Bogota and Teacher Training!

I’m wiped out.  I just finished five days of yoga teacher training with BJ Galvan here in Bogota. My body aches, I’m sort of grumpy (backbends and hip openers – oh dear!), I need some scrumptious food, but above all I’m feeling a deep sense of peace and appreciation.

I had been looking for an opportunity to complete the teacher training that I wasn’t able to finish in Australia, and in scouring the Internet I found that BJ was conducting training in Bogota.  In Brisbane I had done a challenging workshop with her so it seemed like a great fit.

Rick and I arranged our travels to make sure I could participate.  Here, I need pause to offer so much gratitude to Rick.  First off, he encouraged me to do the training, which I probably would have otherwise delayed so as not to hijack our travel plans.  He also occupied himself in the city for the last 5 days while I have worked my butt off in the studio. He fed me, listened to me whine about my aches, and wax poetic about alignment principles.  He weathered my tired grumpiness as I stayed up late doing homework.  He lovingly woke me up in the mornings with a backrub and got me breakfast every day as I prepared for class.  Every day he has told me how proud he is of me, and nothing makes me happier.  Gratitude is a concept that the yoga world loves to come back to, and I am no exception – I couldn’t be more thankful and in love with my amazing husband.

With my mushy declarations and acknowledgments now out of the way, I’ll delve into what my experience of Bogota and teacher training has been.  I love Bogota, but that may be a consequence of the fact that I spent the last five days with a fascinating and warm community of very advanced yoga students.  The city is huge, cosmopolitan, and very international.  Also, it’s hard to believe this kind of metropolis exists at 8500’ feet in these wild mountains.  It’s such a cool setting!  The people I have met here are all incredibly kind and welcoming.  During our time in Cartagena, I was led to believe that residents of Bogota were sort of stuck up and overly formal – that has not been my experience at all.  Everyone I’ve met has been helpful, kind, and enjoyable.  I have felt so welcomed by everyone from the people in the yoga studio, to our hostel owners, to the clerks in the shops I’ve been to a few times.  I have had waitresses who served me once say hi again to me on the street several days later.  This town is the antithesis of cold.

Beyond that, the level of yoga in Bogota blows me away!  My studio in Australia was incredible and I loved every minute I spent there, but from my experience in Bogota the level of asana is definitely more advanced generally and the students are more fearless in trying out new and aggressive poses.  It’s been a refreshing reminder not to become complacent in my practice.  While my practice in Australia was very focused on alignment principles, this teacher training took my level of asana to new places.  As always, I have to focus on cultivating softness in my practice to counter my natural tendency to gravitate towards strong poses like hand balances and inversions – I was able to do that, while also pushing myself into new poses that I’ve never before tried.

It was a challenging weekend. My practice over the last few months has been inconsistent and, more often than not, a personal practice which I’ve made time and space for in the narrow channel next to a bed in a hotel room or under an air conditioner in Cartagena – or not at all while road-tripping around the country.  It hasn’t been all that I’d want it to be, and I felt it over the last few days.  I’m so sore!  That, and the other side effects of long-term travel like gastro issues and general fatigue and lack of consistency left me without the full strength and energy I try to bring to my practice.  I had to accept where I was physically versus where I would love to be.  More than that, I had to try to get my brain around yoga in Spanish, and the challenges of sequencing and teaching classes.  It was demanding and tiring but above all it was enriching.  The people in my training were all wonderful, BJ Galvan was dynamic and full of neat astrological/biological insights, and being in a new studio and learning yoga in another language was so exciting! I can’t wait to do more of it, and I’m already encouraging Rick to start a yoga cross-training routine as he looks to run his next race so I can practice teaching on him.

