Saturday, March 29, 2014

I'm still

Reckless Self-Righteousness


Reckless Humility

Kevin just said those words and I love the idea. Working towards reckless humility, untethered humility, freed from ego, present.

I was able to see family last week when I headed down to DC for the Split This Rock poetry & activism conference. Kevin had been sick. I felt twinges, but tried to shrug them off. Between a heavy work week and lots of travel, the twinges graduated on Thursday, while I was in DC. For that reason, I cut my time short, only attending two of three possible workshops. Thankfully, I made it home safely. During the trip, I had my favorite high school teacher on speaker phone and got to catch up.

Thursday night my sore throat growled and I drank water to appease. Then the cycle of having to go to the bathroom. Then trying to comfortably lay down to find sleep only for it to be interrupted by post-nasal drip. I didn't sleep at all. The silver lining? My sweet cat, Laz, stayed by my side the entire time. Usually, Laz puts Kevin and I to bed and then gets to the important business of wandering. Thursday night, he took care of me.

Anxiously, I waited for an appropriate hour to text fellow yoga teachers about covering my 6 am class. I had hoped to be able to teach it myself, but that seemed wildly unlikely after such a rough night. A friend came through quickly, and I fell into a few hours of sleep in the morning.

All day, Laz by my side.

Weeks ago, my friend Deb told me that she'd been feeling the need to be quiet and still. I was so impressed by her wise adherence to that message. I often feel that too, but unfortunately, I don't always heed it. I'm compelled by "should," I "should" go there, do this thing, be there for this person. Or, I don't want to miss something. Illness is always a messenger right? Be still.

I'm still.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When planted seeds start to bloom

What a week!

This morning, I received word that I'll be assisting Beth Filla when she teaches at the Namas Day Festival in Philly. I LOVE assisting and adjusting students. Plus, musician (& friend!) Andrew Chalfen will offer live tunes. Read the description below & register.

Make Me an Instrument: a Jivamukti Yoga Chakra Balancing PracticeBeth FillaAsana, Meditation, Intermediate, 9:00-10:30 am
Our bodies are the repositories for our karmas: everything we do, say, and think has an impact. Different parts of our physical bodies correspond to the situations and relationships we find ourselves in at different points in our lives. Through yoga asana, sound practice (mantra), and meditation, we can liberate ourselves from the residues of our past actions and clear the channels so we can consciously direct our energy toward what we hold most dear.

In other news, I'm developing a bunch of amazing yoga retreats. It's bananas. To me, travel can function so similarly to yoga-- it can prime us to reconceive of ourselves and our environment. Powerful. One retreat I've been dreaming of mightily? Hoi An, Vietnam. I received word today that Advanced Certified Jivamukti Instructor, Julie Kirkpatrick has committed to co-teach with me! I'm pretty much beside myself. She an astounding teacher, so the participants will benefit from all of her bright insight-- but I get to practice with her when I'm not teaching! What a blessing!

Stay tuned. This is turning out to be a bright spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Travel Bend Write

Last night I headed up to NYC to perform with the #GrowFierce showcase of writers from Caits Meissner's Digging Deep, Facing Self course. 

I parked at my spot in Hoboken. Took the PATH train to 14th. Got the F train downtown. Scouted out Bluestockings. They were playing intimidating punk music. I skulked down the street and nervously sat over a bowl of Pho and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

I picked at my food, hungry, but too anxious to eat. 

A woman came in sharing her excitement over an upcoming trip to Vietnam. A staff member explained that she was from Saigon. I had to jump in. Soon, we're swapping stories of rice paddies, red sand hills, and misty switchbacks. My mind in Vietnam, my palms stopped sweating.

I mentioned that I develop yoga retreats and ache to offer one in Vietnam. The woman's eyebrows raised, "Really?! Do you have a card?"

Why yes, yes I do.

And then, remembering myself. I do. I do that. I travel around the world. I bend bodies. I write words.

With the warmth from these two women, I wandered back to Bluestockings. This revolutionary space has offered haven to Ramona Africa, to activists and artists spanning decades. The workers began setting out chairs and I begged to help, desperate for something to do. Their warm smiles made the punk seem less intimidating.

