The Lovelight Project

Shining the Light on Happy, Healthy Living

If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It

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My friend in the States yesterday congratulated me for living a dream, and it was a good reminder that indeed, what I’ve got going on these days is really cool and different.

Because, as my boyfriend and I build out a tiny home on wheels, it’s a struggle some days – the days when construction is waaaayyy over our inexperienced and unskilled heads. Those days are so frustrating, because we are reminded of our ignorance. There’s so much to learn in the world, and the only way to do it is to experience as much as possible.

Fun Gus gets a lot of smiles and thumbs up when we’re on the road. Once, an old hippie with a leaf on his nose for sunscreen said, “Lookin’ good, family!”

So, with that general motto, I took my new guy’s offer to travel around Australia with him in his tiny home on wheels. I had seen pictures and heard about “Fun Gus, the Magical Mushroom Bus,” from which Aaron based his business holding mushroom-growing workshops. It looked awesome, like a gypsy caravan. 

I had a few reasons for immediately saying yes, in no particular order: 1) My visa was up in Bali soon, and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next. 2) I’ve been looking at housesitting gigs throughout Australia, but as you likely know, it’s a big country. I couldn’t quite figure out where I really would fit in. Traveling around was a great option. 3) Of course, it didn’t exactly matter where I went, since I work remotely. 4) I figured, really, how different could it be from living on a sailboat? 5) Duh! I’m in love!

After an epic journey across the Nullarbor, Aaron and I flew to the Gold Coast, where I was introduced to Fun Gus. 

“I hope you’re not disappointed,” Aaron told me. “There’s a lot of work to do.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t shy from a challenge, so I had a big ole grin on my face when I first saw the tiny home on wheels. The construction itself is really a category of its own. We’re kind of #vanlife, but not really because Fun Gus is absolutely not a van. We’re also sort of #tinyhome, but we are completely mobile. 

Fun Gus Day 1: Piles upon piles. No place to sit. No table. He had a one-burner camping stove and a mattress: bachelor pad central! Deep breaths, Suzanne. Nothing is permanent.

It’s a commercial tipper truck with a steel frame installed on the back. The previous owner documented his impressive work on his YouTube channel, Embrace the Chaos. He built the outside with hardwood planks and welded an extra-strong steel frame that fits nicely on the truck. I was super-impressed that Aaron decided to buy it when he saw it for sale on the side of the road. The original plan for the couple who owned it was to travel around the country giving naturopathic treatments and tarot card readings. But, before they could really take off, both of them got great gigs in town. So Fun Gus was just sitting there, waiting.

When Aaron pulled up to me outside the Gold Coast airport, after retrieving Fun Gus from the parking lot, I jumped in smiling. Aaron wasn’t: His associate who dropped off the vehicle for him had spilled some white lime powder all over the cab. It was a mess. The truck was super-dirty. (At 3.5 meters tall, it doesn’t fit in the stalls of car washes.) And the back, where we were supposed to live … well, it was an insulated warehouse with a metal ladder leading up to a mattress. I was still smiling. I like smiling. 

In my Gratitude Journal that day, I wrote that I was thankful for: “Fun Gus, it’s a big project but we’ll make it great in no time.” That was on November 27th. Five weeks later, we have to admit, we did a fantastic job. But it wasn’t easy. 

First, we had to do interior design work, trying to figure out how to build a home in the 1.9 x 5.4-meter (6.2 x 17.7 ft) warehouse. Luckily, Fun Gus has great bones. There is a loft over the cab that’s big enough for a comfy queen-sized mattress and storage. There are two opaque windows in the loft, and down in the main room (as it were), there is a lovely stain glass window. There is a back porch, where you enter via stairs through a quite handsome stain glass accordion door that the original owner salvaged from an old hippie bus that was rotting in a lot nearby his home.

The door has peacocks on it, and it made me remember in 2001 when I was a young newspaper reporter. I wrote so many stories about some old lady who wanted to kill the wild peacocks that Frances Langford, a Hollywood starlet had brought there when she retired nearby in 1945. My editor figured out that I wrote more consecutive front-page articles on peacocks than the newspaper had published on the first Gulf War. Plus, peacocks hang out near Krishna. I felt right at home!

Right at home. In the warehouse. The dirty warehouse. 

Keep in mind, Aaron teaches people how to grow mushrooms professionally. I’m a writer, marketing consultant, yoga teacher, energy worker and life coach. We don’t exactly know how to build houses, let alone tiny ones. He once worked a job installing floors. I did some jobs as a painter, and I interned at This Old House Magazine. (Part of the job was replying to emails addressed to Bob Vila, which was hilarious because I was a 19-year-old kid living in New York City at the time.)

We’re smiling because things went right today. Also, there is fresh spinach ready for eating in the kitchen.

And yet, in this time, we did electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, painting and staining, propane instillation, interior design and interior decoration. Oh, and Aaron bought a scooter that sits on a rack we installed (after we found a mechanic to remove the old ball hitch … we couldn’t do it all without a professional!). We had to learn the hard way a few times. Aaron banged his finger on a fast-closing ladder (nothing broken!). We butted heads. We apologized. We kept at it. 

Look at Gussy now! We have a full kitchen, table and chairs, a sweet bedroom and plans for a little bathroom (to be “self-contained”). Note the siracha sauce. That’s the stuff.

Fast-forward five weeks, and I am sitting at my computer at a table on a comfortable director’s style chair inside. There are stairs (Aaron scored big time by finding a small, stair-shaped bookcase in a random store – honestly, we were disagreeing over one of the million decisions we had to make during this project, and I went to a café to work). Those stairs lead up to a final big stair that we built. It’s a timber frame that holds a refrigerator and has a hinged top that hides a power center, where we can charge everything we could ever want with the benefit of two new solar panels charging away in the Aussie sunshine. In the loft, there are baskets to organize our clothing, fairy lights, a dreamcatcher, throw pillows and cute ceramic knobs on the patched screens. Next to the refrigerator, there is a kitchen backsplash with two spice racks and a three-burner stove that runs on a propane bottle that’s attached outside in a space next to the spare tire in between the cab and the living area.  

