And some blank pages
Nothing more needs doing
ad ow it has the flu
its hard you see to write such words
as ow, & fu, & ew.
To fid a remedy
I traveled far ad wide
ad as to the store ca’t simply be
I had a waderig ride.
The trai dropped me for coffee first
ad iside I did fid
a lovely writer who took the time
to share with me his mid.
“Thak you,” I did say
ad headed for the store.
But dow the street the yoga place
was callig me for more.
So I wadered i
ad ot so shyly said
a yoga teacher here I am
are you lookig to be led?
“Call this umber!”
she did say.
Ad smiled at me big. We chatted for a momet
as I cotiued o my way.
ow I ca say with glee
The store I foud at last
ad the missig letter you do’t see here
is nothing but the past!
On February 14, 2002 I wrote in my journal, “Floating in the ocean with nothing better to do than stare at the bright blue sky.” This was from the white sands of the beaches in Northeastern Brazil. It was my third year of college and this was my study abroad…I was studying the relationship between ocean and sky. I wasn’t, actually. But there was something that I was trying to grasp in that journal entry that I’m just finally moving towards twelve years later: relaxation.
In that moment as in other vacation moments I’ve wondered how to bring that “floating” sensation to “every day life” or “the real world.” After leaving Mexico, where I taught 2nd grade for three years, I decided to take the year off from teaching.On purpose, with no job or home in place, I flew to Boston where I floated in between my parent’s homes by bike, by car, and by train. Things just worked out. My dad gave me his old car for the price of a new muffler. I found a job substitute teaching very easily, and out of the blue came the email that my acupuncturist said I would get. Would you like to staff the Basic Yoga Teacher Training it read from my yoga teacher.
And so I floated to Yogaville, an ashram situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Once there, floating was easy. My “work” was supporting a program that I truly believe in while I too practiced with the students. Work was learning the elements of Integral Yoga again, practicing yoga every day, and meditating. “Work” was getting to know participants and their floating lives, learning and conversing with the other interesting members of the staff. “Work” was hiking the trails,
long conversations in the dining hall with others’, and jamming to poetry and chants. While I was “working” the support and love I felt as a staff was the same that I had felt four years prior when participating in the program itself. Floating felt natural as I found that many participants in the program and others that were living in the ashram were also floating.
From there, I floated to another retreat on the coast of Northern California.. While these two retreats were different they had a very similar effect on me and the message was clear: “Relax into love and you can’t go wrong.” The question among many of us was, “But how do I do that during every day life?”
Something in both places that was said resonated me. “This is every day life.”
Living in community, acting with and discussing what it means to move with awareness. And most of all, learning to live in the in-between, because that is the only thing real that exists.”And yet, that is a very scary place to be, especially when living in a city; a city where“floating” doesn’t always feel acceptable because everyone’s always racing to get on the next train especially me!
Or where there are so many distractions it’s hard to remember what feels true and to remember to give myself the time to stop and listen to the voice of love inside. And being in a city has brought up old anxieties and it’s hard to be patient with myself. I somehow feel that because I just came from these magical places of conscious floaters that I should automatically be different and when I put that should on myself I feel the fear of being in that “in-between” place creep up and from that fear tension grows.
And yet, also while being in this city,I have been lucky enough to float from amazing person to person, including loving family that has let me into their home.
The stories of inspiration, trauma, and love that I have heard are incredible.No one has spoken of perfection or of lack of want. But everyone has spoken with an understanding of the importance of following one’s heart and understanding of that chilling fear when hearing the voice that says, I am lost. And yet, with patience and tranquility the answer of what’s next always comes.
Before I left Mexico, I had lunch with a friend. When I started telling him all of my plans and everything I wanted to do with all of my excitement he said, “Sarah, I see you as lost.” My face fell and I started crying. “You need to have a plan.” he said.
I heard a “but” creeping up inside me. What’s wrong with being lost? It said.
“Yes.” I nodded my head. “A plan.”
“And not just sit around and have long lunches and tea with people.”
“Right.” I thought.
And I left that lunch feeling miserable. Why hadn’t I voiced what I had heard? There was nothing wrong with being “lost.”. And besides, I love long teas! I learned how to do that in Mexico!
Yesterday, I floated from one two hour tea date to the next. I was able to completely be with them in the moment because there was nothing else I had to do. Floating gives me the time to be still so that I can finally hear that voice within me that guides me to either go left, right, or stare at the blue sky while floating on the waves on the white sand beaches in Brazil.
So, we left off in Mexico. In San Gil at the Water’s Edge where I swam 1900 meters in 37 minutes!
And then, things started to get hard. Friends came back to Mexico and it was so so wonderful to see them! But they were all headed back to school. I wanted…I needed something to do and I knew it wasn’t school, but I didn’t know how to start what I wanted to do…and I found myself in that negative cycle of…but if I open door number one then what if door number two won’t open and then I’ll be stuck again and in the same place that I was before, and then there’s no point and… down the rabbit hole. I was completely stuck.
So many wonderful places to go and things to do, and I felt like all the stuff that I had spread all over the room that my friends were kind enough to let me stay were boxing me in.
