Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘California’


DSCN1335Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles

It was exactly six years ago today that I drove my trusted little Saturn into the City of Angels, the crimson sun setting behind the mighty palms. It had always been my dream to move to the West Coast, and at this moment in my life, I was spurred on by a fight for love. Sadly I was met with anything but. And so began the darkest years of my life: alone, jobless, and heartbroken in the vast and lonely sea of Los Angeles.

In a moment of desperation, I dragged myself into my neighborhood yoga studio. And that seemingly small decision would forever change the course of my life: it would be my first step into a profound healing journey and the beginnings of a major life transformation, the likes of which I never could have imagined. Yoga led me to Peru. Peru led me to San Francisco and here I discovered a whole new Jeannie and a whole new life: a beloved community, an unexpected and dramatic career turn, a book, so many magical experiences and powerful manifestations. It has been a story that this writer never could have written.

Golden Gate from Buena Vista with AnkitGolden Gate Bridge from Buena Vista Park, San Francisco

For six years, California has been home. In fact, from the moment I arrived here, I felt like I had come home. When my heart was broken, Los Angeles held me in her warm embrace and surrounded me with her Angels. California has taken my breath away with her unrivaled beauty: her brilliant sunshine, her majestic mountains, her pristine ocean. And then there was San Francisco. Oh, San Francisco. With her forward-thinking, progressive, risk-taking mentality, San Francisco has inspired in me a well of limitless possibilities and she has allowed for an energetic expansion beyond all measure. California has cracked my heart wide open and allowed me to connect with the Spirit within and all around me.

On a regular basis, I have stood in awe of her outrageous scenery: spectacular views of the shimmering Bay, the electric view of Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills, the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, the snow capping the mighty San Gabriel Mountains, the jaw-dropping vistas from the twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway, and the mystical fog cradling the dramatic San Francisco skyline.

California has changed me. She has saved me. She has inspired me. I am forever grateful for this place.

DSCF2697Baker Beach, San Francisco

Read Full Post »


For years I have been traveling alone, and for years I have wished that I didn’t have to. During my 20s, I had a great international travel job that took me overseas multiple times per year, to wonderful places the likes of Madrid, Paris, London, or even Costa Rica. These were fabulous opportunities and I took full advantage, exploring as much as I could while there. But yet there was always something missing and I always wished I could share it with someone.

And when it came to love, it just never worked out timing wise that I had a partner with whom to travel and share my adventures. Inevitably I was always involved with someone either too broke or disorganized to get a trip together, or I was involved with someone on the other side of the country; always finding myself in circumstances in which I would end up traveling alone. And after experiencing a string of brutal broken hearts, travel became not only lonely, but sad, as I would find myself thinking of my lost loves, everywhere I would go, thinking of the “what-ifs” and the missed opportunities.

The good news is that experience changes us and time heals all wounds. And the longer we are alone, the more we learn to embrace our solitude, the more we learn to love our own company and to become our own best friend; and the more we come to crave our time alone. That is the place in life to which I have very happily arrived. So when I have recently found myself at a crossroads, unsure of which path to take next, I knew I needed to take a soul-searching journey…and I knew I needed to do it alone.

So I set out on a road-trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, just me, my trusty stick-shift, and the radio; ready for adventure, ripe for epiphanies, and open to whatever might come…

DSCN1364My first stop along the way was at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where I set out on a hike towards a waterfall. This was really my first time hiking alone and as I set out over tree stumps and craggy rocks, I contemplated the solitude, consciously taking in all of the beauty around me. I passed a pair of couples who had stopped to take a breath and were laughing amongst themselves. As is always the case when hiking, we greeted each other with a friendly “hello” and I walked by smiling to myself at their obvious enjoyment and laughter.

When I arrived to the waterfall, I scrambled up onto a rock and perched myself against a tree to eat my lunch, with the sound of water flowing in the background. I was immersed in the serenity of nature and I made note of my happiness, in spite of my solitude. As I was eating my sandwich, the two couples made their way to the falls, we greeted each other again and I offered to take their photos. We shared a few laughs and I delighted at the opportunity for human connection with complete strangers.

A few minutes later an older lady arrived on her own. I offered to take her photo as well and then we began chatting. We immediately began talking about the adventures of hiking alone, of all of the other solo hikers that you come across, and discussed how being alone presents such a great opportunity to connect with other people along the way. I was happy to connect with her in such a way and I felt proud of myself for venturing out on my own. I looked forward to whomever….or whatever… I would encounter next.