Next to the stove, there’s a spot where we can store plates and utensils without them breaking, underneath two storage shelves. Turn a little more, and you’re at the kitchen sink, which we installed today along with a modern-looking tap. I can reach everything in the kitchen because there is a step, which doubles as a storage area for the invertor and recycling, that we built. The walls are either painted or have a faux wood panel, which we edged in natural wood finishing pieces. 

Before we realized we didn’t know what we were doing. But we did it, eventually! Gotta give it up to L-brackets and hex screws.

Outside, the porch is reinforced, there’s a mosquito screen that lets us keep that lovely (and also reinforced) door open. The truck’s cab, too, is now a good-vibes space. We cleaned it numerous times to get the powder out, and I glued pieces of an off-white carpet over a weird, black glue spill on the dash. I Blue-Tacked on a small alter, which currently features a small Confucius, which I found in a thrift shop in Taiwan, a little laughing Buddha that a store owner gave me when buying the storage baskets, and a green frog doing yoga. Oh, and some dried flowers from the alter at the Krishna Village ashram and an admission band to the Woodford Folk Festival, two places we had fun while working on Fun Gus these last five weeks. I hung some shells and beads from the rear-view mirror, Tacked-on a speaker for tunes and added a few sticks of Nag Champa incense.

Fun Gus is all gussied up! But it’s true, it wasn’t easy. If it were easy, then everyone would be driving around and living in tiny homes on wheels. Right?

In the Name of God

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People do lots of things in the name of God. People kill each other, steal each other’s possessions and spit on each other. People also serve free food to those who are hungry, shake the hands of strangers and even, recently, go to a remote island filled with natives who dutifully kill anyone who approaches them.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising to me that so many people go into debt in the name of God. And what I’m talking about, of course, is Christmas.

Across the globe from my American hometown, here in Melbourne, Australia, I see a few Black

Tucked away in a box at a friend’s house, I admit that I kept the advent calendar that my grandmother made. At the end of the month, I wrap every ornament with the same bits of tissue paper I did when I was 5.

Friday ads and holiday decorations popping up. That’s to be expected, as almost everything about Australia seems to be nothing but a kinder and less … gun-ny (?) … version of America. Strip malls still line the roads. Thrift shops, known cheekily as op shops here, are all over. You can buy anything you want. Last night, I stayed at a hotel overlooking a shop that specialized in rugs. The electric neon sign repeatedly scrolled, “Range of Rugs! $$$$ Rugs! Rugs! Rugs!”

But without Thanksgiving, of course, Black Friday doesn’t have the same frenzied draw here. No one is talking about Cyber Monday. Today is “Small Business Saturday.” I see plenty of cute small businesses nearby, but looking around the café I’m at I can’t say anyone has that “I gotta spend my paycheck today” vibe.

Black Friday is even a more ludicrous concept in Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia – the last five countries I lived in. While Taipei, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are certainly modern cities – the Gangnam area of Seoul even has a famous song highlighting its excesses – there’s simply not the dramatic push by every member of society to prove your love for others by buying them things.

Or worse … prove your love of God by buying things. Because, of course, nothing says “I’m a good person and deserve to go to heaven” like by buying sparkling, plastic decorations to fill your home … only to pack it all up with relief in a big, plastic bin a month later and stuff it into the storage locker you rent because you have too many things for your mini-mansion.

Every year, like me, I’m sure, you shake your head as you watch the videos of people pushing their way into a big box store in a desperate attempt to get a discounted television. They’ll elbow each other out of the way to save a little money so that they can have the capacity to accumulate even more things in a sad attempt to feel better.

Because, that’s what we’re trying to do, right? We’re trying to feel better. We use a holiday that

You’ll shoot your eye out, kid! Desperate desires for things are worthy of laughter. Also, I recently read that Hugh Hefner had a lamp like the dad coveted in this movie.

was once about showing a love for God and – even if we don’t believe in God – we spend hundreds, sometimes thousands. We may be trying to feel good, but often the aftermath is a financial hangover that adds to the real one we get from all those fancy cocktail-filled parties.

I know for me, toward the end of my time participating in the holiday season, I’d be exhausted. I’d bake cookies for my neighbors. I’d hang pretty lights on my house. I’d buy and decorate a beautiful tree. I’d buy well thought-out presents for everyone I knew – every close family member, my love interest, my dear friends and usually the children of those dear friends as well. I’d purchase a few new dresses for all those parties. I’d get my nails done. I’d buy and then mail around 100 Christmas cards to loved ones living far away. I’d make treats and wrap them thoughtfully for all of my co-workers. I’d purchase extra bottles of wine to give as hostess gifts. I’d usually make special crafts that I would plan out months in advance. I’d never break the bank, because I was working three or four jobs at the time. But I’d spend.

But anyone who is my friend or my family member, I would hope, doesn’t feel like I love them less simply because I am no longer giving them gifts. I did have one friend who struggled with this. When I was selling my possessions so that I only own what I can carry (I did it this morning … that’s one way to cut down on the buying!), I asked a dear, dear friend if she would like to have a beautiful wooden instrument that she gifted me earlier. I thought it was a better option than selling it. She was very hurt. Over the years, I’ve tried to reach out to her – because I love and respect her – but in the end it seemed she truly equated our friendship with the gifts she gave me.

Throughout the year, I volunteer but the holidays I doubled-down. Every year I spent a few hours giving away toys to needy families with the local United Way.

I understand that one of the five love languages is gifting, and it’s true. I did feel special last month when my boyfriend gave me a cute coffee mug with a little princess kitty on it. But you know what? That mug already got sold when we sold the van we were living in. He didn’t even notice that I didn’t take it when I packed up my things. Because the mug is not our love. It is an expression of our love. Just like how he makes me coffee in the morning. That’s a different love language: service. That one is free.

