San Diego: Waves
Updated: May 25
We drove west from New Mexico as far as we possibly could to land in San Diego, CA. I remember looking out of the car window and feeling content with my title as passenger princess. Even though I was pleased to be continuing our nomadic adventure across the US, contentment and excitement was quickly met with anticipation and unrest. I could sense a shift coming. At the moment the source was hard for me to identify. Perhaps it was the exhilaration of having this blog officially launched, a high from getting my story out there and an anticipation over its evolution. Maybe it was residual joy from having booked flights home to Milwaukee at the beginning of May. I had been given the opportunity to create and lead content for a yoga teacher training and continuing education workshop at The Moving Galaxy. I was leaving New Mexico with a lot to be proud of and look forward to, but there was a knot inside me for which I did not understand. I promised you all (and myself) that this blog would disclose the mental process of a traveling yogi, so I decided to take that knot in my stomach and unravel it.
Since some of you may not study or practice yoga, I want to explain the process of self-study, Svadhyaya in Sanskrit. Svadhyaya is a Niyama, a positive duty or observance. A Niyama is recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of a path to yoga. That is, part of a path that helps you reach enlightenment or a state of bliss. Since understanding my Dharma is understanding myself, I am practicing Svadhyaya throughout this adventure. I am in a constant state of analysis. I hope that you can see that as a yoga teacher this new space I’ve created is a huge opportunity for my personal growth. Traveling this way allows me to “unpack my shit” without the demands of a full-time job, home to take care of, or any person to distract me from myself (pretty isolating). I am moving my energy all the way around.
In San Diego, Brandon and I had the chance to link up with one of our friends, Paul, as a roommate for the first 3 weeks of our stay. His girlfriend, Hannah, was beginning her own yoga journey in a 200HR teacher training in Bali. I felt especially excited that one of my friends was beginning this process and that I’d have the opportunity to get some frequent updates from her. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own start on this path and how far I’d come. For the first time ever I was developing my own content to lead in a training at the end of the month. This is something I would’ve only dreamed about 7 years ago. I recall one conversation with Hannah about her excitement on learning about non-attachment, Aparigraha in Sanskrit. At the time I didn’t understand the important role this conversation would play. Part of becoming a yoga teacher is learning how to detach from self-limiting beliefs and fears that keep you from carrying out your will. Hearing Hannah navigate this herself inspired me to push past those same insecurities as they surfaced while I created.
The process is not simple and it forces you to identify unhealthy attachments in order to move “forward.” No matter how proud I was of what I was putting together for the training, after 10 hours of work I would leave it with feelings of “this information isn’t good enough” or “I am not good enough to present this information.” I found myself nitpicking every little thing about my living space, obsessively cleaning and when things were not “just so” it would force me into an introverted head space. I felt like I had done so much work in New Mexico to feel a healthy connection to myself and here I was just a week or two later feeling fully powerless again.
There were a few pivotal moments that corrected my downward spiral into something more rhythmic and balanced. Brandon and I had been walking a ton and we frequented the beaches as often as we could. The rocky shorelines were met with enormous waves. When the two came together the force was explosive. As we walked, I thought about the relationship between the rock and the wave. How magnificent the rocks were for withstanding such harsh conditions. No matter how the tides shifted, the rocks remained stable. If New Mexico was about connecting to my roots, then San Diego was going to have to be about me standing firmly in them. I visualized myself as the rocks and the challenges I’d been experiencing as the waves. Maybe one day, I would be able to flow swiftly between the two forces, just like all the surfers. To give you some perspective on time, it took me about ¾ of our month-long stay in San Diego to have this realization. The amazing thing about recognizing attachments and letting go of them, is it always clears space for something new.
Now to talk about my favorite San Diego yoga studio and the additional shifts that happened as a result of the space. Riffs Yoga Studios has two locations. One of the studios, located in La Jolla, includes an outdoor space whose tropical foliage reminds me of something you’d see right out of Bali. During savasana I heard the birds chirping and felt the wind on my skin coming off the ocean. Being able to practice outside had a grounding effect that allowed me to feel that sense of connection I established in New Mexico. Laying down it was as though I was the rock peacefully resting with the waves in the distance. I promised myself that I would come back to this moment anytime I felt myself spiraling. I approached the rest of my stay in San Diego and final preparations on my teacher training content with this new found momentum. Although at times I was still met with doubt, the memory of walking along the ocean and being outside at the studio was alway enough to bring me back to solid ground.