The encounter that happened next is one that would take my breath away. As I was walking down the last part of the path, almost back to the parking lot, I saw what I thought was someone’s dog, off leash, approaching me. I thought nothing of it. A few moments later, I wondered where his owners were, and realizing that there was nobody in sight, it occurred to me that it may not have been a dog at all. I heard it rustling around in the woods just to the side of me, so I stopped and cautiously peeped into the brush to take a closer look. That is when I realized that I was only a few feet away from a wild bobcat! Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I am not only a supreme animal lover, but I am also a huge lover of cats, having two kitties of my own.

My mom will tell you that as a kid, I was always the one who would stay in the petting zoo for hours, and that I had no fear at all of any of the animals. I was the kid that would constantly bring home wounded squirrels and bunny rabbits, attempting to nurse them back to health with an eye dropper. My mother was of course always worried about me getting rabies, but I never had any fear. I knew that I had a deeper connection to the animal world and that I was attuned to their energies. So when I found myself face to face with a bobcat, once again, I had no fear. This was probably a good thing, because had I been fearful, the cat would have sensed that and would likely have reacted more negatively towards me. Instead, he was cautious and moved away from me slowly, keeping his eyes locked on me the entire time.

Bobcat

I watched him with absolute awe and wonder, observing in him the very same behaviors that I see daily in my own cats. I admired the pointy tufts on his ears and the beautiful spots on his coat, and watched, fully captivated, as he moved gracefully and with great agility, up through the trees and brush and eventually onto the upper ledge of the hill beside me. For me this was an unforgettable moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life; a powerful moment of connection with the natural world.

Absolutely thrilled with my magical encounter, I got back in my car and headed south down The Pacific Coast, continuing along my journey. Anyone who has ever traveled The Pacific Coast Highway knows that there is no shortage of mind-blowing, breathtaking vistas, all along the way. For that reason, one generally takes their time, pulling off to the side of the road often to take in dramatic views. At one point, while I was driving along, I saw a bunch of people pointing up at the sky. I pulled off the road to see what they were looking at. It turned out this was a prime location for spotting the great California Condor and there was a gaggle of birdwatchers, waiting patiently with their binoculars. I stopped and looked for a while, but after not spotting any, I hopped back in the car and continued on my way.

And then, there it was. As I was cruising down the highway, I looked up and saw him soaring directly overhead, a graceful, powerful Condor. Such majesty, such absolute freedom. I imagined myself flying like a bird, high above the Earth, taking it all in. I felt my spirit once again expand at the great fortune of having yet another beautiful connection with nature. Filled with amazement and gratitude, I continued on my way.

A little further along the highway, I stopped to take a picture at another fantastic vista point. And low and behold, there was the pair of couples from my first hike. We greeted each other again and this time chatted more about where we were from, where we were going, etc. I would bump into these same couples two more times over the course of my three-day journey, and each time we laughed with delight at the synchronicity; each time it confirmed for me the interconnectedness of all beings on this Earth. How wonderful it is to connect with other people, to get to know a little bit about complete strangers, reminding me once again that although I was traveling by myself, I was never alone.

DSCN1400

After taking in another marvelous vista, I got back in my car and continued on my way, a smile on my face. I coasted around the windy, curvy highway, having an absolute blast driving my stick-shift, the windows down, the music blaring, and the wind blowing through my hair. I thought to myself, “it doesn’t get any better than this.” A few moments later, I rounded a bend, and in the turn-off to my left, I saw a man with his Great Dane. The dog was up on his hind legs and the man was dancing with him. I laughed out loud… and then my eyes filled with tears… tears of joy.

I realized in that moment that life is not about what we’ve accomplished, how much money we make, or about any of the material things we’ve amassed. It is not about whether we are alone or with another. It is about connection: connection with other human beings, connection with animals, connection with spirit. It is about living in the present moment, and taking in the beauty, the magic, and mystery that surround us at every moment. It is about the experiences that leave an indelible mark on our soul. It is about the moments that take our breath away. It is about living. And it is about dancing with your dog…

Read Full Post »


Flickr Photo by Amanda Nichols.

As my head lay heavy on the pillow, my eyes awoke to the morning sun. I rolled over to stretch and as I did so my ears were tickled with the sweet sound of the birds chirping happily outside my window. I consider myself very fortunate. I live in California and therefore am blessed to have flowers blooming and songbirds singing all year long. It is the first sound I hear each morning, and a sweet symphony that immediately puts a smile on my face. This day was no exception.

A few hours later, I had set out for my routine walk to yoga, up and through the beautiful park and down the hill to my favorite yoga studio. As I entered the park, the sun sparkling on the city below, I saw dogs happily racing around with their sticks and balls, babies being pushed in carriages, and the trees lightly waving “good day” to me in the light ocean breeze. Then I heard it and a smile immediately came across my face. Once again, I heard the song of birds…birds all around me, dancing atop the tree tops, delighting in one of the first days of spring, singing to one another, and perhaps to me.

Flickr Photo by Michael Newman.

