Where I need to be

Look out and see the beauty. Search it. Make it. We can’t have it all, but we can be happy with little. It’s in you. Just look outside and be part of it. There’s amazing stuff happening. Maybe you can’t sleep because the sun is coming out. Maybe that’s a reason to get up and open the window.

Feel the wind touch your nose, wave your hair, with closed eyes I’m near to where I want to be. But I am where I need to be. Every second of my life I have been where I must be, there was a reason. Close your eyes and see the beauty. The sky is on fire.

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One year later…

A year ago I was about to graduate from Teacher Training.

A year ago I decided I was going to leave my job, I couldn’t tell much people. I told one by one. And I took the Ohs and Ahs as they came. And then I told them I was going to leave anyway. 

One year ago I went into survival mode: If I don’t do this now, I will die.

A year ago I felt strong and alive and happy, and I felt like this would last forever. And although I don’t always feel strong, I do feel alive and happy, and it has lasted forever (so far).

A year ago I was trying to put together a plan. I didn’t see the upside up or the upside down, I didn’t see a side at all. It was like a huge marble block, with my statue waiting inside for me to carve it. I knew I wanted to quit working like I was, at the same time work kept coming and I kept doing it to the best of my ability, but it lacked heart. I didn’t find anything in it that I would want to continue doing it for.

On the other hand, yoga, gave me all the energy I needed to go through that wave. It was like filling my lungs with air before the next one. About the same time last year, I started adjusting people in class to assist other teachers. I started knowing my shit (or at least I thought I did). I started feeling confident and got every single day a confirmation, this is what I want to do. Everyone started asking me if I would open a studio after teacher training. And also after the diving certification, will you open a diving school?. But that would have been like opening a heart surgery hospital after the first year of medical school. 

A year ago I was about to go home to Mexico for my 30th bday. I was planning a party with friends and family and I was planning my Rescue Diver cert. I was booking a house on the beach in Mexico for holidays with my family. I was looking forward to get in the water and dive. I didn’t know I could be an instructor. I didn’t know I wanted to, and I didn’t know I would. I still don’t know if I will. But I want to.

A year ago I started researching Indonesia. And Indonesia kept popping up, at the dentist’s cabinet in the magazines of the waiting room. My colleagues talked to me about it. It just kept flashing at me. I didn’t know I would go, and I didn’t know I would want to go back. And I still don’t know if I will. But I want to.

One year later, I have been teaching yoga for (almost) a year. I have done the Rescue Diver cert. I spent 2 months in Indonesia, studying yoga, drinking green juices, downing every single coconut that got in my way and doing my Divemaster certification. So much has happened and I am about to get on a flight to Mexico again, to dive, again, to do yoga, again.

One year later I want to speak about the transformation that I went through ever since yoga touched me. And today, during a class some students adjusted me, and I could feel their inexperience,their raw sweet intention, their beautiful lack of precision, and it filled me with awe, I saw myself in them, I saw myself a year ago. When I was scared to touch people’s feet. When I thought the students were more advanced than me and I wouldn’t adjust them, because they looked so sure of themselves. I saw the hesitation, and the stuttering of their moves. I saw them, the way I felt a year ago, about to adjust someone, and then backing up, maybe thinking, it’s too late, or rather not.

I felt their lose touch, and I wanted to tell them this:

Your touch will become firm, your thoughts will become sharp, you will control time, and rhythm, your students will follow, your class will be full, you will sweat, you will cry, and laugh. And one day someone will ask you questions,and you won’t know the answers, or some you will, but not all. One day, a year after, you will look behind you and you will see a trainee thinking if they should adjust you. One day, in a year or so, you will realise a year has gone by, and you are your true self, sharing your love through yoga. One year later you will laugh when you make a mistake, you will improvise when you forget, you will touch people and when you will do so, you will ground them if they are missing that, you will give them balance, if they are missing that, you will give them security, if they don’t have that. You will touch a student and you both will become one, like the horse and the jockey, it’s not the horse who jumps, it’s not the jockey either, it’s both. In this same way you will make your students fly. You will talk to them about your weaknesses, and your strengths, you will be open and reassured, that everything is going to be ok. Do not be afraid, you chose this path. Don’t doubt yourself. Be yourself. And remember, before assisting another passenger, place the mask over your mouth first. If you are not grounded, if you are not strong, if you are not stable, when you touch your student you will transmit it, so every time you approach, find that split of a second, to place both feet on the ground, use your bandhas, and then take their hand and show them the way. You are already amazing. And I hope you see yourself as amazing as I see you today.

