Tag Archives: yoga

Open

I’m sure there are big things that I’ll look back on in however many years and attribute to this [nearly] year I devoted to seeing the world. In foresight, I’m grateful because I can’t think of a piece I’d rather be placing in the puzzle of who I am becoming… But I’m also grateful right this second. I’m in the back of the family CRV driving the 16 hour journey home from Seaside, Oregon and for the first time since we first came over a decade ago, I’m marvelling at the scenery. The lush greenery leading up rigid peaks to the East and rolling hills of golden grass past the Columbia river to the West. We’re breaking the drive to two days, 8 hours a day, toilet breaks, food stops, lingering salt water taffy…compared to 24 hours with a squat toilet and Asians just a little too comfortable with bodily functions, I’m laughing.

The 8th and final semester of my Human Ecology degree was the most important to my degree. Not because it literally determined whether or not I’d get the 40,000 dollar piece of paper, but because it all started to make sense. Not to say I was in the dark for four years, but I always felt like I was going through motions, learning semi-useful theory, and doubting my post-graduation opportunities. In that final semester every presentation I made seemed a little easier, each paper contained ‘aha!’ inclusions from research done in other classes, and most importantly I finally integrated my core values with the profession of Human Ecology.

Academically it all started to mix, but that final component followed an assignment to write our mission and vision as practitioners. I’ve had jobs with a couple big ‘brand’ companies; mission statements weren’t a new concept, in fact I was sure I’d find a perfectly cheesy tag line to satisfy the passing criteria easily. But when I sat at my computer type out a simple sentence for 5% of a 4th year course, I was stumped. I felt like I had to choose in that moment what I wanted to do with my life because mission statements are goal specific. So if I chose to pursue HR it should be about recruiting, targets, development…but a position in cancer care should be about compassion, support, and empowerment. In writing this simple (changeable) statement, I felt I was choosing my career path forever. Obviously I wasn’t.

My personal values weren’t conflicted, I just didn’t understand until the eleventh hour what my whole degree really meant. If ‘Human Ecology’ were greek and I were giving you that disproportionately long translation, I would say it means ‘it’s all connected’. And when I stopped writing company mission statements and started writing my own I realized that no matter what career I was targeting it at, it turned out the same. Go figure. I strive to empower individuals and communities to achieve their highest potential through providing accessible resources, inspiring education, and being a role model for integrity. Sure, a recruiter may want to hear about my success in achieving sales targets for business versus my volunteering and understanding of families for patient care…but in terms of my personal attitude and intention towards what I’m doing, that’s all same same but different.

The last couple months of travel have been sort of like that last semester; every weird moment, accident, and world wonder fit together in just the right order for me to experience situations and meet people at just the right time so that in the end the ‘why’s melted away and my confidence that I was meant to do it all is unwavering.

I’ve been in Oregon with family for the past week in what a friend of mine referred to as a state of suspension. I’m not home, but I’m not still travelling; I’m with family, but not friends; it’s familiar, but not home. It’s a pleasant yet potentially detrimental place for introspection (…and job searching) . It has been good though, to condense my whole ‘speech’ before meeting the masses and facing job interviews.

As I drafted cover letters I found myself doing the same thing I did with my mission statement over a year ago. Using ‘organization, adaptability, cultural awareness’ on business letters and ‘empathy, understanding, humanity’ on patient care positions…then I stopped. I took a step back and thought about what nearly a year, 4 sub-continents, and hundreds of people met ultimately meant for me…hoping that it would be something a little more profound than characteristics I could get just as well from being part of multi-racial school club or petting some cats at the SPCA. What I’ve decided is this: travelling has shown me the value of an open mind and heart; an openness that empathizes with needs, appreciates all perspectives, and recognizes every opportunity for growth.

Sure, there are other great by-products to travel like Aladdin pants, bargaining skills, using a squat toilet, or knowing how to describe the taste of zebra…but in the end, even the less lame things like saying yes when you would say no, acting with right intention, letting go of outcomes, and recognizing the contentment that can in fact be found in simplicity all lead back to having an open heart and mind. I would have heard every golden nugget of advice or food for thought just for being in the right place at the right time. It was the openness that allowed me to accept, processes, and live it.