In the lead up to this training, I got word from two potential employers that they wanted to conduct in-person interviews back in the States.  Needless to say, with me being tied up with yoga teacher training and quite far away I had to work with them to do some video interviewing – which is a challenge under any circumstances but more so in a hostel with noises, unreliable internet connections, and a general inability to control your space.  Thankfully, my hostel owners were understanding and set me up in a quiet back room with some natural light so that I could at least mitigate SOME of the issues in my interviews.  With two interviews in the five days I was in teacher training, I have to say I was stressed out and probably not in the best frame of mind, but now that it’s all over I finally got a good, long night’s sleep and feel like a human again.

Today we are off to finally explore some of the sights in and around Bogota. Though we have met several friends of friends here and managed to see a few really cool parts of the city as a result, we haven’t had much opportunity to check out some of the sights.  So today we are off! It’s hard to believe that we come back home tomorrow (my Dad’s birthday!!).

Manizales, El Jardin Secreto, and… Montana?

As I write this, there are two puppies curled up on the floor near me, Rick is sitting in hammock a few feet from me, and I’m overlooking a lush, green mountainside that falls away into a valley punctuated by a muddy, boulder-strewn river.  Just setting the scene here.  I almost hate to write this knowing that many of my friends and family are hiding out from the cold weather.  We, on the other hand, are taking a little break from the afternoon heat.

We are about twenty minutes from the city of Manizales, near the coffee-growing zone, at a hostel called the Jardin Secreto.  Unlike most of our previous places, this is actually not owned by locals.  That part is unfortunate.  We practice our Spanish a bit less here than when we stayed in the city of Manizales with the adorable Maria Teresa of the Palogrande hostel – she and I sat and chatted over coffee for a few hours, which was so wonderful for my Spanish and great fun to learn about the city from a local!  But, there are trade-offs, the couple that owns this place is American (from Portland) the woman is a yoga teacher in the Anusara tradition, and she’s into Ayurveda – so I’ve found my little happy place.  Needless to say we have been here a night and already extended our stay for several more.  There is something about the lushness, the cool nights, the pungent smells of dirt and manure, and the myriad flowers in every shape and size – it’s a just a hard place to leave.

Today we toured a sustainable coffee farm, which was great.  Lots and lots of good coffee, and some great food too.  Tomorrow we’ll head up to the mountains to trek to Los Nevados – hopefully approaching something like 15,800 feet of elevation!  The day after we will check out some thermal springs, before heading to Bogota where I’ll be beginning my yoga teacher training with BJ Galvan.  I’m really excited! The fact that I’m able to continue my training with a teacher who I have worked with in Australia is wonderful.  And, the fact that we could combine our travel here and my teacher training (after having to drop out of the training I had planned to do in Australia so that we could move home and get married) is a huge blessing.  I can’t wait!  I’m also thrilled at the opportunity to do some of it in Spanish.  What fun!

I have to say that this trip has strengthened my confidence in my speaking immensely. I have always been able understand Spanish fairly well (having taken it from age four through high school certainly helped with that), but my speaking has really come back to me with two weeks of Spanish school.  It’s wonderful and fun to feel relatively sure of myself as I speak, and to be very sure of what I’m hearing.  It’s been nearly 13 years since I last spoke Spanish regularly – it’s incredible what the brain keeps hidden away. 🙂

Anyway, in case you’re wondering how Manizales, the Jardin Secreto, and Montana are at all related, I guess I can fill in a few details. As we have been traveling, Rick and I have been dedicating a fair amount of time to job applications and figuring out some of the details of our future.  While there are challenges to doing this abroad (namely horrendous Internet in Cartagena, and the fact that we are often on the move) it’s actually been pretty effective.  Up until we left for Medellin I was cranking out a few applications a day – mostly to locations throughout Montana and Colorado. Rick has been doing much of the same, though his path is a bit more reliant on where I go so I’ve been leading the charge.

