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.

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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?

 

 

 

 

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

Under Sail

It had been a few weeks that I hadn’t been propelled by the wind. I’ve been walking, biking, taking public transport. I’ve been swimming and floating, catching rides and waves, skipping and even jumping from places that maybe were a little too high. But I needed to make the wind move me.

I haven’t always been a sailor, but I am now. My first time on a sailboat was college, when my best friend’s father took us out on the Long Island Sound. I grew up in a landlocked state, but I was always a waterbaby. Life with time made me more comfortable with diving in head-first and deep.

Living aboard a sailboat was tough, so I’m writing from a sun-kissed studio apartment

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The view steps from my apartment – yes, that is a man swimming with a horse past sailboats.

that overlooks a mooring field in the tropics. It pained me to leave the boat, because I am completely (head over heels) in love with the idea of having such freedom as to move to different countries and ports whenever the winds are right. For a while, the winds were simply not blowing in my favor. Now they are.

Last week, I was blessed with a generous and caring friend who invited me out on his catamaran to sail the British Virgin Islands. Although I live so close to this magical little archipelago, I had yet to visit. But beyond just experiencing new places and people, I yearned to feel the wind whipping through my long hair, sun on my face, the sea spray on my skin.

It was everything I dreamed. As the high clouds burned away, the Caribbean unveiled the perfect winds for three – count ’em! – three spinnaker runs. My captain showed me

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YES! Spinnaker up and we’re cruising.

how to hoist this asymmetrical sail, which pulls a vessel through the water with winds from the stern, rather than cut across the wind’s angle. Attaching it to a halyard, we lifted the chute of the sail to the top of the mast and then opened it up to unveil the perfect tool to let the wind move us.

Who needs a motor when nature is there to help? I think this is why I love sailing so. It reminds me to literally go with the flow, that life can be easy when you let it. For the years I was sailing from the states through the northern reaches of the Caribbean, it was a battle. We were constantly going the wrong direction, struggling to get to a location where we could drop our anchor and take a break. But it felt like the break never came. It was always an anxious search for a place to shelter from potential storms or grasping for a place where my captain could make money. We were creating challenges where abundance and peace should be. It was moving against the wind.

Such is life, yes … it can’t always be easy. But in order to find happiness, we must look for the easy. How is life encouraging us to flow? Where are the winds to our back? This does not mean living within the comfort zone – quite the opposite! It means searching for the signs that present themselves for us to naturally progress. The sail through the BVIs normally happened in the opposite direction for my friend, but we changed plans and sailed around the chain of islands “backward.” And guess what? It was perfect.

For those who read The Lovelight Project blow, you know that the last few years have

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Feeling on top of the world at The Baths in Virgin Gorda, BVIs

been challenging for me. I spent a lot of time confronting myself and my limits, unveiling who I am from the thick veneer of ego that was built by years of letting the winds bypass me. Salt air has a way of breaking things down. When I look back on my life, there have been many times when I thrust myself into uncomfortable, challenging situations in a desperate and necessary attempt to grow. And every time, eventually, I found my wind.

Lately, I’ve been noticing the more I grasp for something, the less I get. The more I accept the world as it is – acknowledge the way the wind blows and put up the right sail – the simpler and easier life is. Last week in the BVIs, we were one of a very few vessels that even had a spinnaker sail. You have to own and develop the right tools in your life to catch the right wind.

Where do the right winds blow me? I seek to get to a place where I have no worries, where I am constantly surrounded by love, propelled naturally to my next, new adventure filled with miracles. Dozens of people around me have been embracing big changes, with new jobs, relationships and experiences. It’s beautiful, and it makes me wonder what the winds have in store for me.

If we stay true to who we honestly are and fully accept the winds of life, we are all in the perfect place for our special breeze to propel us. All we have to do is set the sails.

Looking for Same

Living in the Virgin Islands, it’s a different culture. In fact, it’s a lot of different cultures. I see it every day when I’m catching a Safari, which is the public transport open-air trucks that zip me to where I need to go for $2. Some times when I’m waiting at the Safari stop, I’ll see one approaching and put out my arm to wave it down. But it doesn’t stop. Why?

“I see white people.” That is, it’s filled with white tourists and not the every day working

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Here’s my cousin Katherine as the only other white person on the Safari.

people who I normally sit next to. Those vehicles cost 10 times as much as what I and every other working stiff on island is used to paying. The drivers, somehow, can spot the difference between me and the tourist.

Of the approximately 50,000 people who live here, most are black people who are collectively known as “West Indians.” I am new enough that I can’t really tell the difference, but there are many. There are those who are locally born and raised, and then there are those from Jamaica, St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts, Trinidad and elsewhere. One time I was on a Safari with a woman who obviously felt late for the ferry, and she started screaming at a women who, she thought, was making her even later. She ended her rant with, “I’m from St. Lucia! You all need to know this!”

So many differences, just in our neighbors. And, if you look for it, you can find even more differences. For example, if I enter a store and do not say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon,” or the odd greeting of “Good night,” then I am ignored. It doesn’t matter what color I am; I’m considered rude if I do not say these magic words. It’s pretty easy to find people with a big chip on their shoulder here. There are so many people who have been done wrong and are now simply waiting for the next shoe to drop. These folks are protecting themselves by building walls.

