Murder in a Sacred Space

Perhaps because so much of my life was living in an American suburban and urban world of strip malls, air-conditioned traffic and florescent lighting, I am acutely aware of natural, outdoor spaces that are sacred. Do you feel this too: the actual breath-

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Garden of the Gods in Colorado, USA is sacred as well.

taking moment when you enter a space that is powerful, magic?

 

The more I travel, the more I am blessed to find these places – a good motivation for more adventures. In fact, as I am Googling away to learn about the different sacred spots in the globe, I realized that I had already made plans to visit one in a couple weeks.

Of course, not all of the sacred spaces on Earth have been documented, and not every site is going to agree on the definition of “sacred”. Sometimes the energy is really subtle. Some areas are special because they serve as backdrops for memories, but the sacred sites radiate higher vibrations that make me step back in awe and wonder.

Five places that I found exceptionally magical:

  1. Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem, Israel: I’ll start big and religious, but I’m neither religious nor big. I traveled to Israel for a magazine article almost 10 years ago for a magazine article I was writing. Only three people are allowed inside the tomb at a time. It crackled with energy.

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    Me at Panther Meadow
  2. Warm Mineral Springs in Florida, USA: I honestly believe this is the Fountain of Youth, and I’m not the only one. It’s on the National Historic Register as the spot Ponce de Leon of Spain was looking for it when it stumbled upon St. Augustine, which currently swindles tourists to drink sulphur water. It’s a weird, outdated spa facility that houses truly a miraculous healing environment. Really! Swim there to feel like a million bucks yet have a hard time wrapping your head around it because the facility is so filled with odd foreign tourists.
  3. Panther Meadow in California, USA: Click here. You’re welcome. It’s at the foot of Mount Shasta, a well-known sacred site (and that link is of a totally far-out and right-on guy who I stumbled upon).
  4. Puerto Mosquito in Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands, USA: I wrote an entire blog post about this glowing lake. Now, the small island has been decimated by this year’s hurricane season. Edie Widder, whose name I once misspelled in a newspaper article more than a decade ago, was interviewed recently on this topic; the storm impacts to the extreme concentration of bioluminescent dinoflagellates are unknown.
  5. And this little hill along the Rio Diamante in Villa de 25 of Mayo, Argentina, which was where I was yesterday:

I enjoy walking with the dog every day along this 30- to 45-minute trail behind the house

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My favorite spot on the walking path is under that tree. I’m not alone in liking it, as I discovered yesterday.

where I’m staying. It is a beautiful path with wild asparagus, wildflowers of every color (I pick myself a different bouquet almost every day) and so many shorebirds. Of course, I tread lightly as half the time is spent avoiding large piles of horse shit, since much of the path is over pastureland. To get there, you walk through the backyard and out their metal fence (beware of barbs, but no worries because you can get a free tetanus shot from the small villa clinic by simply walking in at 7 p.m. and asking in broken Spanish). You walk over a large cobblestone beach along the river, which honestly is a creek at that point, and then head back upland. When it is very rainy, there’s a short bit of a swamp through which to trudge to get back to the road.

 

After the swamp, which always feels a little precarious with the high swamp grass with paths previously tread by horses and dogs, you head up a very small hill, just the slightest bit of natural elevation. I’ve seen a few cross-country bicyclists and a couple families by the river, but I’ve never encountered another human on my walks through the pasture land here in the country. It’s so peaceful and wonder time for introspection. So, I was in a deeply receptive place when I was first taken aback by this location.

This magical place is underneath a weeping willow tree. When it was still chilly (seasons are opposite in southern hemisphere, which at first blew my mind), I would stop there and enjoy the view. A few times I heard a massive swarm of bees, but could not see them even after looking for a while. There were interesting fuzzy, dark green plants growing only there – like weeds, but … comfortable.

Then as spring arrived, there was an eruption of wonderful smells and colors at the top of this little hill. Delightful purple wildflowers suddenly covered the ground, and the sides of the path were lined with fragrant white flowering vines. It felt so good, this sacred space: a gift from heaven. I sat there many times in the last few months, looking out over the river to the mountains, with the biggest grin on my face.

But yesterday, my spot – which often was the highlight of my day – got darkly complex. As I’m all-but skipping up the embankment, I came across a murder scene underneath the willow tree! Feathers were everywhere! More feathers than I have ever seen in a pile. Dark gray outer feathers, the white soft, smaller inner layer of feathers. The dog sniffed a few times, wasn’t too interested and started to wander. I gasped and stopped in my tracks to survey the scene.

Thrown toward the trunk of the tree was the bird’s head, and its tail was under the pile of feathers. No blood. It looked like a gray dove. What happened? Someone or something (my guess is a dog?) did an excellent job stripping the body of feathers. I started to collect the biggest feathers.

I’m not one to be scared of death, although gore and danger are certainly not my thing. Many people are scared of death, and the obvious display at my sacred spot really spun me. In the last few weeks, a cousin died and my ex-boyfriend had near-death accident that he is currently recovering from. Another friend got hit by a car. People on a female travel social media site I’m on worry all the time about their safety. There’s #metoo and then there’s death. It’s a lot to be worried about, physically.

I am not a worrier. Was the bird? Was it a nervous type? Birds here are kind of fearless –

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A highly recommended Angel Card deck by Doreen Virtue

there are hawks that dive-bomb the dog in the backyard, which is hilarious to watch all the animal frustration. Just as I was writing this, I saw the cat returning proudly to the house with a lizard in her mouth. But the lizard managed to wiggle an escape and high-tail it, literally, through a chain-link fence. Near-death is everywhere, all the time.

