by Melody Beattie in Journey to the Heart
Come back to center, that place in you that is still, calm, quiet and connected.
Your center is a place you can trust. It connects the body, mind, heart and soul. It connects truth, your inner voice and the Divine. Your best work comes from there. Your most loving times comes from there. Your insights, awareness and guidance come from being there, at that place, Your best decisions and finest moments come from that place.
Your center is a place that is quietly confident, unassuming, spontaneous and free. It is gentle and kind, but has the power to defend instinctively against attack.
Your center is a place that is naturally joyful and at peace. It is accepting, nonjudgmental, and it channels the voice of your heart. It knows perfect timing. It knows the rhythm of the universe, the rhythm of all creation and it delights in its connection to that rhythm.
If you must leave your center to learn a lesson, feel a feeling or experience something new, do that. Take all the side trips you are called to do. But come back to center when you’re done.
And go to your center first, before you go anywhere else.
Day 5 (or 6) We travelled to the edge of the Maasi Mara – The Naboisho Conservancy more specifically. This is the home of the Naboisho Camp. Glamorous Camping – Glamping to the max. This beautiful place is managed by wonderful humans – Della, Richard, Helen and Rulof.
I had a sitting room in the front, my main bedroom and in the back – a full bathroom with a toilet and shower. In addition – an awesome outdoor shower too.
Each night, after dark, we had REAL Maasi Warriors escorting us each safely to our tents. They were equipped with a bow and arrow – plus a flashlight. The Warrior men were so wonderful. Sweet, and sometimes chatty. I wish I had a Maasi warrior with me always. ;)
Each morning, the tea came at 5:15am. I awoke at 5am. I was ready when the ‘tasty tray’ came. I would sit in my tent, in the front sitting room – with all the lights off and just drink and listen. This was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip, my times in the dark, listening.
I got a video. there’s virtually no picture. But listen. Can you hear that LION? So close.
The Mara has a reputation and it lives up to it. It is wild and big and expansive and full of lions.
Isn’t he beautiful? Lions don’t like to look humans in the eye. This guy turned away, blinked, pretended he was sleeping. But I love this shot.
One of the most profound things I noticed on The Mara was the sky. God is here. Shining down on all the beauty with love.
While at Naboisho Camp we went on Safari every day and night. Looking for animals everywhere. We saw them, too, – Lions, Leopards, Giraffes, and so much more.
Many people who go on safari, I am told, don’t ever see a Leopard. We saw Four! But this one we witnessed mid-hunt and in the daytime. What a stunningly beautiful animal.
The Giraffe look different in The Mara than in the Laikapia region. Their spots are less defined and perhaps darker. But they are just as beautiful and gentle and so very sweet.
The Mara is where I learned about some of the sounds Cheetahs make. Like a bird! Chirp Chirp.
I wish I could share the video here – but you can see it on my Instagram: JoyLoveYoga
None-the-less – On the Mara we came upon three sibling Cheetahs. They were hunting and somehow got separated. These are normally solitary animals. But they were still young, and still together. The chirping was a call to the missing one – who also had a kill. The three cheetahs ate well that night.
The most memorable of all of my Yoga in the Wild was here, on the edge of the Mara – at the foot of a thousand year old fig tree. The tree had Baboons in it while I taught. I’m not gonna lie – I was a little frightened as Baboons aren’t the nicest creatures. But they did behave and the folks at the Naboisho Camp built us our own platforms!
And we drank and ate in the wild!
This was one of my all time favorite mornings of my life. I wish I could re-do.
So grateful for all the work from the staff at Naboisho Camp for creating this dream.
We visited a village in the Maasi tribe. This was quite different than our trip to Samburu. I felt like they did know we were coming.. so it was more ‘prepared.’ The women performed songs for us, some of the gals joined in. I loved the deep connections we all made with the people in Kenya. A gift.
It is tradition to shake the hands of the adult Maasi as a greeting. For children though, visitors are to touch their heads. The little kiddos came out to us and bowed their heads, I was honored to touch and pat their beautiful skulls.
Their homes were made of mud and wood. The Tribe is quite large.