I am far from being perfect, the way it is supposed to be, but it is now one year later… 

That’s your prayer

A while back I had surgery for the first time in my life. As I was in recovery at the hospital, a volunteer came to my room to ask me if I would like to pray. I welcomed the lady in my room, although I had no immediate desire to recite any of the few catholic prayers that I know (or used to know). I could have said no, thank you, but I listened.

For me praying became yoga. And yoga became my prayer. My practice is my prayer. The one repetitive mantra that calms me and soothes me, my breath is the music. I connect.

But I didn’t think explaining this to the lady would make sense. Already my friends don’t understand my journey well sometimes, and people think my yoga practice is a bit of a sect-related activity. I let the lady sit down and then she asked me how I was doing. She asked me: will you be alright? I told her I am alright and explained I was on my way out. She looked relieved. And she said, well, that’s no impediment to pray.

I put my best face and gathered courage to tell her that I don’t practice religion and haven’t practiced in a long time, that it was a choice and I am happy with it, and that I am not a catholic, nor I want to be one, or like someone told me once: I am a catholic in recovery. I was raised catholic but I have chosen to stop practicing, and I do not follow the religion anymore.

I felt a little sad that I had to tell her all this.

I think I was more afraid of her answer than my own statement. I thought she would try to convince me. And I would have to defend my view, and justify myself and all that.

She asked me: Is there any moment during the day, when you feel joy, when you look at someone, or something, and you are trully happy to be alive, when you feel awake and you realise how blessed you are? Is there a moment of joy like this in your life? Do you believe in god?

Yes, every time I look outside, I feel blessed. I feel happy that I can enjoy my life as I do. I find joy in the flowers when I walk on the street. I feel joy when I am with the people I love. When I feel the wind on my face, and I’m cold, or warm, I feel alive, I am alive, bliss. There is not one day that goes through, that I do not feel this joy. I am not sure I believe in God, but I believe in something.

She said: Well… maybe, THAT, is your prayer.

I didn’t do it for the animals.

The first thing I read this morning was an article about veganism and how a plant based diet has the possibility to cure diabetes. And I wanted to say something about myself, that maybe you already know. 

I switched to a vegan diet in 2012. The worse year of my life. The wake up call.

First I did it because I was ill. I spent several months with almost no energy to get out of bed and thinking I was about to live a painful life forever, my joints used to hurt as if I has needles stuck between them. And I wasn’t even 30. I went vegan and have been back and forth from vegetarian to vegan for a year and a half (I have made exceptions when I considered it appropriate and most times I did this my body had something to say afterwards), I started experimenting, listening, changing, trying to maintain a vegan diet while keeping my social life active (which is very difficult when everything served has bacon or cheese in it and when you order a vegetarian salad people ask you if you want chicken to go with it) and tolerating the comments and judgments from people around me (and also experiencing love from people who understand and support me and make an effort to avoid losing our friendship because of food).

A week after I started being a vegan the pain associated with my disease had cleared 80%. I now very rarely feel any discomfort, I have more energy than I ever had, I feel awake and happy, and strong. I feel good about myself and what I do.

A year after, I haven’t had any crisis or flare ups. I am healthy. In case you’re worried about my protein I can say I am strong and I get enough vegetable protein from delicious food that I cook. My skin is healthy, my muscles have grown and toned. I am a yoga student and a diver. I practice. I dive. I work. I travel. I party. My blood work is only lacking vitamin D (in Belgium, really?).

I didn’t do it for the animals. But in the end you know what? It feels good to know that what I put in my body is alive and didn’t scream with rage before being slaughtered. It feels good to know that I am doing some good and less harm. That my eating habits contribute to the planet, just like sorting waste does, just like not littering does, just like not killing does.

It came as a by product to my vegetarian/vegan diet: I am doing less harm. Ahimsa. As a yogi there is no way to deny it. You can accept your responsibility, and decide not to comply with this principle, we are all free to do that, you can also decide to get in fights with your neighbor, to be envious of your friend, to be unhappy with what you have, you can decide to live in the past and not stay in the moment, you can do any of this, accept your responsibility, and live like that, no one is perfect and we all go through that in different ways and different moments of our life. What we cannot do is deny it. Becase we know. Ahimsa means doing less harm. And eating animals does not do less harm. It does more.

As a side note, although I have no evidence that vegans are more bendy (and I haven’t done any research on that) I would put money on it. If you want to improve flexibility try a vegan diet for a month while you practice daily. You will tell me what happens. I really want to know.