 

I have been taking a moment to contemplate my relationship with death, not to sound morbid or anything. (Although I guess I am approaching middle age.) Doves are the symbol for peace, and a recent angel card reading I gave myself included the SIGNS card. This means I need to look for signs. Whoa! OK! I think the murder of a peace dove in my special spot is a sign. It didn’t feel like a war has begun, though. It feels like I no longer need an external symbol of peace. What war has ended inside of me?

What war can you end inside of you?

 

 

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Forty Things – Forty Years

Ah, 40. I looked at my reflection in a glass patio door today, really looked at myself. I am feeling wonderful, completely. But for some reason – maybe it was the Khruangbin that I was grooving to, the laundry drying in the sun, the fact that I had finished my work early and had the entire day to enjoy, the chickpeas cooking on the stove and the dough rising, the fact that all my bills are paid, the hawk screaming in the sky or the goats bahhhhing from the little Argentinean finca next door – I stopped.

Yes, age is simply a number, but at some point, it goes from being a curse to a badge (and then beyond, I guess, may I find out). You go from being “just a kid” to an “adult,” and if you’re lucky a “senior.”

Forty years, upon my head,
To have you call me child
Ship of fools. – Good ole Grateful Dead

But there the different kinds of adulthood badges. A major part of being an adult is financial independence. This comes to some really early, in their teens, and some have an endless and epic failure to launch. This means being able to support yourself and your lifestyle, and it usually results in a big house-full of things as proof of successful adulting.

So now that all my material possessions are able to be carried through a crowded airport in Argentina when the employees are all on strike and all the flights are canceled, (trust me on that one), am I back to being “just a kid”?

With time also comes patience, foresight and planning, spiritual connection, ability to open your heart more to others (usually this really hits people who have kids, so I’ve heard). Older people have built up a certain level of wisdom.

All of that is nice, but unquantifiable. How do you know you’re a grown up? Since I no longer have material possessions, I tried to think back to things that I’ve accomplished with my life thus far. Because statistically, I’m rolling into middle age, which is crazy. I still get pimples! Yet this is life. This is 40.

I tasked myself to name 40 of my accomplishments. In no particular order:

  1. No cavities!
  2. Sticking a handstand for a solid 20 seconds that one time on the dock. Maybe this is a lame accomplishment, so I’ll add the ability to nail a headstand with regularity in Yoga classes AND also tumbling over in spectacular, hilarious ways, and loving both the success and the failure
  3. Graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college and with honors from high school
  4. Catch excellent and fun waves; I’m also skilled on flatwater with a stand-up paddleboard.
  5. Helping people heal themselves with Reiki energy work as a Shihan

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    #5: Look at this badass “Earth Keeper” crystal!
  6. 25 years of vegetarianism
  7. 25 years of growing my leg hair
  8. The ability to build warming fires
  9. Music: learning the ukulele and djembe, singing, playing music professionally
  10. Hugs! So many hugs!
  11. Created and implemented a successful political campaign that will benefit thousands of children and families in perpetuity
  12. Developed lucrative professional writing career that allows for travel; I am my own boss.
  13. The ability to let go … to shed my possessions and all that is familiar and resist fear.
  14. Captain of varsity field hockey team and lead many in school plays, as well as president of numerous environmental and social clubs starting in 6th grade until senior year of university
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    #11 and #20: Me repping the Children’s Service Council of Martin County in Florida

    Been engulfed in heartwarming, blissful, healing, romantic love and prioritizing love in all forms for all beings every day

  16. Knowledge of good manners, including proficiency in formal dinner table settings and dancing a waltz or the cha-cha in high heels
  17. Naturally remaining somewhat ageless (did you know I was 40?)
  18. Lived in many different countries, including ones with non-English native speakers
  19. Sharing the teachings of Yoga professionally with a 200-hour certification
  20. Being a young professional in corporate, non-profit, small private and government jobs: I also quit all my jobs without burning bridges.
  21. Donated 10-inch-long locks of hair, twice, to nonprofits benefiting cancer patients
  22. I’ve picked up a lot of trash, through volunteering with civic clubs or individually
  23. No tattoos!
  24. Learned to ride a bike (and walk, crawl, etc.)
  25. I can drive a manual shift vehicle, albeit not very well at all. Maybe I speak Spanish a little better – a statement that makes me hang my head! I’m working on this!

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    #30 and #7: @sailboatdreams – follow Julie’s Instagram!
  26. Physically all the parts still work – a couple broken bones, two sprained joints but they’ve healed. I wake up without pain, and that’s saying something
  27. Used daily journalism to force removal of road bedding on beaches, draw attention to water quality and politically pressured officials to acknowledge needs of environment
  28. I can change an impeller on a boat, fix irrigation systems and do light automotive repair, and I don’t let sexism stop me
  29. The ability to make yummy meals out of whatever I can scrounge in a kitchen, as well as bake my own tasty breads and make yogurt
  30. Earned a master’s captain license from the US Coast Guard; I professionally sailed and captained boats up to 47′.
  31. Ability to make excellent cappuccinos and lattes and know the difference
  32. I am able to and enjoy SCUBA diving, snorkeling, swimming and freediving.

