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winding-pathLife is funny. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we know where life is leading us. Sometimes we end up where we predict or in a place that we intended, but so often we end up surprised by the path, astonished by how it all unfolded.

Two years ago I flew to Seattle for a job interview. I had been living in San Francisco for several years and after having spent a few of those years semi-employed while I worked on publishing my first book, I reached the end of that road and had to go back to work. But life in San Francisco was beginning to feel somewhat stagnant, so I took the opportunity for an interview in Seattle. You see, my eldest brother had lived there for decades, so there were plenty of good reasons for me to move to Seattle. And years prior, when I had visited him during college, I had declared that one day I wanted to live in Seattle.

As I flew into Seattle, I descended into the fog and as I rode in my taxi into the city, I looked at the gray, rainy skies around me. After falling in love with the California sunshine, I knew immediately that I just couldn’t see this for myself. I went through the interview (which was for a really interesting job opportunity), but I knew from the moment I walked in the door that I was just going thru the motions. I knew this was not meant to be.

I had rented a place in Capitol Hill for the weekend so that I might get a feel for what it would be like to live there. I went to the yoga studio to which I had many connections. As I roamed around the neighborhood, I thought to myself, “Maybe one day I’ll own property here to rent out, but I can’t see myself living here.” I knew that Seattle was not in the cards for me… or so I thought.

I returned home to San Francisco and I took a job offer that I already knew I did not want. It was a job that would take me back to the corporate rat race, a position that was not aligned with the work of higher consciousness in which I had been engaged through my yoga and writing over the previous years. But San Francisco now being the most expensive city in the country, I knew that I had no choice. I put on my corporate suit, and walked into the uptight, stuffy office, day after day, knowing that this job would crush my soul. I knew I had to get out from the moment I arrived.

A week into that job, I met the man who would become my boyfriend, ironically a Bostonian like me, who had much more recently than I, moved to California. We connected immediately, our Bostonian sarcastic wit creating sparks between us. “Could this be the reason I came to this job?, ” I asked myself. I did not know …

Fast forward a year and a half. That boyfriend and I reached the turning point where we were to take it to the next level of our relationship. But the reality was that with the drastically rising cost of living in San Francisco, we simply could not afford to rent a larger apartment, or ever dream of owning in San Francisco. So we began talking about the next chapter.

This was very difficult for me as San Francisco had been the city where I had truly stepped into my inner power and strength, the place where I had healed my mind, body and soul, the place where I had tasted the sweetest, most joyful bliss I had ever known. I was in alignment. I had stepped into my soul’s purpose and I knew I was on the path I was meant to be living on this Earth.

Triangle

Alamo Square, San Francisco

But that reality kept crashing up against the reality that one could simply not manage to stay in San Francisco unless they were rich. And even if we stayed, how would we ever save and retire? We wouldn’t. We couldn’t. I knew a time of hard decisions was upon me.

We began talking about different places we might live. We both had wanted to escape the cold winters of the Northeast and we both loved beach and summer, so we talked about San Diego. But that didn’t have the tech market that he needed for his work and it didn’t have the vibrant energy that I need in a city. Then we talked about LA. But I had already lived there years before and going back didn’t feel right to either of us. Then we explored Portland. Too small, too rainy. So Seattle entered the picture again.

I had tried for years to convince myself that it was the next place I should consider moving, but after that last interview in Seattle, my brother had said to me, “You always consider Seattle, but it’s never right. It’s just not your city.” It really didn’t feel like it was.

But the more my boyfriend and I talked, the more Seattle started to make sense. It had a great tech scene for him, my brother and his family were here, it had a great yoga scene and the same progressive, environmental, forward-thinking lifestyle and attitudes with which we had resonated in San Francisco. There was really only one negative: the weather. Those cold, wet, dreary winters. After eight years in the California sunshine, and realizing how happy the sun had actually made me, I just didn’t know if it was possible for me to be happy in Seattle.

Despite that, from the moment Seattle entered our conversation, pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. My boyfriend got a great job interview in Seattle. Also, over the previous year, I had managed to leave the soul-sucking job and had returned to a former job that I had loved, a job that allowed me to work from home. And at this exact time, a colleague of mine left, and the Pacific Northwest territory fell into my lap. And then my boyfriend got the job he had interviewed for, a great job in his dream industry. With that seed planted, I asked my company about the possibility of me moving to Seattle. Having just given me this territory, they were on board with the idea, and the wheels were set in motion.

