I didn’t get very much sleep last night. I was startled awake at 1 am by the emergency warning going off from my phone, telling me to take shelter because of a tornado warning. The first full-force storm, Hurricane Arthur, hit East Coast Virginia in the wee hours of the 4th of July. Wind and rain proceeded to keep me awake for another 30 minutes until I finally dozed off.
I woke up at about 7 am, thinking about the day, and when the wind would slow down enough for me to go hit the surf while the hurricane swell was still pumping. But also, I was thinking about what today actually is…July 4th. Independence Day.
Since the impending storm, the local news coverage has been about how the hurricane will affect travelers for the holiday weekend, what to do for emergency evacuation, etc. Everything seemed to be centered around people’s plans for the weekend, but not really addressing what this weekend is, which is the celebration of our nation’s freedom for 238 years now.
In a time of a lost and divided nation, between the incessant coverage of Hobby Lobby and its religious implications, the constant debate of the 2nd Amendment, arguments about ACA, corporations leaving the middle class in the dust, GMOs hiding in our foods…I find myself struggling with my own level of patriotism. I appreciate what being a US Citizen has done for my life, and what opportunities it has afforded me (specifically, the ability to make the decision to expatriate someday), but I can’t help but feel disheartened by the overwhelming state of affairs and lack of direction everyone seems to feel.
To help get myself back on my feet, I am waiting tables. Yesterday, the day before the 4th of the July, I greeted people with a simple, “Have a great holiday weekend!” or a friendly, “Have a happy 4th of July!” More times than not, I was met with a look of confusion, a look of disinterest, or a look like I didn’t know what I was talking about. In the midst of all of the controversy, people seem to be just as lost as I feel.
More importantly, the storm coverage has an overarching issue as well - hurricane season is starting earlier and earlier every year, and the storms are getting more and more intense. Born and raised in Coastal Virginia, I’ve been through hurricanes my whole life. Each time one passes through, it’s a little bit more intense. When I was in my early 20s, I lived in Northern Virginia, and we were hit with Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The damage I saw in Fairfax did not even come close to measure to what happened in my hometown. Parts of Norfolk / Virginia Beach were destroyed or forever changed, specifically Willoughby Spit, an area that essentially was formed from a hurricane landing on Coastal Virginia lines back in the 1700s.
In 2012, when I was living in Brooklyn, NY, I watched Hurricane Sandy take out my beloved NYC. The beaches I surfed–Rockaway and Long Beach–were devastated. My former neighborhood, Red Hook (in Brooklyn), saw irreparable damage. Lower Manhattan was shut down for a week. Subways were not running. The city that never sleeps…shut down. The intensity of the storm can be directly linked to the issue of climate change. I still have such a hard time understanding why the concept can not be grasped by some, and yet it’s another issue that plagues our nation and keeps us in divide.
A few weeks ago, The Washington Post released an article stating how Norfolk, Virginia has seen the direct affects of climate change. In summary, parts of downtown Norfolk are in very high-risk danger of rising sea levels, and the chances of going underwater just keep increasing. No one here can deny that part, even the hardcore people who are against the idea of climate change. Everyone knows, when it rains…avoid downtown. The streets flood.
Yet the issue of climate change is another to add to the list of divide in this country.
My father and I were having generalized discussion about the state of affairs here in the USA the other day. I stated my overall unhappiness with this country. He asked me, “Vanessa, please don’t give up on this country. It’s still good.” I really am trying to find the good. I am. I don’t like feeling unpatriotic. But I can’t help feeling like, why shouldn’t I give up on this country, when this country seems to give up on its own people? Look at the Veterans Affairs, the inability to agree on the healthcare of this country, putting the youth in crippling debt just to be educated (because you can’t get a job without an education, let’s face it), the constant pushing down of women through the ideas of Hobby Lobby and the conservative right wing, the pharmaceutical industry overmedicating everyone just to turn a profit. The hypocrisy that creates when discussing the 2nd Amendment. “It’s in the Bill of Rights!” Well, guess what is also in the Constitution…separation of Church and State.
