"Relax." Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 

Yoga nidra sesh while waiting for the ferry in Swartz Bay

 

So many of you know that I’ve been touting the benefits of yoga nidra for several years. My friend Jaya Leigh introduced it to me ages ago and I’ve been practicing it diligently, especially since I started to heal my adrenal fatigue issues. Yoga nidra is otherwise known as “sleep yoga," and come on, who doesn’t want to have a little more sleep in their lives? Particularly those of us who have babies and are completely sleep deprived? 

And so, I have a couple of downloaded versions on my phone in my music library that are my go-tos when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). One of my faves is Karen Brody’s rest meditation/yoga nidra recording from her book “Daring to Rest” . I read her book last year and followed her 40-day program which included three different yoga nidra practices, each building upon each other, and culminating with a sense of DEEP and PROFOUND rest. I felt amazing. The yogis say that doing a 20-minute yoga nidra session is equivalent to having a one-hour deep sleep. The brain waves that are activated during a yoga nidra session are the ones that slow our brain activity down. In the day to day, we access our beta waves, and that allows us to talk, drive cars, and fulfil our regular daily tasks. When we do a yoga nidra session, we access the alpha waves, and often the theta waves. In this place and space, there is less thinking and more rest. 

I’ve been known to do yoga nidra sessions in various places: airports, ferry terminals, park benches, friends’ couches, the back of my car, hammocks, beaches and other public places. All I need to do is find a place to lie down and put my headphones on. 

Several years ago I introduced my dad to the practice when we were in Invermere BC skiing. We were staying at a friends’ place and they have two awesome (and very busy)! kids. Since I don’t have kids, and Dad is old and lives solo, we were pretty pooped with all of the hustle and bustle of the household. Plus, we’d skied our butts off all day, so we were exhausted. We excused ourselves from the carnival (which is their living room) and shut ourselves into the spare bedroom for 20 minutes. After our session (we listened to Liz Hill’s practice) on YouTube, we emerged from our yoga nidra nap rested and replenished, ready to take on the rest of the day. Dad was amazed at how much energy he had, and how calm he felt at the same time, “What the hell was that? I gotta get that and do it at home.” I told him he’d need a) internet and/or b) a stereo system. Since he’s allergic to computers and doesn’t like technology, and his stereo only plays FM stations, this would be challenging for him. And so, he only does the practice when we are together. 
For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is, well, how shall I say this? Gruff. Rough around the edges. A Barrie boy through and through. His ex-wife had a chip truck called “Grumpy Mike’s” with his face on the side of the truck. Everyone who knows him knows this about him. He makes me laugh constantly with his grumpy comments and mannerisms, because underneath, he is a softy, with a huge capacity for generosity (he let a homeless man stay in his storage unit for years, and would often feed him) and love. I’ve posted many-a-story about Dad, and his unique and comical mannerisms in the past. He’s like the character of the father in A Christmas Story, particularly in the scenes where he’s fixing the furnace (Dad was a furnace and air-conditioning guy by trade) and you can only hear muffled sounds emanating from the basement (cursing and swearing). Every sentence Dad utters usually has the word “Christ” in it, and although he’s a Catholic, he’s not using his saviour’s name in reverence or prayer most of the time. 

Yesterday’s yoga nidra session with him should have been a Seinfeld episode. Here’s what went down: 
Dad was laying on the bed and I put my portable speaker next to his head between the pillows while I set up my computer on my desk. I guess the last time I used the speaker I was rockin’ out pretty hard because I left the volume on full tilt. When I pressed play, Jodi’s voice boomed, “Close your eyes.  Begin to feel yourself moving back from your everyday life....” and Dad, in his state of being startled by the volume shouted, “Christ! That’s fucking loud!”. Not off to a good start for tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that says, “Slow down.”) After adjusting the volume, I lay beside him on the bed and told him he should have his palms facing upwards towards the ceiling. With that, I gently took his hand and flipped it over, as I would when teaching a class. What was different in this scenario however, was that my students are usually in their 30s-50s and don’t have severe arthritis. When I flipped Dad’s hand over he shrieked, “Ow! Fuck! What are you doing?! My hands are sore!” Setting the scene was progressively going from bad to worse. After finally adjusting the volume to a peaceful level, and then getting him comfy and relaxed, I lay down and got myself comfy. It took me a few minutes to get into the meditation because I had a serious case of the giggles due to the schmozzle of starting the thing. After a few minutes, we were both super relaxed, and the sides of both of our hands were touching. This almost made me weep. In addition to being grumpy, Dad is not the most demonstrative person I’ve ever met. He’s not a big hugger per se (getting better in later years due to my insistence), so the fact he was comfortable almost holding hands was a big deal. 

After our session, we both felt much more relaxed and grounded, and I noticed he was a lot more present for the remainder of the evening. More inquisitive about me. Less grumpy. Now, if only I could get a yoga nidra recording to be broadcast from an AM radio station.

"You've got the eyes of a stranger." Toto 

"Excuse me Sir.....I don't think you should go up there!"

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” was a memorable line that came out of Tennyson’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s always resonated with me on so many levels. Being an intrepid world-traveller and constantly meeting “strangers”, I too have relied on kindness. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the role of the stranger, offering kindness. It was a cool and dreary Toronto fall day, where the gray sky seemed to envelop the whole city. I was going to get some blood-work done at a nearby clinic and after numerous attempts to make an appointment online for two days (Mercury in retrograde), I decided to just head on in and wait. When I got to the building, I was greeted with annoyed faces and numerous huffs and puffs from people in the lobby. All three elevators were out of order, and everyone had to use the stairwell. Not such a big deal for those of us with appointments on the second or third floors, but kinda a big deal for others who were on the eleventh or twelfth floors. I could hear people complaining, “I mean three elevators out of order? Why would they do that?!” When one woman complained to me just before I began going up the stairs, I calmly replied, “Well, I’m sure this is a pain in the ass for them too. I don’t really think that they want their elevators to not be running either.” She just gave me a “humph” and moved on to someone else who would commiserate with her. 

I started the jaunt up the stairs for the sixth floor (not so bad!) and it was like I was at the end of the Boston Marathon, for geriatrics. I was passing a lot of people with either silver hair or no hair at all, and were clutching the hand rails, stopping to catch their breath, and swearing. When I got to the second floor, there was a woman who was yelling at an old man who must have been very hard of hearing and was hunched over, clutching the handrail for dear life, “Sir! Sir! You can’t go that far! You have to turn around!” It turns out that the old man was not hard of hearing, but he just didn’t speak English. Nor did his wife who was toddling along behind him. I asked the woman what was going on and she told me that he had an appointment on the ninth floor, and that clearly, this wasn’t an option. She had followed him up one flight of stairs and had witnessed him almost fall several times, and had caught him. His wife was about 4’7”, so not much of a “spotter”. 

