But I can’t stay away from sharing a practice that’s not just transformed me for the better, it’s literally saved my life. That and … the universe keeps talking to me, “Teach again, Jogini, it’s time!”
Back when I was friggidy fresh out of teacher training, I always had a yoga resume handy. For a good few chapters in my life, I moved countries or states almost every year, so re-establishing myself became a fine art and science. I still have a yoga resume, though I haven’t really needed to use it much since coming home. This time ’round, I made a conscious decision to work at a non-profit full time and not pursue teaching opportunities.
Now, those opportunities are pursuing me, through friends, family, new acquaintances, and other teachers I’m meeting along the way.
First of all, I’m honored. And at the moment, I’m not sure how necessary a yoga resume is any more. Going through the latest iteration of my resume, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing something, some training, or experience . . . some crucial part of the story that’s not being told. It doesn’t specify that each class includes pranayam and meditation. Nor does it really say all the places where I’ve taught. There are no images (though I use them in online mediums), and definitely no stories.
Then again, let’s face it, resumes are fairly limited in their narrative capacity, and is a “resume” even an appropriate summation of a yoga teacher’s ability? Is a resume too Western or modern a way to present a yoga teacherʻs skills?
Whatever the answers to those questions may be, as part of the process of transitioning from “consciously not teaching” to “opening to teaching again,” I’m posting the short version of the resume, along with my asana photo album, as a symbolic gesture 🙂 And it feels really good to do it!
“Da ‘aina” is the land, the state of Hawaii, 808, my home. A place where that special sumpin’ sumpin’ – whether you call it mana, prana, chi, or ki – feels more geographically apparent than anywhere else in the world. It’s where the earth is re-birthing, just below sea level, everyday, to create new space for life to unfold. Yup, volcanoes are some mind-boggling thangs.
And integration. Integration, at least in terms of this blog, takes on all kinds of meanings. Having just returned home only 10 months ago, I find myself re-integrating into Hawaiian culture – but not as the same Ewa Beach kid I once was. Seventeen years in Hawaii, and seventeen years away, though at the core of me nothing’s changed, I think I’ve morphed in a way, into a kind of … international kama’aina. Equal parts global citizen and homegrown keiki.
Hawaii, especially Honolulu, is also not the same place it once was. This city has developed a not-so-surprising sophistication along with the influx of entrepreneurs, artists, and adventurers from around the globe. These newbies to “the rock” find their unique harmony against the backdrop of a local majority who preserve the mixed-plate culture unique to our state, tinged with a pidgin cadence, accented by Locals slippahs. And some of us Hawaii kids are returning home, now with broader perspectives, cultivated passions, and a drive to innovate in the name of collective benefit. It’s an inspiring time to be back.
When I say “integration,” I’m also aware of this conscious steady process of applying the wisdom and insights I’ve gained on the fragrant – and sometimes lonely – spiritual path to an everyday life where friends, family, work, and logistical errands intermingle in what can sometimes feel like a surreal, though fully natural way. What is unfolding before me is wildly ordinary, predictably magic.
And maybe “unfolding” isn’t the word … because it takes effort, patience, and a whole lotta humor to finagle your way back into the “real” world after visiting the life of a semi-ascetic. Equanimity and focus are much easier in a cave than in a typical workplace where competing egos and objectives inevitably come head-to-head.
But I’m learning.
The determination cultivated during that 10-day silent Vipassana training in India has come in particularly handy during those days I work 12 hours at my desk to organize webinars on logic models (a what now?). Walking by the homeless dudes in Chinatown I counter my instinctual fear with a compassionate reminder that we’ve all known suffering at some point in our lives, and that, at the very least, connects us somehow. When I sit in my studio apartment, instead of wishing for the 3-bedroom 2.5-children flavor of life, I am simply content (santosh!) to have a bed so large and soft, it makes memories of my ashram furnishings seem like they’re straight out of a Bergman film.
Which is not to say I don’t miss the ashram days, full of practice, service, singing, and sitting under trees.
I often wonder what life would be like if I had taken my guru-ji up on the offer to assist him at the ashrams in Canada, France, Thailand, and around the world. And I sometimes wander into wondering about what life would be like if I had accepted that scholarship to pursue my journalism masters in New York. But that’s what the mind does … it trips! In moments like those, I remember my heart, which quite clearly requested I pack up my bags and get my booty back home.
So. Here I am.
Thankfully, Hawaii is an ideal place for integration, not only because I was born and raised here, and am also part Hawaiian, but the landscape reflects the unique juxtaposition of spiritual beside material, where the natural world meets human-made construct.
