Seeing the Homeless

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but a few years back I started looking at homeless people in a different way. Before that moment, when I saw someone panhandling I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were on drugs, worthless and deserved their homeless status. I had judged them and thrown them all into a class labelled “Underserving.”

But the universe was working on me. Each time I saw someone begging, eyes downcast, dirty and tired I wondered what I would do if I saw my son sitting in their place. What would I do to help him? Would I walk by and not make eye contact – like most people do? Would I immediately jump to the worst conclusion?

So I started talking to them. I met Michael in Houston a couple of year ago. He was 19 years old and had been sleeping under the freeway bridge close to our hotel. He had been there for a couple of days but wasn’t feeling particularly safe but he was glad that in Houston it was at least warm out at night. We talked about his family. I told him his mom was probably worried about him and then I bought him a coffee at Starbucks. He wouldn’t come in with me so I brought it out to him.

I met Helen outside of a Publix grocery store in Brunswick, GA. She was sitting by the stop sign crying. I walked over and sat down next to her and put my arm around her. She was dirty and had no shoes. She was crying because she lost her job at Burger King and was now sleeping in a tent in the woods. We talked for about 15 minutes and I left her with $5. She cried some more when I hugged her good bye.

I met three traveling guys outside of a Walmart store. One of them was juggling like a boss! They were all around 20 years old and had been traveling home from a fair but had run out of gas. I went in to Walmart and bought them a Subway Gift Certificate so that they could at least get some food while they waited for gas money.

I met a man recently begging for money in Anacortes. He had a worn out bicycle with all of his possessions strapped onboard. He carried a sign asking for 37 cents. We pulled over and searched through our car compartments for all of our spare change. As we handed over our “leftover” change his face lit up – revealing exactly 4 teeth. He was so grateful for the small amount of change that was rolling around in the forgotten places in our car.

Homeless people don’t want to be homeless. Everyone wants a place to belong, to feel safe and comfortable. They all have families who love them and wonder where they are. Yes, some of them have substance issues. So, give them food instead of money. Or maybe just make eye contact and say hello. Maybe ask them their name, tell them yours and shake their hand.

We’re all in this together. Isn’t it our job to love each other? “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” It doesn’t take much effort to see someone. To acknowledge their presence. Most of us have time, spare change or food to share. I don’t have a lot. I live in an RV – so technically I’m homeless too. So I will stop and say hello. If I have change to spare I will share it. If I’m in doubt about how the money will be used, I’ll bring food. Maybe all I will have to share is a hand shake or a hug but I vow not to ignore them anymore.

Gypsy Comes Home

It’s strange coming back home. During the last 9 months I have been to all four corners of the U.S. with a short trip to Europe thrown in for good measure! People walk up to me with a far-away expression on their face as though I’ve done something incomprehensible! They seem to have a romantic notion of what a nomadic lifestyle is like and they want me to tell them how dreamy it was! When they ask “Did you love it?” I have to pause because the answer isn’t simple.

Traveling is fun. It’s good to explore places like the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Florida Keyes and the crystal blue water of the Bahamas. When I look through my photos it’s surprising to me how many places I’ve visited. It’s  a blast to meet new people and make friends. I even earned a new understanding of how big our country is after taking a solo road trip from Tennessee to Washington state.

But traveling is not easy. By definition you are going away from home. You carry all of your possesions with you and you stay, sleep and eat in places that are not yours. Renting a house for a few months in Georgia was the most stable time we had and that house was for sale. So every time they needed to show the house we had to skeedaddle. We loved having the house but it was very clear that it wasn’t ours.

We also stayed with family and had a boat on which we camped. But none of them were home. I missed having a place that was MINE. Where I could keep a few cherished possessions. Where I could decorate or paint or lie in bed all day and know that it was ok because it was MY place. Having a HOME to come home to is a very good thing.

The hardest thing for me was learning to let go. You have to let go of a schedule, a PLAN, a time table, stability and security. You have to be ready to turn right or left on a whim. You have to be willing to NOT KNOW what was coming next and to go with the flow!

