If your eyes are still open [poem]

If your eyes are still open
when the birds begin to sing
stay awake
pour the tea
open the book of love songs
and poetry
wrap your shoulders in a shawl
sit outside
on your balcony
watch the sun change
the sky
from muted gray to lavender and peach
to soft faded blue
and notice the fir trees
and mountain paths
and terraces of wheat and rock
and prayer flags fluttering
in the barely moving wind
and hear the dogs beckoning
each other
to join the bell-wearing donkeys
and the day
and sip, sip, sip
it all
in

Sunrise Selfie in Dharamkot April 27 2017

Sunrise selfie at my hOMe in Dharamkot, Himachal Pradesh, Northern India. April 27, 2017

Kichari on the Go! Ghee it, girrrrl… [recipe]

Most of you know how much I love good food — I geek out in produce aisles, I pause my entire day to make huge lunches for me and my family, and I spend most of my paychecks at co-ops and restaurants and never think twice about whether that farm-fresh butter is worth the price or if I’ll be ordering an appetizer at a new restaurant…

But cooking… Cooking! Dreamworld. If I’m living in a space with a kitchen (which, ha!, truth be told is a rarity in the last several months), I destress and delight myself as turmeric-stained fingers hold a chef’s knife and the fridge overfills with kale and beets, parsley and cilantro… I. Love. To. Cook.

One of the things I miss most about being ‘home’ is just that… The chopping, the experimenting, the feeling of sitting down before a meal that my hands helped to create (with the help of the divine of course, for providing the ingredients/the tools/the ideas… all of everything that ever was or ever will be, seriously).

But now? I’m traveling — in Israel — and I’ll be on the road at least another few weeks but most likely longer. So how can I get a cooking fix, nourish my body, and save on my budget while bouncing around hostels? Kitchari.

KITCHARI!!!! 

This is a staple food for yogis — Ayurvedic food for the soul — which is a perfect protein, is easy to make and to digest, and tastes delicious. It’s a warm porridge-like concoction filled with Ayurvedic spices to pacify the doshas (lord knows Vata gets a bit cray cray when you’re on the move like I am) and to create a nourishing healing space within the body and mind. And, let’s be real, it is something I can chow down on without guilt that doesn’t make my body feel disgusting after (because I’ve grown up. Done with that nonsense. I’m almost 30. I’ve had enough bread and nutella on my travels before to know the gut rot that comes from eating just cheap carbs and chocolate nut spread…).

So, here is my quick and easy kitchari recipe that you can make anywhere! If you need to, you could do this with one pot, one spoon, and a hotplate. (I hear Shiva Rae packs her tools in a suitcase so she can always get a kitchari fix.)

Quick and Easy Quinoa Kitchari Recipe

Two servings:
– Begin with equal parts quinoa and split mung beans (could use red lentils of regular lentils or whichever kind if you don’t have split mung beans — they are the easiest to digest however and don’t aggravate vata dosha as all other lentils/beans do). About 2/3 cup each, maybe more 😉

Combine quinoa and beans, and rinse thoroughly 3 times until water drains clear.

Add mixture to pot, add around 4 cups water, bring to boil stirring gently (I added some salt and some dried ginger to water — optional). Once it boils, cover and bring to low simmer and let cook until quinoa is soft (these mung beans will pretty much dissolve into the mixture, but if using other lentils make sure they’re very soft).

– As that cooks, heat 2-3 tbsp (or more) ghee in skillet/frying pan on medium high heat until it melts.
Add 1/2 tsp+ cumin seeds until they sizzle (don’t burn them).
Add 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds.
Add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds.
Add 1+ tsp minced raw ginger.

Cook and blend about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder.
Add 1/2 tsp curry powder.
Add 1/2 tsp coriander powder.
Add 1/4 tsp (or less) ground black pepper.

Stir and heat until thoroughly blended and set aside until quinoa/lentils are complete.

– Drain the quinoa/lentils, leaving some of the water.

Add quinoa/lentils to spice mixture and mix thoroughly.

Add pink salt/sea salt to taste, and add more ginger and black pepper as you like.

All done! Makes two pretty hearty portions.

Yummmmm…. 🙏🙏🙏🙏

Adjust the spice amounts as needed 😘

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What the fuck… Is this what it feels like?

I’m at work. And I should be working. It’s a deadline day and I’m full of angst and anxiety as I try and imagine how the hell I’ll ever get everything done.

But, I’m feeling something in me that I haven’t felt in a really really long time.

And I’m terrified.

And I feel like I could vomit. And cry. And scream. And run.