I asked the wife who the doctor was on the ninth floor, but she too spoke no English and answered in either Polish or Hungarian (or some other Eastern European language I’m assuming...it sounded like she said something about pirogies) and lifted her hands to show me nine fingers. Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going very well. By this time, another young man, whom I’ll call Freddy (he looked nothing like a Freddy, and actually looked Arabic, but I don’t want to give him a stereotypical name) came on the scene and asked if he could help. The woman asked me to stay with him while she went down to get security. It was really a bad idea for this man to attempt another seven floors. While we waited, the old man kept trying to climb the stairs. It was painful. Freddy walked in front of him and took his arm, and I stood behind him to spot him in case he fell backwards. By the time we reached the third floor (almost ten minutes later), it looked like the old guy was going to have a stroke. I stopped him and began playing charades in an attempt to dissuade him from going any further, “You can’t go up the other stairs!” I stated, looking into his eyes, and making hand gestures that were reminiscent of a bastardized Hokie Pokie, shaking my head and walking my fingers around in the air towards the upper floors. He just looked at me with kind pale blue eyes and smiled, nodding as he attempted to give it another go. Freddy and I resumed our positions as leader and tail runner. 

Finally, the security guy came to meet us, with a woman who worked in one of the offices who spoke Polish. She began talking to them in Polish, and again, nothing was understood. Could they have been Czech? Romanian? Regardless, the security man brought him a chair to sit on, and the other woman headed up to the ninth floor to find out who the doctor was. At this point, Freddy and I made our way to our respective appointments, smiled to one another and felt a certain unspoken bond in our brief, albeit meaningful camaraderie. 

Even though we were “in a rush” to get our business done and to make our appointments, we let this fall away as we attempted to help a fellow human in need, and to try to prevent harm. It really was a beautiful moment in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve found it challenging to be in a place that is so fast-paced and busy. I’ve been the recipient of serious road rage several times, and have been almost crushed to death while embarking a streetcar by people who are clearly in a rush. My moment with Freddy and the old couple yesterday has helped to fade those not-so-great-moments I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that by leading by example, some of those people who were running by us on the stairwell, complaining and swearing will be inspired to slow down. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us all to “be the lighthouse” and I’m hoping that yesterday I could shine my light and show what it is I can offer: my time and my energy to uplift and serve others. Sat Nam.

"Teach Your Children Well" CSNY 

I saw a woman wearing a tee shirt many years ago in a security line in an airport in Australia that read, “Oh no! I forgot to have children!” I had to stop and take her picture. 

I felt like I was in the same boat. It’s for this reason that I was hesitant to contribute for this month’s blog about raising conscious children. I’m not actually raising children for several reasons, the main reason being that I don’t have the dude in my life right now with whom I’d want to raise them, and I never had the maternal calling so much that it pulled me towards having a child on my own. 

That being said, I was a school teacher and camp counsellor for many moons before devoting my time to teaching Kundalini Yoga and creating music. During those years, I got many glimpses of how parents were raising their kids...some of those glimpses were beautiful, but sadly, many of them weren’t, at least in my experiences with teaching in the school system. 

I won’t get into the whole description of how lack of respect starting at home was then passed on to the teachers. Nor will I go into the many crazy events whereby I was a recipient of some pretty serious verbal (and once physical) abuse. 

I will, however, relay that when I spoke to parents whose kids were having issues, they were often quite defensive and would put the blame on me—that it was my fault their kids were behaving poorly. After many of those phone calls, I decided I could teach and serve in other ways, and left the public education system. 

What I noticed is that so many of these kids were really crying out for some sort of routine and sense of stability. I know when I don’t have any routine I behave poorly: missing doing my sadhana, eating a bag of chips for lunch, having Netflix binges. Many of these children were being moved around from parent to parent with no real sense of schedule or routine. There was simply no discipline. 

As a kid, I had the privilege of having routine with my schooling, my after-school paper route, piano lessons, practice time, dinner at a certain time, homework, connecting with mum time, then bed. I had discipline enforced on me with my piano lessons and homework, which of course I didn’t love, but it made me the musician I am today, and allowed me to see through experience that practice is valuable. Finishing things is valuable. 

On the flip-side, my experience of working with kids in a camp setting has proven to be amazing in terms of seeing how important it is to raise healthy conscious kids. I recently attended a summer camp reunion up in northern Ontario in Canada; I attended it from the time I was eight until I was 22 and worked on staff. 

We were celebrating its 100 year anniversary and people from all over the globe came back to be on Beausoleil Island to reminisce, reflect, share stories and songs, and give gratitude to the place that helped form us. The majority of the alumni have gone on to be successful adults in both their personal and business lives. Many are philanthropic and do acts of seva on a regular basis. Many are helping others in terms of teaching, healing and serving. 

I wrote an article last year for the camp’s publication about how my life at camp helped to set a foundation for my spiritual life as a Kundalini Yogi. We started each day with “morning dip” in the chilly Georgian Bay, which of course, is akin to the cold showers Yogiji recommended so many years ago. We then attended “morning thought” around the flagpole, whereby a staff member would read a poem or thought that was spiritually oriented, and we’d reflect on this as a sangat. 

The day was filled with healthy outdoor activity to keep our bodies fit, and there were times of song and rest. After lunch we’d have an hour to rest, which of course, Yogiji recommended doing after eating. Although there was no formal meditation at camp, there was a structure that encouraged mindfulness, activity, rest and reflection. 

Without parents around, we had autonomy to grow without their conditioning, and to make our mistakes, learn, grow and thrive. We were able to “feel safe and secure in our own unique identities," which Yogi Bhajan said was so important for children, and we learned to communicate clearly and consciously. This, I believe helped to create so many healthy, strong kids—myself included. 

That being said, although I don’t have children of my own, I do encourage my friends who have kids to send their kids to camp. My camp was a YMCA camp, with Christian values, but was non-denominational; my sister and I were Jewish, and there were many others with different backgrounds. 

The lessons I learned there were in line with the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the Aquarian sutras. I see the value in kids being together outside of the traditional school setting—in nature and being nurtured spiritually. I still go to camp...this year I went to Ladies Khalsa Camp in BC and felt like the routine of sadhana followed by learning, eating good food, resting and being in nature was so very valuable. Gratitude for camps.

"Do you feel like I feel?" Peter Frampton 



“Men and money are kind of the same in my life: they come, but they mostly go.” (H. Shippit pre-marriage). 
So true. Men, money, friendships, jobs. They all go eventually. As an aspiring Buddhist, I recognize the impermanence of all things. Last week, our beloved family dog Anouk was put down and even though I don’t live in Barrie anymore, my heart broke. We spent so much time together over the years: at the boathouse, when I lived in Midland (I’d often kidnap her for weeks at a time to keep me company) and when I’d dog-sit if Dad went away. 
I was reminded again of how everything leaves us when I was in Hawaii. One morning I went on a beautiful hike to Mahaulepu Beach near Poipu, which is a beautiful coastal walk on the southern area of Kauai. Along the way I found a small beach adorned with hundreds of cairns visitors had made and left (a cairn is a human-made pile of stones). I made one myself, said a little prayer and did a little meditation, then took a couple of photos before continuing my little jaunt. 
I returned to the same beach a few days later (after a HUGE storm had happened) and saw that every cairn that had been there stood no more. It was a bit sad, and I had (yet another!) a huge recognition of how things change so quickly. Nothing stays. I wrote a song years ago about this notion of change and impermanence with my song “Stay”.

