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LETTING YOUR COLORS OUT (THE SPACE OF LOVE CONTINUED).

Visualize this: You are on indefinite holiday in the Greek Islands, living your happily-ever-after with your former star-crossed lover from India. You finally decided to let go and let love take the reigns and you are feeling lit up from the inside.

And now, here you are, walking this earth with your heart open and expanding and ready and wide and then-- it hits you. Out of nowhere. Like a grim reaper taking ahold of your shoulder in the dark night.

You realize that you are walking this earth with your heart open and expanding and ready and wide and, holy shit, this could end really badly. 

You realize this person could find out that you aren't perfect. That you actually aren't an enlightened yogi. Or the docile Indian princess that you aspire to be. And now you are going to be living with this person and they will be able see all this and more. They may discover you have a dark side. And that you are an American. With a big mouth. 

Essentially, they will be able to see all of who you are. And in the end, all of who you are could add up to not being enough.

Now, let's be real. It doesn't take much reflection of my relationship with Kishore over the years to clearly see that he has already seen my dark side. In fact, he's probably seen the worst of it. But that argument is easily drown out by the heavy voices of insecurity that arise when you start trying measure love and whether or not it can truly receive you. So, despite the clear reality that I was already irreparably exposed, I began a process of experimenting with different personas to hide under. 

And I should mention that this kind of experiment isn't out of the ordinary behavior for me. In fact, this is something I am actually quite used to doing. You see, us air signs are natural people pleasers. Geminis, in particular, are born with a keen ability to sense exactly what the person in front of us wants, and serve up exactly what they expect. It's mostly a good thing. It's what  makes us diplomatic and adaptable. It's what makes us strong and effective communicators. It's what got me every job I've interviewed for. But sometimes, in moments of insecurity, we can turn this talent against ourselves and get a bit lost in the process.

And so I assumed that this quiet, meditative, sun-gazing Indian man couldn't actually want me. Maybe me in a sari. Maybe me in more jewelry and feminine frill. Maybe me turned down a notch or two to a lesser degree. But certainly, not me.

So I tried to play the part of the bashful Indian princess like I was trying out to win the role. I tried to be shy. I tried to be quiet. I tried to be modest. I tried to pacify all the traits that make me distinguishably me.

Thankfully, my inner resistance toward playing small ensured it wouldn't be long before I got called out:

"I don't want you to be my Indian wife," said Kishore, "I want you to be yourself. The person I fell in love with was you. I want to be with you. I don't want you to ever seek to please me. I want you to do only what pleases yourself."

Feeling slightly silly, I dropped the personas. But the fear of inadequacy still plagued my mind.

On the first night in Milos, after concluding my week-long yoga retreat in Santorini, I walked down to the small beach down the hill from our hotel. And as soon as I felt the soft sand cradle my feet, I fell into a puddle on the ground and began to cry. I cried from exhaustion. I cried from joy. I cried from overwhelming relief after feeling compassionate sand beneath my feet after months of hot pebbles and coarse earth.

I cried from the feeling that I could finally release my full weight into the earth and be received without holding back.

Arriving on that beach, after two weeks of traveling, felt like coming back to the water in Eressos. Like I was Pocahontus coming to visit Grandmother Willow to tell her she discovered life was unfair. Only what I had to report was that love is still hard. Even after you let go. Even when there are wide open arms to accept you, you still have to get out of your own way. And once you do, you have to do it again and again, every day, for the rest of your life. Or as long as you decide to live in the space of love. 

On my last full day in Greece before making my way towards Turkey, I wanted to reflect and integrate my past three months. So I took the whole day to be in one place and do nothing. To do what Eressos taught me to do best:

Relax and collect energy for the things to come.

I spent the whole day resting on a beach bed in Paliochori village, where I came across the most incredible beach I have encountered yet. 

Perhaps from an outside glance, others would find some of the beaches I encountered in Santorini and Crete to be more exquisite. But this beach called me home unlike any other so far.

The language barrier in this village was the hardest for me to navigate. So instead of attempting to explain how to make my coffee the way I like it, I simply ordered the ingredients separately. A bucket of ice. A double espresso. And an empty glass. And I nested myself in a canopied beach bed, concocted it on my own,  and gazed off into the horizon as the sounds of the lapping waves took me away. 

I was in love with this beach.

In love.

It was colorful and messy. With true volcanic potential. Breathtakingly beautiful but lacking any real consistency. Some areas were covered with jewel-like yellow pebbles and glistening white stones. Some areas had soft, yielding sand. While other parts were covered with fine pink dirt, broken dried clay, or course gray sand ready to burn your feet in an instant.

The beach was surrounded by a tall volcanic rock that looked like the God of Wine threw himself at it in an angry fit. Marked by the red and yellow streaks thrown down its sides and the warning signs posted of its potential to landslide at any moment.

It reminded me of my time back in art school and the way I used to throw paint in creative fury when I felt the blank canvas before me was threatening to pacify me. When the edges of the canvas felt like they were trying to put me in a box. 

And there I found myself, walking the colorful shoreline of this beautiful beach, emerging from an attempt to pacify myself. 

This beach had a way of reminding me who I am. 

Of reminding me that it's okay, to be bold, and bright, vivid and loud.

It's okay to live undaunted, inconsistent, lively, and ablaze.

It's okay to be vulnerable, spirited, sensitive and exposed.

That it's more than okay.

It's beautiful.

Into this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an ax to the prison wall
And walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
— Rumi

Milo's island's big claim to fame is that the ancient Greek sculpture, "Aphrodite of Milos" (better known as "Venus de Milo") was discovered on the island. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BCE, the sculpture is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. You can find little souvenir statues of Aphrodite all over the island. Usually composed of a pure white material to mirror the original. But as I was browsing the local artisan shops of Plaka village, I found a statue of her covered in layers of multi-colored paint splatters. Similar to the aesthetic I found on Paliochori beach. Similar to the way I sometimes feel inside.

I decided this was the souvenir I would take from Greece. This colorful depiction of a classic beauty. This wild representation of beauty itself. Beauty. Boundless, uninhibited, and free. 

This little Aphrodite statue, and the colorful stones I gathered from Paliochori beach, are my reminders to be myself. A reminder to expose my own colors. A reminder that I, too, am love and beauty even if my colors are vibrant and pronounced and undeniably American. A reminder that I am not lovable despite this; I am lovable because of this. A reminder that who I am is completely and entirely enough. And, most importantly, that keeping my colors in is a disservice to the world, and a real inhibition to all-consuming, boundless love.

As I had my last lunch in Milos, and my last glass of Greek wine, before taking a ferry back to the mainland, I heard God speak to me and affirm this realization through the speakers of the cafe where I was sitting. Or rather, as the way God usually speaks to me these days, I heard Whitney Houston:

Share my life
Take me for what I am
'Cause I'll never change
All my colors for you

Take my love
I'll never ask for too much
Just all that you are

In Greece I encountered the most variety in landscape I have ever seen. Soft sand, fine sand, coarse sand. Pebbles, stones and hard bricks of clay. White sands, black sands, pink sands, red sands. Sapphire blue, deep navy, turquoise, soft teal and light blue waters. So many different expressions of beauty emerging from the same place; from the same source.

It's a beautiful reminder that we don't have to live one color at a time. That what comes forth from us can manifest in a multitude of beautiful ways. That not every expression of ourselves needs to match the greater whole. We can let our colors out, play with the inconsistency, and continue to explore the edges of what it means to live a beautiful life. And what it means to be entirely, whole-heartedly ourselves

May we all live our colors loud and bright. And may every story end with a Whitney Houston song playing as it rolls into the credits. 

Big love,

Jessica

P.S. This beach showed me a way back to love but, once again, I forgot to bring one of those tiny silver hearts to leave behind. But, fittingly, as this was a lesson learned about receiving love, existence stepped in and did it's part. Like it always does.



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THE SPACE OF LOVE.

How can you love me when you don’t even know me?

Why do I need to know you to love you? Love has nothing to do with knowing. It’s being.
Arambol, Goa, India.

Arambol, Goa, India.

You know those pistachios that just won't open? The ones that no matter how much you pick, pull, or gnaw, the damn thing will just not give? And how the stupid things even pinch your fingers in your futile attempts to pull back their shell? Those frustrating stubborn pistachios that give no fucks?

Well, I've been that pistachio for, I'd say... the past three years. 

Yep. That's not easy to admit but, alas, it's true. I'm not sure I could pin-point exactly when or why I decided to retreat inside myself as if I were a bomb shelter, but it is safe to say that I have been in this small self-protective space for a while now. Maybe it was post-cancer trauma. Maybe it was a slew of significant relationship disappointments. Maybe I was just tired to playing the damn game. Who knows the reasons I came to the conclusions I did. All I know is that I have spent these past few years pretty emotionally unavailable. 

And I never actually thought "emotionally unavailable" was a real thing. I thought that it was just an excuse, just another name for "not that into you." But I can attest for myself that I have met and involved myself with some amazing people who, on one plane, I desired to have in my life, but on another, couldn't bear to actually include. They made large gestures, grand attempts, deep professions of their love... and I don't know what else to say except I wasn't there. I liked them. But I was empty-handed. I had nothing. Except my incessant apologies for not being where they wanted me to be. 

Those who got close to me only got as far as an arm's length. And when they tried to push beyond that distance, I'd push back and turn away. "The quick reverse," as I've come to call it. Their attempts to be closer to me felt violating. Like they were trying to trespass on my personal space; threatening my freedom and my sense of self. I knew it wasn't the long-term answer, but when the perceived threat occurred, all I knew was I had to go.