Having completed our tour of the US cities we were considering calling home just over a month ago now, we determined that we loved the sunshine and ruggedness of the Rockies and probably wanted to make those mountains our home.  Though we have both spent lots of time in Denver, and though Rick owns a house there, we are both drawn to a rural lifestyle.  Montana has been calling to us both now for a long time, and it might just end up being our final destination for several reasons.  I’ve always wanted to live there, and have taken every chance I’ve had to visit.  Rick too has felt the draw to Montana.  He was a ski bum at Big Sky and has spent quite a bit of time in and around Bozeman.  And, just a few summers ago Rick and I biked from Missoula to Seattle, seeing some of the best of the west along the way.  That part of the country holds a chunk of both of our hearts and I think we’d like to try making a go of settling down there and bringing up a family – with the majority of our time spent out in the woods.

There is something about the idea of a more rural life that I love.  I am a social person and I love and feed off the energy I get from other people.  Unfortunately, sometimes I feel as though it takes me away from my own priorities and goals.  I found that to a certain extent, the relative isolation of our lives in Australia (in the sense that we didn’t have a huge social network) allowed us to grow individually and together in some really special ways.  I felt like it allowed me to spend time focusing on things I enjoy and want to do more of – like yoga, art, and writing.  Rick, though in very different ways, sees the appeal of a rural lifestyle.  We both want to improve our ability to live self-sufficiently and be close to nature.  Rick loves the idea of being able to leave the house to go trail running, a luxury that might even draw me back into the runners fold. We also both love that in Montana we can have mountains, water, and sunshine.  I guess I’m greedy, but I just want it all – and I’m willing to give up living in a larger city to have it.  Plus, we both love the winters and the potential of amazing backcountry skiing, great resorts, and opportunities to Nordic ski too.

We have a few irons in the fire for jobs in Montana, but we are more and more convinced that even if we don’t have a specific job to walk into, we might make our way to Montana anyway. We aren’t ruling out other parts of the West.  I certainly love the idea of being close to our friends in Colorado, or somehow finding work we love in Jackson Hole or Boise, but when we consider all the options, we still end up with Montana at the top of our lists.  No final decisions have been made yet, but so far this is where are hearts are leading us.

Life and Love – Paisa Style

Medellin: Former capital of cocaine, crime, and kidnapping.  Now, home to bike lanes, amazing public transit, beautifully rotund Botero statues, and Paisanos – the hardworking and friendly residents of the city.

We came to the city with big expectations.  Colombians LOVE this place, and I  can see its appeal.  It’s a progressive city, nestled in the huge Aburra mountain valley.  It’s hard to think that just 20 years ago this city would have not been on my radar – that people were murdered at random in drug-related violence, bombings, and at the hand of the city’s most notorious resident, Pablo Escobar, and his cocaine cartel.  Progressive reform, efforts to reduce corruption, and to improve the safety and well-being of the city’s residents were often cut short when leaders were killed.  In fact, one of the leaders of Medellin who began to implement the improved transit that eventually helped to turn the fate of Medellin was killed as a result of his efforts.

Thankfully, the violence of Medellin’s past is no longer still an issue in the city.  Though the city is not quite like Cartagena, which feels like Disneyworld, it is safe and very easy to travel in.

Yesterday, though we have both been under the weather, Rick and I decided to rent bikes and explore the city.  I wanted very badly to check out the Museum of Antioquia and to see the Botero statues in the plaza near it.  I also wanted to head to the Botanical Gardens, because Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring and I’d heard good things about their gardens. I also thought that Rick might benefit from some exertion because he has been suffering from all kinds of bugs over the last several days and hasn’t had the energy to get out running like he was in Cartagena.  It was a bit of an ambitious plan to undertake by bike, but Medellin has a really cool policy of turning Carretera 43a, “El Poblano”, into a bikeway each Sunday.  They shut down two lanes of traffic and open it exclusively to bike and pedestrian traffic. The road is a busy one which cuts through the heart of the city, making a Sunday ride a very efficient way to check out many different spots.  It’s an amazing policy that I wish was more common in the US!

