“Stickin’ it to the Man” Kale Chips Recipe

Because Chanel is awesome and I now wanna make these kale chips just so can stick it to the man.

The Swaying Hammock

Kale Chips Image for Blog

So, a lot of you have been asking for me to post my cheesy kale chip recipe and I have promised that I would, so here it is. I have had a lot of home made kale chips (including my own when I was very new to the health food world) that were just not good. I mean, really not good. Really, who wants to eat a paper-thin sheet of salty dehydrated kale? Not me! So, here is a kale chip recipe that is SUPER easy AND comes out like those delicious, crunchy nuggets you get at the store but way fresher and definitely cheaper and if you like to experiment, you can make them any flavor you want. You know what the best part about them is though? Once you make these a couple of times, you will have this recipe on lock which means it will seem like…

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18 days in India

At about two weeks into my trip, I came very close to buying a plane ticket to return home to Texas.

I didn’t have very many expectations for my stay at Ashok Tree. At the end of September, I decided I wanted to visit Tiruvannamalai again. I didn’t really know why, but I was being called back there. I started looking into this sweet town again and gathering information about possibly returning, maybe having a retreat there sometime. As soon as I started googling, I found Yogi Ashokananda’s ashram called Ashok Tree. He would be having a few retreats in December and a teacher training in January. I saw his picture and I was drawn in. I researched him, read his book, and watched his videos. After about a month, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I just booked a ticket. The universe conspired to help me get here.

On the day I arrived at Ashok Tree, I cried. I felt it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. I felt I never wanted to leave, but that would change quickly. For the first few days at Ashok Tree, I couldn’t believe how the universe had landed me in such an amazing place. I was walking around in a daze and I could see myself staying there forever. Gorgeous farm land, delicious healthy Indian food, Ayurvedic massages, yoga every day either in the yoga shala or on the rooftop, cows and dogs roaming freely, children’s laughter from the school—what a dream! My room was elegant for an ashram, with a western toilet and a fan. A cool breeze blowing through the doors every day, even when it was so hot outside. And the view of Arunachala!

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Arunachala is a sacred mountain in Tiruvannamalai. It is believed to be an earthly incarnation of Lord Shiva, the primary God in Hinduism. The first time I visited this town, I felt the intense presence of God on that mountain before I knew anything of the story about the mountain. I know, now, the mountain had called me back to it, as it does with so many people.

A few other yoginis, mostly from England, were already there, as well as Yogi’s partner and two adorable children. We all quickly bonded as we shared meals together, visited the 1000 year-old temple, practiced together, and just about a week after I arrived, the baby calf, Rainbow, was born. We watched the calf stand for the first time, how beautiful! Yogi held drumming circles by a fire in the evening. We were in an Indian dream. One of the yoginis was a kirtan leader, so we were lucky enough to have an audience with her as she sang on a few occasions, leading us in a chanting meditation.

Once the retreat started, I started questioning whether I wanted to be in this place for so long. The detox retreat was fairly intense. Detoxing wasn’t just about going on a restricted diet and practicing yoga every day. In addition to that, we were strongly encouraged to do some intense practices that for most Westerners seem counterintuitive. Specifically, we were drinking salt water and neem water, then practicing a series of postures which would help “open the channel.” Once that happened, it was best we not be far from the toilet. Yogi mentioned more than once that detoxing was about removing things, not putting new things in. You get the picture. It was not pleasant. Our diet was reduced to that of a watered down kitchari (rice and lentils) with shots of castor oil for a few days. Despite the lack of energy, we continued our twice daily yoga practice, albeit a very gentle practice. The process left me very weak, tired and emotional. Though Yogi asked us not to sleep during the day, I couldn’t stay awake and my dreams were very intense.

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I knew I’d be homesick at some point, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to be wanting to forget the whole thing and go home. That’s just the nature of wanting to be somewhere that you are not. Dvesha, as it is called in Sanskrit, which translates to aversion. This is one of the Kleshas, which are afflictions of the mind and are the root of suffering. Aversion is one I particularly struggle with. I think of it as constantly wanting and seeking something else, another sensation, another feeling, another place. In a sense, it is a feeling of wanting bigger, better, different and it is derived from ego, which is always seeking something new. Aversion can show up in yoga postures, when you cannot just hold it, but rather, make a small adjustment because it is uncomfortable. Seane Corn, one of my favorite yoga teachers, calls this being a sensation junkie. We are so accustomed to changing our circumstances when we experience discomfort.