Soon, a trickle of familiar faces, though regrettably, mainly familiar from Facebook. No matter, they soon were in my arms as we embraced in greeting. 

And then, one by one, we offered ourselves up. The audience held us warmly.

An untitled piece that I shared last night:

Used to say vacant lots were
ugly until we dropped beats
around them, kicked life against
chain link fence, strung shoes
like ornaments on telephone 

Said open fields were boring
until we painted the canvas 
with seed and let the horizon
bleed into the sky

They said Brooklyn was a
dump, Philly an armpit. Now
we splash home across our
chest, claim ancestry in

They disqualified most
female bodies--

We ask, "Where did
you come from?"

-Maiga Milbourne

A highlight, sweet Amy's son took the mike. He huffed, explained he had to get himself together, made sweet, determined fists, and basically displayed everything I had felt. Gathering what he needed, he crafted a poem on the spot.

The promise of big stories and whole humans. Space made for vital, small voices.

Plots made and wishes shared about the Mythic Beings Retreat, a weekend opened up specifically to nourish and create. I can't wait to experience more of what these women have to offer.

I slipped out, onto the F train, out on the PATH train, and then driving south to home. Tired, my brain spun. Space for our stories, for our voices, for each other.

This morning, Caits shared a poem written for each of us.

For me:


Ma, you ride
wind, song & 
waves, bend 
space & spine
& being fluid &
burst straight
through sky's 
thick canvas -
come sing
this freedom
loud as a flock
of gulls alive
over ocean &
then shhhh,
be still & bold
as stone,
you beg us
to be good
but strong.

-Caits Meissner

Come to the next two dates in the series! April 14 & May 12!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Solar Vortex: Yogawood Retreat to St. Lucia

I am so grateful to those of you who engaged with me about building a retreat in St. Lucia. After your written responses, conversations, and speaking with the owners at Balenbouche, I've elected to offer the retreat. This by no means minimizes the complications outlined. I was swayed by the overwhelming opinion that this experience could be navigated responsibly and the owners' commitment to their larger community. Balenbouche is apart of a number of community-driven cooperatives. I also talked to previous retreat facilitators (several of whom are people of color). With all of this information, I booked.

Solar Vortex: A Yogawood Retreat to St. Lucia
January 17-24, 2015

Remember the polar vortex in the winter of 2014? So do we.

The cold drew us all in and in, sometimes to cabin fever. For the winter of 2015, we invite you to draw in differently. Join us on retreat in St. Lucia, a remarkably gorgeous island in the West Indies. Let yourself get sun, heat, and the perspective that comes from intentional pause. Practice yoga twice daily and meditation. Each day, receive light breakfast snacks and two vegan meals from a renowned chef. Stay in eco-cottages a 20 minute hike away from private beaches. Our accommodations are integrated intentionally into the surrounding environment. As such, some showers are open air, there’s no air conditioning, but rather fans, mosquito netting, and a lot of fresh air. Enjoy personal attention during inversion and arm balance workshops on the beach. (Sand softens a fear of falling!) Draw in, reflect, and be.

St. Lucia & Balenbouche beach

Your Guides

Beth Filla will lead most of your inner journey on this trip. For her, yoga is joy and expansion, an opportunity to uncover hidden connections and to watch the perceived boundaries of what is possible melt steadily away. A Certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher, she offers a combination of vigorous asana, intellectual and ethical practice, music, and devotion in her classes.

Maiga Milbourne is passionate about healthy bodies, relationships, and communities. Maiga is an E-RYT vinyasa yoga teacher, and she loves nothing more than offering amazing hands-on assists in yoga practice. She teaches yoga, officiates ceremonies, and makes people's travel dreams come true. Learn more at

Tuition includes:
Transport to and from the airport
Daily light breakfast snacks and two  vegan meals
2 yoga practices daily
Inversion and arm balance workshops on the beach
Meditation practice daily
Accommodations in shared eco-cottages

Tuition does not include:
Travel to St. Lucia
Optional excursions

All accommodations are shared.

To hold your space, we require a $300 deposit. The balance is due by Nov. 1, 2014.