For whatever reason, I have been telling myself this story that I need to be alone in order to live the life I want: I need to be alone to be whole. I need to be alone to be independent. I need to be alone to be healthy. I need to be alone to heal or grow spiritually. I need to be single until I figure my shit out. I need to be single until I get my shit together. Essentially, I need to be single until I am worthy of being loved.

But it eventually got to the point where I was no longer choosing to be alone for some percieved higher purpose. I was choosing to be alone because that was all I knew how to do. That was all that felt comfortable. I didn't know how to be with another. At least, not for long. Not long enough to actually let them see me. Not long before I would retreat, close or shut down. And it seemed it evolved to the point that I couldn't do it even if I tried. That was the scariest part to me: that something that used to be a means to control was now out of my control. It had now become a conditioned response that I was afraid I would never outgrow.

One of my intentions for my time here in Greece was to do some unwinding regarding this pattern, as I really had nothing else to do with myself but take an honest look at it. I did lots of yoga, read Eat Pray Love for the second time (don't hate), and found myself writing in my journal my second week here: 

When did I become so generally uninterested in prospective lovers? Actually, when did the idea of being with someone start to repel me? It's like the act of someone showing interest in me turns me off. And then I push them away even if I was mutually intrigued by them before they reciprocated. What is wrong with me?

Rewind back to my first night in Skala Eressos, when I sat near the shore of the Aegean Sea, infused a shot of ouzo with my intentions for my time in Greece and poured them into the sea, and you'll find a woman who told the universe that she wanted to be completely ripped open. She no longer wanted to protect herself. She wanted to feel fucking human again. She just left her whole life, her possessions, her friends, family and career. She had nothing else to lose but herself. And she was ready to lose that too. And she wanted to get lost. She wanted to lose herself in an all-consuming love, to let herself become completely captivated by another, after years of letting herself hardly be impressed. 

To which the universe probably responded, had I not been too dense and self-absorbed at the time to hear:

Yeah, I know, dumb ass. He picked you up at the airport. But you already kicked him out this afternoon. ... Sigh. I will fix this though. I'll have to be soft, and subtle, so you hardly know what is happening. We may have to take some unforeseen detours, and I'll probably have to blindfold you until we get there so you don't freak the fuck out again, and I may sedate you with booze for a few weeks to take the edge off, but I will bring you back to Love. ... But try to stay put next time, will ya? You deserve to feel loved. Like really, really profoundly loved. And I'm sure you are noticing that all these plane tickets are getting expensive. I've made this guy the real deal. And you are making my job redundant and hard.

If you have deep love, there will be deep resistance also. They balance each other. Wherever love is, there is resistance too. Wherever you are tremendously attracted to, you would also like to escape from that place, from that space, because to be immensely attracted means you will fall into an abyss, you will no longer be yourself. Love is dangerous. Love is a death. It is more deathly than death itself, because you survive after death, but after love you don’t survive. Yes, somebody else is born, but you have gone; hence the fear.
— OSHO

I came to Greece to find what I truly loved. And it turns out that kind of pilgrimage begins with a complete immersion into the things you don't. Things that only feel a bit lukewarm. Things that even deplete your vitality and sense of worth. It was a winding road, one that I never expected, one where I had no idea where I was going until I arrived. And when I finally arrived, I found myself standing on familiar ground. I found myself in the same place I always return to. No matter how far I stray. No matter how lost I get. The place that calls me home no matter where I am in the world:

Sitting across from Kishore having dinner. 

He told me he loved me. With the same fixed stance he has had since knowing me only three days in Goa. 

"Sometimes I wish you treated me like shit," I said, "I know that is stupid but I feel it would be easier to draw closer to you. Your love for me is so intense, all-consuming and real. It scares me."

"What are you so scared of?"

"I'm afraid I'll lose my sense of identity."

"Tell me. What is this identity you think you possess?"

My inability to answer him revealed the blatant futility of my previous statement. 

I grasped desperately at something else:

"I don't know. I know it's fucked up. I think I just need some more time alone to explore this pattern more and heal it."

"It is just the mind, Jessica. And you know that. You cannot outgrow the mind. You can only drop it."

Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret, and in exchange gain the Ocean.
This is the work of the heart, not the work of the mind.
The mind constricts; love unbinds.
The mind says, ‘Don’t let go or overflow.’
Love says, ‘Be free without formality.’
— Rumi, Love's Ripening.

His words continued to echo in my head that evening as I walked home. Then, out of nowhere, they rang at such a magnitude it brought me to a stand still. I couldn't move. I couldn't keep walking this path. I didn't want to be inside a closed stubborn pistachio heart anymore. I didn't want to feel safe anymore. I wanted to feel wild, ripped open and exposed. 

I walked to the ocean. The same spot I did on my first evening in Eressos. I walked right into the shore, and as the cool water ran over my feet, I spoke:

"I am ready now."

It beckoned me forward. And I kept walking into its vastness until I was fully immersed. 

You won’t find lovers munching in the pasture.
Lovers drink a rare soul wine.
And in those potent wines, you will find
a heart very drunk and truly sober.
— Rumi, Love's Ripening.

It turns out I was wanting to be alone because living in the space of love is the most joyful and excruciating thing ever. It is a beautiful thing, yet scary as hell, to be walking around with your heart constantly wide fucking open. With your insides falling out. Expanding so wide that everything around you becomes a part of you. Feeling it so deeply you are suddenly crying all the time. You cry for the Syrians. You cry for the stray cats with no ears. You cry when the goats run to you. You cry for the glowing gypsy children that you just want to hug and hold and give abundant lives. I think the most excruciating part is the striving it requires to continue believing that someone can love you that intensely, that unconditionally, that wholeheartedly, when it is so much easier to run back into a shell that requires less exposure, less honesty, less presence, less life.

But this time, I realized, I have no shell to return to.

I've been irreparably broken open. 

Space is emblematic of freedom.
— B.K.S Iyengar

Tonight, I am forcing myself to have a minute and a glass of wine to myself. I'm the happiest I can remember. I am so in love it hurts. Like the way your face gets sore from smiling too much. And as I sit here, gazing into the sea, pondering how I could ever use words to describe to someone how relentlessly blue this water truly is, I realize I am sitting in a miracle. 

It's a miracle because, although I have spent the past five days with Kishore, I still want him next to me right now. It is a miracle because, before this moment, before this person, I always craved my aloneness over the company of the beloved.

It's a miracle because his presence doesn't feel threatening to my space. It's a miracle because I found someone who feels complete in his aloneness, admires my solitude, and loves and respects the space between us as much as he does me.

My art degree taught me that the beauty of two objects is found in the space between them. It's what makes it a balanced composition. It's what makes it art. I feel so lucky to have finally found someone who truly gets this. Someone who honors my inner space. Someone who understands that our togetherness is not about us, but rather how we take up space in relation to each other and toward a higher consciousness. 

Skala Eressos was exactly the place I needed to be. It had exactly the path I needed to walk. I am amazed how loving and transformative it has been for me in just a little over two months. When I first got here everyone I met gave me a sermon on how special this place is. How its unique energy pulls them back year after year after year.

They are now preaching to the choir. 

All my gratitude to this place. The beauty of it. The freedom of it. To every person, animal and thing that lit up a sense of love in my heart to prepare me to receive the greatest love I've ever known: Thank you. 

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To Santorini!

Jessica


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NAVIGATING ABUNDANCE IN A PLACE OF SCARCITY.

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
— Rumi

It has been an interesting endeavor to prepare for yoga retreat on abundance in a country that is facing a collapsed economy and full-blown humanitarian crisis. Clearly, this isn’t something I really considered when choosing the theme for this retreat. And I don’t intend to undermine the seriousness of the situation here, by any means, but I do appreciate how it is forcing me to look at the nature of abundance in an entirely different way.

In fact, I am about to make a bold move. 

My retreat to India focused on using the tools of Tantra, particularly, the power of intention, to harness desire to dharma and create a life that aligns who you are with what you want. And I created a 60-paged workbook to support the endeavor (sorry, guys). 

So, in recent weeks, I began to follow similar suit in preparing for my Greece retreat. I knew I wasn’t going to create an excessive workbook again, but I began to study deep into a yogic perspective on abundance. I began to look at the kosha model and the four desires (dharma, kama, artha and moksha) for ways to thrive at every level according to the Vedic tradition. 

I didn’t get very far because I hit a wall. Complete lack of inspiration.

I think I did feel a bit inauthentic talking about attracting prosperity in the reality of the economic situation here. But mostly, I was bored. I was bored with what I was writing. Because it had absolutely nothing to do with my experience of Greece and the way my understanding of yoga has evolved since being here. 

So I am scrapping everything. Approximately one month before my group is coming to join me here, I am starting over. Because… authenticity first. Always. 

So here’s the realness:

I don’t do anything here. Really, though... I hardly do anything. 

When I first got here, doing nothing felt super uncomfortable. So I scheduled out my days. I woke up, walked into the village, read my book over a double espresso at Margaritari until the rock swim at 10:30am. Then I’d have another espresso after to socialize with the other women before heading back to my apartment to practice yoga. Then I’d eat. And then nap. And then swim again. And then go bug my crush in the yoghurt shop, etc, etc. 

