Tuning In in India

In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.

What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillnessthe Gift of Presence – that has been my India.

Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.

The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.

I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.

We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.

If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.

Namaste,

Roxanna

What to Do?

 

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Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone.  I read the California edition.  Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets.  Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations.  And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life.  Taking that chance.  It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.

I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep.  Stay outraged!  I agree.  Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb.  At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines.  Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now?  Are you able to write a check?  Can you make phone calls to your senators?  Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer?  Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life?  Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when  you get called to action?  I donate.  I pray.  I sign petitions.  I teach preschool.  I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.

This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week.  It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking .  It went like this:

Boy age 4:  (while holding the peace flower)  I wish I could wun as fast as you.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  Well, I run fast because I practice at home.  Maybe if you practice you can get faster.  (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)

Boy age 4:  But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going.  I want to be fast like you.

Me:  Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?

Boy age 4:  Yes.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  I bet you will get faster when you practice.  I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time!  (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison:  Friends.  And run off to play.  Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”)  Peace on the playground has been restored.

I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be.  They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky.  No place to hide.  Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.

When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person.  Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?

Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring.  The work is so dynamic!   There is no template for an “average” day.  Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs.  It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉  Truly.  These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries.  If I take it personally, I’m a goner.  They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often.  You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna!  Roxanna!”  Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class.  Haha.

I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids.  Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart.  As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:

In this troubled time we look to find the way.  To heal our world, heal our hearts.   In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other?  Come Together For Each Other.

 

 

What’s Happening to the “Sensitives”? Self Care for Empaths

For all you folks out there who have ever felt “too sensitive” Nancy Furst has a beautiful perspective on us sensitive types and is able to put into words things I’ve been feeling for awhile but haven’t had the bandwidth or brain power to verbalize. Hang in there my people!

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I was already planning to blog about self care for empaths when I heard of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide only days after Kate Spade’s, as well as another person’s husband who had just killed himself.  Along with the obvious opioid epidemic and high usage of brain altering prescriptions for everything from sleep assistance to anxiety, I believe there are some other factors contributing to the rise in suicide.

A close friend of Tony Bourdain’s described him on CNN as being a highly sensitive and nurturing person.  He was also born in the sign of Cancer, which I often refer to as the empathetic sponge of the universe.  (I’m Cancer rising so I know it well!)

In the United States, we have a hostile president intent on stimulating reactive and divisive interactions in our own country and the world.  A daily assault on truth has dislodged our moral compass and we now…

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Good Vibe Tribe

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“I love your Welcome Packet, but what is the actual ‘Vibe’ of this trip?”  the latest registrant of Enlightened India asked.

What a great opportunity for me to stop and think about how to answer this question.  How to best describe this journey to India I’m co-leading this November? It isn’t just a yoga trip. It isn’t a typical “group” tour, rolling up to sacred sites in a giant bus. It’s not a self-help retreat… those are all the things this trip is NOT.

I had a great conversation with my business partner and co-lead Julia, talking about what this trip IS.  Together, we came up with several words that we think speak to our trip’s vibe.  Here are a few:

Spacious – To truly be present, so far away from everything familiar.  To experience internal spaciousness.  10 days of self-exploration, with free time built into each day for deeper diving.

Loving – Julia and I are holding a loving container for our group.  From the moment your feet touch Indian soil, you will be warmly welcomed and lovingly held.   From the gentle morning meditation to the good night golden milk & cookies, each day has been thoughtfully planned with your sweetest Unfolding at heart.

Fun – So many special and wonderful things are being planned. Including Diwali in India – which is, in itself, a festive occasion filled with fireworks, treats and gifts. Many magical moments await you! Julia and I can hardly contain ourselves but we want to save some surprises!

Unique & Exclusive – Throughout our years of travel in India, we have been able to hand pick our favorite vendors, guides and experiences.  This trip incorporates the very best of who and what we love the most in India, and mixes in our own special offerings for a very special experience you won’t get with anyone else!

Stretch – Not only will you be stretching your body and having that opportunity twice a day with gentle yoga and Hatha flow, but you the individual will be stretched personally and spiritually.   Julia and I both remember what it was like to travel to India for the first time and we will be there holding that loving container to support you and make sure it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

Flow – The Ganges River (Mata Ganga) reminds us to stay in the flow, stay present, and stay reverent to what IS.  You will have plenty of reminders not to become overly attached to outcomes, but to stay in the flow and enjoy your journey. India is the perfect teacher for this. We will have many beautiful ceremonies on (and in!) this most sacred river.

Connection – A group of men and women come together for 10 days in India, and through a series of shared exercises and experiences, we form a Tribe.  Together we co-create a supportive community that shares laughter and tears, personal triumphs and incredible adventures. Each one of you brings your own flavor to this group masala and we value your unique contribution to our community.