On that melancholy note, I’m doing my best to stay in one place. And it’s bloody hard. Two weeks ago I had to make the decision to stay in Nelson and forgo leading my trips in Peru this spring. I love those trips. I live for those trips. And yet, my body didn’t want me to do those trips, even though my mind, with its relentless FOMO (fear of missing out), begged me to not give those trips up. Eventually, I had to surrender and listen to my body, which has been really tired for several months with adrenal issues and low iron, which has left me with not much energy. Just the flights alone were making me feel tired when I really thought about it. And I realized that’s the key…the feeling aspect that I usually ignore. What does my body feel when I’m making a decision (not one of my strong points of fave things to do)? When I thought about leading the trips, I actually felt tired and anxious. 


Many people have said that I am fearless, and my leo lioness pride kind of liked that, and for the most part, felt that to be true. And yet, here I am now, afraid that I can’t do the things I usually can do. This is pretty humbling, and depressing, and liberating, all at the same time. It’s one of those things where I really need to accept where I am at the moment. And at this moment, I don’t think I could do the Camino again right now, or hike to Machu Picchu twice in two weeks. And so, I’m staying home. It feels weird, but it feels right. There was an immediate sense of expansion when I came to that decision, and for me, that affirmed I was making the right one. Don’t get me wrong, the doubt still insidiously creeps in from time to time as I look at Facebook and how the trips are going without me and I question myself. However, I immediately get my answer when I think about how my body would react to being at extreme elevation, expending energy hiking 8 hours a day, and giving my love and support to a group of women: I want to lie down on a couch just thinking about it! 
And so, here is a new phase of my life whereby I am trying to be more still, to do less and to breathe more. 


Question for You: How often to you rely on your “feeling” as opposed to your “thinking” when making a decision. 
As always, I thank you for sharing your time and energy with me in this dialogue; it truly affirms to me that we are not alone on this journey.

Love and Light, 
Sarah

"Who Are You?" Pete Townsend 

This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately...with the prompts of conversations with friends, readings from Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Gangaji. As I embark upon a new chapter in life (moving back out west) and trying to re-define myself in terms of what I "do", it's been a bit of a shit-show, to be honest. Spiritually, that is. The idea of moving back to Nelson has been a dream for the past 7 years, since I left, and now that it's come to fruition, I'm a bit scared. I guess the whole 7 year itch thing kind of makes sense; I've been away, having an amazing time travelling the world, meeting all sorts of wonderful people along the way (like Pete above), and now, I'm itchy. Rather, I'm tired. Tired of moving around every few months. Tired of trying to figure out where to go next. And so, here I am in Nelson asking myself what is next for me out here. I know I don't want to go back to the public education system, and I know that I don't want to go back to touring my music right now. I'm simply too tired. But that's what I've done! But that's how I made my money out here! Now what?! And so, after much contemplating, I've decided to just stop for a while. Stop the searching. Stop the seeking. And trust in Spirit, which I usually do, but lately this trust has been a bit muddled and murky with the anxiety of "what to do next". 

The idea of "who am I?" has been one of the most prominent (and perplexing at times) spiritual questions for centuries. I know that I am a teacher and leader/guide, musician and all of those other things, but those are things that I DO. And so, my question lately is asking myself who I am, as opposed to what I do. It's tricky to navigate and it leaves me feeling a little raw and exposed. I thought I knew who I was, but in reality, right now, I'm not sure. How do I plan on juggling that perplexing question? STOPPING. That is not something that comes easy for this gal. For those of you who know me, you've seen me running around like a chicken with its head cut off...running from airport to airport, country to country, yoga class to yoga class and so on. I realize I've been running around for the most part of a decade and it's time to stop. Nelson seems like a pretty good place for that. I'm pondering creating a small community here on my property, or at least building myself a cabin to call my own. It's time to create a home somewhere, and the Koots still feels like home. 
While I'm here, "stopping", I'll continue to breathe, be, and create music; the next album should be interesting as I explore the notion of starting to settle down, without settling for less than I want. I'll also continue to explore who I am...and at its essence, I already know the answer: I am truth. Sat Nam. 

Question for You: Who are You?

"If you are young at heart..." Carolyn Leigh 

 Last week in Peru I had one of those moments where I thought, “Shit. I’m getting old.” I was getting ready to head out on a day trip to the hot springs and was putting my boots on at the door. Rather, I started putting my boots on at the door but bent over and felt a little “creak”, and so I backed up like a slow UHaul towards my bed, plunked myself down and put on my boots there. Usually I just bend down, slip my feet into my boots, do them up whilst standing and bending over. Lately though, I realize that I’m now consciously looking for chairs, beds, benches or anything to sit my butt down on before I put on my boots. Does this mean I’m getting old? I’m almost 42 for cripes’ sakes! 


However, once there at Lares hot springs, I woke up and got my head out of my butt, so to speak. I had travelled there with two dear friends whom I met last year at Lares: Eduardo and Ines. Eduardo is Peruvian, and 80 years old. Ines is his wife, originally from Holland, and is ten years his junior. First of all, the way those two travel around in their Land Rover, camping out all the way from Lima to Quillabamba and around the Cusco area blows me away. When I met Eduardo last year in the hot pools, he was so animated and full of life, showing me books about the area, telling me about the spirits of the mountains and inviting me outside of the gates to their truck for lunch. There, I found Ines chopping veggies and preparing a simple yet tasty lunch. I joined them, and from thereon in, we became fast and furious friends. I spent my last day in Lima with them last year, and they took me to their home for dinner before bringing me to the airport just after midnight…still full of energy and vibrant. 


Back to Lares last week:  At night after our soak, Ines and I hung out at the truck and made some mulled wine, then downed almost the whole bottle while sitting in the front of the truck chatting until almost 11pm. Ines wasn’t the least bit tired; her energy is amazing. For breakfast the next morning, we met once again at the Land Rover and sat outside in the sun to enjoy our oatmeal and coffee. Ines gave me a camping chair to sit on, and then plunked herself down on the ground to enjoy her breakfast. I tried to tell her to have my chair, but she refused saying, “I like the fact that I’m 70 and can still sit on the ground comfortably.” She’s amazing. Once we were in the pools, I sought solitude and situated myself in pools that were sparsely populated. Eduardo on the other hand was the centre of attention in the tepid pool, filled with kids aged 3-7. There, he taught about 3 of them how to swim, was swinging them around, bobbing them up and down, and taking kid after kid for a “ride” around. His face was filled with joy and his energy was absolutely astounding. My idea of “old” was completely blown out of the water. These two had so much to teach me. 