 

Namaste!

Did I tell you?

I don’t think I did…
Most probably I didn’t tell you, I was too busy trying to put a puzzle together with pieces of my old life and my new life all mingled together. At first it didn’t look like something. It looked like nothing. And I felt everything was shaking under my feet. But when it was shaking the puzzle pieces were slowly vibrating and moving, some were falling, and some were magically clicking together.

They said it very well, you make plans, and god laughs.

To recap: I had quit my life, sold all most of my belongings, bought a ticket to Bali, and left then had to reconsider. See, for many this would have been deceiving, but I was on such a moment of my life that I took it with great calm. I sat down, and I took a really, really, really, deep breath. And I asked myself: what do I WANT.

I was leaving on a Wednesday. One week before that I had gone in for a job interview during which I got offered a temporary job at my old office (not the one I quit recently but the one before). I didn’t sleep for 3 days. It was a job I could do, 4 days a week, for a fair amount of money, in a place I know, with people I like. But that didn’t go with the plan. And yet I couldn’t reject the offer straight away. You must think, why did you even go to the interview in the first place, it doesn’t really matter (I have a thing for job interviews and this one was a special one). I promised to give an answer by Friday. On Friday I emailed saying I would need a little bit more time. I had no idea. I didn’t sleep for another 3 nights. And then it happened. It was Monday morning. I had to do some admin and I came across a paper that has been in my drawers for over 2 years. The request I made in 2011 for Belgian nationality. Nothing had happened in all this time. And that morning I looked at the paper, and I took the phone, dialled a number, gave my file ID and a man with the most uninterested voice ever told me: your file will be going in for evaluation in January. And you will have an answer in May 2014.

I sat back, I hung up, and I took many deep breaths. Everything I have been waiting for, was about to happen, when I had just let go. And now I was about to be gone. With my life in a suitcase. And so many things started rushing through my head. Because if I become Belgian, I must be on Belgian territory, so I cannot be a traveller like I wanted, because I cannot go home and live in the jungle (at least right away). Because if I leave for good I won’t become Belgian. Do I still want to become Belgian? Is it ok if I say screw being Belgian! and forget about it? Will I be able to live without ever knowing what happened?

No.

I took my computer and I wrote an e-mail, accepting the job starting March 2014, because I HAD, to come back.

And then I realised that as much as I would like Indonesia, I wouldn’t be able to stay. I made a decision, for a greater good. I made a conscious choice, of coming back for something I believe I deserve, and for something I had worked hard for, something that in some bizarre way feels like belongs to me and had given up on. I do not know if the country will grant me the nationality and the passport, I do not know if I will stay here or where I will be next or for how long, with or without Belgian nationality, but right now I am at peace, because finally I will know, and I have been so lucky, to go through the process of letting go, and feeling the freedom, and having a second chance to reconsider (in case I wouldn’t like the freedom and I wanted to go back to my project manager job and my laptop 14 hour days).

When I came back from Indonesia I was happy to know that coming back is a chance for me to confirm that my previous choices were the right ones. I want to go and live by the water, in a warmer place, where I can be barefoot and my closet is composed of mismatched bikinis and old sarongs that don’t dry anymore because they are too salty from sea water. I want to hear the birds sing, and I want to be amazed every second of the day, with the gifts that nature gives me. I have so many things to post about diving and yoga, and they will start flowing into my keyboard when I am ready. But right now, I am in a city that I love, and that loves me back in a strange way, and has given me many chances. I am in Brussels, where I’ve lived since 2005, where I came with 22 years, no money, no connections, no job, no house. I have received everything I ever hoped for, and I have let all that go, and I have been lucky, to have yet another chance.

So maybe it’s the last chance. But this chance, I am taking. And my plans continue to shake and click, like a puzzle.

Quitting is scary. But coming back is scarier. Because I have to “undo” what I did and stand by it, and embrace it, and face the world and say: yes, I came back and it’s allright. It makes sense in my heart. And it will last as long as it has to last. And I will be ok. Actually, more than ok!

The scooter life…

On the first day I said I wouldn’t need it. I’d walk.
The second day’s walk I hailed a ride.
The third day I rented a scooter, just for the week.
The second week I extended it for the whole month.

The scooter proved to be very easy to drive. The driving rules very difficult to understand. And this is what I can tell you about driving a scooter (In Indonesia).

1. When you think you don’t fit: you fit. There is apparently no space through which an Indonesian guy in a scooter cannot go through. It’s as if the trees move when you need to pass between them. Being on the back of a scooter? Tuck your knees in!