You know where I’m going with this. “Yeah yeah yeah,” you’re already saying. “Stop buying things, start living.” It’s like a broken record with this blog, right!? But the reality is that buying things in the name of God is hypocrisy. The more you consume, the worse off the Earth is. Earth, you may recall, is God’s creation. And if you don’t believe in God, then what the hell are you doing participating in the Christmas buying season anyway?

To recap: Buying things is not a necessary way to prove your love for others. Buying things will not make you feel better. Buying things is not a way to celebrate the entire point of the holiday season. If you want to really celebrate this year, get creative. Give your time. Give hugs. Give love, please – in the name of God!

Nomad Life = Comfortable with Change

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In the last year, I’ve lived in 10 countries. And I mean really living – I don’t have a storage locker or a room somewhere “back home.” There’s no one waiting for me to return. My mail is in an unattended pile at a friend’s house. People ask where I’m from. The answer is always simply where I’ve slept the night before.

A year ago, the concept of living in a new country seemed overwhelming. As I was getting ready to move to Argentina last October, I remember going to the bookstore to pick up a Spanish workbook. As I leafed through the pages of verb conjugations in the anonymity of that quiet aisle, I broke down in tears. I didn’t feel ready, and yet I had that one-way plane ticket already booked and off I went.

I love hiking by myself! Here I am at the top of Elephant Mountain, overlooking Taipei on a bluebird day. When you hike by yourself, no one is waiting for you and you’re not waiting for anyone. There’s nothing to compare … you’re simply doing great.

Fast forward to this morning, when I was drinking coffee in an apartment in Taipei, Taiwan. I thought, you know, it would be fun to hop on the subway and try a supposedly delicious local dish I heard about called “stinky tofu” for lunch. So, I went. And I ate it. It was, yes, stinky, and it was, yes, delicious.

I’ve only been in Taiwan for less than two weeks, and yet I feel totally at home. With each country, it takes less and less time to get my bearings and figure out how everything works. How exactly did I get so comfortable with change, so easily throwing myself into completely unknown situations? After doing it now 10 times in a year, I credit a few key things:

  • I set myself up for success. In truth, I’m really not very good about researching a country or a city before I arrive. Compared to my serious attempt to master Spanish before arriving in Argentina, in Taiwan I did not know what language people even spoke. (Simplified Chinese, by the way, is the most common of many languages. I can say hello.) But before I arrive in any new country or city within a country, I always know where I am going to stay for at least the first few nights. I’ll check Hostel World for top-rated spots, or I’ll set up a housesitting gig. I’ll download Google maps (to use offline), so I can point myself in a direction. Next, I check out the transportation situation. I may need to rent a car or a scooter, buy a metro card or catch a bus. It’s sometimes ridiculously confusing – honestly, figuring out the bus in Korea involved a miracle – but it happens, every time. I hit the ATM for some local cash and away I go!
  • I am my own best friend. If you’re up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you know these basics (safety is a part of everything I just described, of course) must be taken care of before social belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. The beautiful thing about the decisions I actively make everyday is that I can skip ahead to being my full self. I have plenty of people who love and care for me. Social media makes it easier than ever to stay in touch with those I care about. Sometimes I am super-busy with work, and all I can do is send a quick note. But I try to let people know I’m thinking of them, and I love it when people think of me as well. My family loves and supports me in a wonderful, hands-off manner that I’ve come to cherish. My boyfriend starts every day by telling me how much he values me. And I spend time giving energy to my own health: Every day, I exercise, try to eat right, limit my alcohol and sugar, practice yoga, meditate, take a nap and simply do things I want to do. So, I’m never lonely, and I’m never bored. If I want to wander around until I find that stinky tofu place, then I will. If I

    Dadaocheng Temple in Taiwan. Not worrying involves … you guessed it … faith in your highest self and God. The more you acknowledge and show gratitude for ways life works in your favor, the more it will.

    want to work nose-to-the-grindstone all day so that I can relax the next day, then I do. Everything I do, I do because I love myself.

  • I don’t worry. Period! I make it an active, mindful practice to be low on anxiety. I didn’t check-in to my flight online. OH NO! Maybe I’ll get a bad seat. And yet, experience has shown that attendants frequently give me an emergency exit row. And if I do get the middle seat of the last row? I still get to where I’m going. OH NO! My ATM card expired. It’s actually OK. I can get it forwarded to me in Australia. And I follow intermittent fasting anyway. You don’t actually need to eat, it’s fine. OH NO! I don’t speak the language, I have no idea what I’m doing here, What if I get robbed? What if the next earthquake is bigger than the last? What if? What if? The reality is that bad things happen … and often they happen exactly when they are supposed to. My recent round of Bali belly food poisoning? Believe it or not, it was a blessing. Long story, but it’s true. Everything always works out.

When you’re so comfortable in your own life, all the outside influences and potential stressors stop becoming such a big deal. In fact, life becomes worry-free. The reason I broke down in the bookstore before Argentina? It was because I didn’t truly believe in myself. Well, with time, I proved myself capable. As a reward, I get to spend my days learning about different cultures, interacting with interesting people who have very different lives than mine. I get to try different foods and drinks, see landscapes that are unfamiliar and adapt the best I can to totally foreign ways of life. I get to discover how, in spite of all these differences, we’re really all the same.

It’s certainly not always easy – trust me! When the airline attendant told me that I couldn’t bring the 1.5L of water I just bought on to the second flight of a 12-hour red-eye from Bali to Taiwan, I almost cried. (I’ve actually cried a lot this year, because I love myself and value all my emotions.) But in line at that second security check, I didn’t cry. Instead, I unscrewed the lid, stepped out of line and downed the whole thing. As the massive amount of water sloshed in my belly, I thought about all the times I have been thirsty in my life. That’s the thing with being comfortable with change: It’s knowing that sometimes you’re thirsty, and sometimes you’re waterlogged. But you’re still living … and, hopefully, still smiling!