We realize that things happen. Until Oct. 1, 2014, we will refund all your payment except $100 for administrative fees. There will be no refunds after Oct. 1, 2014.

We hope to make these experiences as accessible as possible. Save $150 on tuition if you pay in full by Aug. 1, 2014.

Banyan Cottage
Two bedrooms with shared bathrooms.
One bedroom with Queen sized bed. Two spots available at $1,535 per person if paid in full before Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,685.

One bedroom with King sized bed. Two spots available at $1,535 per person if paid in full before Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,685.

Almond Cottage
Two bedrooms with private bathrooms.
One bedroom with King sized bed and private bath. Two spots available at $1,685 per person if paid in full
by Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,835.

One bedroom with two twin beds and a private bath. Two spots available at $1,685 per person if paid in full by Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,835.

Frangipani Cottage
One King sized bed with private bath. Two spots available at $1,685 per person if paid in full by Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,835.

Calabash Cottage
One Queen sized bed with private bath. Two spots available at $1,685 per person if paid in full by Aug. 1, 2014. After Aug. 1, $1,835.

Breakfasts on retreat:

Dinner at Balenbouche:

Our yoga barn:

Sunrise on one of the beaches within hiking distance of Balenbouche:

Organic Farm on the estate:

Practical Information:

Of note:

Balenbouche has a dense history. It was a plantation. This history gave the organizers pause. Our intention is to offer a retreat that is rich in place and ease. We realize that this history means different things to different participants. Please know that our hope is to proceed with utmost respect for each participant and for the history of this specific location. Balenbouche’s current practices of community collaboration and mutual aid urged us towards supporting this small, locally-owned business. We are open to conversation about Balenbouche’s history and its significance. With love and accountability, Maiga and Beth.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Aligned: Passionate purpose, and yoga to free us all

I became a yoga instructor to offer burn-out prevention to other activists. I am so thrilled to be a part of the Yeye Devi Collective. Our mission reflects everything I believe about yoga and wellness.

I'd love to see you at a class!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Poesia En Vivo!

The AMAZING Caits Meissner has created another opportunity for new artists to shine. I'm hitting the stage at Bluestockings (BLUESTOCKINGS! Legendary!) this coming Monday. I would love to share this experience with you.

Later in the week I'll be at Split This Rock conference on poetry and activism in DC. Quite the charged spring.

BTW, notice a running theme here? Lots of exclamatory punctuation whenever I utter Caits' name? Yup. She's a powerful being. Check out the side-bar Mythic Beings Retreat that she and I host this summer in Vermont. Join us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We all can do weird things

Kevin jumped out of the car (it was stopped, don't worry) to run an errand this morning. He returned saying, "I love knowing and being known by my community." The employees at his errand checked in with him. We smiled. We have community!

It's beautiful to know and be known. It's valuable to also realize the resources in your midst. We have amazing friends, Carole and Ken. Carole recently sold her car to other mutual friends, thereby freeing herself up to replace it with a car that felt better to her. Ken is great at finding appropriate cars and helped get the job done. 

I've been dying to replace my car, but I can't afford to-- yet. I feel like I'm driving the grandma mobile on borrowed time. Kevin and I have set one of our next financial priorities at replacing this car so that we can be proactive and not reactive at the moment of the grandma mobile's inevitable demise.

I shared this with Carole, telling her how I'm dreaming about a used Prius for under $8K (I've heard it's possible!). 

I'm really good at making weird travel happen. You tell me you want to ride a yak to a yurt in Mongolia? I get it. I can make it real.

However, I'm terrible about finding a new (to me) car. And I hate the task.

Ken is good at it. 

And he's kind. He's already researched this possible car! The whole project is on hold while I save money. However, I'm brainstorming a barter to compensate him for his time.

So this got Kevin and me to talking. We love community. We love knowing and being known. We also love knowing what type of weird and seemingly random aptitudes we each have. Beth hates gardening. Kevin loves it! Beth loves teaching yoga. Kevin loves learning yoga. Trade!

Joe is a lawyer. I need a waiver for my international retreats. Joe likes Assisted Yoga Practices. I offer Assisted Yoga Practices. Trade!

I wish we could wear name tags listing our weird abilities. Share yours in the comments below!