We rode across the city for about 40 minutes on the bikeway, barely having to stop for cross traffic, under the friendly supervision of a crew of young people at intersections and on bikes who make sure that everything is going smoothly.  The crowd out venturing around the city on bikes had to be a pretty good cross-section of Medellin – from families with little ones, to serious cyclists decked out in loud spandex. Everyone looked like they were having a great time, and so were we. We made our way to the Botero Plaza where I proceeded to take photos of every statue, with me in the foreground mimicking the statue’s pose – like a mature adult.  (I think my imitation of the full-breasted Sphinx was probably my crowning glory.)  We then made our way back to the Poblano and continued on toward the botanical gardens.  At one point, the bike traffic seemed to shut down as we headed towards a tunnel.  I looked at Rick, skeptical, and asked “Do you think we should go in this dark tunnel on bikes without anyone around?”.  He shrugged that it was probably fine, the guards had seen us entering and hadn’t stopped us.  So, we entered, biking fast, and hoping we weren’t making a mistake.  Well, shortly after we exited on the other side, we saw a few more of the bikeway volunteers riding towards us.  They shouted that the bikeway opened to traffic at 1 pm – which is exactly what time it was, so we quickly turned and followed them back the way we had come.  As we were riding through the tunnel, out of nowhere a truck came barreling up behind us and veered around us.  “Oh my god!” I screamed at Rick and we started sprinting on our pathetic rental bikes, at about 6,000 feet of elevation.  It wasn’t pretty!  We all were busting our butts to make it out of the tunnel, and just as we did, traffic began tearing through at high speeds.

Collapsing on some grass nearby to catch our breath, we re-evaluated our situation.  We were both wiped out, and now our route home was a superhighway so we needed to figure out how to get home.  We tried to follow the route of the road we had come on, but the frontage roads sort of meandered in and out of neighborhoods, through shopping areas, and across very un-bike friendly areas.  It took us over an hour and a half to make it back to the El Poblano neighborhood where we were staying, and on the way we found ourselves on more that one occasion in places where we should NOT have been.  It was actually kind of scary to me, and I don’t scare that easily.  6,000′ of elevation has had both of us wheezing and struggling, which didn’t make me feel any better about being in some rough parts of Medellin.  Clearly, our acclimatization from our Denver days has worn off.

Anyway, we ended the night watching some good old American football, in an Irish Bar, in Colombia. Odd, right?  We even started up a conversation with another couple there, and (crazy small world) the guy had graduated from UVA in the same December grad class as Rick. Together, we gave aguardiente (Colombian brandy that tastes like black licorice)  a fair go, and decided  shortly thereafter that we had made enough of our night so we headed home a bit early.  We came home, nursed our sick bodies, and we have continued to do that through today.

Sharing sickness in a foreign place is certainly never comfortable, but together we have been making it a bit more manageable.  I packed all sorts of meds and have been able to keep us well-tended to.  He has made sure I get enough sleep (which I often don’t) and we both keep each other’s wellness in mind as we plan our activities.  Though it is a bit of a downer to not feel like ourselves, there is certainly nothing that brings people closer than jointly commiserating over unfortunate maladies.  And, honesty, we found the perfect place to be sick.  Our current hostel is quiet, with peaceful lounge areas and gardens, we have a giant room with a king size bed, floor to ceiling windows, our own bathroom, and a walk in closet area! (Gran Hostel Medellin in El Poblano)  Tonight we hope to cook dinner in (our first in weeks!) before taking off to check out some areas outside Medellin including Gautape, and the coffee-growing haciendas around Manizales.  We will keep writing as we go!

Up north

My parent's cabin

It’s been a year and a half since I last visited my parent’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin.  Then, it was summer and I’d rallied a crew to join me from various parts of the country.  We drank wine, swam in the lake, and enjoyed sunsets to melt your heart.

Now, it’s -16 degrees.  Snow drifts around the house, and the lake is buried under ice and criss-crossed with snowmobile and cross-country ski tracks.  The sound of the woods is silence, broken by the creaking of frozen trees in the wind. The winter sun sets about 40 degrees south on the horizon from its summer roost.