In that moment I was immediately transported to another time and place. I suddenly found myself back on the swing-set of my childhood school playground, swinging back and forth and listening to the birds whistling their springtime song. As I listened to the playful sound of the birds, I watched the kids playing baseball on the baseball diamond, and other kids monkeying around on the jungle gym before me. It was in this moment that I realized just how much I revered springtime, even as a child.

I grew up in the northeast, in a climate where winter is often the longest season; a place where all of the vegetation withers and the trees are left naked and barren during a long, stark winter; a place from which many of the birds flee, in search of warmer weather to the south. Each spring I would anxiously look forward to the re-awakening of the Earth: to the re-sprouting of life from her skin, to the budding of leaves, to the return of color and fresh breezes, to the sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly-cut grass, to the buzzing of the bees… and to the return of the springtime chirping of the birds.

As I walked through the park with a smile on my face, I was immediately reminded of the youthful innocence that the birds represented for me; a simple, happy time in my life; a time when I had no care in the world, other than to listen to the birds sing. These are the great moments in life.

I have now lived in California for almost five years, and I have never since had to endure the starkness of winter and the quiet absence of the birds. For this I am grateful everyday. It seems as though from the time I was a child, swinging on that swing-set, that I was always destined to come to California, a place where the birds would always be singing their song. The birds have welcomed me with their beautiful songs from the day I crossed over California’s border, and they have remained with me since. But on this day, when I traveled back in time to that swing on the playground, I realized just how much I appreciate them.

It seems perfectly poignant that only a few months ago, my mother unearthed a childhood Haiku poem that I had written when I was just 10 years old. She sent it to me and I have to laugh when I read it now. It seems that my childhood self always knew the birds were special and that they would eventually lead me to this place, to this beautiful home where I am awakened each day by the sweet song of the birds.

I leave you with this poem, an ode to the birds from my 10-year old self:

A chirp from the sky,
I hear a little bird’s call,
like a playing harp.

Flickr Photo by Black Thumb.

Read Full Post »


Me and my brothers in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

My very first introduction to San Francisco was at the tender age of six when my mother took me and my two brothers across the country on a 2-week train trip. I don’t remember much of San Francisco, except for this photo missing my two front teeth. That and the crookedest street in the world. It, like many experiences of my early years, faded into the recesses of my memory.

Some 20 years later I would be sitting in my office in Boston, daydreaming about moving to San Francisco with one of my best friends and colleagues. I’m not sure why we had it in our heads that San Francisco should be our destination; perhaps it was the fact that both of our older brothers had already moved there, perhaps it was the adventure of moving west towards a new frontier, perhaps it was the romanticism of a place we couldn’t fully imagine, some place new, different, exciting. Perhaps it was simply the fantasy of leaving everything behind and starting over, a new person in a new life.

San Francisco skyline

Despite our daydreams, life had other plans for both of us. She, my colleague and friend, ended up on her own adventures between New York City, Paris and Washington, DC. My own path led me to Washington, DC and then finally west, but to a different destination… Los Angeles. Though I had spent all of that time dreaming about San Francisco, circumstances had led me elsewhere, and San Francisco just didn’t appear to be in the cards. That is until 2009, when a series of events “inadvertently” led me right to the place of my previous daydreams… I had finally landed in San Francisco.

At first it was a love-hate relationship. My heart was stuck in Los Angeles, and that coupled with my love of the warm weather of Southern California, meant that I was pretty miserable and found every reason to complain about San Francisco. It was not living up to my dreams of all those years before.

But as it always does, time went by and things began to change. My heart-strings began to release their tight grip on Los Angeles and I began opening up more to the idea of San Francisco being home. Little by little I began to acclimate to the weather, I began to find a new community of friends, I began to plant roots. San Francisco was becoming home. As it did so, the beauty around me began to become more and more apparent. Every time I would walk to yoga, I would stand in awe of the spectacular view of the skyline that was simply the backdrop of my walk through Alamo Square. The succulent scent of California’s year-round flowers wafted into my nostrils everywhere I went. The breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge would render me speechless each time I passed over it or caught a glimpse of it from atop a high vista point in the city. The stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, dotted with beautiful sailboats, would come into my eyesight during a routine walk or drive. On almost a daily basis I would find myself amazed by the staggering beauty around me and exclaiming to myself, “My God. How on earth do I live HERE?”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands

As a writer dedicated to focusing on the positive and seeking out the joy of life, I strive every day to appreciate the beauty that is all around me and to not take it for granted. But like any human, even I have my moments when I lose sight of it. Tonight was one of those moments. As we just changed the clocks and it is suddenly getting dark much earlier than it was previously, I found myself disappointed by the loss of light in the day. As I was preparing to leave for yoga this evening, I posted this update to my Facebook page:

“Really not thrilled about it being DARK for my walk to yoga.”

