8 Reasons Why our Teacher Training is Ranked in the top 5% Nationally

This fall, we are honored to be offering – for the 3rd time – The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We feel beyond grateful to have this highly ranked extraordinary program right here in our small town in southern Maine.

You might not realize it, but besides being a wonderful teacher and inspirational human being, our direct, Beryl Bender Birch, is an international yoga super star. She is one of the first people to popularize yoga in the United States.

But that, in itself, would not be enough to rank The Hard & The Soft as a Yoga Alliance® 5-star Rated Accredited Training School.

Here are eight reasons this yoga teacher training course,  when compared to hundreds of other programs, is consistently rated in the top 5%.

 

  1. The students. Our programs attract top quality students and genuine, bright, compassionate human beings from all over the world. We consistently hear from our trainees and graduates that “this is the best group of people I have ever been a part of – I look forward to the training weekends because it feels like I am coming home.”
  2. The Sangha (community). Students meet and are supported by like-minded practitioners and forge lifetime friendships.
  3. The faculty. Unlike many other programs, our teachers have all been practicing and teaching for many years. Most are Certified Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and nationally renowned specialists in a wide variety of fields and yoga applications. Students would need to combine several different professional trainings in order to duplicate the comprehensive quality of our single program.
  4. The practice. There are many ways to teach yoga and many ways to practice. Every weekend includes study and practice in asana, pranayama, and meditation, in order to help students find and define their unique path. The foundation and primary focus of our asana study for the 200 hour training is a brilliant vinyasa sequence of postures called Present Power. It can be as challenging or as accommodating as desired. Every student is certified to teach this power vinyasa system, plus more moderate styles of the practice that are capable of being amended for all limitation and disability, as well as beginning forms of pranayama and meditation.
  5. The depth of training. Because all our faculty have actually been studying yoga and practicing all its aspects – asana, pranayama, meditation, service – for so many years, we can offer insight into the deeper dimensions of yoga that, frequently, the staff of other trainings does not have the experience to provide.
  6. The emphasis on service. Through our affiliation with The Give Back Yoga Foundation, we prepare our graduates for a career in yoga service and help them to take their practice out into the world and be the change they want to create.
  7. The Individualized Yoga Plan (IYP).  Every student develops an Individualized Yoga Plan with help from faculty and the director of the studio where they are training. This provides students with a way to identify their dharma and pursue a path into the specialized field of their choice.
  8. The Director.  American yoga pioneer Beryl Bender Birch, is the founder/director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. As a best-selling author, (Power Yoga, Beyond Power Yoga, Yoga for Warriors) and teacher, Beryl has been teaching yoga and meditation internationally for over 40 years and is a longtime faculty member at Kripalu and Omega Institute. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in English and Philosophy, and began the study of meditation in 1971 with her teacher, Jain monk Munishree Chitrabhanu. She traveled to India in 1974 to further her studies and started practice of the ashtanga vinyasa asana system with her teacher, Norman Allen, in 1979. She continued to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from 1987 through 1993. Her book Power Yoga (1995), an accessible form of the ashtanga asana practice, sold nearly 300,000 copies and was primarily responsible for introducing yoga to the athletic community. She, more than most, walks her talk…and is one of the brightest, most down to earth, knowledgeable, accessible, funny, and joyful people you will ever meet. One of her gifts is making authentic and therapeutic forms of asana accessible to all. Everyone on faculty has trained with her for decades and is at least a 1000-hour graduate of her school, The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. Beryl’s vision trickles down from the top and infuses the program, the faculty, the community, and the students.
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What is Boomer Yoga?

Boomer Yoga is one of our most popular classes at Yoga in ME. It’s no secret that this is one of my favorite classes to teach. The group of yogis who attend this class are enthusiastic, welcoming, and committed to this practice. It is so much fun to be in the room with them! I feel that they have taught me as much or more than I have taught them.

When students first come to our studio, they often wonder what exactly this class is. It is not, as many people assume when they first hear about it “easy” or “just for old people”. True, most of the students who attend this class are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. But this is by no means an “easy” practice.

