It’s the self-love story of the modern age.
“I quit my job, sold my belongings, and booked a one way flight.”
Nine times out of ten, we do it to ‘find ourselves.’ But this was about something bigger than me. This was about embarking on a spiritual journey; one that would create a ripple effect that far exceeded the tiny bubble of ‘me’. But the journey starts in that little bubble all the same…
I was fed up with my desk. With the office’s unsettling florescent lighting, with gluing my eyes to a computer screen and numbing my mind with number crunching, day in and day out.
I had been practicing daily yoga for the last 3 years, more as a form of exercise than the mental escape I would eventually find it to be. After a particularly taxing class, my teacher left us with a bit of wisdom that has stuck with me every moment since. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” And I began thinking, what if this little bit of knowledge was the gift I was meant to give away to the world?
And just like that I booked a flight to Bali to begin yoga teacher training.
The course was an extensive 8-week training program at Blooming Lotus School of Yoga in Ubud. Each day for the next 56 I spent four hours meditating; sitting in silence, completely drenched in the yoga mindset. During my training I got the opportunity to begin leading classes for fellow classmates, each time becoming more comfortable teaching in a group setting. And by the end of the 8 weeks I truly felt like I found my path.
I couldn’t bear the though of bursting my yoga bubble just yet, so as I traveled, I continued teaching classes in exchange for meals and places to stay. I traveled and taught my way around South-East Asia and Europe for months before returning stateside. I was ready to teach full time in the states. Or so I thought, until an overwhelming wave of nostalgia hit and convinced to move back to a city I had left my heart in: Bangkok.
I spent a year volunteer teaching at an amazing studio in the heart of Bangkok. I taught donation based classes and then donated the money to Save the Elephants Foundation in Thailand. The most rewarding part of teaching was being able to give back to the community and help people feel comfortable in their own bodies. Donating my earnings felt so natural, that I decided then and there I didn’t want to teach yoga to earn a living. I wanted to teach yoga to make a difference. I had a gift of teaching yoga and I should use it to create good karma.
Once I moved back to Boston, I joined an organization called Hands to Heart Center which provides free yoga to people living in poverty, veterans or victims of trauma and homelessness. Through the Hands to Heart Center, I have had the privilege of teaching refugees from Eritrea and homeless children, and now I am teaching a trauma series to people with mental illnesses. I have become certified in trauma yoga and am currently working on becoming part of the Prison Yoga Project, a program that brings yoga and meditation into prisons.
Teaching yoga is incredibly rewarding but I find it especially so every time I think of the words my teacher spoke to me on the day that unexpectedly changed everything: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I love using the skills I acquired in becoming a yoga teacher to help others find inner peace. And I want to share that gift with you too. So here is a quick way to find your own peace and incorporate it into the hustle and bustle of your daily life:
We live in a society that is constantly on the go, always thinking of what comes next and all the things we have to do throughout the day. After returning from Asia, I had to figure out subtle ways to adjust my busy lifestyle so that I could remian as peaceful as I was during my teacher training.
For me, that means meditation.
Meditation has many benefits for the body. It reduces stress, improves concentration, allows you to practice self-awareness, increases happiness and much more. The hardest part of meditating is letting go of your thoughts and coming into stillness within the body. I have always found the Loving Kindness meditation to be a great place start to learning how to meditate because it is quick and gives you something to focus on.
Loving Kindness is a 7 minute meditation that allows you to bring awareness to your heart center by sending yourself love and compassion while you focus on your breath. You then send love and compassion to family and friends. After you fill yourself with more love and kindness, you send it to your acquaintances and then onto nature. But my favorite part of the meditation is the next step when you fill yourself with love and kindness and send it someone or something that gives you difficulty. In the final part of the meditation cycle you are intended to fill yourself with tenderness, call to a part of you that you are too critical of, and flood that part of you with love and acceptance.
By the end of this quick meditation I always feel completely at peace. It helps me to stay in the present moment and focus on my breath while coming to peace with the things that trouble me. An important part of meditation is focusing on your breath or your ‘pranayama’. It is the idea of finding the space of nothingness right between inhalation and exhalation. You want to allow that space to grow and expand and carry you to a place of power and healing. Silence always has been, and always will be, a place of great power and healing.
And remember this: Being zen is not about never feeling badly, it’s about learning to accept those feelings, send love at them, and let them go. Do that, and I promise your life will change for the better.