As I was experiencing the effects of the detox, I knew that aversion was a key issue for me to confront. Especially since even when I am not detoxing, I am usually wishing I felt something other than what I am feeling. So at some moments in the three days of constant shitting, sleeping, and yoga, I definitely knew that it was temporary and I would get through it. Even though my mind was telling me how awful it was, I knew, or at least I hoped, I would begin to have a renewed energy and vitality (as was being promised). Yet, it just wasn’t happening for me. Then we were asked to drink more salt water, and this time, immediately vomit it back up. This was supposed to stimulate your second chakra and help reduce the fire in the digestive system. I drew the line. I could not participate. I just couldn’t imagine to continue to put my body through this intentional upheaval. I was too weak. I felt awful. And my aversion to this practice was real. So, that day, I stopped participating.

On that afternon, I had a lucid dream. They usually begin with me flying. This time, I was flying with another one of the guests from the ashram. Her name was Melissa (and she ended up being my savior.) She and I and a few others were traveling around and I found myself at a beautiful beach, with clear water, and distinctively colored boats. I thought I was in the Caribbean. I woke up and had this feeling that I should leave the ashram.

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My mind was resisting this thought because, again, I knew I was depleted energetically and I didn’t want to give up so soon. I was telling myself to push through it, despite feeling so rough, and it was starting to feel like I was pushing myself for all the wrong reasons. I told myself, I know I can’t just run from unpleasant experiences all the time, so maybe I needed to push myself. Sometimes it makes sense to stay in the discomfort and see if you can experience it as something else. But this wasn’t that. This was starting to border on torturing myself for reasons that were completely against my natural flow. It was stressful and painful and I was re-injuring myself. The resistance I was feeling was not healthy for me. Some other interactions were happening that I didn’t really like, but aren’t worth talking about now. Suffice it all to say, my mind was trying to convince me to stay, after all, it was mostly paid for, I was due to start teacher training just after the new year and if I left, where in the hell would I go? Did I even have enough money to go anywhere? I hadn’t planned to leave the ashram at all! It seemed a little crazy to even contemplate leaving. I realized leaving would mean I’d have to refigure everything, which was completely out of my comfort zone.

I vacillated for a day. I started reading the India guidebook. I checked my bank account. I called a friend. I checked in with my higher self. I talked to the ashram manager. I meditated. In my meditation, I heard a voice say, “Goa.” The next day I decided to leave.

I think you know how this has turned out for me. There is more to the story but let’s leave it here for now.

Namaste!

Anna

Incredible India: The Journey Begins.

My flight to India was originally booked to fly into Chennai. The U.S. news doesn’t necessarily cover Indian events and just 36 hours before my flight, I discovered that this city is completely underwater due to the worst rains and flooding in 100 years (global warming, much?). The airport was closed and nearly 400 people were stranded there. I was feeling some anxiety about traveling to Chennai, even before I knew about the flooding, and as soon as I was rebooked to Bangalore, my fears were alleviated. What I had planned (and somewhat obsessed over) in the last month was unraveled in a matter of hours and an entirely new plan was in place with exactly no time to obsess whether or not the so-called plan was even a good one. (On a side note, this is just evidence that having fear and even some anxiety is normal, maybe even intuitive, but obsessing too much over what you think is going to happen or not happen or might happen is pretty much a waste of your energy because the thing you are so worried about probably won’t even happen. And believe me, the flooding and subsequent canceling of my flight never even entered my mind as a possible hitch.)

Bangalore sounded fine by me. Better than canceling or delaying my trip. Besides, I have been to Chennai, but not Bangalore. I finally started to get excited. I was behind schedule. The day spent un-booking and rebooking made it so that I’d be packing well into the night. I stayed up nearly all night, hoping that might help me be sleepier for the time travel.