Our Boomer Yoga class is thus named because it follows a sequence that is based on Beryl Bender Birch’s book: Boomer Yoga. It is meant to be a dynamic and athletic practice. This sequence allows us to offer many options in order to be accessible to all students, regardless of age or ability. We encourage students to do as much or as little as they choose to do. The only thing they have to do is: breathe.

We do our best to offer options in every posture. As we go through the sequence, we encourage students to try different things and learn what feels right in their body. As students become more familiar with this practice, they start to learn their preferred variation for each posture.

Students in this class embrace the opportunity to develop a vigorous movement practice that is appropriate for their bodies. We also delve into some of the deeper aspects of yoga practice.

A large part of this class focuses on learning to pay attention and be present in THIS moment. We work in the right here and right now. We do this through the use of the “3 tools” of yoga.  If you’ve been in one of my classes you have probably heard me mention these 1 or 1 million times. The three tools are the breath, a steady, focused gaze, and the bandhas (a light engagement of the pelvic floor and lower abdomen). We talk about these tools frequently and use them to help towards our ultimate goal: attempting to still the fluctuations the mind (aka yoga!).

Notice how we say “attempting”, not actually doing it. We constantly remind our students that this is a practice, not a perfect!

A large part of why and how this class works is this element of teaching our students to pay attention and listen to their bodies. Our job is to create a safe space for students to find a practice that is somewhere between “it’s doing nothing” and hurting themselves. We often say: “if you are breathing, you are doing it right!” and we mean it!

Are you a student in our Boomer Yoga class? Comment below with your favorite thing about this class!

Don’t Be The White Rabbit – You’re Not The Only One With Problems!

“Why does everything always happen to me?” Do you ever think that you are the ONLY person in the whole world who has bad luck? The ONLY one with problems? The ONLY person who doesn’t have it all figured out? Yeah, me too.

Especially at moments like:

  • When my youngest projectile vomits all over the place when we’re sitting in the audience at my oldest’s performance of Alice in Wonderland… twice.
  • When my middle daughter inexplicably puts her teeth through her lip while playing in the gravel area at the farm store leaving us both covered in blood (we just wanted to get some plants for goodness sake!)
  • When my husband’s away on a business trip at the baby wakes us all up all night screaming and then we finally fall asleep at 6:30am and sleep through the bus and then I still have to make lunches and don’t get the trash outside in time for pick up and everyone is late for school, daycare, work…

And that was just the last 4 days. Whew!

It would be easy for me to get caught up in the narrative that I have bad luck. I’m the ONLY one things like this happen to. I am busier and more stressed out that anyone else I know. I’m the only one with problems, right? But is that really true?

There’s no denying that we live in a society that is based around busy-ness and drama. Who is the busiest, the most stressed out? Sometimes conversations about this topic can start to feel like a little bit of a competition.

Oh, your daughter broke 2 bones last year? Well, my son broke THREE.

You guys had the flu last week? Well WE had the stomach bug.

Conversations about drama, trials, and tribulations, especially between parents, can start to feel like they are glorifying all this drama. And that everyone thinks they have it worse than everyone else.

It’s like we have to one-up each other to prove that we have the most dramatic life. We have to keep feeding the narrative in our heads that we are the only one that this kind of stuff happens to.

Well, guess what? We’re not.

Life, especially with little kids, is hard! There is no shortage of drama. But I bet if we take a moment to stop feeding our inner narrative about how hard our lives are, we might notice that there are other people around us who are struggling too.

We don’t want to be like the White Rabbit in my daughter’s musical and totally focus on ourselves and what we have going on.

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye! I”m late, I’m late, I’m late!

The White Rabbit is so worried about being late that he keeps running from thing to thing like a chicken with his head cut off. He’s panicked about his own problems and won’t even stop and talk to Alice. Instead of only focusing on our own issues and our own narrative, let’s save a little energy for compassion and for paying attention!

You never know what the person next to you is going through. So maybe instead of just minding your own “busy-ness”, save a little attention for what’s going on for other people too. The more you pay attention, instead of just keeping your head down and focusing on being the only one with problems, the more you’ll start to realize that you’re not alone! We’re all in this together!