And turn to mush.

Tears are coming as I type, and I’ll sacrifice sleep later to finish my work… Because right now, this is my work.

To feel. This.

At the risk of being too open, too vulnerable, and utterly ridiculous in the eyes of anyone who knows me (or doesn’t), here I go.

I don’t want to fall in love.

I don’t want to risk saying goodbye to the fire in my heart, to the dancing queen in my soul, to the get-up-and-go that makes me who I am. I don’t want to leave behind all the things that make me the me I love the most. Free spirit. Artist. Unconventional bohemian babe who teaches yoga and heals with her hands, and also swears like a badass sailor bitch with a shot of Jameson, another of Patrón, and a sweating Busch light on the bar before me. I want to climb those trees in the furry-filled fuzzy Northwest, and those mountain peaks in the sacred Himalayas.

I don’t want to make decisions using my left brain.

I don’t want to say I’m sorry, and really mean it, when I realize I was less than considerate of the man waiting in the truck.

I don’t want to cry when we’re an hour away from our departure point.

I don’t want to have nausea, those fucking butterflies that come, or the weight gain or weight loss that accompanies an emotional experience us humans aren’t blessed to have enough to make sense of within our minds.

I don’t want to fall. Fuck. I don’t want to fall.

I’ve been running and running and running, with fear of falling, and I don’t want to stop.

Because stopping hurts.

Really. Really bad.

Because stopping means staying.

And that’s not my style. Or hasn’t been, on a heart-level, for 6 years since my heart last broke, which broke bigger and bolder than I’d hope any heart could break.

I want to cling to my path, one that has no rules, that believes everything is gray — never black and white, ever — but is a foggy gray filled with regular doses of tye-dye and psychedelic hippies and EDM. A path that sings to Bieber and Johnny Cash. That is full of naked swims at sunrise in the Sawtooth mountains, and naked golden-hour dips amongst canoers and fallen birch trees in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a path that lights my life up bigger and bolder than any path I’ve tried ever could…

But damn it. DAMN IT. Damn it.

“What’s the worse thing that could happen?” he asks.

I roll my eyes, and laugh at how silly it sounds, but I tell the truth…

“For me, honestly… fuck… The worst thing that could happen is he could be my forever person and I could change course and get married and have some babies and live in the woods amongst the fawns and fairies…” I laugh. I cry. So does he.

So while I sit here, typing away, and the texts and messages from the other fellas greet my morning, I cringe… Oh but, them… I like them too, don’t I?

But they don’t make me slow my roll and cool my jets.

I’ve feelings to feel, that I’m feeling, that I haven’t felt in a very very long time.

This hurts, so I know it’s not a crush.

This hurts, which tells me if I want to see what this life thing is all about, in a way that may satisfy the dreamer in me, maybe it’s worth looking at a bit longer…

This hurts, because it’s so not me.

I’m not vulnerable. I’m strong. I’m willful. I’m free.

And, if I’m being honest, I know the reason I’m most terrified is because this is truly uncharted territory. So much so, I’ve no clue how to put one foot in front of the other.

How does one do this, really do this? How do you just be, without a heady head spinning and swirling with option and adventure? How do you just let go of any agenda, any roles, and not keep one foot out the door?…

You just be, I suppose.

And let life happen, I suppose.

And feel the feelings, I suppose.

And cry and vomit and let yourself be sick.

In love.

Damnit.


“To know Godliness one has to be defenseless…, one has to drop all armor; one has to be vulnerable. And it is not only the condition to know Godliness; it is the condition to know all that is beautiful, all that is poetic, all that is musical, all that is  contained in the word “love”. ” -Osho

Reflection of the Mayan fire ceremony

written after spending time in San Marcos, Guatemala, on the incredibly magical Lago Atitlan… ~spring 2013.

I just came across this hurried set of notes I wrote in San Marcos (on Lake Atitlan) in Guatemala. This was just days after participating in the Mayan fire ceremony with Bri (my soul sister from New Jersey I met on a bus from Managua to Guatemala City). I wasn’t going to go to this ceremony, opting to let Bri experience it herself, but I am so grateful I did. I feel my life will never be the same after hearing some insights into the Mayan astrological sign for my life…

I need to take time to edit this into a readable story, but for now, the notes must suffice.

Notes below:

I know now that I’m meant to write and I’m meant to share and I’m meant to travel and I’m meant to create bonds and relationships between people and communities. I’m meant to share knowledge of what I know is truth (what this is I’m still unsure). I’m meant to be bonded with another and my full energy and spirit can only shine when I am making time for dance and play and creativity, and when I’m able to find change and sunrises. I also need to keep in balance the giving and receiving.

