Dear Friends,

Today, I sat in Mahan café, in a gritty alleyway in Rishikesh, India, with the owner who hails from New Delhi, a man from Goa (who’s been traveling around the world for some months), an American woman (who’s also been traveling for months and doesn’t want to go back to the States), a meditation guru, and a life coach. We sat there for some hours discussing all sorts of things: energy healing, loss of loved ones, celibacy, Jamaican food, relationships, and the general unsanitary conditions in Indian restaurants. (The guru said nothing.) It was so lovely to sit without a schedule, without anywhere to be, without strain.

For the past five weeks, I’ve been in Rishikesh with a very strict 6am-8:30pm timetable for my yoga teachers training course. While in Jamaica, during a conversation by the sea in Oracabessa, a family friend suggested that I teach yoga. I remember the night: it was after midnight, cloudless starry skies, listening to music. We turned Prince’s hits off, because the sound of the waves bettered the music; dewy grass was creeping up to caress our soles, and I said, “Let’s do yoga.” In that moment of peace, on a Saturday night when many were either partying, sleeping, dreaming or reaching for a loved one (or a nearby one), I wanted to do yoga. After a few asanas (yoga poses), she said to me, “This is what you should do all the time.” And thus, a seed was planted.

After returning to Kingston, I spoke to my mother about the idea, and the more we spoke about it, the more excited we both became. Why not? I’d loved yoga for some time, but never once thought about teaching it. For the month that I was in Jamaica, I’d been preparing for a job I’d accepted in Shenzhen, China: health checks, blood tests, police criminal record checks, a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diploma translations at the Chinese Benevolent Association, etc. It was so much running around, hassle and quite a bit of expense. Despite the generous assistance of the HR staff that had hired me to teach at the language school, my heart was, at no point, in the process. I didn’t want to live in China, but thought it was a great way to get a little nest egg going.

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The more time I spent in Jamaica, the more I wanted to stay there. Instead of yearning to head to the next destination, it felt like the place to be for a while. After almost two years of traveling, it was nice to unpack my suitcases and converse with people who didn’t need all my particulars. There was no pressure to do anything or be anywhere. Serenity abounded in my mother’s lush garden; the food was fresh and savory; the beach as inviting as ever; butterflies dominated the streets; love was carried on the beaks of hummingbirds. I wrote articles for my job in frenzied happiness, then rested. I could nestle in a blanket of warmth, affection and Caribbean spice. I decided that to live in Jamaica long-term, it was necessary to learn more yoga, become certified and return.

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mum’s garden

So, I headed off to Hong Kong, because I’d already bought my ticket for the Chinese job.   Hong Kong was much more enjoyable than when I’d visited seventeen years ago. The city and I had both improved– both more exposed to difference and more versatile.  After a fun five days in Hong Kong where I saw my brother and adorable niece, I landed in Rishikesh.

Rishikesh. For an ecstatic, mind-blowing month in November 2014, it was my home for yoga and meditation. I hadn’t wanted to leave then, so thought it would be the natural choice for my yoga journey. However, this season– summer– was different: scorchingly hot and humid, grimy, extremely crowded with bedraggled travelers of all stripes, and definitely louder. I wondered, “What on earth have I done?” Pretty soon, I couldn’t ruminate on if I’d made a mistake, because my classmates and I were, from morning to night, involved in the work of yoga: asana classes, Philosophy, Anatomy, Meditation, Breathing classes (Pranayama), tests, teaching presentations and assignments. Slowly, one by one, we started to break down with stomach viruses, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. (Yes, the prettiness of India.)

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Yet, here I am, writing you, 200 hours and two days post-arrival to say that it was all worth it. Who knew we could be so strong– physically and mentally? Who knew that we could complete what we started despite the many obstacles placed in our way? Who knew that the quest for the union of the self and the super self, the God within and without, could be so heady and true that beautiful souls would journey from all over the world to experience it.

variation of lotus

variation of lotus

The true meaning of yoga is powerful, and  I can’t wait to share it in Jamaica with family, friends and future friends. I have five weeks left here in India, then it’s Bali, then Jamaica. To go back “home,” there’s much further to go.

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Love,

Val