Hey, that’s yoga…

Yoga Nidra

Elements

Yoga Nidra

 

-a poem by Renee Parent

 

Ring the bell, and call the elements to me.

Earth, embracing the body as I’m a babe in arms.

Wind, caressing my flesh without any offenses.

Water, cleansing my burdens buried deep inside.

Fire, kindling the hidden soul into being present.

After they have come, call the most obscure of all

The Divine, the Holy, the Blessed, the essence of us both

I am! We are! Here. In the right now.

Ring the bell again, and let’s stay a while to drift

 

Namaste

 

“I Have To” vs. “I Choose To” – Changing Up Your Thinking For a More Joyful Life

Think about the last week: how many times have you described something you are about to do as “I HAVE to do XYZ”? 1? 100? 1000?

“Today, I have to go to the store”

“I’m sorry, I can’t go to yoga, I have to go to an appointment”

“I won’t have time to go for a walk today because I have to vacuum”

“I won’t be able to meet my friend for coffee because I have to run errands”

Even, “I have to go to my friend’s birthday party… or my child’s play…”

Etc. etc. etc. …. We use this phrase from everything from pleasant outings to mundane errands to the harrowing task of clipping our kids’ fingernails.

Language is a powerful thing. Yes, there are always things that we should prioritize and things that do truly need to get done. But, in reality, do we HAVE to do most of the things we use this phrase to describe? NO!

What if instead of saying we HAVE to do something – we say that we are CHOOSING to do it?

When we speak truth to the fact that (almost everything) we use our time for is a choice, we empower ourselves to give our energy to things that we value. And, we give ourselves the opportunity to view our choices in a more positive light.

Think about it: “I am choosing to pick the kids up early and take my daughter to her rehearsal this afternoon” feels a lot better than: “I HAVE to pick the little kids up early from daycare, and then I HAVE to rush to the school and pick up my oldest and then I HAVE to take her to her rehearsal”.

And, if you really think about it, the first phrase is true. I am choosing to do this.

Will the sky fall if I don’t choose to have her participate in this activity or attend this particular rehearsal? Maybe I’d like to think I’m that important, but the reality is that no, it will not.

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on being busy, and on obligation. It seems that young parents are especially vulnerable to this plague. We are “supposed to” keep up with the Joneses. It seems like we are expected to put each of our kids in 17 different weekly activities. Then, we “have to” shuttle them all from place to place with begrudging devotion. Powering through, while painting ourselves as martyrs for doing it.

Well, I’m calling BS! I carefully weigh the options and CHOOSE what activities I put my kids in and what things I do myself. I choose the things that I think are valuable and important. I choose to prioritize spending time with my family, doula work, and teaching the boomer yoga class because these things are important to me. Almost everything else comes next – after these obligations… I mean CHOICES.

Yes, it’s easier to turn something down when painting another commitment as non-optional. But the reality is that pretty much everything we do is a choice. OWN it! Now, off to pick everyone up early and head over to that rehearsal!

Coffee & Conversation – Why We Host This Event

When we started Yoga in ME, our primary goal was to create a community where all members feel valued as individuals. In our New Year’s Letter to our community this year, we pledged to keep hosting FREE community events in 2018 as a way to continue to work towards this goal. Coffee & Conversation is one of the ways we are keeping this pledge. We decided to start hosting FREE Coffee & Conversation at our studio once a month in response to feedback from members. Students loved having a chance to get to know other members – and for some of us it’s hard to get up the nerve to talk to the person on the next mat!

Many students say that their favorite thing about our studio is that they feel like they belong here.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that this is the first place where they have felt like they fit in. As someone who has always felt that I struggled to fit in, this brings tears to my eyes. Every. Single. Time. It is so meaningful to us to be able to offer this feeling of community to our members.