On the way home we stopped to visit some ruins where Ines chatted up the workers, trying to find out all the information she could about the land; her curiosity and eagerness for new knowledge is truly inspiring. She worked for UNESCO for years in education and her passion for learning makes me feel kind of lazy and makes me want to learn more. Her optimism and enthusiasm makes me want to drink more coffee or chew more coca leaves. When we stopped in town to pick up something from the pharmacy which is very common in Canada, I realized that I had to go to 4 different pharmacies to find it. When I expressed my frustration she just smiled and said, “That’s the interesting thing about Peru…sometimes you have to go to many places to find what you need, but in the end you find it. Enjoy the differences in this country.” She is so patient and really accepting of all situations. She is a true mentor in so many ways. 
Eduardo has brain damage from several decades ago when the political scene here was hostile and the Shining Path, was anything but shining. He “knew too much” and was actually given shock therapy in hopes of repressing what he saw and knew. His mental health has deteriorated, and although he’s still loveable and sweet, he has some quirks. Recently, he has embarked upon collecting various unique items, mostly, rocks. He gathered about 25 rocks yesterday and schlepped them into the truck, and when he goes to gather more, Ines has to get rid of the first batch without him knowing. She is the epitome of patience and her devotion to him is beautiful. She simply accepts things as they are and believes that her life is beautiful. 
This week they drive to Lima, stopping in hot springs along the way, enjoying the scenery, enjoying each other, picking up and throwing away new rocks and stones. I’ve vowed to let go of the idea that I’m getting old and will do my best to walk in their footsteps; their energy, enthusiasm, love of life, love of knowledge and constant learning, travelling, and walking. I’ll find a chair to sit on, do up my boots, and go forth into the world knowing that I am and will remain young if I choose. The other day my courageous and brave Wild Women and I walked the Inka Trail and our last lunch spot was Winyawana, which is “forever young” in Quechuan. I thought of Ines and Eduardo there and said a silent “gracias”.

"These boots are made for walklin'..."" Nancy Sinatra 

Taking myself out for a walk last fall on the Camino 


“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy confidently, “we shall sometime come to someplace.” The Wizard of Oz 
Hmmm. I love this thought. It was a year ago more or less that I walked the Camino de Santiago in what took about two months. Almost 1000 km or roughly 500 miles. For me, that’s far enough, and I did most definitely come to someplace. That someplace was Finnisterre (the end of the world), then to Barcelona and back to Canada. While walking the trail I had an epiphany. Or two. One of which was the idea of moving back to Nelson to build a small retreat community on my land. I’d be able to have my own house (the cabin is super cute, but not much room for a recording studio and all my instruments), as well as having a couple of cabins that I could use for retreat purposes, or renting out. I had found so many sacred spaces along the Way that sang to my heart. And they weren’t the five star hotels or fancy pants places I stayed a couple of nights to “treat” myself. Where I found myself most at home was in the small pensions that had a sense of warmth to them; literally and figuratively. 
One of my favourite places to stay was in the mountains just before Ponferada and after Rabanal in Spain. His place came recommended to me by a fellow Kundalini Yoga teacher. There, I found comfort in sitting in front of the fireplace with Manuel, the old neighbour who comes to sit there every day to pass the time. Jaime is the epitome of a good neighbour and he goes to pick Manuel up every morning, brings him to his house, they have lunch and dinner together, and then he walks him home. 
What I loved about Jaime’s home was that it wasn’t anything super fancy, and yet it had a real warmth and elegance to it. Everything that he had, even though it wasn’t a lot, was lovely to look at and to touch. We drank our wine from beautiful crystal glasses that were set on a table adorned with linen and simple yet lovely plates and decor made from nature. The beds were comfy and the rooms were sparsely decorated, but what was there was tasteful and gave me a sense of who Jaime was. Our little candles and incense burners. The small table that overlooked the mist covered mountains. The simple and yet useful/comfortable chair and reading lamp. All of this was not the Ritz by any means, but it made me feel like I was at home. So much so that I decided to stay an extra day and night there and alter my plan. I didn’t want to leave. It was after my stay there that I decided that I wanted to create sacred spaces where people can come and feel like they can relax, unwind. I want to create spaces on my land that people will feel like they won’t want to leave. And so, I’m starting this week with a full survey of the land to see where some sweet spots might be in terms of laying down some foundations in the spring for a couple of cabins. 
When I start to get overwhelmed, which I do at times when I think about ALL of the things that need to be done before actually STARTING to build (and I get overwhelmed with choosing paint colour sometimes), I go for a walk. Lately it’s been with the sweet pooch that I’ve inherited with the property: Babaji. When I walk, I instantly feel more grounded and more clear. I started writing a song about it. If you want to listen to the scratch (the first draft), you can have a listen here. 
  
When I take myself out for a walk, there’s no need to talk. Just listen to the song upon the breeze. When I take myself out for a stroll, I get in touch with the whole…wild world and all her mysteries. 
Question for You: I’d love to know how walking plays a role in your life… 
As always, thank you for continuing to come with me along this amazing journey. I look forward to hearing from you. 
Much love and light, 
Sarah

"Slow and low tht is the tempo" Beastie Boys 

Long Duck Dong from Korea whom Kiara and I fell in love with. He taught us a few forms of meditation and told us to focus on our "abdolman" and to practice "compassion", which, with my ears and his accent I took to mean, "the passion", so I focused on the possibility of a fiery Spanish passionate love instead of my breath. It was a different form of meditation. When Kiara and I told him that we were both 41 and single he sighed, "Ohhhhhhhhhhh. That a big problem." 