Driving down Kapiolani Boulevard I’m grateful for the massive monkey pod trees lining the sidewalks, offering shade from the tropical rays, and respite from the concrete slabs unfolding ahead. They were placed there with care, in the same way I am learning to sprinkle my day with mini-treats of asana, pranayam, and meditation. The apartments of Makiki are nestled into the ridges of Punchbowl in the same way my work life co-exists with my yoga life – and in some spaces, the lines are so blurred it may just be “life.”
A life surrounded by the great Mama Ocean, whose presence brings me a sense of safety in infinitude. She draws out my imagination with unknown depths – and I’m reminded of the days when lived at my grandparents’ house and pretended to be a goddess of the sea. If I could command the waves then, I can certainly command them now, at least when it comes to the vrittis of my mind. Yoga citta vritti nirodha – yoga is the cessation of the waves of the mind. (Well, there are at least 22 solid permutations on how to translate that particular sutra (Gordon White, 2014) from Patanjali’s oft-quoted text, which is actually dualistic in nature, and therefore somewhat far from my own interpretation of the Divine/existence dynamic. But anyway, it worked well for that analogy :o).)
So I’m seeing a re-integration into my Hawaii community, and a continued integration of spiritual and ordinary life. But what of the integration of self? Are we ever fully integrated individuals, or is that process a life-long dance, sometimes guided by a particular frequency, transcendent, then sweaty and messy, the lights go on, and it’s suddenly time to go home?
Oh, the perceived layers of self! On a simple day, I like to think of them as the mind-body-soul continuum, inextricably intertwined, on levels we are often not aware, but can train ourselves to tune in to. In Vedanta, the layers are described as the physical (stula sharira), astral (linga sharira), and causal (karana) bodies (koshas), each with corresponding aspects of self. Whole texts have been written on the relationship between these “layers” and the atman, or true Self, though the word “layer” is misleadingly simple. If only we could directly access the core of our being by simply peeling away layers in a linear fashion, something akin to an onion. Sure, there might be some tears, but end result is something delicious!
There are innumerable ways to happily balance and harmonize the hypothetical layers, and though we are all connected, the recipe of techniques is unique to our constitution and lifestyle. For me, it’s been through yogic techniques like meditation, asana, pranayam, mantra, service, self-study, and Buddhist methods like mindfulness, sangha (community) cultivation, compassion, and kindness, or even through writing, journeying, body work, preparing food for loved ones, convening with nature on a hike or a swim, partaking in a ritual of drink with your homies, or taking a chance connecting with a new soul. Integration is about seeing more clearly who we truly are as whole beings, connecting with that inner-light, and feeling empowered to shine in ways that serve to evolve not only the self, but the communities we are a part of, local and global.
Those concepts may sound lofty, but I can tell you from experience, it’s the real deal. Straight up.
It took me 10 months or so to figure out what this next chapter was likely to be all about. I knew I’d continue my karma yoga practice, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be offering the typical “yoga class” we’ve come to expect in America. Sitting quietly with a rich internal dialogue on cultural appropriation, capitalization, and the downright watering down of yoga teachings here in the States has not been easy, especially after seven years of passionate sharing as a teacher. Yoga did, afterall, save my life. Why wouldn’t I take every opportunity to spread the goodness far and wide, especially now that I’m back in the fertile space of my birth home?
With these themes swimming around my noggin, looking for their rightful place along my teaching journey, I also knew a return to Hawaii meant engaging in a period of “needs sensing.” What’s already being offered? Is the community receptive to teachings I hold dear? Having grown up here, I know you don’t just roll up into Hawaii and think you know what’s up. But the offers to teach keep popping up … and I feel a forward (upward? expansive?) movement back into the teaching realm…
And all that to say, the new theme of this blog is “Integration in da ‘Aina.” 🙂
The next few posts will likely be about the Hawaiian class I took, the worst yoga class of my life (dude, so sad to say that was here, in Hawaii), and a special focus on the muladhara chakra (which actually lead to a free dirty chai – you gotta love synchronicity!).
So keep tuning in if any of this babble resonates, and I’ll see you in a week!
. . . for being the voice of reason in times of chaos. You know $hit’s hit the fan, when the best news commentator in a country is in fact — a comedian. Playground politicians are frustrating enough. Turning on a “proper” newscast, only to find party propaganda or the ratings equivalent to flashing a little cleavage, is just downright infuriating. And so, I turn to you, Jon Stewart, for the *only* sane perspective on this Shutstorm – because clearly, farcical is what we’ve come to.
On a lighter, more inspirational note, check out Jon’s interview with Malala Yousafza, a 16 year old who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in reviving education in Pakistan. Her vision, passion and courage will give you goosebumps!
And by the way, this is my *last* week in a YEAR OF GRATITUDE . . . and incidentally, the year that led me back home. Next chapter? I’m taking suggestions . . .
