Playas and Pupusas

I’m back home in LA and missing our sweet retreat apartment—complete with bunkbed slumber parties and epic patio views— so much! Our last couple days in El Salvador were when we finally had a chance to kick back and relax. We had really front loaded the trip, because some retreaters were only able to stay for three days or five days, so a few people left on Wednesday after ziplining. Our end of the week was spent hanging by the pool, ordering massages, surfing, and doing yoga some more. I was a little tired for the fourth and final surf lesson, because we had just taken one of Pixie’s Buti Yoga classes. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s this new, tribal dance style of yoga that is really popular among women, especially in the middle of the US. I LOVE it! It’s spreading its way out to the coasts, so if you’re looking to try something wild and new, see if there’s a class near you.

Puro Surf El Salvador

On our last night, we went back into the town of El Tunco to dance at the bar and eat pupusas. If you need one reason above all others to visit El Salvador, this would be it! Pupusas are these little corn tortilla pockets filled with whatever you like—beans, meet, veggies, cheese, etc.—and topped with a yummy tomato salsa and spicy cabbage slaw. Think quesadilla, but even better! They’re about 75 cents a piece in the town, so we had no trouble filling our bellies. 11/10 would recommend!

Pupusas El Tunco

Braving the Sea

I have to admit, of all the activities on the trip, surfing was the one I was looking forward to the least. Growing up, I always wanted to be a surfer chick, back when I was shopping at Pacific Sunwear and wearing puka shell necklaces. Then I got older and actually tried a lesson. Turns out, surfing was way harder than it looked on TV! It wasn’t as easy as snowboarding, which I’d picked up in about a day or two. Surfing hurt. The first lesson I took was on a real fiberglass board, so I ended up with a lot of scratches and bumps from getting tumbled around underwater. Oh well, I’d just have to choose another life path besides surfing.

Another issue: when I was younger, I liked swimming in the ocean. I’d body surf and boogie board without any concerns for safety, but somewhere along the way, I lost that fearlessness and began to prefer staying closer the shore. Sometimes I’ll swim out farther, but I’m usually very cautious to go underneath the waves and, when it’s time to come in, I’ll swim or walk quickly to shore without letting any of them interfere.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

I left for El Salvador feeling excited about the yoga and the waterfall jumping but pretty half-hearted about the prospect of catching waves. I thought might be able to stand up once or twice, but I probably wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was teaching on the retreat, though, so of course I would still join in and set a good example.

Two days later, we were lined up on the beach getting our first lesson from Marcelo, the founder of Puro Surf and the head instructor of their Academy Program. He led us in a breathing and stretching warmup that felt a lot like yoga. He broke down each of the steps in a simple way that we could repeat every time.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Something about his instruction must have stuck with us, because we all stood up in the water on the first day, and the next, and the next. The ocean was crazy warm, and the waves were small but powerful—perfectly manageable for beginners, which the majority of us were. By day three, I was really getting the hang of it. I noticed that when I was out in the water, I didn’t think about anything else besides reading the wave, feeling it push me, and following the steps to get up onto the board. My mind felt completely clear for the first time in a while. Surfing was a lot like yoga.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

If the weather was sketchy or the waves too big, we would have our instruction in the hotel gym, just to make sure we were prepared for what we would see on the beach. One day, we even learned how to turn by riding skateboards outside the gym. I certainly never expected that at 31 years old I’d be rolling around a skatepark in El Salvador, but I guess there’s a time and a place for everything.

Puro Surf skate park

By the end of the trip, I had fallen in love with surfing. I wasn’t getting tumbled as often as the first two days, but I liked Marcelo’s main message. We were all going to get tumbled by the ocean at some point, so we had two choices. Choice number one: freak out! Choice number two: relax, stay calm, enjoy a little massage, and keep surfing. You can guess which option we all chose.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Zipline Time

The last time I was in Central America, I skipped ziplining because I was too evolved beyond the lures of zipling (and also poor), then I wrote about how the act of ziplining doesn’t matter and how it’s ok to walk down the hill instead. This time I decided walking down the hill while your friends are ziplining is PRETTY LAME (but still ok, if you’re intentional about it), so on Wednesday, we ziplined.