Now I get up, find a lounge chair at the one cafe that knows how I like my coffee before I even order it, and I sit there, sometimes lie there, for hours. Like sometimes 6-8 hours. Like it’s my full-time job or something. I drink iced espresso and stare into the horizon, usually listening to rap music. Today, Tupac. Some days I don’t even take my first meal until 4pm. And you know what? I am so fucking blissful. Abundantly blissful. Like radiating sat-chit-ananda.

(I also teach yoga twice a week. But that’s it.)

It has taken me a good long while to get to this space. It took a long time to break through the deeply ingrained thought from growing up in a capitalist Protestant society that I am worthless unless I am productive. That I somehow have to prove my right to exist. And if there is one gift I want to offer my students during their time here in Greece, it is this same experience. To experience yoga as a state-of-being; not something you do. To know deeply that abundance is who you are; not something you attract. 

I messaged Brandie the other day because, since she is on the same wavelength these days, I knew she wouldn't think I was super high when I said:

“Do you think it is weird that I feel like I am manifesting some beautiful shit by just sitting here doing absolutely nothing?”

And I really fucking felt that. I felt that I was giving all that I had to the moment in front of me. And it was completely, entirely, enough. And really, what else is abundance? Other than being completely, entirely, enraptured by what you already have?

The other day I was sitting at the Flamingo Bar for hours. A woman who has become an acquaintance passed by me again four hours after seeing me in the same spot earlier.

"You are still here? Don’t you know there is a whole island to see?”

To which I wanted to reply:

“Don’t you know that there is a whole world right here in front of me?”

What about the depth and limitlessness of what’s here and now? The abundance of this moment? This view? This place? What about gazing into what is before me with the same awe, attention and devotion that I would with a still life I was attempting to extract and replicate on paper? What about what’s in front of me being totally satisfying and entirely enough?

I mentioned earlier that I teach yoga twice a week on the terrace of a bar here in Skala. The thing is, I am not allowed to advertise it. With the intensity of the economic crisis here, everyone is even more concerned than usual with the tax police coming around slapping 1,000-3,000 euro fines for improper licensing, etc. So if anyone hears about my class, it is from word-of-mouth only. And since I sit in the same spot all day, I have done a pretty shitty job of spreading the news. 

So every time I go to teach yoga, I really have no idea if anyone will come. But I go anyway. To hold space. To hold space for whoever it is the universe brings me. For whoever needs it. And, despite the fact that I have done nothing to promote myself, people show. Every time. 

And I think this is ultimately the way abundance works. It’s not about reciting affirmations or mantras to Lakshmi. It’s about showing up to the moment with enough presence to observe it. Making your presence known. And then holding space to receive. 

Or, as the Greek restaurant owner said to me my first night here, it’s about relaxing. And collecting energy for the things to come. 

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
— Joseph Campbell

My time in Greece has been this place of creative incubation. Where I don’t owe anything to anyone and I can just be and bring forth who I am. Where I can expand and outgrow my identities as I please without the commentary of an outside party. It has been a safe place for me to experience renewal toward something bigger, something more joyful, something more real to me and what I want out of life. Something that aligns more closely to the intrinsic state of bliss that resides inside me. 

I may not be able to give my retreat participants a summer-long hiatus in the Greek Islands. But I can give them one week. One week where they don’t owe anything to anyone. Where they don’t even owe anything to themselves. One week of practices that support and accelerate their access to that radiant, divine experience of their own innate bliss.

So, in an effort to keep my yoga career from sounding like a Manifesting 101 course by Deepak Chopra, I am shifting my exploration of abundance from one of attracting to one of being. And I’m starting over with this and only this:

SAT-CHIT-ANANDA.

EXISTENCE. CONSCIOUSNESS. BLISS.

Because, as my horoscope reminded me this morning, the good feelings can crash in from the outside world, but they’ll only make a home when there is space for them to settle in and stay.

So, friends who are coming to join me in Greece: Get ready for a deep exploration into your own bliss. Get ready for a deep experience of yourself as bliss itself. Anandamaya kosha. The bliss body. Because that’s what Greece has taught me. And that’s what I am really interested in: Bliss as a state-of-being. And finding a non-cliché, non-new agey way to encourage others to find theirs and follow it. 

See you soon!

Jessica

 

SIDENOTE: I may be doing not much of anything here. But I want to reiterate that the locals here are working incredibly hard. The Greeks are many things, but lazy is not one of them. And they have been my primary teachers on the true nature of abundance. Because they still show up, they make space, day after day, with a smile and a joyful spirit despite an incredibly fucked situation. Despite the fact that prosperity isn't in the books for anyone this year. Despite the fact that they can't do anything about this situation besides accept it and keep showing up to what is with everything they have. Their kindness and hospitality has been life-changing for me to witness and receive. And I feel incredibly lucky to be here during such a pivotal point in their history. 

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YOGHURT MEANDERS, LABYRINTHS AND DETOURS: TALES OF A MODERN-DAY PILGRIMAGE.

I would love to say that taking off on an open-ended adventure to Greece was everything I anticipated it would be and more. That I was filled with affirmation from the moment I arrived. And that my path here, more or less, has been one of clear, linear progression.

But, I'll be real. And admit that, although my intentions for being here were kind of an afterthought, (meaning, I bought my plane ticket first and thought about why I was going after), I had anticipated my time in Greece unfolding in a very particular way.

I had developed specific questions for my time here -- one in particular -- and I thought this was the perfect place to explore and address it. I prescribed that my time here would be consumed with diving deep into the nature of this question, and when the time came for me to leave, I would have gleaned a handful of clear answers. 

But this was before I realized what I was really dealing with. Before I knew what it really meant to live in Greece: the easiest place on earth to wander away from your intentions.

And during my second week here, I wandered into a frozen yoghurt shop and met my first distraction:

A boy. A Greek one. 

A few compliments and a 2:30am tequila cocktail at Parasol later, I was hooked. Still entirely skeptical of both his intentions and mine, but nonetheless, hooked. We both were entering new seasons of life. We both were here in Eressos for the rest of the season. We both took the same dosage of thyroid hormone (I mean, come on, how serendipitous is that!?). 

Alright, fine. So I basically had no reason to involve myself with him at all. But this is Greece. A country that specializes in ouzo, feta, the freshest olives and the most potent kind of distraction. And, despite my usual superb talent at clinging to my attachments, this was no match for me. 

I must say, though, it still took me a bit by surprise when the events that unfolded here seemed to take me in complete opposition to the original question I had posed. First, it startled me. Then I grew frustrated. Angry with myself for straying from my path.

I was supposed to write a book about my time here! 

I had a clear angle I was seeking! 

And in a matter of two weeks, I already managed to ruin it.

Some book this is going to be, I thought, Jessica leaves her whole life to pursue this one thing and manages to do absolutely nothing about it.

Good story. Good talk. 

I started to feel bitter. Bitter that my time here wasn't unfolding the way that I wanted it to. That I was, once again -- typical air sign -- drifting further and further away from the answer I was seeking instead of drawing closer to it.

Or so it appeared. 

On my friend Erica's last night in Eressos, we had our final dinner together at Blue Sardine. She asked me how I ended up here and I told her how I was intrigued by the idea of modern-day pilgrimage; how it has evolved from formal expeditions to sacred sites to seekers entering spaces that simply meet the questions of their hearts. I told her how I had a particular question that I felt Skala Eressos could help me answer and how I feel like I already ruined my quest by getting involved with some silly boy. 

She said: "What? Do you think pilgrimage is a straight line? ... You are allowed to meander."

(Since this conversation, we both refer to this guy as my Yoghurt Meander.)

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
— Newton's Third Law of Motion

Any therapeutic approach to yoga would tell you that the site of our pain or weakness, more often than not, is not where the problem lies. It can be humbling to discover, in our explorations toward healing, that pain manifesting as a back problem is actually a foot problem. That what we experience as a right shoulder problem is actually a left shoulder problem. That our pain in one area is really just overcompensation to conceal a weaker area; to defend the true source of our pain from being fully exposed. 

Healing, thus, requires us to direct our attention away from our felt sensations of pain and explore other territory. To break our pain patterns, we need to learn to move in counterintuitive ways. Ways that initially feel like rebellion or betrayal. Ways that take us against the grain of our conditioned response. 

And so, it turns out, it has been a similar process for me here in Greece. Finding answers to my inquiry required me to drift away from my prescribed path, to let my intentions escape me, and allow myself to be carried by a detour into unknown territory. 

Where my path took me instead was far enough from my experience of the pain, from the aching question, that I gained the perspective to see that nothing was really there. That I could've trekked, trodden, and dug long into that path and I would have still come up empty-handed.

Because the source of my problem simply wasn't there. 

The ache wasn't the problem. The ache was the response

I know that because I am now standing in its source. Miles off-track, deep into the wilderness, I see it now. I see clearly that if you push something, it pushes back with equal or greater force. As the cannon ball flies in one direction, the cannon moves in the opposite direction. That a blow to one part of our body or psyche creates an equal and opposite self-protective kickback. It recoils. And that's why the path of healing looks more like an unwinding than a clear-cut path.

So if I want to heal, if I really want answers, off-site is exactly where I need to be. 

Last night, I went back to the yoghurt shop and, despite the numerous times I have wandered into his shop, I had frozen yoghurt for first time. I sat there for two hours eating frozen yoghurt with Nutella and blackberries, catching up with my Meander after a busy two weeks of high season.

As I look back on the path that brought me here, I see now that it's a better story, a better angle than the one I was originally looking at. Because no reader wants to clearly see the ending at the very beginning. 