Contemplative yoginis during an Adjust and Assist Swap. Skill sharing! Mutual aid!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Paris Landing

Too many of my friends are moving away right now. To New Orleans, Michigan, Maine, possibly Pittsburgh... there is exodus in the air. I'm trying not to be mad about it. Seriously, I get mad about it when folks get to stepping.

The upside? I get to spend more quality time with folks I love in advance of their departures.

On Friday night, there was one such gathering to send Deb off enveloped in a big hug. I was able to spend some time with Marisa, who I haven't seen much of due to work sending her to Paris. Repeatedly! She's the creative genius behind The Artemisian, a beautiful jewelry line that is taking off. She filled me in on magical synchronicities on the cobble-stones of Paris. 

She touched my arm and said, "I thought of you while I was there. That phrase, 'Land Meaningfully Wherever You Are,' was my mantra."


She continued, "I visited this old bookstore in Paris. It's probably the oldest. Gertrude Stein and Sartre held salons there. In it, they've preserved an old cubby-hole with a typewriter."

Paris Bookstore hide-away

Marisa told me, "People sit down and write something on the type-writer. The surrounding walls are covered in their messages."

I had to sit with that image for a spell. I love word walls.

"I wrote 'Land Meaningfully.'" Marisa said.

Marisa's contribution in yellow: "Alive. Awake. Present. Landing Meaningfully Wherever I am."

So beautiful.

Has this idea of being present, wherever you are currently, impacted you? Tell me about it. I'd love to share more of your stories!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Holiday in Cambodia, or, trying to be a white anti-racist ally

Travel is messed up.

Travel necessitates some type of transportation, which usually means using gas and hurting the environment. Then, what businesses do you support? How do they treat their workers? Their environment? What is the implication of your citizenship and level of access? Is that shared by those in your host community?

Yeah. And yet, travel can be absolutely illuminating. Travel can change consciousness and shift our realities. It can teach us greater levels of respect for humans and the environment. It can inspire within us dedication to justice and its realization.

Many people have asked me to develop a yoga retreat in the winter of 2015 to somewhere warm and not so far from the northeast of the US. I have been looking. Lordy, have I been looking. It's surprisingly complicated to find a place with a yoga space, the right accommodations, access to vegan food, and that doesn't require a ton of travel.

I found some promising leads in Vieques, Puerto Rico. And then I had to call some Puerto Rican friends and ask, is it right for me to go there? I was a part of the call to get the US military out of Vieques. There are still high levels of toxicity linked to cancer due to the military's experiments on the island. After conversations with friends, they felt it potentially could be a responsible act. The military stunted Vieques' economy. Tourism dollars, coupled with awareness of Vieques' history and current reality, could be beneficial.

I began concocting an experience including visiting the bioluminescent bay and inviting a Puerto Rican Independentista and former political prisoner to come speak to the group. And then I began calculating accommodations, transport to and from the local airport, and food. It would be nearly double what I charged in Guatemala, thereby cost-prohibitive to much of my community.

Accessible travel is important to me. I kept looking.

I found eco-cottages in St. Lucia that looked absolutely enchanting. Further research showed that while it would still be a little more costly than Guatemala (everything is) it would be more accessible for a larger demographic. I read on and discovered the site was a former plantation.


I checked in with a friend who recently returned from St. Lucia. Our conversation confirmed my sneaking suspicion. Tourism in the Caribbean generally means supporting a large multi-national resort where money is siphoned away from the local community and locals are largely exploited. Or, you can sometimes find small, locally-owned businesses, but many are located on former plantations.

Many of you followed the controversy earlier this year when Ani DiFranco cancelled a planned music retreat on a plantation outside of New Orleans. My friend, Clarissa, and I talked about our feelings over the Ani controversy. Clarissa largely felt sad because she felt like it was a missed opportunity for Ani, as a white woman, to model anti-racist solidarity. I also felt like Ani's defensive response was insensitive to the valid concerns of women of color and their allies.

And then I found a retreat center on a plantation in St. Lucia. WTF.

My first thought: you witnessed Ani's lack of awareness to the trigger of a plantation. Move along.

My second thought: why are so many plantations now restaurants and hotels?