So, when I really think about it…after a month of Yoga Teacher Training, making my body (and probably my heart) as physically open as it’s ever been….it’s really no coincidence that the months following were when it all ‘came together’. Whether we realize or not, our discomforts arise from a lack of openness, in hips or in life…

Carolyn said on day one of training, “People are happier when they do yoga”. I heard it, I smiled, and thought of my own superficial benefits from practicing asana. Somehow though, in this state of suspension it has returned to me and I’ve brought it all together. You know how they say body language says it all…like if you’re standing in a circle, your feet and hips may point to who you’re most interested in…duh, it’s in cosmo…maybe right, maybe that’s the angle your blisters don’t hurt in. What is true though is that the more open your body is, the more open you are. Your posture improves so your aura can shine bright and you are open to receive the love and opportunities headed your way. Years of running will produce tight hips, it doesn’t make you a close minded person. However, in working through the tightness physically you are allowing yourself a greater range of comfortable motion which subconsciously is mirrored by the heart and mind.

So my friends, travel young…not because you can’t travel old, but because you will have that many more years to share your stories, see things more openly, and go again. And do yoga. Stick with it. Trust me.

Yoga Teacher Training at The Sanctuary

18 days since my last post? whoops! Probably because I’ve been yoga-ing from 6am (waking up at 5:30….which has become 5:40, from 5:15) to dinner at 7pm every day. Yesterday marked the 2 week mark since training began here on Ko Phan-gan so I reckon we’ve done about 120 of our 200 hours…and I know for sure that that is more hours than I spent in lecture for any given semester of my undergraduate, so I’m quite proud of myself.

As it would happen in a Yoga Teacher Training, lots of emotional highs and lows have come, passed, and surely await. For the sake of catching up on lost time I’ll start by giving the hard fact updates.

So we’re at the Sanctuary on Had Tien Beach on Ko Phan gan…yes, full moon island but surprisingly, a short 15 minute long tail boat ride (100-300 baht daytime, 600 for solo/100 pp late night) from full moon beach/ Haad Rin will take you to your own slice of hippy vibing-byron in thailand-cleanse/yoga-friday rave escape from reality.

The Sanctuary is basically a private beach—not technically, but pretty much, plus they are walking distance from had yuan and another very quiet beach further east. We are in the dorm (most of us) which gets cleaned every 2 days, and has clean, toilet papered bathrooms to overshadow the ant infestation. Laundry is 50 baht on the beach and doesnt happen if it rains. The resort has movies every Tuesday on the beach, Open mic every Thursday, and a market on Sundays. The staff and manager are delightful, and the other geusts aren’t pretentious…which is rare for Thai health resorts. Food is good…a bit of a pain to get dietary alternatives some days, but definitely great well rounded flavours–pricey though. Love lip, bamboo, and spice are all on property or a short walk and have all your thai faves for around 100 baht. There is also Horizon Muay Thai on the same veach which I THINK is a cheaper place to stay at.

As far as training goes…tough but great. Its definitely a shift to be back to the classroom and doing 6 hours of lecture a day! I am learning so much about my practice though, I can already feel the shifts in our morning practices! We all have to teach one class in teh 25 days, I did mine on day 10 (the 13th—as I would) and it went pretty well surprisingly! I equate this training to learning a language in the sense that when you go to yoga as a student, its like learning puedo uno cerveza in Mexico…you can say phrases (do postures) and probably even crack a joke (or meditate a bit) but then you really learn the language, the spelling and grammar, the verbs etc….all of the sudden its way harder to speak the phrases you know because you’re considering every detail of conjucation. The first couple weeks are overcoming the hurdle of ignorance is bliss as you begin to speak in sanskrit and consider aspects of asana (yoga postures) that you didn’t even know were factors. It takes a hit at the ego when you re set alignment and can no longer do what you considered to be a basic posture. Luckily therea re 23 of us going through the same learning curve.

Lila Vinyasa Training with Clara & Carolyn is great because there are 2 teachers…so double the experience, half the ratio, and different classes every day. Every yoga inclined person at the sanctuary that has seen our curriculum has been highly impressed with the depth of what we are learning, and even I have noticed us learning concepts much more advanced than some cues I’ve gotten even in workshops.

I would definitely recommend doing teacher training from teachers in the area (gernerally) that you intend to teach in as they will understand your yoga background and the demands of your future student community best. I toyed with doing my training in India, but realize now how beneficial it is to have native English speakers, and teachers who know the Canadian yoga scene. Even as an Albertan with Vancouverite teachers I’m noticing certain differences among my fellow students about what we expect from classes. It is also much easier to connect with the teachers and develop a sort of mentor relationship-it also makes them seem more accessible for the long term learning journey to teaching or just deepening practice.

