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Posts Tagged ‘Yoga’


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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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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San Francisco golden Gate view

Four years ago today, I came to San Francisco for a one-month sublet. Life had proven to be quite hard in Los Angeles, nothing was working out, and I was stagnating…badly. Knowing that I had to make some kind of change, I figured I’d give San Francisco a whirl and see what came…

Five days later, a job offer fell in my lap, out of the blue. The next thing I knew, I was packing up my LA apartment and driving a large U-haul, by myself, up the I-5 to San Francisco. As I made that journey, unsure of what was to come (other than an Operations Management position at a start-up), I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined what would be coming in my future.

Here I was at my second start-up: lots of long hours, nose to the grind, managing a team of people in San Francisco, and eventually overseeing an entire call center in Denver. I was busy, doing the job of two people, and I was on the go all the time. I got promoted in that position, and then shortly thereafter I was tasked with building out a brand new sales division, something I embraced and into which I threw myself headfirst.

But…only a few months later, much to my surprise, I was let go… for the first time in my life. And why you might ask? Because I was “unhappy,” or so that was the reason they gave me. I will never forget that cab ride home, sharing my confounded emotions with my friendly and empathetic Brazilian cab driver.

That day was the end of one chapter, and it was about to be the beginning of another.

Whatever shock and upset I felt, somewhere on a deeper level, I knew that this event was a gift…an opportunity.

And somehow, as if on autopilot, I began writing; something that cascaded seemingly accidentally out of a simple request to share my story of healing through yoga. That story opened a floodgate that I didn’t know existed within me, and in me was revealed a writer with whom I had never before been acquainted.

A serendipitous email invitation to a Hay House (my favorite publisher!) Writers’ Workshop led me to San Diego where I learned how to write a book proposal and build a platform, all the while following my deepest intuition. Before I knew it, I was blogging in English and Spanish, to tens of thousands of people around the world. And to my surprise, they seemed to be listening.

The next thing I knew I had a solid book proposal, the help of an agent, and I was pitching a book about the power of positive thinking to publishers all over the country. Me. The same girl who only months prior had been running a customer service call center in Denver. Me. The same girl who had built out a client service team at a start-up in Washington, DC. Me. The same girl that had planned international student tours in Boston. Me. The same girl who had dropped out of graduate school and hated writing papers all throughout school. I was writing a book! And I had a lot of support.

As I worked to grow my platform, I began blogging for a couple different lifestyle, wellness, and yoga blogs. My audience grew, as did my list of invaluable connections. And then came the initiation of the second book project: The Yoga Diaries. Oh yoga! I haven’t properly mentioned yoga. No story of my life in San Francisco is remotely complete without talking about my beloved practice of yoga.

Those of you who have followed my blog already know that yoga has and continues to change my life radically, ever guiding me into new and mind-blowing adventures and experiences. What started as a practice from a deep place of pain and sorrow in Los Angeles, carried me forth on my healing journey into San Francisco. And now free of a very stressful job, I had more time to devote to my yoga practice. I enrolled in a 7-month intensive yoga immersion, fully intending to take my practice and my understanding of yoga history, principles, and philosophy to an even deeper place.

Triangle

And deeper I went. Over that 7-month period, magic happened. There really are no words with which I can adequately do justice to how profoundly yoga has changed my life and my entire existence. But suffice it to say, through the consistent and dedicated practice, I tapped into a well of calm and peace so deep within me, a profound oasis of joy and bliss. I blasted my heart wide open and my spirit began to expand into the heavens.

I was able to take it all in: the beauty and joy that was around me every single day, the delightful moments that occurred at every turn once I opened my eyes and began seeing them, the love and human connection that was all around me, and within me. I was buzzing with delight and I was seeing the entire world, all of existence, through a completely different lens…a permanent and unshakeable lens.

