Welcome to Yoga Medicine Yin Yoga & Meditation Module!
The day after losing my grandmother, I boarded a plane for Thailand to participate in the Yin Yoga & Meditation module of my 1,000 hour yoga training with Tiffany Cruikshank. The decision to continue with this trip on the heels of this loss was extremely difficult and one that was made after heavy discussion with my family. Everyone was in agreement that my grandmother would not want me to cancel my training. We felt that it was beneficial that I saw her before she passed.
While a heavy heart was a major part of my luggage, I went through the motions of boarding my flights and taking a 38 hour trip. From LAX to Taipei, Taiwan, I noticed an overwhelming fragrance of perfume filling the cabin. I really didn’t think much of it other than that I was annoyed that someone would not think twice about dousing themselves in a strong fragrance before boarding an extremely long flight. I let it go for that moment as I popped in my headphones, watched movies that I had been too busy to see in the theater and took advantage of the complimentary wine service paired with the terrible airplane food.
As I boarded the plane from Taipei to Bangkok, I began to get settled in for another long leg. Earplugs? Check! Eye mask? Check! No-Jet Lag tablets? Check! Then, all of a sudden, I noticed it again. That smell. The overwhelming fragrance from the last flight. It was here again! I peeled off my eye mask and looked around, but no one in my immediate vicinity looked familiar from the last flight. I mean, what would be the odds, right??? Again, I really didn’t think about it much other than the fact that I was irritated that I was having to smell this fragrance for yet another flight. I felt a bit like I had just walked into Abercrombie & Fitch, but what could I do? 2 glasses of wine down, eye mask on, earplugs in, good night!
Mellow morning flow.
I groggily wandered through the Bangkok airport from 2:30am-6am before finally making my way to Koh Samui for the Yin Yoga & Meditation module with Tiffany. After everything that I had endured the week leading up to the retreat, plus the extensive traveling, I was so glad to be here. Not only did I need a shower and some decent food but remember, half of the clothes in my suitcase were dirty! (read about that in the last blog, if you haven’t already.) It was lovely meeting new yogis where were like minded and spiritually connected, but it was fantastic to reconnect with fellow yogis who I have had the pleasure of traveling with in the past.
Fellow Yoga Medicine yogi’s who I had the pleasure of exploring India with for our Seva project.
One of the things I have loved the most is making friends on just about every continent. Here, you see Australia, Sweden via Jakarta, Holland by way of Abu Dhabi, London and Norway, just to name a few! Practicing with this group brings a sense of peace, harmony and cohesiveness. Knowing that I had been through so much in the recent days, it was like having a family away from my own family.
Wind Chimes outside of the yoga shala.
The first evening of the retreat was taking place at the same time as my grandmother’s funeral back home. Needless to say, the practice was very emotional for me. At the end of the practice, I laid in the silence and stillness of savasana. As my body rested and absorbed the recent events I had encountered and the travel that I had endured, my mind was called back to the present moment by the sounds of large, metal wind chimes. Chimes similar to those that hung on my grandmother’s back porch. The porch that I spent many summers catching lightning bugs, swirling sparklers and rocking on her wooden rocker while watching the hummingbirds refuel at the feeder that she always had waiting for them. It was at this moment that it all came together for me. The wind chimes. The fragrance on the airplane. I realized what it was and why it was so familiar to me. It was Liz Claiborne. As in the red plastic triangle that we used to wear in high school. My gram used to wear it. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first!) but I swear it was a sign from her. The perfume. The wind chimes. In my mind, it was her being there with me. Telling me that she was no longer in pain and that she was free and at peace. It was at this moment that I, too, felt at peace. In that moment. In my body. In my mind. Peace and tranquility. Despite the fact that we had beachside winds each and every day, I never heard the chimes again during my stay, yet the sense of peace and calm remained. Om Shanti, Namaste’
Finding peace and calm in Savasana
Prior to venturing across the globe to Thailand, my 4 yr. old daughter and I had many discussions about what I was going to do while I was there. One of the highlights of our itinerary planning was going to be seeing elephants. Elephants in Thailand are revered in work as well as religion. The sad part is, much of their work is exploitative…giving rides to tourists and even walking the streets at night begging for tourists to “pay” their “mahout” (trainer) for a bag of food to feed them or to take a photo. I came to Thailand thinking I was going to be able to ride an elephant and wouldn’t that be so awesome?!?! What I didn’t realize is that “work” elephants, such as the ones that provide rides for tourists are considered “livestock” and there are no rules to protect them from abuse, neglect or even from being killed by their mahout. Wild elephants, on the other hand are protected, yet are still poached and hunted for their tusks. In the last 100 years, the World’s Asian elephant population as dropped 90% and their available habitat has shrunk 95%. Today, only about 25,000 Asian elephants remain wild and in the next 30 years, (that’s in our lifetime, mind you!) they could be extinct. That’s a pretty heavy thought to consider.
