Pilgrimage for Healing
Ashtanga Yoga, Bucket List, Buddha, Buddhism, Goals, India, Pema Chodron, Recovery, Tiffany Lee, Travel, Yoga, Yoga N' Spice

Pilgrimage for Healing

I must admit that I feel a little bashful posting this. I have thought that perhaps it seems selfish, crazy, or just unbelievable. I have written for quite sometime now that I wished I would post more frequently, but now I have more of a motivation. This is a lengthy post, but I wanted to explain my reasoning thoroughly. Please help us, if you can, whatever you can offer, get to India/Nepal. Here’s my detailed story behind it:

Pilgrimage for Healing

Pilgrimage in India. Photo courtesy of Seth Lagner and Sati Shannon Rose Chmelar

Why:

For anyone who has ever suffered from an addiction, a loss of direction, or just felt like you couldn’t get out of bed; you have experienced the nature of suffering. At one point, we have all experienced heavy emotions and for many, it passes or we press on. Some find taking up a new hobby, experience, or relationship can fill that space. For others, we may attempt to fill that void with self-destructive afflictions. Regardless of the direction hard times have taken you, no one is unscathed from pain, sadness, frustration or fear. All of us carry suffering deep within our tissues and memories. Our body and mind does not forget and forever more, our choices and words are often dictated by things that have pained us or that we have not learned how to let go or accept.

In this way, we can all relate. Through this, we all share a very common and vulnerable bond. Many of us hide behind our fear of repeating mistakes, failure, inadequacy, money, and so on. Yet, if we were able to tap into the nature of this suffering and find the freedom within that vulnerability, I imagine we might feel a great sense of relief and peace with the way things are.

Pilgrimage for Healing

India pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Seth Lagner and Sati Shannon Rose Chmelar

About me and this, in a nutshell:
During my adolescent years, my emotional awareness of myself and others led me to believe I wasn’t good enough. Like many of my peers, I started to experiement with alcohol. Going to parties provided a false notion that I belonged in a community, which quickly developed into sexual involvment with many other adolescent boys. None of us obviously bore the knowledge of the detrimental effects that having multiple sex partners can do to a person, especially a teenager. When I was 18, I found peace in God and returned to Christiantiy for refuge from my confusion.

Once in University,“God” no longer was enough. The seed of inadequacy had already grown, and I was looking for wholeness. I wanted to belong and suffered for not feeling like I did. It was there I discovered the treachery of bulimia, which would become a hidden source of painful comfort that would torment me for the next ten years.

Unfortunately, therapists, doctors, a short-lived cocaine addiction, and a revisit to the Christian faith brought me no solace. Searching, I stumbled into my first yoga class and the journey of seeing myself in a new light started to slowly unravel. Yoga did not initially bring me peace, but something about the practice and the community intrigued me. People looked amazing at various ages and cared for themselves. I even found myself free of my eating issues for nearly 2 years.

Sadly, it all came apart my first time abroad. My yoga journey to India was supposed to have been the place where I would find “God” and myself. I was at a loss. I had traveled so far to realize that I had gone nowhere.

Pilgrimage for Healing

Teaching yoga in South Korea in 2011 at Wall Street English.

Feeling an urge to escape, I believed a change of scenery would make me whole again. With the longing to be open to new things, I landed in South Korea. Accordingly, my eating disorder followed. There I managed to connect with the yoga community and start teaching my first ashtanga yoga classes. But, my bulimia still ailed me. It saddens me the way my suffering prevented me from just living. My secret caused me to alienate myself whenever possible. It was when I happened to listen to some of Pema Chodron’s buddhist talks that things began to shift.

She spoke of working with the nature of the mind, instead of fearing it. It is when you come to know your own suffering, you can relate better with the world. It was the first time I had heard that I could use my suffering as a vehicle for compassion and connection with others. I had never considered attempting to understand the nature of suffering. The entire time, I had been doing everything to avoid it.

Pilgrimage for Healing

Photo courtesy of Christian Bernert and Sati Shannon Chmelar

So where am I today and what do I want to do?

As for yoga, the physical practice has tested my willpower in many ways. After having had to practice alone for so many years, yoga has been a testament to discipline and faith that I clung to hope for peace within. Perhaps self indulgent to be so consumed by a physical discipline, the yoga posture works towards the ability for us to be one with who we are, instead of a disconnected bystander. It also teaches us that the impossible is possible.

Love has brought me wholeness too. Outside my family, who suffered greatly when I was in the midst of my personal angst, my best friend and fiance has been life’s greatest instrument of unconditional love and compassion. He has never tried to change or fix me, rather has only accepted me for where I was and helped to find a way to direct me in a healthier path.

Even so, to be a good partner, lover, friend and caretaker of myself, I have needed to learn the tools to nourish me. It is beyond advanced yoga postures and it far surpasses inspirational quotes, self-help books, therapy and drugs. The greatest gift brought to me from my near 10 years of bulimia was understanding the nature of suffering and the mind.

Pilgrimage for Healing

Love, acceptance and non judgment has been the greatest healing on my life.

Some never journey this far with their suffering, but we have all experienced it to different degrees. Shoving aside or pressing through has never been a solution for me though. I have been seeking an understanding and a reconciliation with my mind.

I am not a therapist nor do I posses the proper education or credentials to equip someone else on their journey through suffering. However, it is my wish to have the ability to give back by directing others through wisdom and helping discover the right direction for their journey to peace. Religion or not, I think the principles of the yoga practice and Buddhist philosophy offer useful, life saving techniques towards finding tranquility and contentment during difficult times.

