Saturday, July 29, 2017

Things are going so right

For just about 30 minutes each of us was a single cell organism. Think about that for a second. The fact you are reading these words is nothing short of one of the most amazing miracles I can think of.
 In my almost 50 years I’ve met and interacted with countless people on this planet we call home.  For billions of years the Earth has been evolving, doing its’ thing so to speak, to set the perfect conditions for life to abide, breathe, build, eat, drink, touch, play, make love, laugh, cry, taste, smell, dance, sing, and die.
We small, y'all.
A few years ago in July 2014 before I embarked on my yoga teacher training journey down in Costa Rica I was living in Abu Dhabi, UAE. From there I took a vacation with a woman I was dating to Koh Yao Noi, a tiny island off the coast of another small island named Phuket; both are part of the beautiful country of Thailand, and no it’s not pronounced ‘fuk-it...think ‘Poo-khet’. On Koh Yao Noi we stayed at a small budget resort nestled in the jungle along the coast named Island Yoga; it was an amazingly quaint and beautiful backdrop to practice yoga, relax, play, and get away from the world for a spell.  While at Island Yoga I had the absolute pleasure of taking yoga classes from two super cool teachers; Heather Rideout is one of them.  Heather has a unique teaching style honed from many years of trainings with various other amazing teachers combined with adventure and exploration around the world.  It is through Heather I connected the dots and discovered what had been there all along. I realized the heart chakra is my guiding light; it’s tattooed on my left forearm as a reminder to live life guided by purpose for the passion residing within. Not to get all artsy fairy on you, but according to the ancients the heart chakra is right in the middle of our energy flow between the physical and spiritual worlds of our being. Anahata, as it’s called in Sanskrit, allows us to connect our intuition and inspiration with intention, action, and being.
Sunset on Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

Bear with me, I’m going somewhere here.

Fast forward to July 2017, almost exactly three years later, after I’ve been through multiple yoga trainings in Costa Rica and just completed a master of science in yoga therapy, where I find myself in Asheville, North Carolina at their yoga festival.  Guess who serendipitously is also in Asheville?  Heather. It’s really kind of mind blowing to me how small the world really is. I mean compared to our universe it’s already a tiny spec of a place to be, but even still, it’s just so cool how life flows. Since July 2014 Heather has had quite a journey as well; 3000+ miles on foot through some rugged terrain to be more descriptive.  She thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and as if that wasn’t enough, she popped over to Europe and walked the El Camino De Santiago, all while sporting a super cool rainbow unicorn trucker hat. Yeah, pretty cool, right?!
Heather being Heather
So Heather and I decided to reconnect the human chain of sharing space we did a few years ago and we did what anyone else in their right mind in Asheville would do on a Friday evening...we drank some beer, ate some food, walked the streets, and watched and dance to live music. While we were walking around it came to me how wild of a miracle it was that by all the coincidences two people who with no prior coordination ended up being in the same mountain hippie town in North Carolina. Then I recalled how frequently I read social media posts and hear people talk about how badly things are going not only with their individual lives, but with their relationships with food, their bodies, jobs, lovers, family, others with different ideas than them, and our country as a whole.

How badly things are going?!  C’mon, man.

Rewinding back to how I started this little piece and how we are a tiny spec in the universe and we each started as a tiny cell. We are alive and hopeful. At least I am hopeful you are hopeful, (please call me if you’ve lost hope). The point I’m making here is so many things have gone right in this world and they do every single minute of every single day. The breath moves in filling your lungs with life, the breath moves out as you do your work in this world to offer your light. I’ve attended several classes here at at Asheville Yoga Festival and am uplifted and certain more than ever this practice is the answer to connecting with our essence and for being in that space that allows us to be there with gratitude and awareness. It’s when we we open ourselves to the possibility of the end of suffering we maintain hope.  For that’s the goal you know, the end of our suffering.  One of the yoga sutras states Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah, or more simply the aim of yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind.
I went to a practice this afternoon where the teacher, Mark Monford from San Francisco, made the point about how people continually reaffirm one another’s tendency to not “drop in” to present moment awareness.  And it’s true, how often do you hear or say to a friend “I’m just so busy these days.” only to hear the reply “Yeah, me too, it’s crazy I feel like I can’t catch my breath.”  It’s not often we hear someone answer “You know, I’m doing really awesome right now, life is pretty fucking great.”


This should be what we hear back more often.  It should be what we say more often.

No, people, so many things are not going wrong.
So many things have and will continue to keep going right. They will go exactly how they are supposed to. Show up, do the work, shine brightly, and then let everything go.
Our universe and this tiny planet remind us everyday something Lao Tzu wrote  “Nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished.”  

Quit hurrying, quit being in too many thoughts and expectations of the future, quit hanging out with bad memories of the past. I’ll be here if you want help along the way.

I’ve recently made connections back home in Norfolk that I’m excited and optimistic about, and although I don’t know the answers and can’t predict the future, I’m giving give myself space to allow for what transpires when I show up face to face with them. So much has gone right. So much will keep going right. #ONELOVE

Monday, July 24, 2017

30 Long Weekends and 13,000 Miles

Yep, that's part of what it took to earn a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy over the past two years.  I'm writing this from the cafe where I first met with a friend in 2015 to inquire about what this program was all about; she had just finished up the same degree.  After I returned to Norfolk from Costa Rica at the end of 2014 I started teaching yoga here locally and other than that didn't know what else I was going to do with my life. I knew for sure I wanted to earn a master's degree, but had no idea in what that would be. Once I heard about this opportunity I knew without a doubt the path I should take. Over the course of the past two years so much has happened. 
I've found and lost love. Twice.
My daughter got married and is expecting her first baby in November. 
My son's wife is expecting her first in August. 
I went to an ashram on the beach of Paradise Island in the Bahamas for training in yoga for veterans with PTSD
I've moved three times
I've drank approximately 700 cups of coffee banging out grad school work at the aforementioned cafe.
I've seen roughly 75 movies in the theater (Friday afternoons are my favorite movie day because the new releases come out and the theaters are never crowded).
I went to around 20 concerts
I went to Costa Rica and broke my back jumping off a 40 foot waterfall. This has been a tough one to heal from over the past 11 months and I still wake up with pain everyday.
AARP did a video documentary on me and my journey to yoga therapy and I went to DC to be interviewed on Fox News
I wrote dozens of papers and would shudder to see what the combined word count is
I gave a bedside yoga therapy session to an 80 pound woman with Stage IV intestinal cancer who died two weeks later. Life is real, pain is real, the things we can do to lessen the suffering of others means more than anything else we can do

All these things

But the biggest and best part of the past two years have been the relationships forged with the wonderful women in my grad school cohort.  The finest porcelain endures the hottest fire and we burned that shit up!  I love each and every one of these ladies (and Baby Bartley).
MUIH Master of Science in Yoga Therapy Cohort 4

So where to go from here?  Well I believe in the power of positive thinking and when we open ourselves up for opportunity the universe has a way of saying "Hey, I know you, wanna play?"  

Hey, universe, wassup?