This isn’t my style. I greatly prefer to find the similarities in people. For example, I am friends with a group of West Indians who hang out by their trucks near the corner where I turn to walk back to my apartment. These guys are really nice. Curtis sells beers and rum infused with greens (he calls it bush rum, and it is STRONG); even though I try to pay him when he offers me a shot, he never accepts my money. Instead, he accepts my conversation and smile. Maxim owns the Laundromat in town. He is a kind, older man who was shelling peas one day as we chatted about health. It seems he has fallen arches, which cause him a lot of pain. But we talked about our relationship with God, and when I saw him after his doctor appointment, we hugged at the news that he was otherwise completely healthy. Peter works construction with Curtis. He laughed when I told him about how I used to work at This Old House magazine, and part of my job, as a 20-year-old, was to answer Bob Villa’s emails. I met a Rasta named Yellow. We have a mutual

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See Curtis on the right. He led me over to this truck of awesome, farm-fresh cucumbers, which he pronounced “kookaburras.”

friend.

Another thing in common? The love of good, local food. So when the truck pulled up with buckets of freshly picked cucumbers, they led me right over to buy some with them. In their accent, they pronounced cucumbers as “kookaburras.” Yet another example of how differences are actually similarities.

I like looking for the same, because it’s everywhere. A hatred of the current president. The love of the ocean. The belief in helping others and finding joy in life. We all want this, regardless of what we look like, where we came from and how we pronounce “cucumbers.”

So, do you find yourself looking for differences or sameness? Are you fearful of those who are different than you? Because difference can be scary. We don’t know the culture, what they expect or think. Who knows how their mamas raised them. I’ve met many people, though, who seem a lot like me, and I come to find out their mamas didn’t raise them right at all.

I encourage you to look around at people you meet and decide they are just like you. As a newspaper journalist, I quickly realized that the janitors, secretaries, bailiffs and other marginalized people were much more important to my work than those who carried a title. I made it a point to address politicians by their first names, just like I did their assistants. I want to view everyone as equal to me, because they are.

It’s lazy to decide that one person is different or better because of something as simple as looks or style. I’d much rather expand my world by accepting different types of people into my life. That’s why I’m constantly looking for the same. Because we are all one, aren’t we? We’re all part of this beautiful universe, working together to provide each other opportunities for growth. So those who challenge me and those who support me, I thank you both. To me, you are friends on my path, and we are the same.

Who are YOU?

Almost every day, we are asked a version of this question: Who Are You?

 

Oh, me? I’m a female. I’m a writer. I’m a vegetarian, a yogini, a fan of a good cup of coffee.

Yes, I’m definitely not a male … unless you are referring to when I was a little kid and my working mom, in an effort to save time, would have my hair cut like a little boy’s. I remember that time in the convenience store when an older man mistook me for a boy.

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Tomboy, the magazine. Talk about a niche market!

I’m a writer … but then I guess I’m also a dancer, a singer, a drummer, an artist and, sometimes, a reader who enjoys just chilling on the couch.

I’m a yogini, sure. But sometimes I drink alcohol. Don’t tell the coffee fan part of my personality about that!

So, who am I? Who are you?

 

It’s really a lot of the work we do as humans, trying to answer that question. As someone who travels frequently, lots of people ask where I’m from, as if I identify with that. I usually reply, “Oh, over there,” and point to the sailboat where I’m living on the water. Do you really need me to explain that I was born in Pennsylvania, then I lived in New York City for a while for school, then I moved to Florida … I mean, as if that has anything to really do with who I am!

Sure, some people do identify with geography, rooting for sports teams and keeping an accent long after leaving. But that’s not me. I honored all the places I’ve lived and visited, but those places aren’t me.

Lately with the inauguration, people are identifying with their political bent. So often I

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Sports fans … when you are depressed because someone else lost a game across the nation, you may want to reevaluate your concept of identity.

encountered someone who was so steadfastly confident in their point of view that they refuse to even entertain a different one. They are placing their entire being in an American political party; while I obviously have a point of view, I don’t identify so strongly with a side that I wish ill on the other side.

It’s so easy to separate from others when we try to figure out who we are. We’re not this, we’re not that. And then it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it: I HATE that, I LOVE this. You are wrong, I am right. Period.

But life really isn’t like that. There’s black and there’s white, and then there is finding joy in the gray. In college, while in the midst of an uncomfortable conversation with two troubled roommates who decided to drop out of college and get their own apartment without me, I was accused of “living in a world of absolutes.” It took me a long time to know what the hell she was talking about.

I guess she was right. At one point in my life, I did find it simple and easy to identify with labels: Phi Beta Kappa, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Deadhead. It’s handy shorthand to say stuff like, hey, I’d like the tofu veggie dish, please. But as I started to drill down the concept of my own identity, many of those labels started to unravel.

Sure, I still love Jerry Garcia’s guitar skills. But I don’t own any more tie-dye. I ate fish last year in an unsuccessful attempt to, well, eat fish. I’m smart but damn if I can get my emotional intelligence on point! Exactly who do I think I am?

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Be Authentic!

In yoga, it’s actually pretty simple. I am you. Yes, you. Every single person (millions! Haha) reading this blog post. I am a loving being who is lovable, unique and beautiful. Think you know someone who isn’t? Chances are they’re hiding a part of who they really are. That’s why it’s so important to be kind to every person and view each interaction as an opportunity for growth.

I recently had a very interesting interaction with a fellow yoga teacher who ended up lying to me when she changed her mind and asked someone else to take over her classes. It’s certainly her prerogative as an independent business owner to change her mind, but a yogini being untruthful spun me. I had to confront my own reaction to it and determine what I could learn. I realized I needed to be more professional when asked to commit my time; I knew I was trustworthy, so I simply put the dates in my calendar and called it a day. But she did not know that I’ve never missed a yoga class.

I realized that I need to look closer at my own truth, too. Part of that includes understanding who I am and accepting others as part of who I am. This means increasing compassion, or, as I like to say, digging deep into that endless pit of compassion we all have within. Just when we think we’re hitting the bottom, there’s more down there. Just keep digging, and we’ll discover how similar we truly all are.