From the other perspective, my partner has been witness to my suffering. He has held space for me all these years, expressing his desire to understand and love me unconditionally. He is an example for those who do have a healthy relationship with themselves. However, none of us are untouched and if we do not experience suffering to such a deep extent, we probably know someone very close to us who does.

Pilgrimage for Healing

Help us go to India! Photo courtesy of Christian Bernert and Sati Shannon Chmelar.

What/Where/When:
In February of 2015, a pilgrimage to the heart of dharma in Nepal and India will be led by the Vasudhaiva Institute. The journey will take us to the 8 major sites of the Buddha along with a focus of the lineage, comparative study and cultural immersion. Additionally, we’ll also be exploring our own ashtanga yoga practices in more depth under the guidance of Sati.

Yoga is the vehicle for healing the body, both inside and out. Meditation, or finding peace with the mind, is the avenue for healing of the mind. This is a journey of self study that will enable us to share it externally through our own teachings, both yoga instruction and food.

Additionally, we plan on wedding summer of 2015! We look to this pilgrimage for healing as a way to set up a solid framework and prepare ourselves for a life of love and marriage.

How your support would help:

Your contribution would help us better equip ourselves so we can share our experience, which will hopefully have a healing affect others. After this trip, our goal is also to integrate food into our work and bring joy with all the senses to every meal. The last component for my healing has been making peace with food. After battling food for so long, I have come to realize that I have a great love of it. So, it is a great gift to be able to use what I so long feared to serve and nourish others. I will use my writing to document the journey, write and blog, as well as apply the learned knowledge to developing Yoga n’ Spice and help others find balance and healing.

We’re attempting to raise $6,000. When I think about how many friends we both have on Facebook, if everyone gave $5, we’d be set, but not everyone cares or has the ability so I’m reaching out to cyberspace!

Yes, it is expensive, but this is the real deal and a very comprehensive journey. It is demanding of us (we will have to do a lot of self study prior) and will give back to us in an even richer way. Sati is an amazing teacher and friend, so I sincerely hope we’re able to make this a reality.

Thank you for taking the time to read this through…and a thousand thank you’s if you feel so compelled to support. For more questions, please write me.

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Tips for Immigrants in Sweden
Expat, Pine Tribe, Scandinavia, Scandinavian Culture, Sweden, Tiffany Lee

Tips for Immigrants in Sweden

Yes, once again I have changed the format of my blog. Shortly, I will be moving my blog soon over to our new site, but I’ll let you know when that happens (if anyone is even still reading).

I can’t believe it is August already. I love summer. Many Swedes think summer here is so beautiful, but it many ways, it only makes me long for summer in San Diego. The weather in southern Sweden, although mild in temperature, is irregular. One day of bright sunshine and blue skies could be followed by torrential rainfall and wind. People often ask me if I like living in Sweden, and other then because of love and we thought it would be easier to get a visa, it has proven to be a difficult transition.

Tips for Immigrants in Sweden

However, I am now in a balancing act with everything that is happening. My days are filled. School, my internship and job are equally absorbing my time and energy, leaving little time for my yoga practice and/or fun with my boyfriend. However, we manage to do the best we can with the time we have each day. (If you are interested in what I’m doing for my internship, go to this link and scroll for the articles with my name, I have been writing there on a weekly basis since April).

One of the greatest things this summer is that I finally got a job. Being an ashtanga practitioner, we often don’t often intermingle with other yoga forms. However, in a moment of desperation, I contacted yoga studios within the city to see if there was any need for a receptionist. Low and behold, I am doing reception work at a hot yoga studio. I have taken a few classes so far and I have actually really enjoyed it. Reception work is not my dream job, but it is something for now.

One thing I have to say is that the life of an immigrant is not easy in Sweden. If you didn’t move to Sweden to be a student, moving here for love or asylum makes life challenging. Most SAMBO’s (cohabitation with partner) who are foreigners struggle to find their niche.

Here are some tips I have learned as an immigrant in Sweden:

1. Learn the Language

Unfortunately, there is a waiting time for SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, but once you are able to start taking classes, the pace of life will become more interesting. Since most people find it difficult to secure a job immediately (or within the first year) after arriving, attending language classes is a great way to meet other people in similar situations and begin integration. While I haven’t studied for so long, just learning a little has helped tremendously for simple things when I’m out and about. Additionally, the language is NOT easy. The grammar is all a big mess to me, but I am hoping that things will start to smoothen out soon enough.

If you can’t take classes or master the language, just learning a little of the local language, will make your transition into Swedish culture much easier!

Tips for Immigrants in Sweden

2. Speak English

When all else fails, if you can, speak in English! Unfortunately, English is a big reason why I probably have it loads easier than a lot of immigrants from non-English speaking countries. My internship is in English and my job does not require Swedish. Depending on the country, going around speaking in English might be a disservice. However, in most of the major European cities, English is helpful though. Keep in mind, some of the older Swedes are afraid to speak in English. This is not always the case though, but do not be surprised if some seem unwilling to help or respond to you in Swedish. Just look for someone else to ask if necessary.

3. Put yourself out there

This is something I would recommend anywhere. I know it is so scary, but you have to be friendly. Similarly, be sensitive. Swedes are not typically outwardly, friendly people. If you see a Swede on the street, do not be surprised or disappointed by the lack of warmth you may receive. However, if you can manage to break the ice, I have found a great majority of them to be really kind. A good way to break the ice is to host a get together with people you have met that you’re interested in cultivating a friendship. Swedes stick together with friends they have known since childhood, so you will find that once you’re apart of a group, some of them have known each other for a long time.