I love the seasons here: the falls with their pungency, their color, their sense of tangible resignation to the slow descent to winter.  The springs with turtles rambling about laying eggs, the smell of pine and mud permeating the air.

I have spent many of my most enjoyable New Year’s Eves here, with many other close families, skiing all day, cooking chili by night, all of us trudging through the ice and snow of the lake to celebrate the new year with a toast of champagne under a cold, star-filled sky on a frozen island.  This place holds so many of my dearest, most wild and fun, and some of my most painful memories.  Its fabric is woven into me – the time my dog drowned in the lake and I had to pull her lifeless body out and bury her in the darkening evening as my sisters and I cried and got eaten by mosquitos; the time my boyfriend came to watch me run my first marathon and held me later that night in my exhausted soreness telling me how impressed and proud he was; the time I brought college friends here to hide away before finals and we baked blueberry pies and drank homemade wine after studying all day by the fireside; the summer days when my sisters and I would build forts in the woods and catch crawdads and snakes.

I love this place with my whole self.  It’s an incredible homecoming to be here after our months of self-imposed homelessness.  It reminds me of what matters to me and what I want for my own future.  It is such a great way to recall my memories of family and friends, and tare the scales of my life with my priorities.  Rick is not with me, he is celebrating the new year with his family before we leave to head abroad.  I think for him too, this bizarre exercise we’ve been performing of criss-crossing the country in search of a home, then coming home, then heading abroad, and hoping the pieces fall into place for us, it’s all very confusing, but I think the time back home serves us well to establish a base of where we come from and what we want going forward.

You can’t go home again

More than anything, I think this road trip is a showcase of how a cross-section of our friends in their late 20’s and early 30’s actually live their lives. It’s fascinating and it’s affirming. Wonderful, even.

This morning I awoke in Salt Lake City on a mattress on the floor of my sister’s house. Her place is amazing.  She has a massive backyard with gardens, a tree house, and fruit trees.  She has the entire upstairs of the house to herself, with walk-in closets, a huge log frame bed, and a jacuzzi.  Right now I am writing this blog while cuddled up with my pj’s on in front of the wood stove with tea and lebkuchen.  Life in Salt Lake is good (current inversion notwithstanding). Yet again, my severe case of “home-envy” (as Rick and I are calling it) has kicked in.

We spent yesterday and the day before in Jackson, Wyoming.  It had been more than ten years since I last visited Jackson, and things definitely were different.  But, I think Rick and I both ranked it high on our lists of places to live.  We visited a friend there and caught up over coffee.  Between hearing about her backcountry skiing, trail running, the amazing gluten-free cafe she likes, and her yoga studio, we were pretty smitten.

The downside to Jackson, and several other places we have explored, is the difficulty of getting home to our families.  Even Salt Lake City or Portland don’t allow us to travel home without a connecting flight, making a trip into a full day of travel.  So, with this in mind I have been examining my attachment to the idea that I can travel home easily.  I have struggled with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility living far from home and from my family.  I don’t particularly want to live in Wisconsin, or Chicago, or the Midwest – but I want to be there for my family.

Over the course of our trip the phrase “you can’t go home” has come up several times. The first was in “Travels with Charley” the Steinbeck book about a cross-country road trip that Rick and I listened to during the first half of our trip. In the book, he travels back to his boyhood home in California and realizes that what he associates as home has changed around him. Home exists only in his memory.  Revisiting the place only serves to deconstruct the idea.