The next morning as I was driving from Austin to Houston to catch my flight, having had only a few hours of rest, I realized that even though I was in my home state, I felt more out of place in rural Texas than I likely would in India. The irony was so apparent. The weeks leading up to my trip, I had spent some hours recalling how difficult India was for me last time. I was convinced I’d be uncomfortable and feel unsafe or unable to navigate the international travel details on my own. This is my first solo international journey. I told myself a little affirmation, “I am safe, healthy happy and everything is easy.” I also did a little Kaki Pranayama (thanks Genevieve!). It helped.

As I passed the World’s Largest Barbecue Pit on Highway 290 (it’s for sale, by the way , for a mere $350,000), I had this sense that I had it all backwards. I’ve grown accustomed to the U.S. and I am undoubtedly American, but the views and values which comprise my home state do not resonate for me nearly as much as those of the Hindu culture in India. At home in Texas, I passed cows being raised for the BBQ and in a few days time, I’d be driving next to cows who roam the streets and are worshipped in temples. Perhaps I was leaving the place where I was unable to fit in to return to the place that made more sense, for me. It is an epiphany I am still exploring.

The flight was great! I finally set foot on European soil and realized that it is fairly ridiculous that it took me 46 years to do that. I didn’t leave the airport in Germany so I am not sure it actually counts. All I can say about that is my next trip is definitely going to be Europe. That’s just how it is at this point. In fact, I knew I wanted to go back to India, but I felt like I was cheating on my European dream by coming here again before going there. Alas, the East just has it’s hooks in me in a way that the West does not. My goodness, Thailand is just across the ocean from me now, can I extend this trip somehow?

Overlooking Earthlings. We are all one and that's easy to see from up here.

Overlooking Earthlings. We are all one and that’s easy to see from up here.

Landing in Bangalore was smooth and my hotel arranged for a driver to retrieve me. He had one of those little signs with my name on it, except his was hand-drawn with sharpies on a piece of wrinkled paper instead of printed like everyone else’s. It was cute and so perfectly me. He got me safely to my hotel around 4 a.m. I immediately FaceTimed Texas. Then I crashed super hard.

I didn’t want to go straight to the Ashram because I might as well see some of Bangalore while I am here. It is a 5-hour journey to the Ashok Tree Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. I definitely wanted to sleep before doing that. I spent a day sleeping, then an evening planning my touristy events since I had no time to do that prior to my trip given short notice of arrival in Bangalore. I decided to hire a taxi for the day and have him drive me to some temples and then to the shopping district. Today is Sunday so the local people were out at the temples and I slipped in, not unnoticed, rather without much ado. The Ganesha temple was high on my list and I arrived in time for the puja (a religious ritual combined with prayers, chanting, etc.) This was particularly special for me and it was again, in this moment, that I realized, as I was surrounded by faithful Hindu, without another white person in sight, that I was, indeed, more comfortable here than in many churches at home. Even the organized chaotic driving, the frenetic energy that only India can deliver, was so ordinary and comforting that I honestly wondered how I ever could have been concerned about my ability to handle it.

Bull Temple, Bangalore, India

Bull Temple, Bangalore, India

To be fair, when I came to India last time, I was a totally different person. I was resisting so much and clinging to everything in my life that this place called India was disconcerting at best; confrontational, frustrating and somewhat brutal at the worst of times. When planning this trip, that is what I imagined I was throwing myself back into. And it is, actually. But I am changed. I am in the flow now. And that’s not some BS hippie statement, that’s just my reality now. I flow. I flow with chaos or I flow with order. I am just part of it. I don’t resist. I don’t cling (well, I cling less).

I had one moment when I was finished at the Ganesha temple and I was supposed to call my driver, Mohan, to meet me. I could not remember how to dial the number and every attempt I made to call him failed. I looked around for anyone whom I might ask to help me make this call. I saw faces of many beautiful people, but none that seemed like the right person to ask. I knew I was just missing a zero or something, so I kept trying different codes. I kept getting it wrong. A little anxiousness started to creep in. I had already hired him for the day and the day had only just begun. I didn’t want to get in another cab. The road where I was to meet him was extremely packed full of people, cars, tuk tuks, and bikes and at one point, all I could hear was the incessant honking that started to make me want to scream.

