This blog is an extremely long time in the making.
The actual blog describing my travels in India starting October 31, 2015 when I first arrived begin at the end of this entry. The writing below is somewhat of a preamble, describing a bit of my life, career and journey that led me to becoming a yoga teacher… and finally to India, itself. I hope it may encourage any readers to take the leap of faith and whatever steps may be necessary to make the changes in their life to finally walk in their truth and enjoy the journey of discovery to who they really are. Here is just a wee bit of my personal experience of that journey I am still on, every day, in a profound, humbling and infinite exploration.
I have been a traveler in some way, shape or form most of my life… starting internationally when I was a student at Tel Aviv University for 6 months during college, outside of one trip to Mexico with my family at the age of 15. That journey included 3 weeks in Turkey and Greece, as well as a trip to a little known place at the time (’93) called Dahab in Egypt. I feel super grateful to have had the opportunity to visit at least a few off-the-beaten-path places before popularity and development took over. In addition, I visited London, Paris and Amsterdam after college, then waited until completing a successful decade-long advertising career (would you believe it?!?) to truly begin my travels… and MY LIFE.
All of my travels have been a journey into the discovery of who I truly am… a trigger into the deep memory of my nomadic soul, gypsy ways and the knowing I really have been a wandering Jew for lifetimes. Rivka is my given Hebrew name and Wendy means “wanderer”.
I began to wander again in this lifetime when I lived in Israel in ’93/’94. Moments like sobbing naturally and spontaneously at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, allowing me to feel a deep sacred connection to such a Holy Land… made me feel “at home” thousands of miles away from where I grew up in Philadelphia and spent all of my youth. It was then I first learned but would constantly continue to, home truly is where the heart is.
My wandering sparked again when I visited Thailand with a boyfriend, my only international destination while still in advertising. Poor thing, he would have been super content to stay put in one place on a pretty beach. Amongst many other excursions, I made him take a 6-hour van ride up windy roads with an upset belly to Pai, a lovely spot I’d heard of after trekking in the north of Chang Mai, just to be there 24-hours! My wanderlust soul couldn’t resist the tempting sound of potentially sleeping in a treehouse or riding a rented scooter through beautiful landscapes to quiet hot springs. From what I’ve heard, it was worth our trip! As Pai *was* one of those little known spots that Lonely Planet and too many visitors have likely changed for good.
We had 3 weeks to travel and I took us everywhere! My soul was hungry for the taste and smell of different food, the sound of new music, the look of various people/temples and the touch of anything new I could get my hands on! Living and working in the U.S. for so many years, straight from college, with just 2-weeks vacation was absolutely suffocating, especially to an adventurous Sagittarius sun-sign like myself. I couldn’t get enough of each new experience! Finally, I felt FREE and on the move.
Except I knew that at the end of my vacation, my freedom would be officially and completely over. Back to jail I would go, to one of thousands of little cubicles in downtown San Francisco. Making big bucks for high tech clients, my ad agency and even for myself, but with absolutely no personal fulfillment…. making no difference in the lives of anyone on or for the planet. I could merely look forward to the boring daily grind with weekend or evening socializing and no big trip planned for a whole other YEAR. Getting away for even just those 3 weeks was a triumph. Lord knows how many emails and corresponding stress I’d be returning home to. Thank goodness I would also be going home to yoga!
It was while meditating on a beach during that trip in Thailand when I had a breakthrough epiphany around my yoga practice. I had been regularly going to class about 7 years by then after discovering yoga when I got re-located to San Francisco from LA by a direct marketing company. My committed 3x/week practice at my local studio literally saved my life while in advertising. I honestly would not have survived the long working hours and stress without it. Yoga had also become my spiritual practice.
I’d been blessed to find a teacher who knew traditional yoga extremely well but was also a spiritual advisor/therapist, as well as someone who read and often shared teachings from The Course in Miracles. Often, he provided not just a challenging and enjoyable physical practice, but the ideal words I needed to hear on a spiritual level that would help me hold on just one more day while living a life I knew was completely inauthentic and felt like I was in jail. On that beach in Thailand, I pulled the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in my mind and heart… which is exactly where it seems so many others are as well, in self-created jails they simply don’t know how to get out of, let alone realize they’re in.
Until that day, I had never considered teaching yoga. It had truly become my lifeline, my spiritual practice and my very own personal time just for me. It was the only time my mind would truly get quiet… a moving meditation where body, mind and spirit actually did feel like one… a place where I could get away from it all. A nagging thought in the back of my mind said if I were ever to teach, all of that would change. And I simply hadn’t yet felt ready to take that risk.
Yet, on the beach that day, the thought arose, “If yoga saved your life, wouldn’t you want it to help save other people’s? If you were able to find some peace within, even amidst a super stressful environment, wouldn’t you want to help others do the same? And if… even IF yoga was potentially a way to get out of that jail you call an advertising career in San Francisco, isn’t it worth taking a chance?!?!?!!”
The one main goal I’d always had in my work/career but hadn’t yet truly been able to manifest, was making a difference in people’s lives. So the answer to my self-inquiry was a very loud and resounding YES, made all the more beautiful with the background of the ocean’s sound and glitter of sunlight on the sparkling water. My decision could also mean I might experience much more time in blissful nature in the future as well!