My energy nawal is No’j, which is the Mayan symbol for wisdom and turning intelligence into action.

I’m rooted in Toj, which is a symbol of balance.

My destiny is ruled by Kan, which is the creation nawal and full of sexual energy and relationships.

I have Akabal and Batz on my sides, signifying change and creativity.

The fire ceremony I experienced a few days ago was magic. Words will not be able to adequately describe what I felt during the 5 hours Bri and I spent with Jennifer and Sondri. We were told the ancient Mayan creation story about the two sacred snakes creating the human race four times, and it wasn’t until the fourth time that the human race was able to give gratitude to the creators. There were four races of people — red, black, yellow, and white, each having a correlation with an element. Red were the fire people, white were the winds, black was the water, and yellow was the earth (the corn).

Jennifer also told us about the tale of the two brothers who became the sun and moon after defeating the lords of the underworld and being brought from the underworld by faith from their grandmother.

She also told us that true paradise can only be found within, and it comes when we genuinely feel respect for all things. Everything deserves respect, she said.

We sat around the alter of No’j, my nawal, which just coincidentally happened to be on the land at which they were staying. Sondri prepared a fire circle while we’d been speaking, and we all lit it and took care of the fire together. We gave items to the fire (candles, leaves, broken sticks) as needed.

We called in the energies from each of the 20 nawals, some of which Bri and I did (I called in No’J for example) and the others were done by Jennifer and Sondri.

We sometimes used playful ways to call in the energies, like when we called in B’atz (which is symbolized by the monkey) we all made monkey sounds to show we were playful and respecting the energy we wanted.

There were sometimes we called out our names because our names have power and deserve energy.

There were times we held hands and used our elements – mine was/is Earth and the west (my actual nawal direction is east).

Sondri explained that everything is teaching us something. When the fire goes out, that means we were either proceeding too slow or that we needed to pay it more attention.

This event was quite moving for me, and for Bri. Bri ended up staying in the little magical lake town for a couple months after I left actually.

Starting the descent: Reflections on going up and going in.

… He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity’s sunrise. — William Blake …

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Tomorrow morning I start the descent. Slowly going inward and challenging my body, testing my power over the mind, questioning my soul… It makes me think. I’ve come to an important realization yet again — one I’ve come to many times and one that never fails to bring me peace.

Life isn’t always easy, but it is always beautiful, and it is always a blessing. Life is always a gift.

If we let ourselves be present in each leg of this journey called life, we’ll recognize everything, always, is perfect. The “plans” that don’t go as planned — the events that are less than glamorous — our internal battles that break us, allowing for rebuilding — the tests and trials of our physical and mental bodies — the fear-inducing awakening of the spirit — all is perfect and just as it should be.

From the first flutter of the eyelids each day and their first glimpse of the morning sun, to the first breath of air, first sip of water… To the shelter above our heads, whatever it may be, to the clothes and jewelry adorning our temples of flesh… To the simple exchange with another soul, reminding us we’re never alone… All are blessings, and all are deserving of our unending gratitude. We’re blessed to be alive, right here, right now… We’ve been given a gift of grace that allows us to have the simple sweet pleasures of the human life.

 

Anjali = gift of grace. "...This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected..."

Anjali = gift of grace.
“…This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected…”

In sanskrit, the word for this gift of grace is anjali. We use the term “anjali mudra” for the hand gesture of placing the palms together in front of the heart center (this is also called namaskar mudra). Each time we press our hands together, we recognize that this human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected… Our lives are designed for giving love and thanks to the Universe for the endless blessings we experience.

This word has been resonating with my heart since I first discovered it a few weeks ago in India. It is the perfect word for this journey… The journey of life, but also my current journey of discovery — inside my mind, and inside the heart of the Himalayas — is truly a gift.

But my insecure mind and fearful self questions this grace… Who am I to deserve beauty? What have I done to deserve sweetness and love and connection and adventure? Why is my life a reservoir for truth, one that is full of the nectar of goodness and hope, one that is designed to share and educate and inspire?

The simple answer is this: I am. I have gratitude. It is.

That’s it! We’ve been given all these blessings in a compassionate offering of love from the Universe. We don’t need to further question or contemplate, because after we start to see our lives for what they really are, we accept that everything is exactly as it should be. Deserving or not-deserving is irrelevant because our lives and experiences are provided to us for our appreciation and growth.