Then, I realized, this is the moment. This is the moment when you stay calm and grounded despite all of the external confusion. This is the moment yoga has trained me for. Breathe. Be one with it. Move with it. Enter it and exit it. Don’t fight it. Don’t run from it. Just be with it. A solution will appear. There are so many options. Sit in this pose and take everything in. So I did. I looked at all the beauty around me. I stood in the street, with everyone else, as the cars rushed by. I turned on my data for my phone and found an email for the hotel, which had their number, written out exactly as it should be dialed. I called it. They answered and dialed my driver for me. He was there a minute later. Perfect, divine chaotic order.

Cows roam the streets in India in perfect harmony with the traffic.

Cows roam the streets in India in perfect harmony with the traffic.

The rest of the day was flawless. That affirmation works. Safe. Healthy. Happy. Easy. That’s how this trip to India is for me.

Tomorrow I take the 5-hour drive to Tiruvannamalai. I have so many reasons to return to this sacred place. I’ll save all those stories for my next blog entry. I’ll be there for seven weeks studying with Yogi Ashokananda. More about him later too. Until then, I encourage you to rediscover how you are in the flow. You already are, you know. What are you resisting? What are you afraid of? What stories are you telling yourself that may be just discomfort and unease energy that you could just set aside, knowing that it will, or it already is, ok?

I love you.

Anna

A-ha Ahimsa!

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The news in the last couple of weeks and months has really been disturbing, particularly related to unnecessary violence in our country and to our countrymen. Violence met with violence is an indication that we are mentally ill as a global community. There is a sickness happening to us, and I want to have a conversation to help us heal.

Let me digress for a moment: I’ve been motivated for some time to look at each of the yamas more closely and write about them. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, have a look at this complete list of the yamas. This will summarize the concept of yamas in yoga so I can focus on telling you about my experience of exploring them, which is a deep part of my yoga practice.) This week, I took a closer look at ahimsa, the practice of non-violence.

I don’t believe that it is possible for humans to change their violent ways overnight, or even in a single week. This kind of change takes time and dedication. I can only imagine that this is a life-long practice which may not ever be perfected. I aim to share my thoughts and revelations about ahimsa after creating intention and reflecting on how that shows up for me after seven days of concentrated awareness. As I explore the practice of ahimsa, I wonder how we humans might all be affected, and healed, by this simple practice. When I say practice, really the very first thing I mean to discover through the practice of ahimsa is simply awareness. I must be aware of when I am causing harm, in order to change that behavior.

Commonly, when referring to ahimsa, I immediately think of how to not hurt other beings. Many people practice ahimsa by becoming vegetarian or saving spiders and other bugs from their squishy deaths. I did encounter choices about what I ate this week that had me really ponder how I could live my life, every single day, without harming anyone or anything. It’s a tall order. As my mind considered ahimsa, every meal choice became a question of my practice and gave me room to think about where my food comes from and if I was perpetuating harm by my choice of food. I didn’t have any big a-ha moments in this context, and though I started out thinking about not harming animals, I ended up looking at how my food choices are harming me.

A-ha Ahimsa! Yeah, so we, as a culture, spend a lot of time looking at how we ought to be more peaceful towards others (or even more prevalent, how other people besides ourselves “should be” practicing non-violence, and spend time looking for an external source to be “fixed”, i.e. the police, the government, etc. Suffice it to say, it is always easier to see what someone else is doing wrong than how we, ourselves, may be at fault). I ask you, how often do we realize how violent we are to ourselves? 

I had an idea that I was pretty hard on myself, not just with bad food choices, but any number of other things. Cigarettes, alcohol, other substances that supposedly take the pain away…are these really helping ease some darkness inside me or am I just inflicting pain and sickness on myself? I realize that I was making choices about what I put in my body that not only deliberately made me sick, but also so I would be forced to slow down and be more gentle with myself. In essence, I was hurting myself so that I would have the opportunity to heal myself. Huh? Why would I do that to myself? I wouldn’t do that to a bug and that is the truth! As soon as this hit me I realized, ahimsa isn’t just about NOT DOING HARM, it is also about TAKING CARE and BRINGING JOY to myself and others.

It is so easy to beat ourselves up about making not-so-great choices or even deliberately harmful choices. Then the harming begets more harming as we tell ourselves how “bad” we are. It is literally a vicious cycle. I don’t know about you, but when I am down on myself about something, I go all the way down. I don’t care…and when I don’t care, I do harm.

