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30 days, 10 of My Favorites, and 1 Big Lesson

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Week four in Costa Rica has been my favorite week here.
When I first arrived I wasn’t sure where to go, what to do, how to be, and I spent more time observing and asking questions, than I did “doing”. Every day I try something new, go somewhere I haven’t gone yet, and attempt to learn words or phrases I didn’t know the day before, from a local. I’m meeting people, teaching yoga, and picking up more Spanish, though not nearly enough.  I’ll be registering for language classes soon. I am now a volunteer 10 hours a week at The Monkey Farm, (www.themonkeyfarm.org/farm), which fills my need to give back and serve.  Barters have been set to teach yoga in exchange for personal training and a golf cart to get around in. I’ve become a regular at Shantishala Yoga Studio, and my two favorite coffee shops that I spend hours writing in.  Thanks to their a/c and Chai tea, my first book has been started and my website is almost ready to launch!

This past week, a woman I’ll call “My Fairy Godmother who swears a lot”, spent the last week in the condo next to mine. She was a Godsend, and someone I will call a friend for a very, very long time. I admire her for the kind of person she is and all the good that she’s done in this world to help children and victims of abuse, among many other acts of service, and I thank God she showed up when she did. My FGM helped me find the local yoga studio, make new friends in the area, and had some of the best advice, always given with a mouthful of swear words. She was hilarious too, and my spirits were quickly lifted because she moved in. Today she went home, but I will forever be grateful to her for her role in my journey. I could have easily ignored her, walked by without saying a word, but if we hadn’t met, last week would’ve been very different. (there’s a lesson in that!)

I’d like to believe that it doesn’t matter whether you move to another country or another state, things will be different. There will be a period of time dedicated to adjusting, finding your people, and settling in. Every day since I arrived, I have noticed what’s different; different than Cleveland, different than home, and different than I’ve ever experienced. Different isn’t always good or bad, but it can be uncomfortable and new.

I thought that this “one month” milestone would be a great time to list what is different about living here, and what I love about my experience in Costa Rica thus far.  Also, when times get “uncomfortable”, I just remember these things, and they ground me once more.  In no particular order:

1. The weather, obviously, is beautifully HOT all the time. The sun is always out, and I can get a tan just walking to the store. The sun makes me smile just by rising and staying warm.
2. Flip flops. All the time. Shorts, skirts, sundresses, tank tops, bathing suits. Repeat. Why do I have so many clothes and shoes in in Cleveland?
3. TRAVELERS.  Oh my gosh, people are AmAzInG!  I absolutely LOVE meeting and talking to people.  If we all just shut off the TV and spoke to strangers, we’d hear more interesting, and exciting things than we could ever see on a television, and it would be so much better because the stories we’d hear would be true!  I’ve heard this several times since I arrived, “There’s a difference between a traveler and a tourist.”. It’s so true.   I’ve met the most interesting people, and don’t worry, I’m recording those stories too for a future date!
4.  FOOD! The foooooooooooooooood!  Ok, it’s expensive to live here if you like to eat like I do, but lucky for me I don’t care.  Plantains, pineapple, rice and beans (gallo pinto), the fish, it’s fresh, so fresh! I love guacamole, ceviche, pico de gallo, and there are smoothies and fresh juice everywhere.  Yes you can get those anywhere, but not like this.  GMO free, hormone free, real food.  It’s heaven. Food heaven.  I might have to start up a collection so I can keep eating and then pay for more personal training. I’ll keep you posted.
5.  I love having a pool more than I ever thought I would. After my morning run, at 2pm when it’s 96 degrees, after my evening run, anytime I’m hot, tired, awake, bored, happy, sad, whatever… just jump in the pool and it all goes away.
6.  The locals.  Gosh they are so patient with my American ways… my attempted yet half assed Spanish, my driving, my questions, and my excitement and giddiness over what they probably think are the lamest things ever. 99% of the locals I’ve met have been helpful, kind, smiling, and beautiful people. I appreciate so much about their way of life, the little bit I know anyway. They could all be laughing at me and I don’t even know it.   I’m looking forward to learning more.
7.  Pure Vida, or poooooda Vida as I’ve been instructed to say… I’m working on it.  Pura Vida literally translates to “pure life”, and is said with the intention of “this is life!” or “this is living!”,  and it can be used as a greeting, a farewell, or an answer expressing that things are going great. Costa Ricans adopted the phrase from Mexico and in the 1990’s it was added to their dictionary.  How cool is it that so many people walk around with such enthusiasm as to say, “Pura Vida!” that it gets added to the dictionary?
8.  Transportation.  I really enjoy seeing couples romantically riding a bike with the girl on the handlebars facing her man.  I think it’s adorable every time I see a mom with her baby in a basket or in her arms even, on her bicycle.  Oftentimes I’ll see a mom with two children, or an entire family on one bike.  People have scooters, golf carts, four wheelers and the usual public bus system.  It seems that cars and trucks are not for everyone, and there are always people walking and hitch hiking.  It must enhance the sense of community when you’re walking by the same people everyday, saying hello or pura vida!
9.  The beach.  There are two beaches about 10 minutes from my condo.  I love them both for different reasons.  One has black sand, the other has lots of pretty shells and snails.  They both have fabulous restaurants, rocks to climb, birds to watch, and boats to lust after.  The water is clear, and the sunsets are magnificent.  Plus, the saltwater air nourishes the thyroid and creates sexy curls in my hair.
10.  The time I have now to dedicate to myself and my wants and needs, my goals, my books, my health and my spirit.  I’ve dreamt of this my entire life… maybe that’s the secret? We all know it is.

