I've thought I would write a book from since I was quite young. I kept a journal for a lot of my life and I remember writing in it keeping in mind that someone was sure to read it and make a movie or book about it. ha. Eventually I learned that defeats the purpose of a journal. I wrote the most during a tumultuous time in my life when I was living with a man I loved in a way I never knew was possible. Granted it was the first time I was in love as an adult so I didn't have much reference. It was a 9-year volatile relationship though and the break-up was definitely something out of a movie. Not a happy movie at that. I'm pretty sure at one point, and during one of my many location moves, I burned those journals. Allowing the past to burn away, along with identifications around that relationship. Since then I journal randomly. Looking back on my life I sometimes wish I would have more record as there were some pretty fantastic happenings along the way. But in the end the past is the past and I honestly don't feel that my life holds any special lesson or learning for anyone other than myself.
I do still wonder if there is a book inside of me. At the moment I don't have inspiration for what it would be about. But something drives me enough that here I am writing a blog, which I never thought I would do. I'm not sure people use a blog as a journal. I'll try not to get to tedious with mine.
So I will write as I feel. It will most likely be random thoughts. One of my biggest fears - not really big enough for a fear, maybe concern is a better word - is that my ideas and thoughts change constantly. So what I write one day may be contradicted in the next day's post. I ask that if you choose to read these that you just go with it...and me.
JANUARY 25, 2018, AUROVILLE, INDIA
Saraswati - My Journey through my Creative blocks
There's been a piece that's been bubbling in me for quite sometime. It comes and goes, sometimes I pacify it with a little attention and sometimes my younger self rebels and ignores it. I remember being quite young, it was sometime between 4-7 because I remember living on a farm. I would play all day outside with the animals and often I would gather whatever I could to create drums, mostly cardboard boxes and plastic pails, and twigs for drum sticks. One day Mom came home from a garage sale with 2 actual drum sticks and a drum pad that had a tear in it. I was so happy! I would play and play and play.
During my early years of elementary education I would get a report card that would list S for satisfactory or U for unsatisfactory with comments made by my teacher each quarter of the school year. I think every report card said the same thing - that I loved to color but I couldn't stay in the lines. I was always so embarrassed about this with the results of never feeling good enough at art.
In 5th grade I was given the opportunity to start learning how to play an instrument. Even though playing drums was what I loed for some reason I chose the French Horn. I only lasted a couple of months with it before our music teacher suggested I switch to alto saxophone, an instrument my older sister played very well. Ha! I played alto sax from 6th grade through my senior year.
I'm not sure what year it was but I think it was either 6th or 7th grade and I was able to be part of a dance class. THIS made me so happy. After a year or so the dance teacher moved on to another city. She talked to my mom about bringing me to a nearby town to continue my dance but we weren't able to do this. I was really disappointed but there was no amount of begging that would change things.
My favorite part of going to church, which I did pretty much every Sunday from birth to 18, was the singing. I loved to sing and to hear all the harmonies and melodies. From a young age I dreamt of being a soloist in church and then a rock/pop star in my later years:) I joined the church choir as a teenager and was given a solo or two. I also joined the choir in high school. Our choir director invited me to join an "elite" group that would perform song & dance. I was ecstatic on the inside, although my guess is I didn't show it on the outside. Unfortunately I ended up having knee surgery that year and was never asked to join again. I was pretty heartbroken, although again, it's doubtful I showed it. In fact I probably talked about how much I was glad I wasn't involved. Hurt was an emotion that I didn't know how to express properly so it would come out as rebellious anger.
In high school I was able to join the Dance Line. We had silky outfits, hats and I believe canes at one point. I enjoyed this too, in fact I think I was a captain at one point. I was also captain of the cheerleading squad and acted in the community & school plays. Then my knee surgery happened and I was out of those as well.
By my senior year I had found beer and boys and decided that was my path...I quit everything creative and sports (volleyball) except the regular band & choir classes. As a side note, I experienced depression for all of my childhood that I can remember. Family life was chaotic until 12, when my father died. And then it was just confusing for me. From about 16 on I was really into seeing live music - rock bands...cover bands being about all I was exposed to living in a small rural Minnesota town. In hindsight I see this was my way of being as close to "creativity" without actually engaging myself.