Working book title: #FROYOLO

He came up with that. 

Blessings,

Jessica

 

 

 

 

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SOFT.

The following is a piece I wrote during Lyn Girdler's Yoga & Writing Retreat in Goa, India in January 2014. I am re-sharing in honor of having the opportunity to reunite with my dear Indian friend Kishore here in Greece yesterday:

I am settled into my Ganesh-view room at the Yoga & Writing Retreat in Mandrem. We don't have session in the afternoon and are free to explore whatever we'd like during that time. Many people on the retreat arrived to India two days ago and thus are eager to explore the beaches, markets, temples and all the other quirks that this odd little enclave, Arambol, has to offer.

I decided to stay back today. I had my first sunburn yesterday, my first real hangover this morning, and as an introvert, I feel quite backed up in all that I have to digest here in India (in more ways than one). I have been so engaged and lost in all the new content I have gained here in the past few days that I couldn't even come up with a simple intention for the retreat when prompted for it yesterday. So it felt like a good day to just sit back, rest and realign with my purposes.

About a week ago, I was at the Basho huts visiting my friend Lyn, who was staying there, and I met this Indian man named Kishore. He had a few beers in him and was making everyone laugh with his impersonations of the bullshit gurus here in Arambol. Later on, he overheard me tell Lyn that I was looking for a reputable place for an Ayurvedic treatment in Goa and he offered to take me to one in Mandrem later that afternoon. I thought about it over a long swim and, still suspicious of his intentions, decided to go along. And so I rode side saddle on the back of his bike, along the palm trees and chaotic roads, reveling in the freshness of trust in a complete stranger.

He waited on the beach for me during my hour-long treatment and then we went and had lassies on the deck of one of the restaurants nearby. We talked about everything and it was the first time that I really felt understood by anyone native to this country. Indians are beautiful with words and have a keen ability to paint life in the most profound simplicity. I wish I could have tape-recorded every word that fell from his mouth. Our conversation was not only nourishing because he understood my words, but he spoke my language on a level that I rarely find even in America. Everything that makes my heart sing is native to his land, flesh and upbringing and we connected on a hidden plane of mutual understanding and inspiration.

We traveled on and had some dinner in the attic of another local restaurant and continued to chat over vegetable briyani, paneer, yellow dhal and tulsi tea. We talked about Tantra, Tai Chi, Ayurveda, alkaline foods, our families, trials, joys and the path that infuses them all: meditation. For him, everything was meditation. "Why be a follower of Christ, Brahma or Buddha, when you can become them?"  ... "My sweet, there is no need to know your future when you live with awareness." Throughout dinner, his intentions and interests became clear and I informed him of my love interest back home that I wanted to protect. He was respectful, honored where I was at, and became a deep friend over the next several days.

Kishore has been the most enlightening and transformative witness to my journey here in India thus far. He has helped me grow warm to a culture that I initially found petrifying. When I first arrived here, I was vigilant with all my self-protective strategies, constantly alternating the application of sunblock and bug repellant, using antibacterial wipes every time I touched something, inspecting every ounce of food thoroughly before I put it in my mouth. Through my time spent with Kishore, I have melted and slowly fallen in love with the charming little ways this country seems to mock any preconceived notion one has of the world. I have found myself romanced by the madness of it all.

Kishore has taught me a lot about meditation since we've met. One day, after introducing me to my new favorite meal here, warm okra salad with lemon and mint, we walked down along the shore. He told me to close my eyes and he led me, by faith and trust, as we walked from Arambol Beach back to Mandrem. I watched the sun set through my closed eyes, wrapped in the gentle evening wind, and felt warmth and light from outside and within. I felt safe, held and one with my surroundings. I felt an opening emerge from within me. Finally, I wasn't interrogating the moment to fork over its intentions, I was simply allowing it to fall naturally on my skin and guide the way.

He tells me I have softness unlike other American women. I tell him he doesn't know me. He insists. "Your energy is too sweet to be American. Americans, they are always running behind money. And they get sick because they have everything... You are different. You are an Indian, my sweet." 

Since this conversation, I have been thinking about the consequences of allowing myself to embrace this softness. It is an interesting exploration; to reevaluate myself within the culture of feminine essence in India. In America, I find a strong inner resistance to express feminine qualities because, in our culture, stepping into our femininity means to step into a secondary role. It often involves being weak, small and obscure. In India, it is strength and power. It is compassion, creativity and resilience. A strong reverence for the feminine energy is integrated into the daily life and worldview. But there is also a strong fear. "In India, the men know that the women are more powerful. That is why they put so many rules on them," said the young Indian filmmaker I shared a sleeper with on my train to Goa.

In the constant exposure to goddess imagery and aura, I feel safe and inspired to set down internal chains and inhibition and explore what it means for me to become soft. To exude grace, ease and calm abidance without feeling it deprecate my sense of power, voice and strength. As a Tantra devotee, Kishore speaks the language of Shiva and Shakti quite fluently. He speaks of my feminine energy and the power I can evoke.

"You are Lakshmi, Saraswati and Shakti all in one."

I am starting to believe him.

In light and love,

Jessica

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WHAT I TRULY LOVE: CHAPTER 1

I fell out of love with yoga.

Yes, that's the real, bare, ugly truth of it. 

Although there were many reasons I left for this open-ended chapter in my life, I would be lying if I didn't say that a part of it was because I completely burned out. That I hit a wall. That I couldn't bear to continue teaching into the summer, yet I didn't know what else to do with myself in Grand Rapids. Teaching yoga was all I knew. Teaching yoga was all that I became. 

I always took my disenchantment with yoga with a grain of salt. I knew I was simply dealing with a case of "too much of a good thing." That I just needed some space. I just needed some sort of reprieve. I just needed to reassess how to engage it going forward without hurting myself in the process. 

So I left, quickly and swiftly, like a proper air element sign would. But air elements never leave with the intention to abandon. They leave with the intention of returning with a stronger force and clearer direction. 

And now that I have gained some quite literal distance from the situation, I realize that it wasn't yoga that I fell out of love with. I fell out of love with poses. And posing. And always feeling like there was a yoga teaching standard that I had to live up to yet always fell short of. 

And to be even more honest, I was tired of the constant self-promotion. I was tired of being inspiring. I didn't want to update my Instagram every day according to my brand or sputter over any more new age positive psychology. I no longer wanted to applaud a culture of yoga that uses it as a crutch to avoid the realness of everyday life. Because yoga isn't light. And I am grateful for the teachers I had who taught me that. Yoga is where light and dark merge. And the realness is that, mindful or not, yogic or not, shit is still shit. Shit gets hard, suffering is real, and at the end of each fragile day, all I want to do is speak genuinely from my heart. From the real place that I am at. Without modification. Without propping it with cushions. Just real, raw, sometimes awfully uncomfortable, beautifully transformative, truth. 

And I realize that most of what I was tired of was my own stories. The stories of insecurity I had constantly running in my head. Stories like the ones listed above. But more so, I wanted yoga to be mine again. I wanted it to be sacred. And safe. Nothing but pure space that I move in according to my own pranic will. 

So, here I am. In Greece. Learning how to fall in love again. 

Ever since I arrived in Athens (with the exception of a few days in the wilderness), I have practiced asana every day. And not one of those "20-minute, get it in, get it over with, keep it fresh for my students" kind of practices. I'm talking about giving myself the same kind of practice I would give to my students. I'm talking about 90-minutes minimum with a 15-minute Savasana. Sometimes twice a day. ... Because, really, what else do I have to do? I'll practice on my own in the mornings (morning meaning 1pm, let's be real) and then I bike up to Eressos Village in the early evening and practice with the Greek woman who runs classes out of the abandoned pizzeria. 

And it's been beautiful. And wonderful. And I am so happy to say that I am back in a space again where yoga feels like a completely natural response. Like it's a wide-open field to explore, move, and get lost in as I please. And although I practice every day, I don't do it out of discipline. I don't do it because I feel like I have to. Or I've told myself I should. I do it because I want to. I repeat: I do it because I want to.

The Greek yoga teacher in the pizzeria space was the muse who showed me a way back to what I truly love. The humble surroundings of a gutted restaurant and bar. Her relaxed vibe. Her simple, innocent cueing: Pick up a big sun (Urdhva Hastasana). Now put the sun in the ocean (Uttanasana). Look straight (Ardha Uttanasana). Now come to the plank. Down to the elbows. Slide Front. To the Downward Dog. Straight back. Hands like glue. Bravo, bravo. 

They were simple, motherly gestures like being kindly reminded to sit up at the dinner table. She was present yet managed to take up minimal space so we could take up more. She led the energy of the room yet still taught from a place of conversation, despite the fact that the rest of us never spoke a word.

Within a few classes with this woman, I found myself relaxing into her presence. Like really, really letting go. I relaxed so deeply, in fact, became so unguarded, that actually I forgot I was a teacher. I didn't pay attention to or evaluate her sequence like I usually would have. I didn't try to anticipate where she was going next or consider how I would have linked the poses differently. Rather, I practiced blindly and eagerly. With the kind of enthusiasm and exaggerated expression you see in students who have just discovered the practice. The same kind of enthusiasm that I, as a teacher, sought to temper over these past few years. “Do not become too joyful because the pendulum swings,” my teacher would say. But this evening, I was swinging from pose to pose with utter joy, taking in each pose, each breath, each moment as if I was slurping from the bottom of a cup. But the practice was bottomless. Limitless. And there I came to remember: so was I. 

