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.

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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.

 

 

Taking a Break

OK, OK. So the first thing you’re going to realize is that this blog post has been shared on social media. And here is a whole blog about taking a break from social media! IT MAKES NO SENSE … or does it?

I have been feeling at a loss lately, with the new year now just a couple days in. So many people I knew and loved were undergoing big, beautiful changes in their lives. And yet, I felt stuck. I already made big changes, having sold all my stuff, left the small town I was living in and loving, said goodbye to so many wonderfully supportive friends. I went

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Buddha says, our problem is that we think we have time. Unless we are a zombie. Didn’t think of that, did ya Buddha?

sailing, traveled and lived in places I couldn’t have imagined just a couple years ago. But now what?

So often, when one completes a major project – like organizing a wedding, getting ready for a baby or making a move professionally – there’s a bit of a letdown when it’s all over. We did all this busy work, and here we are: still in our own skin, still looking at ourselves in the mirror.

Four years ago, a five-point personal plan came to me during meditation. I was working for a small government agency that was up for referendum. It was a make-or-break vote, and it was my job to get it passed. No pressure, right? I realized that if, due to the will of the Gods, it didn’t pass, I would be personally and professionally destroyed. I couldn’t let that be. (It did, by the way!)

So I created a plan to create skills and set myself up for success. First, I would renew my real estate license. I was debating it, but I figured what the heck. That was easy; the 40-hour class was completed online over a weekend. Next, I decided I would become a Reiki Master. I had worked with Reiki energy for about a decade at that point but only at the second of four levels. I was being called to teach. Along those lines, I decided to get my Yoga teacher certification. Step four: “Something with food.” I decided to try veganism

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My 5-Point Plan of 2013 looked absolutely nothing like this. And I look nothing like this guy. So there.

and am still interested in returning to this challenging diet and sharing vegetarianism in a meaningful way. And the final step was to figure out where I wanted to move, and move there.

Done and done. I am a Reiki master, Yoga teacher and marketing professional (The real estate? Not so useful) living currently in the Virgin Islands. I’ve catered vegetarian dinners and committed to intermittent fasting for the last 10 months, and it’s helped me feel better and heal my relationship with food. So, now what?

I started asking myself this in meditation again, and I have discovered – in spite of renewal that comes from working for myself and teaching Yoga – I was exhausted. I was exhausted from trying to create psychological breathing room for myself. I was exhausted by creating a carefree façade for my well-meaning friends and family. I was exhausted by the challenging, alternative lifestyle I had chosen for myself. I needed a break.

Even as it allowed me to connect with those who loved and supported me, Facebook was just not helping. I was endlessly confronted with people gloating about the election or, from the completely other side of the spectrum, happily ignoring politics as they showed off their beautiful, loving families. So many of my friends got married, got engaged and had babies this year. I’m truly, truly so extremely happy for them.

But as studies show, Facebook was giving me an opportunity to compare my B-roll with

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When the most meaningful interaction is a frown face emocon. Ouch.

everyone else’s A-roll. And I’m sure others felt that way about my news feed. I felt like a fraud, acting completely happy because I was expected to. Crying a snotty mess during a fabulous deep tissue massage last week, I knew something big had to change.

So I made a move: No more Facebook. I shared my contact information (It’s thelovelightproject@gmail.com! Connect with me!) and took the app off my phone. I’m simply not checking it any more. As a marketing professional, this feels weird, but stepping out of the comfort zone is exactly what helped propel me into the next stratosphere of life last time. Hopefully it will be the first step this time.

With the time I would have normally spent checking social media, I am starting to create other plans for 2017. I’m going to do things that bring me happiness: writing more, cultivating my independence, doing more Yoga and meditation, rediscovering my own power. I am hopeful that by making space in my life, releasing myself from my own news feed of life, I will increase my capacity for good – for everyone, not just me. Then perhaps my break will, in turn, bring more happiness to others. Now that is a resolution I can get behind!

 

Livin’ the Dream!

“OH MY GOD! You live on a sailboat!? I am so jealous! You are living the dream!”

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Dream Pro: Rainbow. Cons? I kinda smell; it’s raining; that jacket just does not fit me; every place I sit is wet; I can’t remember the last time I combed my hair; I’m tired; I want someone to make me hot food.

