The Story of a Hungry Heart... a story of beginning
“…and allow yourself to receive”
I remember those words as if they were yesterday and I know I will never forget them. Spoken by my now teacher, mentor, and therapist Stacie Overby in 2012, those words melted through my mind and into my heart. What began from that sweet space of savasana has since evolved into an exploration of the depth of those words meaning. I was recently asked what the most significant memory in my life has been thus far, and I responded, “When I started to get to know myself.” Quoting Ram Das, “Once the seed of awakening is in you, there’s no choice – there’s no turning back.”
To put much self-inquiry simply, I love to give. Giving is to express understanding and love in a form that can be experienced by both the giver and the receiver. It is expression and connection married together in service. As a Cancer Ascendant, I’m a mother and nurturer by nature. Having been blessed with a myriad of gifts in this life, it’s always been easy for me to give; very rarely did I allow myself to receive. It wasn’t even a word that had ever evolved into thought.
Growing up in a beautiful home in Aptos, CA with both the ocean and the forest a mere 3-minute drive away, the beauty and wisdom of nature is a setting that has always been my reality. My family has multiple vacation houses in cities that are some of my favorite in the world: Tahoe, Russian River, & San Francisco. I received an academic scholarship to the University of San Diego where I lived on the beach amongst many friends, all whom were as intelligent as they were beautiful. A college experience made more disillusioned only by living with an Italian family on the outskirts of Florence, Italy for 4 months. I have loving parents and two beautiful sisters (one being my golden retriever) who are each successful and inspiring in their own way. I have experienced many beautiful people and places and have always been surrounded by love and friendship. From the outside, I had it all. On the inside, however, I felt unsettled. My life was being driven from a place of yearning. I rationalized my happiness! There was always something missing… something I thought I could find if I just put the effort in. Once I got the job title that reflected my potential I would surely feel happy. And so I run faster.
Anything I truly wanted in life, I could manifest with ease. It’s never been a question of if, but rather what. Sharing the gifts that I had been given was the only thing that made me excited. Listening, giving advice, sharing flowers, cards and homemade dinners made me so happy, but it also left me feeling malnourished. I was giving to everyone around me, only to realize I wasn’t receiving nothing in return. By reaching outside of myself I was simply being distracted from the discontent I felt with life. I was following the path to societal success only to realize it was nothing more than my mind controlling my heart and leaving me misguided. Which led me to the question: Who am I? What allows me to receive?
We live in a world infatuated with identity. Where our egos attach to a title, a photo, a relationship, the potential, our story, their story. I’m a yoga teacher, a businessman, an entrepreneur, the founder, a burner, a blogger, a free spirit, a fiancé, an introvert, an intuitive, a shaman. The truth is we are none of these things, and yet we are all of them. We are creating a reality based on the stories our minds tell us, but what about our hearts? A space of vast and limitless potential that is equal parts light and love and brilliance.
It was February 2011, shortly after I graduated from college and I was in bliss… a week of yoga and adventures amidst the lush beauty of Sayulita, Mexico; my first retreat. It had begun with just as much fear as excitement … the first trip I had ever sought out for myself by myself. I was nervous! And then I arrived.
It was in Sayulita where I first experienced insight to my true Self... a perspective that shaped the trajectory of my life in a beautiful way. Through traveling alone, I learned about possibility and potential. There is so much to explore and to learn! This life is but a dance waiting for you to sing your favorite tune. Are there other experiences out there that will affect me as this one did? I was determined to find out. I became aware of the ease in my ability to connect.. of how much I enjoy learning about people… how everyone is so different! Sounds naive but the experience of it was profound. I acknowledged my curiosity for the world outside of my Santa Cruz / San Diego bubble.
Yoga, no matter where practiced, has the capacity to transform. However, when paired with an entirely new experience, such as travel, it evolves into something special… something powerful. It is a journey inward, perfectly complimented by our physical senses. Putting yourself in a new situation, with new people and in a new setting, you're more receptive to new experiences and the changes that are happening within. These little changes, however big or small, become "tastes" of the genuine You that reside in all of us. A new skill set or knowledge base that begins to cumulate in a tool box you didn't know existed. A perspective that will take you somewhere new and special and true.