The Yoga Diaries began to grow. I received more and more wonderfully inspiring stories of healing through yoga, from people of all walks of life, from all over the world. And in no time at all, I realized that I was on a mission, a personal quest to bring greater healing to the masses. I knew that yoga had transformed my own life in breathtaking ways, and from all of the wonderful friends that I was meeting in my yoga immersion, I could also see that yoga had transformed many of my friends in equally sweeping and speechless manners. I knew that yoga had the power to change the world and I knew I needed to spread that message.

Amazing souls began to cross my path, so many deeply spiritual beings, soul brothers and sisters in exploration on this seeking journey. We were all working to help others and change the world in different, yet complementary ways, and we came together to support each other in ways that still astonish and amaze me. One thing led to another and I was introduced to a best-selling yoga author, for whom I began working as a consultant. The connections grew, the Universal support continued to flow, the right person continued to show up at just the right moment.

And all of that culminated in me finishing my second book proposal, this time for The Yoga Diaries. And as if the Universe wanted to show me that it continued to support me, more and more magic began to unfold. I became friends with several published authors (including the best-selling one!), all of whom offered happily to refer me to agents and publishers. I began to simply follow the breadcrumbs and they led me from one door to the next. When one door would close, another window would open and there were more breadcrumbs to follow. And I knew to simply keep trusting…Until eventually my book proposal had personally arrived into the hands of a dozen acquisition editors, among them the head editor at my favorite publishing company; yes the aforementioned Hay House!

As I write this blog, on my lap sits another Hay House book that was personally sent to me by the acquisitions editor at Hay House. And as my bookmark, sits the hand-written note-card from this editor, a truly prized possession which will eventually go into a frame and onto the wall of proud and awe-inspiring moments of my life.

Once I walked through all of the open doors, and my book had safely arrived into all of these capable hands, I knew that my part was done. And from that point on, I released the project into the arms of the Universe and there it presently resides, cradled in the vast unknown.

And as to the outcome, I have let go of it. For I know that I have done all I could do. I know that I put my heart and soul into this project and I know that beyond any book, my main purpose was to spread the word about the healing power of yoga. Earlier this week, I published a truly inspiring story about a 68-year-old man who had overcome a stroke and is now healthy and thriving from his yoga practice. As a result, a 65-year-old stranger reached out to say he was inspired and wanted to begin a yoga practice. In that moment, I knew that it didn’t matter if the book ever got published. That 65-year-old man, and hundreds of others like him, was the outcome. That is my happy ending.

And so in recent weeks, as I’ve begun to move on from the book project, I’ve felt that the writing chapter is coming to a close, at least for the time being. And I’ve felt an internal shift and a readiness to get back to another career. And I can sense deep inside of me that just like the previous chapter that began with me losing my job, that the next new chapter is also about to begin, with the finishing of my book.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying home from Maine, where I just spent an all-day interview, for a job (here in San Francisco) that I would love to have. And I don’t know if that job will come through or not, but as I look down on the Earth from 30,000 feet, I know that I stand on the precipice of the next great chapter.

I fly home to San Francisco knowing that it truly is home. San Francisco has changed me in ways that were once unfathomable to me. I came to this magnificent city, a little bit lost and very damaged, and somewhat “by accident.” And as I fly back to the Bay, I know that I am whole. I am happy. I have a life and a community that I love, in a city where magic awaits around every turn. I am living more authentically and vibrantly than I have ever lived in my life. I have awakened within me a writer whose voice will never be extinguished, no matter where else my path takes me. And with that new voice and a clear mind, I stand ready, open, and excited for the next chapter…and with it, all of the wild and amazing adventures, and magic, that await.

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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

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Enjoying the sun

On the eve of my 38th birthday, I sit here in a cafe, wanting to sing out at the top of my lungs, bursting with passion and light. There are hardly words powerful enough to express how much I love my life, how much happiness I feel inside. On a daily basis, my spirit is overflowing with radiant joy and I am forever in search of the right words, words compelling and powerful enough to do it justice. And I realize this is a good challenge to have! But it wasn’t always this way. I fought a long, hard, soul-wrenching journey to arrive in this place.