I think of my friends saying this to me when, like yesterday, it was pouring down rain and to get to the post office, I had to don my ill-fitting, red foul-weather jacket and hop into the dinghy. I pumped out the rainwater that had accumulated and then prayed as I pulled on the outboard engine, because in the past somehow rain got in the gas line or something and it didn’t start and I was totally stranded and felt pathetically helpless. Well, it started but that only meant that I had to sit my butt down on the wet seat and fight what are known as “Christmas winds” to get myself to the public dinghy dock, which was super-crowded and hard to find a spot to tie up.

 

Yes, sometimes “the dream” is a soggy-butted dinghy ride in the rain, ending in a scramble to secure the boat while an entire cruise ship-full of passengers watch and wait for you to fall in.

Is this really a dream? I know, I know … I snorkel and see sea turtles, wake up on the water and generally avoid the hustle-and-bustle of consumer life. I learn to take my time, enjoy experiences more than things and find gratitude in little things, like the simple displays of love that are the sweet cards some friends and family are sending me via general delivery here in St. Thomas. Life is filled with wonder and goodness.

Actual dreams can be amazing, although the other night I roller-skated into a swimming pool in my dream. Glad I wasn’t living that dream! So I guess because sometimes I fly in dreams, I should want to live my dreams? But only the good dreams, right? Because my friends, when they say I’m “livin’ the dream,” they’re not talking about the nightmarish elements of the often harsh challenges of boat life.

In yoga, dreams are represented within the symbol of OM, which is the universal sound of

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OM

our highest Self and a pathway to enlightenment. The main “3” shape is made of two curves: the larger bottom curve, or the jagrat, represents our waking state, and the top curve, or the sushupti, represents our deep, dreamless sleep. The little loop to the right is swapna, the dream state. (The top half-moon shape is the maya, or the entire manifestation of the world around us as we perceive it, and the top diamond is turiya, the ultimate bliss.) So, as the symbol teaches us, in our life it is easy to go around and around through waking and sleeping, basically getting caught in a maze, but really our task is to overcome all our illusions that present themselves as obstacles to rediscovering the divine within us.

 

So, dreams are a circular loop, a fantasy that life is limitless instead of it actually being so. The dream is not the end game. Bliss is the goal. Actual, honest-to-goodness limitless amazingness is what we should be living.

My waking life – a dream to so many – is filled with good and bad, stuff I am attracted to and stuff I am averse to. I have ample opportunity to show my less-than-divine self and think it’s “all about me,” especially in a 32-foot-long living space with another human. I am even sometimes

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Ever feel you just need a little space? When sailing, this is as far away as I get from my co-captain. Imagine being this close to a person. For days. It’s a dream worth waking from, I think we both agree.

confronted by the potential of death, like when our sailboat is at such a steep heel that we must clip ourselves to jack lines on the boat to avoid falling into the sea. My work is simply overcoming all these attachments, about what I think is good or bad, or scary or proof that I am not amazingly blissful creature. (These obstacles are known as kleshas.) I do this work in my dreams, when I’m on my yoga mat and even when I am in the dinghy.

 

It’s easy to escape a lot of life’s annoyances, like traffic or mowing the grass. You can hop on a sailboat or simply take a weekend getaway somewhere. But it’s not so easy to escape yourself. When people say they want to live a dream, often they believe that escaping the current troubles will make for bliss. But until you overcome the obstacles in your head and your heart, life won’t feel dreamy. If you have road rage, chances are you’ll have dinghy rage. (Seen it!) Problems will persist in the maze of your waking and sleeping life as long as we choose them.

We make our own nightmares. Wake up – and live your bliss!

Life All Around Us

Are you in your own little world, or are you part of the big world around you? If you’re like me, it’s a balance of both.

Today even more than a decade ago, Americans especially are more likely to be isolated in

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Instead of a caption, I’ll just put a link to the Weeds theme song.

their cars, private properties and even in public space – when a face in glued into a device instead of looking around. I’m guilty of this. Chances are, you don’t know all your neighbors and don’t particularly care.

Personally, I’m even more isolated. I live on a 32-ft. sailboat with one other person and a cat. That’s it. My neighbors change almost every day, except for when we need to stay in a certain place to hide out for hurricane season or to make money. Even then, it’s not necessarily an easy task to reach out to others.

In more populated boating communities, there are “Cruiser’s Nets,” which are weekly, open information sharing at a specific time. And sometimes it’s obvious that the other person at the café is a fellow “boat person” by their dress and demeanor, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. But overall, it’s just my own little world on S/V Tortuga.