2. Always, always, drive a helmet. Except if you’re wearing those earrings. Or if you arranged your hair beautifully. Or if you went in a shop and then left without a helmet, and then you started feeling so free, and you started wondering how you’ve never felt that way while driving the scooter, suddenly you see police looking suspiciously at you, and then sounds start being overwhelming, because you can hear everything, because you’re not wearing a helmet. So you make it home, and with the 35 degree Celsius you walk back to the shop to get your helmet, to avoid the risk of police looking at you suspiciously once more.

3. No matter what you do, you’re being honked at. Too slow? too fast? on the right? on the left? overcharged? not looking when turning? looking when turning? using lights? not using them?? Just to say hi? You’re being honked at. Join the club (I have) and honk.

4. There is (although I have not tried this myself) no amount of junk that cannot be put on a scooter, only if you arrange it properly: I have seen scooters with 12 cages with roosters, with car tyres, with gas tanks (I love this one for some reason), with surf boards (one or 2 or 3 and the optional second passenger on it). Scooters with baskets that overdo the size of the scooter by 5, scooters with 6 pairs of legs (quite hard to make if it was 5 or 6 but it turned out there were indeed 6 people of all sizes). I feel adventurous when I am carrying my backpack AND my laundry at the same time, and even then the laundry guy offered to help me load the scooter after I’ve sat on it and started the engine (I take he underestimates my skill).

5. It seems safe to leave the helmet on the scooter. Or not. I mean it is safe to leave it and no one will steal it. But you might put it back on and remember: it just rained the most torrential rain for an hour and a half, and half of that rain is still in my helmet. NEVER, leave it upside down. I know it sounds obvious, but I dare you to remember THAT!

6. If there is no space on your lane, then for sure the other lane can take one more, in the wrong direction. This is the most adrenaline shooting sport. You see the other scooter coming right at you. It is advisable not to move from your route, since they are doing the manoeuvre, you continue your journey (not without honking) and you let them get out of your way, they surely have a plan, on time.

7. We drive on the left. A brain-wrecker. So the turns take place the other way around, the stop, the passing over, also you should drive on the leftest side of the lane (not only on the left lane). And while you try to remember this you are honked at, and then you see a blonde girl (this is a true case, not just saying she was blonde for the story) take the main avenue on the right lane, about 35 scooters honk simultaneously, and she fights the traffic like there was no tomorrow, when she’s almost by my side (me going opposite to her) I hear her say: is this a one way street? No darling. We drive on the left.

8. When you need petrol, there isn’t any. I have the bad habit of charging petrol at the latest hours of the day, so that’s something I would typically do on my way home after dinner. Not here. There are not many petrol stations. And how do we get petrol? Well, people put little tables on the edge or side of the road with the sign “Petrol” and you stop for them to pour one (or more) litters of unknown petrol from a bottle of Absolut Vodka. Welcome to Indonesia.

9. Have you travelled 2.5 hours on a scooter? I need a butt transplant.

10. Someone (almost) always, is there to help. Wether it is to park, to start, to move, the scooter. And also, someone is (almost) always there to charge you for the parking. How do I get away with it? Today the ‘parking’ guy came over to charge his “fee” and I asked him, where you here when I arrived? he said yes. So why didn’t you tell me something about the fee then? He said: ok, go…

I hope you enjoy the ride of the story, more to come, follow me on instagram @igoyoa!

Time, Space, Energy…

I don’t know where to begin. Most probably from now on my posts will be random scripts of what I go through during the trip and not a chronological account of the events. But in the end time doesn’t matter much, simply because time has become a different dimension for me in the last weeks. Let’s not start from the beginning.

I am writing about time because I think it’s the one thing that stroke me once all the excitement of the new place had washed off a bit. I started realising that time can be a pleasant companion instead of a cruel guardian. Being in Ubud I have spent the last weeks without the leash of time. It has not been “lunch-time” or “bed-time”, except for the wakeup time for yoga I pretty much have not had to do anything specific at any given time. What a bliss and I kid you not, the day you start eating when you’re hungry, sleeping when you’re tired, going out when you need air, staying in if you need a moment, seeing people if you feel like a chat, things change dramatically. I do not know how it happens but responding naturally to the demands of body and mind makes me free. Why should we all eat at the same time? Appart from being a social activity on top of a nourishing-nutrition-survival-etc one, why should we all keep the loyalty to the clock? Why if our bodies are different and need different amounts of anything, should we be doing the same things at the same time? How have we become the clockwork machine that tells us at what time of the day we should move our bowels? Or drink water? or take a nap? I have heard of kindergarden schools where kids are all brought to the potty at 11am, what in the world is wrong with the world. I get we all need maybe a little routine, but you will excuse me and I will say it, the world would be much better if we made some little changes. Call me a hippie, whatever, I went to a Montessori school, and I took naps whenever I felt tired, and I survived the real world very fine, so I can take it.