Kaka’ako, once a bustling area for fishing and salt harvesting, is now an experiment in urban island culture. Creative spaces for delectable dining and tipples are popping up on the regular, like Hank’s Haute Dogs (oh, lobster dog, you will be mine!), the collaborative culinary community at Taste, and the authentic NY hipster joint, Bevy (happy hour $1 oysters? Oh, yes indeed.). Amidst the warehouses, auto shops, and old school mom and pop shops, Kaka’ako’s future iteration is gaining momentum, heading toward (what I hope will be) a green, walkable, long-term sustainable ‘hood, supporting local talent and business.
A Burgeoning Kaka’ako
On Friday, I walked past a brand new integrative healing center that just opened up a half a block from my apartment. Offering tea ceremony, ikebana lessons, yoga and the Okada Method, The Mokichi Okada Association will bring much needed nourishment to the populous elderly community here in Kaka’ako. The tea room is stunning and the welcome is warm, I highly recommend checking it out.
When there’s huli-huli chicken smoke in the air, you know something good is going down. Saturday marked the opening of Kaka’ako’s farmer’s market – woo hoo! I arrived at opening hour, around 8:00 a.m., and already the stalls were heaving with little old ladies, small families, and a few of us solo-shoppers. Most vendors I spoke to were from the North Shore and Waianae – and everything I’ve eaten so far has been divine. Check out some of the photos below for a visual breakdown!
Cutie pie Alexia sporting a “Don’t Panic Go Organic” top. The super salad is chock full of so many kinds of yummies I can’t remember all their names!
Taro poke, you say? Those are two of my favorite things! The kaffir lime taro is pretty nuts too.
Breads here are hearty and amazing!
Lilikoi goat cheese, kombucha, honey, super pestos, these dudes have all the goodies.
$2 for a massive bag of fresh organic tomatoes?? Heck yeah.
Despite the challenges ahead, I see Kaka’ako as a prime opportunity to create a real ‘hood community in Hawaii, the kind of space that may play a vital role in encouraging reverse brain drain. So many of Hawaii’s talented individuals leave the islands, never to return, many because they don’t see a place for themselves back on ‘the rock.’ Most of the island is based on a car-culture, which, though convenient for big families, has been proven to be socially isolating, detrimental to physical health, and inherently oil-dependent.
Some of the more frustrating aspects to island life are the slow pace and resistance to change. Having just returned home, I hesitate to make grand broad statements about what “should be” (like the rail, more bike lanes, world peace, etc.) But this is an exciting time for Honolulu, most especially if residents and developers alike can approach the evolution of Kaka’ako with transparency, vision, and a commitment to community.
Big transitions a gwaan. It only seems right to sum things up in weekly doses for the next month or so, just to keep time plentiful. If this style seems a bit banal, my apologies; but I’ll definitely do my best to keep posting interesting/inspirational/useful/humorous tid bits, even if they’re in list formation!
How I love good old reliable yoga classes on DVD. I know there are a few excellent online streaming yoga sites out there, and most of them are affordable and very high quality. My travels, however, took me to a few places where streaming online just wasn’t an option, so DVDs were my only external teachers. One of my favorites is the Richard Freeman Ashtanga Primary and Intermediate DVDs – and I practiced to the former to start my week out proper. Sweet, sweet yoga DVDs. Convenient, free and so reliable 😉
Vino rouge! After a long day of packing and sorting out logistics, I had to appreciate the calming effects of a glass of merlot. Wanna read about the health benefits of this drink of kings? Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say here.
You know when you just need to be in the ocean? Today I took a jaunt out to Coney Island, home of the NY Aquarium, rides galore, and fine white sand, even if it is sprinkled in old hot dog holders and straws! After a short walk down the festive boardwalk, I settled in just feet from the waves. So worth a trip to South Brooklyn.
OK, I know this is old, but I showed to a friend for the first time and we re-lived the hilarity with giggles and guffaws. You need to be familiar with Ryan Gosling to find this even remotely funny, but I’ve seen so many of his films – and love him! – but this is a classic-spoof-to-be!
One of my favorite feelings is the one I get from cooking for friends. Creating an exciting menu for someone you care about is exhilarating, and the preparation meditative. Of course, eating together is no doubt the best part!
My Sayoonara Party! Friends came out to celebrate the turning of the page and we did not hold back with the laughter – or the hula hoops! I’m so grateful for the love I felt that day, such a beautiful send off.
It’s getting to be that time, New York. I have exactly one more week to go before moving back home to Hawaii, and since returning from Paris, I’ve had oodles to be grateful for. Here’s the breakdown:
Friday, July 12th
The convenient – though sometimes hideous – MTA. Alright, the paint is peeling off the walls and cat-sized rats scurry not far from the platforms. But all in all, New York’s public transport gets you where you need to go. After landing at JFK I took trains all the way back to Park Slope in time to shower and repack for my next trip that day. I’m especially grateful for the public transport here in NY since I’m remember how tough it is to get around Oahu without a car. I’m soaking up this train/bus action while I can!
Saturday, July 13th
The first official day of the Third Root collective owners’ retreat in the Poconos. Today I’m grateful for catharsis. Not the kind of anger-fuelled punching bag catharsis that’s now been proven to make matters much worse. Rather, the kind of mindful catharsis that can cleanse the soul, paint a clearer picture of the past, dark shades and all, a catharsis that brings us to understanding.
Sunday, July 14th
Lake fun! It was a long morning and afternoon, sitting inside and sorting through heavy important to-dos . . . uber grateful to have had a jaunt to the lake for swimming, tanning and a whole lotta craic.
Monday, July 15th
One of my dear friends from the Abu Dhabi days came to visit and there are so many moments of gratitude here, it’s mighty hard to choose. The fountain at Washington Square park, so calming in 100 degree weather? The joy of having a good friend in town? The decliciousness at Thewala? I’ll go ahead and highlight Greenwich Village Comedy Club, where just about all the performers were on point, making us giggle and guffaw the whole evening through. And as a few bonus cherries on top, we scored a bunch of free tickets for future fun and made a few friends from out of town. The impromptu sesh went on at the Bowery Hotel – equal parts hunting lodge and bad trip. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in town!
Tuesday, July 16th
Despite the 106 degree weather, like the pros we are, Nat and set out on a full day of explorations: cwoffee from a no-nonsense Brooklyn dinah – black, to go! Onward bound to the New York Aquarium and Coney Island boardwalk, complete with beachy rendezvous with a few yoga sisters on a picnic day. Hungry and determined to try some of the best pizza in Brooklyn we hit up Totonno’s – only to find it closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Boo! But you know what, it was worth the walk, because one of owners popped her lovely head out the door and chatted with us, apologizing for not being open, and blowing us “sweethearts” a kiss before asking God for our blessing. Now *that’s* some Brooklyn hospitality I hadn’t been before!
After a shower and a costume change, we nibbled on sushi (delicious and affordable, at some spot on 2nd ave and 8th street – such a good find if you can find it!) before checking out some rare peace and greenery in Manhattan at the Highline. On the flip side of NY kindness, when we rocked up to the Standard Hotel for a rooftop tipple, we were rudely turned away (despite our reservations) and told to sit in the snazzy bar a floor below. Thankfully there was a four piece swingtime jazz band bopping away to welcome us! We met up with another mate and checked out the Jane Hotel, a slightly more disco version of The Bowery, before finding our way to a hooka joint. Today’s source of gratitude: STAMINA, BABY!
Wednesday, July 17th
Nat’s last day in the citay 😦 We decided to make it a food tour day and set straight out for the best bagels in Brooklyn at The Bagel Hole. An everything bagel and veggie cream cheese, does it every time! Two blocks up the road and we took a stroll through Prospect Park on our way up to catch a Q train to Chinatown (for a taro puff, of course!) and Little Italy – home of hardcore espresso and delectable tiramisu. Apparently, the Italian American Museum is open by appointment only on weekdays, but we made the most of our steamy – and very brief – stroll through the ‘hood. Next up: the East Village for some BIG GAY ICE CREAM! Honestly, I was more impressed with the unicorns and She-ra decorations, but the Salty Pimp (a dulce de lece vanilla ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate and rolled in pretzels) was no doubt delightful. Overpriced. But delightful.
No trip to NYC would be complete without a romp through hipsterville, the infamous Williamsburg. It’s home to the Mast Brother’s Chocolate shop, a gaggle of places to eat drink and be merry, and a center dedicated to “learning through making,” 3rd Ward. We dined on the best dumplings ever to cross my palate, the spicy won tons (in heavenly peanut sauce) at Shanghai Bistro and Garden. Seriously, they’re on another level.
What was I thankful for that day? The company of a dear friend. I might have blogged about that one before. But I changed the wording around a little bit this time. Friends deserve multiple blogs 🙂
Sunday’s gratitude moment was all about honoring my pops, who recently transplanted himself to the South of France. Sunflowers, vineyards and socialized health care? Yeah, it sounds alright. 😉
Though my father loves the stage, and rocks out at venues around Europe, he spent the majority of his life helping others. I couldn’t be prouder of the work he’s done with runaways, incarcerated men, families in need of assistance and hundreds of private patients looking for ways to evolve through their unique challenges. His seva to the world has sent tsunami-sized ripples of goodness throughout this existence … and surely into the beyond. I look forward to writing his biography one day!
Thank you, Daddio, for introducing me to dinuguan (gross!), for giving in when I wanted a puppy, and for debating the finer points of nature/nurture with me before I really knew how to spell those words.