I titled this piece, "Holiday in Cambodia," after the Dead Kennedy's song highlighting this behavior of white folk running all over and playing on beaches that were sites of massacres. In Cambodia, all tourists are invited to see the killing fields. While in Vietnam I talked to both Cambodians and tourists about this practice. Cambodians felt strongly that visiting the killing fields broadened awareness, provided history, and context. It kept alive both tragedy and accountability.

The tourists I spoke to were deeply affected and reverent.

I mentioned the St. Lucia plantation to a Jewish friend. "Yeah," she mused. "Former concentration camps are all museums. There's reverence in visiting these sites."

Old sugar-wheel on the grounds of the eco-retreat/former plantation

Granted, there are more plantations than concentration camps. But why have so many been converted into tourism spaces?

What do we do with these spaces of tragedy? I called Clarissa to talk this through. I explained that part of me wants to go and think through slavery's legacy. To do that responsibly, I think I would need guidance from and participation with an ally of color. But what does that mean for any participants of color? And a retreat implies some level of self-care. Would participants of color be able to feel safe there?

As Ani said, we all inhabit plenty of buildings and places with tragic histories that we don't know. But what about when we do know? When it's super obvious or we've done due diligence? Is there ever a way to inhabit that space respectfully?

The specific space I'm considering is owned by a German family who bought it in the 1960s. They've completed ecologically-sustainable renovations, created a diverse organic farm, and opened up partnerships with the surrounding community. From my research, it seems they've made space for neighbors to have farm plots, and share in other collaborative, community-driven enterprise. The owners are historians and speak openly about the land being inhabited first by Arawak Indigenous people before slaves and slave-owners.

No amount of community gardens erase this place's history as a plantation. Is there anything that can be done to make this space safe for people of color and allies? Who is this space meant for?

I'm genuinely interested in your comments below. I'm working to be clear, considered, respectful, and uplifting in my words. I ask for the same.

Clarissa urged me to write this piece to be transparent in processing as a white anti-racist ally. So often, I'm scared of being offensive or insensitive. I closet many processes for just that reason. She pointed out this tendency can be a disservice to other white allies on the same journey. Let's be open about these conversations and support each other in navigating responsibly.

With love, justice, healing, and accountability,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sustainability Update

I've intended to keep an accurate log of some of Kevin & my sustainability measures. A lot of resources paint truly romantic portraits of life without electricity and sending Timmy to the well. We haven't gone quite that far (yet-- Kevin is persistent) but we have gone well over a year without a drying machine, converted one toilet to a composting toilet, and introduced vermiculture to our composting routine. There are other measures outside, but these are some of the practices that stay with us year-round.

Here's the status update:


Truly, not so bad.

Here are the exceptions: 2013 was a particularly wet summer. At times, I felt like monsoon season had arrived. Laundry was an issue. The outdoor lines were useless. We have two clothes racks in the house, but the clothes took fo-eva to dry given humidity. When they did dry, they really didn't smell great. (I became friendly with essential oils.)

I started wondering what folks do in regions where there are rainy seasons. These regions tend to coincide with low-technology usage. I posed the question to a friend who lived in Peru. She reflected and responded, "Folks were really creative during that season. A lot of people painted and wrote."

Yeah yeah, "but what about their clothes?"

"Oh, I think we were just kind of smelly then."

Yup. I think that's the truth. My friend, Pete, explained that dryers remove moisture thereby drying (he has advanced degrees in science, so ya know). Without some type of dehumidifier, we were just kind of smelly.

Exception #2: The winter of 2013-2014 was particularly snowy. I've discovered that hanging clothes on the outdoor line when the temps are below freezing is fine. When the sun is out, the clothes will dry. And clothes hung on an outdoor line smell great! And if there was wind? Even better! They are fresh like daisies.

However! Snow, sleet, rain, and a mix thereof does not work. There were WEEKS when I couldn't hang clothes on the line due to various accumulations of the aforementioned. I used the indoor clothes racks for our clothes, but I was at a bit of a loss for sheets and blankets. My solution? Be thankful that we had enough sheets and blankets to get us through the winter. Today is spring-like. I think I just washed and hung every piece of bedding used throughout the winter.

