Music! “No room for doubt”

It was a sunny day in Fez, and after wandering the narrow Medina streets this light-hearted song by Lianne La Havas put me in my happy place.

A gentle reminder to set perfection aside and appreciate – even pay homage to – the mistakes we make as we create our purpose.

Happy day 🙂

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Image Credit: La Blogothèque

 

Don’t forget the little joys

Hello from Torino, Italy!

I took some time off blogging as we transitioned from Asia to Europe to soak in the new lifestyle and surroundings and to gather info/make decisions about what comes after this round-the-world trip. Decisions, decisions…

Anyway, I read this thoughtful piece about taking time each day to appreciate what’s around you, specifically the pieces of nature, big or small. I found it relevant and grounding as both M and I are looking to the future, beyond this amazing trip that we’ve taken. As we think about what and where our next step will be, we’ve both found stillness in meditation and walks through Italian streets.

The pace of life here in Europe is one we both appreciate; work to live, don’t live to work. Even though our next year may take us back to the US, this year has given us invaluable insight into being present, appreciating what we have, and enjoying what’s in front of us.

As Herman Hesse writes,

All things have their vivid aspects, even the uninteresting or ugly; one must only want to see.


Image Credit: Sydney Smith

Look ma! It’s my ego (again)

“When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something … but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen.”

— Joan  Didion

A moment of relaxation

I’m sitting in a hammock in Ben Tre, Vietnam, a small town in the Mekong delta. After an afternoon of exploring the neighboring island by bike (the ferry across was 10 cents!), it feels good to relax with a beer after giving my legs a nice workout.

Rain is pouring and I’ve yet to make dinner plans. And that’s fine by me. This trip has been about the practice of enjoying the present, exploring my individual yoga practice and finding my way as a yoga teacher.  So far, so good.

(Next up: Can Tho–>Chau Doc–>Phnomh Penh)

“Hold on, we’re going home”

“Just hold on, we’re going home.”

–Drake

This afternoon, I was revisiting a lesson in my online compassion course and came across some solid advice for increasing self compassion (which falls under the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-violence). Two words: slow down.

Since I started my one year of travel this August, I’ve had a lot more time to notice who I am, how I communicate (or don’t), what I do with my time, and when I get excited or happy about something. And also when I get upset, frustrated, or lose patience with something. A big challenge to getting over being upset or angry is wanting to speed up, get angrier and louder. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for getting it out of your system and not holding on or pushing down what you’re experiencing. But I think slowing down might be the golden ticket to getting it out of your system AND being productive.

Two reasons:
1. Slowing down means taking a pause, taking a break. It gives you time to clear your head and cool off.
2. Slowing down doesn’t mean stopping. It means coming back to the issue after giving yourself space and empathy towards your current state.

One way to practice this is coming up with a phrase to say to yourself when you feel yourself getting upset. This is where Drake comes in. He inspired my phrase: “hold on, we’re going home.” It reminds me to pause and bring things back home to the stillness that resides deep within. Thanks, Drizzy.


Image credit: VIBE

Vietnam Part I: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and yoga (Re)gains

BAM. M and I have just finished our first month away from the US, two months of traveling total. In the past couple weeks, I’ve started feeling at ease in the groundlessness of traveling and being on the move. I realized that I was neglecting my yoga practice (noooooooooooooooooo) and not making enough time to pursue things that were important to me. I made these changes:

1. Daily asana practice first thing in the morning. Right now I’m working on core strengthening, and I’ve got my eye on parsvabakasana (side crow) next.

2. Reading more. I’m currently reading Pema Chodron’s Things Fall Apart, which is a great read for those feelings of transition or uncertainty. Also, I’ve been reading more yoga articles to get ideas on sequencing, brush up on anatomy, and stay connected to the rhythm of the yoga world.