Looking out the window I could see that it was dark and I was not looking forward to the walk in the cold, especially when I was so used to taking this lovely walk with the warm sun on my back.

I headed out the door and onto my usual route to yoga, which takes me through Alamo Square, home of The Painted Ladies. The minute I set foot into the park, I once again stood in awe. In the crisp fall air, the city was sparkling with absolute brilliance against the night sky, cradled by the glow of the bright moon above. I was immediately humbled and realized the error of my ways with my previous Facebook post. It was ironic that I was on my way to yoga. One of the themes that we frequently explore in yoga is the embracing of not only the light, but also the dark, the shadow side of life. As the seasons change and we move into a darker time, the yoga invites us to explore the darker side of ourselves, our experiences and our emotions. And it invites us to embrace both, to see the beauty in both, the opportunity for growth which comes from each. As I reflected on my dissatisfaction about the days turning into night, I realized that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace both the light and the dark. And as I walked through Alamo Square and marveled at the beauty of the night scene around me, I felt nothing but wonder and gratitude.

San Francisco at night, from Alamo Square

I thought about the 6-year old me sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with my brothers, completely unaware of the fact that this would one-day be my home. I thought about the 20-something me daydreaming with my friend about San Francisco, about how we would get there and what it would be like. And I thought about the current me who had evolved from a place of daydreaming, to ambivalence about a city, to embracing it as my home. And as I looked at the stunning skyline glittering beneath the light of the moon, I was overcome with emotion and I once again thought to myself, “My God. How do I live HERE?”

This post is dedicated to Jules, who has forever been my ally and friend
along this journey.

Read Full Post »


Today I am faced with perhaps the most profound opportunity for growth that this life has yet afforded me. Today is the day that the man I have loved and trusted beyond all others, will marry another woman, the woman with whom he replaced me…instantly. Am I ok with this? This is an interesting question. I have been dreading this day for years, and while I was certain the answer to that question would have been a resounding “NO!”, I am pleasantly surprised and pleased to report that the actual answer is “I do not care.”

It is true that this man misled me, that he lied to me, and that he betrayed every promise he ever made to me. It is true that this man broke me, in the most profound sense of the word. And yet as I write this I am reminded that just the other day a dear friend of mine was telling me about a poem that she had written called “Broken Open,” a poem that described how we need to be broken open, so that we can more fully experience love and life. There is so much truth in that.

I am further reminded of the Tower card in Tarot. This is a card that on the surface is of utter destruction, of ruin, of falling down. The card itself depicts the collapse of a castle tower, falling into burning flames. And while this card is often feared and dreaded, it is actually a powerful card of transformation.  Although there are various interpretations, the central theme of what the Tower card actually represents is one’s life deconstructing itself, the falling away of that which doesn’t serve one. It represents the burning down to one’s core, and by that burning down to nothing but rubble, which equates to our true essence, that essence is then purified by the fire, allowing one to begin anew and rebuild one’s life, from a clean slate. And so I realize that my being broken by this man was part of a greater process, a process of removing the misaligned parts of my life. This was an experience, as painful and life-altering as it was, through which I needed to walk.

In 2008, while in the depths of my grief, I was in Sedona, Arizona, desperately seeking healing for this profound wound. I met with a healer there who said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that I had the cards of a “healer,” but that they were cards he seldom saw in someone of my young age, and rather were cards more typical of an 80-year old woman. He said to me, “Jeannie you have already lived through a lot in your life. This is for a reason. You are the wounded healer being healed. You are meant to walk through your own healing so that you may help others with theirs.” Chills came over me as he spoke those words, as nothing had ever rung so true for me. I knew I was on the path of the healer.

Now, three years later and after years of painstaking self-reflection, arduous emotional work and profound personal growth, my intuition and my higher guidance have guided me to become a writer, to share my stories from the heart in the hopes that they might help others. As I receive hundreds of emails and messages, from people of all ages, all over the world, telling me that my writing has brought them healing, I am humbled beyond any words. I am moved to my core knowing that I am on my destiny path, that I have been called to fulfill a higher purpose to help people.

And while what I went through with this man did break me to my core, while it ripped through me on a cellular level, I know that I can only owe him a debt of gratitude; for various reasons. If it were not for him, I would not have moved across the country to California, which is my true home; I would not have discovered Anusara yoga, which has changed my life; but the third reason why I owe him a debt of gratitude is the most meaningful: If his actions had not broken me to my core, I would not have lived through my “dark night of the soul,” I would not have had a powerful spiritual awakening and I would not be writing to you right now, from the seat of my destiny…

This post is dedicated to all of the beautiful souls who are suffering from broken hearts. May you embrace the pain, walk through it, and allow it to transform you.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: