To India…

On Monday, I’m off to India (for the month of July!).

I’m sorry it’s been a while – too long – since I’ve written. If you can believe it, I’ve had more stories and ideas to share than ever; but somehow I’ve lacked the right words, and the clarity. Not much has changed since then, except now I’m off to India! Despite the obvious excitement of my impending adventure, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so raw, so humbled, or so small – even defeated – before in my life. Of course, I know every experience serves you. In some way, I even wonder if there’s no such thing as wasted time, or bad decisions; but just time, and decisions. And, as we accumulate experiences, we grow and form as a result of these experiences and our own personal reactions out in the big, big world. Well, either way, my world is about the get a lot bigger.

But for now I’m here, currently in Weymouth, Massachusetts with my best girl friends from college – laughing, drinking wine, and catching up on old and new times. On Monday I will board a plane and soon find myself in the over-crowded, noisy, chaotic streets of New Delhi, sharing the road with sweaty cows, mopeds and taxi cabs. Wednesday morning, my first in India, I’ll join classmates on the rooftop of our temporary home, a Jainist monastery, for pre-dawn asana, hopefully as we allow the thick grey smog to kiss our skin with warm embrace. Because, we’re in India. And as for all of India’s other crazy, challenging, unpredictable surprises, oh I know you’re coming. And I’m ready for you.

Too many guilty-pleasure readings of “Eat, Pray, Love” have taught me:

India doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you need.

This was my source of reflection this morning when I was finally able to find the time (and energy) to practice for the first time in weeks. [It’s amazing how tight your hips become after two months of travel and no asana.
Remember to keep your Pigeon Pose on hand! (Also note to self)]

From my practice this morning, with a bit of irony and a lot of surrender: 

To India, I go with little time to think – post-finals and a busy wedding season – I’m jumping in with both feet.

To India, because there’s no real choice, but most of all because there could be no other answer.

To India: please treat me well and share all of your richness. I am open, and ready as ever to receive all I have to learn.

I plan to dive into India as a course of study in Jainism (a sect of Buddhism known for its commitment to ahimsa, or universal non-violence), but also as a self-retreat. I surrender to indulge in asana, meditation and mantra; immerse myself in lecture and reading; and lose myself in ancient temples, Puja ceremonies, and the loving company of my cohort. I hope my trip will also include luscious afternoon sessions of day dreaming, journal writing and blog posting, but I’ll make no promises. Ultimately, India gives us what we need anyway. So, who am I to get in the way?

Friends and family on the East Coast: Thank you all so much for the unconditional welcome and warmth over the past few months. On my journey through graduate school – as well as through much, much more – our time together has meant the world. You all serve as a reminder of my roots, but also of who and what I aspire to become. I have so much gratitude for having so many smart, courageous, thoughtful and humble people in my life. Thanks for all you do, and you have my permission to show yourself a little love in my absence. (Had my first massage yesterday – Thanks Jill! – and I’m not looking back!) I’ll be sending more love your way!

To all: There will always be more to come, as long as you’ll have me. In the meantime, make a few moments to get your yoga on! (Or guided meditation, mantra, surf, or creative outlet of your choice) 😉

Bon Voyage,

Amy

My Year in Yoga

Sometimes following your dream means going down the unpaved road. The challenge is to trust that what awaits you at the end of the road is far beyond your wildest expectations. From a fellow traveler, do trust. You won’t be disappointed.

Those who know me well are well aware that the past year has been a little bit – or, a lot a bit – out of the ordinary. Moving to California was one thing, but forfeiting my career in government affairs, vowing to take up Yoga Studies, and accepting a graduate assistantship in religion and ecology – I think it’s safe to say I may have lost a few people along the way. But that’s okay, because my new venture is all about awareness. My love affair with yoga has thus far centered around my own growth and discernment, facing the harsh realities of post-college life and working them out on my mat. Through my five years of regular asana practice (or the physical practice of sequenced yoga postures as we all know them) I’ve found more self-confidence, focus and ambition than I ever imagined possible. In short, I believe my regular yoga practice has put me on the fast-track to becoming the best version of myself, and with this comes an overwhelming sense of contentment, and happiness. Goodbye fears, insecurities, and anxiety! Hello fabulous and all authentic me! It takes consistency, but pays off 100 fold. I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I’m pursuing my dreams in a way I never could have imagined: by obtaining a Masters of Arts in Yoga Studies degree from Loyola Marymount University (LMU).

Now I want to give a disclaimer, because I realize in my very introduction I’ve painted myself as an over-enthusiastic (perhaps unstable), yoga obsessed 25-year old – nothing too original about that. But what is unique is that my journey in Yoga Studies has begun, and will continue, in unadulterated openness. I was drawn to the M.A. of Yoga Studies program and to LMU for their explicit over-arching mission for universal acceptance. If you don’t already know, LMU is a very catholic university. But the mission of this program is to explore commonalities of diverse religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity – to uncover the historical emergence, and contemporary significance of yoga. I don’t think there’s one way to find happiness, contentment, and a trim physique in this life. There are many. And people are unique, and deserve infinite opportunities to explore themselves and their interests to find their own path to obtaining these things. I do believe, however, that yoga is a powerful tool in this pursuit; the actual benefits of which have yet to be thoroughly researched and documented under the scrutiny of Western culture. While mainstream society begins to embrace the proven health benefits of yoga in hospitals and doctor’s offices throughout the country (woop, woop!), there is still more. I believe yoga has extensive socio-economic benefits through which yoga can fundamentally empower and transform individuals to do better for themselves and their families, despite perceived limitations of background or circumstance. This means: raising families above the poverty line, rehabilitating troubled or imprisoned youth, eliminating social side effects of mental illness, inspiring decision-makers to better serve the public and our environment, increasing the number of minorities in public office, and the list goes on…At a time when our country and our world are imploding with violence and chaos, and our leaders have proven ineffective to assuage the storm, I believe this awareness holds the key to restoring individual contentment and promoting universal acceptance in the U.S. and across the globe.

So, here I am, a part French-Canadian/part English/all-American Westerner devoting my life to Yoga Studies to explore just that. I want to give you the proof you’re looking for, that yoga is valuable to you and the people you love, beyond a 60-minute destress session and the potentiality for six-pack abs (although these aren’t bad side effects either). Armed with a B.A. in Public Advocacy, several years of government affairs work in the public and private sector, a published manuscript on the socio-economics of gender disparity, and a new endeavor as Assistant Editor for an academic journal in global religions and social ecology, I won’t let you down. (And I hope you’ll check back for small bits of enlightenment I discover along the way.) Challenge accepted.

I look forward to sharing and always appreciate your thoughts and reflections.

Keep on flowing xx

Amy