The next thing we knew we were packing up both of our apartments, loading the pets into the car and moving truck and we were on our way to the Emerald City.

(Ironically we ended up living in the very neighborhood that I had explored two years ago during that job interview – the neighborhood where I had imagined that maybe one day I’d own rental property. And we ended up living, somewhat “accidentally,” directly across the street from the yoga studio that I had attended in the past.)

Days turned into weeks, turned into months, and we began to create our new life in Seattle.The transition was hard. I had left my beloved city and yoga community. I had left the apartment which had been my favorite home, the place that had held my life so sweetly for six years, the place where I had awakened and blossomed into my truest self. And not only was I starting over in a new city, but I was also moving in with a partner for the first time in my 40 years. Anyone who has ever lived with a partner knows that that alone is no small transition, never mind adding a new city to the mix!

To add to the challenge, I had also left behind in San Francisco another brother and a very special niece and nephew who only knew life with Aunt Jeannie in it. My heart broke. I missed San Francisco. I missed her breathtaking views. And as the seasons changed, I sorely began to miss her sun. The sky grew dark and gray and depression began to set in. I was lost. I was confused. I was suffocated by confusion. I wasn’t sure which way to go.

I struggled through the fall, unsure if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life having given up the security of my rent-controlled apartment (otherwise known in San Francisco as the “golden handcuffs”). I dug deep into my spiritual practice; I began meditating like crazy, really desperately. I kept on with my yoga practice, trying to go as often as possible, seeking out teachers that could even begin to fill the shoes of my amazing and masterful teachers in San Francisco. The search was not an easy one.

But little by little, the right teachers began to reveal themselves. I came to the mat more and more, and new friends started to appear next to me on the mat. I found myself making friends more quickly and easily than had ever been the case in any other city; and I had a lot of experience on this front, having lived in five cities in the past two decades. I was finding friends who were aligned with my path, friends who spoke my language, friends who understood me and related to my experiences. And it started to become clear that the people who were crossing my path were exactly the people I was meant to meet on this next phase of my journey.

This morning I went to a new favorite Bhakti yoga class, a class that I feel extremely grateful to have found as it resonates deeply with my soul on a cellular level. Here I practice with a room full of yogis, as we move gracefully through our poses, chanting in unison and blending our energies with one another. Such beauty. Such connection.

When I sat on the mat today I introduced myself to the woman beside me. She and I shared the common thread of having lived in Los Angeles. At the end of practice, I was commending her on one of the most beautiful and solid handstands I’d ever seen. When I asked her how long it took her to get to that point in her practice, she began telling me about a teacher in LA that had taught her handstand. It was a name I immediately knew, a teacher whose wife I had worked with closely on one of my own writing projects. Not only had this woman and I lived in the same city, but we had both moved to Seattle at the same time and we knew these same people. I knew that our meeting was fortuitous.

This is the synchronicity that I love about yoga. The more one practices yoga, the more these little magical moments occur – I believe sign posts from the Universe confirming that we are on the right path. I thought of the tea that I shared yesterday with a new yoga friend to whom I feel a deep connection, and of the new friends that I seem to be making day after day. And in that moment, I knew that I had found my tribe, and with it, my next home.

Seattle skyline

Seattle Skyline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DSCN1858
Eight years ago, on July 1, 2007, I rolled into Los Angeles, in my little, green Saturn, with a sense of adventure and an eager heart, ready to fight for love. I fought and I lost. Hard. Shortly after my arrival in California, the housing crisis hit and then the recession. Out of work with no prospects, I was forced to take a minimum wage job. As I bled through my savings, I had no idea what the future would hold. I guess I could say that was the low point of my life. Enter dark night of the soul.

Then I discovered yoga and something deep inside me began to percolate and awaken. The debris started to get swept away, the pain began to transform itself and new possibilities began to appear. During this time I landed a full-time job, only to be laid off eight months later when the recession was in full swing. Lost and unsure of what to do next, I went to yoga. I meditated. I hiked. I walked along the beach. I fell in love with Los Angeles.

Me on top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, with Machu Picchu far below

Me on top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, with Machu Picchu far below

I fulfilled my dream of traveling to Peru and stood in the magical place that is Machu Picchu. And synchronicity began to flow into my life. On a yoga retreat with a group from San Francisco, the seeds were planted. The next thing I knew, a start-up job would take me unexpectedly to San Francisco, forcing me to leave behind the City of Angels before I was ready to go. A heart-wrenching move that was for me, but clearly one that was meant to be.