During my last week I was fully focused on finalizing content. The topics I was presenting were part of my 300HR certification thesis including: The Hero’s Journey and The Chakra System. Both of these systems outline a process of self inquiry and transformation. The Hero’s Journey, created by author Joseph Campbell, is an 8 stage story template that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, learns a lesson, wins a victory with that newfound knowledge and then returns home transformed. While studying this content, I realized my own place along this path at the stage of the final threshold. The final threshold is one of the last stages where the hero must choose between a personal objective and a higher purpose. The hero takes moral inventory and performs critical self inquiry in order to identify weaknesses that continue to play against them. If the hero fails it results in the suffering of others, if the hero succeeds they become the master of both the ordinary and special worlds.
There was a big part of me that felt overwhelmed with excitement about seeing my friends, family and to be surrounded by a familiar community; however, all of that was masked by a fear that felt existential. Even if you aren’t a yogi, you’ve probably heard the term “vibe.” It’s thrown around pretty casually, but for someone who studies yoga and especially the Chakra System its meaning is profound. According to tantric yogic philosophy everything is a vibration and all vibrations can and do affect other vibrations. Even feelings vibrate. For me, I couldn’t go into this training with a fear based mentality because then that would mean I was okay with that fear potentially being felt by those attending the training. I put in too much effort and felt too passionately about the content I was presenting to allow fear to take the driver’s seat. I had to figure out how to let this go.
Ready for the twist? I knew all along what needed to be let go. I just wasn’t willing to give away the control yet. When I left Milwaukee I started to rely heavily on nicotine to help ease my anxiety and act as a constant in my ever changing environment. Since this wasn’t my first experience with addiction or nicotine, I knew this would be a huge problem for my mental health primarily because I kept it a secret. The fear came from the fact that I felt inadequate for allowing something to have power over me again. I promised myself I would never allow that to happen again. My fear was about disappointing Brandon when I came forward about keeping information from him. I was living a double life and with something that could affect my long term health. The fear was that I didn’t know if I could stop, but I knew that I needed to.
One morning I was feeling manic because I had no access to nicotine. I was getting ready to go to a yin yoga class at Riffs and wasn’t willing to risk being late. On my way I was so pissed off at myself. Because the anger was obvious, I committed to myself that I would work on letting go of this attachment in class. I wanted to manifest the confidence I needed to release its hold on me. I used my understanding of The Hero’s Journey and The Chakra System to process my relationship with addiction and control. I had a profound release by the end of class. I’m not claiming that I didn’t suffer withdrawal symptoms, I am still currently working through that process. What I am saying is that I identified a power within myself that beckoned to my true will. This gave me the courage to talk to Brandon which would be the next major step. Part of overcoming a control issue is verbalizing the obsessive behavior that comes as a result to someone in your support circle. The secret is no longer a secret and therefore does not have as much power. By overcoming this stage, I crossed the final threshold and without a doubt found my bliss.
Making my return to Milwaukee I felt fully present in my time spent with friends, family and throughout the training. The weekend had finally come for me to present my content and I felt nothing but ready. I was so proud of myself for taking my power back. This confidence carried over into the entire weekend. Two full days of instructing content and educating others through these processes was transformational for me. To put it into perspective, for maybe the first time ever in my career as a yoga teacher, I came into something 100% confident. Considering I’ve been teaching since 2017, that’s a shit ton of classes and time spent doing anything while experiencing anxiety.
Now I’m making my way to LA and I’ve got this fire inside me growing from the vibrating rhythm I’ve re-established within myself. I created a 75 minute vinyasa inspired by patterns for all of you. Through the awareness of patterns we can learn to identify circumstances that come into our life that throw our natural pattern (vibration) out of rhythm. From this we can understand what might need to be adjusted internally or externally, so that those larger patterns can flow harmoniously again.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 11.44 Svadhyayadistadevatasamprayogah
Translation: By study of spiritual books comes communion with one’s chosen deity.