3. Learning Italian and anatomy/physiology. Technology is a great thing. I’m using the  Memrise app to learn both subjects. It takes about 15-20 minutes each day, and it’s great to stick to a routine and challenge my brain to learn something new. Hopefully I’ll be able to communicate with the locals when we reach Italy, our final destination, and have some background anatomy knowledge when I apply to a physical therapy program next spring.

4. Connecting. With myself via meditation and with others via yoga and mini trips we take.

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Yoga gains are kinda like gains in weightlifting. I needed to change my workout to suit my new lifestyle and stay engaged. Mind/body/soul. What I did in the US wasn’t working for me on the road, so I started engaging my brain by reading and giving it more to chew on. I engaged my soul with some reading, journaling, photography and meditation. And I engaged my body by working out the muscles I wasn’t using as much. My goal is to check in with my mind/body/soul workout regularly and change it up to stay challenged.

Hanoi and Ha Long Bay are beautiful in very different ways. Hanoi is fascinating for its non-stop river of traffic (seriously, you just need to take a breath and go for it), its intimate relationship with making food (from killing the animal to serving it on a plate, you can see it all on the street), and its culture of pushing the limits (rules are made to be broken). It can be loud and overwhelming after awhile, but there’s so much to explore.

Ha Long Bay is big and breathtaking. We were there for three days and everything we did, kayaking, swimming, spelunking, climbing, even eating, was surrounded by amazing views. If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend at least two nights on a boat. Our full day exploring the bay was relaxing and there were no crowds. I was able to get the feeling of the place without distractions.

We took photos and videos of kayaking and swimming with our GoPro too. We’ll see how those turned out!

 

Unmet expectations = day ruined?

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

This morning started off on the wrong foot. I woke up not wanting to get up, but I’d told myself I’d go for a run this morning. Halfway through my workout at the outdoor track, the security guard said it was time to go: it was time fo the students to use it. Then, my yoga practice back at the apartment was met with feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction: it was a cramped space so I felt restricted in my movements, and I was judging myself in the poses I was able to do. After I took a shower, I started reading the news when my dad called me asking how my trip to Taiwan was going. He then launched into a monologue about visiting his side of the family, reminding me to use the correct title for each family member, asking what my plans were and then deciding what I should do and when I should do it. After hanging up with him, I was annoyed. The little things that “went wrong” this morning added up and I was officially pissed.

Now I’m sitting at a coffee shop and reflecting back on the events this morning. Why was I upset?

It began with my expectations. I expected to wake up well rested. I expected to be happy about going for a run, and I expected to run for as long as I wanted. I expected to  feel refreshed and calm from my yoga practice, and I expected my dad to communicate happiness and excitement that I would be visiting his side of the family.

When none of those things happened, I judged the events as bad. I judged my morning as bad. I focused on the last “bad” thing that happened, which was my conversation with my dad. Why was he acting so controlling? Why did he assume that I wouldn’t know what to call each family member? Did he think I failed to be Taiwanese enough?

Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t really upset that each of those things happened. I was upset that I’d “failed” at having a good morning, and that I didn’t seem to be in control of having one. But that’s not true.

Good or bad isn’t absolute. It depends on my perspective. And while I can’t control what other people do or what happens to me, I can control what I do. I can go for a run tomorrow; I can take a nap later if I need rest; I can take some space for myself if that’s what I need; I can still make my own plans during my stay in Taiwan regardless of what my dad insists. Happiness isn’t always about things happening just right. Sometimes it’s about making a decision to create happiness when things don’t.

 

 

 

Courage to speak: learning a new language

Hello from Seattle, Washington!

The past few weeks I’ve been using the Memrise app to learn some Japanese before we fly to Japan later this week. Learning languages is something I really enjoy: it’s like a road map to a different culture. I hope to pick up a bit of the language of each place we travel to before we get there, even if it means just saying hello and thank you.