Our lunch break is almost over and we have some gooooood shit to go through this afternoon, so up the 84 stairs to the dorm for a shower…I hopefully will post more later tonight or soon. Wifi isn’t free in the dorm, so I’ve been a bit lagged with my whole cyber life. Oh, did I mention there’s a talent show tomorrow….is budgetting and living in really gross hostels a skill?

Writing to Read

If you had asked me a year ago if I was a writer, or if writing was a hobby, or even if I so much as like writing I would have said “no”. That response would be routed primarily from the fact that for somebody who loves systematic processes, I hate spelling, grammar, and every part of ‘writing’ that school gives you a score for. Luckily, I’ve discovered blogging…where my poor writing mechanics are overshadowed by my lack of filter and self-preservation as an art form. Somewhere in the last several months, this blog has become therapeutic more than a chore to let everyone know I’m OK. I’m not writing to make money or be ‘popular’ in the cyber community, but actually because it clears my always-overthinking mind better than anything else. So, here I am, writing…so that I can clear my mind and finish reading the last of my 3 readings for Yoga Teacher Training which starts in 4 days!

Anyway, a few entertaining happenings of lately:

At the night market getting an alarm clock and flashlight….combined price still less than a new phone, and as I’ve realized they were the only things I used my phone for other than whatsapp. I am talking to the lady, she’s delightful and for once not annoying. I explain that I need these items because I got my phone stolen (as part of bargaining and ‘i have no money). Her response “no lay-deeee you need tazor! I sell too!”…classic.

Also, purchased ‘Birkenstocks’. Yes, they will be good for India and Africa seeing as how my only shoes atm are runneres, hiking shoes and verge of breaking fake havaiianas from khao san. But also they will be great for squat toilets and walking post rain. Addressing the first, I think this is why women wear platform flip flops….so that when they are in squat toilets with an inch of ‘water’ on the floor it doesnt overflow onto their feet. And the second…up kicked mud from rain water with flip flops looks gross and requires me to both do laundry and shower–both are not my favourite.

My hostel at the moment is amazing. My Home is just off of soi 9 moon muang in chiang mai’s old city and they are lovely. Free bikes, coffee, tea, water, computers/wifi and the most friendly helpful staff. 100baht per night allows me to blow my budget on food. i.e. the ‘best eggs benedict in chiang mai’ as per trip advisor at smoothie blues, which was terrible and pricey. My favourite place remains blue diamond, right by my guesthouse. They sell every health food under the sun and have generous portions for great prices. They have amazing thai and western food alike and the owners are delightful.

In regards to YTT…

I have done an embarassingly small amount of yoga in the past month since my bike accident. in fact I’ve done minimal sorts of any activity, even walking, as my head hates the sun/heat. I have however been reading my books intently and somehow I feel better at yoga than I was before. Understanding the philosophy more in depth and holistically has helped me not only in seeing beyond the asana (physical poses) of my practice but also in my asana. The way I approach each pose, the breath, and my mindfulness has made me ‘better’ than when I was practicing regularly. I’m more flexible and focused than I was before. Perhaps the injury helped my psyche, and perhaps the literature has some truth in saying yoga is beyond the physical.

Last week as I finished up the Jivamukti yoga book (which has pretty much made up my mind that I will be a vegetarian after training…with the exception of a JUICY alberta steak and prime rib and proper eggs benedict cooked by dad upon arriving home) I had a moment of clarity. “oooooh ‘clarity'”…yes, maybe it was the increased vividness of my imagination/dreams caused by anti-malarials but either way I came to the realization that what I want to do with my life is exactly what I wanted when I was 17.

When I was 17 I wanted to help cancer patients and their families. I volunteered a lot at Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre from the age of 16 and always felt a huge connection to the work I did. I’ve been blessed to not have had any first hand accounts with the disease that affects 1/3 North Americans…which I think is why I started volunteering…out of fear—thinking if I knew more my fear would subside. What came from my time though was awe and inspiration from the resilience of people and their families. How volunteers were widows or widowers, how 30 year old women battled gynecological cancers while raising new borns, how at 80 a man cared for his ex-wife because it was ‘right’. How after hearing about a 4th recurrence a patient would console the nurses, and how I’ve never seen health professionals so emotionally invested in their patients. For the most part it is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. Yes, lifestyle and environment can increase chances of getting cancer, but 3 month olds, 90 year olds, rich, poor, every race, women, men, any religion or sexual orientation…we’re all at risk, and being in a cancer centre, knowing its largely the luck of the draw, is one of the most humbling experiences.