Tips for Immigrants in Sweden

4. Apply, Apply, Apply

Other students I have met from all over (albeit, a mass majority from the Middle East) often ask me how I got a job here, especially so quickly. While, I do not think it was that quick, I realize that I secured an internship 1 1/2 months after getting my residency and a paying job within 4 1/2 months. I did this by relentlessly applying. I have no tricks up my sleeve and quite frankly, very little experience with what I was applying for, but I persevered. Send out your resume and CV to everyone! Look to LinkedIn for companies within the area that might be of interest to you and just send them a mail. You might not get a response, most likely not, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

5. The system

There is a tricky thing about moving to a new country and that is that you have to abide by the laws. In Sweden they have something called the personal number *personnumer* which is similar to the U.S. social security number. You must get this number if you ever expect to get a job, a bank account, go to school, or just be apart of life.

6. The bank account

You cannot open a bank account without a personal number. You cannot get online banking, which basically means, you won’t have access to an ATM card or online banking, until you have a salary. Handelsbanken apparently does not have this requirement though and I have heard they have remarkable customer service. I made the mistake of opening an account with Swedbank. Swedbank, perhaps all the others as well, will charge you for using their online banking and getting a bank card. I have been frustrated by their lack of customer support and general timeliness. Farewell, free easy banking and amazing customer service, I have been spoiled in the states.

7. Be patient, but not stagnant!

Don’t sit at home waiting for something to happen. Well, if you sit at home, do something! If you’re lonely, accept this is the way things are for now. Find something to occupy your time, create ways to not sink into despair. It is not easy moving to a new place. Even if you have a Swedish partner, they probably will have to go to work at a certain point. Friends will come, but it takes time! Join a gym, pick up a new hobby, or just start reading!

8. Intermingle

If at all costs, do not only stick within your own. You’re no longer in your home country, stop trying to recreate everything that you once had there. Perhaps, it will make you feel less homesick, but to a new home, you have to immerse yourself in the culture. Sometimes this might only mean going for a walk in the neighborhood or visiting a new restaurant every so often, you will eventually have to meet some of the locals.

Tips for Immigrants in Sweden

Hopefully these tips for new immigrants to Sweden, or anywhere else will come in handy. I find that the mass majority of them could have been applied when I lived in South Korea.

Images from herehere, herehere

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Noma Copenhagen
Food, Gastronomy, Michelin Restaurant, Pine Tribe, Scandinavia, Scandinavian Culture, Tiffany Lee

Return of the World’s Best Restaurant: Noma

One of my favorite travel foodies, Anthony Bourdain, visited the best restaurant in the world, Noma. Noma is actually nearby where I work at Pine Tribe in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, I haven’t been fortunate enough to eat here.

I don’t know how to plug my full post here, so I’ll share an excerpt:

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: Copenhagen episode features Noma’s, René Redzepi, and the man behind the world-class restaurant. If you are unfamiliar, Bourdain is an American chef, author, and television personality. He’s gained a culinary bad boy image by openly expressing his opinion and visiting places that most culinary celebrities wouldn’t dare. Bourdain constantly goes against the grain as he supports many chefs around the world who are taking a non-traditional approach. Bourdain gave a cultural glimpse into the world of Scandinavia when Redzepi, who seemed quite normal and humble in nature, highlighted the preliminary lack of support he felt from the Danish community.


To see the complete article, learn about the restaurant, and learn about jantelagen (an age-old Scandinavian mindset), go here.

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Malmö Turning Torso
Pine Tribe, Scandinavia, Scandinavian Culture, Tiffany Lee, Yoga N' Spice

When Cultural Immersion Begins

As I said in my last posts, the past 6 months have been rough. We’ve been unemployed, moving from place to place, and money has been tight. However, we’ve had a lot of support from within the community. Friends have let us stay with them and there have been others that have not really understood the depth of our situation, yet still just provided a nice time. I’m so grateful for Swedish people!

Truthfully, the stress of moving to a new place (country) and trying to get settled has put our relationship in a tough place. I regretfully admit the number of distressing conversations have been a good majority because of me and my fears. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the difficulties of immersing into a new culture, despite it still being a western country.

A Swedish woman had shared an old Swedish adage with me, “gott ska till goda komma,” or  that good things come to good people. With all of our fights, I was beginning to think this quote wasn’t applicable to me or my situation. I don’t know if it’s the laws of physics or karma, but I think tough stuff can only happen for so long before things start to take a turn for the better.

I know it’s no excuse, but in case you haven’t heard from me or us, this is why:

Morning Mysore Classes (Undervisning)

When I got notification that I finally was able to start Swedish languages classes, we promptly decided to stop our morning mysore program. This was for many reasons, but two were that I wouldn’t have the time  because of school and with our present financial circumstances, we both just needed to get some steady income from regular work. I’m sorry to our one dedicated student, Maria, I hope we’re able to teach you again in the future.

All in all, I just want to be a student right now and I am…

SFI – Svenska för Invandrare

After 8 or 9 weeks on the waiting list, I started at SFI or Svenska för Invandrare (Swedish for Immigrants). Long story short, Sweden offers free language classes for new immigrants. My course is 4 hours every morning, 4 days a week. Tuesdays I’m free, which is typically my day to go to Copenhagen for my internship. When I’m not studying or writing, I’ve been teaching a Spanish woman English. Language immersion is accelerating my life, but it’s also connecting me to cultures I never would’ve ever come into contact elsewhere. People from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, etc…we have a lot of fun in class too, despite language barriers.