In my old life, I was a schedule fanatic. My kids were on a schedule, my stomach was on a schedule, I had a plan for everything and if things did not go according to that plan I became agitated and frustrated and extremely uncomfortable. I just felt that life was better planned out. A day went smoother when you knew where you’d be for lunch and where you’d be that night. But I had to throw all of that out the window on this journey.

I also struggled with isolation. Many people love being out on their own for long periods of time and I have learned to like my own company more than I used to. But I still missed my people. I am very lucky in that I have a group of friends and family who love and support me in a way no one else can.

I hope you have a group like this too. People who listen to you and understand. Who will call you on your crap when you’re being selfish or seeing things unclearly. People who are really there for you when you need them. I was very lucky in that I found some new “people” along the way!

So the answer is YES, I had a great time over the last year! I saw amazing places for the first time! I had experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. I learned a lot about myself too. I learned that I am capable, brave and strong and that I can adapt. I also learned that I like having a home and a plan and my people close by.

So if you walk up to me and ask me how my adventure went….be patient if I hesitate. I’m just trying to give you an honest answer. Adventure and Exploration are great but it’s also wonderful to come home and sit by the fire.  Would I do it again? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. Are there things I would change: Definitely Yes. Did I see amazing things? Yes. Did I meet great people? Yes. Was it easy? Hell NO.

For now, I’m glad to be back home….if only for the summer.

Namaste Y’all

Hayloft Yoga – Bow, WA

As I lay in Savasana last night, cuddled up in my blanket, I could hear the sounds of horses munching their food, birds flying under the eaves and somewhere in the distance an owl hooting soft and slow. Hay Loft Yoga was a magical experience. I had never done yoga in a barn before but somehow the smells of hay, dirt and grass made me feel right at home. The location and smells helped me let go of everything that had happened in my day and allowed me to revel in the here and now.

I met Jessie Tierney several years ago when she was organizing Free Yoga Day at the Mount Vernon Co-op. Jessie is one of those people who just makes you smile when you see her. Her energy is calm, sweet and friendly. Not only is she a great yoga teacher, she also works as a Physical Therapy Aide and is on her way to school in Virginia soon to become a Physical Therapist herself.

Jessie’s love for alignment was evident in last night’s class. She came around and made sure our hips were level and that we were continually “elongating our tail bones.” She even showed us how to use our hands to feel the position of the pelvis in Virabadrasana I. Class was slow and thoughtful and thorough. I had to modify a bit because I had taught two classes earlier in the day and I was feeling pretty exhausted but by the time class was over, I was feeling better, looser and happier.

What I love the most about visiting other yoga teachers and other studios is that as a yoga teacher I need to be fed sometimes. My body gets tired, my energy gets low and I can begin to feel like I have nothing new to share. But last night Jessie’s love for yoga and horses and her students filled me back up again and helped me remember why I do what I do.

You’ve probably witnessed something like it before. When you are around someone and they just totally love what they are doing – it’s evident. It’s like they sparkle. There is a special energy shining out of them that you can’t help but notice. It’s a beautiful thing to see and to experience!

Jessie will be teaching every Tuesday night at 7 pm at Double S Quarter Horse Ranch in Bow Washington until the beginning of August. I’m planning to go as many times as I can before she heads off to Virginia. Please join her and see how the sounds of horses nickering in their stalls, the smell of peppermint oil and the view of the sunset through the barn doors brings you a whole new understanding of what a yoga practice can be.

P.S. Here is a link to a blog about their home in Sedro Woolley called The Woolley Green House.

13442106_10208496501702486_1831210950_o

Fidalgo Fitness in Anacortes, WA.

I can’t lie. I thought it would be easier. When I looked through the window at the pool all I saw were gray heads. A pool full of senior citizens! They were talking to each other and smiling. It looked like they were having fun so I figured how hard could it be? I’ll give it a try. I thought Aqua Aerobics would be super easy. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!

My first class was deep water aerobics. After donning my swim suit, I strapped on a wide blue float belt and synched it in tight – to keep it from sliding up to my armpits! I then swam gently over to the deep end of the pool – which in all honesty makes my tummy a little squishy feeling – and tried to find a spot where I wouldn’t bump into anyone.

