Today marks my second week back in the United States: two weeks of remembering what it’s like to drive instead of walking barefoot everywhere; two weeks of figuring out what to eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner; two weeks of not being able to river-bathe under the rays of the sun peeking through the trees of a Cloud Forest…[And of course, as fate would have it, snow flurries blur the view out of my window here in Connecticut as I write this post #gottaloveNewEnglandweather #bringmebacktoXico]
I’ve been wanting to reflect on my time away, I really have, but it’s felt quite daunting of a task; how does one even begin to describe their 24-day journey of becoming a Soma Yoga and Movement Teacher at a Permaculture Farm in Veracruz, Mexico?
I’m still not quite sure how to distill all my experiences down into a single blog post, but I figured I would give it a try 🙂
From February 20th-March 15th, 2022 I attended a 200-hour Soma Yoga and Movement Teacher Training led by an incredible couple: Maria and Alan (pictured below).
For twenty-four days, I slept in a tent on their farm called KiekariTerra, and I followed the same routine:
Here’s what the tent situation looked like in the daytime hours (each student had their own tent).
6:00AM The rooster crows and I curl up under my many blankets for ~20 more minutes.
6:30AM I am out of my tent and on my way to the shared outdoor bathrooms to wash my face and brush my teeth.
7AM Maria rings the chimes to signal for me and the 8 other students to gather under the Shala (pictured below) for a 30-40 minute seated meditation.
7:45-9:00AM Maria leads us in a physical yoga practice, sometimes centered around certain body parts, such as the spine, other times centered around a certain posture, such as handstands.
9:15/9:30AM We are served oatmeal with the world’s most delicious toppings of bananas, guava, pineapples, homemade peanut butter sweetened with fresh honey, amaranth grain, and a handmade toasted granola-mix with delectable almonds.
9:30AM-10:30AM I leisurely eat my breakfast and sip on freshly brewed lemon grass tea sweetened with honey as I watch the sunrise.
10:30AM-1:30PM Maria and Alan gather us for an Integration Circle, where we check in with one another about how we feel and what we’re experiencing during the training, and we then continue on to more yoga practice and learning about anatomy and physiology.*
*On Sundays we had Permaculture sessions, spending time making fertilizer, planting tomatoes & vanilla orchids, and even learning how to turn the liquid inside of prickly pears into a waterproofing agent!
The above photo is of me and Kate painting the inside of the Temazcal with prickly pear juice. (Kate is a beautiful soul who was also an intern, helping alongside Maria and Alan).
1:45/2PM-4:30PM We eat an incredible vegan lunch made by Maria’s mom and then have free time to ourselves. I take my time, reading, journaling, river-bathing under the beautiful rays of the Veracruzan sun 🙂
4:30PM-6:30PM We gather back under the Shala to continue learning about the body and ways to provide trauma-informed yoga instruction.
6:30/7PM We are served a delicious home blended vegetable-based soup (my favorite was this red pepper and potato soup they made, I don’t have any photos because I always ate it so quickly #sorrynotsorry).
8:30/9PM I make my way to my tent using a headlamp (there is no electricity) and am quickly lulled to sleep by the sounds of the river.
Wake up and do it all over again #washrinserepeat
It was truly amazing to witness how fast my body adapted to this new lifestyle—going to bed by 9PM, waking up at 6AM, having no electricity/being completed disconnected from my phone, eating a plant-based diet, practicing hours of yoga daily, sun&river-bathing—it was the literal definition of living my best life.
However, as the days and weeks progressed, in the midst of all the amazing experiences and friendships and food, I began to notice the slightest of shifts in my body’s sensations. It would be most apparent in the mornings, right after the rooster’s crow, when I would awaken to a faint sensation of tightness in my chest that would slowly descend into my abdomen.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn that my body often attempts to communicate with me through sensations, and sometimes I feel things in my body before finding the actual words to articulate my experience. And so, in response to the tightness I had begun to notice, I chose to acknowledge my body as a sacred source of wisdom and approached Her with curiosity during our morning meditations.
As I took the time to be still and curious, I came to understand that my chest tightness and abdominal discomfort stemmed from a growing worry. My body was cuing me into an anxiety forming about how I would “re-enter” into society after completing this month-long training in Mexico: How would I transition from bathing in a river every day and walking barefoot with cows and chickens and dogs to moving back to the snow-covered streets of New Haven, Connecticut? What was I going to do with all the unopened emails, missed calls and unread text messages? I hadn’t cooked a single meal for myself in weeks…how would I possibly navigate returning to “real” life?
As I continued to sit with mySelf and hold space for these sensations and worries, a memory came to mind from my first Saturday in Mexico.
Saturdays were our one unstructured/free-day, and every Saturday morning, Alan, Maria and Kate (the intern) would drive all of us to the nearby towns of Xico and Coatepec. During these day trips, we would explore the towns’ local markets and restaurants as well as make time to take care of any calls or emails (the first time we made it into town, my cell phone buzzed for nearly two minutes straight as the text messages and emails started coming in).
Before our first-ever Saturday trip, I distinctly remember Maria reminding us to not lose sight of everything we’d been learning during the week. She told us to remember that Yoga is not limited to only the physical postures and breathwork we practiced sitting under the Shala, but expands to include all the ways in which we move and breathe through this world. Maria urged us to continue finding moments of stillness during our time in town, checking-in with ourselves, and to meet our experiences in the town with curiosity, kindness, and honesty (just as we had been learning to do during our teacher training sessions).
Remembering Maria’s words from that first Saturday helped me meet my rising anxiety with compassion, and as I journaled throughout my final days in Mexico, I realized there was no need for me to worry about how I would “re-enter” the world because I had never left it.
Throughout the training, I noticed how my movements and decisions became more readily informed by the signals my body sent me, and now more than ever, I’ve come to see that at the center of yoga/meditation/mindfulness is a commitment to remain. It’s not about dissociating or escaping pain and discomfort, just like my time at KiekariTerra was not about disconnecting or fleeing from the rest of the world. Instead, all these things were about the practice of embodying the present moment by acknowledging and honoring the body as an ever-present and sacred home, one to which we are forever returning to.
With these reflections, my worries waned and I was able to realize that wherever I am is real life, because I am real and living life. Whether in a Cloud Forest or third floor New Haven city apartment, my goal will always be to remain in my body–to be here now–and to practice making decisions that move me towards rather than away from my most whole&holy Self.
And so, my final days in Mexico ended with peace and hope, and I wrote the following journal entry as a reminder to my future Self:
“I am here now.
I don’t have to be consumed with anxiety about the emails, texts, calls, and tasks I have to complete, because I know how to find stillness and center myself. I know how to move, speak, and respond from a place of integration, and I am committed to meet whatever life throws at me with kindness, curiosity, and honesty.
Yes, my environment will soon change–my refreshing river baths will be replaced by enclosed standing showers, my tent and sleeping pad will be replaced by a bed frame and comforter, and my barefoot hikes will be replaced by snow-booted walks–but I will remain the same. What I’ve learned and how I’ve grown will continue to journey and travel with me wherever I go because:
I will continue to commit to finding moments of stillness and wonderment.
I will continue to commit to mindfully moving my body, allowing curiosity, kindness and curiosity to guide my movements and decisions.
And I will continue seeking communities that are formed and transformed by love, never doubting that I will find others who will smile at me and make me laugh and hold me in such pure love as this KiekariTerra community has.
I do not fear return because I am always and already in the process of returning home.
Amén y Asè.”
To all those I encountered on this journey, thank you for teaching me what it means to experience Infinite Moments ❤