I write. I practice Yoga on deck. I pet my cat, and I read. Sometimes my mate and I will play music or listen to NPR or a podcast. I work. I meditate. Like I said, my own little world.

And yet, recently I’ve been reminded of the big amazing world all around me. Two weeks ago, we were in Vieques, an island in the Spanish Virgin Islands, which are part of Puerto Rico and owned by the U.S. It contains the brightest bioluminescent bay in the Caribbean

bioluminesence
I think they Photoshopped this, because it was impossible for us to get this on film. But it’s kind of like how it is: magical!

and possibly the world. It is nothing short of spectacular.

Puerto Mosquito (where, let it be known, I saw not one mosquito) is a small body of water opening up to the ocean that happens to be filled with dinoflagellates. Those are tiny microscopic critters that, like a firefly, emit a glow when touched. We anchored in it the other day and took the dinghy through the shallows into the depths of the bay, where we jumped in under the dark of night.

Immediately, every splash translated into a fiery strike of light neon green that created trails for the delight of our eyes. I could make water angels with the glow. When my head came emerged from underwater, sparkles remained on my skin and mirrored the stars in the clear sky. There were thousands of points of light everywhere there was movement.

Life was everywhere around me, there was no doubt about it.

It was impossible to catch on film. We kept trying to take photographs and videos, but everything came out black. We were unable to capture how we were invading these little beings’ tiny world. They were just swimming along, probably looking for food or whatever dinoflagellates do, and suddenly they were bombarded by excited humans. Our wild movements likely bothered them. It actually felt like the light was them saying, “HEY! I’m ova here!!!!

I experienced a bioluminescent bay before, last time I traveled to Puerto Rico with a friend. We were lucky enough to grab a last-minute opening on a kayak tour for $50 each of another bay near Fajardo. Traveling to Vieques was tricky without a boat because the ferry departs before dark, meaning the hotel we had already booked for the week would have gone to waste. Even though the bay wasn’t as bright and I was accompanied by more than a hundred other excited tourists, I still talked about it to anyone who said anything about Puerto Rico. But that was nothing.

Swimming with just one other person made it shift my perspective on the world around me. Even when I am seemingly “in my own head” and engaged in my own spiritual development and progress, there is a lot going on. Just look at who screamed light when I moved my arm!

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Energy and life all around us!

And here’s the kicker: we are all connected. Every single sentient being in the universe is connected. You are connected to the little dinoflagellate guy who glowed because you read this blog. (Hey, thanks!) I am connected to your mailman who you waved at this morning, too. It’s more than the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It’s real.

The more we recognize the inter-connectivity of life, the less isolated we will feel and – I suspect – the happier we will be. The more friends we will have (no matter how tiny, right little dino dude?) and the more we will smile. I know I was certainly smiling when I saw so many beings lighting up just at the touch of my presence. I understood how powerful touch is … imagine if we all shined our light like that!

Maybe instead of bothering the dinoflagellates, I was hugging them? Petting them? I hope so (although really I doubt it). Because I can never have enough hugs. Let’s share one now!

 

 

The Know-It-All Epidemic

It’s reached an epidemic level, and I’m not talking about Zika or obesity. I’m referring to the inability to shut up, to admit one is wrong, to listen to another person and thoughtfully consider a different point of view. With increased frequency, people are yelling over one another – or online, typing furiously so their comment can precede the response to their previous comment.

The old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing” has gone out the

calvinargues
Some people cannot be reasoned with!

window, and we all know that the current political campaign is exacerbating it. As someone who studied political science in college, I love a good debate on politics with someone who does not agree with me. And yet time and again on Facebook or in person, when I start to discuss this campaign cycle, it inevitably ends in being called names and simply personally insulted. I “must be stupid.” I need to “learn how to read” and “put down the coloring books.” I’m a fool for the media. I’m “an idiot.” But here’s a truth we should have learned in kindergarten: Calling an opponent a name does not win a debate. (In related news, I love mandala coloring books for relaxation!)

I’ve also noticed the trend of interrupting. During the first presidential candidate debate, one candidate interrupted the other 51 times. But this has been going on for a while now. All one has to do is turn on any number of “roundtable discussions” on any news program. People yell over one another to make a point and never let anyone finish their sentence; there’s a complete lack of respect for anyone else in the room. It makes for really

kayne1
Back in 2009: “Imma gonna let you finish but …”

annoying TV or radio. Even during the vice presidential debate, I heard the moderator tell the candidates that “no one can understand you when you’re both talking” before I turned it off.