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    #32: Obviously adulting
  33. No kids! Look, I know having kids is the biggest accomplishment for parents, and I love kids. But I am doing my part to reduce the human burden on the planet, because not getting pregnant actually takes some planning.
  34. No arrest record! I have never been behind bars … “The man can’t keep me down!” But my fingerprints are “in the system”: I pass Level 2 background checks and have a TWIC card.
  35. Roller skating backwards
  36. I’ve hiked to 1,700 feet above sea level on the Appalachian Trail, and I’ve been 1,000 feet underwater in a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean.
  37. I’ve read many, many books, magazines, newspapers, legal documents, white papers, essays, blogs, e-books and zines. I like to read; I am curious and love to
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    #10 and my #17 inspiration, the beautiful Kallyn and P.S. She’s Jewish wearing a Santa cap. That’s straight up #40, #16, #15 and #13 … not to mention #33. You rock, girl!

    learn. (Currently reading young adult fiction, so, yeah … the final Hunger Games … will Katniss kill Snow? DON’T TELL ME!)

  38. I’ve sat in meditation for 8 hours at a retreat but also enjoy meditating in much shorter durations almost daily.
  39. I can bust out up to 50 push-ups, and I can also run 5K. Both require some weeks of working out, but it’s doable.
  40. I own my own feelings and accept responsibility for my actions. That being
    said, I am content!

Phew! That was tough. I’m wondering which ones impress you and make you think I’m an adult, and which ones you think are lame and make you think I’m a kid. What does that say about you and me? I hope I have another 40 years to ponder it.

 

El Campo

When traveling, often the first question people politely ask you is where you’re from. That is always such an awkward question to me, because I am not rooted in my hometown or frankly any town I’ve ever lived in. Still, there is truth in understanding someone based on where they’ve lived.

I’ve lived in many places so far, but this is the first time I’m living in the country.

So, to answer that initial question, I grew up in suburbia. East Petersburg, Pennsylvania

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Me in my suburban front yard when I was about 5 years old.

was a very, very small town outside of Lancaster, which is only slightly big enough to be called a city. East Pete was a lovely place for a kid: There was a creek that my friends and I could investigate, piles of leaves to jump in, honeysuckle to eat, wild raspberries to pick and not-too-crazy hills to sled and ride our bikes down. I could walk to a store with my friends, and that was about the extent of it.

When I was a little older, my family moved closer to the city, but not too much closer. It was still suburbia, with a few more shops in walking distance, a bigger creek to investigate, a pond to ponder near and hills to hike with my friends. Once I could drive, we’d escape the suburbs to go see live music in Philadelphia, which wasn’t too far away. But it was still pretty far away. In these small suburbs, I learned that the world is safe, fun and filled with family.

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Me is the suburban kitchen where I grew up. Now eat your veggies!

In other countries, the suburbs is even not a thing. Where I am now, in the countryside of Argentina, I’m either in the small Villa or I’m in the city. In between is vineyard, no subdivisions or strip malls. I tried to expand this concept to people in Dominican Republic and was met with very strange looks. And it’s true. The suburbs are strange.

At the first opportunity I had, I moved far away from suburbia. I moved to New York City. To anyone who lives remotely nearby, it’s actually called “The” City. That’s where I went to university, and I really enjoyed the first taste of independence as an adult. I bought this vintage, long, black pleather jacket with embroidery and a fake-fur trim, and I wore it over my bell bottom jeans and turquoise vintage printed top and walked down Broadway. And you know what? No one cared. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Unlike in suburbia where neighbors peer out their windows at you, I was completely free to be myself in all my glory. I learned during my time in the city that limits are really in your mind. I was immediately able to stop caring what other people thought of me. It was awesome.

But city life can be a drag, too. Although I checked out a lot of live music, museums, art exhibits, parks and awesome parties filled with creative people, I was tired and uptight. It is really hard to lounge around on a sofa all day when there are endless, interesting events going on all around you all the time. Some days, though, I really needed to relax. When I graduated, I moved to the beach.

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Me, relaxing on the beach — Note the Fort Lauderdale condo in the background. This is definitely not the Caribbean!

 

Florida living was cool; I rented a house about five minutes from the beach. It was suburban, too, really, but different because I spent so much time in the ocean. For years, I spent all my free time snorkeling, surfing, bodysurfing, collecting shells and relaxing on the sand. But after a while, I couldn’t deny that Florida is also filled with strip malls and people honking at traffic lights. I went on a date with a man who was proud to have never read an entire book in his life. I had to go.

Suburbia, check. City life, check. What’s next? Sailing life, duh! I got rid of most of my things and moved on to a sailboat. I lived in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic for a year or so before moving back on to land in the US Virgin Islands. Caribbean living is very different as well. I learned a lot of patience there and embraced the joys of a life without endless consumerism offers. Then I sold everything I owned that I couldn’t carry and started traveling (missing not one but TWO Category 5 hurricanes, still feeling gratitude there). I

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To help the US Virgin Islands recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, you can donate here: https://www.usvirecovery.org 

lived the last month housesitting in the desert, where I was reminded of the blessings I could offer the beings around me (and in turn, receive). It all helped prepare me for where I am living now.

As I write this, it’s still a little chilly here in the countryside of Argentina, but the intermittent warm days have ushered in fresh buds on the fruit trees. Since I don’t speak Spanish very well, I’m not doing a lot of socializing yet. Every morning, I wake up naturally (there isn’t even a clock in the bedroom) and put on coffee. I’ll make a little breakfast, then feed the dog and cat. If it hasn’t rained, I water the yard. There’s a horse that comes over and asks for water as well. One day I played my ukulele for her and she was so relaxed she almost fell over asleep! I felt like the horse whisperer. I like to pet that horse for a long time.

Every day, the dog and I take long walks by the riverside in the shadows of mountains. We trudge through a small swamp and then meander our way back through the brush. I have to watch where I’m walking because it’s a horse pasture. There’s shit everywhere, but then, I see horses grazing every day as well. The shorebirds yell loudly whenever we are nearby. There’s one big tree that is literally swarming with activity – I can hear the bee nest but I have yet to find it.