Kirsten, our instructor is young and perky. She is red headed with fair skin, freckles and enough energy to light up Time Square! She played upbeat music with a quick rhythm and started us out jogging in place – then moved on to jumping jacks followed by cross country skiing. Very quickly I started to warm up! I found that the water provided a resistance to my movements that supplied a full body work out that was amazing!

I also learned that I could alter that resistance by opening or closing my fingers. Bending my knees made things easier but keeping my knees straight and moving from the core and hip worked my body in a whole new way! And increasing the tempo made my muscles work overtime! Kirsten varied our pace and encouraged us to keep our core engaged which made me feel stronger as I bobbed/danced about trying to keep up with the choreography.

I have since attended two more classes and I absolutely love the work out that I am getting from this type of exercise! Now I know why the pool is full of senior citizens! It isn’t because this class is easy, It’s because they are SMART people! They know what works. They know that exercise in the pool provides a low impact, full body resistance work out that you can modify depending on your needs! And it’s fun!

So, if you live in the area, please come on by the Fidalgo Island Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes, WA. We have a weight room with cardio machines, group fitness classes upstairs and a wonderful pool with open swim times, lap swimming and water fitness classes that will kick your butt into shape! And if you drop in, tell them that Dawn sent ya! See you soon!

My Yoga Journey

When I came to Yoga, I was overweight, severely depressed and lost. My marriage was coming to an end, I had two teenagers and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be anymore. I had been: mom, wife, church lady, lunch lady, lady trying to be the perfect everything and none of it had worked. I ended up lying on the floor of my house, crying every day for a year. I finally went to the doctor for help after several scary months of not wanting to breathe anymore.

My doctor told me to take some antidepressants, get a counselor and get some exercise. I did all of those. I took anti-depressants, got a great counselor and picked yoga – because I thought, “It’s only stretching right?” Ha! Boy was I wrong!

At the end of my third class, during Savasana I had an epiphany – what Oprah calls “a light bulb moment.” It was that I was in charge! I was valuable and I was enough just the way I am! I can choose to make the decisions for the direction of my life. And everything started getting better from that point on. It wasn’t easy though. I had a lot of tough decision ahead of me and days where I would question every choice I was making.

I kept practicing and then started Yoga Teacher Training. I cried every day in class – I mean EVERY day. I don’t know how my teachers dealt with it. I’m sure the other students thought I was losing it. But it is now four years later and I am a dedicated yoga teacher/lover of myself/bringer of light and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my job!

It’s more than a job really – It’s my life and It’s a calling. For me, the most important part of a yoga practice is getting in touch with who you really are, on the inside. It’s being able to hear that little quiet voice inside that is your heart telling you which way to turn, telling you what you REALLY want to be and do. It’s learning that you are stronger than you think – because you REALLY are! It’s learning that you are worthwhile and lovely and special – or remembering that you are. That YOU are in charge of making your life what you want it to be!

We forget somewhere along in life that it’s ok to listen to that voice. The one that says it’s ok to take care of ourselves – that it’s ok to jump in rain puddles even if we are 60 – that we don’t have to live our life exactly like everyone else – and for me, that you don’t have to be unhappy, overweight and lost forever.

At 44 I saw the light. It was as though someone flicked my forehead and said “You have the Power!” You have the right to be happier. You have the tools to be healthier. You can find your way. Yoga set me free. And I want YOU to be free too.

YOU are lovely and special and you have gifts and talents that no one else has! You have a light inside of you that only you can shine! You have the power to be healthier, happier and free! We create our reality and it all starts in our mind. We get to choose positivity and light or….not. We get to choose our actions – actions that affect ourselves and others for good…….or bad. We get to choose our words that uplift, love and encourage others….or not.

As we begin to make those choices our lives will begin to change. Some people will fall away as you become more aligned with the true you. New people will be drawn to you because of your outlook and positivity. Those who truly love you will stay right by your side and hold your hand and say, “You go girl!”