So on today, I’d like to reconnect with my citizenship. I’d like to not worry about when I’ll get out to surf. I’d like to wish a fantastic Independence Day to everyone, and I’d like this one day where we put our issues aside, forget about our lost and entitled travel plans, and I’d like us to remember the spirit of today, and remember what we were founded on, and how we were once not a lost nation, but a leader and hope for those who were lost somewhere else.
Happy Birthday, USA.
A couple of months ago, with a heart and mind full of hesitation, I made the decision to move back home to Norfolk, VA. I spent the last 17 years working so hard, determined to never return to Norfolk for anything more than holiday and family visits. Yet, here I was…broke, unstable, starting fresh and new.
This particular move was particularly difficult on me. I had spent the better part of a decade living my dream in New York City. A couple of years ago, when I started growing out of the love for living in the city, I knew there was something greater out there for me. I just didn’t know what. So last year, when I decided to cash in all my chips and give most of my belongings away (putting the rest in storage), I set out on a life changing journey, and I traveled through parts of the world. I got more out of the experience than I ever bargained for, and I decided that no matter the level of difficulty through it, I was going to follow a new path…a more spiritual path, a mindful one, a present one. I did my time in trying to make the traditional American career work. And while it is always financially the easier route, I decided that once and for all, I was going to walk away from the traditional. Time to really try something new.
But this enlightened decision did not come without a price tag. But, if I was going to do it, I was going to make certain sacrifices. The biggest of which was to let go of my pride, let go of my ego, and move back home.
With my parents.
At 34 years old.
To a town I loathed.
The arrival was eye-opening. I was leaving behind my life in NYC for real this time, I was leaving behind the ambiguity and excitement of traveling and not knowing where or when I’d be somewhere.
I was coming to the mundane. The boring. A place where I have wanted so much for progression amongst the town, but it has never happened.
A little more than a month being home, I was riddled with anxiety and depression. My thoughts were dark. I was broken hearted. I was afraid that I was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, something deep inside worked its way to the surface. My spirit refused to be broken through it all. and said to me, this is part of the journey. This is the uncomfortable part. You have to put the work in on the uncomfortable parts to attain the higher level. It will all work out.
And just like always, that higher part took me to my mat, where I usually find the space to let go, and the questions I have become answered by breathing and moving, and those are the only two tasks in front of me.
So after a sunrise yoga class with my beautiful teacher, Gil, something inside of me snapped. Work with what I have, not what I don’t have.
That’s when I decided to take on my journey through one month of finding santosa (contentment) through everyday life. I started something i dubbed “The Inspiration Project.” Every single day for 30 days, no matter how small or inconsequential it seemed, I snapped a moment that made my heart sing…the dogs playing, sunshine on my face, something unexpectedly serene and beautiful. (Say what you want about Instagram, it provided the perfect platform to allow these moments.) I logged daily - every day through pictures and a caption, almost everyday in my journal. Some days the logs reflected different events…the journal keeping the more personal notes. But it all was just the little things that made me grow some newfound appreciation for the town that gave me life and kickstarted my journey many years ago.
The Inspiration Project quickly started to develop new happenings. Suddenly, I was meeting like-minded people. I started finding myself in the right place at the right time. Within a month, I found 3 places to teach…all 3 were presented to me by means of the universe…
First one, Satya Yoga. I went to Satya to try out new studios in the area. On my second visit, I showed up to a class that had been canceled, but the studio manager was still there. We briefly talked. In such a natural and organic conversation, we talked about my journey a little bit, and my teachings, and how I wanted to get back into it. With love and joy, a couple of weeks later, Logan offered me 3 classes a week. I was beyond elated, and just so thankful. I loved this studio from my first step in, so I couldn’t believe what was happening. Kismet.