Self-Love Affair – India has a beautiful way of stripping away who we think we are and reminding ourselves what is actually at our core. Julia and I hold the intention that you will re-member aspects of yourself.  There will be a special ceremony held for reflection and appreciation for each group member.  We want you to return from this trip completely in love with yourself.

Something very special awaits you, I would love to have you join us!

Register HERE.
“Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of your old life and into the new!” – Kenneth Grahame

Find Me in India

If I should die soon
Tell my children to look for me in India.

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In the prayer bells
Ringing out over the Ganges,
In the tablas beating their rhythm over the
loud speakers,
As the red sun melts into purple sky.

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Look for me in the Varanasi sand bar
As the dogs creep closer to the fire.
In the ghee filled bowl burning brightly,
And the flower offerings bobbing drunkenly downstream.

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See me in the sari clad women sprinkling Ganga water on strangers, blessing them.

Let them feel my arms wrapping them in each soft shawl they try on, and every white dress they see.

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Sip me down in their lime sodas, quenching their search.
Seek not but find me in the tuberose offering at Saraswati’s feet,
Or the monkey’s soft “coo coo” at their door.

Let them find joy in the calf’s jingle bells and the soft white spot on their foreheads.

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Step on the soft sand of Rishikesh and know
I was happy here.

-Roxanna Smith

I am going back to India this November!  Julia Myers Patterson and I are co-leading a group of men and women to Rishikesh, India this November for Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Light.  This is a dream come true for me to be able to experience Diwali in all its exuberance and share my passion for India with this group and to co-lead with Julia – a woman who holds space with such love and peace.  To learn more about the trip, see our Enlightened Tours website for all the details.

 

On Being a Woman

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On Being a Woman

On this day, March 8th, International Women’s Day, I give thanks for being a woman. For navigating this country, this culture, as a woman. I am a strong, independent, tall, intelligent woman and it isn’t always easy or pretty to navigate in a predominantly man’s world. In fact, it can be a DRAG sometimes. But what lifts me UP are the WOMEN in my life. I love you. I see you.

For my Grandmother I bow at your feet.  You are softness and grace.  For my Mother I lay my head on your belly.  You are infinite and deep.  For my Daughter, I hold my arms wide.  You are sensitivity and grit – and so much more. You gave me the gift of experiencing unconditional love.

For my Sisters I give thanks.  You are Shakti and Mountain. I am inspired and awed by you! You keep on keepin’ on 24/7.  You are the ones, We are the ones, the Sisterhood.  You are all so beautiful.  Your reverence for beauty, for ceremony, for love, for children, for passion and sex, for life, for healing, for shining your lights and the commitment to be seen and heard.  Reminding each other of our gifts when we lose the way or forget. Powerful.

For gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and STILL making it delicious and nutritious and nourishing.  You SHINE with the undying light of your spirit.  Your kindness humbles.  Your wicked humor shocks and delights.  Your energy is palpable.

For the artists, the writers, the students, the moms, the divorced and still married – navigating, negotiating the FREE wild horses of you.  The solid rocks of you, the grieving of you.  The busy of you, tending, caring, giving generously – carrying me, loving me.  Claiming me.  Re-membering me, saving my place.  Crying with me, adorning me, laughing with me. Kissing my throat.   I humbly say thank you.

Thank YOU!

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My turn!  2017 has been quite a year and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you cheering me on (literally!) and sharing your love and kindness with me.  When I didn’t know how I was going to pull off Road School 2017, family, friends and strangers donated money and offered support and love throughout our journey.  When I needed to raise $2300 in order to walk in San Diego for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk, you gave.  When I was terrified to do my first Sprint Triathlon last month,  your love and encouragement got me through!  There are so many people who have lifted me up and shared their love and light with me.  I am forever changed and I know I am blessed to have you in my life.

Now I would like to give something to you:

This December, I am showing my gratitude for my community of family, friends and generous supporters, and to everyone that could use some sweet reminders to slow down and stay present during the busy month of December.  I want to help you bump up your Self Care, and encourage you to give yourself extra love and support during this holiday season.

My Gratitude Giveback is an invitation for you to turn inwards, to your soul sanctuary, and create a conscious, caring respite space for yourself during this often busy month.