Work (Arbete)

A friend within the law community connected B with a full-time job, called hemtjänst or assisted living. He visits elderly, makes sure they are fed, washed, administers medicine, etc. He has expressed his conflict with giving drugs as we try to be as natural as possible in our daily lives. The irony is that most of his coworkers smoke and eat junk food. I wonder why they don’t see the correlation, the “nurses” now will become those they are caring for if they keep up their present lifestyle. Do people just give up or is it really that people are so unaware?

I was expressing to B that this job has it’s value and importance in the community. He’s not just maintaing people and keeping them alive with drugs, there’s an opportunity to share and give something that isn’t discussed in his training. However, I understand his frustrations and angst about feeding unhealthy food or pharmaceuticals to sick people. I’ve started reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and it addresses our views of aging and dying. It talks about the value of hospice work because it gives practical and emotional care. Where B can make a difference is finding a way to give something more profound though, something in the form of spiritual comfort.

Pine Tribe

My internship is going well and I’m still really happy to be working with Pine Tribe. I’m not sure if this will actually result in a potential work opportunity or if I am just that, an intern. Either way, learning Swedish and the experience I have and will further gain with Pine Tribe will hopefully land me a job in the autumn.

On top of language classes, my internship, I also will hopefully be starting a part time job as a receptionist at a yoga studio. I’m just ready to be contributing to things financially as I feel it’s an unfair burden for B to carry on his own.

Yoga N’ Spice

Malmö Redhawks

I’ve lost steam with this project, we had been tirelessly contacting companies without having much result. But, after nearly 7 weeks of correspondence, we’ve finally landed a teaching gig with the Malmö Redhawks, the professional hockey team in the city.

This excites me in so many ways because for a long time I’ve wanted to teach yoga to athletes and businesses. We’re hoping other opportunities will develop in this area, but again, it’s summer and in Scandinavia (or perhaps Europe), everything sort of stops.

And no, our website is still not how I want it to be, but I don’t really care so much at the moment.

Apartment (Lägenhet)

We finally have our own place. The bed isn’t the nicest. Did I mention Swedes have really small beds? Despite being the land of Ikea, people still seem to stick with 120 cm size bed in a lot of apartments we viewed. If you’re American, this is something between a twin or single size bed and a double. It’s a nice temporary solution for the summer, but we’re a bit tight in the sleeping situation. C’mon, albeit I’ve had some big bed sizes in the past, but this is a bit small. We’re in a great location though, not too close or too far from the center of the city. We’re aiming to move to our official place come September.

Torrey Pines State Beach San Diego

Despite the weather in Sweden being nicer in June, I still am nostalgic for summer in San Diego.

All in all, the structure and routine of school, my internship, getting a part time job, B’s full time job and random yoga gigs here and there are enough to keep us busy for while. I’m thankful to have stuff happening. The momentum is picking up and I’m starting to feel like immersion is becoming a reality. Although, I’m feeling like the pendulum is swinging the opposite direction. I’ve gone from having not so much to do to having far too much. As B always says, ‘you have to swing out of balance to find balance.’

Truthfully though, I feel so spread thin with my friends. I’m sorry to all my friends in other countries. It’s so hard to stay connected with everyone with all the time zones, in addition to try to develop a life and friendships here. It’s hard to not lose touch with a lot of you. You’re still in my heart though!

Ahead this month are many fun all Swedish things. Midsommar is right around the corner, something I must post about as we’ll be doing it really Swedish this year. Happy June! I’m so ready for you summer!

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Hanging upside down
Life, Scandinavia

Survival tips of the smallest

I just want to express my sincerest gratitude for all the sweet emails and kind words I’ve received since my other post.  I have used my blog as a vehicle to express what’s really going on, which means, I have made myself completely vulnerable to the moment that things are happening when I share.  With this, I’d like to say that things are fine, we’re doing okay.  I’m not in a puddle of despair and I’m positive that things are bound to make a shift for the better.  Seriously, I really feel this.

With that, this situation is all too familiar to me (emotionally) because I’ve been moving around so much the past 5 years.  It takes time to get settled and re-settled in every country.  I think this might be the biggest challenge that I’ve been up against though because I came here without an income or apartment.  Alas, I’m feeling honestly okay and though we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us, we’ll manage someway.

Open Arms

Now is really the perfect time for me to just be open to things as they come, but of course, there’s a few things I’m also doing to not fall apart.

So a few tips for my basic survival:

  • Find something everyday to be grateful.  At the moment, it’s the beautiful tulips on the street, the knowledge that I have my boyfriend by my side and the amazing coffee bar I’m writing from. I love you Djänke! My fellow American readers, try pronouncing Djänke!
  • Exercise. Walking on the streets and my yoga practice has been a lifesaver.  Getting a bit of energy and blood flowing does wonders for a weak or tired mind/heart.  Be sure to go outside.  It’s easy to get small in yourself and think you’re the only thing that matters, go outside and you’ll see, you’re not alone.
  • Sit in silence.  Let yourself just sit for 10 minutes and breath.  Yes, you breathe all the time, but how often are you aware of your breathing, the sound, the length.  How about your posture, your shoulders?  Give yourself a few moments to sink into being present with yourself.
  • Care for yourself.  Typically, for me this is a time when I’d find myself indulging in sugar.  However, because I’m doing a project for Pine Tribe, so I’m avoiding refined sugar at all costs right now.  This also includes avoiding the consumption of alcohol and I’m reducing my intake of caffeine.  Eat fresh food and your brain and body will function better under stress.
  • Meet Friends. Not so you can wallow in self pity and complain, but so you can share what’s happening.  Additionally, familiar faces offers a lot of support, even if you don’t feel like airing all your garbage.
  • Making New Friends