As is so often the case on one’s birthday, I too find myself in deep reflection of my past journey: each choice made, every road taken, to get me to the place where I am today. When I was a teenager I said to my friends that when I was older I wanted to move around and live in different places. Somehow I knew I wasn’t meant to stay where I was. It seems I always had a wanderlust inside of me, and I could never have imagined what a self-fulfilling prophecy that statement would become. I first dipped my exploratory toes in the water by leaving my home town to move to the summer beach town of York Beach, Maine. This first spreading of my wings would allow me to take flight, and fly I did… straight across the ocean to spend a full year of living in Spain. After that year abroad, there was no going back. I knew it was only full steam ahead.

But the real meat of my journey began when I left college and stepped boldly into adulthood, venturing out on my own as an independent, self-sufficient, fearless adult. And that was the beginning of the journey to fulfilling my childhood prophecy.

I’ve been thinking about the scene in Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert is contemplating the meaning of her own journey and what the city of Rome represents to her. This got me to thinking of each of the incredible, distinctive cities in which I have lived and worked as an adult, and what they represented to me. And I asked myself, “If I could find one word to define what each city meant to me, what would it be?” Somehow the answers came to me almost instantly.

The first city on my journey was Boston. And the word:

Foundation.

Paul Revere Boston

Photo by Flickr User NathanF.

In my senior year of college I was determined to end up anywhere but Boston, as I was already eager to soar to more distant shores. But it seemed that there in Boston I was meant to stay (at least for then), so that I could build the strong foundations under my feet. No matter where else I have lived, Boston is always the home in my heart, the place where I was able to develop into a strong adult, the place that forged the fire of my inner identity. Boston and her people would have a powerful influence over how I would see the world, over my political ideology, my values, and my manner of interacting in the world. This city, so real and down to earth, would encourage in me my open and direct, “tell it like it is” nature, my high energy and fast-paced, sarcastic wit… oh and of course a superior driving ability. 😉

During my six years in Boston, I had the fortune of experiencing what it truly means to be fulfilled by a career, and to love going to work every day. My work in international educational travel allowed students to open their eyes and see the world. This work took me overseas multiple times per year, using my Spanish, connecting with foreign souls, learning about the world…building the foundation of who I would become.

Boston would also teach me about the highest and lowest experiences of the heart, connecting me with my first true love, my first passionate soul connection, and in turn my first debilitating broken heart and my first sobering bout of depression. And though I could never have imagined it at the time, this was all part of building a solid foundation, it was laying the building blocks of a strong heart.

When my despair began to overshadow the beauty in my life, when I could no longer bear to look at sights of memories gone by, without being torn apart by the pain, that is when I knew it was time to move on. After six years of exploring her historic cobblestone streets, meandering past her gas lanterns, and taking in the salty sea air, it was my time to leave Boston.

My next destination was Washington, DC, a city to which, only a few years prior, I had stubbornly stated that I would never move. And yet here I was. And the word for DC:

Exploration.

After 911 decimated the student travel industry, I left behind the career I had loved and the only life I had known, to explore being a new version of myself. Passionate about foreign affairs and spurred on by the events taking place in the world, I enrolled in a Master’s of International Affairs program at George Washington University. I remember my first weeks in DC, being so excited to explore a new place. I ventured out around her quaint neighborhoods, admiring her majestic Ambassadorial residences, and charmed by her tree-lined streets, this time with colorful row-houses, a contrast to the dark brownstones of Boston. I was enchanted by her vibrant cherry blossoms, her colorful tulips and daffodils sprouting out from every corner. I was captivated by her diversity, her rich cultural and international identity; and by so many amazing and idealistic causes, initiatives, and events unfolding across the city. Engaged and mentally stimulated at every turn, I was exploring a completely different life than the one I had known in Boston.