Zipline Apaneca

After a two hour van drive, we donned our helmets and harnesses and rode in the open-air truck up to the top of a mountain or hillside or whatever it was we would be zipping off of. I love how gung-ho everyone in our group was about activities. Of course everyone would be hitting the cables; there was no doubt about it.

Apaneca

We set off from about 15 different platforms and lines on the way down. The first few were tiny puddle jumpers, but they eventually led up to the longer main events. As we got further down, the clouds broke open into light rain. We had to switch out our leather gloves for waterproof versions, but a little water couldn’t stop us.

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It started raining a lot harder once we were back in town. It was no concern to us, since we found a coffee shop/artesian store that served paninis with the greatest chimichurri of all time along with any variation of coffee brewing technique your heart might desire. Who knew a little town in El Salvador would have the latest espresso machines, Chem X, V60, and french presses? I can’t tell the difference, but I can recognize a master barista when I see one.

Cafe Axul Apaneca

To our delight, the rain ceased when we finished our lunch, and we were able to explore the town of Apaneca. I always love getting out of the resort and seeing what the actual country is like. This is one of the best I’ve seen. The people are very welcoming and the little streets have so much character—there were so many adorable paintings on the walls and telephone poles; I couldn’t resist photographing all the bright colors and intricate doorways.

Apaneca El Salvador
Apaneca El Salvador

We could’ve easily spent the whole day here, venturing down side streets and picking up on even more details. I know many countries have their dangers and that we should always be careful when in a new environment, but I truly have not found where all the warning messages about El Salvador come from. We’ve been in a big group with knowledgable guides, but the locals have all been friendly, well-educated, and kind.

Apaneca El Salvador

Getting out into the town makes me feel even more that El Salvador is a gem of a country and should not be missed.

Apaneca El Salvador

Chasing Waterfalls in Tamanique

Although it’s tempting to spend every possible moment basking in the sun and infinity pool at the hotel, we’ve managed to be very active during our time here. On Monday, we drove away from the resort to explore more of the countryside. We were dropped off in the town of Tamanique, and our guide led us down a dirt path to hike to a waterfall.

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It’s the end of the rainy season, so the scenery is lush and vibrant. We hiked for about an hour, winding down the hillside and listening to the sounds of the rushing waters below us.

Tamanique waterfalls

Once we got to the waterfall, don’t tell my mom and dad, but we jumped off the 20 ft. cliffs into the waters below. Our group of 12 was finally all together, after a few late arrivals due to varying travel plans and work schedules. There were a few different heights, but everyone ended up jumping off one of the cliffs! It’s been a blast to be with such an adventuresome crew.

Tamanique waterfalls

We could hear the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm rumbling in the distance, and our guide urged us to get dressed quickly so we’d have time to visit the second, lower waterfall. We hiked a little further down, and jumped in to swim underneath the cascading streams.

Tamanique waterfalls

I almost didn’t go in on the bottom level, because I’d dried off and didn’t want to get wet again. That would have been a mistake, because it started raining heavily while we were all in the water. The guide rushed us out and warned that the waters could rise quickly. We scrambled to put on our clothes and shoes, then slid over the muddy rocks to pull ourselves out. After a fast and breathless hike up the trail, we were back in the town, soaking wet but smiling. It was a sticky and soggy ride home in the van, but we all made it back safe and sound to Puro Surf to dry off.

Tamanique

Enchanting El Salvador

We’ve been here since Friday, but it already feels like we’ve moved in and might be staying down here forever. The world is feeling peaceful, complete with perfect patio views, enriching connections, and new surroundings. We’ve experienced a few yoga classes, a couple of surf lessons, and a cultural visit into the town of El Tunco.

I can’t say I’ve seen a better yoga studio view in my time as a student or teacher:

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It’s always a little intimidating to teach a new group of people, but I’m glad everyone has been keeping an open mind and showing up for class, whether they’ve done yoga a bunch of times or only once or twice. I’m so appreciative that they’ve created space and trust to have me as an instructor.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

We’ve had two surf lessons so far. The waves right in front of our hotel are too difficult for beginners, so we’ve been driving about 20 minutes away to another beach. We learned and practiced techniques in the sand before heading into the water. I’d had one surfing lesson before coming here, but the lessons here have been a lot more structured and easy to pick up. Everyone stood up on the boards on their first days! The second day waves were more forceful, but we all rode some, and I’m getting more comfortable being tumbled and feeling less afraid of the ocean.