Being in Ubud makes me get in touch with those basic things I had put away because the system and the work life and the way we handle life in the big city with the big job and all those big things I was bound to believe I wanted. I actually do not miss any of those things, I barely remember them. And people ask why Bali is sort of the spiritual capital of the world (?), well, I am starting to understand and the similarities with my hometown are astonishing.

People need a place, time and energy do find themselves. If you don’t have time, or make time, or give yourself time, the finding yourself is not going to happen unless you are already quite high in the mental-spiritual plan. But if you don’t “have” time for the spiritual, it is very likely you don’t have time for your body too, and I don’t mean going to the gym one hour every second day. I mean taking time to take care of your food, or preparing it, of eating it, of disposing of it. If you don’t have space, as in an area where you live, enjoy, rest, a spot, a haven from the outside world, your cove, your tree which you climb up to hear the birds. If you don’t have a spot you enjoy then the surroundings are likely to be very toxic for you, there is no space for the CO2 to go our of your system and you accumulate it all thinking every day: I hope I win the lottery and I can buy a deserted island in the pacific where no one will ever find me again. Energy. Well this one is the toughest one. We are energy, and we can leak it, or we can produce it, and recycle it, we can take it from others, and we can give it to others, and we can share it. If you don’t have physical energy you’re probably not feeding your body enough, or with the quality it needs. If you are but you are still tired then you are probably spending that energy in the wrong things, or you are having others drain it away from you without noticing. Or maybe you are caught up in negative thoughts and negative waves that diminish the energy that would otherwise be multiplied if you were investing it in good things.

So what happens in these magical villages where foreigners arrive one day, find their peace in the jungle (beach/forest/mountain) and then call all their friends turning it into a sarong best-seller town, overcrowded with barefoot vegan hippies with unshaved armpits and overly long hair, who give free hugs and smell like garlic and lavender? Well, it’s not ONLY that. These kind of places offer a lack of judgement in the form of i-can-be-anything-i-want and that is something hard to get, at least for me, in a place where everybody knows me. a.k.a Home (Home in Mexico). So that gives me space. When you come down here and you get to meet people who are also trying to find themselves you offer them the same benefit, you don’t know who they are, actually maybe you don’t care, you don’t ask questions, you don’t ask them what is their vision of themselves in the long term, or what are they going to do as they are now unemployed, you don’t judge, you just drink your green juice and wish them the best. Also the space with a swimming pool is a very nice space to look for oneself, I must admit, let’s be no fools, it could be worse.

Time. I quit my job and have been unemployed for little over one month. It’s not half as scary as everyone said it would be. I don’t have an infinite pool of money and I don’t have rich parents-husband-sponsor that will keep me living the good life forever without lifting a finger. BUT. I have taken time off life as I knew it. I have taken time for me, and I have ran away with myself, to ask myself all the questions and evaluate the answers, to get inspired, to see beautiful things, to have amazing encounters with people, to eat vegan cake, to talk with nature, with the sea, I know running away is highly criticised but I encourage everyone, at least one time in your life, to run away (as long as it is with yourself).

Energy! I don’t remember being as tired as I was through 2012 and 2013. In my whole life. Fatigue and tiredness that made me want to go back to bed the minute I woke up. My body had no energy most of the time. It was a large effort to keep me afloat and I managed ok but thanks to a strong will and a stubborn personality (together with some sugared-up cake). Yoga though was the best part of my day but it seemed like I was a boat, with a leak, and I was sinking. Most times I just wanted to go to bed. In the last month I have slept long and deep. I have taken naps. I have stocked up on energy and I am learning to use it properly. I do not want to go back to bed right now. And that feels pretty awesome! The best is that I am able to share that with others. And I am also learning to differentiate tiredness with lack of energy.

I am truly grateful for all that I am living, and I am happy to share it with anyone who wants to know how I did it, to take this time, to set myself free, to “quit” and go, it was actually quite easy now that I think about it. If you’re thinking about it and want to ask me practical questions please do contact me. And if you feel like following my trip with images you can follow me on Instagram @igoyoga

Namaste!

Tamara