Our goal in hosting this event is to give students a chance to strike up a conversation with other members OFF the mat. We are both introverts, and we know how hard it can be to approach someone new. The concept is simple: this is an opportunity to “go out for coffee” with your new yoga friends. The best part is that you don’t have to go anywhere new or spend any money. We provide the space, free coffee, tea, and snacks. Our members provide the conversation.

If you’re shy about approaching new people, this is the event for you! Conversations have been casual, easy, and inclusive. At today’s coffee & conversation, a first time attendee asked me: “what do you talk about?”. Admittedly, it was hard for me to answer this question because it varies so much from month to month! We’ve talked about books and TV shows, our families, kids, partners, one member’s 13 guinea pigs, gardening, food, the weather – and everything in between!

We hope that you’ll join us for the next coffee & conversation event. We look forward to this opportunity to get to know each and everyone one of you a little better. As well as watching friendships grow – new and old!

April Fool’s Easter: Who was the fool?

One of the benefits of yoga is that the mindfulness starts to show up off the mat. I have been simplifying my life, connecting more with the Earth, slowing down and focusing on the present. Holidays are tough for me; they bring up a lot of expectation and anxiety. I found myself doing much more than I wanted and wound up exhausted.

It all started with Pinterest, which is a wonderful way to store ideas, recipes, and plan.

I made my list, ordered a smoked ham from a local farm, and planned to grocery shop on Friday. The vision was embedded: food, table settings, and activities. I shopped at Market Basket and actually everyone was happy and cordial, the sun was out, and all was well.

On Saturday morning, I taught two yoga classes and felt very connected and energized by the practice. My niece was visiting and it was her birthday so we had great plans: Apple store, lunch, Odiorne State Park, Starbucks, and Lululemon. It was an epic girls’ day for four. Saturday evening, we joined the guys who had dinner ready (almost, they forgot vegetables) and a fire going outside.

Sunday, 6:00 am, I arose with fervor and began the battle in the kitchen. I was chopping and mixing and prepping until 10:00 when the others came down for coffee and to open Easter baskets. The food was prepped and the table was set. I needed extra seating and a table, so I carried them in from the garage. I did it all myself and did not ask for help. Easter baskets were opened and the ham was in the oven. I took a quick shower before the guests arrived.

As I was setting up appetizers at 12:30, I realized I had not eaten since about 6:30 last evening and I was HANGRY! I was completely having an out of body experience. I was in my head and not at all in my body; no heart, no soul, no throat, just me and my monkey mind. Check, check, check off the check list and eventually you will be happy: mindlessness.

Needless to say, I was depleted at this point, no prana.

I got through the rest of the holiday in a fog. Everything may have looked great, even Pinterest-worthy, but I was not fully present. I had enough energy to sustain a few meaningful moments but not full conversations. By 4:00 pm, I admitted to others that I needed a nap.

When my daughter left, she told me I should journal about the day and what went wrong. So, as I sit here, I realize: I was not true to myself. Instead of listening to my body, breathing and focusing on what was important, I got hung up on my expectations. I did not use any of my skills from my yoga practice. I am feeling like a fool. But a wise man once said, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” — William Shakespeare

Another day will arise and another holiday will be around the corner. I will take this new wisdom and practice. A wise woman once said, “Practice means making an effort to keep your mind steady. Yoga is about learning to pay attention. That’s what drives transformation.” — Beryl Bender Birch.

See you on the mat!

-Sue

New Class at Yoga in ME: Yoga And Recovery. Mondays from 4-5pm

Beginning Monday, April 2nd a new offering has been added to the schedule. Yoga and Recovery is an hour-long practice aimed to develop calm, peace and awareness of our ability to reclaim the lives we want to inhabit.

Patanjali defines yoga as effort toward the cessation of thought. These efforts can include:  poses (asana), breath (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). Practicing a yogic life style, we learn to quiet the mind. This can happen regardless of chaos around us as we seek union with the essence of our true being.

The healing process of recovery also aims to still the chatter of the mind. We aim to recover from any negative patterned conditioning that has developed over the course of living our lives.

Yoga and Recovery is an hour-long yoga practice that begins with short meditation or breath work and simple intention setting focused on the positive qualities we wish to foster in our lives. We then move mindfully with breath through a series of asana poses, ending with an ample shavasana rest.