Puro Surf El Salvador

I think the hotel vistas speak for themselves! Puro Surf is a sweet hideaway surrounded by black sand beaches and little hidden caves. They consciously collect rainwater from the thatched roof and use reusable straws/silverware for all of their drinks and dishes. The surf instructors are some of the best (and best-looking :P ) around!

Puro Surf El Salvador

On Sunday night, we went into the nearby town of El Tunco for drinks by the beach and to celebrate one of the retreater’s birthdays. It’s been a treat to get to know everyone who came from as close as LA and as far as Hong Kong and Australia.

We’re having an awesome time and the days are jam-packed and flying by! I’ll be sharing more adventures as the week goes on.

Monkey Lala El Tunco

We made it to El Salvador!

We made it to El Salvador this morning, and things are looking bright! I’m going to be here for the week teaching yoga on a retreat with Surf Sweat Serve. Today we’re finalizing the details of the itinerary, getting settled in, and eating lots of yummy fruit for second breakfast.

I’ve already seen chickens wandering in the road and a mid-day parade featuring fireworks, because what else would one expect in Central America? It’s the perfect mix of sun and clouds, humid (how I like it), and gorgeously green!

Puro Surf El Salvador

i can’t wait to see what surf lessons have in store for me!

Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 4

The last morning of our trip came quickly, and we were already feeling nostalgic about having to return back to, sigh, regular life. Blah! My mom and I imagined out loud someday returning with my sister, since the three of us have always wanted to go together, yet we can never seem to get our schedules to align. My mom said maybe someday I could round up a group of girlfriends like she used to do. Apparently, if you visit with a group of friends, there is a way that the group organizer gets a free vacation out of the deal so, um, hi friends! ;) The last day was just a morning for my mom and a half day for me before I made my way back to the smoke scene of Los Angeles. Here’s what it was like:

6:15am Why are we getting up so early on vacation again?

7:00am We join the 50 minute speed and hill interval walk, which is enjoyable. We had considered taking an 8 mile scenic walk to check out a nearby canyon, but obviously that is a crazy amount to walk on a whim, so here’s a picture of it. You can imagine that we were there:

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8:00am The last breakfast! I cry into my french toast and bowl of yummy fruit muesli.

9:00am My mom does a multitude of exercises while I attend acrylic painting class. The description doesn’t tell me much of what to expect, and I’m worried it will be like one of those paint and sip parties where everyone has to paint the same thing and it’s a cherry blossom or a bridge or something else that you don’t really care about. Then I’m nervous because we start really slowly, learning about color theory by blending different quantities white and black into a single color. This lesson actually improves my knowledge of making colors, and after that we can paint whatever we want. I totally copy one of the paintings I’ve seen hanging on the walls at the Ranch, and it comes out pretty nicely.

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11:00am My mom’s flight is a few hours before mine, so we eat an early lunch and more dessert bars at the outdoor cafe.

12:00-4:00pm We’re rushed to say goodbye, but we’re both glad to have had this week of bonding together. I stay for a few more hours, enjoying the sunny desert weather, taking another Zumba class, and treating myself to one last soak in the hot tub. Then it’s time to turn in my plushy robe and slippers and head for the airport.

Between Tucson and LAX, I rope myself into helping a couple of Guatemalan women locate and reunite with their relatives, so I feel like I have done my part to give back to society after taking a week of luxuriously selfish pampering. Goodbye Canyon Ranch! I hope we see each other again soon.

Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 2

Pardon the interruption as I was taking a little Thanksgiving break, but I’ll return to our detailed account of a Canyon Ranch vacay! Day 2 was our first full day of taking advantage of everything the resort had to offer.

6:15am My mom’s alarm goes off and I reconsider my level of interest in the morning walk. It’s cold! And I didn’t sleep well the night before. But I decide to urge myself out of bed so I can see more of the scenery around the ranch.

