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The Reason I’m Leaving Home—Again

Two years ago I left my job, packed up my apartment, pared down my things, and drove around the country for a year. I slept in RV campgrounds, on couches, in Airbnbs, in hammocks, and in hayfields. I navigated solo for more than 15,000 miles.

I am the opposite of fearless. That trip was one of the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

It also gave me a lifetime supply of self-respect.

That trip taught me that fear, in most cases, isn’t worth accommodating, and that the limits of a comfort zone aren’t real limits at all.

That year and those adventures showed me the contents of my heart, and now I’m going to follow it.

The Head and the Heart

It seems to me there are two kinds of knowing: the kind with your head and the kind with your heart.

My culture reveres head knowledge and is skeptical and dismissive of heart knowledge, but heart knowledge is the sort we’ve had since the beginning of time, and it’s the sort we need. People have a funny way of repressing the stuff they need the most.

Accessing heart knowledge means seeing, naming, and facing down our fears. Not easy. To grow requires dropping below the story we tell ourselves every day about our lives and about the world. Not easy. It means admitting that there’s a lot we don’t know and choosing to move forward anyway.

The first thing we don’t know is what we’re actually capable of.

On the Road Again

I’m moving to Boulder, Colorado because my heart says to do it. I want to be the person I’m capable of becoming.

I’ll join a small start-up in the farming community with friends I made WWOOFing in 2017. My housing, income, and future are all unknown. I’m scared, sure. But I have fear’s kryptonite now—faith. I choose to believe in what my heart has to say.

Come see me in the mountains!

 

 

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Still Alive

Sorry, blogosphere!!! I’m still alive. I’ve been way better about my Instagram than anything long-form.

My last post was about my teacher training in June, and in it I wrote that I was stoked to be heading back to the shala in October.

Well… it’s October. And I’m back at the shala gearing up to start the first intensive of our 500hr training. (I’m still stoked.)

In between then and now I spent two weeks living in a garden shed in the middle of a cow pasture in southern Colorado; a week with a bunch of rad young people and an even cooler farmer outside of Boulder; a few days trekking through the Wind Rivers in the most stunning country I’ve ever seen with my own eyes; a month on a bison ranch plopped down in an expanse of yellow prairie with town no closer than 30 minutes in either direction; and a week road-tripping through the PNW with stops for lakeside camping, catching up with old friends, and park exploring.

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Maybe the best part of this trip hasn’t been the variety and the freedom but the grounding that comes with knowing that happiness isn’t necessarily the result of variety and freedom; it’s a place one arrives at internally, decisively, and independently.

It’s hard to believe how soon things will be winding down.

In a moment of fear I found myself wondering, “Will staying in one place and going back to work mean that I’m no longer this strong, adventurous, capable person?”

Nah.

If anything, this year has taught me better how to listen and how to act on what moves me. Circumstances won’t always be so ideal or so idyllic, and that’s OK—necessary, even. I’ve done a lot of growing this year, and it doesn’t stop here. Luckily, I’m not done traveling quite yet.

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Teacher Training Takeaways

This is where I’ve spent the past two months—first as a WWOOFer, then as a yoga teacher in training. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be returning in the fall to continue with my advanced training.

I don’t know how to sum up everything I’ve learned so far, but here are some takeaways:

  1. We’ve forgotten how to use our bodies as they were built. Sitting and standing with backs and necks rounded puts undue pressure on delicate joints of the cervical and lumbar spine. By repeatedly sitting and standing this way, we tell our bodies over and over that this is the posture we want. The body compensates by taking load into the joints, creating tension and pain. A neutral spine is your best friend, whether you want to do asana or just feel better in everyday life.
  2. If you do want to do asana, carry a neutral spine into every posture. Advanced postures like backbend still require an internal awareness of neutral spine and the actions that help the body move toward it. This has humbled my physical practice hugely. It has also kept it safe.
  3. I have no right to the consequences of my actions, only the action itself. All I can do is act openly, honestly, sensitively, intimately, and generously. The rest is up to somebody else. The Universe. Spirit. God. Whatever you want to call it. I used to think this made me weak. Now I understand how much strength it takes.
  4. The only thing about me that has never changed is awareness. My physical body, thoughts, emotions—all have changed, some radically, with time. But this sense of a self, of consciousness, has always been steady. It’s possible to become aware of this awareness itself. When I do, everything goes silent. This is grace. It’s the most comfortable and freeing place I’ve ever been.
  5. Anti-fragility is the goal: steadiness of mind, strength of body, ease of being. Dedication and devotion are the means. “You don’t do what you want to do by doing anything else,” Matt says.

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There is a path in this for me somewhere.

I will miss waking up to the three horses asking for their breakfast. I will miss the trail that winds down past Haleigh’s yurt and Sarah’s cabin before turning left and meandering up to Miles’ place with the epic view of Arkansas’ hills. I’ll miss the white-pebbled beach of Steel Creek and its turquoise water. I’ll miss laughing with Sarah in her garden cabin and swinging on the porch after dinner. I’ll miss the dogs: Skipper, Little Mama, Delilah, Cooper, Bella, Atlas, Scout, Baby, Poe, and Seabass. I’ll miss riding bareback through the woods with Holly. I’ll miss Matt’s hardass approach to kindness. I’ll miss the shady pavilion practice space and the support of my teachers and peers. I’m so glad I get to come back.

Tuesday I leave for Colorado. The unknown still scares the shit out of me. I don’t think that will ever change, so I just feel it now and keep going anyway.

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Postcard from Arkansas

In yoga teacher training—we’re closing out week three of four—we’ve been talking about how the will won’t ever be enough alone. Matt asks: “Have you ever noticed how even in your best efforts, you can’t live up to your highest ideals?” I had a lot of ideas about what and how much I’d be doing by now that I haven’t. That’s sort of the long way of saying I’m sorry for not writing.