Each week will focus on a different theme:

  • BODY BASICS   (as in ‘duh’ I knew this already, but sometimes we forget!)
  • LETS GET PHYSICAL   (I like to move it move it)
  • NOURISH THE SOUL   (don’t forget your beautiful soul)
  • PRESENCE vs. PRESENTS   (be here now)
You will be guided through each theme with weekly meditations, journal prompts, live Q & A conversations on Facebook, tips and tools for maximizing self care, and a resource list to support you if you would like to go deeper.
When all our reptilian instincts are telling us to stay in and hibernate, our culture is inviting us to “Eat, Drink & Be Merry.”  When the days are getting shorter and it feels good to snuggle up to a fire and a good book, society is giving us the messages to go out every night and celebrate until sunrise, shop till you drop, and eat and drink all the things that you spend the rest of the year avoiding because they aren’t healthy.  This can also be a lonely time for folks who watch the Hallmark holiday movies and compare themselves to the picture perfect lives on the screen.
I know things get busy at this time of year and the intention of this offering is to help make December more easeful, nurturing, and meaningful.  You can join on the first of the month or the last day of the month, all the material is FREE and offered from the heart.  It is my joy to share this with you all!  The only thing I need from you to keep you in the loop is your email address.
Ready to Receive?  Click here to join!
Wishing you all much love and light this December,
Roxanna
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Road School 2017 – Home Sweet Home
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Marin Sprint Triathlon
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Crossing the finish line with Barbara

This Little Light of Mine

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Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light. -Yogi Bhajan
I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news.  Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help.  I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.”  Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me?  I wonder…   I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies.  He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together.  There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours.  I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times.  When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking.  I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening.  I called a friend and sobbed.  After the cry, I felt…so much better.  Lighter.  Less alone.  Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown.  I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch.   I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself.  Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand.   I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care!  When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely.  “What do I need right now?” I ask myself.  Usually an answer pops right in.  Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps.  Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.)  I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7.  Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again.  Phew!
What does that look like?  Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”?  I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank.  Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?)  The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention.  I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.  All things break.  And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention.  So go.  Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.  The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you.    -L.R. Knost

Welcome Home

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All my life I’ve been traveling.  I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon.  Another country, another culture, another climate.  At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s.  At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s.  After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL,  listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States.  I moved from place to place feeling like an alien.  This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life.  Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.

One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself:  parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc.  The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.

I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl.  If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger.  The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in.    And I feel…free.  I feel anonymous.  I feel alive with possibility.

The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking.  It’s been exhausting.  Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean.  I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off.  I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home.  In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home.  I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share.  I am home.  I am my home.  Wherever I choose to go,  I will always be home.

That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else.  I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.

My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester.  Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler,  I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.

 

Divinely Human

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I’m not sure if it was the rainy day today that made me even more dreamy than usual or just the seemingly random events that occurred this morning.  I read a woman’s post on Facebook that said she remembered her birth, that there were bright lights flashing in her face as she entered the world.  I thought about this (and her) for most of the morning.  Marveling that somebody remembers her own birth.  I believe her.  It’s just that I don’t think there are many people that remember their own births.

I’ve been tripping out on that more and more.  How special each one of us is…and how really getting to know somebody (for me anyway) is like learning a new language.  Sometimes like becoming an expert in a whole new species, surrendering preconceived notions and judgements.

***

I am driving on the road, past where the body of a young raccoon has been decomposing for a couple of days.  I can smell it.  But today I see another raccoon, a big one, dead on the other side of the road.  “Oh no!” I exclaim.  I wonder if they’re related, was this the already decomposing one’s Mama?  My heart sinks as I touch my heart.

I have a vivid memory of riding  in the backseat of my grandparents car.  We passed a dead dog on the side of the highway.  I was shocked to see it.  I didn’t realize that this could happen.  That dogs could get hit by cars and their bodies could lie by the side of the road, cars whizzing by.  I spent the rest of the ride in silence, deeply saddened.  That was a gray day too.

***

Early this morning the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number but I answered it anyway.  I rarely do that.  “Is this the Grief Support Network?” he asks.  “Well…not exactly”,  I answer.  Yes and no.  The hotline still transfers over to my cell phone even though I haven’t worked there in 6 months.  They don’t know how to fix it.

I start to go into a rambling explanation but then stop myself and ask if he is looking for support (sometimes it’s a sales person.)  He is.  He tells me what’s going on and I listen.  He explains to me that he has plummed the inky depths and also connected to his brightest divine nature.  “I can tell you get it,” he says.  And I do.  I am sitting at my computer in the darkness, having an intimate conversation with a “stranger”.

***

The older I get, the more I feel that each one of us speaks our own language and to really listen to somebody, to really get somebody, takes a certain amount of amazement and awe in humanity in general.  What delicate and finely-tuned creatures we all are;  senstive, unique, miraculous energy bodies that communicate on so many deep and subtle levels.   Right now, for me, this is the best show in town.  Peace and Love.