I “accidentally” landed on the same street as my brother and had the privilege of becoming Aunt Jeannie to my very first nephew, Brendan. The following year I would lose that start-up job, this time going out in a blaze of glory. Like the job loss before it, this would turn out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life, a blessing in disguise.

After I left that job, I was suddenly a writer – the most unexpected twist in my journey thus far. I was blogging, writing pieces for several different websites, appearing in different magazines, making amazing connections. I had the honor of working as a social media consultant for a best-selling author and I was making insanely unexpected connections in the publishing world. And then there was a journey to the other side of the world – my first trip to Asia, on a yoga retreat to Bali. My universe was expanding and my perspective shifting in fantastic ways.

At the same time I had taken my first Anusara Yoga immersion, and in the process discovered the most amazing community of people. I found my teachers, met my dearest of friends. I was doing tons of yoga. I found the most magical little meditation group. I was writing in cafes. I was living in yoga pants and taking long walks around this breathtaking city. I was living through the happiest, most joyful, most inspiring and abundant time of my life.

The next year, I became an auntie yet again, this time to my niece Gwenna. Over the years since, I have become a permanent fixture in the lives of my niece and nephew – Aunt Jeannie that lives in the cool apartment, a mile down the road. How blessed I am and continue to be.

But as reality would have it, the life of a writer does not pay the rent in San Francisco and so I had to return to the corporate world. I suddenly found myself back in the rat race, in a very undesirable position. Every day was a struggle. Every day I had to drag myself out of bed. But on the first week of this job, I walked into my HR orientation and met a Bostonian named Andy with a strong No’th Sho’ accent. A beautiful friendship blossomed and that friendship turned into love.

Final book simulationThen I published a book. The Yoga Diaries was a labor of love, a culmination of years of darkness that became transformed by yoga and delivered me into the happiest, most joyful, most abundant time of my life. This was my moment of giving birth, to all of the dark and light, all of the strength and wisdom that lay within me.

I managed to get myself out of the less than ideal job situation, and what I took with me were a couple great, new friends and my now sweetheart. And then in yet another surprising turn of events, the stars aligned to lead me back to my former company in Boston, a company I worked for over a decade ago, the best company I’ve ever known. And now here I am, eight years later, living in San Francisco, in a city and a state that have changed me into the best possible version of myself, working for a fabulous Bostonian company, and being blessed with the love of a wonderful Bostonian man. It seems that my life has come full circle.

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Final book simulation

Six years ago I was living in Los Angeles during the darkest time of my life. In an act of desperation, I walked into a yoga studio. That single act changed the entire course of my life. Over the years that followed, the yoga practice proceeded to transform my mind, body, and spirit, on every level. Profound healing occurred. Forces aligned. Synchronicity abounded. Soul brothers and sisters showed up on the same path, and I began to witness powerful transformations occurring all around me. I quickly began to see the undeniable–that yoga changes lives; that yoga has the power to heal so much human pain and suffering; that yoga brings magical connection and serendipity into our lives. I knew this was a message that I needed to spread. I knew that I needed to help others to heal and transform their own lives. I knew this was my mission. And so began a labor of love …

I am so thrilled to announce the publication of The Yoga Diaries. The Yoga Diaries brings together 30 diverse yogis, of all ages and from all walks of life, to share their stories of transformation through yoga: stories of physical and emotional healing; stories of overcoming great adversity; stories of finding one’s true purpose; stories of breathtaking, alchemical soul transformations.

The personal and inspiring stories of the brave yogis within these pages will convince you that yoga is a practice for anyone … for everyone.

Available now on Amazon.

I am immensely proud of and thankful for these brave spiritual warriors for having the courage to share their beautiful stories: B Grace Bullock, Jean Merlen, Gitte Lindgaard, Katherine Girotti, Sara Curry, Barry Hurchalla, Elizabite McGlinchey, Alexander Litvak, Alli Banks, Amber Shumake, Maiga Milbourne, Rachel Wolfe, Bridget Boland, Heather Mitchell Jefferson, Erin Lee, Colleen Millen, Desiree Rumbaugh, Rebecca Butler, Julie Peoples-Clark, Natalia Chaparro, J Brown Yoga, Krissie Penney, Ina Sahaja, Paulina Julián Colin, Nick Montoya, Ashley Herzberger, Candice Garrett, Bridget Lyons, Dagmar Spremberg.