    Meeting friends within the is a great way to handle the waves in life

  • Do something familiar that is completely enjoyable and can be done from home.  For me, I love watching films.  I’m a huge film fanatic.  So, I like to unwind with a good movie or TV show.  Perhaps a better choice would be to pick up a book and read, but there’s just so many great TV shows out there right now, I can’t bring myself to do it!  Remember, home should be a safe place, not a place to avoid, even if alone.

 

Hanging upside down

Also, the woman we live with has a soft heart.  She has been trying to approach us since the “blow-out.”  After sort of avoiding being in the apartment since Monday, I decided that this was really immature.  We both are very sensitive, my boyfriend and I, and we forgive quickly.  So, I offered to give her a hug yesterday and with that the situation here melted.

We’re still going to move out though :-).  Time for yoga and then a road trip!

 

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Ashtanga Yoga, Pine Tribe, Scandinavia, Sweden, Yoga N' Spice

Rough Beginnings Again

Things haven’t been easy of late. Talk about a rough beginning: a new country, a new culture, a new job, new friends, new housing, what more could you mix together at one time?

For a quick update, allow me to compartmentalize my life into a few details:

Housing.

Apartment in Central Malmö

Our old school apartment in Malmö, Sweden

I haven’t lived in the same place for more than 3 months in over 2 years. I’m sick of moving. We had made the hasty and poor decision to move in with a grandma. It seemed ideal at the time, she was nice and said we’d each live our own lives and not get too involved. However, it’s been on her terms since the beginning. The house has such a heavy energy, from everything from the mismatched decorations to the floral choice of dishware.  But, it’s not the decor that makes the space hard. Upon moving in, we weren’t aware that she smoked. To my understanding she didn’t mention it because she thought we wouldn’t smell it since she smoked on the balcony. Not the case.

A huge factor is that our schedules are the opposite, which she thinks is unusual on our part. I found out she’s my Dad’s age, when I had guessed it to be at least 10 years older. My Dad is on a routine though, he goes to bed at a decent hour and thinks sleeping in is 7:30 am. Fair enough, we go to sleep rather early. It’s 8pm most nights because we get up early (somewhere around 4am) to do yoga and teach. However, she has no routine, other than sitting (or laying) on the couch, glued to the TV,watching classics like Dr. Phil, Rich Housewives of New York or somewhere else, and Gordon Ramsey. This couch party starts around 5 pm to some hour deep into the night. Some days she goes to sleep at 4 or 5 am and then typically never emerges from her bedroom until around 2 or 3 pm. I must say, it’s not often I meet someone who sleeps as many if not more hours than they’re awake.

Either way, there have been nice moments, but everything fell apart recently in regards to something that in my opinion could’ve easily been resolved: booking times for the laundry. A bit of an explosion in Swedish later, we were asked to move out by the end of May. We’ve decided to try to move out sooner, which has caused a bit of stress on our end lately. Albeit, we already had an apartment that we’re waiting to move into at the end of June, but needing to find a place in the meantime will change our lives a bit.

Luckily, someone we know has generously offered to share their home with us and we’re so grateful. They’ve got a beautiful home, a great energy, and an awesome cat!

Employment.

Pine Tribe

I’m interning with Pine Tribe!!  The downside is that it’s an unpaid internship, however, I’m getting loads of experience and I love the people I work with and the company.  I’m realizing more and more that copywriting and content marketing is something that I absolutely love.

Presently, I’m looking for part-time work, but it’s hard to balance everything with yoga and our business.

Yoga n’ Spice.

Yoga N' Spice
Did I mention that starting your own business is hard?  I had attended a business networking event and realized two things 1) I need to learn Swedish and 2) I have no idea how to run a business.

We’d started Yoga N’ Spice rather naively as we had sort of thought “Ohhh we’ll just share our passion for yoga and food.”  We had no plan and no money to back our project.  We had simply assumed we’d make a few calls and it would work itself out.  NOT TRUE.

Some friends had offered to get us started and took a few photos and even launched a website. But, now that the site is up, we are not sure how to manage it.  Our “business” has become a bigger concept than us and now we have the pressure to do something with it. But, we are not business people. My boyfriend has no background in business, communications, or economics. Basically, the best I’ve been able to manage is designing some lousy flyers, business cards and posting strange stuff on FB, Twitter and Instagram. Keep in mind, 3 months ago, we’d never even used Twitter or Instagram.

I told a friend that after the business event that I’d attended that I hadn’t realized we were entrepreneurs. A smile rose on his face as he asked enthusiastically, ‘how did that make you feel? Were you proud?’ My response, “No! I’m terrified, this wasn’t what I thought I was doing!”

Long story short, our efforts at the moment have felt in vain. With little response, and no turnover, we’re both at a loss for how to get Yoga N’ Spice off the ground – or rather, off of our mat.

Teaching.

I love Yoga Kaohsiung

Ashtanga Workshop in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. October 2013.