7:00am We meet in one of the gyms with a group of other walkers to split up into three groups. There are 30, 40, and 50-minute guided walks and the leaders are very peppy for my 7am self. We decide to stick to the middle and head out for a nice walk. I decide to decorate my future home in the color scheme of a Saguaro cactus desert.

8:00am The air warms up on the walk and I see some of my favorite cacti. We’ve worked up an appetite so we head to one of the breakfast options for pretty much anything we could possibly want to eat for breakfast including a fruit/yogurt/oatmeal bar, omelette station, pancakes, waffles, eggs, and other special menu items.

9:00am We take another yoga class, foregoing my promise to try new and different things.

10:00am We stumble upon some kind of cardio class that uses exercise balls and Bosu trainers. I like it and it gives me some new ideas for my own workouts. Then I head back to the room to work on a writing project for a little bit while my mom goes off to join another class.

12:00pm We visit one of the lunch and learn sessions in the demo kitchen where a chef shows you how to make yummy healthy meals while you watch him work and then get to eat whatever he’s making. We learn about brown butter shrimp and winter squash gnocchi, and I’m happy to devour it. I learn that you can make gnocchi much, much more easily by putting the dough into a pastry bag, and then squeezing out a bit and slicing it straight into boiling water. I’ll have to try this at home.

2:00pm Water aerobics! I am not usually a fan of swimming in outdoor pools when it’s below 80 degrees, but the water is heated and I’m trying new things so I join the pool full of eager classmates. It’s not bad, but too cold for me and run-swim-leaping from side to side across the pool is not enough to warm my spirits. I want to quit early but I like the teacher and don’t want her to think it’s because of her. Probably won’t do water aerobics in November again.

3:30pm We stick to our afternoon spa date and enjoy the hot tub(s). I try to master my mind and body by dipping into the cold tub. I turn my back to the clock and try to last a minute, which ends up being the longest 60 seconds of my life. I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to stay in the cold dip so I retreat back to the scalding waters of the hot tub. I think the cold helps my muscles though since I don’t feel sore at all the next day.

5:00pm We return to the room to get ready for dinner, and my mom spots a group of these babies just outside our door:

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6:30pm We eat in the same restaurant as the night before. There’s no need to branch out when the entire menu looks and is so good!

8:00pm My mom booked us massage appointments, which is one of the best ways ever to round out the day. My masseuse is a little heavy on the foot massaging, but I’m thankful for the overall pampering. I fall asleep easily again.

Right Places, Right Times

Sometimes circumstances come together in such a way that it makes it impossible for you to doubt any of the steps you've taken to get to the point upon which you're standing in that exact moment. That's how I felt a couple weeks ago when I drove up into the mountains of Malibu for an Earth Day yoga weekend with my friend/teacher/mentor/inspirational goddess, La Mer.

Malibu Mountains

I met Meredith three years ago in Austin through a web of mutual friends and wild women who were drawn to yoga and healing. My friend Beth had asked if I would like to come to a ladies' day of yoga, meditation, and honoring the divine feminine. I was practicing physical yoga regularly; I hadn't gotten into teaching or much of the spiritual side yet, but, yes, of course I would like to participate in a day of ritual practice with flowy women like me. We went to Lauren's house, which was still under construction at the time, but already filling up with cozy magic (and bulldogs). We spent the day moving mindfully, exploring our inner selves, and listening to the rhythm of the rain on the roof. It was one of my first experiences with any type of yoga retreat, sound baths, energy healing, and bringing women together to talk about our femininity in a spiritually attuned way.

sound bath altar

Mer came back to Austin seasonally over the next few years. I got a taste of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter practices and rituals to follow the cycle of a year. I experienced different cycles within myself, too. On that first rainy afternoon in the attic, I asked for guidance growing up. I wanted to step into my role as a woman, but still maintain the childish playfulness that feels like a big part of who I am. In the following sessions, I alternated between feeling enchanted, collapsing into tears about loss and uncertainty, and slowly gaining the confidence to share my voice. I became a teacher and began attempting (I'm still attempting...) to create the safe, open spaces for growth that Mer and all my teachers have provided for me.