Instead my practice of ahimsa could simply be that I forgive myself and have compassion for myself. I honor myself. I nurture myself. I treat myself to good food and plenty of rest and choose healthy, vibrant activities to encourage joy in my life. Instead of the mental beating on myself about my relapses, I could simply choose to go for a brisk walk or take a long, hot shower or go to bed early. I can drink extra water and move my body. Ahimsa is making room for all things joyful and allowing LOVE to FLOW unhindered, not just eliminating the harmful action. I don’t have to inflict harm on myself to deserve the compassionate treatment. I could easily just skip the beating and go straight to the pampering, ya dig?

I wonder if we all took a little time to really examine how we treat ourselves, and had some simple awareness that could spark a change when needed. And as we cultivate more love and compassion for ourselves, especially when we have dark and treacherous moments, then wouldn’t it be easier and just more natural to have love and compassion for our fellow humans? It seems we are so caught up in the duality of right and wrong, us vs. them, justice and injustice, blah, blah, blah that perhaps we can’t see that this constant chain of violence starts right in our very own minds. The minute I tell myself “I am such an idiot” or “I am so fat.” We kill little parts of our own psyche every hour. This slow death makes it easier to be desensitized to all the harm going on outside our comfort zone.

It is obvious that we need a big awakening to change the violent culture of school shootings, police brutality, racial injustice and riots in the streets. I think the small personal awakenings are the path to the BIG awakening that must occur. Ahimsa starts with me. Then the real stuff has room to happen. Changing who I am can change the whole world.

The Yoga Sutras say:

“As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.” (ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah)

Yoga Sutras – 2.35

Be Gentle.

Practice Compassion.

Peace begins with me.

Gratitude

Gratitude.

It’s easy enough, right? I am an upper-middle class, white woman who has never had to worry about where my next meal will come from or if I’ll have shelter and warmth for my body during the night. I have always been surrounded by loving family and friends and have never felt unsafe in my own home. I have made it through 45 years without much concern about my means of income, paying my bills, or my ability to sustain my above average standard of living.

It’s more than that. I have always had a car. I have always been able to find work. I always have enough money, even when I don’t. I have unlimited support. I have so many people who care about me. I have many, many homes. I have beautiful and cherished friends who I can call when I am either sad and lonely or jumping for joy. I have both my parents still alive to provide advice and unconditional love, among many other gifts. I have a large network of friends, colleagues, travelers, artists, yogis and kindred spirits that I call family, though our connection isn’t blood, it’s love! I live in pure abundance and I want for nothing.

Except when I do…want for something.

I’m human, I guess. I find myself in my own internal battles (and sometimes not so internally) of wanting something more, something different, something better, something else. I have spent years of my life wishing I had SOME THING other than what I had and if only then, when that SOME THING that I have is more, different, better or else, will I be satisfied. Except, that’s not true. Then there is the more, different, better something else that I could have….Alas, the ego never wants to believe that what I have been given is exactly enough.

And when this happens, and I feel as though I’ll never have IT, whatever IT is, I wonder if I have any gratitude at all. Do I even know what it means to have gratitude?

I meditate and remind myself of all the blessings and abundance I was just born into. I tell myself that “I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL”, those words, stinging me down deep because, down deep, I know I have never had to suffer the winter without heat or summer without air conditioning and I likely never will. I don’t know what it means to be hungry. I’ll never really be alone, ever. I will always have a home. Shelter, food, survival…all a birthright for me.

Karmically, my spiritual tasks here are about something else this time. Clearly, the so-called suffering I experience in my mind is nothing like that of the majority of the world’s population. I take a moment, a full breath, to really let that sink in. For all the “something more, better, different, elses” out there that I think I WANT, I have the luxury of wanting vs. needing. I have the dharma that allows me to create a life by design rather than have to fight for my survival. I paint the picture of my daily reality with the highest quality brush and a limitless pallet, filled only with the brightest of colors. And what an incredibly beautiful creation of life I have made!

On this day of gratitude, I choose to really allow myself to feel, see, and honor that I have been offered a life free of needless suffering. I thank my higher self for being present enough to cut through my own bullshit and acknowledge the boundless, abundance that is mine in this lifetime. I submit that my ego take a back seat and just stop the constant wanting. I move in the direction of desire that arises out of the need to evolve on a more spiritual and positive energetic level, and free myself from trappings of the more, better, different, else. I embrace the ever-present NOW and revel in my gratitude for how perfect NOW and all that I have in NOW is. I let go of circuit-like thinking of that OTHER THING that keeps gratitude at bay. I honor a higher power and driving spiritual force that must be in play here. I humbly thank that force.