Coupled with nasty name-calling and interrupting, of course, is simply not listening. This is perhaps the most pervasive element of this epidemic. If one person is talking, chances are the other is already forming a reply in his head. Know why? Because we all seem to think that we know everything already. Of course we do! Look at all the social media and online sites we check, as our faces are planted firmly into our device screens so we are unable to take in anything or anyone around us. We check our phones on average 46 times a day! So much media is available all the time, we feel like we’ve got it figured out.

Speaking of media, today’s 24-hour journalism and unapologetically biased sites and channels are designed with the niche in mind. That is, chances are the media you consume simply reinforces your own world view. So if you’re a liberal, you are disgusted by Fox News. If you are a conservative, you never watch CNN. It takes too much energy to disagree and think, to process the bias and determine why we disagree on a particular matter of policy. And so we stay within our decidedly “right” worlds, with people only saying things that we agree with. More often than not, this is also true of our friends and also the people we are connected on social media. It becomes too much like work to engage people who disagree with us, because then we have to defend ourselves. This frequently devolves to a fight. Why fight when you can just be right all the time?

virginiaslims
Another epidemic: Smoking! And another thing I was thinking … Oh, you wanted to say something?

The sad truth, too, is that the Know-It-All Epidemic effects men to a greater extent than women. Men interrupt more than women. Men are more comfortable expressing their opinions in groups than women. Men are more likely to tell a woman she is stupid than vice versa. Lots of studies on this and lots of reasons. It’s a sexist society, despite all the advances women have made over the years. “Father Knows Best” is a mentality that is hard to break. Why? Because I said so!

There’s a simple antidote to end this epidemic, and it’s a big dose of humility. News flash! You do not know everything! I do not know everything! NO ONE knows everything, and no one expects anyone else to know everything. So it’s time for the world to develop a new skill: listening. Slow down and think about what is coming in. I know, in today’s fast-paced, email culture, there never feels like enough time to process anything before we are forced to act. But there is. There is a lot of time. In fact, there is more time than ever.

Life is meant as a learning process. Every person we encounter comes to us for us to learn from. Every obstacle that is presented in our lives is an opportunity for us to creatively figure out a way around it. Learning is the only way we can progress on our path, and the only way we can learn and grow is to be open to the world around us. The first step to being open is to understand that we are not self-contained units of perfection. There is simply no way we can know it all, because knowledge comes from experience. How old are you? Probably not old enough to experience it all. Been everywhere? Done everything? Doubt it.

I have a mantra I like to say when I share an opinion: “I’ve been wrong before.” Because I

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Beep. Beep. Beep.

have, and it doesn’t make me any less of a person or any less intelligent! Sometimes I’m right. Like, I’m a pretty good judge of character. And that’s because I have put energy into trying to see people fully and with compassion. Sometimes I still fail and people disappoint me. But guess what? I’m still learning, and next time I meet someone I’ll be that much better prepared to understand them.

But how well do we understand ourselves? This is the root of this epidemic. Part of the reason folks spend so much time defending themselves is because they are not confident in themselves. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Sound familiar? The Founding Fathers of the United States all determined what the principles were for building a government, so they didn’t have to keep going back and forth about it. What are your principles?

For me, helping others is a priority. So I am not interested in ram-rodding my point-of-view down the throats of others, even when I am very confident in the validity of my opinion. Because in the end, I am not interested in ruining a relationship and hurting another person just so I can be right and “win.” At the same time, I also understand that there is no arguing with crazy. Because that perpetuates crazy behavior, which can be defined as being without basis, without a grasp of reality, without consideration of the other person. This way of being only serves as an angry mask that is usually hiding a much deeper hurt.

People are hurting. That’s the bottom line. The screaming, the anger, the total uncaring in the face of fervent conviction … so much of it is just the bricks needed to build a wall around the person. The thicker the wall, the less likely anyone will want to come inside to see the vulnerable person who was once hurt and hanging on to it. So many people hang on to the sadness, yet at the same time yearn deeply for peace. The only way to end this hurt is through love, respect and caring: Give it and receive it.