It’s time to leave, Mexico. I heard the voice over and over again say. No, no. Not yet! Just let me figure this out. I pleaded back.
And it wasn’t until I wrote an email to a friend thatI thought I wrote from the depths of my soul that I got a wake-up call. “Sarah!” he wrote me back. “Stop feeling sorry
for yourself. You are an independent smart woman. Do something about this! You are not happy. I tried to justify his statements. “Maybe YOU don’t like what I’m doing, but I’m perfectly FINE!” I snapped at him in defense. But I wasn’t.
I spent the weekend at my ironman partner’s Paloma’s house with her and her family.”Go home.” she encouraged. “You’ll see.”
Indeed it was the only place that came up over and over again…home, I know, ultimately is where the heart is, but in this case home…meant my mom and my dad.
And so I booked my ticket; . It goes without saying I hope, that I savored that time with the good friends and community that I was lucky enough to have in DF. Here’s a short list of activities:
It was a wonderful weekend, reminding me of why I had started with the sport in the first place. I spent the weekend, laughing my head off with athletes from both Endurance and Fortia,
and my coaches, who had become good friends.
Before my final departure in late August, I visited my acupuncturist one last time. “I can’t believe I’m going home.” I told him. “Well why are you going?” he asked.. “I don’t know. Something in my heart tells me that’s where I need to go.” I responded. “Well,” he said. “Go home. Relax. And you’ll get the email or phone call you need in two weeks.”
I’m sure my eyes widened at his words, hopeful and skeptical at the same time. “Could there really be something to this whole follow your heart thing?” I thought. And with that I bid him farewell and headed to Massachusetts on the early morning of August 26th.
People often ask me “How’s Mexico?” and as so much of Mexico now seems normal to me, I don’t know how to respond.
This weekend happened to be quite unusual in the sense that there were a series of events that that could be described as, “Only in Mexico.”
I-A Spanish Date
If you get stopped by the Mexican cops
I recommend that you take a
sassy fast-talkin Spanish hottie driving behind the wheel
and make sure you have a
mordita of something sweet…
a date, perhaps?
II-Cafe Jorocho, La Lluvia, y Bicis
“Cafe Jorocho on bikes?” I read on my phone as I walk in the door just from biking back from training. “yeeessssss!” I reply to my friend David.
We meet at a in-between location where, to my delight, our coach and friend, joins us. “You know how to bike in the street?” he asks.
“Yes!” I reply indignantly.
“Good! I want to see it.” How is it that coaches even when they’re not coaching still have a way of coaching?
I love biking in cities, especially cities that people say are not bikeable. Especially in cities whose streets and neighborhoods are so varied and interesting and that it’s too hard to get a feel for them if one is always in a car.
Our bike wheels hit the cobblestone streets where cotton candy and artesenal ice creams are being sold on the corners of the small town square. The market is crowded; full of stands that sell memeles, and any other type of tortilla that you could possibly want. We settle for a restaurant next door first of course parking our bicycles at the estacionamiento negotiating and thanking the attendants for watching our locked up bikes hidden by the garbage cans in back.
First order of business: “How about we put our cell phones away?”
Look of death. “It’s the world cup, Sarah.” Oh right, the game.
The restaurant’s TV has something else on so Luisen props his phone up against the table like an old mobile tv; it works like one too, with the internet’s connection in and out. My friends stand hunched over their seats watching the tiny screen as the internet connection wobbles.
After a Oaxacan style lunch with mole and tlayudas we thank the attendants at the estacionamento again and get our bikes to head for Cafe Jorocho, a Veracruzan style coffee.
Imagine a deli store in New York. A tiny little corner store that sells coffee, mochas, cappuchinos, what-say-you,with different sweets; pan de elote, muffins, or perhaps a donut. The workers are polit
e but short. “Que pides?” Okay. Jorocho Especial. Gracias! Proximo!”
Families, couples, friends sit in plastic chairs and there is a line down the street for churros, cafe, and crepes. There are buskers on the corner singing trying to earn an honest living. We sit in our plastic sipping our hot coffees while eating our treats watching the rain on the outside. We sit until it is dark and there is no point in avoiding the rain because clearly it will not stop. We ride back along, and Luisen leaves first. “Let me know when you get home..okay?”
“Okay!” we say as we continue along. David is next to go. “Just head straight down Division del Norte. And tell me when you get home!”
The rain is coming down faster, and I glide along the wet streets (only having to ask for directions once)! The warmth that I feel inside the apartment building after the doorman lets me in is priceless. I am a wet satisfied full rat, and a warm shower feels good. And then I collapse into bed so that I can be ready to run the next morning.
Monday morning I hear squeaking like a rocking chair above me. “What are the neighbors doing?”I haven’t heard that sound before in this building. I start to feel dizzy and I recognize what this is just as my roommate, E knocks loudly on the door.
“We got to go! Earthquake!”
“What’s our other roommate’s name?” she asks.
“Laurel!” I shout banging on her door as her boyfriend scrambles to put his jeans on over his boxers.
“We need a key!” yells E, and at that point we even debate if it’s worth evacuating as the apartment has stopped moving.
Welcome to Mexico.