May their stories and their inner light shine out and inspire people all over the world!

And may you be inspired to begin your own journey towards healing …

 

Cover design by Gibran Julian.

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Five years ago today I came to San Francisco for a 1-month sublet, my kitties in tow. I was on the tail end of the darkest depression of my life and my life was stagnating in Los Angeles. I knew I needed to make a change, but I had no idea where it would lead or what I would find in San Francisco. But in the face of fear and doubt, I blindly took the first step. Five days later a job offer had fallen in my lap. Overnight I had to find someone to take over my lease in Los Angeles, find a permanent apartment here in San Francisco, pack up my apartment, and drive the Uhaul, by myself, the six lonely hours up the I-5. I’ll never forget the experience of driving out of Los Angeles. It was 2009 and we were experiencing some of the worst fires in LA history, and they were extremely close to the city. As I drove through Hollywood and up the 101, I could see smoke, ash, and flames on both sides of the freeway. I felt like I was literally driving out of the mouths of Hell. Little did I know, I was actually the Phoenix about to rise from the ashes.

TriangleI started my new life in San Francisco, disillusioned by the weather and really missing my Hollywood Hills and my Mediterranean lifestyle. I found myself in a stressful start-up job, with an environment that gradually became more and more toxic. What was I doing? Where was I going? I had no idea. I came to my mat. I sought out solace in my yoga community. I knew nobody. But I kept coming to my mat. And little by little, month after month, I began to make new friends and build a new community. That job eventually fired me and I stood in one of the most important and pivotal moments of my life. Somewhat accidentally, at this same time, I found myself in the unexpected seat of the writer. I wrote my story of healing through yoga. A floodgate opened. The next thing I knew I had a blog with thousands of followers around the globe. Life was surprising me at every turn. I began writing for several different blogs and making new connections, collaborating with other creative beings all over the world. I was taking major risks. Around the same time I enrolled in a 7-month intensive yoga immersion. My yoga practice deepened to levels I never could have imagined and a community of friends formed around me. The most beloved, devoted friends of my life began to step forward, sharing in the journey and supporting me all along the way.

San Francisco has changed me in ways I never dared dream. It has brought magic, synchronicity, and connection – truly unbelievable experiences that continue to inspire and amaze me day in and day out. And then there was a book. For the past three years, I have rejected society’s norms. I have walked to the beat of my own drum, I have followed my heart and I have lived without fear. I have rejected the notion that I have to do anything that is dictated by others. During that time a book formed- a passion project which set out to share the countless inspirational stories of transformation through yoga that I continued to hear left and right. And with it, a mission. My mission: to share the power of the practice; to bring greater peace, love, and healing to the world; to empower people to overcome their darkness and step into the light.

On this five year anniversary of beginning my life in San Francisco, it seems perfectly poignant that I stand at the precipice of publishing The Yoga Diaries. And I look back in absolute astonishment at this incredibly rich, surprising, powerful journey that has unfolded before me – A journey that I created.

There is no amount of gratitude that I could express that would do justice to how thankful I feel; thankful for this magnificent, breathtaking city that has taken me to new heights; thankful for all of the beautiful beings that have crossed my path, become my brothers and sisters, and supported my dreams and my personal growth; a life so rich and full of Grace and love. I am the Phoenix and I have risen.

Phoenix Rising

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I am always amazed at how things often have a magical way of unfolding.

This past weekend I was supposed to go camping with my meditation group. We had had it on the calendar for a while and I had gotten the time off from my weekend job. I was excited as this would be my first camping trip in years and I looked forward to going deep, in the stillness of nature, with my sweet little meditation group.

But as it often does, things come up and as the weekend got closer, unfortunately a couple of people had to cancel and in the end we decided to postpone. I was disappointed, but I knew we’d go another time.

However, as the weekend unfolded, and different plans began to take form, I was blessed to witness something so magical, so inspiring, that I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

My good friend Rebecca (also from said meditation group) and I decided to go for a day hike in Tennessee Valley, just a handful of miles north of the city. San Francisco summer was full on: it was hot, sunny and clear blue skies; the perfect day for a hike to the beach.

When we got to the parking lot, we decided it was too hot for sneakers and slipped into more comfortable shoes for the fairly flat walk to the beach. Rebecca put on her favorite pair of flip-flops and we made our way to the Pacific. It was a beautiful day at the beach. It was hot, but there was a perfect, soft sea breeze and for once it was actually warm enough to wade in the water (a rare thing in San Francisco).