In 1988, I started dating a man who was über-creative. He could play instruments, write and draw at any given moment. He bought me a drink while listening to a rock band at a bar in Florida, and after a brief time we became inseparable and I was able to put all my energy into progressing his life creatively. At one point he asked me what I would do if I could do anything without any judgment. I told him I would be a singer. He said "why don't you do that?" For some reason at that time when he said it I was able to say "I don't know." And so we began to play music together. We did so for a few years, even making one cd with a few songs on it. I also began to draw and paint. I truly was happy in a way I hadn't been before. At one point we even made a film together that he wrote. It was selected to show in the Sundance Film Festival in 1999. I acted in it, opposite him, produced it and we included a couple of songs we performed together. Our 9-year relationship deteriorated, and with that I stopped singing and acting. I also stopped doing yoga, which I had started about 5 years into our relationship. This behavior of stopping to do what I loved every time I had a heartbreak proved to be a pattern for me for quite some time.
JANUARY 24, 2018, AUroville, India
My Love Affair with India
I landed in Chennai, India on January 21st, 2018, 6 1/2 months since the last time I landed in India, Chennai as well. And, funny enough, exactly 1 year ago I flew from Bali to Rishikesh, India on Jan. 21st as well. My first trip to India was in May 2014. I had been living in Bali for just over 2 years and hadn't left the island since Jan. 2013 (other than day trip to Singapore). I had "island fever" and was anxious to get out and be by myself. I chose to go to the Sivananda Ashram in Nyer Dam, India to do a 2-week Yoga Rejuvenation program. Most people think I'm a big yogi, understandably given my line of work and where I worked (The Yoga Barn) in Bali. But I'm not really, in a way that most westerners think of a yogi. I have been doing yoga since my early 20s, starting at a gym in Los Angeles, CA where I was fortunate enough to actually have a great teacher, Melody, who now looking back I can see had a true appreciation of yoga well beyond what most gym yoga teachers have. I'm so grateful to her as she was the first to pique my interest in yoga. I have continued to do yoga off and on but have never taken any formal training. I've taken classes in many different types and enjoy pretty much all of them. Sometimes I do it everyday for months and sometimes I go months without doing it even one day. One thing I've noticed about my body is that even if I haven't done yoga for a few months, it doesn't take long at all for my body to go right back into the postures when I begin again. My body loves yoga. Ibu Jero Ayu Sekar, a Balinese priestess, always referred to me as a yoga master. I would always say no, I'm not a yoga master I just work at The Yoga Barn. I sometimes think she saw me in past lives in which yoga was always a part because not only do the postures feel "familiar" in a deep way, but more importantly the philosophies, the other aspects like bhakti, pranayam and meditation, and the yogic way of life feels engrained in my memory.
Getting back to India...I had 2 free days out of the 15 while I was in Nyer Dam and we drove over to Kovalum Beach and the other day drove down to the point of India, Kunya Kumare. Other than that I didn't see much beyond the ashram, which was fine with me at the time. I left feeling neutral about India...but I did have a new found interest in Krishna.
My next visit was August 2016 then January 2017, July 2017 and now, January 2018. This series of visits is where the love affair began. I came in August to meet Baba, a mystic that a friend of mine had met with. I was at a point in my evolution where I felt stagnant, plateaued and desperate for some guidance to move me beyond. When my friend Jodi spoke to me about Baba I knew I was going to see him. He & I started chatting over Messenger around March 2016, and plans were made for me to meet him for 10 days in August. I don't really plan to write too much about my work with Baba as it is very precious and personal to me, but suffice to say my life has changed in ways I can't explain since meeting him. From about the same time he & I started conversation I also began sitting with a Lama of Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. My work with her also paved way for growth and expansion and I cherish my time with her. It just so happens my call to India was so strong that I don't have the face time with her any longer. But, as with everything in my life, that may change again.
I never thought of living in India. I liked going back and forth, yet every time I left it's as if I never truly left. I would immediately make plans for my next visit and that's what I had in my sight for a year and a half between visits. And then the idea of getting a 10 year visa came up. This is a privilege afforded American citizens through some agreement with India. I had been getting 30 day & 60 day visas online. This had been fine thus far but by February 2017 I was feeling I may be ready to leave my comfortable living in Ubud, Bali and venture out to see what else might await me. This included the idea of spending a few months in India at a time. So I did a little research and found out that all I needed to do was send in an application for a 10 year visa to the Indian Consulate in Chicago (based on my residential address in Minnesota). The key was that I would need to be in the US because I would obviously have to send in my passport as well. Once my final decision to leave Bali was in order I then began to make plans to return to my homeland after 2 1/2 years of absence. Within a day of landing in Los Angeles, I printed out the application and sent it in overnight. It was returned to my address in Minnesota about 2 weeks later with 10 year visa attached. My heart leapt with excitement for no particular reason! I didn't really even know why I wanted to get the visa other than I knew that when I am on the land in India I feel expanded, light and full of possibility.