Here’s the short version: Thanks to Tennessee, I know I want land and to grow my own food. Thanks to Arkansas, I know I want to know more about yoga and that I’d like to teach. Thanks to the road time in between, I know that I’m actually the kind of person I’ve always admired. I want to keep going.

Plans for the second half of the year are shifting a little. I’m still not sure about how much or when, and it’s that liminal space that makes me squirm—that damn Unknown. Still, where I used to freak about making the right decision, I think I get it now that they’re all right. They just go different places.

There’s a limit to striving. At a certain point it isn’t up to me and what a relief.

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Camper Life

When I was a kid, I’d always leave the kitchen cupboards open. It drove my stepdad insane. Now that my whole living space is about half the size of that kitchen, I understand why.

Lesson 1 of camper life: Always close the cupboard doors.
Lesson 2: Sweep. Two, three, four times a day. Work pants live on the porch.
3. Everything has a home. Always put a thing in its right home.
4. Basically, don’t make a mess.
5. Go outside.

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They match!

Between the farming and the paddling I’ve been sleeping like a dead person when I do retreat to my cozy little trailer. My body is feeling it, for sure. Of all the things I thought to pack for this trip, I’m very grateful I remembered a foam roller.

It occurred to me that if you don’t know how to be grateful for what you do have (and that can include a bright yellow piece of foam), you won’t notice when you finally get what you’re after. You’ll keep making the future responsible for your happiness when the honey’s been on your fingers all along.

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Cheesin’ on my first paddle of the season

So, WWOOFing. It’s awesome.

We start work most mornings at 7AM, and it’s pretty sweet that my commute is all of a step off my porch. I head into the house for some breakfast and then Stephanie, my host mom, and I go out together. Trish, who works on the farm full time, usually pulls up shortly after. Some mornings we harvest for restaurants; sometimes we seed or transplant or clear beds. The chickens get fed, eggs collected. The sun is up and hot in just a couple hours.

Stephanie is amazing and nothing less. From her I’ve been learning about soil health, gut health, medicinal herbs, essential oils, sourdough, kombucha making, DIY cleaning supplies, homeschooling, hard work, and patience. She’s a phenomenal farmer, cook, wife, mother, and mentor. Nothing gets her ruffled.

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Sometimes the best cell reception is on the tractor

I am Soaking. This. Up. I don’t yet have words for how grateful I am to spend my days this way. Even in a few moments of homesickness I am stuffed with Thank You.

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Sustainable Farming in Southwest Virginia

Last Friday, I met my friend Kai in downtown (if you can call it that) Abingdon. It was a short walk from the historic Barter Theatre to the local brewery where we sat at a picnic table looking in.

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I know Kai because she WWOOFed at Taproot, my aunt and uncle’s farm in West Virginia. She’s done really cool work with refugee growers in Baltimore, and now she’s interning at TNT Farms, a cattle and chemical-free vegetable operation not far from her old job at the Harvest Table Farm in Meadowview, VA.

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TNT is run by Tamara and Tony. We spent most of our time with Tamara, whom I met frying eggs. She’s tall and lean with a long ponytail and an awesome, quiet grin. On top of her more-than-full-time work on the farm, Tamara is a yoga teacher who also works with Appalachian Sustainable Development. In the morning we hung flyers in town for a women-in-agriculture group she’s organizing. In the afternoon we helped her and Tony with their high tunnel frame. (“A big screwbaru,” Tamara called it.) We got held up when the bull and a few calves escaped the pasture and she went sprinting up the hill.

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Those two days left an impression—maybe because it was my first day of farm work and it felt amazing to be out in the weather; maybe it was the stormy view from the greenhouse, which sits up on a hill; maybe it was this badass woman in her shredded Carhartt living a life of her choosing. Not sure, but I was happy to be there. My trip nerves disappeared the second I stepped out of Kai’s camper and caught sight of the hills.

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Loco and three-legged Mischief

Early Sunday I left for Tennessee and the River House Farm. I’ve followed Melissa on Instagram for a while, and when I posted about my trip she offered to trade a night in her super cute airbnb for some farm help. She and her boyfriend Severian live in an early twentieth century farmhouse and grow veggies right out their back door as well as on a plot down the road. Melissa teaches cooking classes for local teenagers and hosts a supper club, too. I’m learning that this farming business is rarely, if ever, just farming.

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Chilly early morning at the River House Farm

Melissa has pretty much the most epic bathroom ever. After squatting for a few hours top-dressing vegetable beds, this tub was heaven. My body is still getting used to things.

THANK YOU to Kai, Tamara, Tony, Melissa, and Severian. Wishing you guys the best of luck with your seasons.

Now I’m here outside Nashville at an impressive no-till farm that I can’t wait to tell you more about. This is my little home:

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The one downside is that I’m a half hour from any decent wi-fi connection. More soon.

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Charlottesville

It’s been so nice to hang with my brother and sister-in-law in their beautiful home here in Charlottesville. Duke is at Darden, UVA’s business school, and I got to take class with him for the afternoon. It almost made me miss school… almost. I might like to go back to university one day, but for now I don’t need a campus to do my learning.

A 71º day begged for some outdoor yoga. I’m looking forward to lots more of this soon.

PSA: If you’re ever on the downtown walking mall, Draft is pretty sweet. 60 taps and they charge you by the ounce, so you can taste lots of beers. Fun!

Today I’ve got a 6+ hour drive to southwest Virginia. I think it’s only 3-some on the interstate, but ew, interstates. This feels sort of like the official launch of things, and I’m stoked.