The Yoga Sutras tell us to approach an unhappy person with compassion and an unvirtuous person with equanimity. So as we use our lives to learn more about ourselves, help others as well. That’s how we’ll really get to know what we truly seek to know.

Hola Hola

I’ve been remiss on my blogging, dear reader, and for that I must say, lo siento! But I have been entirely too busy creating the life I want to live!

See, the start of hurricane season saw this 32-ft. sailboat fighting the southeastern

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Bahia de Luperon — otherwise known as my backyard until the end of hurricane season!

tradewinds to arrive in Luperon, a small village on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with one of the best hurricane holes in the Caribbean. Its little harbour is surrounded by mangroves and mountains, and its bottom is a thick mud that holds an anchor tightly even in strong tropical winds. It was a tough, five-week sail this summer to get here from the Bahamas. Like our anchor, we’ve been settling in ever since.

There are about 100 boats in the harbour, and half of them have an international mix of sailors living aboard. These are the “gringos” – of course I am part of this group – and the vast majority spend their days lounging and laughing around the local bars, drinking “jumbo”-sized, 40-oz. Presidente beers that cost $125 pesos, or about $2.77. The beers are so big that they are served in bamboo holders that keep the green bottles cool in the extreme heat of the day. These jumbos, which are pronounced “humbos,” of course, go well with the $125-peso plate of the day, which is usually beans, rice, salad and (if you want) fried chicken. Banana milkshakes (a favorite, especially with a little rum!) is $60 pesos, or about $1.30. It is so cheap to live here; that’s part of what makes this place so attractive to cruisers.

To get food or run errands, we need to take a dinghy to the government dock, which is a broken-down pier on the edge of town. When the tide is too high, it’s a little treacherous! Walk past the often-overflowing trash bin (which we frequently add to), say hola to the immigration officials camped out in the shade and pass a completely unnecessary gate to get to town. It’s loud with Latin music, dirty and extremely friendly. It’s necessary to

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The Dominican people are SO NICE … which comes in handy, since I have the Spanish vocabulary of a 4 year old.

dodge the mysterious, neon-green water in the gutters, as well as the stray dogs and chickens that wander around. It’s also a good idea to share greetings and smiles with everyone you pass.

I do not speak Spanish well. In school, I studied the less useful French and Italian. If only I had focused on Spanish – life would be a lot easier now! It’s hard to not be able to talk with everyone, to joke around. I’ve been studying Spanish for the last few months, but I’ve got a ways to go. I can almost say basically what I need to, but then the response is usually so fast that I can’t understand it! But I can always understand the friendly people who share a hola hola.

Siestas are real, by the way. Starting around 11:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., do not expect to get anything accomplished in town. This is because it is so hot! The weather is pretty consistent: At night, it’s cool. In the morning, the water is glassy and it’s very buggy, with no-see-ums all over the place. By about 8:30 a.m., the tradewinds pick up and it gets quite windy. Soon, it’s very, very sunny and hot. The smart ones stay in the shade until about 3 p.m. Then the town slowly comes alive again, with music pumping and folks gathered outside to share a jumbo or say hola. It’s important to get things accomplished in the morning and then again in the late afternoon, because by the evening, it’s party time. Sometimes the town throws huge bashes in the parque central. A late-night food spot called Come Come sometimes plays 1950s American rockabilly.

I recognized quickly that I was one of the only gringos who worked for a living, since most are simply retired. And work I do! I spend hours each day in front of the computer. I am grateful to have a number of clients who hire me to write, edit, do marketing work and brainstorm over the Internet. I am so thankful for Wifi! My mother said when she was in school, she heard about the idea of working anywhere in the world, but she never thought it could actually happen. Well, welcome to the modern age.

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My Yoga class in pigeon pose. Notice the moldy pillar and leaky roof of the abandoned marina. But the view from the mat is worth a million bucks!

Along with writing and marketing work, I also teach Yoga here in Luperon. I was so excited to learn that there were Yoga classes three days a week in an abandoned marina. I immediately attended, and soon the teacher gave the classes over to me. We average about 10 people or so every class, and I’m blessed that many donate enough funds for a meal or two. Plus, I get to continue teaching and helping people. I really love that.

Along with working and yoga, fixing up the boat and slowly but surely planning the next move toward the US Virgin Islands, my boyfriend and I have also been exercising. We’ve taken a few trips into the country, including a cool surf town called Cabarete to which we hope to return soon. But we’re trying to stay within budget so we can keep this life going for a while longer.