We turn the corner on our walk to get on a dirt road that leads back to the house. This is when I see the neighbors. One old man works every day in his yard, tending what seems to be a garden. He always stops and greets me as I pass. There’s a house across the road from his that is teaming with children. Dogs rush out to greet us. Sometimes a motorcycle goes by, and the driver will say “Hola.”

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Meet Marianna! She is my neighbor and the first real horse friend I’ve ever had

Sometimes I walk or ride my bike into the Villa, and some days a friend will drive me to the city of San Rafael for provisions. But I am really enjoying the quiet of the country. I write, play music, read, watch movies, practice yoga, cook and day-dream. If I want to interact with people, I turn to social media – but never for long. I’ve already learned that people who lack compassion need to be welcomed with an even more open heart.

Living in the country is a wonderful way to return to myself and listen to myself. When the big plan of the day is collecting the dandelion leaves from the yard for a salad, things are good. I am studying Spanish and practicing my music, focusing on my health while also enjoying a glass of local Malbec.

It’s the simplicity that is so magical. It seems too easy to complicate life in the suburbs and certainly in the city. On the islands, too, I seemed to have drama following me. Now the biggest drama is me breaking a glass jar filled with some nuts and dried fruit. My response? Get a broom and sweep it up. It’s really just that simple.

Forward, Never Straight!

Forward, never straight! Just walking one foot in front of the other (AKA straight) may get you somewhere, but it won’t get you to where you could dream to go. You want to move forward, not backward, not sideways. It is the only way to truly progress in life … and you only know the best way for you if you listen very, very closely to yourself.

littlevoice
Google for the win! I searched “little voice on your shoulder” and discovered THIS.

There is a voice inside of you, (its name is Intuition) telling you exactly what you should be doing right now. In your heart of hearts, you know exactly how to propel yourself into the next awesome stratosphere of your life. You know better than anyone what is right, without having to debate. How often do you listen?

 

Today, I am thinking about my little voice – and how I followed it. I am currently on a different continent, nearly 6,000 km from the island I lived on just five weeks ago … an island that is now looking at a serious amount of destruction due to Hurricane Irma. The homes of my friends are destroyed: filled with sand, crawling with crabs, all their possessions lost. Some of my friends are still unaccounted for. Boats sunk. No power. No supplies. No flights out.

I had many opportunities to stay on St. Thomas, but somehow, I knew that was not what I should do. Retrospectively, I was pushing myself to get off the island, even though all the “easy” options had me staying right there. I could have moved on to three – YES! THREE! – boats that were moored in St. Thomas. I could have rented another apartment or moved in with a friend whose boyfriend just moved out. I could have worked as a captain on my friend’s sailboat, which she chartered out to tourists to sail around St. John, which is also

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Heartbreak in the British Virgin Islands from Hurricane Irma

facing massive destruction.

 

Had I chosen any of those options, I would have been facing a post-hurricane disaster right now. I would have been burdened by thousands of dollars-worth of my belongings, a sweet kitty and no way of making money, since there is no internet, no yoga classes, no power to charge up my computer. I would have been suddenly moving backward – sideways at best – instead of moving forward.

It was hard to hear during the last week in June when my plans to sail south fell apart, but that little voice said, “Suzanne, step it up. The challenge is on.”

To anyone who saw me in July, they probably witnessed my eyes rolling toward the back my head with craziness. I was homeless, frantically selling my surfboard, paddleboard, SCUBA gear, djembe, clothing and books, while creating a wild game plan of housesitting for strangers around the world. In a couple weeks, I had bought airline tickets and set up Skype meetings with homeowners in towns I’ve never been to and where knew no one. At the same time, I decided to learn a new instrument and a new language. Seriously, who does that?

Someone who is listening closely to that little voice.

Because instead of dealing with the mayhem of a hurricane – as I type it’s hitting the town in Florida where I lived for more than a decade and could have also very easily

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My favorite time of the day is Golden Hour, this time in the heart of Argentina drinking yerba mate with new friends.

moved back instead of moving on – I am enjoying the peace and quiet of a country cottage in a lovely pueblo in Argentina. Today, I took a long walk along the Rio Diamente with the sweet dog I’m watching, and I played ukulele by the fire. A cute cat is currently on my lap. I am drinking yerba mate.

 

Yesterday, friends asked me if I felt like the universe was conspiring in my favor, to get me to leave the islands and Florida before disaster struck. Yes, it does feel that way.

Looking back, it wasn’t clear why I felt the need to get myself down to a huge backpack of belongings, ukulele and computer all in the span of a few weeks. But my little voice – my intuition, the gap between conscious and unconscious – told me it was time to let go of all the attachments, all the relationships and the habits that were not serving me. It was time to propel myself forward.

News flash: Change is not easy. The last two months were really challenging, as I searched for recipients for the things I couldn’t fit on my back at once. I had to find a loving home for my beloved kitty (an original option was having her stay on island! I am so grateful those plans fell through … a situation that was stressful at the time). Then once I delivered Penelope to her new comfortable home with my friend Dave, I flew on and learned to get along in a strange town without knowing anyone. I had to find own footing and friends while also furiously learning Spanish. I was so unsure of myself. But I

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Penelope is a furry companion to all – especially people with three different kinds of cat food, lots of comfortable space for napping and comfortable laps. Thanks Dave!!!

did it.

I flew into Buenos Aires in the middle of an airline strike. Thousands of people crammed into the airport, and no one was working. All the flights were canceled. Did I mention my Spanish allows me to pick up about every fifth word someone says at a normal talking speed? By the grace of God, my friend’s father just happened to be in Buenos Aires that day. He was an angel who helped me catch an overnight bus to the small town where I’ll be living. Did I mention that amazingly good wine is $4US a bottle here?