Beyond insight to my inner world, I was shown a life I wanted for myself. The founder and owner of Haramara Retreat Center is a woman who I never got to know but that I will always remember. There was a lightness about her that I both enjoyed and was intimidated by. Living on the land, she fostered its growth and her vision; she fostered our growth. Her German Shepard beside her and a green juice in hand, she spoke of the tinctures and tonics that were available should we start to feel sick. If we just walked up to her house, she would make them for us. Haramara was her sanctuary made real, and a new source of inspiration in my life. The beginning of my love affair with retreat experiences.
The air, filled with depth and positivity, fostered the potential within each of us. Simplicity and perspective warmed our hearts creating an energy indefinable by words. Experiences made memorable by way of vulnerability and authenticity.
Spaces that allow you to soften and inspire reflection… where people open, receive, and transform. Where plants become teachers and flowers our friends. Where people share, receive, give and grow. To receive is to give and to give is to love.
I spent 2 years indulging in every retreat and workshop that my bank account could afford. At the time, my sanity and growth were the only two things I could rationalize spending money on. I hadn’t yet realized I was finding my way home. These were indulgences that eventually led to a specialization in the field of health & wellness retail. I was working in the world of retail real estate, and to put it simply, I was drowning. Or I should really say, I wasn’t allowing myself to come up for air. A soft heart and a philosophical mind are not assets in the world of men and business. I didn’t have the awareness of either of those things at the time though, and so I dove in and explored my way out.
Growing up, I was always good with numbers and words… the freshman in a math class full of seniors…. the girl in the spelling bee. I had always identified with my intellectual and athletic capabilities… my father’s daughter! As a loving, charismatic, and successful man, he was someone who I really admired, and so I followed his lead. His personal success in commercial real estate led to my inherited familiarity in the field. When it came time to look for a job, however, I could feel my heart’s craving for creativity. To me, real estate was not that. “Look up Retail West… Matt Holmes,” I remember my dad saying in the office one morning. “Creative Real Estate Ideas for Entrepreneurial People” the fog filtered home page read. I find Matt’s bio. “Born in center city Philadelphia in the summer of love, mom attends U Penn; Dad is a meat inspector, a pool cleaner, and in the US Navy while at the same time going to medical school. Older brother beats me up, younger brother barks at me…” And I was inspired.
Retail West, Inc. challenged me, raised me, changed me and inspired me. It was during this time that I grew into a businesswoman. I was the farthest away from my true Self but now it all makes sense. It was my ego’s time for exploration and a process that needed to be experienced and released. Retail West offered the knowledge and criticism of successful businessmen and I will forever be grateful for the perspective it gave me. It built the lens through which I view the professional world and created a platform for potential business opportunities. Most importantly though, it taught me what I don’t need. Matt Holmes, a man on a mission, challenged me most of all. It wasn’t what he had accomplished, or the words he spoke, it was his potential and it kept me on my toes.
My focus on health eventually led to Miss Rachel Malsin. A 29 year old from Long Island who is unlike anyone I have ever met. She is vivacious and curious and real… small but powerful… smart and a quick learner. And she was building a company that I believed in, Project Juice. I believed in the business model, but really I just believed in her. And so my heart followed.
2012 and 2013, the years of patience, practice, and perseverance quickly became 2014, the year of melting and flowing.
2014: The Year of Melting and Flowing
To manifesting the potential of my heart!
To simplicity and contentment
To feeling nourished and grounded
To my meditation practice, to intimacy, to knowledge and to sharing
To wisdom by words and souls that move to the rhythm of life
To vibrating into expression!
Diving into Project Juice opened the doors to a whole new world. As we began to educate on cleansing and juices, I wanted to learn more. In comes Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute. The school that introduced me to emotional cleansing and led me to my heart.
As she opened her eyes, she felt the San Francisco sunshine peering through her window. She stretched her arms and legs into the softness of her plush bed wishing her a good morning and a promising day. She felt grateful for the comfort that surrounded her, yet pained with a hunger she couldn’t quite understand. As she moved throughout her day, she fed herself with knowledge and good people and quality experiences… promises she thought would leave her satiated. But she still felt hungry.
Her mind told her to excel, and to challenge itself… to live in a city that provided her the tools and opportunities to get there, wherever that was. She didn’t know, but she couldn’t stop searching. Her heart, however, told her to slow down and to listen and to love. It wasn’t often that she listened to her heart though… her thoughts were too loud and they made perfect sense.