There was one particular moment in her presence where everything seemed to click for me. When I realized that I was in an entirely new space, with an entirely new regard to the practice than the one I had brought with me. I was in Trikonasana -- a pose that I've always struggled to embody -- and the Greek woman came over to adjust me. She stabilized my hip, and pulled my shoulders back in a way that exposed my chest like I had never experienced before. And then she bent down to whisper slowly in my ear: Here. You. Are. 

Here I am.

Here I am, living in Greece. Here I am, with a teacher. Here I am, with a practice of my own.

Here I am, having reclaimed myself as a subject of healing, and back in love with yoga.

Sometimes finding what you truly love isn't an act of discovery. It's an act of remembering. So I left my first silver heart here in the pizzeria, in the space where I reunited with what I once truly loved.

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Stay tuned for Chapter 2!

Blessings,

Jessica

 

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EVERY PLACE HAS A ROOM.

Everywhere has a secret room. To discover it, you must knock on walls, as the detective does in mystery houses, and listen for the echo that portends the secret passage. You must pull books off shelves to see if the library shelf swings open to reveal the hidden room. As a pilgrim, you must find it or you will never understand the hidden reasons why you really left home.
— The Art of Pilgrimage

I am kind of a shitty traveler. I hate moving around from place to place. I loathe the actual process of transporting myself from one place to another. I never really do anything with all the guide books I buy. And when it comes down to it, I have no interest in bouncing around and running myself thin just to see things.

When I was in Pondicherry last March, I met two young girls from Germany who were taking the next six months to see India. They were spending only one day in each place and then moving on. 
All I could think was: "What's the point of that? Especially when you have so much time!" 

And knowing how incredibly long and labor-intensive it is to get from city to city in India, and that traveling that way could easily mean spending more time in a taxi, train, or airport than actually seeing India, I thought: "Dear God, that sounds exhausting!" 

I guess we all have different ways of traveling. But for me, more than seeing lots of things and going many places, I'd rather stay put and really get to know one.

That's what I find to be fascinating about travel: Getting to know the layers of a certain place. Peeling away the tourism gloss until I can see the insides, the beating heart, of it. I like to get into a place so much that maybe, just maybe, it's people may actually receive me, however brief, as one of their own. And instead of making sure I am accumulating enough pictures, souvenirs and experiences to take away from a place, I like to be present enough to contribute to it; and maybe even leave something behind. (Yes, I know I am terrible at taking and posting photos).

On top of that, I travel because I believe it is transformative. I travel to heal. I travel to unearth old, tired shit and see myself in the new light of foreign experience. Because new places reveal new possibilities for living. And just like you can't reap the benefits of a yoga pose if you don't hold it, I stay put in one place because, as the old Taoist proverb says, you can't see your reflection in running water. 

I've been in Skala Eressos for just over a week now and I have started to get a bit of a handle on the inner-workings of this place. Skala Eressos translates as "the beach of love." It is a tiny Greek village. Maybe one mile long. Maybe. There is no guide book or tour agency that you can go to for information on the best things to see, the best places to eat, where to find yoga, cooking classes, or parties at night. There is no one to organize guided tours of the surrounding areas, by horse, by bike or by foot. It is completely up to you to dig deep and find the spirit that breathes so much life into this town that people return year, after year, after year to feel it again.

On my first day here, I asked the woman who set me up in my apartment where to go for yoga. And she answered me the same way I imagine someone would if I had inquired about where to find someone to deal me cocaine:

“Walk down this street, pass two crossroads, and then turn left. Walk down a little more and you will see a big wooden door on your left. See if anyone is there. If so, they should know.”

Being "in-the-know" comes by word of mouth from the people who have spent their summers here for years, sometimes decades. And everything you find is entirely pop-up. I eventually found out that yoga classes are held on the terrace of a lesbian bar. Or you can travel up about 4 km to Eressos Village where a Greek woman holds classes in an abandoned pizzeria she shares with a dance teacher and martial arts instructor. The woman who gives massage and reflexology sessions simply lays out a towel on the deck of Zorba of Buddha (another lesbian bar at the end of the beach). And when I asked my friend from England about taking Greek cooking classes, the answer wasn’t “go to this place or ask this restaurant,” it was “I know a woman who knows another woman from South Africa who used to know a Greek woman who offered lessons out of her home.”

This place kind of prides itself on it's not-so-obvious nature. Just like Goa, to the blind eye, or to the traveler who is only here for a week or two, this place just seems like your typical beach holiday. But if you are here long enough to do some detective work and peel away decades' worth of layers upon layers of history, poetry, culture, revolution and social change -- you start to see that this place holds something very special and unique, and that this place just may be one of Greece's best kept secrets.  

Every morning, I participate in a long-held tradition called the Skala Women's Rock Group. It's a group of women who meet at a cafe to swim together to a rock island off-set in the Aegean and back. There, I met a London transplant from South Africa named Erica. Erica is a woman in her fifties who is working toward her MA in Positive Psychology. She is currently completing her dissertation on how immersion into nature heals and transforms lives. As a part of this endeavor, she leads week-long "life-changing" kayaking trips around the remote areas of Lesvos Island. When I told her I was a yoga teacher, she asked me to join her trip in early August and teach yoga and meditation to her participants (I am so excited!).

Last night, we met up for wine to discuss the packing list and itinerary. During our conversation, she revealed she has been coming to Skala Eressos every year, sometimes twice a year, for the past 14 years (which is a very common story to hear around here).

"You know the thing about this place, right?," She asked.

"Um... I'm not sure."

"Okay listen. I have been all over the world and I have never gone anywhere else twice. But this place... this place is something else. There are so many elements, so many rich dynamics, so much beautiful relationship -- every time I come here I feel like I am coming home to a group of long-lost friends. Skala Eressos is the most special place I have ever been."

She proceeded to tell me about how Eressos was home to the great lyric poetess, Sappho, the first woman who dared to express her personal feelings instead of praising the gods or singing hymns to male heroes. For this reason, Eressos has become a lesbian and women's pilgrimage for several decades. Because it is also a popular holiday destination for the Greeks themselves, there has been an interesting evolution as conservative Greek Orthodoxy and LGBT/feminist values have blended toward kind co-existence rather than intolerance or conflict. 

In addition to this unique dynamic, it is also home to some of the most lush vegetation and unspoiled beaches in Greece -- as well as a nudist colony, an OSHO ashram, a Greek Orthodox church famous for the profound healing it bestows to it's pilgrims and the International Women's Festival, where thousands of women travel to from all over the world every September. All this within a mile radius stretch. And the best part is, aside from the occasional inevitable lesbian drama, everyone gets along.

Not a word of this was mentioned in my guidebook. 

Just like every person has a story, every place has a room inside waiting to be revealed. It takes time and patience and a willingness to put yourself out there, to humble, and even embarrass, yourself at times. But excavating this room is, by far, my favorite part of travel. 

And, yes, you heard that right. I am going on a week-long kayaking trip along the Aegean Sea. No, I don't kayak. But a little more than a week ago, I wasn't a person who swam either. And a week before that, I wasn't a person who took off for a one-way adventure to Greece. So... I'm going with it. 

Blessings, ouzo and lots and lots of feta!


Jessica

 

Want to join me in Greece and experience this magic for yourself? (Santorini has it's own unparalleled magic and beauty -- one that is quite obvious to the average eye). Join me in Santorini, September 28th-October 4th, for a week-long immersion into yoga and abundance. 

P.S. I have a great group coming from Grand Rapids and we are taking a few days to explore the island of Crete before landing in Santorini for the retreat. So if you've always wanted to do a bit of Greek Island hopping with some amazing like-minded kindred souls, this is your time. Join the magic tour here. Or contact me directly at jessicaroodvoets@gmail.com.

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LESSONS IN ABUNDANCE.

When I decided to make this one-way journey back in May, I didn't have any particular reason to start it in Greece. My decision to begin my journey here was a simple consequence of the yoga retreat I am leading in Santorini this fall. Greece was the next place on my calendar that I had to show up to. This wasn't a place I had daydreamed of and, aside from my study of Santorini for my retreat, I hadn't done any meticulous research on Greece -- what to pack, what to expect or how to survive -- as I did for my trip to India. 

Even as I boarded my plane to Athens I still had no idea what they ate, how to find the most convenient ways of getting around, or how to say basic words like "Hello" or "bathroom" in their language. When I stepped off the plane, I was completely unprepared. 

And I think that is how the Greeks prefer you arrive. Without an agenda to push or a glossed-over guidebook version of what to expect (especially in the present ever-changing political climate). Because that kind of mentality simply doesn't go very far here. It's better to show up without anticipation than to endure the hassle of unpacking preconceived, and often false, ideas of how things are. And now that I am here, I realize I did not daydream of this country because I couldn't daydream of this country. The kind of beauty and effortlessness of this place is not something the mind, or at least my mind, is even capable of fabricating on it's own. 

The first thing I observed in being here is how easy existence is here. And I am not speaking for the local people (especially in this time of economic uncertainty) but as a traveler, life here is so easy it's eerie. Having only traveled in developing countries like India and Nepal, I haven't experienced travel without some sort of consistent struggle in the day-to-day of things. Of course, you acclimate to these struggles and don't consider them inconveniences so much as the norm over time, however, there is still a kind of guardedness required to exist in these places. 

