- allowing even small donations to multiply in value as they're continually paid back.
GLOW has now provided light to upwards of 3,000 homes, 6 hospitals & 4 schools in our 2 years of operation.
We have also built (and are currently building) 4 Solar Centers in areas that would otherwise not have access to such technology.
These Centers have also helped to create about 40 jobs.
Now, our MAIN source of fundraising comes from yoga.
Those same teachers who said YES 2 years ago, now voluntarily teach global retreats with me to fund our projects.
From Mexico, to Bali, to Philippines & now preparing for our first Africa retreat next month in ZANZIBAR- it still takes my breath away each time I sit back & actually observe the growth & overwhelming support that's occurred.
Thank you for helping me shine.
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.