There are many places I could’ve gone to write and rest, explore and meet people, but I truly believe I am where I am supposed to be.  This all happened so quickly, how could I dare to question to laws of the universe? In November, a joke was made and seven days later turned into a decision.  Twelve weeks after that I was on a plane to live in a country I’d never visited before.  One month later my life has changed again, as it will continue to, and as yours will to.  It may be easier to accept the differences and changes while living the way I am, but the lesson is really acceptance of change.  Please notice that I mentioned the 10 differences I love and not the ones I don’t.  Accepting change and appreciating it for the good, letting the rest go, and using each experience for growth, I’m finding, is key to creating happiness wherever you land.  I did not appreciate Cleveland when I was there as much as I do now, but I am filled with more love in my heart and soul than I was before I experienced Costa Rica, so I’d say at 30 days, I am beyond thrilled with my choice to LIVE my life!

 

 

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Lessons to Learn

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kids

I’ve now officially been away from home for two weeks, and I am still alive. It seems like half of my thoughts are about missing home, while the other half are about feeling at home where I am now. This is good, I think. I haven’t cried about missing my Ohio home yet, and if you know me at all, you know that this is a good sign.

It feels like longer, though, that I have been away. I have teaching jobs lined up, have met new people and some new friends, have crossed the border to and from Nicaragua on foot, and have even acquired part time use of a golf cart in exchange for private yoga sessions.

Like the rest of my life, doors are opening, only this time I’m walking through faster and not wasting as much time using my thinking brain, as opposed to my feeling gut. I’ve learned throughout my life that my feelings are much more reliable than my thoughts that were based on what I was taught to believe. Isn’t that what Yoga teaches us? That we learn to trust ourselves and our basic instincts again, undoing all that was taught to us as the way things “should” be.

I initially took this journey with the idea that I would not “work”. I had hoped to come here to rest, to explore the country and other countries, and to read, write and exercise daily. When I was asked to teach, my initial reaction went something like this, “Noooooooooooooo! I just want to sit! I’m tired! I want someone to teach me and to rest. I don’t want to think!” Then my gut kicked in. “Yes!” is how I felt and how I immediately responded without hesitation.

I love teaching yoga. I love the way my students’ breathe different at the end of their class compared to when they walk in. I love hearing the big sighs of relief as they settle into a relaxing pose, or the way they look proud of themselves as they find balance in a standing pose. I live for the stories of how yoga has changed their lives, and I learn from each class I teach on how to be a better teacher, and a better person.