DC cherry blossoms

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that my exploration into graduate school was not in fact the right path. Turned off by bureaucracy and red-tape, this fast-talking, fast-moving Bostonian needed something that was much more dynamic, much more fluid. After one semester, I decided to take a leave of absence to explore other options.

The sages say “Ask and you shall receive.” If I wanted fast-moving and dynamic, that was exactly what I would get when I suddenly found myself in my very first start-up role. Here in a city known for government and politics, I had found a tiny slice of the dot-com world. And the exploration continued. As I developed into my first ever management role, building out an entire department, team, and infrastructure from scratch, and working infinite hours to do so, at the same time there was a deep exploration of the heart taking place. I was involved (or perhaps “entangled” would be a better word) with my next love, a man who now lived 3,000 miles across the country, in Los Angeles; a man that had “accidentally” become my best friend, a man that could complete my sentences, a man that understood ever fiber of my being. But with this exploration came great challenge and confusion, for this man and I had several years between us, and we were in decidedly different phases of our lives, both ready for different things, and seemingly heading in different directions. And so all good things shall come to an end.

I loved my time living in Washington, DC, but from the moment I arrived, I somehow knew it was only temporary. There was a deep calling within me, an inner knowing that I must one day move to the west coast. When this man suddenly met another woman and chose her to walk beside, I knew that this period of exploration was over, and that instead it was time for decisive action. Around the same time, my start-up had gotten acquired, and I knew it was becoming time to move on from Washington, DC. After four years of walking past the White House and the great halls of Congress, biking the shores of the Potomac River, sitting next to the magnificent seat of Abraham Lincoln and looking out over the National Mall in deep contemplation, I knew it was time to leave the nation’s great capital. And it was the time to take the next step towards my destiny path of moving to the west coast.

It is safe to say that had it not been for this man, Los Angeles would never in a million years have been on my radar. In fact ask him at the time and he would have told you that I hated Los Angeles. And yet the next thing I knew I was loaded up in my 1997 Saturn, with a friend and my loyal feline companion, and I was going for broke. I knew I had to fight for love.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

3,000 miles later I drove into the city of Los Angeles, the blazing sunset lighting up the palm trees and sparkling with possibility over the sea before me. And so began my new life on the west coast. And the word that would come to represent Los Angeles:

Awakening.

It was here in Los Angeles that the man for whom I had risked it all, rejected me and wrote me out of his story. He was moving on and in the blink of an eye, he was out of my life forever. Forget about him having been my best friend, forget about him having known my soul more deeply than any other being, forget about all of the sincere promises to be in my life forever. None of that seemed to matter. He disappeared into the night. And here begins the “dark night of the soul.” Having just given up a high-paying, stable job and great friends in DC, I now found myself jobless, friendless, and virtually alone in the City of Angels. Despite the name, I felt no angels by my side. I felt completely alone in a vast sea of emptiness, left with nothing but a gaping hole in my heart.

Looking back with hindsight, I can now see that what I’ve described above are the perfect conditions to launch one into a powerful spiritual awakening; when one hits the true rock bottom and when there is nowhere deeper to go, I believe that this is when we are perfectly prepared to crack wide open. And crack open I did.

There were angels in Los Angeles, and those angels guided me to yoga.

The practice of yoga would change my life forever and in ways of which I could never dare dream. The yoga created a profound energetic shift within me and magic began to stir. Psychic dreams began to occur, my empathic abilities became incredibly heightened. I could feel the Kundalini energy awakening within me. In one of my darkest moments, all of these swirling energies culminated for me in a powerful out of body experience. My spirit left my body and in an instant I was embraced in the warm light of the Divine. When I came back into my body, my life would never again be the same. I knew for certain the immortality of my own soul, I knew that I was part of a greater sea of energy, of a collective consciousness. And I  knew that I would never again be alone. “Awakening” truly is the only word that I have been able to identify that comes close to describing what I experienced.