Yogini on the Scene – Day 7

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Yesterday’s pretty flat white enjoyed while working in between yoga

Drinking a kopi and overlooking the ocean in Amed this morning, I can’t help but smile at the amazing week I shared with so many new friends participating in and organizing the Ocean Yoga Festival. This week was filled with celebration of community, opportunities for a deeper understanding of myself, laughter and learning. I reaffirmed the importance of my daily yoga and meditation practice and was inspired by so many teachers and fellow students. I was able to share some of my knowledge, and I was able to donate and help raise money for local non-profits that are making a difference right here in my little town.

What more could I ask for?

My final day started off not with a bang but a whimper: If you’ve ever taken a myofascial release class, you know what I mean. The practice is connecting the body, breath and mind as you roll small, hard balls over your muscles for a self-created deep tissue massage. If done correctly, deep tissue massages are the opposite of relaxing, and the same is true for myofascial release. Trying to keep my face from grimacing, I put my body weight on these balls and found trigger points of stress in my calves, hips and shoulders. Like all kinds of yoga, both on and off the mat, that’s the point: Instead of shying away and ignoring the pain, yogis look it straight in the eye, in the present moment, detach and let it go. I cried an emotional and physical release not once, but twice during the class.

If you haven’t cried during a yoga practice, you haven’t gone deep enough.

SUP Yoga in Amed – It was so fun introducing people to a practice I love, which involves falling over with a big, loud splash.

And I have a similar saying for SUP Yoga: If you haven’t gotten wet, you haven’t given it your all. So, in the afternoon, after my students clipped their paddleboards to the buoy line and joined me in a strong flow, I was tickled to watch most of them fall in. I always fall into the water during class, but to be honest … I purposefully fall in to help nervous students laugh and relax.

It’s so easy to “mail it in” – both on the yoga mat and in life. I was reminded about that this week. You have to give it your all. You can’t hold back just because you’re scared of falling or failing. Just as I hope you want Suzanne in all my ridiculous glory, I want you to show up like that, too.

It’s the way I live my life. Ever since I was a kid, I was on stage, performing for my patient and loving family or, sometimes, an audience of stuffed animals. I learned to juggle, learned to tell a story. I learned to make friends and get people to laugh. Even when I live in towns like Villa 25 de Mayo in Argentina or Songdo, Korea, where I couldn’t speak the language, I learned enough so I could teach yoga and share what I know with others. I’m here, really, for you. Just as you are here for me.

Intro to Freediving course at Apneista, which I ducked in on before meeting a friend for a jackfruit wrap and coconut milkshake for lunch.

I’m not afraid to go deep, to be a clown or try something that might at first seem to be beyond my capabilities. Last night, during the closing ceremony’s ecstatic dance, I had fun throwing my body around to the beat, twirling and bending, reaching and stretching. I dance like no one is watching – and yet I know people are. People see when I cry. You see when I try, when I succeed and when I fail. I’m not afraid to share stories of heartbreak, of scooter accidents or crazy adventures of my life that may, at first, seem embarrassing.

When you try and learn, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. It’s all a process. Being vulnerable (whether it means crying during yoga or breathwork – here’s a nice tutorial for this –, showing everyone that your balance isn’t perfect by falling in the ocean or even, cough cough, sharing a blog post) makes you the perfectly imperfect human being that you are. Own it!

In today’s Instagram-model world, we are endless confronted with inspiration for perfection, but we’re rarely shown the value of our own vulnerability. People say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.” And yet, those people have it the easiest … they can connect to their bodies in ways that ballerinas cannot. Ballerina hamstrings don’t scream hello! – and at its simplest, yoga is your mind hearing your body say hello and then replying with a sweet, welcoming breath.

Last night’s sunset behind Mt. Agung. What an epic end to the week!

If you do something that’s easy for you, there’s no growth. With no growth, there’s no change. When you challenge yourself, you expand. In those spaces you create within yourself, you are making room for your ability to do more. The question, then, is what you want to do with that newfound ability (I, for one, have a new four-part plan.) I encourage you to do something challenging. Do something you’re not sure you’ll succeed in.

You may just surprise yourself.

And again, what a wonderful surprise that a handful of people got together in this little beach town in Bali and decided to throw a free yoga festival. Hundreds of people arrived in town to take advantage of all the teachers sharing what they know and enjoy the beautiful, tucked away spaces that make this area so wonderful. Because the organizers weren’t afraid to fail, we raised millions of rupiah to help the community and the environment. As someone who came on board just a couple days before the start, I can proclaim that the festival was a huge success! It took a collective energy of everybody who taught or attended the classes and workshops – it took everyone showing up as their full selves – to make it so special.

Yogini on the Scene – Day 6

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The last time I had such a clear vision for my future, it all came true – so I am pretty stoked at what I’ve got ahead of me.

Yesterday during a life coaching session at the Ocean Yoga Festival, I clearly articulated a four-point plan I recently made for myself:

  1. Realize true, holistic health for myself
  2. Create a passive income stream
  3. Focus on LOVE
  4. Continue my adventures and fun throughout the globe.

So, when it was time for the festival’s cacao ceremony – my first such ceremony and something I’ve been looking forward to since I first read about it – I knew specifically the four kinds of abundance I wanted for myself.

Me working. “You are not retired, Suzanne,” I like to constantly remind myself when it seems like everyone around me is having fun and I’m behind the computer.

But I recognized, also from yesterday’s life coaching workshop, that I had some fear associated with the second part of this plan. Part of me worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to create the projects I have in mind. I work every day: Fellow festival participants may have seen me plugging away at my computer in the corner while they are working on their asana alignment and laughing over smoothies. I know that my vision of optimal health will result in more energy and a stronger ability to prioritize my time toward the things that I want to have happen. Still, I was holding on to what I think is lingering fear trickling down from my parents, who always ask nervously if I’m working when I call to catch up. Maybe they think I’m just chilling in Bali or Korea or Argentina or Australia and am eating through my savings. It may be hard to imagine, but I’m actually adding to my savings. And yet … part of me worried about this.