They were lovely and welcoming and lightness.
It’s not all perfection though. I love the tradition, the beauty.
I know people in other places live differently, but I was shocked to learn there are practices among some of the tribes in Kenya, that I have a hard time ignoring. I honestly thought the practice of genital mutilation was stopped. I thought women were treated with grace and love. But in some places that isn’t true and I will not be blissfully ignorant anymore.
I spoke to one of our drivers about a moment in April – This last April. He told me he drove a young girl (13 or so years old) to a plane to be flown to Nairobi. During a ceremony, where she was the subject – something went wrong and she was in the process of bleeding to death. Thankfully she lived. When this driver asked the man of the ‘house’ why this was still happening he said all of his wives and daughters have undergone this procedure, this ceremony. This is the way it would stay. I am committed to educating, raising money and helping to make change where I can in this situation. I know life isn’t perfect and Kenya isn’t perfect. But it is pure. I hope to help make change in this area.
In addition, I was shocked to learn poaching still goes on. These criminals kill animals for their parts.. to sell. I realize I do not understand the reality of doing something like this to make money to care for my children. I just want to help find another way. Travel is an education, an eye opening and it isn’t all rainbows.
I will end on rainbows though – this trip deserves that. It just doesn’t deserve blindness. So I shared. I hope you understand.
The very last day of the trip – our group returned to Nairobi. We visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Thanks to The Travel Yogi – we were treated to a private showing. What did that mean? There were only 8 of us and the generous employees released 30 baby elephants into our loving arms.
I was so happy I could have cried. These beautiful, powerful creatures. The David Sheldrick Trust does incredible work. Literally SAVING these babies and eventually returning them back into the wild. The trust runs completely on donations. I adopted this sweet pea. Joto – the baby among the babies. He is 9 months old. You can adopt one too. I think it’s the perfect Holiday gift! Click here: (say I sent you)
Adopt a Baby Elephant!
So what can I really say in conclusion? It’s still all a dream. I am still digesting. But I know this:
Kenya is beautiful.
Kenya is alive.
God is in Kenya.
If you get an opportunity to go – please do, the money won’t matter in a few years but the memories will.
I love you. Thank you, heart open to The Travel Yogi.
I knew leading a yoga retreat to Kenya would change me. I didn’t know how or why – but I knew. It is still all so surreal – and I keep having to remind myself that I was there, that it DID happen. Maybe a part of me is still there, maybe it always will be.
I also knew I needed a new journal for this adventure. I had to write down every detail I could, so I will never forget. I searched and searched for the right place to write – then I found it:
The embossed heart made it just right – it felt like AFRICA.
I will use bits and pieces of my journal writing to share the story of my journey – but truthfully, I am still digesting, processing and therefore many of my current impressions are different than my ‘in the moment’ thoughts.
Every day in Kenya began at about 5am – every night ended with me rushing to jot down the jumble of thoughts and experiences I had during every full day – before I fell asleep at 10:30pm. I am a person who requires sleep. But I knew I had the rest of my life to sleep. I would ‘be like the animals’ – up before the sunrise and out long after sunset. That’s when the magic happens.
The first stop on our adventure wasn’t Africa at all! It was on a long layover in Dubai. We had 15 hours. (by ‘we’ I mean me and a few of my friends/students – Christine, Kat and Lesia) We figured we should sleep a bit – but how could we NOT see Dubai! And so we did.
I do think it was miraculous, since I didn’t have internet – that we all located each other in the airport. I won’t go into details, but honestly the Universe was guiding us. As a group, with advice from airport personnel, we decided to ride the METRO to the Burj Khalifa. (I decided after that to call it – perhaps inappropriately – THE BURJ!)
The Burj is the tallest building in the world. It was actually quite uneventful getting there – the metro led us right to the beautiful tourist spot. Before we get to the visit – just an observation; Dubai has a lot of malls. Ridiculous malls. Yep, shopping malls. Kinda like the Mall of America malls. I was unimpressed (sorry) by that. Yuck. Felt like America only folks were dressed differently and spoke a different language. But, hey, you could get ANYTHING you wanted.