Lourdes from Pamlona after we told her we were looking for a cafe in her vacation village outside the city, "Only a coffee?! Then you MUST come to my house. I have coffee and you don´t have to pay!"  She then proceeded to give me her packet of rice cakes when she heard I didn´t eat wheat. Talk about generosity. 
Celebration to Reflection 
After Kiara left, I was feeling pretty blue, but luckily I had Angelica my new German friend, also a high school teacher and lover of the mountains, to eat meals with and chat. Usually we´d walk by ourselves, meeting at different points for coffee or a meal, then meeting at the albergues or hostals later in the night. Juan from the Canaries joined our crew, as did Andrew and 3 sweet sisters from Australia, a couple of peeps from France, a former school teacher from Scotland, and another German gal. For almost a week we´d walk sometimes together, sometimes alone,but would always meet up at cafes and bars, and stay at the same albergues together. It was fun. Until for me, it wasn´t. I realized that I was drinking way too much (wine is included in the menus and is cheaper than wáter), and I noticed that I was starting to feel a bit down. I craved some alone time, and even though I loved this group dearly, I felt like I needed to take some time out from the constant socializing. I needed to reassess why I was here on the Camino. Surely not just to experience being with people all the time and drinking too much so that I felt lousy. We had so much fun in Burgos with tapas and dancing, and the next day I took in the Cathedral and monastary while Juan and Angelica kept walking. I ended up having a picnic on the porch of a museum in Rabe de las Calzados, which was closed, but in the shade. In pulls a car into the museum´s driveway and I find it´s the owner of the gallery/house who wondered why there was a blond girl with her shoes and socks off eathing cheese and olives on his front porch. He explained that the gallery was closed, but invited me in anyway and showed me his life´s work: truly amazing. I spent about an hour looking at his paintings, sculptures and multi media pieces before he invited me to bring in my food and eat inside in a civilized manor. I shared my cheese, he made a salad and we shared his leftover fish soup over a cerveza before I headed back out. He gave me a card for a friend of his who had an albergue in the next town of Hornillos and said I should stay there. Angelica had already reserved a room for me at the municipal so I thought I wouldn´t be able to stay at his friend´s place. The thing about the municipals are that there are usually about 30 people there, with snoring people galore. I much prefer the smaller private alberges with only 4 or 6 to a room. In Hornillos I met the crew and we made a community dinner together which was pretty sweet. I went outside with my cup of tea and heard,¨Hey...are you the Canadian musician?" Turns out it was the artist´s friend who had been looking for me. He invited me to his place where I´d have my own room and a guitar, so I packed up my bag and headed down the road. Much more tranquil. More more what I needed. I found that many serendipitous acts like this were happening, and my constant making plans to meet the group, trying to keep up etc. was not really working for me anymore. And so, with that, after a week of amazing walking, comraderie and fiestas, when Angelica left at Castrojeriez, I decided to go a bit slower, which meant that I´d break off from the crew and go my own way. It´s a decisión that was a bit difficult as this means that I might not catch up with my friends, with whom I had become so close. They are and were familiar, but I am here to step out of my confort zone. 


Reflection 


Sincé taking a step back, saying goodbye to Angelica and Juan, I am on another type of Camino. So far I´ve met a few great new people, and the other night embarked on a night walk in the pitch dark for 8 hours under the new moon´s starry sky. If you follow the Milky Way, you can make it to Santiago. I´m now half way there as of yesterday, and I´ve been spending much more time alone, writing, meditating, and feeling overall back on track. I´m alone, but not lonely. The Camino continues to teach me what I need, which is really not all that much. Fresh air, a bed, food, comraderie and music. Gracias Camino. 
I now find myself in a sweet albergue outside of Astoria called Albergue Verde which is so exactly what I need right now. Full of open hearted women running the place, I´m eating organic foods, doing yoga and dancing when I´m not reading Pema Chodren. A hippie´s heaven. I have finally listened to my body and spirit and slowed down for a few days. The Camino is constantly teaching me to honour what I really need. In Leon a few weeks ago I stayed in a hotel for one night that had a spa so I could sauna and steam away my oncoming cold. I spent the nights before in rooms with people who were snoring up a storm and exhaling all of their colds into the hostal air. I realized I don´t actually need to do that anymore...I have a choice  and I´m not in any rush to get to Santiago. In fact, since I am more than half way there, I really am nervous about getting there too quickly. I don´t want this journey to end. 
Up ahead of my a couple of days is a monastery where you can stay for 2 days so I will most likely do that. If I keep on going the way I have been, I should reach Santiago by New Years! Kiara has now coined me the Snail of the Camino. Here at the Albergue Verde, the motifs are snails, which is so totally a propos. I´ve let go of feeling slow, of possibly missing friends I´ve met along the way, who are now a couple of days "ahead" of me. I´m learning that there is no such thing as "ahead" anyways. I´m just going at my own pace. Slow and steady. 
Once again, thank you for coming along on this journey and I´ll be back blogging in a week or so. 
Much love and light, 
Sarah

"You can go your own Way." Fleetwood Mac 

So....I was going to post my last two blogs over the past few days and I´m not sure if Mercury is still in retrograde but it seems that every time I tried to log onto computers where I´d be staying, the wi fi would be amiss, or the computer was so old that it couldn´t support my blog platform or to be honest, I was just too tired to type. I´ve been keeping a journal of the Camino so far, scribbling bits and pieces along the Way. 
Tonight I sit in a Little town in the province of Leon, and Erneto has graciously allowed me an hour to use his personal computer as there is no computer here at this hostal. And so...I type. 
I´ve broken up the trip into 3 segments, so if you want to read one part at a time, then be my guest. I don´t imagine that you´ll have so much time to read my whole novella with one read. Or you might....Regardless of what you read, I send you gratitude for coming along on this journey with me. Here we go...Part Uno: 
Reunión 
Kiara and I met in Bordeaux after not having seen each other for almost 5 years. She and I met in university and have remained close over the years; we still can´t believe we´ve known each other for 20 years. We headed to her mum´s place about one and a half hours from Bordeax airport and stayed in the sweet¨"Maison Rose" in the Little village of Lit et Mixte for 3 days before heading out on our Camino. We ate, drank, biked and caught up, and her mum was so gracious and hospitable. Not to mention her neighbours, Elmer and Aya, who drove us to St. Jean Piere du Port, which is the beginning of the French Camino, or the Camino Frances. They all dropped us off at the tourism office, where one of the lovely volunteers set us up in a B and B. This B and B was not the type of B and B you´d normally think of. Oh no, this B and B we ended up coining: Bedbugs and Bitches. Yup. The very first night Kiara got a crazy case of bed bug bites at the hostal. The bitch was the lady who owned and ran it, and apparently is notorious for being crazy. She has a bench outside her front door, which looks inviting, but she doesn´t want anyone to sit there, and if they do, she goes upstairs and "waters" the plant boxes, which are conveniently located over top of the benches. If you sit there, you get soaked and she just shouts, "It´s your problem! I´m just watering my plants!!!" Her nickname in town is the Commandant, or The Commander. We chose to call her Jean Valjean, the lead role in Les Miserables, because that´s what she was...entirely miserable. 
After a first night like that, anything was better, so that was a good thing. Without going into every detail about our 11 days together, I´ll just say that our highlights were so unforgettable that I´ll just name a few. Apres bug bites, the owner of the next hostal brought Kiara to the doctor and she got treated with no problems. We fought the wind in the Pyrenees for the first couple of days, got caught in a torrential downpour before Ronceveax (think about the scene in Romancing the Stone where they slide down a huge watery landslide...that was pretty much us). The province of Navarra is beautiful and mountainous, so I felt right at home, and pretty much made my decisión to move back to Nelson when I do move back to Canada. 


Over the next few days we had beautiful weather and stayed at some sweet places along the Way. Usually we´d stay in an albergue with many other pilgrams, but a few times we splurged on some doublé rooms. One was in Zubiri, when in the middle of getting changed, I bent over in my underpants to go into my pack and the owner Juan just happened to open the door at that time. He got a Little bit of soft Canadian porn, and wasn´t really embarrassed about it at all. The Spanish are much less modest than us Canucks. Please note that this is a Spanish keyboard and it is doing some autò corrections, so if there are typos, I blame it on that. 


To say that Kiara and I were slow would be like saying that Paris Hilton is a bit materialistic. We had 65 year olds whizzing by us as we sat and languised over a 2 hour lunch and bottle of wine. Our Camino was much different than that of others. But that is what I´m learning so far, is that this Camino is MY Camino and I don´t have to do it the same way as anyone else. Another highlight was tapas and rioja in Pamplona, where again, we did our Camino our way and took the bus into the city instead of walking for an hour and a half on hard pavement. I could blame Kiara´s plantar faceitous but really, I was quite keen to hop on the bus Gus. Some people are horrified and think it´s sacriledge, but to me, it´s survival and what I want to do. We also hopped a bus a few days later for 5 minutes to bump us up and miss about a 1.5 hour walk in the late scorching sun. Into Logrono, we hitchhiked for 5 minutes to skip the late afternoon scorching sun and walk through a nasty industrialized área. Yes, our Camino was not so traditional. It was crazy, we´d simply say, I wonder if there´s a bus, and within about 2 minutes one would come our way. Or I´d say, I´d like a guitar at the next hostal, and sure enough...there would be one. Kiara was getting a bit freaked out with the whole manifesting thing...she´s not one of my yogi friends, but is a sister nonetheless. 


We did have a sweet night´s stay in Navarra where there was only one other guest...a lovely Korean profesor who´d been there for 15 days with a bummed knee. Turns out his pack weighed almost as much as he did and he had to bail on the rest of the trip. We made a dinner together, and he taught us a few meditations before bed before I taught him a bit of yoga. It was truly a sweet Exchange and we realized that even though we didn´t speak each other´s languages, we spoke the language of good food and meditation...universal.


After hitting the fountain of wine in Rioja...let me explain: There is a fountain at a winery that offers free wine from a fountain. Because Kiara and I were so behind the rest of the crew, we hit the fountain at exactly the right momento in the late afternoon, armed with a bar of dark chocolate. Needless to say that took up another hour or so. After Logrono, we headed to the next town of Najera, where we spent the afternoon  by the river bank sipping wine and eating chocolate with a new friend Angelica. She´d just arrived from Germany to pick up where she´d left off last year and her friend had already gone ahead. I assured her that if she stuck with me, there would be no rushing. We had a terrible dinner, and celebrated Kiara´s last night in the main square, or Plaza Mayor with some White wine, watching all the kids play soccer. The next morning, Kiara walked me and Juan, my new friend from the Canary Islands to the bus, where he and I would catch a bus to the monasteries outside the city. I felt like I needed to be with someone else, because I knew how much I would miss Kiara. Juan called us the Camino Twins, and he understood when I spent most of the the morning crying. It was like the last day of camp saying goodbye to friends. She and I had a teary parting and I really struggled for the first couple of days without her. Something was missing. However, I know that this Camino has so many different stages and phases so I packed up my pity party and started a new party, with Juan and Angelica as my sidekicks. I´m realizing on this Camino that I am never really alone...there is always someone to talk to at meals and at hostals, and the connections here are created so quickly. The connections I´m making here are helping me learn so much, mostly about me.

"On the road again..." Willy Nelson 

So, as many of you know, this week's blog is actually about a week late, due to the fact that I have now been coined, "The Snail of the Camino" by my sister from another mister: Kiara. Not only did I take almost twice the amount of time to walk as I thought I would, but my blogs are about a week or two behind as well. Yup. I am pretty slow. 
Last week at this time, I was on a bus from Finisterre in Spain (otherwise known as "the end of the world", to Santiago. I had already touched down in Santiago the week prior, but had to return to catch a plane to Barcelona the following morning. The last couple of weeks of my walk were absolutely magical; not that the first part wasn't, but there was a different energy that pervaded over the last little bit, as I approached Santiago. I ran into a few people that I started the walk with, figuring that most people would have been finished eons before me (most of them were), and the magic of the Camino not only reunited me with those people, but new kindred spirits too. 
In Galicia, I met an amazing woman named Lioba, who ran the public albergue or hostal in La Faba, a tiny village. While there, she and I gathered chestnuts from her yard to roast, and made nettle soup. During dinner, I realized I had left my credentials (or pilrim's passport, with ALL of the stamps where I'd stayed, and got me into the public albergues), at the casa rural I'd stayed at the night before. I had a whole apartment all to myself so took time to clean and clear my bag, getting rid of old receipts and such. Within the pile of papers I'd put in the kindling pile beside the fire, was my credential. Oops. Luckily I had the woman's number so I called her to see if it was there. It was. Lioba took the phone from my hands and quickly made arrangements to drive down the following morning to pick it up for me and meet me in O'Cebreirosthe next day for lunch. What an angel. The next morning we did a yoga practice together before I headed out  on 3 hour hike to O'Cebreiros, without a pack. Liboba put my pack in her car and brought it to me at lunch. I can't tell you how amazing it felt to walk for a few hours (in the glorious sunshine, mind you) without any weight on my back. She is a true pilgrim and her family have history with the Camino, starting an albergue and walking the Way several times. She knew how important it was for me to get my credentials back. I was so grateful to have met her. She truly was like an angel for me, full of unconditional giving and love. 
Fast forward a few weeks later: the last few days before Santiago were magical and I befriended two amazing women, Pepe from Menorca, and Andrea from Brasil.  We walked alone during the days, but shared a room at night, which meant that we could have a private bathroom, and not sleep with big hairy dudes who snore like nobody's biz: heaven. Another two angels that entered my life; Pepe had told me that there was one Sunday a month where they used the big Botafumeiro, or big swinging metal container holding incense. And we could easily make it by Sunday. The last couple of days we found ourselves walking a bit slower, hugging more trees than usual, listening to the sound of the streams and rivers for a bit longer...not wanting the walk to end. It did finally, and we celebrated in Santiago with champagne, pulpo (the Galician specialty of octopus) and we recieved our Compostelas, or certificates with our names in Latin, saying that we had indeed walked the last 100km of the Camino. 
Pepe left on Monday for Finisterre, but I wasn't feeling great so I waited one more day to head out. I'm so glad I did because I got to see a sweet concert by the cathedral by Morag of Calgary, her beau and a couple of digeridoo players. I danced up a storm, and felt so much better by the end of the day. The next morning I headed out alone, ready to see Muxia, then Finisterre before the end of my trip. Unfortunately, I awoke the next morning sick as a poochie and had to take a bus to Muxia...there was no way I could walk, and my flight was already booked (note to self: never book anything until you are absolutely DONE your Camino, if possible.I digress. I ended up staying two nights in Muxia, which is absolutely stunning: the waves crashing upon the shore, the sacred rocks, the mellow people. On the second night I gave a little one-hour concert at the albergue whilst sucking on cough drops and sipping lemon water..."The show must go on!" That night, I was cursing the fact I'd booked my flight already, which meant I had to rush to Finnesterre when I wasn't feeling so hot. I looked at a poster on the wall and saw the words, "Are you ready to go home yet? Or do you need a few more days?" with a description of a post-Camino retreat in the country with a fabulous writer, and could stay by donation. I so wanted to stay, but couldn't get hold of the airline to check about changing my flight. In walked another angel: Manuel from Italy. Turns out he worked for the airline at one point, went online, and found a way for me to change my ticket so I could stay a few more days. With that, I booked my stay at the retreat...The next day I headed to the Little Foxy House" to stay with Tracy. 