Imagine my surprise, then, during the middle of the cacao ceremony, when I pick the angel card, “Moonlighting.” The card instructed me not to worry, that I can “work part-time on my dream job while still doing my current work.” It spoke directly to my fear. It brought tears to my eyes. Angels are always looking out for me, and here again are my higher beings, confronting me in the middle of a ceremony where I was dancing around and feeling free.

“Be even more free,” my angels told me. “Be light.”

I could have flown away. This whole week has been magical for me, but today was just amazing. Earlier, I led another SUP Yoga class. As I was hurrying to get the boards rinsed off and away, I explained to my students that I might have another yoga class to teach on the other side of Amed.

More service: Ladies create a flower mandala with candles before the cacao ceremony. Note the angel cards around the edge.

“You certainly know how to teach,” one said to me. It was more than enough payment for a class that I taught only for the hope that my students would donate to the good, local non-profit agencies that are benefiting completely from this entire festival.

I try to focus as much of my life as possible to service. When a friend complained of sore shoulders today, I happily massaged her. When another new friend asked me to share the practice I was doing to rid myself of the poisons in my life and make way for new, healthier things, I stopped working and chatted with her. When a presenter asked me to fetch some new dry erase markers, I ran. When organizers needed someone to hang flyers, I volunteered. Need help with a daily blog post about what I’m getting out of this wonderful, free yoga festival? I’m in.

I am here to help: This is one of my mantras.

In return, I get all the help I need. This week has been just that: the space, opportunities and healing work that I needed to create a vision for myself for the next year. And the most amazing thing of all? When I told my boyfriend my new four-part plan, he was stunned. It was exactly his vision for himself as well. It was as if we had found each other to help make our visions reality. Which means, of course, that it’s already happening.

Without love in the dream, it’ll never come true! Part of my vision, as illustrated by the artist Wiley.

Five years ago, I had another four-part plan that arose from a deep meditation session. I decided to create a geographically independent career, which included becoming a yoga teacher and completing my training as a Reiki master. (I hadn’t heard of the team “digital nomad” at that point.) I decided to focus on nutrition, which resulted in adopting veganism for two years and then experimenting with a variety of fasting regimes. And I envisioned moving some place new. Little did I realize at the time that I would be moving to 12 different countries (another one in two weeks) in just a few years. My vision had created a reality for me that was beyond what I could have imagined.

So, what will come of my current vision? You can see now why I was so excited that I danced around a cacao ceremony. Protected, loved and grateful for all my years that brought such wisdom and experience, I am blessed and ready for the miracles my future will bring.

And my future includes one more day of the Ocean Yoga Festival, too … more yoga to practice, another SUP Yoga class, Thai massage and more. But first – sleep!

Yogini on the Scene – Day 5

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What an awesome birthday! Fellow yogis hugging me before and after classes, workshops and breathing sessions, yummy food, sunshine, new opportunities for teaching … I walked around all day with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for both myself and the Ocean Yoga Festival.

For those not breathlessly following along (kidding!), I had been living and teaching yoga in the small, beachfront town of Amed on Bali for a week when I stumbled upon a collective of groovy people getting together for a free yoga festival just 10 kilometers up the road, and during the week of my birthday, no less. So I was feeling pretty blessed from the start of the festival on Monday. But today was, shall we say, icing on the cake.

A good group of participants in a life coaching course led by Eline. Thanks, sister, for the great encouragement!

I woke up to a sweet note from my boyfriend, who surprised me with tickets to a big folk music festival in Australia. He’s currently reading The Fest Life Guide, so he’ll be a wise and ready for festival fun by the time we roll in with our tiny home in December. Happily, I ordered kue dadar pisang for breakfast. This is a traditional pancake rolled around a banana and covered in brown sugar and coconut, and it is delicious. Topped off with some strong Bali coffee, my happy belly and I scooted over to my first yoga class of the day.

“I hope you don’t mind, but this is going to be a chakra-themed yin class,” the teacher announced, bracing herself for backlash. Instead, I couldn’t help but clap my hands together excitedly. I love all of those things! Since I was the last to arrive, my mat was set up front and center; my joy was thus the de facto opinion of the rest of the class. Of course, as a Reiki master, I knew a lot about chakras anyway; but the yin felt so great. I could tell I had been caring for my body.

My notes at the bottom of my life coaching worksheet. BOOM!

Feeling stretched and blissed out, I enjoyed a jamu at Life In Amed while chatting with my parents, who kindly stayed up late for the 12-hour time difference. Then I was off to Hidden Paradise for a life coaching course. There, we paired up and talked about our goals for the year and how we were setting about to overcome any obstacles in our path. Well, I was on track here, too. I’ve got a plan that includes working toward my holistic health, creating more streams for passive income, focusing on love and ensuring more travel and adventures throughout the globe. And I’ve been actively working to create an infrastructure to make it happen. I felt really ahead of the game. My workshop partner suggested I find ways to create milestones, so I could see my success. It was a great idea.

Over to Blue Earth, I caught up with some new friends, ordered a tropical tempeh salad and participated in a Transformative Breathwork session. This involved the group lying down with our heads toward the center as we all breathed deeply through our mouths as the facilitators played djembes and random percussion and sang a tribal-type of scat vocals. All around me, people were breaking into serious, deep-seated sobs. How great that they were able to let go of some of that hurt they were holding on to. And then I realized: I’m so good emotionally, too.

Some of the percussion “tools” the facilitators used to get people to feel their emotions through breath. It made me really miss my djembe and my old percussion instruments!

I am a big “feeler of my feelings.” I don’t particularly care if they’re weird or socially awkward. I easily express my emotions because that way, they don’t own me. When I feel sadness bubbling up, I actually say out loud, “Oh, I feel some sadness bubbling up.” And then I cry. And then I move on. I did this exact thing two weeks ago. It feels good to cry when you have to. So, when I heard my fellow workshop participants finally giving themselves permission to feel what’s really going on down there, I deeply recognized and honored all the work I’ve done on myself over this last year.