Here I don't have to be guarded about what I eat. I can eat raw. I can eat meat. I can drink the water and not worry about ice cubes. Here, I can be myself as a woman without meeting a cultural standard of modesty. I don't have to cover my shoulders. I don't have to cover my legs. Or go swimming with my clothes on. Here, I can wear what I want, lie naked in the sand, or walk topless on the beach if I so decide. Here, I don't have to worry about mosquitoes or the diseases they carry, unsanitary food preparations, or Delhi belly. I don't have to carry malaria pills, antibiotics, antibacterial wipes or toilet paper everywhere I go. I don't have to worry about toxic water in the shower, ants infesting my hostel or finding rats in my toilet. And I can walk alone at night without the slightest question of my safety. 

India is still my favorite place in the world so I am not mentioning these things as complaints so much as to provide contrast to what I am experiencing now. Existence has never felt simpler. And as a woman, I have never felt so free. Even the waters of the Aegean are calm, even, dependable and still. It does not thrash you around like the waves of the Arabian Sea.

And maybe that is a good analogy for life here in Skala Eressou. It does not thrash me around like India has. The lessons Greece have to offer have nothing to do with endurance, overcoming fear, accessing calm in the turbulence or equanimity in the storm. Here, at least in this tiny Greek village in Lesvos, there is no storm. There is no struggle. Greece teaches you to put your guard down; to relax your shoulders away from your ears. 

On my first evening in Skala Eressou, as I made my way back to my apartment, I walked through the restaurant I had gone to for lunch. My first warm fava with fresh tomatoes and red onion. Stuffed tomatoes. A perfect glass of Rosé. The owner recognized me, came over, took my hand to greet me, and escorted me over to his table where he was drinking ouzo and enjoying a cigarette with his friends. 

"Can I buy you an ouzo?"

"Sure, thank you. I haven't tried it yet." 

I sat down next to them and he poured me two inches of ouzo. I picked it up unsure how to proceed. 

"How do I drink it?"

"You take a sip to feel it. Then you add ice or water to dilute it to your taste."

I sipped it. It burned my tongue and sent a distasteful tingle down my spine like a warm shot of well tequila. I added water in increasing amounts until it was diluted to the point I could pretend it was NyQuil. He held up his glass toward me, to which I mimicked and said, "Cheers."

He retracted his glass.

"No. ... Yamas."

I nodded. "Yamas." Our glasses clinked.

I struggled to find conversation with the older Greek men who spoke minimal English as much as I struggled to drink the ouzo without grimacing at every sip. Finally I asked:

"What is the best thing to do around here?"

He laughed. "Hm. That's a good question."

He paused to reflect.

" ...The best thing to do is to relax. To collect energy for the coming things."

I finished the ouzo and thanked God it was over. Then he went to pour me another glass.

"No, thank you."  

"One for the walk home." He insisted.

I complied. "Sure."

I took the ouzo, thanked him and ensured I would return the glass the next day. As I began walking toward my apartment, I came along the shore and decided to greet the Aegean Sea for the first time. I walked right up to it, without hesitation, and as it's icy waters rushed into my feet, it sent shivers down my spine like the first touch of a new lover. 

I sat down in the sand and poured some water from my bottle into my ouzo and began to sip. I sat there for a while, canopied by the endless stars; listening to the waves as they spoke. I held the ouzo glass up to my mouth and began to speak into it as if I was infusing the liquid with my words and deepest intentions for my time here.

I stood up and walked closer to where the water touched the earth. As the water ran over my feet again, I simultaneously poured the ouzo into the sea as if to ensure that my will be done; the universe as my witness to this cosmic exchange. 

I have only spent a few days in this country but, so far, this land and it's people have taught me that existence can be effortless and relaxation is an art. One that can feel foreign and uncomfortable for those of us not used to it.

It has taught me that our time and attention is our highest currency and we should offer it non-sparingly to ourselves and our tasks.

It has taught me that sometimes lunch is worth three hours of my time and each bite should be chewed slowly. That a properly grown cucumber shouldn't be just "good" or "healthy" but blow-your-mind amazing. That a tomato should make love to your mouth and the quality of a glass of wine correlates directly to the amount of devotion you bring to each sip.

Greece is an ever-present reminder for me that life, and each of it's moments, is meant to be savored and that I am just as worthy of my time, love and attention as anyone else. 

This country may be in financial ruin, but it's people still know abundance.

Blessings from Greece,

Jessica

 

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LIVE INSPIRED FEATURE: Grand Rapids Yoga Guides

Tomorrow I leave for Greece. I spent yesterday evening at my big Greece send-off gathering surrounded by all of my favorite yoga teachers, yoga students and dear friends. It was so incredible to watch so many people I adore from different corners of my life intersect, mingle and reunite. Being around this beautiful community of people left me feeling astounded, humbled, excited, and truly, truly blessed.

Many of my students have been asking for my suggestions of other great yoga teachers in the area on account of my leave. So I thought I would put together a little blog-post of some of Grand Rapid's most inspiring yoga teachers. These ladies have been my go-to subs over the past three years and, although we are each unique teachers with different areas of emphasis and specialization, I think you will encounter the same heart for the practice within us all. 

Jessica Shelton

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I teach because yoga has consistently been a place for me to return to myself again and again, and is a tool that anyone can use. I hold space for students to explore their own inner guide and challenge their own limitations in order to reveal more creativity and divinity within. I am deeply grateful for all of my teachers and the ongoing passage of knowledge that I am part of.

What is your yoga teaching philosophy?

My yoga teaching philosophy is one of adaptation.  I think every time we get on our mat we have to check in with our minds and bodies in the present and meet ourselves fully and compassionately right where we are.  You can do a little, a lot, whatever's right.  I try to see students truly and teach from my own experiences.


What guided you into your yoga practice?

I found yoga through aches in my joints and anxiety in my breath.  The first class that I took, the whole time my mind was thinking "What am I doing?" but by the time savasana was over I understood what the "yoga buzz" was all about.


Who or what are your primary guides in yoga and in life?

The more I practice yoga and life, the more that I can trust the primary guide in my life to be myself.  The part of me that is connected with all other living beings and our earth is where I want to listen, the divinity that is part of every single human.


What does it mean to you to live inspired?

To me, an inspired life is guided by your deepest desires and dharma, and there is a trust of one's own gut intuition.  I am inspired when I consistently listen to this voice and make choices based on what option feels most light, which option will make me feel brighter.


If you could travel anywhere in the world, free of cost, where would it be and why?

If I could travel anywhere free of cost, I guess I'd choose the moon!  I mean, no holds barred here right?  I love to travel, to be immersed in other cultures and languages and smells and tastes, but I can only imagine how it would feel to look back at my home planet in the silence and see my place in the grand vastness of space.


If you could have all of your students take one message away from your teaching, what would it be?

 I want my students to take away the reminder that their yoga practice does not always have to have a sticky mat.  The space that we come to when we practice is not physical.  It is a home within each of us that is always there, and that the tool of self awareness of the body and breath is the door in.  Also to take rest!

You can practice with Jessica at the following places and times:

  • Sundays @ 11am at Seva Yoga, Monroe North
  • Thursdays @ 9am at Seva Yoga, Gaslight
  • Wednesdays @ 5:45pm, Yoga for Healing at Metro Health Hospital
  • Thursdays @ 5:30pm, Summer Yoga Series at Metro Health Hospital
  • Saturdays @ 9:30am, Grand Rapids Downtown Market

 

Nicole Hensch

   

 

 


What is your yoga teaching philosophy?

Have fun, but listen to your body. It's truly that simple. Our bodies are very smart and will talk to us if we listen.


What guided you into your yoga practice?

I am a recovering runner (said with jest).  Growing up, I was inflexible, not graceful and very injury prone and running made all of that even worse.  Chronic injuries and even tighter hamstrings led me to yoga almost 10 years ago and it's been a fun journey ever since.


Who or what are your primary guides in yoga and in life?

I've had many fabulous teachers near and far and tend to gravitate towards alignment-based practices.  I've always been thirsty for knowledge and love reading- yoga books and otherwise.  I can find just as much inspiration towards teaching/life reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as I can reading Harry Potter.


What does it mean to you to live inspired?

Have fun, but listen.  This goes back to my yoga teaching philosophy.  I don't take myself too seriously and I try to listen to my body and soul.   Sometimes that involves travel to another country.  Sometimes that just involves a walk around the lake with my dog and no phone to disconnect.  


If you could travel anywhere in the world, free of cost, where would it be and why?

Colombia.  I lived there for a while and miss it dearly.  The food, the people, the culture... I crave it!


If you could have all of your students take one message away from your teaching, what would it be?

Don't take a yoga class too seriously... and certainly don't take life too seriously.

You can practice with Nicole at the following locations and times:

  • Tuesdays @ 5:30pm at Seva Yoga, Monroe North
  • Wednesdays @ 7am at Grand Rapids Downtown Market
  • Friday @ 7am at Grand Rapids Downtown Market
  • Sundays @ 4pm at Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Nicole also teaches regularly at Priority Health and MVP Sportsplex as well as subs at Metro Health Hospital. You can connect with Nicole via her Facebook page here.

 

Gretchen Brockman

I came to yoga in my early forties, a delicate time filled with life changing experience: a difficult marriage, depression, career changes and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease for my mom. The yoga mat was a place of quiet reflection and safe place to challenge myself in manageable bites. I became comfortable in my skin and my mind. Yoga has helped me cope with all that life has to offer and has opened my heart to more than I thought could be.

Yoga for every body interests me so much! I love to offer yoga that is accessible and open for ALL types, EVERY body, which means modifications, props and poses that move into a practice that is perfect for each unique person. Yin yoga as well as hatha flow suites my teaching style as I share from my heart and offer my light.