My point is, dear reader, that I have no idea what I’m doing. I definitely know I’m not going straight … but I’m definitely moving forward.

I feel incredibly blessed to be so connected with my highest self to have enough faith to do the things that are so very foreign to me. Just today, I’ve Googled: “How to build a good fire,” “How to make yerba mate,” and “How to use a bidet.” Seriously, which way do YOU face on that thing?

Or another way to ask: Which way is YOUR forward? You don’t need to know what’s at the end of your road; in fact, that’s probably impossible. I was repacking my over-stuffed pack in New Mexico to head to Argentina last week, and it felt like that scene in the Harry Potter series, when he looks across the pond and sees his Patronus and realizes that he can do it because he already had. I knew I could fit it all in, because I already had.

I can do what is best for me, to propel myself forward, because that little voice deep inside of me already knows what to do. I just have to listen to myself. Are you listening to yourself?

 

 

 

 

Sun + Moon = Magic

This solar eclipse today was magical! It made me feel like I could accomplish anything I could ever dream of and more! Wait, let me take a step back and catch you up.

Have you ever heard of Hatha Yoga? There’s a whole book called the Hatha Pradipika that outlines all the bazillion rules about this particularly physical yoga practice. It’s actually kind of awesome … inside this spiritual text is the kind of stuff that make people

cannotunsee
Some teachings in the Hatha Pradipika are, um, odd by modern day American standards.

roll their eyes at yogis. Like, beyond poses and breath work, it talks about stuff like putting a piece of turmeric up your butt and “flossing” your nasal cavity. Gross, dude. Like, seriously. No one needs to know you’re doing that, especially not your highest self.

Anyway, Hatha Yoga is a yoga practice that involves asanas, or all those poses in class. The Sanskrit word “hatha” can be translated a bunch of ways, but one way is “Sun” for “Ha” and “Moon” for “Tha.” So it’s Sun and Moon, the light and the dark. Makes you think of Yin-Yang, the same sort of thing.

The term “yoga” means a lot of things too, but at its root, it refers to the idea of union. So, Hatha Yoga literally means the union of the light and the dark.

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My friend Leah has been making some pretty cool art lately. We also look alike. Check out her stuff on Instagram at @feelbetterhealbetter

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Hello! Today was the first solar eclipse of my memory (the last one was when I was 2)! It was a day when the moon’s darkness completely eclipsed, or, one could say … made union with, the sun’s light. It was as if the dance of the moon and the sun finally came together. It was a yoga of these opposing forces.

For anyone who has taken a yoga class mindfully, you know that this is what the practice of yoga is all about. Bringing the unconscious into the conscious. Recognizing and honoring your weakness while recognizing and honoring your strength. Seeing where you are stiff and where you are flexible, and breathing into both. Namaste may translate to “the light in me sees and honors the light in you,” but you could just as easily say “the dark in me ….” It’s not bad and good, it just is.

The other day in yoga class at the botanical garden, I practiced a headstand for the first time in a while. I toppled over! Haha! Then I tried it again and nailed it. After class, some students complimented my headstand. Which one, I wondered? Did they like the up or the down? The light or the dark? Was either of them actually better?

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Me in class. NOT (yet)!

Tonight, the teacher of the fantastic yin class I took at the community studio here in Santa Fe brought up this definition of Hatha Yoga, which I had already contemplated. But she told the class that it was a dance of the sun and the moon, but, she added, they never fully connected.

Well, looking through my little pinhole camera that I made out of a cereal box, some tape and a small piece of tinfoil, I can tell you today from my sweet housesitter’s patio that they sure connected alright! After class, I discussed this with her. She said, “Well, I guess so, but it is really rare.”

EXACTLY! Having the moon and sun connect so intimately – like during today’s eclipse – is indeed a very rare and very special experience. It is as rare as overcoming the maya, which is the Sanskrit word for the world around us. The maya is of course filled with illusion. Right? Think about all the stories you tell yourself, and how years later you see how they weren’t even true. Or the way you view yourself one day to the next. Oh, today I feel great about myself! Oh, then this happens and now everything sucks.

See how it’s all just an illusion? I used to hate raisins, and now they’re an OK snack. Are

dancingraisins
I mean … how can you hate these guys? Have you seen that choreography? Smooth.

they yucky or yummy? Are my tastebuds even real? See how everything around us is just an illusion that tries to trick us into being attracted to somethings and adverse to others? That way, we’re stuck in a suffering game and we never get to the point where we can truly connect and cherish both our light sides and our dark sides. Oh, tricky maya!

Well, when you overcome the maya and the illusions that are inherent within it, then you have reached enlightenment. That of course is also the whole point of yoga. You overcome all the ridiculousness of your everyday life to realize that you are one with your highest self, that you have God within and you are God and oh my GOD, what can’t you do?

That was what was so awesome about the eclipse today. It is a visual reminder that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Anything that you want to do is possible. I mean, are your dreams bigger than actually somehow lining up the sun and the moon so that your entire surroundings go dark in the middle of the afternoon? I mean, I don’t think me becoming fluent in Spanish is that hard, comparatively.

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Another epic shot by my friend Sam Wolfe. Check out HIS work on IG @sam___wolfe

You’ve surely heard a lot about intentions during this solar eclipse talk. What are your intentions? What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next, say, 5 years? Dream big! Remember, if the moon and the sun can unite in a beautiful dance, then friend, we can grab our highest self by the hand and we can dance too!