On Friday, we were privileged to visit the Elephant Nature Park, located in the jungle about an hour and a half North of Chiang Mai. The owner, a woman named “Lek”, which means “small one,” has dedicated her life to saving these magnificent creatures. Her facilities runs on volunteers that actually pay to spend weeks at a time there, taking care of the elephants. Many of these graceful giants have made the sanctuary their home because of illness, injury or abuse. Lek and her team have nursed them back to health and now provide an educational safe haven for them.
After being treated to a “jungle lunch”, it was “bath time” for the elephants. Boy, was that a sight! multiple elephants made their way down to the river where we were waiting. As the elephants entered the river, some stood, while others lounged in the water. We splashed them and rinsed the mud off their backs while some splashed us back. All of this dubious bathtime was a little in vain, because upon finishing, they just went back to their savannah and rolled in the dirt! This is their way of applying sunscreen…did I mention it is VERY hot here in Thailand?!?! About like South Carolina in August, but more sticky, if you can imagine!
After bathtime, we got to meet the baby girl. She is a 7 year old twin and LOVED to give kisses. Honestly, this ranks pretty darn high on my list of amazing life experiences! Actually, to describe this day as amazing truly isn’t strong enough.
Lastly, I want to share the story of Jokia. We heard about Jokia on the shuttle up to the sanctuary. Jokia was sold into logging, back in the 80’s before it was banned in 1989. She was pregnant at the time. When Jokia went into labor, she was working up high on a hill. When her baby was born, it rolled down the hill and fell to its death. Jokia was not allowed to tend to the baby and was forced to continue to work. It’s pretty wild to think of an elephant suffering from depression, but she did. She refused to work, whereas before, she had been compliant. In a bout of rage, Jokia’s mahout blinded her by stabbing her in the eye. To defend herself, Jokia injured the mahout by hitting him with her trunk and injuring him. In retaliation, the mahout blinded Jokia’s other eye. Upon arriving at the sanctuary, Jokia received her name. It means “tear of heaven’s eye.” Rightfully so. I know this story is depressing, but what you need to know is that, albeit blind, Jokia has made a complete recovery! Even better, when she arrived, another female elephant, Mae Perm, sensed that Jokia had special needs and took her under her wing. She spends every day with her and accompanies her wherever she goes, looking out for her and keeping her safe. This is a true story of resilience and the strength of sheer will. I know we all possess that deep within. We all have the courage, strenth and resilience that Jokia had. We just may not realize it until we actually need it. So, no matter what is coming your way, I encourage you to dig down deep and find your strength to push on. We all have everything we could ever need buried inside ourselves. Just sometimes, it takes a little digging before we find that treasure. I would encourage everyone to find that gem within before we actually need to. Explore it and get to know it when you don’t need it, so that when you finally do need it (and we all will!) you can access it easily and freely. Much elephant love and namaste’.
For more information on how you can help, please visit http://www.elephantnaturepark.org
Travels of a Yogi: Still Waters
Nestled in the Sri Lanna National Park of Chiang Mai, Thailand, you will find rustic cabin-type dwellings dotting the surface of the water. These floating cottages have been my home for the last 3 days. For anyone who knows me, rustic is not exactly my middle name. In fact, I prefer a place with room service and a spa, but there is something to be said for the peace and calm that surround our “Om Waters” cottage. As I sat and meditated on the bamboo deck on our last morning, it was impossible not to feel a sense of amazement for the beauty at our feet. The water was calm and serene. The verdant, green mountains peaked up over the horizon. Sounds of cicadas, birds, and numerous other jungle creatures provided the symphony for our ears. While a slight breeze caressed my skin, the warm rays of the sun felt like a blanket of gratitude. Gratitude for those around me, sharing in my experience. Gratitude for the staff and students who are holding down the fort while I’m gone. And most definitely gratitude for the loving husband and family who support my dreams and make this all possible. As I continue to gaze out over the still lake, now and then I would see a fish jump, or small fishing boat go by creating ripples in the stillness. These ripples remind me of those that periodically penetrate the still waters of our lives. I am reminded that while every person experiences ripples, these too shall pass and still, peaceful, calm waters will always find their way back. And, while the ripples may seem like rolling waves, we shouldn’t lose sight of the beauty of the mountains, the cooling breeze or the warmth of the sun. Whenever ripples make their way into our lives, beauty still remains if we choose to keep our eyes open to it. For, without the ripples, we wouldn’t have gratitude for everything else.