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

We left our shoes in the sand, went into the water, and waded around happily for a while at the shore. Walking along the beach, the tide was clearly coming in and the waves were catching us by surprise and splashing playfully against us. Set against the shimmering water were the beautiful California hills, limestone cliffs jutting up dramatically against the sky.

We walked around a rock and at that moment, we saw a big wave coming. Rebecca managed to run away from it, but I on the other hand was not fast enough and got a refreshing sprinkle.

With the tide coming in so fast, our thoughts turned to our shoes and it occurred to us that we hadn’t even thought about how far they were from the water. We wondered if they were even still there, or if they had been whisked away, sacrificed into the sea. We began walking back the short distance of the beach, preparing and laughing to ourselves about the prospect of having to possibly hike back to the car barefoot.

As we got closer and closer, I saw no shoes in sight. I was convinced they were long gone and I chuckled. Yes, it would be unfortunate, but it makes for a great story, so the humor in it did not escape me. However, as we made our way back to the spot where we thought the shoes were, a friendly woman asked us if these shoes were ours, pointing to the wet, sand-covered shoes. Yep, that was them. The tide had in fact tried to steal them away from us, but thanks to the kindness of complete strangers, we would not have to go shoeless that day. That was just one of the magical encounters of the day.

I tell this part of the story because it is relevant to the next part. If we hadn’t found our shoes, we wouldn’t have ventured out on our next adventure and we wouldn’t have experienced the most magical encounter of all.

As we began making our way back towards the car, along the dry, dusty path, we saw several different trails, to the left and right, meandering up and over the rolling hills. We knew we didn’t have loads of time, and as the trail heads were marked with their corresponding mileage, we decided to take the shortest one, a 1.9 mile trail up to the right. And off we went.

Shortly after embarking along the path, suddenly we were under a canopy of trees, in what I can only describe as a tiny enchanted forest. We crossed over a sweet little bridge over a trickle of river and the sun was magically filtering through the trees. Within the rest of the dry, hot landscape, this little oasis seemed very out of place. We reveled in it.

Emerging out of this small grove, we then started heading up and up over the hill. As we got further along and it began to get steeper, Rebecca began to hesitate. She was uncertain if her flip-flops would be able to handle the slippery slope back down and she of course didn’t want to fall. We knew we weren’t prepared to do a major hike in our chosen footwear, but we figured we’d go as far as we could. So we paused for a moment as she tested out the security of her footing beneath her.

In that moment, I looked up and saw something I will never forget. I turned to Rebecca and in response to her question about whether or not we should keep going, I said, “Look up and I think you have your answer. Let’s keep going.”

She looked up and saw what I saw. There was a man, with not one, but two prosthetic legs, walking carefully down the steep dirt trail, ensuring that he had his footing as he went. And if that isn’t incredible enough, not only did he have two prosthetic legs, he also had one prosthetic arm. And this man was hiking, by himself. Are you blown away yet? Because there’s more. Yes, more. On top of having three prosthetic limbs, this amazing human being was also carrying a mountain bike over his shoulder. This man (perhaps a veteran of war?), who through some unknown turn of events was left with only one natural limb, was spending the day hiking and mountain-biking. Rebecca and I were completely dumbfounded.

As the man (who was quite good-looking by the way- just sayin’!) walked by, we greeted him and asked him how his day was going. He returned our greeting with a friendly smile. We asked him how much farther it was to the top and he told us we were about 65% of the way. We wished him a beautiful day and kept on going. And as we continued up the hill, our hearts were blown wide open. We, both of us, were absolutely in awe of this beautiful spirit, this incredible being whose story we knew nothing about, but who clearly had the immeasurable strength to overcome so much adversity. And we stood in wonder of the resilience of the human spirit.

We got to the top of the crest and looked out at the breathtaking scenery: romantic, rolling hills colliding with the churning ocean, and a group of hawks soaring majestically above. I was filled with goose bumps. Rebecca and I looked at each other and we acknowledged the absolute gift with which we had just been blessed; the absolute wonder and testament to the triumphant nature of the human spirit. The two of us were overflowing with amazement and gratitude.

Tennessee Valley

In the end, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy that our camping trip got canceled because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that encounter for the world. It was an experience by which I was deeply humbled, a gift for which I am truly grateful, and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

And if ever you find yourself thinking that you are incapable of accomplishing or overcoming something? Think again.

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

~ Helen Keller

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