 

Sue the Steward

I’ve taken a break from the water and moved to the mountains for a few months to spend time alone, create and generally do whatever I want. I signed up for a web

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I’m a mountain woman now.

site that matches nomadic, groovy people like myself with homeowners who have pet and plant needs to fill while they are gone. It made perfect sense for me – it’s like I’m finally getting rewarded for being an amazingly responsible adult.

 

Once I realized that I was going to be leaving the islands, I wanted to get my life tightened up even more than it was. I sold/gave away everything that I couldn’t fit on my back at one time. Farewell to my paddleboard, my surfboard, my SCUBA gear, my djembe … Granted, the remaining stuff wasn’t comfortable on my back, but on my back it was nonetheless. After a week of organizing and face-timing (the old fashioned way, like buying bagels and giving hugs) in Florida, I was down to owning an overstuffed camping backpack, a computer and a ukulele.

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My possessions.

I arrived at my first housesitting gig about a week ago. It’s about 30 minutes outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was always one of those states that called me from an early age but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go. The owners of this house are a retired couple with three cats. They were heading up north with their nephew to see the eclipse happening on Monday. (I myself am still searching for a pair of glasses. They were charging $100 a pair here! I’ll just look through a cereal box, geez.)

 

Once I arrived at their beautiful adobe abode, I got a feel for all the work they do to maintain each day. Here’s my schedule: I wake up early because their 19-year-old cat yells when she is hungry. And you know what? I’m going to do the same thing when I’m old too! HEY! FEED ME! So I rouse myself from bed and hook that frail cutie up with some wet food. Then I’m up so I feed the other two

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Charlotte the cat’s spirit animal

cats. One of the cats, Chicha, sleeps with me, and the other one, Nikki, is super-jealous of this but is too shy to join in on the cuddles. One morning, I was leaving my bedroom with Chi close behind me and around the corner walks Nikki, and she was shocked, like I was cheating on her. Like she didn’t know that Chicha and I were a couple, and she had taken me out a few times. It was hilarious. About an hour later I completely covered my lap with Nikki hair by giving her a massive pet session. See, I keep all my ladies happy.

 

After the cats get food and water, I clean out their litter boxes, which is a bit of an undertaking. At this point, I get myself a warm glass of lemon water, because I read somewhere that was a good thing. I may tidy up if I left my stuff out the previous night. Then it’s time to head outdoors.

On the back patio, there are 10 bird feeders, and every day I fill them up. There

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SO MANY HUMMINGBIRDS!

are four different types of bird food for the various birds that hit the smorgasbord up every day. I’ve seen scores at a time. Then there are the hummingbird feeders, which require a mix of sugar water. There are two of those, and I fill those up as well. I have seen more hummingbirds in a day here than I’ve previously seen in my entire life. The sugar water in the feeder drips down and creates a little feast for ants.

Also as part of the back patio are two large ponds. These require filling because there are some sorts of leaks. Then the one gets clogged with algae fairly regularly, so every couple days I need to clean out the filter. If it doesn’t rain – which it really doesn’t, even in this “monsoon season” – I need to water some of the plants that aren’t on the drip irrigation. Out front, the owner also planted a bed of seeds, which I must water. This is my favorite chore, because there is a metal bell in the middle of the seed bed. Watering the bell produces the most sublime low-pitched ring. It is bliss.

 

This entire process takes about 45 minutes to an hour, unless I linger. Then I make coffee. Then I play my ukulele. Then I write for a few hours. Then I think about what adventure I want to get into, since the whole point of being here is to explore New Mexico.

But I’m learning something beyond the joys of adventuring. I have recognized the owners’ wonderful stewardship model as their way of living. Caring for these animals – the hundreds of birds and the kitties – is a natural extension of simply living on Earth. I love being responsible for helping out my fellow animals. It is not a bother at all. Even when old Charlotte is yelling at me at 6:30 a.m., I am grateful for her. She fell in the indoor pond a few nights after I arrived, and I wasn’t sure she would make it. She had one of those Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, but she’s back to herself now.

I think this stewardship model ought to extend to our fellow man as well. As I watch with

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Environmentalist – Vegetarian – Feminist … I can probably come up with a few more interconnected labels that fit as well.

one eye closed the recent racist parades and see my otherwise lovely friends on social media giving Nazis the benefit of the doubt because the American president did, I think about the time I put each day into helping creatures that aren’t even my species. Thursdays is the day I water all the inside plants. It takes a few hours because the owners have many beautiful plants. I was happy to give them all a drink. Why would I not want the same happiness for my fellow man? What is the difference between helping grouchy Charlotte and helping a grouchy person whose skin color is darker or lighter than mine? What is the difference between offering a drink to a plant and offering a drink to someone who is a different shape than me?

 

Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I think it is part of God’s plan for us to care for all living things. I encourage you to do so. Providing service for others is the best thing you can do for your own personal growth, and I am grateful for my efforts. I am also grateful for those who have helped me. Because there’s sure been a lot of you. The little rosebush inside me says thank you.

Changing My Tune

OK, so I write this entire blog post about life is magic and everything just falls into place when you believe in the universe and blah blah blah, right? Well, no less than three days after I post it, the universe decides – oh, tricky universe! – to challenge me! Can I believe the magic? Can I believe my own crap?

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The answer is always YES.

YES! The answer is always yes.

So, yeah, the captain who I was going sailing with had what I can put gently as an existential crisis and decides he no longer wants to sail south down island, toward Panama, through the canal and across the Pacific Ocean … at least not any time soon. Sure, I could have moved on to the boat, but it wasn’t really leaving St. Thomas. And it’s a big bad world out there. My wanderlust was bubbling up and fast.