Which brings me back to Jan. 21, 2018...I had circled the entire globe in less than 7 months in an effort to get back to the land in which I feel light, expanded and free. About 4 weeks prior to arriving in India I began to think about actually living there. Not just going in and out, but setting up some sort of base. It was a surprise to me and yet I know myself well enough to know when things are happening automatically. And so I move with the energy...and here I am.
Even with a 10 year visa I need to leave every 180 days. And from what I understand, April & May get intensely hot in South India. So my current plan is to leave in April for a month or two and then return again and stay for another 6 months, and then see what life has presented then.
One thing I would like to share, because I feel it's important for people to hear, is that I don't have a lot of money. Really. In one conversation I had with a friend in Bali she said to me "You have so many more resources beyond money." That statement stuck deeply in my mind. I had left NYC in 2012 with a huge credit card debt, a few thousand dollars cash and no savings. I was living comfortably within 2 years on Bali and continued to live well. I was able to do this because of course I was fortunate to be working out of a popular place by year two, but also because I didn't feel the need for much beyond a nice house and good healthy food. I made Indonesian money, and even though I worked at a popular place I paid a large percentage of everything I earned right back to them. By the time I left I was making about 1/3 of what I was making when I left the corporate world in 2009. I could live well in Bali but I wasn't making enough to save much. I left Bali with no debt and again, just a few thousand dollars...but NO DEBT. This is huge considering what I had in debt and how much money I made since leaving NYC. But it happened about 4 years into my stay on Bali...for the first time in my adult life I was debt free at about 46 years old. My clients from Bali invited me to their hometowns, mainly in Australia and so I went. I said yes to whatever came my way. I have a friend in the Philippines who offered me a place to lay my head after leaving Bali - a place to rejuvenate and regroup. I took him up on the offer. It wasn't free but it was offered at a very reasonable cost. I went to Australia for 5 weeks, to 5 cities, and worked as much as I could. I left Australia with a little bit more money than I entered with. Then to my homeland where the first 3 weeks I didn't work. Reentry; Adjustment; Recognition. Then almost 8 weeks in Minnesota. I worked as much as I could knowing this was the place for me to cultivate as much income as possible to assure my landing in India was secure. I did work for free as well - sessions, classes, talks. I tried not to think about money as long as I was working. I had a few moments of anxiety towards the end of my stay when I realized I wouldn't be leaving with as much as I had hoped. And then I went to Toronto for a week to reconnect with a dear friend from Bali. I arrived sick. I felt heavy and uninspired. My friend graciously fed me daily and I laid on her couch processing. She left 3 days before I did and I had her house by myself in Toronto. I saw clients and did skype sessions. I felt better. I paid for that visit through those 3 days. And then to Italy for a week. No working here. A reunion with a friend. And then back to India.
I didn't buy the sweaters in Minnesota that would have been fun to have while I was there. I didn't eat out very much. I watched how many times I bought a $5 latte and limited it to rarely. I bought cheap airfares that included many unnecessary hours to get me to my destination. Through it all I NEVER allowed myself to think I couldn't afford something...I ALWAYS told myself I was choosing to spend my money in a certain way. I have been in this place before of not buying things I wanted or not doing things in the most convenient way possible. There's a part of me that doesn't like that I'm almost 49 and in this place again...but there is a larger part of me that knows that this is how I live my life. I set up, I live well, and I end & start again. And I have NEVER failed. This time around I know my priorities, and they have nothing to do with owning a ton of clothes or things. And also, although it may seem odd given my current situation, I don't have a priority of traveling. I'm not a big sight seer, I don't have places that I'm dying to see, I don't have a bucket list. All I do know is that I want to be in India right now...and so I am.
I share this because I feel there is a common misperception about traveling. That no matter what else is going on in your life, if you are traveling then you have nothing to complain or worry about and that you have a lot of money. I don't have complaints but sometimes I do have some worries. And when I worry it doesn't mean that I don't want to be living the way I'm living. It just means I have a worry. And money...that's the easiest thing to put all your worry into. It's also the easiest thing to put all your anxiety and stress around in an effort to not look at anything else in your life..."if only I had enough money to..." When I catch myself slipping even slightly into that thinking pattern I immediately list everything I need today, and rarely is there anything that I need that I don't have the means to get. I have all that I need in this moment. Gratitude is my most treasured emotion.
Since about my mid 30s my life's focus has changed from ME and my life, to how can I be a part of humanity that is compassionate, inspirational and loving...and still enjoy this amazing life I've been blessed to experience as Jana. And I believe this is key. It took me about 10 years of strong focus to get my full life into alignment with what I said I wanted and how I lived my life. Alignment in every aspect of my life...no more cherry picking which aspects belonged to my "spiritual" life and which aspects I could continue to live out of alignment with that "spiritual" life. My "spiritual" life has become my entire life...my mere existence.