When I was young (‘young’…like 5 years ago…but a BIG 5 years)I wanted to help and figured, as all over-ambitious teens that I would just become a doctor and cure the disease all together. Then I went to university, partied a lot, didn’t feel like being a doctor–too hard, went in to Human Ecology because it seemed easier and was still a science degree if I re-kindled my motivation for med school by 3rd year.

Human Ecology studies how environments, from clothing to relationships to political-social, affect human potential. How ‘nurture’ can be [i]the[/i] difference. I studied everything from material culture to counselling, law to parenting, health care to organizational development. Most of my peers hoped of working with non profits helping youth and children but my interest remained in Death, dying, aging, and long term care facilities. The topics everyone else found depressing or ‘a lots cause’ were actually what evoked passion in me. Perhaps once again because I was afraid for myself and wanted to understand it–because to me fear is from the unknown…wondering will kill a busy mind.

Then I started working at lululemon athletica. A company routed in goal setting and ‘elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness’. My first goal frame for years 1-5-10 year goals surrounded yoga trainings, marathons, and ultimately creating a holistic cancer center in Alberta. Goals should be re-assessed every 3-6 months. The more I was immersed in the company, the more I saw the business side…and being a work horse and over-achiever at most things, I saw advancement in the company, and with the encouragment of others saw that perhaps business was my true calling (honestly who isn’t even partially motivated by money and power). My last goal frame was about how I would be a head-honcho in human resources making a ridiculous salary to build my pretentious house and afford overpriced health foods.

Being gone travelling has taught me a lot. It’s taught me how to budget toilet paper, that when it comes to dirty surfaces, bugs, and seeing your food prepared ignorance is bliss, that you can tell within 10 minutes of knowing someone what their ‘purpose’ to you will be (either not having to eat lunch alone or a long term friend), that insecure people will try to be the cool kids even when half way around the world, that coffee can be both more terrible and more amazing than I had ever imagined, that baby powder is more effective than washing my hair, that it really is all a matter of perspective (applying to market prices, have-have nots, humidity….etc). Most of all this particular trip has taught me that I don’t need things to make me happy.

‘Duh’…but it’s like I realized in Byron…there are lots of things we say because we know they should be, but until we actually believe them authentically we don’t realize we were only going through motions before. I’ve had my ups and downs but I’ve never been happier than I am now, I have also never had less. Once I pay for my flights to/from Africa, my tour, and my flight home my savings will be the lowest they’ve been since I was 14. (pretty much the last decade).

So, without the distractions of friends, shiny Michael Kors watches and nice handbags, I’ve been thinking about career. I’m going home in 4ish months, which is a while, but in comparison to the size of my trip it’s still soon. I’ve come to the realization that any income is income. And theoretically if I stayed in asia until I had $0 I could actually live here for another 2 years…so no matter what I do back home I will feel rich even with cost of living being about 5 times higher.

Returning back to the Jivamukti book…I think it was somewhere between Laos (which I hated) and Thailand when I was reading about how karmically terribly it is to eat meat when I realized that serving families with cancer is what I want to do. Without realizing I stopped reading completely and began to visualize my life teaching yoga, doing life coaching, hosting retreats in the mountains, and a continued thirst for learning everything about alternative healing methods not for me but for others…not to help them but to serve them. The yoga texts differentiate quite clearly between the two, as helping suggests a sense of inequality where serving puts you on the same level. Serving is the key of cancer care as cancer it self proves there is no true hierarchy.

Anyway, I’ve just realized how long this post has gotten, and likewise I feel ready to read the Bhagavad gita, the last of my readings. I feel like this post was a bit more for me than you…as I hope that once I’m re–imersed in the distractions of the western world I can read it and remember to stay true to what I want, because if there is any ONE thing to take away from it all its that basing happiness and fulfillment on actions (which you can control) rather than things (to impress others < who you can't control) is the only way you can actually guarantee your happiness. I went to a tarot card reader because it was 100 baht and I was bored, and for the first time I didn't care what she said, nor did I have questions to ask. She laughed and said I had figured it out. She said I knew that I could and would be happy and didn't need her assurance on the future of my love/career/posessions to make me feel better. That, might have been the best reading I've ever had, and best 100 baht spent (unless I purchase the tazor).