Prior to Ann Wigmore, I lived in a state of chasing. I was too overwhelmed with influence to understand the simplicity of what I needed and more importantly, what I wanted. My time in Puerto Rico gave me an experience of myself that I will never forget. I was living from my heart; I felt alive and filled with purpose. The potential of a life experience that is exactly the one I want for myself, and more importantly, the one I wish for others. I felt the capacity of my heart to feel; I felt the strength in my softness. In that strength, I found my purpose.
She realized that she wasn’t hungry, she was in fact, full. She didn’t need food or technology or things; she needed the space to feel her fullness.
(Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute, February 2014)
Coming home from Puerto Rico, my heart was open. I experienced a strong sense of clarity and connectedness to Self. Why was I in San Francisco? I was attached to the potential of Project Juice, to a company I loved and believed in and wanted to be a part of, but it didn’t feel right. Now that I had taken a step back, I saw that it never completely was. I was filled with gratitude for the process and for Rachel and Project Juice leading me to this realization. And so a new friendship begins, Project Juice grows, and I become a blind passenger to my heart, led to the Sacred Valley of Peru.
My journey in Peru began with a 3-week yoga teacher-training course in the city of Cusco. What others would assume would be an experience leaving you light and refreshed, was for me, far from. It was 3 weeks of opening and purifying while having minimal time to myself to process and rest. I finished the course feeling grateful but depleted. Which led me to Sananda - Wasi. By the grace of the Universe the last day of the YTT, my new friend and soul sister, Jeanie, showed me www.sacredvalleytribe.com, a website she thought I should know about while in Peru. My eyes immediately found the tab, “Detox.” I kissed the cheek of my hula-hooping Doctor yogi and was enroute to Pisac the next day.
My experience in Peru was one of self-exploration and reflection. Rather than travel to different cities and countries in South America, which I had the freedom to do, I wrote my way through coffee shops and healing retreats in the Sacred Valley. I wrote my heart out, exploring as much of the darkness as the light, putting it all on paper. And Sananda was there for all of it… my home base. A retreat center focused on holistic healing and transformation, I found my mission by learning about hers. I learned that this healing environment, which others may deem “not realistic” is the only thing that seems real to me.
It took me coming home to the Bay Area this summer, however, for this perspective to evolve into understanding. I found myself saying, “this seems so silly” in reference to the western way of living, quite often. Putting my experience into words that I felt comfortable sharing with others proved to be quite the learning process. No one understood and I felt alone. And then I actually felt. I cried. I danced. I released myself and others of expectations and was finally able to relax and feel freely; to receive. Weeks of processing felt like years. And then I was introduced to Dr. Suhas, an Ayurvedic Doctor practicing in Santa Cruz, who is also a Medical Astrologer. Vedic Astrology had become an interest and a passion while in Peru; something I believed in as a means for better understanding yourself and your potential. To find an accredited Doctor who used Astrology as part of his practice felt like my intuition winning the lottery. I received a B+ for health and was told my energy was scattered. Both true. “Write down the name of this school and get a degree for the sake of credibility,” he told me. He was adamant about it and so I went home and straight to my computer. My heart said, “Yes!” He also told me I would benefit immensely from Panchakarma… one of the main practices that had been calling me to India. Those 5 days cleansed me, filled me, softened me and transformed me. I cried many times during that week, but I cried especially well when I said goodbye.
As I sit here now, mentally and emotionally preparing for a 6-month adventure to Asia, I feel grounded and focused. My life has been full of teachers all leading me to the teacher within. They have each inspired my potential in their own way, helping me in my process of overcoming my fear of it. As I’ve grown more aware, I’ve realized that all of my fears are nothing more than distractions from my greatest fear of all – the potential of my heart. There are still times when my feelings are so overwhelming that I run away from them. It has and will always be my greatest personal challenge; the difference now is that I actually understand. My mind made brilliant by the wisdom of the heart.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
I realized what I really needed and wanted was more time with my book, my journal, and my breath work. It’s kind of crazy how much I crave them all.
I’m realizing just how much I love my inner world, how much I enjoy the exploration. I’m excited to get to know myself better… deeper.
I know I will never stop learning and expanding. As Elizabeth Gilbert has so beautifully written, “What else, after all, are we going to do with our short, wondrous lives that could possibly be more important than transforming ourselves, molecule by molecule into an experience of pure love?” And so a new story begins and many more teachers come.