The practice is designed to activate the parasympathetic system offering the body a chance to recuperate and heal.

This class is offered Free or By Donation.

Mondays from 4 – 5pm.

The best gift I ever gave my children.

In 1999 I still thought I had to be perfect: I was a full-time over-achieving graduate student. Almost entirely by myself, I managed a household and parented three children ages 6, 8 and 10.  I volunteered at the elementary school. My house was immaculate. And the list could go on.

As a preacher’s kid from a small farming community in Wisconsin, I lived constantly with the idea that people were watching and judging me. And I thought hat I needed to live up to their expectations. I wasn’t hooked into following conventions that didn’t make sense to me (for example, I didn’t have a t.v. in the house for many years​), however, everything I did do had to be perfect.

Not surprisingly,  I did not find joy in my life.

Everything seemed grey to me. I needed to take painkillers most nights in order to sleep because my hips hurt almost all the time. My back would spasm so badly sometimes that I couldn’t get off the floor. I felt guilt or some other negative emotion the instant I woke up in the morning. I was unreasonably irritable and angry with my children. My marriage had been completely devoid of physical contact for 6 years. I was depressed.

I lived with the assumption that there was really nothing I could do to change any of these things. My hips must hurt because arthritis runs in my family I was bound to get it. Back pain must be inevitable in tall people.  I believed I really was a horrible mother so, of course, I should live with feeling guilty and bad all the time.  And, certainly, it followed from this that I didn’t deserve to be touched or loved. It simply didn’t occur to me that there was anything I could do to change any of these things.

Somewhere inside me, however, I must have known there could be more to life

because when an acquaintance mentioned a new yoga studio she’d been going to, I decided to try it out.  I had been doing some yoga poses on my own for more than ten years at that point, but I had never really considered going to a class. What I found at the group class at this studio was something completely different than what I had been doing on my own. The first class I went to happened to be an intermediate level power yoga class that completely kicked my butt. For that whole class time, my mind was only on those postures. Nothing hurt, I didn’t feel guilty or inadequate. When the rest came at the end of class, I felt a miraculous sense of well being. I was hooked.

I kept going back to classes. When I couldn’t manage to find classes that fit into my schedule while the kids were in school, I took them with me and sat them in the waiting room with some books​. ​

Little by little, my body and mind started to change.

I felt that I was physically and mentally becoming more myself. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy were pushed back to a dull roar.  My hips stopped hurting all the time. My back didn’t go out anymore. I was much more the loving and patient parent I wanted to be. The transformation I experienced was so  pronounced that  the kids would announce, “You need to go to yoga today, Mom.” ​whenever I started to go back to my old cranky ways.

These changes inspired me to do even more things to care for myself.  I started getting massage and talk therapy.  These worked together with practicing yoga to help me see that I did not have to live in a world that felt gray all the time. By the time I separated from my husband and began a long and difficult divorce in 2002, I had the tools to be able to be act with some compassion and mindfulness​.

My process of transformation is ongoing.  The tools I’ve learned through yoga continue to help me be more present in each moment. They help me to set appropriate boundaries for myself. It’s much easier to remember that I have a lot to be grateful for. Yoga postures help me feel better in my body. I’m much quicker to forgive myself when I screw up.  And my life is no longer grey most of the time.  I am grateful to have loving and respectful relationships with my children and grandchildren and husband.​

I think my children would all agree: The best gift I ever gave them was to take care of myself.

I was robbed! How to stay in the Present Moment when things aren’t Rainbows and Unicorns

I had the privilege to spend last week on retreat with my teacher, Beryl Bender Birch. This retreat is something I look forward to each year. It’s at a wonderful resort in Costa Rica right on the Pacific Ocean. I was anticipating amazing weather and connecting with other inclusive and inquiring health-minded individuals. Perhaps, most of all, I was looking forward to taking a break from being a teacher and studio owner. To getting to practice yoga and being in the present moment 24/7. Just being a student for a whole week!  