The second was in reference to a seedy bar in Denver called the Rock Bar.  Many of our friends from our time in Denver are now spattered across the country; New York, Chicago, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle.  So this trip has been revisiting “Denver” in the sense that it’s the last place we all shared together.  As we have traveled, we’ve spent lots of time reminiscing about our lives while in Denver – surely it was kind of a magical time for all of us.  We were young, in transition, unburdened by much responsibility, with good jobs, and altogether very free.  We skied and hiked and went out to the bars.  It was a FUN place to live.  But, we all recognize that the joy of Denver was mostly a product of the coalescence of many factors of our lives there in a specific place and time.  Were we to go back to Denver now, it would prove to be a different place.  This hit home in Portland as we reminisced about our hazy memories in a little place called the Rock Bar.  It closed down a couple years ago – thus concluding a chapter in many of our lives.

You can’t go home again.  I keep reminding myself of this. In both a light-hearted way and a serious way, life as I knew it can’t be recreated.  This is a new chapter and we have to choose what home will be going forward.

Roaring Twenties revisit

I’m so sore.  From about the bottom of my rib cage to the top of my quads, I feel wrecked.  Absolutely demolished. Hip openers tend to be a bit rough, but this was a whole new level of “ouch.”  Perhaps, it’s the fact that finally, after nearly a year of consistent yoga practice, I’m actually able to lay claim to having pretty open hips.  This weekend’s hip openers, however, may have introduced me to the next threshold in opening those suckers up, and in doing so they unleashed my inner tyrant.

I’ll back up and introduce this a bit.  I have been challenging myself to a personal 30 day challenge with yoga through September- so I’m practicing EVERY day for 30 days.  It’s not THAT far from my norm, but it’s the days when you really don’t have the motivation and HAVE to do it anyway that make the 30-day challenge worth pursuing – so pursue I will! I did the same thing this time last year, and it was a great way to energize and ramp up into spring!  So, about a week into it, feeling good and really happy,  I signed up for a hip and lower chakra workshop with Duncan Peak, the founder of Power Living Yoga, based in Sydney, to challenge myself a bit more and learn more about the chakras (spoiler alert: that last part didn’t happen).

If I’m going to be honest (and I am) I was perhaps a bit motivated to sign up by his poster:

Image

He’s not the worst person to fixate on for three hours on a Saturday. In fact, I will do extremely long holds of low lunges at his bidding.  I will sit in double pigeon for many minutes.  I will work my lower back and glutes until I can barely walk.  Yes, Duncan, I will.  What’s next?  I am an eager pupil.

But, in all seriousness, despite my recognition that he is well-respected in the yoga community, I definitely prejudged him a bit.  I do that sometimes, with very good-looking men.  I assume they lack substance.  But, as is often the case, I was wrong.  The man has an extensive knowledge of the kinesiology and anatomy that makes or breaks many poses for people.  And he explained it clearly, and with humour!  So, despite the raging ache in my hips and back all day today and the feeling that I might actually or metaphorically tear Rick’s head off if he said the wrong thing (hip-openers arouse latent rage inside me…) I think it was one of the best workshops I’ve been too!  It makes me more excited than I have been in a long time to continue with my teacher training!

I have to admit that in riding the wave of rage/emotion that comes with deep hip openers I found myself wondering at the level of junk we store in our bodies.  It felt to me like over the last few years, my yoga work unpacked emotional stuff relating to my last major relationship – some sad emotions.  But, that had really plateaued as of several months ago.  I was feeling a bit stagnant in my practice.  Breakthroughs were happening with less regularity.

Yesterday’s hip openers, however, took me on a new and different adventure, farther back, possibly into more deeply buried gunk.  I spent the whole day today feeling like I did all through college and in the years immediately following: constrained; wanting to break free; generally annoyed with the requirements of life;  rebellious; hormonal.  There was no apparent cause for this in my life today, so after some reflection I attributed it to the previous day’s hip openers and I decided that rather than risk blowing up at Rick without cause, I’d go take a long walk in the West End. As I was walking with my headphones on I noticed a group of guys at a restaurant kind of looking over at me and smiling.  Now, I have not spent a lot of time on my own in the last few years, and I certainly haven’t been hit on much by other guys – so I have to admit I was kinda digging being the object of their desire for a moment.  It occurred to me that I had better appreciate the moment with my wedding coming up in less than two months, and I flipped the stone of my engagement ring around my finger as I walked, considering the symbol on my hand with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  What happens if one day I want to be free?  Will I always love Rick as I do today?