What is your yoga teaching philosophy?

Be open and try something new. Find a fit and breathe into it. If it's not right, change it up. Be light about it!


What guided you into your yoga practice?

My teachers: Michele Fife, Marro Spehar and Mimi Ray. Their encouragement and their presence in  my life, with words or touch or breath. Also, the work of yin yoga teacher, Paul Grilley.


Who or what are your primary guides in yoga and in life?

It's all discovery. For me, I have to try it myself to see if the fit is right. I can't always read from a book, I have to explore.


What does it mean to you to live inspired?

That difficult! To me, it means to live in the moment. But as an avid planner, and sometimes worrier, I frequently have to create a structure for my inspiration. As a mom, a soon-to-be wife, a home owner and dog owner, I sometimes long for the unbridled inspiration I had before I had restrictions. I'm beginning to see these chains unbinding. But for now, I live with supported inspiration.


If you could travel anywhere in the world, free of cost, where would it be and why?

Greece! Greece! Greece! Greece! Greece! It's magic. You will see. I should've been born a Greek.


If you could have all of your students take one message away from your teaching, what would it be?

Love yourself unconditionally. You are already perfect.

You can practice with Gretchen at the following places and times:

  • Saturdays @ 8:30am at Seva Yoga, Gaslight Village
  • Sundays @ 7pm at Seva Yoga, Gaslight Village
  • Tuesdays @ 6pm at Seva Yoga, Gaslight Village
  • Wednesdays @ 7:30pm at Seva Yoga, Gaslight Village

You can also check out Gretchen's Yin Yoga workshops at Expressions of Grace Yoga here. You can also connect with Gretchen at her yoga Facebook page here.

 

Jaclyn Szelong

I am a yogi, student of ayurveda, a lady of nature, an animal lover, and a self-proclaimed chef-in-training. I received my 200-hour RYT with Michele Fife, of Seva Yoga. After internalizing Ashtanga as my passion practice of choice, I continued my studies with Manju Jois. I have been trained and highly influenced by David Swenson, Dena Kingsberg, Richard Freeman, and Eddie Stern. I am on a mission of self realization, and through this process, striving to teach and share from my own life experiences.

What is your yoga teaching philosophy?

My intention is simple: to guide others into the realization of who they already are. If i can facilitate the recognition of the inherent goodness in all beings, and focus the energy of all on seeing the similarities in humanity, rather than the differences, then I have manifested my desires.


What guided you into your yoga practice?

I came to a point in my life where I was struggling with my own health and wellness. I was unhappy, chaotic, and searching. I started with a few videos, and finally, after weeks on end of driving past a local studio, I mustered enough confidence to walk in. It snowballed from there.


Who or what are your primary guides in yoga and in life?

Pema Chodron, for her undeniable ability to awake my spirit, break my heart, and put it back together again. Manju Jois, for teaching me how to sustain my own yoga (both on and off the mat), while sharing my gift with others. My mother, for passing on what it means to be a strong woman with a soft heart. Oprah, because who doesn’t love Oprah.


What does it mean to you to live inspired?

Always be curious.  For me to recognize all aspects of myself, the beauty and the devastation, means I can relate to those same aspects within this Universe. From that place, I can heal and grow. That is inspiring.


If you could travel anywhere in the world, free of cost, where would it be and why?

India. This is not a question of if, only when. I believe it’s one of the greatest places in this world to observe humanity in its entirety: the trauma, the beauty, the perseverance, the injustice, the abuse, and the truly inspiring people struggling to make a change. As a bonus, my stomach loves Indian food.

If you could have all of your students take one message away from your teaching, what would it be?  

The essence of yoga has very little to do with what goes on within the confines of the sticky mat. It’s how we treat others, how generous, how forgiving, how committed, how mindful we can be walking around in this world, in the short time we inhabit this body. Act from love, be kind, and recognize your greatness.

You can practice with Jaclyn at any of the following locations and times:

  • Sundays @ 4pm & 5:30pm at Cascade Yoga Studio
  • Tuesdays @ 9:00am & 10:30am at Expressions of Grace Yoga
  • Tuesday @ 5:30pm & 7pm at On the Path Yoga Studio
  • Wednesdays @ 10:30am & 12pm at Cascade Yoga Studio
  • Wednesdays @ 4:15pm & 5:45pm at Expressions of Grace Yoga
  • Thursdays @ 5:30pm at On the Path Yoga Studio
  • Saturdays @ 8am & 9:30am at Cascade Yoga Studio

Well, there you have it! Four incredibly knowledgeable, authentic, inspiring and Jessica-recommended yoga guides to support your practice in Grand Rapids. I highly suggest taking the time to visit and get to know each of them. Each will edify and impact your life in an entirely unique and beautiful way!

My next update will be in Greece!

I love you all so much,

Jessica

 

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Pass by that which you do not love.

We should all be grateful for the beauty of this world, but more, we should take the trouble to get off the bus of life and put the soles of our feet to the soul of the world and see those sacred sites with our own eyes.
— The Art of Pilgrimage.

After I announced my leave, I was surprised by the feeling of deep loss that set in. I realized I was leaving many identities, many people, many places I have dwelled in for years. I realized I may not run into acquaintances or friends as often as I do ever again. I realized I most likely won't see the majority of my yoga students ever again. And that made me really sad. 

I have spent this past week mourning all this. Endless hours in my bed oversleeping, binging Netflix and eating my feelings into cartons of Chinese food. Perplexed and lost at the fact that all I ever wanted for the past four years was to be a full-time yoga teacher with free health insurance... and here I am, living the dream, and I am quitting all my gigs and canceling my health care at the end of the month.

As odd as it seems, I know the fact that I no longer cling to these attachments is a sign of my growth, healing and evolution.

I am no longer the woman consumed with fear and "what if's" about her health. I am no longer the woman far too invested in what other people think about me. I am no longer the woman who clings to living out her dharma in a particular way. I know my dharma is so much more than being a yoga teacher. I know that I want to do so much more than teach downward-facing dog. 

Yoga will always be a part of my practice and my life. And it will, most likely, always be a part of my career. But it will no longer consume my life the way it has and repress the other gifts, talents and interests I have to offer and explore. I mean, I was an art major. I used to make art. A lot. I used to write. I used to dance. I used to create. I used to do things!

This next season is about reclaiming my yoga practice for myself. Allowing my practice to simply serve my needs rather than serve as a means to “keep me fresh” as a teacher or pay my bills. 

The other day I went to a coffee shop to sit, write and get really clear about my intentions for this next chapter. A stranger approached me and sat down to strike up a conversation with me. He saw I was thumbing through my Greek Islands guide book and asked me about my plans. He had visited Greece before and shared with me a bit of his experiences. And then he asked me:

"So, Jessica, what do you love?" 

And I tell you, I could not come up with an answer. I was speechless and completely dumbfounded by my speechlessness. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized how distanced I had become from myself over the years being self-employed, throwing myself into task after task, step after step and never really calibrating my decisions against the greater truth of what makes me feel healthful, inspired and really clear about the answer to this question.

This question has become the answer I am seeking in this next quest. I refuse to live this life without a clear knowledge of what I truly love.

I am currently reading a book on pilgrimage and in the last sentence of the forward, the author writes: 

"Travel safely, travel soulfully, travel gratefully and, Stranger, pass by that which you do not love."

And so, July 12th, my pilgrimage begins. Greece, India, Turkey and wherever my heart leads me from there. 

Thank you in advance to all who support me in this journey. And to all my yoga students: so much gratitude for all that you’ve taught me. I may not be able to teach you poses anymore but it is my hope that we continue to support and inspire each other to seek deep love and greater joy.

Namaste,

Jessica

 

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Self-Care Sundays: How to Lift Yourself Up After Being Brought Down

This week's post stems from a personal encounter this week. On Tuesday, I had someone spew their pain on me in the most verbally violent way I had ever experienced. It came down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which was such an inconvenience to this person, that they attempted to destroy my human dignity using their words alone. 

I was in utter shock as there was no way I would've ever anticipated an encounter like this. Afterwards, I felt raw. And unsure what to do with myself to recover. Several days have now passed, the sharpness of the words have faded and space has provided me with the opportunity to employ a few strategies for building myself back up again.

Here are three mind-shifts / reminders / inner actions you can take to lift yourself up and regain your sense of personal worth and integrity after someone desperately tries to take you down:

1. TUNE INTO YOUR INNER SANCTUARY.

Right after this encounter, I felt raw and cut deep. But the depth that these harsh words reached actually gave me access to a deep well of inner resources that I didn't know I had.

I always talk about how we each have an abundance of tools for living, loving and healing within us and I truly believe that. However, this was the first time I ever encountered it on a true experiential level. At a time where someone tried to rob me of my worth and bring me down, I had never felt so valued and lifted up.

I felt an innate sense of love, gratitude, personal beauty, and worth that I knew that no one could touch, no one could break, no matter how hard they tried. I realized that this part of me, this inner sanctuary, was completely unstruck from the recent encounter. Their words did not reach it. Their words did not change it. This part of me was infinitely removed from any efforts to be damaged, hurt or destroyed. 

In the yoga tradition, we call this inner sanctuary, Anahata. Anahata is the name for the heart chakra, or energy center located at the heart. It holds and protects the inner light of awareness, purusa, or the thumb-sized flame of the individual soul, atma. Anahata literally means "unstruck" and it is the innate, unchanging part of our being that is unstruck or undamaged by life circumstances.