Oh yes! AND I got to pet a kitty today. Best birthday ever.

This workshop – this festival – was exactly the milestone I needed. When I was teaching SUP Yoga yesterday (two more classes have been added over the weekend!), it was so wonderful to hear how the students appreciated my teachings – lessons I learned from years of study and experience. I am doing the work, and I am seeing the fruits of that labor. That knowledge is one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received!

Of course, there’s still a long way to go … and two more days of the Ocean Yoga Festival. I sure hope my laundry is done in time for tomorrow’s 8 a.m. Vinyasa Masterclass! I have to work off that kue dadar pisang somehow ….



Yogini on the Scene – Day 4

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Note: I’m posting this technically on Day 5. I was too tired to walk to where the Wifi was working in my little bungalow resort last night.

My day started quite early: 2:44 a.m., to be exact, when a 6.0 earthquake centered not too far away rattled me from sleep. I got out of bed and went outside my bamboo bungalow, but no one else was up. The ground stopped shaking, and I went back to bed. I realized I’ve now lived in the “Ring of Fire” long enough to shrug my shoulders and not give it a second thought.

Smoothie bowls are delicious and totally Bali. This one came with jasmine tea for $2.50

And somehow, I woke up a few hours later feeling great. I decided to take a run through my hilly neighborhood while it was still relatively cool out, but afterward at breakfast I got wrapped up in conversation with a woman who had taken my yoga class two days prior. I realized I would be cutting it close to make it to the yoga class at Balila Resort, which was another venue participating in the Ocean Yoga Festival. I decided not to stress and took my time driving the 10 km from my place into Amed proper. I realized later this was a good move.

I did my work at a coffee shop and had a smoothie bowl at Dread Light for lunch. While I was relaxing there after lunch, the person working there came up and said, “Hey, are you staying here? Because we’re going to leave.” And he and the other woman working there got on a scooter and sped off, leaving me alone in the restaurant. I looked around. There was a smart phone on the table, a box full of cash tips, all kinds of stuff. I had to laugh at their trust as I left cash for my food and left. Bali is pretty special like that.

Last night, I had a conversation with a woman from Java who told me that there are ghosts in Bali, that this is something that locals believe. If you ever feel scared, that means there is a ghost nearby. You are supposed to tell the ghost that you mean them no harm and ask them to not harm you. You are then to ask them forgiveness if you did anything to upset them. It seems the worst thing you can do is complain. Ghosts don’t like that. So, I imagine if I had taken anything from that restaurant, it wouldn’t be the last I heard of it.

To initiate the Relaxation Response from meditation, you must focus your mind on something repetitive — anything — and make an attempt to let go of everything else. An attempt!! You don’t have to meditate perfectly for it to work! Yay!

My first stop in the Ocean Yoga Festival today, then, was for the Ayurvedic Meditation workshop at Blue Earth. Now, I’ve always struggled with Ayurvedic medicine, a sister science of yoga, because the first thing you’re supposed to figure out is which of the three doshas is most predominant in you. Well, every test I’ve ever had clearly tells me I’m a fairly balanced tri-doshic individual. That’s actually good thing, except when trying to understand how Ayurvedic practices are supposed to help me. Well, impressively, I learned a lot about Ayurvedic practices in relation to meditation, and I really understood it. It was good practical stuff, with lots of experiential learning. I really enjoyed it.

I had to leave a few minutes early, however; I got to teach SUP Yoga! You know how excited I was for this, and wonderfully my students were as well. What a fun afternoon class, with warm ocean waters embracing those in the class (present yogini on the scene included) who fell in. We got to watch the sun set behind Mt. Agung, challenge ourselves with something different and bliss out with a fantastic savasana. Everyone in class said they loved it just as much as I did.

My view on the way to ecstatic dance before I bit the dust and called it a night. That Mt. Agung sure is pur-tay!

Afterward, I changed out of my wet clothes and hopped on my bike to head to Balila Resort for real this time to enjoy the ecstatic dance, which is another one of my very favorite things. I checked Google Maps and saw the fairly easy connection of backroads to get there. Well, the thing was, these backroads were not really roads. They were piles of sandy gravel and rocks that someone laid down in a general direction, and Google Maps was really being generous with the size of this line on the map. I spilled my bike going down a gravel embankment (grateful as I know so many who have been seriously injured on motorbikes – I just added to my collection of knee scars). Luckily there were a few men around to help me right my scooter. When I asked if I were even going the right way, one man told me to follow him. But he was going to lead me through a river, right next to where a man was taking a bath. I was suddenly very tired. I aborted mission, turned around and headed back home, where I ate a delicious meal and called it a night.

Day 5 is the biggest day of all, at least for me … it’s my birthday! How amazing that my gift is a day filled with yoga, meditation, life coaching, learning and love!

Yogini on the Scene – Day 3

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“It feels so good here.”

Fishing boats on the water are a peaceful start to the day in Amed

I was talking with Carla, a woman from Mexico, living in Thailand, who was staying in Ubud when she heard about the Ocean Yoga Festival. We had just finished an Open Heart Meditation and were lingering at The Griya. She was talking about how good the festival’s overall vibe was. Was it Amed in general, with the lack of traffic or massive influx of tourists like in Ubud or Canggu? Was it the energy from the ocean or the sun reflecting off Mt. Agung? No, I said: It was trickle-down karma.

Unlike any other festival that I’ve been a part of – and I’ve been to lots, just check out The Fest Life Guide to read my wisdom from a decade of music festivals – this one was organized by a group of people who simply wanted to give back. No one was getting paid. No one was even volunteering. Everyone was just sharing their time and energy to create something for the benefit of the participants, the community and, hopefully, the non-profit organizations that had donation boxes scattered around at the event’s many locations.

In Indonesia, like most places around the globe, the government is understandably strict about the fact that you must have a specific visa if you are working. This includes anyone who wants to volunteer for an organization or even tries to barter. It’s why I still get the bill for my room even though I’m sharing my love of yoga with fellow residents of my guesthouse. I just love practicing and sharing yoga, and somehow, I stumbled upon a town with people who feel the same way.