At the end of Nicasio Valley Road in Nicasio, California is Old Ranchera Road. For me, this road has been the joyest of joys to be at as it has meant 40 miles of riding and the home-stretch to my final destination. It means that I have just ridden through “the enchanted forest” up and down the hill of Nicasio Valley Road and now I get to reward myself with a little goodie to get me through the final bit.
I looked in my bag to find 85 cents. Snickers bars cost $1.25. I glanced at the mini york peppermint patties on the counter, and said to the clerk, “I’ll just take this.” “That’s it?!?! Go get your snickers bar! Do you want something to drink? Might as well fill up!” I gave her my water bottle and she very kindly filled it to the top with tap water (well-water as I found out) and we struck up a conversation that began with me saying: “Sooooo is the road to Petaluma veeeryyy hilly?” (That and how much further usually have unhelpful answers, but nonetheless I still ask them). “I’m jsut so impressed with all of you cyclists,” she said. “There are people that roll in here that have gone 70-80 miles and they just shrug it off. I mean I used to ride 4 miles to pick up my son from school and that was a lot. And I guess you just can’t think about how far you have to go or you get overwhelmed. You just think one mile by one mile. And it just makes me think, what have I done today? I mean just in life, you know?”
The night before I had visited a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She relayed a story of a friend of hers who had been in the hospital recently. Nachshon, a slave under Pharoah’s rule was considered the brave one. However, he did not know how to swim. When the Red Sea parted, he walked into the water and for all intents and purposes should have probably drowned. But he didn’t. He just kept swimming.” On bad days, these two will text each other and say, “Just keep swimming.”
I told this story to the clerk at the general store. As I was telling it, her eyes were darting around the store and I thought that perhaps she thought that I was a religious zealot trying to convert her…however when I finished, she looked down at her arms and said, “I just got goose-bumps, wow.” And then, “Yeah, so I just ask myself every day…what have I done today?”
“Well,” you talk to cyclists every day and (others I’m sure) and offer words of encouragement and let them have snicker bars for 40 cents less than they are worth!” She shrugged and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
Now, fully fueled with my well-water and snickers bar I got on my bike and headed out for the “homestretch” of my journey. It was…considerably hilly (um, duh, Northern California) and as I spun my pedals trying to make my feet go at 100rpms a minute, I focused on the ground ahead of me, gathered up the kind words of the woman at the general store, and chanted, “Just keep swimming… Inch by inch. Mile by mile.”
Thanks for doing something today, General Store Lady.
Ten years ago when I studied abroad in Brazil, I found myself unknowingly (until too late) in line for a flying trapeze. Unwilling to show defeat among new friends, I climbed the tiny ladder, refusing to look down and mounted the trapeze. When telling this story to family members by email my aunt commented, “All that’s left for you to do is climb into a Lion’s cage!”
Well, Aunt H, this is for you: Refusing to let my passion for kickboxing die, I found a gym (I think I’ve told you all this) that not only teaches, but has an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) team. At first being the only gringa (oh, there are Mexican women and American men) was extremely intimidating (still is), especially when the teacher talks at a pace that he jumps and kicks (fast!). However, the adrenaline rush is so addictive that I continue to go.
One Wednesday not so long ago, a “Cage” was up. There was a tournament the following weekend and the entire gym was preparing for it. At the end of the class, the teacher divided us up into two groups and told us to number off. “When I call your number, you are going to enter into the cage and have two minutes to fight!” Well, since I was last, I had much time to feel the anxiety rise from my feet to my throat, attempt to plan an escape, and pray that we would run out of time before it was my turn. Whimpering in the corner, praying that somehow the invisible powers that I wanted so badly as a child would finally become real, I expressed my incredible fear to my gringo friend that I also worked with. “Is there anyway out of this? Will you go twice? I don’twannago!” “Sarah, you’re going to be fine! (as someone stumbled out with a bloody nose).” “No, really,Idon’twannadothis!” “Sarah, if you don’t go, I’m going to tell everyone at work that you chickened out.” “Tell them! I don’tcare! I don’twannago!” “Really, you’re not going to get hurt!” (one man down cause he was hit in the balls).” My anxiety was mounting as a crowd was gathering around the Cage and people were yelling out directions. Now it was turning into a performance. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Finally, my number was called. My friend gave me a push and said, “LET’S GO!’ And I reluctantly climbed the steps of the cage and entered. The teacher yelled, “TIEMPO!” And I, infuriated, at having to enter into such a incredibly display of embarrassment decided to defy him by simply standing in my guard. After probably 20 seconds of a crowd wanting a show, and me realizing that it was my poor opponent’s first class, I followed the directions of the voice of a friend of mine. “One, two!” “Jab, cross!” “Ya??” I looked pleadingly at the ref (also my teacher). “No, no, sigue! Sigue!” I continued jabbing and crossing and kicking the poor guy, and finally when our teacher yelled “TIEMPO!” we descended the steps, and I suddenly felt a surge of adrenaline rush over me. “See, I told you you would be fine!” My gringo friend told me. And maybe not so strangely to you, but against every moral grain in my body, I was grinning ear-to-ear, wanting, unbelievably, to do it again.