Logan, the owner of Satya, was telling me during our discussion, that she was going to take her Friday evening class down to the Pagoda (set up by the river, in a beautiful garden) for an outdoor practice. Just a few days later, I followed her lead and took myself down there to practice during a work break. After I had finished my practice, I used the Pagoda as my daily inspiration for that day. As I was walking back to my car, I checked my messages…and the brand new Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center in Norfolk had found me and reached out to me about teaching yoga. This was a surprise out of nowhere, one of which I was convinced came from my personal alignment to the universe and the universe responded through this new connection.
Things were falling into place.
Additionally, every day, I found a little more beauty, a little more fun.
And I eventually found my way to integrate with The Space Above, the very first studio I ever practiced at in Norfolk some few years ago. I found myself reaching out to the studio managers, with the encouragement of my friend and teacher. And after a little hard work, I found myself on the sub list. And now, I have my own class there. It’s all falling into place.
What I learned through The Inspiration Project is invaluable toward my progression down my own path. I won’t say there is a goal that I must achieve. I have a goal, but that goal might be changed along the way. The purpose is not to get to the end and say, “I did it!” The purpose is to take the steps and enjoy the path, even when it’s not full of what I thought or what I expected. Enjoying the little moments allowed me to open my heart and the space to let new opportunities come in, and really listen to the teachings of these opportunities.
My ego was really taking over when I first came back home. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a failure, and further away from any stability or future. I wanted to find the fastest route out of here, and was ignoring what was right in front of me.
I slowed down, and I embraced. I have a family that loves me and will help me on this journey by providing me a roof over my head and the space I need to get back on my feet (let’s be real…taking off for a year was a huge financial blow). That being said, I’m learning to live with less and work with what I have, and make the adjustments accordingly. These new opportunities are giving me such an opportunity to connect with yoga, to align my practice and my teachings with my students but also with myself, to stroll through the garden of life and breathe.
Instead of darting out of here and running toward this goal, I am slowly breaking this habit. Instead of chasing the invisible carrot, I’m biting the carrot that’s already here. I’m learning from my surroundings and my teachers, I’m surrounding myself with like-minded people, and I’m working with where I am, what I have. The goal and path will unveil itself in due time, when I am ready. I know that in my heart.
I thank The Inspiration Project for showing me to stop and smell the roses. Literally, metaphorically, spiritually and wholly.
One of the best tools from my teacher training was learning the ability to truly hone in on a home practice. Yoga is about constantly learning, growing, and changing in asana and as well as in being. And with any skill, classroom learning can only take you so far. You have to do the homework to continue to learn. #yoga #ardhauttanasana #homepractice
THE INSPIRATION PROJECT. Day 30. Today is the final day that I will post my daily inspiration. It’s been a hell of an eye opening project, and it all made me remember that life happens when you pay attention. I don’t think it’s an accident that my box of international money fell out of the closet today. From Indo Rupiah to Thai Baht, Vietnamese Dong to Czech Koruna, British Pound Sterling and what I hope will be my local currency one day…the Euro. A little mix of Costa Rica Colones and Nicaraguan Cordoba, a box full of inspiration to keep going, keep traveling, keep living, keep going. Continue to be inspired. ❤️ #yoga #travel #inspiration #theinspirationproject #love
THE INSPIRATION PROJECT. Day 29. I started this project to help me appreciate living in Norfolk again, after spending 17 years away. It’s been a challenge. But coming down to the Freemason area always lifts my spirits, makes me appreciate the history of this city. I love the architecture and the cobble stone streets and how Norfolk used to be, long ago. #inspiration #theinspirationproject
THE INSPIRATION PROJECT. Day 28. This one comes in from @satyayoganfk as I am preparing for my class. I’ve been struggling a bit with where I will end up and what my future holds. I picked this book to move it back to its place, and it fell open to this page. Thank you, Rumi. I needed this reminder. #yoga #inspiration #theinspirationproject #rumi