Bio-hacking 101: Mind, body, breath. And repeat.

The people who are organizing the Ocean Yoga Festival make up a collective of locals and expats who simply wanted to share their knowledge with the community, free of charge. By steering clear of the normal money-based system, (where, you know, yoga teachers have to eat too) they were able to put together an event designed to simply to help others.

This, believe it or not, is actually yoga. It’s called Karma Yoga. It is a specific branch of yoga, in which people connect with their highest selves through what is known as selfless service. That is, no one is expects to get anything out of their work except for, hopefully, a little better karma. The SUP Yoga class I’m teaching tomorrow? I’m just sharing a form of asana practice and exercise that I really enjoy. The Reiki and Life Coaching session I ran earlier in the week? I didn’t get anything out of it, except for the good feeling I had when one of the women asked if she could take a picture of my white board of notes after adding a page of scribbles to her notebook as I talked. Maybe what I was sharing would help her live her best life. That’s all I want for anyone.

Rabbits took over my yoga class, presumedly to protest the fact that there are dog, cat, cow, crow, crane, lizard and cobra poses but no bunny pose.

See, it feels really good to serve others.

But I’m barely involved. There are others who have put in a lot of effort to pulling this off. And even though they didn’t care about the outcome, so far this free festival has been awesome! This morning, I took the long and rocky road back to Kelapa, a surprisingly lovely resort hidden well off the main road, for a slow flow vinyasa class. A bunny hopped in as we were settling in, and then while in Tree pose a kitty scrambled under me. Don’t climb this tree, kitty!

Afterward, I drove over to Blue Earth for a coffee and ended up talking with a woman who was also a fellow journalist who was considering becoming a life coach. She talked with me about some of her concerns and obstacles of working as a coach, and I had to laugh: She was saying the exact same thing that I did before I started working with clients. I told her, “I’m just two steps ahead of you on the path, but not for long. You’re about to surge ahead!”

Then, after dropping some rupiah in the donation jars, I walked up to the lecture on natural bio-hacking. As someone who loves a good cold shower, intermittent fasting and a bunch of other new-agey bio-hacks, it was great to remember the simple powers that facial expression, posture and breath have on your daily life.

I hopped back on the scooter to the Open Heart Meditation, where the facilitator actually used the words, “Let your heart and body dissolve into the love and the light. Enjoy the process and smile.” Love and light? Enjoy the process? Smile? She was speaking my language! I call my life’s work The Lovelight Project, and anyone who knows me knows that I love to smile. And everything, oh everything, is in process! After the meditation, I felt even better than I did all day.

Real time blogging smiles on day 3 of the Ocean Yoga Festival

Tonight, there’s a kirtan I plan to attend, and tomorrow I’ve got a bunch more things circled on the schedule. I’m so grateful to the collective of people – many I consider my new friends – who are making this week happen. They’re not getting paid. They’re not doing anything but sharing what they love – and I love that too.

So, on behalf of every yogi and yogini on the scene here, I’d like to say, “Thank you!”

Yogini on the Scene – Day 2

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When I hopped on my scooter this morning, my belly was full with lak lak, a tasty, sweet and traditional Bali breakfast (or potential dessert, really). I just read a loving message from my boyfriend. I was on my way to a yoga class with a teacher I had yet to meet in a place in Amed I had yet to visit. Honestly, I don’t think my smile could have been much bigger.

A peaceful fountain at Life in Amed, one of many venues where the Ocean Yoga Festival is happening this week

The Ocean Yoga Festival has been a wonderful time in Amed, and I only just completed the second day. As the appointed Yogini on the scene, I am participating in (or teaching) classes throughout the week and sharing what I’m learning. Day one offered me breathwork under the imposing beauty of Mt. Agung, a yoga flow that let my body take the lead and a myofascial class that, to be quite honest, had me focusing on not making an ouchy face. With that class, you use lacrosse balls to roll and release your connective tissue. I made an off-the-cuff comment to a friend before class about how I just had a massage and felt great. I actually had no idea what kind of tension my body was holding on to. It’s the kind of thing where you feel great when you’re done, let’s just put it that way.

Also yesterday, I taught a workshop on holistic health and energetic healing. I shared the concept of the Wheel of Life with participants. This is a great tool to use, especially when working with a life coach (this is one of the first things I like to share with clients). Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and unbalanced, but figuring out the areas of your life that are working and then focusing on the ones you seek change can help you create a plan toward success. And when I write success, I of course mean holistic health. Then I talked about Reiki and the different kinds of energy. Basically, I helped answer one participants question, “When someone says, ‘I don’t like their energy,’ I have no idea what that means.” Now she does!

I have certainly seen fancier things created from latte foam, but I look for love any place I can find it … even in my coffee.

I teach yoga at Meditasi Bungalows, so I had to head back yesterday evening. I had some vegetable soup and crashed early. This morning, I was super-charged and excited for class. Something that I really love about this festival is that it’s giving me reason to visit many places in Amed I would have never seen. My first stop this morning was Life In Amed, a cute hotel with a lovely, breezy yoga shala. The teacher, Ting Ting, spoke in a gentle, soothing voice as she led us through breathwork and poses. My favorite part of the class was when she offered me a hands-on adjustment during the first warm-up twist. I realized I was mailing it in. Just by placing her hand on my back, I amazingly could twist a lot further. I loved it.

I swung by Blue Earth to do a little work and grab a coconut latte (they made a little heart in my foam!), said hello to the owners and festival originators, Matthew and Patricia, before backtracking to The Griya. This five-star resort has a special menu this week (get the watercress and broccoli soup, it’s delish!) and is a simply beautiful place to work. I got all my writing assignments complete just in time for a really interesting talk on Vedic Astrology by a healer named Kimmana. WHO KNEW that the stars lined up to create a special you for exactly what you need to accomplish in this lifetime? Oh wait. Yeah, I knew that too. But it sure is fun to get guidance from your own special chart.