In Nicaragua last week, I had the incredible opportunity to teach the children of the Barrio Planta Project in San Juan del Sur, again.  I had wondered beforehand if it would be as exciting, fun, and rewarding as it was the first time.  It was.  I can’t explain what it felt like to stand in front of so many children of all ages and my peers and friends of the LiveLife Light retreat, and watch them all gleaming from ear to ear as they followed me in a ridiculous mix of yoga asana and animal noises.  The language barrier forced me to use my imagination to convey the name of the poses I lead.  I “moo-ed” for cow, “meow-ed” for cat, and even howled in downward facing dog.  I learned Spanish for inhale, exhale, and a few others, by asking the children, “como se dice…?” (how do you say…?)  That few hours we spent there had me feeling like a kid myself, laughing and playing and being completely present.  I want more of that feeling!

I have no idea what I am doing here in Costa Rica, but that is what keeps me in the moment.  During our retreat I learned that I have more dreams to live out.  I have more goals, more plans, and also that maybe I could focus on the way I want to feel more than what I want to do. I learned a lot this time around, and would do it again in a heartbeat.  I feel open and willing to listen, to learn and to explore without expectation.

It seems like everyone around me has their own opinion of why I am here, what I’m supposed to be doing with my time, and how I should be feeling. As long as I can’t explain it to them, how could I convince them, or myself for that matter, otherwise? Maybe they are right. Maybe they are all right in some way and I just don’t know it yet. Maybe they are all projecting their own needs and fears and beliefs on me without realizing it. Maybe. Maybe It doesn’t matter, and maybe I am finally strong enough in myself to not let their opinions get to me.

I’ve become more of an observer the past two weeks than I’ve ever been in my life. Without the teachings of yoga I’ve learned, I’d most likely be the Lisa who liked to control everything. I would not be able to survive this if I tried to control the outcome of it. There are bugs, giant bugs, people from other cultures I don’t yet understand, foods I’ve never heard of, heat that is unbearable at times, dirt everywhere, lack of transportation and cell phone service, and newness in every direction.

There is also beauty, kindness, sharing, food, sunshine  and water like I’ve never experienced anywhere else on earth. This place is magical in all sense of the word, and I am so grateful to be in a place in my life and my heart to appreciate it.

I am excited to take on more teaching opportunities, and trusting that I won’t overload myself as I did back home. There will always be more lessons to learn, but I am resigning myself to take them one at a time.

It’s Only Stuff Mommmmmmm!

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stuff

I remember back to one of the first few conversations I had with my mom about how I was planning to execute this transition. I had big ideas of how I was going to sell or donate everything I owned, and how easy that was going to be to do.
My mom kept insisting that I let her and my dad keep some things for me for when I decided to settle somewhere. “That’s not the point!” I told her. “It’s only STUFF mom, I can get more stuff anywhere at anytime, and I don’t want the “stuff” to hold me back, or weigh me down.” It’s so important to me to go all the way, or not at all. She tried again, but she knows me well enough to know that I need to figure out what’s right on my own. However, I don’t have a problem with admitting I was wrong from time to time, which I was.

So far, I haven’t felt remorse about getting rid of my furniture, selling my yoga studios, ending the lease on my less than 1 year old apartment, or leaving the only county I’ve ever lived in. In fact, I’ve been so bothered by the amount of “stuff” I have, that it’s felt good to unhand it. How many drawer organizers, paper clips, pens, spatulas, measuring cups, binders and nail files does one person need? How is it possible for me to forget I have 7 rolls of scotch tape at home in my closet? How many measuring cups can I use at one time? I’m pretty sure that I can only file my nails with one file at a time, so I’m not sure why I have 26.

Last night I moved on to sorting through my closets of clothes, beauty products, and shoes. I narrowed down my nail polish bottles to 16, and my lipsticks to somewhere around 50. YES. 50. You don’t want to know what the original was count before I narrowed it down.

“It’s only STUFF Mom!”, played on repeat as I stared at the ridiculous amounts of colorful tubes and bottles laying on my hallway floor. I tried to choose which colors should stay and which should come with me. I tried so hard! How could I possibly be ok with selling and donating all of my beautiful furniture and so many of my books and clothes, but when it comes down to nail polish and lipstick I am stuck?
My mom and I were on the phone while this madness was going on, laughing, with me admitting I was wrong about the ease of non attachment.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that keeping a few things back home isn’t such a bad idea. My Ninja for example. That was an expensive piece of magic that I got for half off! It can’t hurt to have that waiting for me one day, can it?
Someone suggested to me awhile back, that keeping some things here while I’m gone isn’t a way to hold me back, it’s a way to allow me to proceed with comfort. I know that I will either have my Ninja, for example, when I settle down some day, or I will have a very nice item to donate to someone who needs it. Changing my perspective changed my plans.

The most beautiful part of this whole adventure has been spending quality time with so many people, and hearing their stories, suggestions, and experiences. I didn’t come up with this brilliant plan, people I’ve met and taken the time to listen to and connect with have. I’m not the first person to do what I am doing. I just heard a great idea and liked it. That is why my plans change everyday. I can’t assume I know what the future will hold, I have to be flexible and willing to go along for the ride. Like my stuff that I am letting go of, I need to let go of what I think I know, or want, when it holds me back from experiencing a beautiful life.

As far as the nail polish and lipsticks, I’ve decided to deal with that later. The idea of not having just the right shade of gloss or sparkle is just too much stress for me right now.

Hanging by my Hair. Literally. Part 1

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zipline

That’s me, zip lining in the jungles of Nicaragua, near San Juan del Sur.  Below me there were howler monkeys, blue Morpho butterflies, and tree tops.  Ironically, the tree tops below cushioned my fear of heights.  The view was so incredible, it didn’t seem real or feel like we were as high as we were.

There were 8 chances to fly from tree to tree, If I remember correctly.  The first 3 were scary, but the rest became easier and more fun as we went along.

At the end of the adventure, we had a straight repel down to the ground from God knows how high up.  I’ve been guessing we were about 30-40 feet in the air when we were dropped to the ground.  We were able to let the guide know how fast or slow we wanted to drop.  I thought I had made it very clear that I wanted to drop slowly, but my Spanish may have been rusty.

As the guide was lowering me, he’d drop me quickly and make me scream, then slowly.  I remember hearing people laughing like they thought I was actually enjoying it.  He was alternating as I was screaming for him to knock it off, and then it happened.  I looked down at the ground and just my luck, my hair came out of my headband, out of my helmet, and got caught up in the rope.  Every inch he dropped me wrapped another inch of hair into the rope and gear.  I was screaming, imagining my scalp being torn from my skull.  It was the most horrifying few seconds of my life, (until the volcano boarding topped it a few days later!).

With the help of my friends, I’m guessing they were about 10 feet below on the ground, it stopped.  I was hanging by a chunk of hair on the left side of my head, in the front.  What I remember is every thought I had about how they would never be able to get me out without ripping my scalp off my head.  “Maybe they’d be able to get a knife in there to cut my hair, but that’s only if they can get a ladder to get to me,  and we were in the jungle. Who has a ladder in the jungle?  What if my scalp tore and I had a bald spot in the front of my head?  How long do you think it would take to grow that hair back? I wonder what I’d look like with a bald spot.  Do they sell extensions for girls who have been scalped on a zip line? What is everyone doing?  Why is it so quiet?  OH! There they are… I don’t understand what they are saying… I’m going to have to do this myself.”

I began to swing back and forth by my hair, thinking that if I could get my feet to the tree, I could lift myself up enough to pull my hair out of the tooling.  I tried it.  It didn’t work.  I heard someone say they were getting a ladder and coming for me.

The next few moments were so peaceful. I had no pain anymore, I just relaxed and hung there, by my hair.  I quickly went through all possibilities in my head, and none of them seemed so bad.  I just knew they would get me down and if the worst case scenario was a bald spot, it would grow back, and damn I’d have the best story to tell!

My poor, poor guide.  He climbed down the tree’s vines and somehow got me out of the rope.  He pointed up for me to look at my shredded hair pieces still waving in the wind and rope above.  I felt my new kinky, frayed hairstyle with my hands and immediately checked for blood.  There was none, just a funny new “do”, and then I looked at him.  He was staring off into space, panting, and wide eyed.

I said, “Are you ok? I’m ok! If I’m ok then you’re ok! Are you ok???? Hey… I’m ok!” and I rubbed his arm and kissed his cheek, thinking that would lighten him up.  It didn’t help that much, but he did smile for a second!  I finally had to tell him to get us out of the tree already.  The poor guy was way more traumatized than I was, and apparently I’m a sucker for a Spanish speaking boy with a conscience.  I talked to him until he lightened up, then I called him my hero along with my friend Chris who helped me to the ground.  Our picture is below.

My friends were below me waiting to catch me and comfort me but I was just fine.  I remember them all seeming and looking horrified.  I remember laughing so hard and telling them that if I am ok then they should be too! I really didn’t know why they were so upset, but someone said I was the one in shock.

About 15 minutes after I was released and hiked to our resting space, I broke down in the bathroom, sobbing, and my head and neck really started to hurt! The crying only lasted about one minute, then  I was fine.  I believe my next few thoughts were about how awesome that was and what a cool story I have to tell, plus I got to keep some hair on my head AND had this funny looking chunk of hair sticking out to prove it.

For the next two weeks or so, my hair had to be styled to tame that little souvenir I received on our zip line tour.  It made me laugh every time I noticed and tamed it.  As far as I was concerned, I had just overcome my fear of heights,  and couldn’t wait to do it again!

It took literally hanging by my hair, to appreciate the difference between real urgency and self induced urgency.  Part 2 of this story will explain… stay tuned.

zipline heros

 

The Power of Pigeon

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pigeon

Pigeon Pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in Sanskrit for my yogis, used to be my absolute favorite pose to get into.  I could lay on the floor with my head turned to one side and  completely let go of life’s troubles.

For the last two years or so I’ve struggled with my once favorite asana.  I thought I was injured, so I saw doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, massage therapists, I tried resting it and I tried pushing. I even tried reiki.  Nothing helped.  I surrendered to the idea that Pigeon and I were through. It was sad, but we would find new loves.

Over the past several months I’ve found myself a couple of new yoga teachers in Cleveland.  These two were patient, supportive, and new how to massage my muscles in just the right way, for just the right amount of time to get me to the floor once again.  In my Sunday classes, my mini vacation from life, I’d have a big emotional release of breath and tears on the way down.   One day it hit me, I’m not injured.  If I was injured I’d not be able to get there and stay there.  I was full of stress and anxiety.  My hips stayed tight because I was doing everything I could to hang on.  With a loving touch and patience, and that calming, reassuring male voice behind me, I LET GO.

I thought that since I knew what the problem was I’d be able to get in the pose without the help of an assist.  I was wrong.

A few weeks later I went to an intensive training with the very special, Seane Corn.  Seane brings God into her practice and classroom, and I felt a wave of relief and heavenly support when she’d open class with a prayer and end it with one too.  She’d take us through a 2-3 hour hot, slow flow vinyasa, always working us into a pigeon by the end .  On the last day of that training, broken down, wide open, ready to receive and let go of everything and anything, I collapsed into Pigeon, sobbing.  The reasons for my anxiety exploded from my hips and heart and into head. I realized that I had to change my life.  I did not work this hard, thus far, to be back in the same place I started in.  In that same moment Seane spoke to the me.  She was teaching a class of about 100 people, but she spoke to ME, and later confirmed that message from spirit in a private conversation.   I wish to God I could remember her exact words, but I received what I was meant to and something in me shifted that day.

It was less than one month later that I went to Nicaragua to teach yoga on a life coaching retreat.

When I came home, I told my family and friends that I had decided to stop fighting my desire to be free, to travel, and to meet, teach, and learn from more people around the world.  It felt goooooooood.  

I felt good.  I felt ready, relieved, happy, excited, healthier, stronger and at peace, like never before.  It felt like my whole being said, “Finally! what took you so long, Lisa?!”, as if this is what I was meant to do, here for, and deserved for all my hard work.

It was a month before I took my next yoga class with one of my favorite teachers back home. She put us into pigeon without warming us up first and i thought, “NO WAY. Not gonna happen.”

I not only was able to find pigeon, but i melted right into my mat without a pain, grimmace, or fear.  I sat up immediately with a huge smile on my face! “That was it!”, I thought.  I was so excited I wanted to tell the whole classroom! I heard the message right away.  I had to drop the baggage, the stress and anxiety caused by the unnecessary pressures I had accumulated over the past few years.  I had made a CHOICE, took back my life, and let go of the excess.

Since that day, I’ve only had pain in pigeon when I’m not breathing, or staying in the present.  My fellow yogis understand the emotional affects of yoga asana (poses). For those of you who don’t practice yoga, trust us, try it, and see what you can let go of in order to find your peace and truth.  It’s so worth it.