Not that it needs mentioning, but if the tone if this current post isn’t preparing you for what I’m about to write, you’ll figure it out now. Starting a morning Mysore program has been rough and at the end of our second month, it’s been unsuccessful. I know many friends who’ve started Mysore programs and have warned of the difficulties at the beginning. I guess I didn’t really understand it, especially when we’re sort of relying on some of that work to bring us a little income.

In truth, there has been an interesting discourse of internal dialogue that has been playing itself out quite regularly lately. Thoughts of inadequacy plant themselves deep on a daily basis and the effort of waking up before dawn to teach one student seems vain at the moment. I can’t believe the amount of pounding I’ve been giving my self-esteem lately. I’ve got to make a change and it has to happen now.

Spring in Malmö

Spring is finally in Sweden


The good news is that spring is really here now.  I also have to get back to writing for Pine Tribe, but wanted to share the latest.  To also seem overly down, I have made a niche in the community here with friends.  I’ve heard it’s not easy breaking into the network of friend’s here, but I’d have to say it’s doing okay for me.

We’re off to Stockholm this weekend to finally move the remainder of our things down south.  I’m kind of looking forward to the lengthy road trip with my awesome boyfriend.  It will be nice to just drive for awhile.

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Denmark
Blog, Pine Tribe, Scandinavia

Pine Tribe

Will share more soon about what’s happening in Malmö soon, but I wanted to write a short post about it on my regular blog.

I’m now writing for Pine Tribe, a Scandinavian digital publishing company.  I’m so excited to be apart of this community and share what’s happening in Scandinavia!  I’ll be writing about all things related to culture and food, so this is totally up my alley.

A summer day in Copenhagen, Denmark

A summer’s day in Copenhagen, Denmark

In the meantime, feel free to check out my first post:

Kitchen Bonding and Graceful Aging

Thanks for the support!

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Crocuses in Malmö

Crocuses in Malmö

We both fail miserably at taking photos.  Actually, we completely bomb at staying connected with social media.  A time for a new season and new habits though. Find ways to appreciate your day by going for walks and taking in some fresh air!

One of my new responsibilities for our business and is to actually blog. Imagine that.  We experiment a lot at home with our food.  We’re constantly making and re-making recipes while adding twists on timeless or new classics.  We’ve recently started posting recipes and such on our Facebook page:
Yoga n’ Spice

(Please support and “like” us as we’re just getting off the ground).

We had recently posted a photo of some food we’d made and as hoped, we got a positive response.  Nick asked me to post the recipe, but I must admit, I can’t remember what I did.  Clearly, I need to take notes as my memory fails me quite quickly.  I’m hoping this is what I did and that it will end up replicating itself nicely on your plate as well.

Gluten-free Buckwheat Noodles with Soy-tossed veggies

Gluten Free Buckwheat Noodles

Fresh food fast is time consuming.  Corners I’ve learned to cut to make fresh food faster have been:

 1) Using the knife properly.  This has also allowed to reduce the number of times I’ve sliced my fingers and edges of nails.

2) Cutting heavier/denser vegetables thinner.  Larger, thicker vegetables like sweet potatoes demand more cooking time – and I have yet to experience any occasion where a sweet potato tasted good raw.  Furthermore, for veggies that take more time to cook, cut them thinner.  I think is beneficial for those people (like us) who forget to chew our food before we swallow.

This recipe is made with gluten free noodles.  The texture of gluten-free products still tastes weird for me, but I think it makes me chew more.

King Soba Sweet Potato & Buckwheat Noodles

I typically eyeball the amount of food I think we’ll eat, so I’m going to make a rough guesstimate for the steps I followed.  For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Two bundles of King Soba Sweet Potato & Buckwheat Noodles

  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in slices (slices work nice with long noodles).  I think you could also use scallions or green onions in this recipe.  These aren’t as powerful as an onion and work nicely with asian flavors.

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger (yes, this is quite a chunk, but we love ginger like mad.  You can use less)

  • One large carrot, sliced into thin slivers

  • Half a large sweet potato, cut thinly

  • A big handful of green beans, cut into one-inch pieces

  • 1 dl or 1/2 cup of Chickpeas or Garbanzos (as we say in the states)

  • 1 tablespoon of Organic Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – OR Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not cold pressed

  • A nice sprinkling of Organic Raw Brown Sugar

  • Some water to steam

  • Salt to taste

  • NOTE: we didn’t add any chilies, but you could easily do this if you wanted to add some heat

First things first, I love onions.  I know they’re not considered a sattvic food, but I think they smell oh-so amazing when they hit the oil in the hot pan.

Using a medium size pan, add a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil to medium heat.  Cut the ginger and onion.  Add to the hot pan and let simmer for a couple minutes, until onions start to get transparent.  Add the slices of sweet potato and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Then add the carrots and green beans for maybe a minute and add in a splash of water to the pan.  I find adding water stops the pan frying process and creates some steam for the vegetables to cook.  Be mindful not to add too much or else it won’t be absorbed and you’ll end up with soup.

Once the water seems to be mostly evaporated or absorbed, add the tablespoon (or more if you like the flavor) of soy.  If you want to sweeten it up and give it a small sort of glaze texture, without being an asian restaurant, sprinkle some raw brown sugar over the veggies as well.  Mix together so the sugar absorbs evenly.  Add the chickpeas and continue to cook everything until vegetables are crisp, but the sweet potato is cooked through.  While you’re waiting for everything to finish cooking, cook the noodles in a separate pot.  I followed the instructions on the bag.  The noodels basically cooked like pasta so it was a fast process.