My path from then on, and even prior to though I hadn’t always been able to view it that way, was and always has been extremely blessed. At that point, I didn’t think I would possibly have the money for an expensive yoga teacher training, nor would I have the schedule since I was working full-time. As it turned out, the local studio where I had regularly been taking most of my yoga classes was just about to start a 200-hour teacher training. AND it was taking place over 6 months on three out of four weekends/month so I could keep working and better yet, integrate what I learned over time. AND the first third of the total cost and down payment to attend was exactly the amount of money I had left over from my trip in Thailand. A sign from the Universe? If it’s meant to be, everything will align. I still fully believe that. How could I say no?!?
Fortunately by this time, I had already made my way out of the ad agency biz, but was still working in the confines of an SF office as the Marketing Director for a professional Bay-area based dance company. At least I’d been able to find a way to do what I knew (marketing) for something I loved (dance). And was able to help this smaller company (Smuin Ballet) and its talented dancers share their gifts with the world. It was the beginning of being able to feel good about making a difference in others’ lives.
Upon completing my 6-month yoga teacher training, my wings were already feeling clipped still needing to report to an office every day. When my request to work from home just one day/week was turned down by the dance company manager, I decided it was time to jump off the branch, leave the safety of the nest and trust that I could fly. I took yet another huge pay cut (the first being when I left the ad agency) and took a very low paying 20 hour/week desk job at the high end gym where I had been teaching spin classes (for the mere fun and love of it).
The reason I took the job was because they were finally opening their Mind/Body studio and greatly expanding their yoga program. At that time thankfully, even with just my very recent 200 yoga hours, they were willing to train me to offer private yoga sessions while I worked the front desk giving me an opportunity to meet many of my potential clients. The Universe had my back, as always!
It wasn’t very long at all before I was offered my own yoga class, two back-to-back classes at another yoga studio that was changing managers and even an afternoon community class at the premiere yoga studio where I had completed my training. A successful subbing class at another location — and in no time at all, I was a part-time turned full-time yoga teacher in less than two years. If it’s meant to be, everything will align! Again.
The yoga environment has definitely changed since then. But to anyone considering a teacher training, either simply to deepen their own practice or to possibly become at least a part-time yoga teacher, I highly encourage you to GO FOR IT! Depending upon what training you choose, you could very well walk away with a profound improvement in your life based on learning and living the yamas and niyamas alone.
I share my abbreviated story to ask anyone not living the life they desire or being their authentic truth, anyone afraid to make a change or take a risk… what are you waiting for?!?!?? Another 10 years to go by in a job or relationship that doesn’t make you happy? Look at what you value — and make the sacrifices it might take to actually live those values every day. For me, freedom is huge. Integrity is even more important. Constantly learning and making a difference by being in service continues to propel me forward every day.
Yoga is a tool, a practice and a gift… one of the few things I have delved into in my variety-filled life that has always stuck, in some way shape or form. And I know it always will. I have not been a full-time yoga teacher for a few years now. Eventually, the healing arts called as I wanted to learn more about the body in depth and make a difference one-on-one with people.
That and to be perfectly honest, I did finally face my fear about losing yoga as my spiritual practice. To those of you who have dreamt of quitting your job, doing a 500-hour Yoga Alliance certified training (which is often what it takes now to be considered as a teacher in the States) and becoming the next rock star yoga teacher, you may want to think again. No bursting bubbles here — it’s just that yoga teaching (at least in the Bay) is not always as glamorous as the Yoga Journal or Wanderlust may make you seem to believe!
Running around the Bay teaching the amount of classes necessary to make ends meet in such an expensive area, did finally contribute to me losing the dedicated spiritual practice I had come to depend upon. How could I find the time to actually practice when I was running around teaching so much? Such irony.
In the place of yoga, however, came other spiritual paths, places and experiences I was meant to find. In turn, they have opened other doors in my life, allowing me to continue my path/dharma in a truly authentic way. And now I am getting to witness and delight in the intermingling of it all!
It was actually after many years of being called to South America that I found myself doing healing plant medicine work for a month in the jungle of Peru, when I was finally called to India, the MotherLand. I always knew I would make my way here. It was just ironically not while I was a full-time yoga teacher. Everything in divine timing! Somehow, I first needed to to study West African dance in Ghana and Afro-Brazilian in Brazil, and to journey to much of Central and South America — all while in my 30s.
It is *never* too late my friends to take a risk. To go where you’ve always wanted to go! To find a new job! To let go of an unhealthy relationship to BE with yourself! To learn a new skill… and even a language!! As mentioned, I now have the absolute delight of watching all my paths weave together! I can learn and share healing arts and yoga all over the world (often in trade or getting paid), offer retreats that combine so many of my passions and continue to explore this amazing planet which is also truly a dream come true. I am focusing my studies on music and dance in India, as well as yoga/meditation. And have already been blessed with beautiful opportunities in my brief time here so far. If you’re interested to hear/see more about that, please read on.
Hopefully, (if you’ve read this far!) my little life/work story is encouraging. People have asked me how I did it (hence this entry)… and how I do it. The answer is with a bit of money, with a LOT of faith, a huge amount of trust and a super open heart. I also fully believe that we are completely supported by the Universe/Spirit and it knows so much more than we do. I have witnessed first-hand time and again that when one door closes, another opens… even when I think I have made a mistake closing the door myself. One thing I’ve definitely learned by now, no regrets!
Patience IS a virtue. And time WILL tell. Consider witnessing the unfolding of your life as an observer, as well as the participant. As I have been reading recently by Mooji, it is all just a dream, a divine play. So why not dream up a good one… be less attached to the outcome, take yourself a little less seriously… and enjoy the ride? We sure get to take it on one amazingly glorious and colorful planet! Feel free to continue on to more of my blog to see for yourself… in the humbling insanity of this incredibly spiritual eye and heart opening country, India!