Our only task is to live genuinely, from the heart, guided by intuition and an honest love for all…

Once we make it our pure, heartfelt mission to be the most authentic version of ourselves, always, life will unfold effortlessly to us. All of our lives are destined for greatness and are designed in such a way that we can only follow the unique path so perfectly plotted for each of us. Even when it doesn’t seem to “fit” into the bigger picture, each of our experiences are connecting points on our route.

All of us, each and every one (yes, you!) has a gift to share with the world that will help it become a better place for the other souls sharing this space in this time. Maybe that gift is teaching, or sharing, or entertaining, or caring, or healing… Maybe this is done in a yoga hall as far from home as one could get, or maybe it’s done in a church, an office, a hospital, a home… Scene and setting are constantly changing, but each scene and setting we find ourselves in needs our presence. Each moment of our lives should be an act of selfless giving to the world.

So today, as I pack my trekking bag and prepare for the physical ascent of climbing up to 4,100 meters, I reflect on the descent I’m about to make back into myself, one that will help to further set my foundation, open my awareness, and inspire my physical body and mind to continue on. A solo journey of 9 or so days into the jungles, the farms, the high desert, and the snow-covered mountains of Nepal, and into my heart….

I want to encourage each of you to take a few moments to reflect on your own journey. Where are you in this life? Who are you? …now forget these things you think, and then feel… Now feel where you are, and who you are…

Do you need to peel back a few layers and reveal more warmth? Are you ready to dust off any dirt and grime and polish your spirit? Is it time to let your authentic self lead the way for a change? If you are, let it be… It’s the age of awakening, and maybe, just maybe, it’s your unique time to wake up… ❤

Namaste, beautiful souls. Shanti om. xxoo

Yoga is discipline.

"You will never know who you are if you have not disciplined yourself to know who you are." -- Yogi Bhajan

“You will never know who you are if you have not disciplined yourself to know who you are.” — Yogi Bhajan

Each bone and each muscle in my body aches. I walk with a slight limp because my hamstrings and glutes are tight and painful from a dozen too many parvrtta parvottanasana. My biceps feel as if they’re constantly flexed, and truth be told, maybe they are.

My thinking mind, my ego, does not want to practice this morning. I do not want to do five hours of asana today, or tomorrow, or each day in this remaining week of yoga teacher training.

I want to sleep, to rest, to raise my feet and watch a movie and snuggle with a man…

But, I won’t be doing any of that today. Or tomorrow. I haven’t done this for nearly a month, and I won’t be doing this for the foreseeable future.

I am a yoga teacher, in training, and I know that to walk the yogic path, one that may lead to greater awareness and therefore to a greater good for all, I must dedicate my days to something larger than myself. I must adopt the practices perfected thousands of years ago — I must walk the eight-fold path the best I can.

I must have discipline.

It’s 5:30 a.m. I woke up at 5:00, drank from a copper pot filled with water, prayed and gave thanks for all the blessings in my life, layered a long tank over a sports bra and leggings…

In thirty minutes, I’ll march, barefooted, up white marble stairs to a long, narrow, window-lined yoga hall above my head, and wait patiently, without complaint, for my Ashtanga master to open the door. He’ll command the room from the moment he walks in. With a red tika ablaze on his skin, still fresh and tight from a morning dip in the Ganga, his brahmin dread will bounce slightly as he breezes past myself and a dozen other westerners from half as many countries. He’ll remove his watch and bracelet, adjust the waistband on his shorts, step atop a teaching platform and onto a long blue mat. Then, he’ll turn to face us. His students.

He’s been awake since 4:00. He’s already done his own self-practice, a physically and mentally challenging style of yoga that he’s been practicing since his early teenage years. He perfected each posture, pose by pose, until his own master said he was ready to continue, moving on to the next position in the primary series. Before he even learned samasthiti, he swept and scrubbed the floors of his yogshala for 6 months — only then did his teacher tell him he could begin to learn the practice we know in the west as yoga — physical asana designed to prepare a body for comfortable seated meditation in which one can turn inward, and leave the physical body behind.

Now, a dozen years later, he still is practicing yoga asana and hasn’t progressed to the next rung of the ladder — pranayama — but yet he is more knowledgeable in yogasana technique, physical anatomy, and the arts of instruction and adjustment than any teacher I’ve practiced under in my six years of studio classes.

This man is a yogi with discipline.

I admire his dedication — something I can only hope to develop through years of faith in this practice, and to living a life based on mindful awareness, each and every day. It isn’t easy, for anyone, regardless if you were born in the birthplace of yoga or in the concrete jungles of North America or Japan.

But who ever said yoga was easy?