Yoga is all about how to get our attention into the present moment. And when everything is rainbows and unicorns, like this retreat was promising to be, it seems so much easier to do! This is one of the things I value most about going on retreat. Time spent practicing being in the present moment when it’s easy helps me stay in present moment when the situation is not as idillic. 

Well, I was certainly presented with opportunities to practice being in the present moment, but not because the trip was all rainbows and unicorns. I started  the trip with a bang by getting sick literally just as the plane touched down in Costa Rica. I had to bolt to the bathroom and beg the flight attendants to let me in the restroom. 

Aboard the shuttle bus to the retreat center, I wasn’t feeling much better. Eventually, I had to ask to stop the bus so I could be sick by the side of the road. Luckily someone sitting next to me realized the shuttle driver needed to hear my request in Spanish.  I felt a little weak after that, but overall much better. I started really paying attention to the present moment and everything there was to be grateful for: The offers of tissues and cough drops to soothe my throat from my fellow shuttle riders. The fact that I was in sunny, warm Costa Rica. Most of all, I was appreciating the opportunity to just be sick without having any students to teach or work to do at the studio!

Shortly after arriving at the resort, however, a message came from Beryl saying her flight was delayed and she wouldn’t  be there until the next day. Beryl asked me to work with another of her students, Debra, to welcome the group of almost 40 students that evening and then lead meditation and yoga posture classes the next morning. Time to let go of my attachment to how great not teaching would feel and work on getting my attention in the present moment!

I was very grateful and honored that Beryl trusted me to get the retreat going.  And leading a group of enthusiastic and dedicated yogis all ready to dive in is definitely a real treat.  I still wasn’t feeling all that great, however, so as the evening welcome session approached, I realized that I wasn’t feeling well enough to do anything at all. Especially not welcome people and explain why it was me and Debra, but not Beryl welcoming them!

Debra was, of course, just fine getting started without me and also leading meditation at 6:30am the next day so I was able to have a nice, long sleep. In the morning I felt much better and was able to get up and lead the yoga class after breakfast. It was quite a thrill leading a group of focused and dedicated yogis through practice. I felt revived and, with my teaching done, it was easy to be in the present moment.

We were all happy to welcome Beryl to Costa Rica later that day. To enjoy the privilege of having her lead the group and work her magic and make everyone feel included and welcome. I was delighted to be able to turn the reigns back over to Beryl and to get back to just being a student. 

I really couldn’t have picked a better place to recover from whatever was wrong with my stomach. The weather was lovely, the food was great, and it was simply an amazing group of people all gathered together with the intention of being in the moment. We meditated, did pranayama, practiced yoga postures, swam and walked on the beach, listened to the howler monkeys, watched iguanas sitting in the sun, ate healthy vegetarian food, and just enjoyed life. Now that everything was so perfect and I had Beryl reminding me to do it, it was easy to be in the present moment. 

Partway into this wonderful week, news of a  big storm projected for the Northeast US reached our ears. My airline was looking for people to change flights for no charge. I decided to delay my return to the States and join another member of our group scuba diving the morning after the retreat ended. What could be better? The flight change was free and I had some points on a credit card I could use to reserve a hotel near the dive site. Wow, I thought, I’m going with the flow. This being present in the moment just gets better and better!

The hotel I stayed at near the dive site was spacious and convenient. Unfortunately, my room lacked a functioning safe. I wasn’t sure what to do with my valuables. I ended up choosing to take my computer, noise cancellation headphones, phone, credit card, cash, and passport all with me to the dive site. While we prepared to go out in the boat,  I left them in the locked rental car. In retrospect, I can think of lots of better ways to have dealt with this, but I didn’t choose any of those at the time.

We were all standing about 10 feet away from the car talking and getting ready to go. I realized I wanted to leave my pants in the car,  so I went back to the car and put them in. I locked the car again and went back to the group. As we started heading out to the boat a few minutes later, I remembered  my hat was in the car. I walked back to the car once again.