The Burj Khalifa is beautiful, fancy, TALL. We went to the lowest of the observation decks – the top decks cost about $100 USD and we were saving money for Kenya. The view at the top was lovely. It was light-filled and reminded me of Vegas. I said this to someone who was bothered by that comparison, but I meant it in the nicest way. I always love having a window seat flying in or out of Las Vegas at night. It’s really gorgeous. Dubai is not AS flashy but still reminiscent. It was a quick visit, but one I am so glad I did. I slept in a ‘cube’ at the airport and then we were off to our next spot….
We arrived in Nairobi in the late afternoon and were greeted by guides set up by The Travel Yogi and escorted through customs and to our van. We travelled through the city and to the outskirts to a lodge inside the Nairobi National Reserve. What’s incredible is the park – full of animals – is RIGHT NEAR the city.
I asked our guide if there are ever animals that ‘break out’ and bust into the city. The answer: YES. He said, on occasion, a Lion has to be tranquilized and moved back to the park. But that being said, it is pretty cool to see Giraffes, Rhinos, Zebras – all with Nairobi as a background. (I didn’t take this picture but I love how well it illustrates the animals and city)
We only stayed inside the park – at the Emakoko for one night. But it was joyous. Each of my 7 students on this adventure were giddy; laughing, connecting and drinking the country’s famous drink – the Dawa – which is kind of like a Moscow Mule but with a bit of honey and fresh chili pepper. YUM.
After an incredible bath in the room that first evening with a nighttime view of a ridge, monkeys in trees and the sound of buffalo in a nearby stream – I slept soundly and went out the next morning for a game drive on the way to the airport for our first itty bitty plane ride.
Christine and I were on the ‘second jeep’ out which allowed for a little more sleep and a private guide. We saw Rhinos – black and white. Turns out white Rhinos aren’t white at all. But this name comes from being called ‘wide’ Rhinos since their mouth is big, flat and well – wide. :) It’s the only place I saw Rhinos in the wild.
We flew between locations in Kenya instead of driving for many hours on dusty roads (thank you The Travel Yogi!) but these were teeny planes. I have flown on a number of these commuter type planes, but this first flight was the only time I have actually gotten nauseous. Luckily that didn’t happen on the other flights. and well, the view was worth it.
Is this real life? wow. Off we went to the second location – The Sosian. A beautiful lodge in the Laikipia Region of Kenya. Our hosts – Simon, Rosy and also Daisy made this part of the trip unforgettable. Evenings of hysterical laughter and stories, incredible food and fun. It was also the spot we met our guide – Paul – who would be with us the rest of the time. More on Paul in a bit – but suffice to say, while we were together Paul received notification that he was voted best guide in Kenya out of nearly 6 thousand guides. He is INCREDIBLE! And a forever friend. I feel honored to have met him.
At Sosian, we had tea delivered to our rooms for wake up. But I always tried to wake up before the tea. That way I could sit on my porch and watch the sun rise and look for animals. It was a morning meditation like no other.
I had moments like this – which felt like just me and this giraffe. Deep breath.
On our first night out on safari in Laikapia – we experienced an event I will never forget. It started as a very slow game drive – nothing. Not even a sign of anything. At dusk, the other jeep (we had two) spotted a cheetah. They tried to get to it – but somehow the jeep (which actually was a Land Rover) I was in took off and got to the cheetah first. We were within what felt like 5 feet of the animal.
He was so beautiful. I had said, from the beginning, I wanted to see a cheetah. It was raw though, as the cheetah ate the impala. The blood, the sounds, the pure wild nature. Somehow I wasn’t grossed out or turning away. I was captivated. So captivated that when one of the guides made a noise and the light moved. In the dark, now, we saw a large lioness poised right behind the cheetah. It all happened so fast. I am grateful I didn’t even think about the possibility of the lioness killing the cheetah. That was what the guides feared. But instead, the cheetah popped up, growled loudly and ran away. The lioness came VERY close to us, picked up the kill and ran away. I was stunned. my reaction was visceral. I was afraid of the lioness, no doubt, But it all happened so so so fast. The guides told us the lioness had baby cubs. We never saw them, but likely why she wasn’t interested in fighting.