I bow my head in gratitude.

Namaste!

 

The Life I Am LIVING

It has been more than six months since my last blog entry. This is one of those situations where my life that I am living gets in the way of documenting it and sharing it. And man, have I done some living in the last six months. I am not sure if it can all be summarized in one entry, though I’ll start by catching you up with the highlights.

Spring and Summer in LA: 

It was about as wacky as you might think it is. I lived off-grid in my 1974 Chevy Van called Luna on an undeveloped  40-acre piece of land in Malibu with some friends who invited me to stay with them. I spent a bunch of my time taking care of basic day-to-day tasks and practical living without electricity or facilities other than what I had in my van. Most days I would plan where and when my next shower would come, practice yoga in Santa Monica (and usually getting that shower afterwards), find suitable food that didn’t need much preparation or clean-up, do dishes outside in a bucket, take cans/bottles to the CRV while simultaneously filling up drinking water (the cans paid for the water), and taking tourists on Segways around Venice Beach and Beverly Hills. You know your life is wacky when you live in a van in one of the richest zip codes in the world and your job is to roll by Tom Cruise’s house on the regular. It soon became evident that even though I loved the kookiness of LA, I needed to continue to pursue my real joy. This wasn’t it. I left LA near end of June and headed out for summer adventures.

If you are ever a tourist in LA, definitely give the RastaBus tour a day of your life.

If you are ever a tourist in LA, definitely give the RastaBus tour a day of your life.

Luna’s voyage north and the Rainbow Gathering in Utah:

I decided to put Luna in storage a little closer to Oregon as I was pretty sure I’d be ending up in Portland again as fall set in. I debated on how far north and ultimately settled her in Gilroy, CA, just south of San Francisco Bay so she would be easily accessible for traveling to Burning Man later in the summer. My traveling partner from the previous summer’s Rainbow Gathering journey met me in LA and drove my car so I could drive the van. We parked Luna and locked her up tight and travelled with another beautiful new friend we met through the Rainbow rideshare board on Facebook. Though there was a lot of negative hype and rumors going around about Utah’s strict law enforcement, the gathering itself was incredible and beautiful this year (as it is every year) and it was my favorite event of the summer. I met so many beautiful people and shared some really heartfelt and perfect moments working with the Casual Encounters kitchen, who happened to be based out of LA this year. Thomas, Blaine, Eliza and Mason (and let’s not forget Zoe), I frickin’ love you guys! Let’s keep this kitchen alive, ok? East Coast next year, eh?

On the rainbow road, somewhere in Nevada.

On the rainbow road, somewhere in Nevada.

Utah Rainbow Gathering

Utah National Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes.

A month of travel, family and preparation:

After I returned from Utah, I took the long road back to my Mom’s, who lives an hour or so north of Seattle, allowing for time to check out towns and visit friends. I wanted to stop in a few towns along the 101 that I hadn’t really spent much time in previously. I drove north on 101 until Arcata then traveled inland towards Redding. From Redding to Portland, I explored the I-5 with a little more scrutiny than in my previous drives, as these days, I am considering where I might like to grow roots. The next few weeks were filled with a visit from my brother and niece and preparation for Burning Man. While Brad and Skye were in town, the four of us including Mom, went on a beautiful whale watch in the San Juan Islands. This was definitely a super fun day filled with lots of wildlife sightings, including orcas and bald eagles. Once my beloveds left, I began the process of reading Burning Man blogs, acquiring the items as dictated in the Survival Gide and generally freaking out over all of my to-do lists, for it would be my “burgin” voyage.

Good-bye California, for now.

Good-bye California, for now.

Skye

My gorgeous niece, Skye.