Now, I know that I want to marry Rick.  I have no doubt about that. Since meeting him I have had a sense that he was the one for me.  But, it was interesting recalling that the feelings I felt today were reminiscent of much of my life throughout my twenties.  It’s like my hip opening session uncovered a deeper store of pent up emotions from a formative period in my life – my freedom-seeking, angst-ridden, flirtatious, ridiculous twenties.  Ah, how fun they were, and how glad we all are that they’ve passed away into oblivion, only to be recalled in oblique references by my friends in wedding speeches and more obvious references whenever my sisters feel like reminding me of what a colossal pain-in-the-ass I can be.  I fear their reemergence, particularly now.

Perhaps I’m misallocating the cause of my angst.  It could be a biproduct of my overall uncertainty over the course of my life as of about two months from now.  Or it could be a hangover from the book I just finished – The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  (If you want to spend several hours crying, reliving the major loves and losses in your life, and reflecting on your general smallness in the larger picture, it’s a great book!  Have plenty of rehydrating fluids handy though.)

All I can say is, something happened to me over the last week (or yesterday) and I got really grouchy today.  I revisited a rebellious, moody, angsty Kat that I haven’t embodied in several years.  There were some moments it was a bit amusing, but mostly as I tried to observe the emotions that were coming out I felt grateful to be in a different, more stable, more happy place in my life.  As I often do, I reflected on that person I was then, back in my mid-twenties.  I recognized how passionately I resisted being pinned to one version of myself, one path forward, or one single person as a partner.  Hell, it was my twenties and that’s exactly what they’re for, but in hindsight I realize that I was a bit of a wrecking ball at times.

I guess I’m glad to be where I am, and I am now definitely a bit reluctant to delve too deeply into the meat of my hips in the near future.  🙂

Do your dharma.

Today I was sitting at work thinking about completely non-work-related things like the fact that I need to move out of my house in the next month, leave for a trip home to the U.S., come back and wrap up all ties to Australia over the next month and a half and then move back to the U.S. and get married.  It should be a relaxing few months, eh?  And then I started thinking, “Hmm, Kat, what should you do for a living when you get home?”,  and “When will you get home after your several months of intended bike-touring honeymoon?”, and “Where will home be when you return?”, and then finally, “Do you actually qualify as an adult?”

This isn’t an unusual train of thoughts.  In fact, I think about it most days. And, it’s slowly driving me mad.

Truly.

Meanwhile, I am nearly done with my yoga immersions.  In a few weeks I will complete the last of them, which means I will have all the hours behind me to move forward into teacher training.  It also means that I’ve re-read the Bhagavad Gita and dabbled in the Yoga Sutras.  I’ve begun to more seriously meditate and I’m feeling pretty excited and energized by all of this.  I had a new break-through in opening up my psoas.  It was life-changing. Only serious yoga-types can say stuff like that unironically, which means – I’m in.

But with all these pieces of my life swirling around me, I still wonder what direction I should move in on the larger plane.  I’m still stewing over whether the current course of my life is what I’d like and what I’ve envisioned for myself.  It’s kind of funny that I was mulling over this today, because in an unrelated search of my gmail account, the following conversation, which took place several years ago, came up.  It felt symbolic and a bit sad.  Names have been changed to protect this innocent:

me: i just remembered talking to you last night

Mystery person: well i remembered it at the time

me: haha, i was asleep!

Mystery person: sorry it was so late, but you go to bed early

me: it was like 12:20

Mystery person: well, that’s when i worry the most about you

me: oh mystery person.  just calling to check in? making sure i’m safe in my bed?