Again, what do people normally do? I think many have clothes lines in their basement. I'm not a fan of this because my basement is kind of musty. Again, the smell issue. I love the freshness of clothes dried in the sun and clean air.

Overall, it's completely possible. I'd love more outdoor line space and I'd love more indoor rack space. We have a relatively small house so that's probably not possible. We'll get by. I also love our electricity bill.


We have a very simple indoor outhouse involving a bucket and cedar shavings. We have learned that you have to periodically change the bucket (not just what's in it-- we do that!). When you own your own landscaping business and are farming your backyard, buckets are plentiful. In another household, the bucket issue would likely be a bigger hassle.

Cedar is one of our favorite additives to our... leavings. Usually, there's not a smell. During the heat of the summer we had to be conscious about enough cedar and frequently taking the bucket out to the compost pile. However, "leavings" from months ago? Pure, rich dirt. And all of those gallons of water were saved from treatment processing plants and our waste! Whoo hoo! I love our water bill.


Kevin's wormies. The wormies like a rather specific diet. We have a simple composting bucket in the kitchen as well, for organic matter that the worms can't, or shouldn't, process. A few times we were a bit off with our worm feedings and they were unable to process the organic matter. (I think. I get a bit fuzzy on this stuff. Very much Kevin's territory.) Whatever the specific cause, the result was MANY, MANY fruit flies. Lord of the fruit flies! We are very careful with our wormies now. We do not appreciate their wrath.


The other day I lay in bed while I oil pulled, a practice of swishing organic coconut oil in your mouth for various health benefits. Kevin got up to take an ice cold shower and meditate. "We're weird," he said. I smiled, unable to respond due to a mouth-ful of organic coconut oil.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Released

Marshall Eddie Conway is home. Damien Echols is home. Lynne Stewart is home receiving treatment for cancer. Russell Maroon Shoatz and Mumia Abu Jamal are in general population after decades in isolation.

I'm overwhelmed. The consistency of MOVEMENTS has made possible their releases. And yet, they never should have had to endure their unjust sentences. The specifics of each of the above cases vary, but overall, prisons were used as mechanisms of control. Their sentences were meant to deter others from speaking out, organizing, fighting against injustice, or simply being inconvenient.

This is why we MUST pay attention to incarceration and the incarcerated. We have to be vigilant in monitoring the purpose and function of prisons. In their current state, they are private businesses exploiting slave labor. They control and punish. It's plainly clear that they in no way serve their stated function of rehabilitation.

Some argue that prisons make the general public safer. Given what we know about recidivism, it's clear that prisons breed more crime.

I feel safer knowing that the political prisoners listed above are home. I would feel safer if many more came home from behind bars. I would feel safer knowing that no beings were caged. I would feel safer with restorative justice programs.

I wish I had a better read of why this is happening. I don't know, but I am heartened.

Towards unlocking the world.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The potential of suffering

Recently, I've been invited to teach modules of yoga teacher trainings. I taught trainees at the Yoga Center of Medford vinyasa krama, the art of sequencing yoga asana. My mentor, Beth Filla, challenged me to teach the kleshas to the trainees at my home studio, Yogawood.

If this is all Greek (er, Sanskrit) to you, the kleshas are loosely translated as the root causes of suffering. Ironically, as I fretted over my class plan, I suffered. When Beth and I met about upcoming retreats, I asked for guidance on teaching this subject. Beth offered some great suggestions and I exhaled.

And then I started getting jazzed. The more I reviewed and dived into the kleshas, I began to see these misperceptions, attachments, and aversions as incredible opportunities. Through suffering, we know freedom. Freedom has no meaning to us if we haven't known it's absence.

Whoa. My mind started to charge around these ideas of obstacles being portals to release. The deity Ganesh is said to be the remover of obstacles. However, Ganesh doesn't just grant us our wishes, genie-like, or do us favors. It's said that when we appeal to Ganesh he places an obstacle in front of us. If I pray to Ganesh, adorn his altar, and chant his name to achieve ease, chances are he'll present me with the circumstances that I deem stressful. If I navigate this terrain wisely, applying yogic principles like the yamas of non-harming and truth-telling, I'll arrive at the other side with ease. Ganesh offers opportunity.