I had already found a new tenant for my apartment (well, after the first girl flaked out on me and got me scrambling and remembering the magic). I was pretty stoked at the idea of getting my entire security deposit and last month’s rent back in cold hard cash. It didn’t make sense to back out of that, even though I didn’t know where I was going next. My friend, who was out of town, had let me use her car while we were both tag-team house-sitting for her friend. So suddenly I had all my possessions, which were packed in a way that made sense only to move on to a boat, in the back of her Honda. And I, for all intents and purposes, was homeless.

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Homeless, but honest.

But not a sad, oh no, poor Suzanne homeless. It was actually OK. Because I decided to collaborate with my mind and believe my own crap!

I stayed for a day or two with a friend, then I stayed with another friend who lived in St. John during their Carnival. Then I headed over to the friend who let me borrow her car; she was moving into a new place and needed help unpacking, putting furniture together and running errands while she also started her new, fast-paced job that involved a big learning curve. It was (well, is) a mutually beneficial situation, with her letting me crash in a corner of her living room as I worked to reduce my possessions by selling, giving away and digitizing. And in between getting my life down to whatever I can carry, I did her laundry, ran her trash to the dumpster and organized her new apartment, which overlooks the ocean on a peaceful hill swarming with iguanas and birds.

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From the DVD: Suzanne’s Guinness Mirror Music Practice When Really She Should Be Working

And she let me borrow something else as well: her ukulele. It was the first time I had ever picked up a string instrument with any sort of attempt to play. I’ve played percussion for a while and have always loved singing (hey, I was even lead in a musical!). I grew up as my brother played guitar, and my mother is even taking guitar lessons now. But I never had music lessons. But just watch how that frowny face turns into a big smile. A literal changing of the tune!

I have always loved music, and now I am finding so much joy in playing and singing with myself. For the first time, I do not need anyone to accompany me. This is huge. As a strong, independent female, I am realizing that … I am a strong, independent female! Whoa. Who’s a big girl now? This one.

So even though some (cough:family) may fear the universe is kicking me around – and even for a day or so I thought the same thing – the reality is that my crap remains true: This is all happening exactly the way it’s supposed to. I needed time to divest (even further, if you can believe) my possessions, to further gain independence and find a new something in my life that brings me joy and confidence.

What’s next? That’s the $64,000 question that everyone is asking me. I know it’s a rad adventure, I’ll tell you that. I’m guaranteeing smiles for miles! But in which direction? Ah, faithful readers know: It’s however the wind is blowing.

Don’t Worry, Be Magic

“It’s all going to work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.”

Ever get this well-meaning advice? I might have even given this well-meaning advice. But man, when life is all balls-up-in-the-air and someone says this to you, you know, it’s meaningless.

juggling
I went to clown school when I was a kid. I actually can juggle – and do a little acro yoga … and make people laugh … but I digress.

I guess I toss more balls in the air than the average person. In the last few years, I quit my job with benefits without another solid income stream lined up. I moved on to a sailboat with a guy I didn’t know that well. I sailed across the sea without really knowing how to sail. I moved off the sailboat in a town where I didn’t really know anyone. I started a yoga class on the beach and offered it by donation only, not knowing whether it would pay off. And on and on. You could call it a risky life, but it’s been amazingly rewarding.

Big risks can result in big rewards – if you stop worrying and let the magic happen.

Lately, things have been falling into place really nicely. Such as:

* I wrote an article for a magazine that was published months ago but they never paid me. I sent many emails and left voice messages, and I was starting to wonder if I should be concerned. Then I called one more time, instantly got the publisher who apologized and said he would send payment immediately and wanted more stories.

* I have an opportunity to go sailing, but I also had a lease on my little studio apartment that would have left me on the hook for thousands of dollars. Instead of fretting about it, I tapped into the connections and friendships I’ve made here on the island and soon found someone willing to take over the lease.

* I studied and passed my exams for my master’s captain license, and I compiled all

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At the helm!

the paperwork, passed a drug test, got a physical, got government clearance, got it notarized and everything. I sent it in the mail and spent weeks waiting. Just as I was starting to think that maybe I would be off island by the time it arrived to my General Delivery box at the Post Office, I receive an email saying my credential is on the way. Then, on the way to pick it up, I get a text from someone who needs a captain for a day sail from St. Thomas to St. John – the very next day! It was a great sail and a great reminder that these risks resulted in amazing new skills and opportunities I would have never acquired had I let fear get in the way.

It seems things are working out exactly the way they’re supposed to.

Look, I know it’s easy to worry. Worry that the magazine wouldn’t pay me. Worry that

worry?
I may be dating myself here. OK, this actually predates me as well.

I wouldn’t be able to get out of my lease. Worry that the license wouldn’t come in time. But what is worrying? It’s putting stressful energy into the spaces of our lives where confidence in the universe ought to be. The more we set ourselves up for success in life – for truly creating the things that we want to happen – the more these blessings come to us.

But if we worry instead, we are pulling energy away from our highest self. It’s a version of “The Secret,” I know, and part of me thinks that’s a bunch of baloney, but it’s real. If we decide that life is difficult and it’s impossible to get what we truly deserve, then that’s exactly right. If we decide that life is good and blessings are coming to us, then that’s exactly right too.

As a Reiki master, I know that the universal energy is all around us, always helping us to heal, always providing for us. All we have to do is tap into it. Worrying is another way of not trusting: “What if it doesn’t work out?” The real question is, “What if it does?” What if everything you ever wanted and needed is happening in your life at exactly the right time and in exactly the right amounts? When things don’t seem right, or when there are so many balls up in the air that it’s overwhelming, it’s easy to forget that

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Epic meteor magic!

everything is happening exactly the way it should. But it is.