Yoga is one path to enlightenment, for all who show up. If followed, with dedication and faith, under the guidance of a guru or teacher (at least at first), each of us can progress past the partial ignorance and clouded minds of our lives and move into a place of peace and clarity — we can attain a one-pointed mind and see with near-full awareness the experience of living.

We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.

We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.

But first, we must give ourselves to the practice.

We must develop routine. Devotion.

We must have faith in the practice, then commit — bodies, minds, and spirits.

We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.

Yoga is discipline. Are you sure you’re ready?

If so, join me on this journey. A journey we can start together but that we must commit to, even if that means walking alone.

Recognizing beauty in the squalor of North India

I’m on the road from delhi to rishikesh. I plan to unabashedly immerse myself in yoga and gods and adventure and love, breathing in the bounties of this blessed land.

But here on the road, for miles
and miles starting about 60km from haridwar, what do I see?

Squalor.

I’m reminded of the worst parts of Guatemala, but in this area I see it everywhere. Never ending. All along the roadside lie debris and damaged buildings and dirt. There is dust flying everywhere — I’m chewing on it, despite my window shutting out the world out there… I’ve never seen roads in such poor shape. Cars and trucks are literally pushed off the roads and into ditches and tree-filled fields because the gaping holes between the cement are too treacherous to drive through. We’re making this drive at night which no doubt amplifies the fear factor, however I wonder if it’s hurting or helping to hide the apparent poverty.

There are road blocks occasionally, something I hadn’t expected nor seen in my travels except once or twice in Israel and then again in Honduras and El Salvador (part of me wonders if the latter holdups were government-mandated or purposely and probably maliciously placed by thugs). These Indian roadblocks are manned by handsome, rugged types with guns and badges, although they’re definitely not military stops. …a mystery I’ll surely dig into deeper.

However it must be known that there is industry of sort — definitely some money to be made. And agriculture. With it being dark it’s impossible for me to tell must what’s growing in the flatlands next to the roadway (I think it’s sugar cane) or what is made (it very we’ll may be the same cement needed so badly on these roads). I do see cows pulling wagons stacked six times their height with bundle canes, mostly covered in burlap…

There are also pockets of people gathered, still awake at 1130 at night on a Wednesday. Some sitting around at the countless little roadside tienda-type-restaurants, and others huddled near small televisions or outdoor fires, simply sitting wrapped head to toe in heavy shawls (men and women alike). I also see people solo, smoking cigarettes (of what variety I can’t be sure), faces lit by laptop screens. It makes me wonder if Facebook dominates the real and virtual lives of this North Indian population, just as it does the American population back home.

I am highly enamored by some if India’s exotic sweetnesses as wel. For example, there are numerous stop-offs along the roads set up like small temples to Hindu gods — my ability to name these by visual cues alone is limited, but i have recognized Krishna, Vishnu, shiva, and shakti (the latter pair I’m nearly positive, based on their perpetual pairing). Also, there are many semi-trucks here (large lorries/box trucks). Maybe it’s the time of night or maybe it’s the route, but at least 3/5 vehicles traveling here are of thos fashion. What makes them so spectacular and charming are the colors emblazoned in bold or delicate patterns on the cab portions (bright mint green, fire engine red, peach, pale yellow…), and the fact that in each of the two split front windows there is a name written. There are two names! The way I understand this is that no man rides alone in these trucks — always partnered, always supported and supporting…

That’s what India is about I think. Really that’s what this world is all about. Making the best out of what you have, every day, and living your life with grace and love. I do not pity these people at all! I’d bet most of these people are genuinely happier than the majority of people I know in the western world. I do have compassion toward them and their struggles, just as I have toward anyone I meet. But I also display what I think to be the most crucial of all character traits, and hopefully I will not be proven wrong about this — kindness. We’re all one — each man, woman, child, animal, plant… Each gust of wind or wave on a shore… We all live with different worldly circumstances but we’re all fighting or flowing toward the same thing — peace and a better life. So all I can do is quietly observe when I can’t speak, ask questions and seek to understand when I can, and lend an ear, a shoulder, or a hand whenever possible, without expectation or requirement for return.

Life is beautiful. Always. Everywhere. In the serene peace of northern michigan, the majestic power of the Orwfon coast, the abundance of life in a Costa Rican jungle, and the chaotic, crusty and dusty squalor of a North Indian roadside town or ten.

Let’s never forget to recognize and appreciate the beauty around us, each and every day.

The photo below was taken today, the morning after this post was written. The squalor soon turned into breathtaking natural beauty — tree covered hills and baby Himalayas, and a mint green, majestic river. The Ganges.

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