The kleshas have the same potential. Practically delerious with yogic theory, I decided to take a mental break before facilitating teacher training all day last weekend. I picked up something that I thought would be completely unrelated to the subject at hand, Glitter in the Blood by Mindy Nettifee. This book is a fantastic guide towards better writing. I turned to my bookmarked page and read, "being too attached to the narratives of your life, the stories of 'what happened to you,' can also make you crazy."

Shut the front door.

I then decided the kleshas were following me. Obviously, the previous sentence displays both avidya, misperception of reality, and asmita, ego identification. And then I realized that I was presented with another opportunity.

Yogawood Teacher Trainees, who have obviously moved to the other side of the kleshas

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Home is Somewhere

A bright red tuk tuk-- a three-wheel taxi-- roared down the steep Volcanic cliff and skirted past my ankles. As I hopped on the sidewalk a lazing dog lifted his head before resuming his nap. Some kids, definitely under 9 years of age, used a machete to open up coconuts at a fruit stand. Aromatic wood to cook dinner burned in my nostrils and blurred my view. My vision is conscious in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. My eyes hungrily take in the sunset-steeped sky, the profile of trees along Volcan San Pedro, across blue, blue Lake Atitlan.

Guatemala becomes an adjective and an adverb. Guatemala knows itself. I know Guatemala. I know myself in Guatemala.

I start to think that Pennsauken, New Jersey, USA, the place I've chosen to call “home” is less self-aware. Suburban sprawl between Philadelphia and New York. Melting pot. Land paved over. Culture diluted by consumerism.

But that's crap too. Pennsauken knows itself. I know myself within it.

When I travel, especially to somewhere as sensory as San Marcos la Laguna, I'm wide open. I've set my email to vacation mode. There's a warning on my voice mail to not expect a quick call back. I'm off the grid and unavailable. I'm all in to wherever I am.

It's not that home is lesser than, it's that home is where I'm spread more thin.

This morning, work is canceled, a performance I'm supposed to give is probably rescheduled, and most on the northeast corridor of the US are hunkering down under a few more feet of snow. I'm catching up on work, planning yoga classes for the upcoming week, making playlists, and cleaning the house. My husband stood in front of the kitchen window doing dishes. I wrapped an arm around him and put my chin on his shoulder. As we looked out the window, the forsythia branches drooped under an inch of snow. The wet whiteness evened the landscape, while punctuating plant skeletons. If I decided to call this “foreign” or “travel” I would likely be enchanted.

Instead, I'm working to find mindfulness whether I deem my setting to be “home” or other.

An aspect of that mindfulness is consciously not answering every phone call and not feeling so obligated to respond to the email right this second (within twenty-four hours is reasonable). When I was freshly arrived in San Marcos la Laguna this last trip, I had a conversation about work-life balance. Part of this travel experience was work. In Guatemala, I offered two consecutive yoga retreats. I was working, but in a fabulous, sunny location with a lot of people who I love. In the course of the conversation, my companion shared that she no longer seeks “balance,” given that implies a static state. Instead, based on input from her teacher, she works to create “harmony.” Maybe it's semantics, but harmony to her meant an on-going rearranging, an continuous attentiveness to her well-being, her state, and her own well-being. I read it as mindfulness.

Anywhere in the world can be the site of our strife or it can be our haven. Home can be where the stress lives, or it can be sanctuary.

A few years ago I traveled throughout northern Spain with a friend. We were speaking at squats, community centers, and universities about political imprisonment in the United States. It was demanding work. I felt like I was on tour. Every morning, we woke in a different city. Every day, we traveled hours in a little van to our next destination. We arrived, spoke for a few hours, ate, and crashed in a new bed. The next day, we repeated the cycle.

My friend brought an iPod docking station. When we arrived in our room for the night she would play Stevie Wonder and pull mint tea packets from her purse. Something warm between our palms, fragrant mint aroma, and Stevie's familiar voice. I was so comforted by the little ritual and amazed at how quickly she found home. Because in this instance, when travel was work, home was relief. We sat and listened to the music and knew we could receive ease anywhere in the world. The whole world could be home. Home could be enchanting.