The key to finding magic in your life is to look for it. Stop worrying that the magic is missing, but instead wonder excitedly when the next bit of magic will shine on you. I was at the beach recently during a meteor shower with a dear friend who I love. We were watching the skies, and there wasn’t a lot of action. It was a little chilly. He wasn’t wearing his glasses. Maybe we should just go, I thought. Then, suddenly, from over the water, a huge, bright falling star shot its way across the sky. It was the biggest and best meteor either of us had ever seen! It kept going and going over the beach, over the island. It lit up the sky so brightly, so magically, that it was breathtaking. Here I was worrying that I wouldn’t see one meteor and then I see the best one of my life. Had I succumbed to my worry, I would have missed the magic.

So what magic are you looking for? What are you worrying about that you can let go? You know, the old “Let go, let God” simply means to trust in the divine timing and guidance of your life. Just for today, believe that everything is going to work out beautifully. And then watch it do so!

Play Time

As a freelance writer and yoga teacher, often times I get to set my own work schedule. For years, I worked in offices, usually the old 9-to-5. I wore heels, suits and mascara. Toward the end of my office life, I drifted toward wedges and no makeup. Anyone who was watching could see I was slowly but surely heading toward simply not caring what

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Suzanne Wentley: Young Professional

others thought of me. But I tried to hide it.

I was a young professional. For a while, I was working four days, 10 hours a day. Before that, I had a 32-hour work week. Before that I worked what felt like all the time … although I was always careful to track my hours and receive the appropriate amount of “paid time off.” Ah, PTO. Benefits, what a beautiful thing! Wow, I even had a pension. Remember those? That’s something that I’ll never be able to say again! Can the same be said for health insurance? Probably.

For some office jobs I worked in a cubicle. One job found me in a cubicle in a hallway for a while (such was the non-profit life). For a couple jobs, I had offices with a door. For a short time, my office was ridiculously large, and I’d joke that I could roller skate in it. Faithful followers of this blog know that I skate like a champ.

But even with these office jobs with benefits, I was always working more than one job. There was a while there when I was working 40 hours a week, teaching seven yoga classes a week and writing three or four freelance magazine articles each month. Somehow I was also able to date men (who were wrong for me, but that’s another blog post) and hang out with my friends. I was late for everything that wasn’t a class I was teaching or an interview for a magazine assignment. I had stress acne. It kind of sucked.

So it was great when I met a guy who offered me a spot on his boat for a while to go sailing. I quit my office job, my yoga classes and my local freelance assignments, and we left for the seas. I became part of the new economy – I learned how to work remotely. I started researching magazines that might like stories about my boating adventures. I found an online agency looking for copywriters. I hustled.

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Me at the gym. I guess this is as good as it gets, people. I could do 50 pushups, so there’s that.

Since my overhead was so low, I was also able to relax. Every day before I set sail, I went to the gym. I then ran a couple miles. I scheduled in a 30-minute nap every day. I did yoga and baked bread. I gave away all my heels and suits.

That was almost two years ago, and guess what? I’m still alive! I haven’t starved! In fact, I haven’t even dipped into my savings. Sure, I’ve got a groovy, little studio apartment now (read: rent), but I now live in a place where I don’t need to buy things all the time. I don’t spend money on new clothes until my old clothes wear out. Rum is $7 a bottle. I buy bok choy on the corner from the farmer for $2. What more does a girl need?

So this was the backdrop of today, when I found myself without a whole lot of work. I wrote a press release. Three of my clients were reviewing work I had already done and hadn’t yet gotten back to me. I have a few projects in the pipeline, but nothing due today. I had a freelance article I needed to edit, but I’m not sure exactly where to do with it. Even though I relaxed most of my Sunday, as one should do, I suddenly found myself with an abundance of time.

I turned on music. My friend just hooked me up with The Codetalkers with Col. Bruce Hampton (RIP). I grabbed my hula hoop and went outside to my big deck and got down. I hadn’t hooped in so long! The sun was shining and glistening down on the shiny tape of my hoop. I was digging the music and dancing around my hoop for no one to see. It felt great! It was playtime, and we all simply do not get enough of it.

Unless you are a cigarette smoker, taking breaks is generally frowned upon. There’s no office where it’s normal to take a hoop break! Some office workers I know will walk around the building. One job I had, part of my duties involved walking a super-cute

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Look at that smile! Ozzie and I took breaks together.

English bulldog, and that was a pretty good break (except when Ozzie would sneak a chicken bone left on the side of the parking lot! Bad doggie!). Breaks are only OK when you’ve scheduled a vacation – and don’t get me wrong, during my office days I enjoyed every single one of my vacation days! But taking a break during the day is a luxury for the working stiff.

I still eat lunch at the computer. I’m doing it right now! Even though I set my own schedule, my work ethic is such that I continually feel the need to be productive. But when we’re productive all the time, we miss out. In yogic terms, we are too rajas.

Breaks help us connect to our creative and spiritual selves. All my best problem-solving came from meditation breaks. My best writing and marketing ideas came as a result of down time. The more breaks we have, the better our work.

So consider this a call for play! Bring recess back into your life! Sometimes I pull out my djembe and sing. Sometimes I put on music and dance. Sometimes I call my mom and chat. The other day, I put down my work and painted my toenails and watched the new Louis CK special on Netflix. It’s hilarious.

We all know stress is the enemy – so make it your job to get rid of it in your life. Take more breaks. Play more, smile and, for the love of God, wear only comfortable shoes!