In April, Lauren sent out her usual invite that Mer would be coming back to Austin for a Spring women's workshop. I replied that I was disappointed to miss this round, but I knew that Mer lived in LA so I could find her at one of her weekly classes. To my delight, Mer wrote back to me that she would be offering her first retreat in nearby Malibu later that month. I immediately signed up.

Malibu Airbnb

The weekend started with a crawl up into the mountains of Malibu-- I hadn't even known you could go up there!-- to a hillside chateau with the most gorgeous view. I tried not to think of leaving on Sunday and imagined that it would be my home for now and forever. That night, we claimed the space and set our intentions for the weekend. We drew from a deck of goddess cards. I was lead to choose the Mother of Seas, a symbol that offered to help me trust my innate knowledge and claim my role as a healer. I was surprised that Mer remembered my request from our session years ago. I had knelt in the attic in Texas asking to grow up while staying in touch with my inner child, and now in California, in full view of the sea, I drew the mother, a nurturing guide with the wisdom to protect and to teach.

Yoga deck

We spent the rest of the weekend exploring deeper meditation practices and bowing in reverence to our Mother Earth. The six of us formed an intimate group. We were all different-- single ladies charting their paths, mothers reclaiming their bodies, divorcees finding their way back to themselves-- and we were all the same-- lovers of the planet we inhabit and women on a mission to hear our voices ring pure in the world. I had something to learn from all these ladies and the experiences they brought to our altar. I was especially grateful to meet an assortment of ages; most of us were in our 20's-30's, but one older yogini shared the irreplaceable wisdom and humor of her years.

Malibu sunset

We hiked around the property, sang and danced harmoniously (debatable) with hand-painted squash shakers, and capped off each evening with a restful meditation to the sounds of crystal bowls. Our weekend culminated on Sunday when we kayaked out to sea. I'd never been ocean kayaking before, and I am pretty remedial with still-water kayaking, so getting the boat out past the break proved challenging for me. We toppled over a few times and scratched up our legs a bit, but eventually I was able to push our boat onto a more stable surface and flounder aboard. It was such a relief to glide gracefully over the the waves. I worried about making it back to shore, but, when the time was right, the sea guided us gently back in.

What a weekend. I am learning to trust the flow within me and all around me. I know that with all these strong women to guide and support me, I'll always end up in the right place.

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A Silent Stay

While in Bali, I had the chance to fulfill an interest that has been sparking my curiosity for a long time by spending a night at a silent retreat. While I don't think I stayed quite long enough to fully experience the plentiful benefits of time spent in silence, the retreat center provided a brief glimpse of all that can be gained from being alone with yourself in such a peaceful place.

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Before my arrival, I was nervous. I had received recommendations, but I didn't think I would have enough time to go since I was (very sadly) only in Bali for four days and the retreat center is about an hour and a half outside of Ubud. Then it just so happened that I ended up with a free night and didn't have anywhere else scheduled to stay so I checked for openings and, after finding a few, made a reservation.

I wasn't sure when the silence would start. Would the van driver talk to me after picking me up? Would reception just hand me a bag and a list of instructions? How would I make travel arrangements to come back to the next day? All my concerns abated when I arrived to find the most cheerful and talkative Balinese woman waiting to check me in and show me around. The reception hut was an open talking zone, and she still toured me around the grounds in whispers after we had passed the white flags that started the zone of silence on the property.

My first surprise was at how much there was to do. There were five hours of guided yoga and meditation classes offered each day-- 2.5 in the morning and another 2.5 at night. Around the retreat center there were also many opportunities for more solitary mediation which could take place under a waterfall, in a labyrinth walking maze, or on a jungle trek through the woods. There was full library in the lounge and three mealtimes provided tasty, vegetarian, and organic buffets. There were lectures on green living, and frequent field trips where you could talk to the other guests. It was a light and delicious introduction to the more serious vipassana or ashram experience.

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The second surprise was that dinner was set out between 4:30 and 6pm, right after the afternoon round of yoga and meditation. On the first day, I had to do some extra fast-paced jungle trekking to be ready for a meal at that time, but it helped to get into the habit of eating less and resisting the urge to try everything on the table... for the most part. It was a little uncomfortable to be around the other visitors without greeting anyone, but most people shared smiles and held doors for each other. Some even broke the rules a bit to mouth a "thank you".