Travels of a Yogi: The Night Market
Every night in Chiang Mai, Thailand comes alive. Especially, Sunday nights. The night markets are an amazing display of sights, sounds and smells. A true sensory overload at its finest! Everything from foods, to tapestries, to massage to incense. After being awake for over 48 hours, my senses were even more piqued. Upon entering the Thape Gate we were welcomed by local craftsmen and artisans displaying their wares. There were beautiful, ornate tapestries, decorative tote bags and wallets everywhere you turned. Paintings, drawings, carvings and handmade jewelry adorned one table after the next. Silver, jade, beads and leather were just some of the many selections to choose from. For our friends back at the studio, I have chosen a selection of yoga pants and handmade jewelry as well as some decorative wallets. For the kids, I was lucky enough to come upon a man who was creating the most interesting yarn animals. I know, yarn animals? Yes! He had created his animals by using different colors to weave and shape these animals into shapes such as dragons, elephants, horses, lions and snakes. Once the animal was complete, he would apply some mod-podge type of medium to get it to hold it’s shape. It was really fascinating! Other items that caught my fancy were dainty and delightful flowers that were carved out of soap. They sat in carved bowl-type containers and were painted to look like gardenias, plumeria and lotus flowers, just to name a few. I will be bringing a few of them home, too. You can never begin to buy stocking stuffers too early, right???
As if the wares were not enough, the food was a vision in itself! From an array of colorful sushi, to fresh cut coconut water, to fried squid and chicken feet, anything you could have wanted was at your fingertips. Since I don’t eat meat, I won’t be trying any scorpions on a stick; however, the local mangosteen and fruits that I don’t even know what are called have been a joy to the palate! Although, I have not tried the darita fruit yet. While Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain have both featured this fruit on their shows, I haven’t gotten the courage to taste it just yet. It is about the size of a large cantaloupe and is covered in spikes. Apparently, it smells like a cross between rotten onions and dirty feet. Yummy, right?!?!? I’ll keep you posted! We will be luck enough to get to visit the market again next Sunday, so I look forward to exploring things that I missed the first time.
Today, we will be heading up North to the floating cottages today and will be out of connection for a few days. In the meantime, delicious food awaits!
As I type this, I can view the flight map on the tv screen on the back of the seat in front of me. We have flown up the coast of California, the Western edge of Canada and Alaska. It shows us that we are actually going to be crossing the Bearing Sea and the International Date Line shortly. So…I left LAX on Friday, June 8 at 1:14pm, 4:14pm in SC and 7:14pm in Thailand…I just haven’t figured out if it was 7:14pm yesterday or tomorrow? I think “tomorrow” because when I get there, it will be 11:00pm on Saturday, June 9. When we make our connection in Tokyo, it will be 5pm, there. So, I’m trying to decide whether I should try to stay awake so that I can get some rest when we land in Bangkok at 11pm~ since our flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand doesn’t leave until 7am on Sunday, June 10. Are you following that? Or are you as thoroughly confused as I am??? Lol! Well, either way, it’s all good! I keep reminding myself that I am letting go of having to have a schedule. Letting go of having to know where I need to be and when I need to be there. So far, so good…I think 😉 In the meantime, I think I am going to try to stay up until I get to Bangkok. It makes me feel a little bit like a kid again when I’d try to stay up ’til midnight on New Years or to wait up for Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Trying to keep my eyes open may prove futile because I will have been up for over 24 hrs. by the timfe i get to Bangkok and into a bed…but I don’t want to sleep on the plane and then be wide awake at 11pm in Bangkok (the song “One Night In Bangkok” is running through my head right now!). My brain hurts even trying to figure out what time it will be in SC when I get there…what I do know is that it there is a 19 hour time change from SC to Chiang Mai. All in all, the trip is (with connections & stopovers) scheduled to take 28 hours. It was so weird to think that I left LA on Friday, but don’t get to Chiang Mai until 2 calendar days later…so what day IS it anyway???