See, I’ve come to realize that it really is possible to live the life you want. But it doesn’t just come to you. You have to work for it. No effort is wasted! So many people I know feel like they are wasting their lives away. Are you stuck in jobs you hate, in a town you’re bored with? Start planning, and make it happen. The first step is getting out of your comfort zone – a hola hola may be more comforting than you expect!

 

The Adventures of Slogging-East Sue

It feels a little like I’m Little Orphan Annie or the Lone Ranger or some other 1930s-era radio hero, the way I’ve been slogging southeast against the increasingly strong southeastern trade winds in a 32-foot sailboat.

Not that I’m a martyr or anything. The co-captain and my kitty have been doing it too.

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The good news is we are slogging through some of the most beautiful, aquamarine waters!

It’s just been weeks of tacking and straight-up motoring into the wind (check out the TortugaSailChart7.16) in an effort to get toward a protected anchorage in the Dominican Republic in advance of the first hurricane threat of the season. We’re more than halfway there, about to jump down to the Turks & Caicos.

Tortuga, our boat, does not point very well. For non-sailors, a quick lesson: Most sailboats with good sails and everything all tuned up can expect to point about 45 degrees from the direction of the wind. So, if the wind is coming from straight east (90 degrees), you can plan on sailing at 135 degrees or 45 degrees. That’s how you figure out tacking: You head in one direction, then switch and head in the other and you make way. But good old Tortuga, she points about 70 degrees to wind. So, it’s like north and south, baby. Going east feels like a straight-up slog.

What is a slog? Our buddies Merriam-Webster define it as “keep doing something even though it is difficult or boring.” Can you relate? Feels like the story of my life!

Why would we ever want to continue doing something difficult? Well, alas, that’s really

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It’s the Adventures of Rock-Pushing Sisyphus! And here I’m bitching?

the only way to progress, isn’t it. Sometimes we catch a break and life progresses in this really magical and easy way, but that is so rare. Usually, it’s the no-pain, no-gain model. Things that are worth it take work.

What is worth it? Health is important, in all facets. If we want our physical bodies to be in great shape and free from disease, we need to eat nutritious foods in moderation and take regular exercise. We can’t just do it once. We have to do it all the time, even when we want to pig out on cheesecake. When we say, forget it and we eat the cheesecake, we fall off. Falling off is another sailing term: It means to allow the boat to let the wind push it away so you’re sailing on what’s known as a beam reach rather than a close haul. This is easier. You’re sailing along great, without having to pinch to keep the course. But you fall off course. And then you’re further away from your goal.

Health is just one thing that takes this type of dedication. Schooling often feels like this. Big work projects. Spiritual development can’t happen without it. So what type of person are you? Do you slog on, or do you fall off? Do you always keep the goal in mind?

I always try to keep the end game in mind. Starting with the end in mind is one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and it’s been something I’ve done for quite a while. Being a long-term thinker means being able to slog through, doing things that kinda suck now as to reap the benefits when the goal is reached. We’re talking about willpower, about character.

No doubt, slogging can certainly suck. That’s where the attitude comes in. This is why I’ve created this radio superhero persona for myself  (it includes a theme song I sing loudly) when I’m at the wheel and I’ve just beating into the wind and trying to cover just a little more ground! (<– Yay! The blog theme song!)

In this episode, Slogging-East Sue must try to get the finicky autopilot to work so she can go to the bathroom and not wake up her co-captain! In the next episode, Slogging-East Sue wonders how her cat can so quickly go from panic to snoozing. In this episode, Slogging-East Sue dreams of completing the trip so she can enjoy a frosty glass of ice water and a cheap and delicious vegetarian meal in the DR that someone else prepares, for the love of Pete.

I have a lot of goals I’m working toward, and all involve the slog. I’ve been studying Spanish and currently slogging my way through the conjunctions of irregular verbs. I’ve been losing weight and slogging my way through two days of fasting a week (and, yes, enjoying the occasional cheesecake slice when one presents itself). I am working on my own spiritual development and slogging my way through a journal that requires me to own up to anger, sloth and other behaviors that are stopping me from progress. Accountability is a slog, man!

And so, I slog on … knowing one day the effort will pay off with an amazing experience in another country. No energy is wasted, and that’s the lesson of this episode of the Adventures of Slogging-East Sue!