Full disclosure – this sweet shot of her was taken by my friend Katie Devine (she had an awesome camera and eye!) – I couldn’t get the moment because I was afraid and it was dark. I have no skills! Bravo – Katie – all the best pictures came from you. :)
Also at Sosian – we went on a game walk!
I don’t know if it was comforting or frightening that Simon brought along a shotgun to protect us! We walked to a beautiful river where the crew laid out a bountiful breakfast.
and after breakfast we hiked to a waterfall where half our group jumped in for a swim.
awe, I wish I did swim, but I wasn’t feeling it at the moment. Truth is, you never regret the things you did, only the things you didn’t do. Remember that.
We experienced ‘yoga in the bush’ – at this ‘platform’ students could see giraffes and elephants on the ridge in the distance.
I knew this trip would bring me animal experiences, there was no doubt. But the truth is – the experience that changed me is our trip to a local village. The Samburu tribe is nomadic. While Simon did mention to a few of the men of the tribe we were coming by, the men were out with the live stock in the fields. When we arrived – it was unexpected. But the women were so very welcoming and loving.
The Samburu tribe, we were told, only eat cow blood and cow milk. Mixed together. Maybe this is TMI – but they slice the cow’s throat, take what they need, patch up the cow – and put the cow back into the herd. The cow doesn’t die! It’s sustainable. I did ask the guides if they EVER eat anything else and I was told on special occasions like a wedding – they will eat goat meat. What about veggies? Again, on occasion – they may trade with another tribe. This though only happens once a month, at most.
The women invited us into their singing and dancing circle. I will admit, I was shy, and nervous and felt extremely awkward. I am SO happy I joined in though.
Let me tell you; looking in another woman’s eyes, when you have nothing in common and cannot even speak to each other, but knowing you are connected – is profound. We are human, we are LOVE. I could cry talking about it now.
I was so happy this elder woman and her husband smiled for this photo. They were happy to be in a photo. They wanted to see the pictures immediately and asked if we could send the pictures to the folks at Sosian so they could bring them next time. The men in this tribe have many wives. This man wanted me to be his wife. I told him (through Simon) I was already married, he said he was too ;) (wink)
I don’t want to put my American eyes and views on this beautiful tribe. But it was an important experience for me. Obviously we know, people live differently than we do here in America. But to see it, live it, experience is something so completely different. They don’t have therapeutic pillows and down comforters to sleep (like me). The children are not sitting in front of computer games for hours (like mine). They are happy though. I asked. Truthfully you could feel it too. This is their life, their experience. and it is beautiful.
Also we visited a local school – a portion of our trip cost included a donation to the school.
The children were full of light, curiosity and downright giddiness!
They LOVED Selfies!
These kids were thrilled to be in school. Thrilled to have the opportunity so easily afforded to us. It truly was joyful to be a part of.
So much happened in our time at Sosian –
We did partner yoga in the bush on a platform. During class we heard and saw Elephants, Hippos and truly the glory of GOD. It was pure and beautiful and magic.
(another Katie Devine photo – swoon)
We celebrated life!
Travel Changes you – It does. There is no denying it. I remember my first BIG international trip in 2000. I went to Italy. While it may sound ignorant and silly (I was) – I thought Julius Caesar was pretend. Then I saw the Forum. Boom. Life-changing.
This is only HALF the trip … part two – sleeping in a tent in the bush, coming soon.
TRAVEL, MY FRIENDS, TRAVEL, PLEASE.
I’m sitting on my couch, in my house, where I thought I would be forever…
alas – you crazy Uni (thanks Ginger) !! The Universe has different plans for me.
These last few days have been overwhelming, in a good way. I knew the announcement of my move (back) to California would spark some reaction, but I couldn’t have possibly imagined the outpouring of love I’ve started to receive.
I have moments of great strength (yay I signed with a moving company) and moments of sobbing (listening to goodbye songs for my final playlist at hauteyoga QA) but I am really trying to trust this step into the great unknown is exactly where I am supposed to be going.