For those of you who may be struggling today I want you to know you are not alone. You may be struggling with your weight, or with depression, addiction to perfectionism, a need to please every one else. You may be feeling worthless and hopeless. I’ve been there and may I just say…..reach out for help, tell someone, create a circle of friends that will support you, open your heart and tell them the real stuff – don’t keep it hidden.

Go to your doctor if that’s an option, take the stupid meds for a while even if you don’t really want to, and find a way to exercise – go walk, ride a bike or even try Yoga. You might find a community there of loving, real, broken and challenged human beings – just like YOU!!! Who knows? You might even find a calling.

From My Heart to Yours, Dawn

Maya Shakti – Anacortes, WA

When you walk through the door into Maya Shakti Yoga Studio in Anacortes the first thing you notice is the lovely fragrance in the room. Of course that’s because the owner Dawn Marie has been drying roses and lavender and rosemary to make her own signature Fidalgo Island Blend of potpourri and beautifully wrapped smudge sticks.

I recently visited Maya Shakti to attend a Restorative/Yoga Nidra class – and boy was I in need! I had just moved to the area the week before. I had trouble getting a spot to park my RV aka The Gypsy Love Bus, there was “no room at the inn” for our F27 Trimaran in any of the local marinas and I had been working really hard to find a job. I was feeling stressed and worried and extremely tired.

Every time I see Dawn it makes me smile. She has curly dark hair and a smile that reaches all the way to her eyes! I really like her and it’s not because we share the same name – although I think that’s really cool!

The first part of class was a very meditative yin/stretch. Dawn emphasized staying in tune with our breath – even through the transitions between poses which I had never really focussed on. I loved how slow it was. It felt thorough and deep and I kept my eyes closed almost the entire practice! Then we moved into a 20 minute Nidra which was heavenly! I was so relaxed and blissed out that when class was over I felt as though I had been sitting in a hot sauna, followed by a massage and a glass of wine! Totally at ease, zen and calm and it lasted most of the day!

It was really great. Just what I needed today. Dawn teaches all of the classes at Maya Shakti and she is also a Massage Therapist and Life Coach. Maya Shakti has has live music nights, a great shop up front to find Malas, T shirts, Cool patterned fabric and a free/share book bin! I love that! So if you’re ever in Anacortes come by Maya Shakti ad check it out – especially the Sunday morning Restorative/Nidra class – and tell Dawn that I sent ya! Namaste.

It’s All In Your Head

I made it up the hill today on my bike! It’s a big hill too – well for me it is. It’s not all that steep but pedaling uphill for a mile is challenging for me. Today was the first time I’ve ridden up the hill since last year. The funny thing about this hill is that it’s all in my head. I mean, the hill is real but my ability to make it all the way to the top rests on my belief that I can do it!

Have you learned this lesson yet? That what we think we CAN do – we can do. And what we tell ourselves we CAN’T do becomes impossible? It’s amazing really – the power of our mind. The power to decide whether we can or can’t, whether we’re good enough or not, whether we deserve good things or not, whether we ARE good or not.

This is the reason why some of us are our own worst enemy. I don’t know where the negative voice comes from. Is it the voice of our parents or the voice of some other authority figure? Is is just a collective mind of negativity that we share? Because we do share it! I have spoken to many people and most of us have a negative voice in our head that tells us, “It will never work,” or “You’re too fat” or “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

That voice even calls us names sometimes. Think about it……Does that voice call you an idiot or stupid or ugly or worthless? Would you be friends with someone who called you those things? I wouldn’t. So the trick it to change it. EVERY time I heard something negative I pause and refute whatever that negative message was. If it said, “You’re fat!” I say, “I’m healthy!” If it said, “you’re stupid” I say “Nope. I have a 4.0GPA….and so on.

It’s also true in our Yoga practice. When I teach inversions (head stand, hand stand) I can watch students shake their head and actually say out loud, “I can’t do that.” They won’t even try. They have decided they can’t – and then they literally can’t.

I still struggle with this too. But I have learned that I have the power to make it better. There are days when I listen and that negative voice affects my mood and motivation. But NOT today! Today I was victorious! I told myself, “You got this! You CAN do this! You are a Rock star! Just keep going! You are doing so good! And when I got to the top of the hill I knew I was right.

Love y’all!