This kind of made sense. Can you believe his ascending sign in relation to his 8th House? OMG.

This afternoon, there was a SUP Yoga class, and I was bummed to hear that it had filled up. I taught SUP Yoga for years when I lived in Florida, and it was the best way to make money! Well, I was beyond excited when the organizers asked me to teach a class … and this time, any money that anyone wants to give will go straight into donation boxes. It really doesn’t get any better than that. I’m so excited to get back to SUP Yoga! Here’s why I love it so much: First, there’s no “mailing it in,” like I had done this morning. If you’re not focused, you’re wet. Second, SUP Yoga redefines success. When my students fall in the water, I can see as they’re falling that they’re disappointed in themselves, that they feel like they failed because they got wet. But the water feels great, refreshing. Suddenly, they realize it was kind of nice to fall. Failure becomes success. What an amazing lesson!

AND I got to teach Yoga today. Did I mention I love yoga? More tomorrow!

After laughing with some new friends I made through the festival, I returned to Meditasi to teach another yoga class. It’s the new moon tonight, so we practiced moon salutations. It was challenging for the students, but everyone did great. As a reward, when they sat up after savasana, we were all treated to a beautiful red and golden sky as the sun was setting. It made for a magical end to the day. And the best part? I get to do it all again tomorrow … and maybe … even better!

Yogini On The Scene

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And the birthday celebration begin!

Namaste! Feeling pretty awesome at the start of the Ocean Yoga Festival in Amed, Bali

During my month while teaching yoga in the peaceful and quiet beachfront town of Amed, Bali, I stumbled upon a friend of a friend on Facebook. She is a fellow Reiki master and yoga teacher, and so I offered to connect. She said, “We should meet up at the Ocean Yoga Festival!” Turns out, some cool folks decided to organize a free yoga festival right in the very town where I happen to be living, right over my birthday week! I was over the moon!

Kicking off this morning and happening all this week, the classes and workshops are spread out over the five kilometers of Amed, a coastal town that stretches from one breathtaking bay to the next. I’m staying at the lovely resort called Meditasi Bungalows, which is just enough outside of town for me to be the only Western person jogging. This means, by the way, that all the locals who are sitting outside their homes in the shade give me thumbs up and encouragement as I run past them in the sweltering heat.

A slice of life: the School Truck in Amed

Amed is different than the other towns I’ve lived in on Bali. Ubud, famous for its aptly named Yoga Barn, has as epic statute of Arjuna in the midst of battle – a feeling you’ll understand as you fight through the nearly overwhelming traffic in its narrow streets as you surrender to the idea that you may be late for yoga class (I never was, but I did get my shoes stolen there. Insert karma here.) In Canggu, there’s a lot less yoga and a lot more surfing – as well as its share of drunken tourists and endless smoothie bowls (Best Smoothie Bowl Award goes to Bali Bowls!). But Amed is simply authentic.

On the way to the first event of the festival this morning, I drove my scooter past little girls in maroon and white uniforms, complete with matching caps and pigtails, holding hands on the way to school. I saw fishing boats dotting the horizons and then using the fresh breezes to spinnaker their way back to shore. Women with pretty sashes tied around their waists squatted to place colorful offerings of gratitude and burning incense outside their doorways. I loved this town even before a free yoga festival arrived.

The first class that I took this morning was an Early Bird pranayama class taught by Matthew of Blue Earth Village and Apneista, who came up with this whole awesome festival in the first place. His big yoga space overlooks a clear view of Mt. Agung and some smaller but equally awesome mountains in the distance. He led a group of about 15 or 20 yogis – (I was impressed by the turnout; it seemed pretty early when my alarm went off this morning) – through alternative nostril breathing, bhramari breathing (humming bee breath) and kapalabhati breath, which is also known as skull shining breath. The most amazing part of the class? Realizing that I hadn’t had any coffee yet but was feeling energetic and ready for the day!

Getting ready for a sweaty class on the first day of the Ocean Yoga Festival. At one point I stacked my blocks to block out the sun. Get it? I blocked out the sun. Ha!

On the way out, I saw a yogi looking a little lost, so I gave him a lift on the scooter to the next class, taught by Anastasia at the beautiful The Griya resort another five minutes or so back toward Meditasi. With the sun shining brightly (and a little hotly) over the water, she led us through an Intuitive Flow. We focused on moving in a way that honored what our bodies were telling us. “Listen to your body” is fairly regular yoga blah-blah-blah, right … and yet, through the practice I realized how easy it is to use your mind to decide what your body is telling you instead of really feeling your body. It’s a sneaky mind trick to translate your body’s language, and it’s one that I do All. The. Time. I could hear my body saying, “Slow down, Suzanne. It’s the week of your birthday!”

As is my bad habit, I dutifully ignored myself as I packed up and headed to Hidden Paradise, where I’m about to give a lecture on Holistic Health and Energetic Healing. After that, I head back to Blue Earth for a Roll & Release class (mmmm … myofascial!). I duck back to Meditasi to teach a yoga class for those who are staying over on that side of Amed. And then – a whole week of yoga ahead!

My birthday week couldn’t be any more different than last year, when I was living by myself (with the company of a sweet cat and an even sweeter dog) in a farmhouse along the Rio Diamante in a small village in Argentina. I spent my birthday last year drinking Malbec, building a wood fire and taking a long walk. This year, I’ll spend it practicing yoga and laughing with new friends along the beach in Bali.

My perfect morning view in Amed

I’m so grateful to be the Yogini on the Scene! I plan to post updates from the festival throughout the week, because it’s going to be such fun! It’s completely free, but there will be plenty of donations raised for good causes: helping the children of Amed, first aid and emergency relief, recycling efforts and pet health. You can read all about it on the Blue Earth Village blog. That means the entire festival is yet another practice in Karma Yoga, which may be my favorite kind of yoga to practice day in and day out. See you on the mat, yogis!