The final surprise helped make sense of why dinner was so early. Since the retreat center runs efficiently on solar power, the lights in the main buildings turn off around 7, and most of my dorm mates were turning off their bed lamps to go to sleep at 8. It's a wonder how quickly our bodies adapt to the rhythm of nature when we don't have electronics to disrupt or entertain. I lay awake that night for a while listening to all the sounds outside, but eventually fell asleep feeling blessed to be in such a beautiful place.

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What to Do on a Yoga Retreat

I'll bet there are a lot of yoga retreats that lead you to inner peace through sitting in silence and fasting, but I'm feeling almost as peaceful after making new friends and filling my belly with delicious vegan passionfruit cheesecake.

Here's what you should do on a yoga retreat, but be warned that this guidance is really only applicable for a yoga retreat in Northern Thailand which happens to be the one that I just went on.

1. Do some yoga. Pretty self-explanatory here. I didn't take many pictures of myself actually doing yoga because I was so centered and immersed, but here's a picture of that cheesecake:

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2. Learn to cook. I recommend Thai green curry, Thai red curry, Thai yellow curry, or any color curry that combines delicious spices with coconut milk and some vegetables. Include many desserts, especially the delightful aforementioned cheesecake. Summon your strength and don't quit the cooking class before the mango sticky rice portion!

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3. Learn other stuff, too. Usually when you gather a group of passionate people together, you'll find that most of them have interesting things to share. It was a blessing to find time to learn a bit of Kundalini yoga from our roommate, Sam, and to partake in a mind-bending Yin class with anatomy master, Antonio. Learn as much as you can whenever you have the chance!

4. Relax in new ways. If sunning, swimming, yoga, and meditation aren't enough for you, throw in a few Thai massages, an herbal sauna, and some hot springs on top of it all. We also spent a day at a floating retreat called Om Waters which is an incredibly magical place that is existing out here in the world.

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5. Visit temples high and low. This is Thailand, so there are temples on mountains, in caves, and almost anywhere you look on regular old solid ground. I'll never forget sitting around our satsung circle beneath a shining golden Buddha statue watching the sun set and wondering how I got so lucky as to wind up here.

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Why I Came to Thailand, Pt. 2

Before embarking on this trip, it was hard for me to answer when my friends and family asked why I was coming to Thailand for a yoga retreat. There were many reasons that I was unable to briefly summarize into a single response. I'd never been to Asia before. I felt called here because of my prior connection with Echo. I had seen friends traveling to Thailand and Bali (and posting photos of jungles and monkeys), and I was envious of their escapades. I wanted to be around people who were living creative, non-conventional lives and learn from them. But mostly, I thought, I liked practicing yoga, and Thailand seemed like an interesting location in which to do it.

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On the first night of the retreat, we meditated together, and then took a moment to write down our intentions for the remainder of our time together. Why did I come here? What was I hoping to get out of this? I thought my answer would be a little more hands-off. Yoga and Thailand. Yoga in Thailand. Did I really need to say more? Throughout my journey, I've done this kind of thing many times—set intentions for the practice, notice how my body folds into various shapes, share meditative experiences with strangers and see how in a day they become close friends. Even when people cry or reveal hopelessly frustrated dark nights of the soul, I'm not surprised because my mind has been there, too. When it comes to journaling and holding hands in circles, I'm an old pro.

But on that first night of focus, preparing for a week of what I hoped would provide clarity and a light on the path to bliss, my mind's eye revealed something more. I always like to pretend that I'm an expert at things, exceedingly nervous to show flaws in whatever I'm meant to be knowledgable about. Yoga, meditation, travel—no big deal for me! I'm a teacher! I've been to 30 countries! However, during meditation that night, after a week of flying over countries and oceans, carrying heavy backpacks, and taking in so much of the external world, it felt so welcoming to return to my mat. Even though I was a full twelve hours time difference from where I normally live, I was grounded. I was home.