Beautiful orcas in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

Beautiful orcas in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

Beloved Festival in Tidewater, Oregon

Before I embarked on the Burning Man voyage, I ended up at the Beloved Festival just in time for my 45th birthday. I was selected to work with a burgeoning duo of pure shakti and fire essence for the Sahasa Indian Fusion food booth. The festival was only three days, though I worked for them for about five days to help them get their booth and supplies ready for the weekend. I learned some valuable lessons working with Sahasa and I’d be selling this experience short by trying to summarize it. Suffice it to say that now having been to Burning Man, I’d be inclined to attend Beloved more frequently and enthusiastically, especially given the location so close to the Oregon Coast. Along the way back to Seattle, I picked up some hitchhikers who looked like they were leaving the Beloved festival, though they turned out to be a beautiful couple who had been walking the Pacific Crest Trail. We journeyed back to Portland together and on the way stopped at Tillamook to celebrate my birthday with ice cream and free cheese samples. What a strange way to celebrate with complete strangers from the road who I hope will stay in touch with me.

Beloved Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

Beloved Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

How to wake up on your birthday.

How to wake up on your birthday.

Burning Man Carvansary 2014:

This will likely get it’s own blog entry, who knows, maybe more than one. I am still processing the lasting effects of Burning Man and it is clear that life does have a saltier, dustier flavor having seen Black Rock City, Nevada first hand. Though I wouldn’t say “I had the time of my life” or that “it was magical”, or “transformative” as many people describe it, I will say it was extraordinary and definitely something to see. I also understand how it can have that kind of impact on many people who perhaps haven’t been on the roads I have been on. For me, this trip was a journey of many obstacles. So many obstacles, it seemed as though Ganesha was just having a little fun at his burn too! In the way of my universe, every single obstacle was removed, cleared and allowed to be a reminder of how easy I have it, how lucky I am to have this life, and how Everything Works Out Perfectly (EWOP)—always. Now that I am on the other end of this journey, I can see it more clearly for what it was than I could while I was in the fire. Hence the reason I haven’t been writing…I have been fully immersed in LIVING! I’ll write an entry soon which includes some of the epic photography I took while visiting Black Rock City.

The quintessential Burning Man photo.

The quintessential Burning Man photo.

AIR Yogalates

After Burning Man, I landed in Portland to attend a new aerial yoga teacher training with some beautiful, wise teachers and founders of AIR Yogalates. I knew it was going to be a challenge for me to attend such a training, especially after returning from Burning Man. The timing worked out perfectly (duh) and the training, though exhausting and at times, frustrating and emotional, has helped me see myself in new ways. I am grateful and excited to see how this training changes me and helps me grow.

That's me. Getting inverted.

That’s me. Getting inverted.

Settling in to Autumn

Just after I safely arrived in Portland, my van, Luna, blew the head gasket (which most likely actually happened just outside of the BRC gates during Exodus). It took a month for the shop in Portland to get her completely fixed up. Now, another month later, I have finally gotten her cleaned out from the summer and removed all of the playa dust. Thank goodness for safe passage and having enough resources to pull that off. We are now safe in Washington where Luna will take rest and shelter until next year, as will I. Next week I make my annual journey back to Texas for some family time, reunions with my Texas friends and other exciting new developments. More on that later.

As I look towards winter and the upcoming holiday season, I am anxious to document my experiences in a way that helps people understand what this kind of authentic life looks and feels like. Truth be told, this was a crazy hard and intense summer that I am not likely to endeavor to repeat anytime soon. I survived and I did enjoy it, but it was a lot of work too. As it goes, I love my life and I love the opportunities that following my passion brings me. Here’s to wrapping up the year in style!

Happy, Alone

Four weeks in Malibu and I can honestly say I love Southern California, which is not what I expected. Life here is sweet and inspiring. I have been spending the majority of my time working the last couple of weeks and in the afternoons I have a lot of free time. I typically spend the afternoon at the Starbucks in Santa Monica to catch up on Internet and then run any errands that need to be handled before heading back up the mountain. I’ve also been checking out some different yoga studios or just exploring the area. My friends usually don’t get home until after six p.m. so I generally have an abundance of time alone. Which brings me to the subject of this post….

I am a very social person and I typically don’t choose being alone. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, because I actually do enjoy time with myself; it’s just not my first choice. I’d rather be experiencing life with the people I love. This past weekend, my “land-mates” went on a well-deserved vacation and I was without human companionship on the mountain for a few days. I was also nearly out of data on my phone so that meant I’d be without any virtual connections while on the land all weekend. I know there are some of you reading this that would find nothing more enticing than spending three days on a mountain in seclusion. I am not one of those people.