Mystery person: no that’s not why i called if you remember

me: i don’t

Mystery person: because i was thinking about how different you would be if you lost your idealism, and that maybe being a teacher would help you with that because you wouldn’t be corrupted by monetary success

me: do you think i am very easily corrupted?

Mystery person: no i don’t think you are easily corrupted, but given enough time, I think you could get worn down

me: hmmm

Mystery person: and then one day you would just become part of the system
me: never!

Mystery person: ok, i was just worrying that’s all

I read this conversation, looked up from my computer and found myself in the office of a major oil and gas company, developing on of the largest coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas projects in the world.  I wondered if perhaps the mystery conversant was perhaps a bit clairvoyant.  I got a little squeamish in my seat.

So, I thought some more about it.  And yes, I work for a gigantic multi-national oil and gas company of the variety that I regularly skewered in papers and presentations throughout college and beyond.  But, on the other side of that,  I am part of a small and dedicated environmental team, working to ensure the project complies with all environmental laws and permits applicable to it.   That is a good thing right?  I actually care about this.  I don’t want to see this go pear-shaped.   I subscribe to the credo that you can’t say damn the man unless you can turn around and go off the grid tomorrow.  Until you’re there, you need to work with the man and get what you want through the proper channels.  And, I truly think that some of the best change comes from within.  So, am I doing what the idealist within me believes is right? Yes.

Should I continue on this track?  That’s a tougher question.

You see, I’ve learned in my yoga training about a concept called dharma, which was previously unknown to me. Dharma is the idea of doing what upholds the good and right in the world, and which an individual is uniquely suited to do.  It is what fits, feels right, and works in your life. For example, if your dharma is to be a garbage man, you’d go out and be the best you can be at it because that’s the right spot for you in the greater scheme.  Some people actually believe that when you do your dharma, the road opens up before you and what felt stuck suddenly begins to flow.

In that sense,  there is a part of me that feels I have always been in line with my dharma career-wise because I have been unusually lucky in my life. Doors have opened for me over and over again at just the right moment.  People have walked into my life and touched it perfectly, and then moved on.  But yet, I have a constant sense of being not fully committed to my plan.  So, is it my dharma?  Does it fulfill me and make me feel whole?  I’m not sure whether it does at the moment.  I know that I enjoy my job.  I feel like I have a path forward, an appropriate level of influence, and I am surrounded by extremely knowledgeable people to gain experience from.  I get to work in environmental law on a daily basis, I have ample opportunities to write (which makes me happy), and I communicate and work with all aspects of the project which makes me feel aware and engaged on so many levels.  So, why do I question my choices?  Does my sense of turmoil over working in oil and gas stem from anything inherent to it, or does it come from a place of internal judgement that I should be in a more creative, cutting-edge role?  That’s where I need to focus my analysis.

So, as I consider where to move when we go home and what my next steps will be (and the pressure is all on me here, as Rick is changing course completely and is totally flexible) I have to consider what is my dharma?  What makes me feel whole and right in the world? What inspires me and makes me passionate?  I have to also consider these questions without too much regard to monetary reward – which is hard for someone like me who often uses external metrics like grades, salary, and position as indicators of my own progress in lieu of more subtle things that are less easily measured.  I need also to, on the flip side, consider whether I am particularly judgemental about my personal career choices (despite being quite happy in my role) because of external influences such as my college experience, my liberal bias, and my own internal pressure to do something more selfless

I sometimes wonder why I impose these periods of deep reflection on my life in what appears to be two-year increments.  It’s insanely stressful, especially when you add a wedding and a transoceanic move into the mix, but I do feel most alive in these periods of massive change.  I do love the process of really stopping to consider what I want and how I want to achieve my goals.  I do like waking up in the morning with the knowledge that I’m walking away from what I know and rebuilding, again.  There is something cathartic and beautiful in the process of creation and destruction that goes with these moments.

As much as I want to settle a bit in my life, I feel most awake in a state of flux.  Is that my dharma?