After this experience, my connection with Los Angeles was never the same. I would hike regularly in the Hollywood Hills and each time I did, I would be overcome with emotion when I would reach the top and look down on the breathtaking, expansive city below. And I understood in an instant why the Spaniards had named it “The City of Angels.” They too must have felt what I felt. Love poured down from the heavens and into my soul. I now knew that there were angels all around me. I felt them. I sensed them. It is somewhat ironic given the negative stereotypes of Los Angeles, but to this day, Los Angeles remains the place on this Earth where I have felt the most spiritually connected.

As I continued down the yogic path, my life began to align in crazy and undeniable ways. My intuition and inner guidance grew stronger and stronger and signs appeared to me, left and right, guiding me along my path, showing me which way to go. And the signs were very clearly pointing in one direction, and one direction only: to San Francisco. And the word that has come to encapsulate San Francisco for me:

Expansion.

How do I even begin to describe the magic, the sheer expansion that has occurred in my life since moving to San Francisco? There is so much: So much beauty, so much Grace, so much of the right person showing up at the right time, so much of the perfect opportunity falling in my lap at exactly the moment that I needed it, so much unexplainable mystery and synchronicity that defies all reason and logic. And it happens on a regular basis.

I moved to San Francisco on the tails of another dot-com job, thus continuing on the career path previously started in Washington, DC. But it became quickly clear to me that this job was merely a catalyst to get me to San Francisco. The job that brought me here eventually let me go, releasing me into the perfect storm of freedom and opportunity, a culmination of all of my different life experiences coming together in a singular moment; a moment that I don’t even remember, the moment when I chose be a writer. Looking back, I truthfully have no recollection of this precise moment, of the how, the why, the when. It just happened. It was as if the Divine hand of Grace reached down and took me over and I was simply on auto-pilot.

San Francisco golden Gate view

From that moment on my life has expanded beyond my wildest dreams. I am blown away and humbled on a daily basis by the large audience that has gathered in support around me, from all around the world; people who are actually interested in hearing what I have to say: ME. This still astonishes me. My writing has been featured in various online publications; I appeared in my first print magazine, as Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in her Whole Living Magazine (I still have to pinch myself over this one!), and I am honored for my next, upcoming appearance in Origin Magazine. I have been interviewed by the most wonderful people, truly beautiful souls who are aligning with their true paths. And I know, with such clarity, that I too have aligned with my true purpose: to help people to heal, by sharing my experiences of triumph over darkness, and by sharing stories of the healing power of yoga, as I do weekly in my blog, The Yoga Diaries™. I believe that yoga has the power to heal the world and I am on a personal mission to share that message.

As I marvel at the unbelievable blessings that occur in my life on a daily basis, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for these gifts. And through the ongoing expression and practice of gratitude, I see even more of it flow into my life. The beauty continues to compound upon itself. I have met the most incredible people on this journey: beautiful friends who walk beside me on this soul path; amazing connections around every corner, people who are living from the heart and following their passions to do good for the world. All of this has amazingly even led to me working with a best-selling author, who has become a good friend. And I continue to be blown away. I stand in awe, every single day, of the wonderful souls that surround me, that support me, and that help my spirit and my life to expand beyond all wonder.

I often have younger people express to me their confusion about their paths, struggling to make sense of where it’s all going. And I always assure them that one day they will reach a point where they will be able to look back and realize that all the dots connected. As I reflect on my own journey, I am once again able to see the same thing. Not only do the dots connect, but if we are open and paying attention to the signs around us, they do so in miraculous and mind-blowing ways.

I stand on the many hilltops of San Francisco, looking out at the spectacular beauty all around me, and all I see are limitless possibilities. And I feel my spirit expand towards the heavens.

Heart Wide Open Cropped

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