I had Friday off and spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, napping and generally just waiting for the next day to happen. It was my only day off that week so I was pretty tired and ready for bed as soon as the sun went down. On Saturday, I had work in the morning and I was off by 10 a.m. I had no desire to go home, though I knew the dogs would appreciate my early return, so I decided to just make a quick stop at the beach in Malibu. I found myself feeling pretty lonely. Honestly, the loneliness was creeping in for the better part of the week prior. I’d been thinking about how I wished I had a partner or a friend to be at the beach with. I told myself, “I am my own best friend.” Though I’ve had my ups and downs in life, I have learned that the best thing I can do when feeling low is to look for the beauty, have gratitude, and shift my energy in a different direction. So, I took some photos and reached out to a friend for a phone conversation, then took the long way home.

On the beach in Malibu, I thought about you.

On the beach in Malibu, I thought about you.

As I drove up Malibu Canyon Road, I stopped to take more pictures, not unlike a tourist. I was blasting Abbey Road and singing when tears started to roll down my cheeks. I don’t really know why I was crying, I just felt…moved. Maybe it was the mountains or the amazing sunshine. Maybe it was gratitude for my place here. Maybe it was the insight of the Beatles singing, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I don’t know, but I was suddenly overcome with a joyful creative presence. I’d been having an ongoing email conversation with my friend John about feeling blissful in every moment as the law of attraction is always aligned to our energetic vibration. His words reminded me of lessons I’ve been learning for the better part of the last five years. I KNOW, that I create my life through my thoughts and my vibration. It’s just that when I feel blue, sometimes I can’t shake myself out of it. In this moment as I arrived to my mountain home, something just shifted.

I let the dogs out and grabbed my guitar and set myself up on a chair in the meadow. I’ve been writing songs and playing guitar for a few years now without much progress. Something just had never clicked. Since I’ve been in Malibu off-grid, I’ve spent a lot more time practicing my guitar. A few new songs have emerged this year and my understanding of the chords and shapes is improving daily. I started to play some of my original songs and realized that I was having a kind of a breakthrough. Not only was I able to play with more ease and aptitude, I was able to really let it all hang out because, I was completely alone. I sang really loudly, because, well, no one could hear me except the dogs, though I imagined that the whole valley could hear me. I sang to the people in the mansions. I sang to the heavens. As I sang and sang, I felt a rush of joy take me over. I smiled, I laughed and I muttered silly things to my canine audience.

One of my canine fans, Lando.

One of my canine fans, Lando.

Something profound hit me in that moment.

I remembered all of the craziness of the last five years and all of the choices that I had made to end up right there, right then. Such a sequence of events had unfolded for me to be on that mountain, by myself, and immerse myself in my musical creation. I honored all of the people and situations that I had to let go of, somewhat painfully, to have this opportunity. I had an overwhelming sense that my own creative intent and power for manifesting the divine had brought me here and allowed an opening for me to be purely creative and in the flow, as we say. I honored Ganesha for removing obstacles that I didn’t even know were obstacles while I was so busy clinging to them for fear of being alone or unhappy. I was blissful, almost ecstatic.

I looked up and realized I had been playing for two hours. My hands were cramping and fingertips were aching. I counted how many songs I knew – at least seven, four of them originals! I gathered myself and headed back to my truck. I looked at my phone and another email from John had reached me while I was playing.

He said (in response to my expression of loneliness and general business of attracting what I desire),

“Start FEELING like you’re blissed out because the Universe LOVES you and WANTS you to experience ecstatic abandon and bliss and love and affection…The inner vision of that energy will then come to you with no effort on your part, because it’s vibrational…there’s absolutely nothing you need to do, other than FEEL REAL GOOD RIGHT NOW, and to continue to vibe out on your bliss, and it will just come to you!!!!”

Now that’s beautiful! I had just been doing exactly that. I felt like I had shined a light so brightly that it had reached John across thousands of miles and reflected right back on to me coming through the phone. I know that the blissful state I was in was not only being reflected by John, but also by the whole world. I also know that he is right and all we ever need to do is shine as brightly as we can, and often.

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Lennon-McCartney

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Lennon-McCartney