As I sat there trying to settle on an intention or a reason to write on my little slip of paper, I could finally see the childlike part of me that was kneeling in the presence of these timeless teachings, patiently and earnestly hoping to see and learn. I didn't need to try to sound cool, experienced, or knowledgeable with a load of classes, workshops, and explorations under my belt. I'm here because there's so much that I haven't seen and so much that I don't know. I saw clearly the innocence in me of someone who never feels like an expert, who has found that the road to self-discovery is as challenging as it is rewarding. My intention in that moment, which remains with me as I write this now, is to hold onto that vision of myself, and to recognize it in everyone around me. I want to realize the unblemished wonder with which we are all encountering this world, and look past any disguises, fancy language, or walls that get in the way. And then, of course, to see some monkeys, too.

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Namaste.

Why I Came to Thailand, Pt. 1

I met Echo for the first time about two years ago in Austin. I had been going through a rough week, filled with tears and uncertainty. I was unhappy in my job and experiencing some unexpected turbulence in my romantic relationship. In spite of the sizable lump in my throat that made me want to stay home and avoid talking to anyone, I kept doing the one thing that I knew would remain constant through the hard-hitting emotional crises and pains that inevitably come with growing up; I went to yoga class.

I waited at the door of Sukha Yoga, and Echo showed up right on time. The only problem was that she had forgotten her keys and wasn't sure if we'd be able to get into the studio for class. I didn't mind. I was happy to have found some people who would've practiced in a parking lot, and who didn't have any idea what was happening in my personal life. Even just sitting on the stoop outside the studio in good company beat crying alone in my car. But, as luck would have it, Echo's partner was able to drop off the keys, and we went inside to flow. Like always, being on my mat helped me set aside my perceived difficulties so I could feel into my body and, yeah, throw down a few handstands to alter my perspective. I felt a connection with the strength and style of Echo's teaching, and I think I ended up attending almost all of her classes over the next few weeks before she left on a journey to Japan.

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Flash forward two years into the future, and here I am in Thailand on a yoga retreat with the same teacher. Since we met, Echo has been living in Japan, New Zealand, Greece, and “nowhere” as she backpacks nomadically around this part of the world. It's been a treat to learn from her independent, take charge attitude—she's a global adventurer who seems prepared to take on any challenge. I carry all my teachers with me on this path, but it's been nice get to know one a little better and benefit the glow from her fiery spirit. As for me, I've kept on this long walk toward truth, and I'm certified to call myself a teacher now, too. The uncertainty and turbulence haven't changed all that much, but the girl experiencing it all sure has.

This year, Echo has started leading retreats and participating in teacher trainings around the world. I'm happy that she joined forces with Cole Chance for ours. Cole is a dreamy yoga instructor, Thai massage master, ecstatic dance enthusiast, and general positive vibe exuding being. I'm grateful that even though I never had the chance to meet her during our mutual Austin residences, I somehow ended up with her on the other side of the world. If you're looking for a yoga retreat that includes both meditation and exploration, check out both of these ladies as they plan more offerings near and far: echoflowyoga.com | colechanceyoga.com.

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Namaste.

Awakening Ananda

There have been so many times this week that I had to pinch myself to make sure I'm really here on the other side of the world, sleeping near the foothills of these glorious green mountains. I certainly never got tired of the morning walk past the two water buffalo grazing in the rice paddy fields on our way out to the outdoor yoga space. Or the saltwater pool with its peacefully trickling waterfall. Or our Shire-style mala room with an outdoor shower and a portal door connecting us four smiling roommates. Or the fresh coconuts, mangoes, and multicolored dragonfruits. But I digress...

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I feel so thankful to have had the time and the means to be here on this trip. The Mala Dhara Eco-Resort provided a perfect background (and beyond delicious organic vegetarian meals) for our days spent working on powerful inner and outer shifts. I met likeminded people of many different ages and nationalities, all eager to share their stories and offer advice to help develop my own. We're all breaking down conditioned thought patterns with the goal of staying on a path toward blissful existence in our hearts and our communities. I'll share the in's and out's of retreating and the places we visited soon, but for now, I'm just saying thank you to everyone I found here, and who found me, and to the universe for bringing all of this into alignment.

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Kob khun kha!