The Bhagavad Gita says, "Weapons cannot cut this, fire cannot burn this, water cannot wet this nor can wind make it dry." 

So when sometime tries to intentionally inflict suffering on you, take refuge in the fact that no matter how hard they try, they will never be able to access or harm the depth of your being. 

2. TRY TO ACCESS THE SOFT SPOT.

Pema Chodron says that any experiences or strong emotions you have can become doorways to bodhichitta -- the vulnerable, tender spot beneath the pain. As we begin to track our passing states on the path of mindfulness, we observe that pleasant and unpleasant feelings or experiences are not innately conflicting but rather co-creators that teach and inform each other. Fear gives us access to peace. Grief gives us access to joy. 

Whether you are experiencing grief, anger, disappointment, fear, or despair, you can begin to see it as your link to all of humanity. Pema says that we can begin to dwell in the goodness, the sun quality, beneath the turbulent mind.

The trick is to stay with the soft spot and not harden over it. When we get hurt, frustrated or stuck, it is actually possible to touch the soft spot of what it is you're trying to cover over. The anger, rage, frustration, grief, and despair are all mechanisms to cover and protect the bodhichitta: the soft spot, the tender spot, the vulnerable, open heart and loving mind.

3. REMEMBER THAT NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL INFERIOR WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT.

People can and will say whatever they want. But you get to decide the power their words have in your life and your view of yourself. Of course, it is natural to feel hurt or upset by others speaking poorly of you. However, only you can give them the authority to be right. 

So let these encounters serve as reminders to take back your power and define for yourself who you are and what you will or will not tolerate from others. Find your voice and stand up for yourself. Not by putting them down as well. But by simply informing them who you are, that their words have no authority in your life and you will not engage them any further. 

3. LET THEIR WORDS REFLECT THEIR CHARACTER, NOT YOURS. 

Someone who just verbally attacks you or is spending their time and energy maintaining a personal vendetta against you is suffering far more than the pain they just tried to inflict on you. As much as they will try to make it seem that their ill words and behavior are justified due to something about your character, it truly only reflects their own.

Only a person feeling low and shitty would try to make someone else feel low and shitty. Period.  

Yes, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, inconvenience or hurt others. However, someone's reactivity and conditioned response is always their karma, not yours.  

4. DO SOMETHING ESPECIALLY KIND FOR YOURSELF.

It's difficult to recover from someone saying hurtful things to us. And many times they can leave scars. Do something to help you process your feelings and response in a mindful way -- whether it be journaling, meditation, a gentle yoga class -- something kind and healing that holds space for and validates your feelings. 

How do you recover from being hurt by others? What techniques help you to recover and hold true to your worth and sense of self? 

Remember to head on over to Instagram and post a pic of your #selfcaresunday ritual and tag @jessicayogaguide!

Blessings and love,

Jessica

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Self-Care Sunday: 7 Unconventional Natural Beauty Tips

Beauty is an inner phenomenon. Beauty is not in objects, not in people, not even in the eyes of the beholder. It lies in the heart of every person.
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

I've always been a low-maintenance girl when it comes to beauty. I've never understood people who have a 30-minute make-up routine each morning, people who curl their hair, or spend hundreds of dollars on expensive make-up and skincare products. I never had a passion for fashion or researching the latest trends and I only own about three pairs of shoes at any given time. And let's face it, over the past few years of essentially living in yoga clothes and stretchy pants, I'm at a complete loss when I have to show up to life in anything else.

So I guess I would describe my beauty and style sense as in the following words: minimalist, quick, natural and starting from the inside out. I've always been more concerned with inner ambience than the color palette of my clothes. Because I myself don't notice or consider the color palette of others. Granted, I'm not fashionably inclined. But more so, I find the kindness, charisma, and genuine nature of others more impactful in revealing their magnetism and glow. 

Bottom line: What makes someone beautiful is the way they carry themselves and how they treat others.  

So today's blog-post is about tapping into those inner resources for beauty. And the cool part is that it is already there. All the qualities that make a person beautiful are innately present. It's just a matter of incorporating practices to clear this inner ambience and enhance what's inside. And then it's matter of stepping out of any self-effacing or self-deprecating habits, and showing up, bright and clear, just as you are.

Here is my list of 7 Natural Beauty Tips to enhance your glow from the inside out:

1. ACCEPT YOURSELF.

Exhibiting friendliness towards others begins with befriending yourself. And this means befriending all of it. The full spectrum of your being. When you accept yourself, others will feel accepted by you. There is nothing more therapeutic than spending time with someone who has an easeful, loving and comfortable disposition toward themselves. Like Ellen Degeneres says:

Beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.

Being yourself offers others the permission to be themselves. I mean, look at Ellen. She accepted herself in such a brave and public way. And who doesn't love and want to be around Ellen?

2. BE VULNERABLE.

So much of our beauty lies in our ability to share the things important to our heart. When we share our truth or stories of grief, suffering or fear, we reveal our precious humanity. We make deep connections and inspire others to share themselves. 

We often think others will be inspired by us by only revealing what's good, positive and light. The truth: No one is inspired by someone who doesn't show up fully. No one is inspired by someone they can't relate to. And there is nothing inspiring about a perfect, sterilized, impenetrable life.

The most inspiring humans in the world are the ones brave enough to be truthful, real and raw. So show yourself and show up fully. But don't only be vulnerable with your grief. Be vulnerable with your joy.

3. GLOW.

Nothing is more attractive than a person who is totally lit up about life and willing to show it. Talk to others about your passions, goals or dreams. Whether it's your job, a skill, craft or subject of interest, bring this up in your conversations with others.

Are you really excited about a book you are reading? Or a person you just met? A social justice issue? Or a recent accomplishment you worked really hard for? Speak up and share your enthusiasm. Share your joy. 

Often we are afraid to share our passions or accomplishments out of fear that they will make someone feel inferior or uncomfortable. Or we fear that they won't accept us when they see how weirdly geeked we are about certain things. 

For instance, I was once dating a guy that was super non-yogi. I was afraid to share my passion and love for the yoga practice out of fear of being written off as some hippie new age freak as I often am in the conservatism of this town. Eventually, I let it slip and went off on a tangent on how yoga has changed my life. Right after that, he said he had never been more attracted to me. Who would've thought? 

Not only should we never repress parts of ourselves so others will accept us, but it's often those unique light-filled idiosyncrasies that make people drawn to us. This famous quote by Marianne Williamson does an excellent job on summarizing a life of shining bright without fear:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

4. MEDITATE.

Meditation is the best way to bring clarity and space to your inner being. The contents of the heart-mind has so much impact in how we carry and present ourselves, and ultimately, has the largest impact on how others see us.

With a regular meditation practice we can shift from projecting an agitated, irritable, hurried and anxious energy to a calm, serene, patient and kind energy. This beauty, or clarity of the heart, reflects outwardly as radiance and glow on the person's face. Tibetan Buddhists say that meditation will literally make your face shine. 

5. STAY AT YOUR VIBRATION.

Living authentically is a lifelong journey. Every day we face opportunities to choose the path of another over what feels most integral and truthful to ourselves. There is always going to be that temptation to switch up your path because of someone else's opinion or expectation. Staying true requires intentionality and dedication. 

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.
— Brené Brown

 

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person be unapologetically themselves. The way to attract your tribe is to stay at the vibration that feels most authentic to you. If you lower your vibration to fit in with others, you will automatically attract people who don't align with your intentions for living or serve your highest good. 

6. PRACTICE LOVINGKINDNESS.

Lovingkindness, or metta, is the practice of wishing oneself and others to be happy, content and at ease. Through awakening friendliness toward all beings and loving acceptance of ourselves, we can transform our suffering to awaken compassion and live in a way that is reflective of our true nature. 

Having a loving and radically accepting disposition towards life feels beautiful. Feeling bitter, resentful, or cynical makes us feel heavy and ugly. Choosing the difficult practice of forgiveness and genuine desire for even our enemies to be safe and well is the ultimate practice of inner beauty. 

And of course, lovingkindness always begins with yourself. You cannot extend love, kindness or forgiveness toward others without first extending this toward yourself. You can practice with the following metta phrases:

May I be safe from danger.

May I have mental happiness.

May I have physical happiness.

May I live with peace and ease of being.

The Buddha even listed out the benefits of practicing lovingkindness: You will sleep easy. You will wake easily. You will have pleasant dreams. Animals will love you. Spiritual guides will protect you. External dangers will not harm you. Your face will be radiant and your mind will be serene. 

Sounds like a pretty beautiful existence to me.  

7). SMILE.

Nothing brings inner beauty out faster than flashing a smile. And there is no easier way to make beautiful connections with others. When we smile, we are approachable, friendly and confident. We exude the inner contents of the mind and heart. There is not a person on this earth who is not beautiful when they smile. So practice being more generous with that gorgeous grin!

 

If you are feeling less than beautiful, put down the heavy cover-up and try any of these practices to enhance the natural radiance that's already you. Tell someone you care. Do a good deed for someone else. Flash a smile at a stranger. Be yourself without apology. Observe what happens. Notice more ease in your own skin and more people drawn your way. 

Did you enjoy this post? If so, I'd so appreciate it if you share it. And of course, don't forget to head on over to Instagram, post your Sunday self-care regimen, hashtag #selfcaresunday and tag @jessicayogaguide. See you there!

Big love,

Jessica
 

 

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