Her house was perfect...tea, warm, cozy, books, music, a huge bed, bathtub, cute cats and homey food. Perfect. I stayed for two days, and then Tracy (yet another angel) drove me to Lieres, where I would walk the last 15km to Finnesterre. I really wanted to be able to walk into the town, even though I wasn't feeling great. The weather was picture perfect 18 degrees t shirt and sun weather as I made it to the beach at 5pm in time to put my feet in the water and watch the sun set into the sea. Angels were with me that day giving me the gift of the sun. 


The next morning I walked to the lighthouse and burned a few tokens of my journey: leaves, a journal entry, and my silk scarf I'd made from my sleeping bag liner. I decided to walk back the long way which I'd heard was more beautiful, to get the 3pm bus back to Santiago. Well, to say I got lost is a bit of an understatement...there were so many different logging roads and trails that I found myself at one point after walking over an hour, heading back to the lighthouse which I'd visited in the morning. I was swearing and cursing and coughing and just wanted to be back in town. It was at that moment I looked downhill and saw a makeshift house/tent and a squatter, putting up a tarp. I was a bit nervous to ask for his help, but at this point I was desperate and in a bit of a panic. So, I yelled an "Hola!" From the shelter appeared a bearded young man in his late 20s or early 30s with a smile that could burn away the Galician mist. He was a former monk and had been living in the bush for 2 months. He reassured me I was only 10 mins from town. When he found out I was from Canada he told me I had to go to the Hungarian albergue and say hello to Valentine, the dude who had been running the hostel. He was a good friend of Dennis' and was moving to Toronto in a few days. "You have to stop in and say hello from me. Please". I told him I'd try and meandered back into town with his directions. 
I figured I woudn't have time. It was now 1:30 and I thought there was no way I could go back to the hostal to get my things, get my compostella for Finisterre and then catch the bus. I did all this and saw it was 2:45 by the time I was at the bus station. I glanced up the road and saw the Port Fin Hungarian hostal so figured I could swing by to say hello to this Valentine fellow for Dennis. I rapped on the door three times, and a moment later a young handsome fellow opened the door. I started speaking in Spanish, but he asked me to speak in English. It was Valentine. He invited me in for a quick tea and was so grateful that I stopped by with salutations from his friend, and contact info from me. He was moving to Toronto in a few days and didn't know a soul there. We chatted for 10 minutes before he walked me to the bus. It pulled up. We hugged. A beautiful heart opening hug. I didn't want to leave and so I looked at the bus and said, "I can always take the 4:45 bus". And so, we sauntered into a restaurant where I ate and listened to his amazing stories of his life, and his Camino. We shared such an amzing 2 hours just listening to each others' stories. Again, he walked me to the bus and this time, I had to take it to get to Santiago that night. We shared a beautiful hug, a sweet kiss, and I got on the bus, smiling. He told me that I must be an angel for just stopping by, and for offering to help him with Toronto life. So many angels entered my life on the Camino that I like to think I can be an angel for someone else. 


This for me has been the magic of the Camino. Sharing time and stories. Exchanging energy and helping one another out.  It is this lesson that I bring home to Canada, then to Antigua, then to Peru...the essence of when we give unconditionally, we find ourselves the recipients of this unconditional giving as well. 
Question for You: When have you had an experience of TRUE giving lately in your life? When have you recently had something given to you and what did it mean to you? 


As always, I look forward to hearing from you and thank you with all my heart for coming along on my Camino. Much love and light, 
Sarah

"La vie en rose" Edith Piaf 

My first date in Paris with a Ventian named Marco was going reasonably well until he asked me if I'd consider taking money to sleep with him. For real. 
I met him alongside the Left Bank of the Scene on Saturday evening, after I'd spent a lovely couple of days with Lionel in the 11th arrondisemont. I'd met Lionel through my friend Ayline in Peru and he was a gracious amiable host. Not only did he feed me incredible goat's cheese and fantastic French bread (the best in Paris), but he also gave me a session of "Hair Therapy", whereby he used tarot cards, his intuition and my hair to help me move through blocks. It was incredible and I already feel so much lighter, which is good considering I'll be walking almost 800km over the next 6 weeks. 


Back to Marco: he was in Paris meeting his sister for a week of holidays. We met, chatted, bought a bottle of wine and snacks and sat alongside the river for a couple of hours. I was swept away with the romance of Paris and could have been a little more discerning I suppose. He seemed very short but sweet, but it turns out he was just short. Walking along the bank of the river we must have looked like an Italian Dudley Moore with one of his blond tall wives. I thought a little smooch wouldn't hurt anyone; I was very clear that we would just be kissing and holding hands and there would be nothing more. He was okay with that, until he wasn't I guess. I told him there would be no kisses if he smoked his cigarettes, which he seemed okay with for the first couple of hours. He was okay with that, until he wasn't. And so, after him sparking up a smoke and his not-so-romantic proposal inviting me to partake in the oldest profession in the world, I bit him a hasty adieu. I tried not to beat myself up about being so naïve so I sang "Je ne regrette rien" to make me feel better. It worked. I am only human after all. 
The next day I spent happily solo, and taught my first yoga class in French at the Lole boutique in Le Merais. I also romantically wining and dining myself in Paris and visiting all the sites. The hightlight was an amazing gospel show at an old Cathedral near the Champs d'elysees. It was pretty cool to sing about my little light shining, in the middle of an ancient church in Paris. Apres show I wandered into the Four Seasons and sat to take in some jazz by a trio before heading home to bed. Paris is amazing and beautiful, but I was ready for the country and ashram life. I was ready to go inward, wake up early for sadhana, chant in the ambrosial hours of the morning and ready to begin my journey: The Camino.

"I'm getting older too." Stevie Nicks 

As I sat with my Nana last week at her long-term facility, I had a strange occurrence. As I sat there massaging her worn and old 94-year old tootsies, with her lying in her bed, there was an infomercial on TV featuring Cindy Crawford and a doctor from France, called “The Youth Guru”. They had created a line of beauty products to restore skin and stop the aging process. Yes, they actually used the word: “stop”. I thought to myself: Are you kidding me?   I looked down and Nana and thought that we’re all going to end up here anyway, why are people trying to deny this? We are so obsessed with trying to stop the naturally aging process, which to me seems so very unnatural. As I sat with Nana, I wondered where the time went; it seems it was not so long ago that she was hopping on buses to come and see us in Barrie, after getting off planes from places like England, Sri Lanka and Florida, with treasures to share from her trips. These days, the only trips she is taking is down to the dining room to take her meals, and then the trips in her mind, which are currently bringing her back to her childhood days. She’s constantly reciting nursery rhymes, particularly, “Hey diddle, diddle,” which she usually just paraphrases into her now infamous phrase, “Over the Moon”. I have a feeling that she knows she’ll be going over the moon soon, and that her days here in this realm are limited.