This time, when I open the door and reached in for my stuff, nothing was there. Confusion set in. It felt impossible to process what was going on. I walked all around the car opening every door, looked in the trunk, dug under the seats, and found nothing. The only thing left in the car, thankfully, were my prescription glasses. In the space of about ten minutes and about ten feet away from where I was standing, a thief robbed us! 

I was completely floored. I felt incredibly stupid for leaving my things in the car – especially my passport. I’d like to think that that last time back to the car, I was going to get my passport and phone to keep with me. But I’m not really sure about that. I just wasn’t thinking that morning. I went out to the boat, got in, and shared with everyone what had happened. There didn’t seem to be anything I could do so we all continued with the diving trip.

I remember at this point congratulating myself for how good I was at this being in the present moment stuff. Look at me, I’d just been robbed, but I could still enjoy a diving trip. I could deal with the issue of how I was going to get back home later. What could I do anyway without my phone or any money? I might as well enjoy the diving.

When we got to the dive spot I put my gear on and jumped in and started to go down.  In order to dive safely, however, I had to be able to keep my body out of flight or flight response. Once under water, it became obvious I couldn’t do that. I was way too freaked out to safely dive. 

Back in the boat again, I was aware that this was another opportunity to practice being in the present moment. Someone took my stuff and there was nothing I could do to change this fact. I knew that, without a passport, I would not be able to get home. I wasn’t in a position to do anything about a new one until we got back to shore.

But knowing I couldn’t do anything about it did not make me feel much better. I felt anxious and upset and I began judging myself for this. Like somehow I should just be feeling grateful to be in this beautiful place and that feeling anxious meant I wasn’t doing a good job of being in the moment.

I had to accept that the way I felt was also part of the present moment.

Once I was able to accept that my feelings of anxiety and fear were part of the present moment, I was able to find some moments of joy. I marveled at a pod of leaping dolphins, a ray jumping up out of the water, a needlefish flying above the water to escape some predator. 

Back on shore again, I learned the only way to get a new passport was to drive to the American Embassy in San Jose.  Figuring out how I was going to get to San Jose and how much money this was going to cost was definitely not rainbows and unicorns. It was not at all easy to be present in these moments. It was, on the other hand, easy to feel grateful.  Grateful for my husband back in the States arranging a hotel in San Jose. And to have a friend willing to drive me several hours to the hotel. And then turn around and drive back for his own flight from Liberia.

The entire drive to San Jose was an opportunity to practice being in the present moment. To allow myself to be upset, scared, and anxious. To practice not adding to the difficulties of the situation with negative self talk.

In the moments where I was able to accept how upset I was, I was also able to find joy. Joy in a beautiful drive through the mountains of Costa Rica with pleasant conversation and music.

 

Early the next morning, I took a taxi to the American Embassy. While I was waiting for the Embassy to open, my driver, Oscar, returned to tell me where he was parked. He was back again a few minutes later. Oscar was concerned I didn’t have enough money to pay for my new passport and wanted to loan me money. I initially tried to refuse, but he insisted and I realized he might be right. I was so touched by this kindness that I almost completely broke down in tears in front of the Embassy.  

As Mr. Rogers said,  “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”: My husband and daughter arranging things at home, the taxi driver loaning me money, my friend loaning me money and driving round trip about ten hours to get me to the embassy, the young woman at Newark airport who trusted me to borrow her phone at 1am in Newark airport.  I continue to feel gratitude for all the help I received that got me back to my home in Maine again.

I’m now the proud owner of what must surely be the most unflattering passport photo ever. It will cost a small fortune if I choose to replace my lost electronics. I have a ton of work to do to re-do all my online accounts and bank accounts that we closed. But I am safe. None of my personal information appears to have been successfully stolen. I am back home in Maine now, marveling at the beauty of this moment. The quiet beautiful end of an amazing March snow storm where everything is beautifully covered with clean, white snow.  How lucky am I to be in this present moment?


Interested in a retreat that won’t involve getting stuck out of the country? Lydia & I are leading a weekend retreat at Aryaloka in Newmarket, New Hampshire. March 16 – 18, 2018. We’d love to have you join us for a weekend of present moment awareness.