I am deeply moved and so grateful for those of you who have connected to share your story. The stories of how I’ve effected your life. I am humbled, honored, and so touched.
The truth of it all is YOU have changed MY LIFE. What I have been a part of building at hauteyoga is my heart – truly my heart open wide. It is hard to imagine that I can step away from this magic. I cannot thank you all enough for everything you have given me – your dedication, vulnerability, trust, open hearts. I’m not going to lie, I am afraid. But I am going to be strong, put on my big-girl pants and move onward. I’m going to step forward with my husband and son and we are going to flow right where the Universe will lead us. I have to believe in that.
Please know – you all – really ALL – have touched me deeply. I will never be the same. I hope you come to class to visit me these last 26 days. Yes, I will be back in October. And YES I am still doing retreats – so come along. I love you. So much.
Sometimes I wonder why yoga is exploding in popular culture today. I wonder, ‘What is drawing thousands and thousands of people to the mat to practice some form of yoga?’ And why NOW?
Today I truly think I got my answer and in the process I gained internal permission to be more me. This is a process I have been on for many years. 15 years of practice of yoga, 12 years of teaching yoga, and a constant evolution of growth and change – on and off the mat. I even decided last month to take a public journey deeper into self-awareness and authenticity for the next year.
Here is what I learned today: People in our world are craving more connection, at the same time – our world is facilitating more separation. A simple smile, touch, or even hug can change everything. Isn’t it true though, in a ‘normal’ day – we may not even have direct eye contact with someone let alone hug or touch another person. We live in a day and age of more computers, less face to face. More social media, less casual conversation. We open up to the world, a world we do not know, through our computers but are we even experiencing the present moment we are in such a rush to ‘post’ about?
The word yoga means ‘to yoke’ or union. Union also means connection. We want it, we need it, and we crave it. We are human. Today I realized, THAT could be one reason for the explosion of yoga practitioners and the popularity of yoga altogether. We need a real life community, kula, tribe, family. We need to be connected to someone, anyone. Something, anything.
I was lucky enough to take class today from Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl. She is a beautiful, authentic, heart open human. Sure, she teaches the physical postures of yoga (asana) but what she is really bringing to the masses is connection. Connection to yourself and gentle, unforced connection to other human beings.
When I teach yoga, I try to be as authentic and truthful as possible and I try to create a community wherever I go. So why was this so profound today? Because I can now give myself permission to teach even more from the heart and worry less if I can not only do chatturanga but if I teach enough of that pose.
I have had this realization in the last few weeks that students (and colleagues too) associate my physical class with chatturanga (the low part of a tricep push up). My classes are physically challenging because I have felt when folks get into their bodies, they can access their minds. That being said, I have grown and changed in the way I teach yoga asana quite a lot since I started teaching. I am a vastly different teacher than I was 12 years ago. In fact, in the last year, I have consciously slowed down my classes. I have cut down on the amount of chatturangas I teach in class too. It’s been subtle, maybe unnoticeable. All the while, I feared I would ‘lose’ students or that perhaps people were coming to my class JUST for the physical practice.
Today, I felt in my heart, I am offering more than chatturanga. I am offering CONNECTION. I heard a resounding YES in my head and in my heart today that I can continue on this path of teaching from the heart and allowing the asana to reflect what I am feeling.
I injured my wrist more than two months ago and have not been able to practice chatturanga. Again I am in a place of wondering, what if I cannot do or teach this pose anymore? Will my classes get smaller? Will people stop coming? Truth is I didn’t get much, physically, from Rachel’s class today – but I did get permission to connect and open my heart more. So this alone gives me permission to do what I need to as a teacher, to be my most authentic self and teach physical asana (chatturanga or not) that reflects exactly what I want, right now. The physical practice follows the mental and heart practice…. Not the other way around. I am committed. I am also learning to let go of any judgements or attachments I have to the physical practice and how others ‘see’ me (true or not).
In the end, I want to put out into the world that I am more committed than ever to be true, authentic, and real. I am more committed than ever to teach physical classes that promote connection to ourselves and others. My teaching of the physical asana will continue to grow and change and I will attract to me exactly who I am meant to attract.