What’s really interesting to me is that although she can’t remember what she had for lunch, which may have happened only 15 minutes prior to this, she can remember the words to most American Songbook tune, and other jazz standards. So, lately I go and sit at her electric piano, which is sitting in her room, and play “Name that Tune” with her. I’ll only have to play a couple of bars, and she’ll chime in with the lyrics, “…missed the Saturday dance, heard they crowded the floor….” It’s truly amazing. Hearing songs that she knows brings her comfort, and I can totally relate to that, as we all can I’m sure. Hearing that favourite Depeche Mode tune that you slow danced to with a certain someone at a patroller dance in grade 6, can bring you back to that time of innocence, when all you had to worry about was your next math test.

"It's no fun being an illegal alien." Phil Collins 

   
You can say that again. First off, I want to apologize to those friends who came to the fabulous Sun Ra on Tuesday night to see me. Sorry I couldn’t make it. I was in jail. Well, sort of. Funny how things change so quickly; last week I was posing with Pete Townsend, and this week found me detained in a cell. 
Last week’s blog reminisced about how I got off one boat in Guadaloupe and came back to Antigua with another boat. Easy. Uh…not so much, if you don’t know the protocol. Apparently I should have been signed off the first boat as a crewmember, and put on the list of the returning boat and cleared customs when I reached Antiguan shores. After telling a few people my saga, they suggested I find out what the deal was with customs. And so, on Tuesday morning, adorned in my yoga gear after a class I headed to English Harbour to clear up any confusion. My, my, you would think that turning 40 would dispel some of my naïveté, but alas. When I arrived and told them my story, my passport was taken and I was told to have a seat to wait until the supervisor came in later that afternoon. I was not allowed to go to the bathroom on my own (and for those of you who know my bladder capacity, you know that those officials had a lot of trips to and from the loo with me in tow), and sat for over two hours before the supervisor came in. I was escorted into the office to speak to James, a demure gentle man who seemed to understand my plight, and yet felt like his hands were tied and had to call his supervisor in St. John’s. I wrote out a statement, admitting that I unknowingly didn’t adhere to protocol, and thought I would just get a wee slap on the wrists with a “don’t do that again” warning. My blonde locks didn’t help me this time. Neither did the polite smiles, nor the tears that came later. Nothing was working and I found myself in an immigration paddy wagon late afternoon heading to St. John’s. 


Upon arrival there, I was “greeted” by the officials there who told me that I was now a stowaway and I’d have to wait to see their supervisor, who unfortunately had already left the office, meaning I’d have to stay in custody, overnight. The air conditioning, along with my slight dehydration and lack of food rendered me freezing, and was told that I could call someone to bring me food and clothes for the night because, “it gets pretty darn cold here at night.” Luckily, my friend and fellow yoga teacher Lyn came round the station equipped with an arsenal of necessities: chocolate being number one. It was going to be a long night. She, like me, was incredulous as to why I was being treated like a criminal, when I really hadn’t intentionally done anything wrong and had gone on my own accord to try to rectify the customs situation out myself. The officials had no real answers and basically just gave us the runaround. Lyn left her book for me, and I asked for some paper and a pen to write, but found it hard to concentrate. I meditated to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, and did some pranayama under the fluorescent lights and white walls of my “accommodation” aka: cell. I was even more upset as I’d been rehearsing a load of jazz standards to perform that evening in the harbour. At around 7:30, which was the time I was to start my performance, I did indeed give an a cappella performance and sang about 6 songs to the bewilderment of the officers at the front of the building. They could take my cell phone, my passport, and my freedom of mobility, but they could not take my voice…. “No they can’t take that away from me…” I noticed the officer sitting on the chair tapping his toes and swaying to my tunes, so at least somebody was happy. It certainly wasn’t me. I offered one of the women officers a piece of chocolate to try and bribe my way into good standing, and was dismayed when she took over half the bar of chocolate. This was simply too much. “Excuse me, but I said you could have a piece. If I’m in here all day, I’ll be needing that. Can you please just break off a smaller piece and return my chocolate to me?” She was a woman. She got it and meekly handed back my sugary treasure. 
  
My “bed” was a hard bench just over five feet long with a couple of old chair cushions fashioned as a pseudo-mattress, and my pillow was the blanket from the other cell. My feet dangled over the edge and constantly fell asleep throughout the long night.  They wouldn’t turn the lights out until after midnight so I tried to tie a shirt around my head to block out the lights, and sleep on my good ear to block out the hum of those lights. When I awoke, I laid the blanket on the floor and did an hour and a half yoga session followed by a meditation. At one point, one of the women came back to check on me, “You’re so quiet. I wanted to see if you were okay. What are you doing? Praying?” I told her I was doing yoga and her eyes perked up, “Okay now, show me some moves that I can do to get rid of this here belly,” she said as she patted her midriff. I told her to come in and I showed her a couple of asanas she could do to tighten up her flab. Man, these guys had it good, they got a free concert the night before and now were getting private yoga sessions. 
  
After 9:30am I was taken in to see the supervisor again who told me his supervisor wanted me out on the next flight. I had already deduced that telling the whole truth really wasn’t getting me anywhere so I held up my hands helplessly and told him all the West Jet flights were booked; I had already checked as I wanted to fly out a bit earlier to get home in time for my sister’s birthday. Luckily, he took my word for it without going online; I think he wanted me to be set free and keep my ticket because I heard him on the phone, “She’s got a ticket booked for February 12th…it’s not even 2 weeks away. All the other flights are booked.” By 11:00am I had a stamp on my passport dictating that I had to leave the country on the 12th and was not allowed back in the country for 6 months. 
  
“I guess this means I can’t really extend my flight, right?” I sort of bashfully smiled. “No miss. Your vacation is over.” 
  
I was ecstatic to get my passport and phone back and be taken to the bus terminal to head home to Marsh Village. Never before had freedom, which I have taken for granted for so long, been such a revered sensibility. I’m so used to going where I want to go, when I want to go that I really had a shift in my perspective and am so humbly grateful for the freedoms that I do have. I now sit at my friend Lucy’s overlooking the harbour, sipping tea, warm and fed, and am reflecting on how this experience has really shown me the power of community. I had people all over calling lawyers, willing to pull strings, worrying and caring about me and sending me good vibes. I’ve been fortunate to meet and befriend so many lovely people in my short stay here, and I’m already a bit melancholy with the prospect of leaving so soon. It could have been worse though and I could have got a $10000 fine and been on the next flight out. As it stands now, I think I’ll spend the afternoon on shore, set some new intentions for this new moon (which will probably include crossing all my t’s and dotting all my i’s when it comes to paperwork) and have a short siesta on a bed, with real pillows. Yes, life is good, and I can see that I am indeed blessed. Anyone else have any pirate stories or stowaway stories to share? Anyone else out there whose had a similar experience? Please share!