The biggest hurdle for me when learning a new language is speaking it. I hear again and again that people appreciate when you try to speak their language. But when I’ve traveled in the past, the first thought in my head when interacting with someone local is “I don’t want to sound stupid! It’s probably better if I just speak English.” I get shy. I think that they’ll judge my poor speaking skills or think that I’m stupid. I don’t speak out loud because I’m not confident that it will come out perfectly. But then I don’t get any practice speaking, and I don’t improve. So already I’ve not only judged how I’d do, but also how they would react to what I would hypothetically do. Man, that’s a whole conversation in my head that’s based on zero evidence!

It’s the way I’ve felt stepping into a yoga class where everyone seems to be on another level: super lean-yet-muscular, casually hopping into handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) or flying pigeon (eka pada gala asana) before the practice starts, hair and makeup on point (how?? Why??), and a gracefully draping outfit. I automatically start comparing myself to the others, wondering if I belong in that class. It’s part of being human: noticing new surroundings and gauging them based on quick and simple judgments. I used to spend classes like this glancing over at others, pushing myself to the furthest extent I could, holding my breath and tensing my muscles, willing myself to get “better” at yoga. I still feel intimidated in some yoga classes (especially if they begin with “advanced”). But now when this happens, I can notice my breath and come back to why I love practicing yoga in the first place. I love it because you can do it any time, anywhere, no matter who you are. This is what I encourage in my students, and I’m grateful for these moments when I feel intimidated because it helps me become a better teacher. It helps me meet each of my students where they are, for them to listen to what they need that day, and for them to practice the courage  to speak their yoga.

So on this trip, I’m going to be in many different countries where I don’t speak a word of the language. But I promise myself that I’m gonna try. It may not sound pretty, it may not make much sense. But damned if I let that keep me from opening my mouth and seeing what comes out.

A week in San Francisco: How do I practice yoga when traveling?

Clear, distinct, unimpaired discriminative knowledge is the means of liberation from [ignorance].

—  Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.26

I’ve been in travel mode for the last month: east coast, midwest, and now west coast to say goodbye to friends and family before M and I take the big trans-Pacific flight for our round-the-world trip. The biggest challenge so far is creating routine in the non-routine nature of traveling. How do I create time, motivation, and money to do things that are important to me, such as maintaining a regular yoga practice, continuing to grow as a yoga teacher, exercising regularly, and spending time thinking about and writing in my blog and website?

With all the new and stimulating sights and sounds around me (see below for our San Francisco adventures), it’s tempting to go explore, walk around, get out there, go go go. And I know once we leave the country, this will be even more so. But there’s a side of me that says “Soyee, don’t forget about me! I need to  — go for a swim or bike ride. I need purpose — dedicate time towards long-term goals. I need introspection — ponder and check in with yourself.”

There’s also a bubbling soup simmering on the inside. Factors like exciting surroundings, my partner M and I sliding into woohoo-vacation-adventure-together mode, and more time to sit and ponder add up and make it challenging to create and stick to a routine.

Yoga Sutra 2.26 says discernment is the key to getting unstuck. To use a Buddhist analogy, getting unstuck is like a lotus growing out of mud and muck and rising above it to the surface of the water it sits on. I’ve realized these past few weeks that this is a great opportunity to practice discernment, because I will need to become aware of what’s going on around me and within me as I continue to travel. I think it will help me stay conscious of my needs as well as help me process and enjoy what’s happening as I go from place to place. Like a diamond hard blade (the mythical vajra), discernment cuts through avidiya, or ignorance. By practicing yoga off the mat, I hope to get myself to practice more yoga on the mat, on-the-go!

Grateful goodbye

I’m sitting in a sushi place, enjoying some me time before we begin our travels on Wednesday.(First stop, NYC!) Yes, even though we’ll be in Japan in a month, I’m still getting sushi…because yum.

Anyway, I notice the giant glass of ice water the waitress set in front of me, and how I gave it no thought when she set it down:

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I feel grateful for ice cold, free-refill, safe-to-drink water because I know in a couple months we’ll be in places where this is not a thing.

It’s with gratitude that I say goodbye to the USA this month…till who knows when!