You could also squeeze some fresh lemon over the vegetables to add moisture, flavor and tang!

When everything is cooked, toss the veggies together with the cooked buckwheat noodles and serve.

Serves 2

King Soba Sweet Potato Buckwheat Noodles

I know, our plates aren’t so trendy.  They sort of remind me of grandma’s house, but then, we are sort of living at grandma’s house at the moment.

I believe this dish is gluten-free, but we’re NOT gluten-free, so forgive me if I made a mistake in the ingredients.

Enjoy!

Cooking, Cooking Tips, Sweden, Vegan, Vegetarian, Yoga, Yoga N' Spice

Spicin’ up Spring in Malmö

Spring in Malmö & quick, fresh gluten-free food!

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Yoga N' Spice
Ashtanga Yoga, Goals, Life, Sweden, Travel, Yoga, Yoga N' Spice

Yoga N’ Spice

The long wait has finally paid off.  I got my residency to Sweden after a dealing with year of sitting in the dark about the decision.  Apparently, the woman that we had been contacting who was dealing with our case quit in the sometime last autumn.  I’m not sure if my case was buried under a pile of others or if it was forgotten in some lost corner, but my partner finally got in touch with someone higher up.  The man basically said, “Well, cases are taking a long time, but this is one (referring to mine) of the oldest cases we have.”

After that,  the ball got rolling very quickly.  I was assigned a case manager and then was told I needed to leave Sweden in order to process my visa.  After a short flight over to Scotland, we received an email that my residency had been approved!  Despite my many frustrating moments over the past year, thank you, thank you Migrationsverket for granting me my residency!  Seeing as it had only been a year, after receiving the hard copy of my residency card, I decided it was also an appropriate time to finally cut my hair.

My residency card!

My residency card!

Residency CHECK!

Next on list: Securing employment and Housing

In Sweden, it’s not so rare to have your own company or company name.  It doesn’t mean you own a building or have employees either.  Since the taxes are so high, having your own company can be useful for many situations, especially those  you can write off on your taxes.  Admittedly, I’ve been feeling a bit like a lost soul, wandering around the world.  More specifically over the past 2 years, I have felt as if my creativity has been at a complete standstill.

All is not lost and goodness is it amazing when life gets back into gear! I’ve had this rush of inspiration, creativity, and the drive to accomplish it all.  While I have thoroughly been enjoying teaching within yoga studios, I’ve really wanted explore ways to bring yoga into the business and athletic world.  The thing is, within the yoga/vegetarian/vegan community, I’m typically exposed to extremes.  People tend to be concerned, if not preoccupied, with their diets, cleansing, purifying, and so on and so forth.  They talk as if drinking and eating meat, or eating in general, is a thing of the past, and for a good majority of them it is.  But, what about how the majority of the rest of the world lives?

I meet those who say “ohhh wow, I could never do that (daily 90 min yoga practice) with my work schedule.”  There are those who wish they could take yoga classes, but are consumed with familial obligations, full time jobs, and late night social lives.  There are also those who don’t want to become spirituality dignified, super hippy-fied (is that a word?), and prefer to remain stupefied in their lives.  Yet, who doesn’t want to be a little healthier and feel a little bit better?  Who wouldn’t want to lighten up their load with a few changes, all the while, not having to completely renounce the world.

Well, those are the people I want to reach.

And herein we launch our lifestyle concept: Yoga n’ Spice.

We’re promoting experiencing life in a more balanced way.  Like I said, the goal of samadhi and enlightenment isn’t for everyone in this life.  Some people really just enjoy doing yoga for the physical benefits and I’m happy to bring about that experience to individuals.  I know there’s talk that yoga should or shouldn’t ruin your life.  In many ways, yoga can ruin your life and it has done that to mine at times.  Of course, there are many obvious physical and mental benefits to not waking up with a hangover or choosing to eat earlier or healthier.  However, I can’t help but think about the many lives out there who don’t really think like this.  Thus, if you aren’t that percentage who is ready and willing to make the leap to relinquishing your life, then we want to reach you.

Undoubtedly, if you’re wanting to make a serious lifestyle change, do yoga nonstop, change your diet, and mindset, we’d love to support you on that journey as well.

But, I get it.

There’s already loads of teachers who can support people like this.  Allow me to rephrase: there are already loads of amazing teachers out there who can change your life if you are really willing to make a complete 180.

Bhujapidasana photo courtesy of Scandinaviandesign.com

Basically, you can think of us as the people who are happy and stoked to get you to do a 90 degree change.  Thereafter, if you want to commit to doing more, we’ll totally stand by and support you too!

Our concept is about some yoga, some spice, and all the bits that are nice with balancing it all.  We’ll share our inspiration from yoga, food, travels and day to day living.  Additionally, I’ll be hopping on the social media train full steam ahead and writing more frequently.

Note: this is my side business that I’m working to expand.  We’re creating an outreach program and will be working towards bringing yoga to offices and athletes.  I still am on the quest for a “job.”

Coming soon: Housing and our Morning Mysore Program

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Buddhism, Fear, Life, Relationships, Travel, Yoga

Lately

Who are you?

What do you do?

What are you going to do?

What are your hopes and dreams?

Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland

Leith, Scotland

In my travels, I encounter all sorts of questions, but more and more frequently I’m asked about my plans.  Where once I held some vague sorts of answers, I feel now I cling less and less to those labels.   Labels can deceive, because labels often change.  It has been in creating and undoing those labels, that I begin to question who I really am.  My yoga practice has become quite the useful tool for recognizing and working with fear.  If I can use the moments when I’m aware of resistance in my body (not to be confused with full blown pain) to connect with how it creates my personal suffering, I can learn to move past my momentary fear.  My life of late has held so many question marks.  There are so many things that remain blank and a good majority of things I had once envisioned for my life as it would’ve been now, remain nothing but a foreign notion.

Without focusing too much on the have nots, what I do have is an amazing fiancé and a Swedish and American family who are so tremendously supportive of all my endeavors.  It’s hard to believe, I’ve been back in Sweden for a month already.  Here I am in my 12 month of waiting for my visa from Migrationsverket.  My patience has grown thin, tensions have been high, and I’ve found myself in tears weekly.  I’m sick of being on a tourist visa everywhere!

The agony of waiting has created so much personal suffering, it makes me feel stupid.  There have been moments where the fear in my heart has sent me emotionally wandering on a plane back to California.  But then, running from fear solves nothing.

I took my first yin class last week and it was the most nourishing, heart centered class.  Life is all about balance, the yin and the yang.  The daily ashtanga practice is all yang.  I believe yang practices day in and day out develop imbalances, and the same goes for the opposite.  I suppose the sweet touches and words in hatha classes are often lacking in the form-focused athletic-styles of bikram, power or ashtanga classes.  I love ashtanga, I love the way it allows me to see my progress.  I love how it pushes and challenges me, but right now, it’s not enough.  My recent openness to embracing other forms of yoga has in a sense allowed me to restore some balance be it mental, emotional or just the way I connect to the world.

In the yin class, it felt like every movement was all about raising the awareness of the two emotions we experience all the time: fear and love.  The teacher asked us, as we were holding some very deep hip openers and twists, if we could connect within and discover if there was any sort of fear or resistance developing.  I have been suffering a sort of injury/inflammation in my upper back.  I know ashtanga is notorious for injuries.  Let me rephrase that, what physical practice can’t create some sort of injury?  Where ego, fear, or ignorance intercede – accidents typically happen.  Either way, I hold no animosity about it whatsoever, but my injury was an accident.  Ever since September, I’ve had a deep pulling, rather aching sensation in my upper back, somewhere deep beneath my left shoulder blade.  I don’t notice it in most postures, except for the deep twists.

So, we started moving into a deep twist.  Of late, I’ve begun to lay off on twists as I’ve realized that clearly this muscle injury isn’t something that will be worked out with deeper stretching.  The posture involved laying on our back, shoulder blades flat, arms extended to the sides.  Then, we were to cross one leg over the other, allowing the legs to fall towards the ground.  The posture was similar to the photo, but this pose can also be moved into more deeply depending on how the hips are lined with the shoulder.

asana_rectwist_roots

Because my rotation is so deep, I could feel a pulling into my upper back as we moved into the pose.  She asked us to become aware of what was happening in our bodies and if there was there any fear arising?  I felt resistance.  On my good side, I can rotate around and get my knees to the floor, but on my “weak” side, I needed the assistance of a huge bolster.  As we held it longer, I became more aware of my body in the posture.  This is something that I feel lacks a bit in ashtanga since we hold often intense poses for only 5 breaths and then move on.  There are so many postures in my ashtanga practice that I can’t really afford to hold any for too long if I want to finish in time to teach, or eat breakfast – or rather, have a life.

As we continued to hold the pose, I recognized that the resistance in my back wasn’t the pain.  It was just my fear that pain would arise and that it would only aggravate any inflammation.  As we stayed longer, I slowly moved the bolster out of the way to gradually release my knees down to the floor.  It didn’t feel as good as the other side, but I felt tension release in my body as I sank into the pose.

It reminded me that during this time of waiting, I have completely lost touch with the bigger picture.  I’ve wanted to go into self pity and dwell on how alone I am, but the truth is, I’m not alone.  I have a dedicated parter with me through all of this now.  In viewing my situation as an abysmal obstacle, I’ve felt so lost.  My emotions have reinforced lots of fear, not intellect, and not love.  Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche said that proclaiming a meaning of life and feeling as if we’ve failed to live up to it is creating our own suffering.

As I’ve somehow failed to live up to the meaning of my life, I’ve ensured a great deal of personal agony and angst for myself and those who are closest to me.  The funny thing is, I can’t tell you the number of people who tell us how lucky we are to live the life we live – and to not compromise for what we don’t want.  This confronts me with the notion that nothing I ever do matters, as so long as I don’t cling to it as a way for creating security and defining myself.  Let’s not forget that what I do do, even if it should never account for anything in life, should be done with care, love and compassion.  To leave footprints wherever I go as nothing but an individual who can flow and embrace is something I aspire to.  But, if I never get there, my loving intellect will not chastise myself for that, because we all know where guilt leads to: more fear. Lovingly accepting the waiting times and sometimes abysmal moments can be very special times to softly go within and end our suffering.

Money coming or going, harmony, wisdom, and health can all turn upon a single thought. With a single thought, poverty can be overcome; with a single thought, disease can be cured; with a single thought, you can embrace and help others. Because mind is infinite, it can embrace the universe and still have room left over. Thus, if you understand the truth of nonduality, you can completely embrace everything. If you raise one thought that is calm, noble, and humble, and do so without any trace of like or dislike, or of “I,” then that thought begins to manifest in the world and becomes medicine for all suffering. All energy will follow and work together with this kind of thought.

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