Top 25 Divine Moments & Accomplishments of 2012

by Caitlin Rose KenneyImage

photo: Balinese blessing basket and offerings.

A friend and a colleague told me to write down 25 things I was proud of or happy about that happened in 2012. My initial reaction to this exercise was “This is a bit hokey, but hey, focusing on positive things can’t hurt.”

While there was certainly a lot of change in the air during 2012, it wasn’t as “divine” or as “terrible” as everyone predicted it to be. I am remembering being at John Friend’s workshop in Denver during November 2011 and the prediction for 2012 was “transitioning from humanity to divinity” with the warning “this could hurt!” This prediction contained two of our favorite words in the yoga world “humanity” and “divinity” (we like “transition” too). Before I delve into 25 amazing things that happened in 2012, I’d like to speak to the implications of how we relate to the word “divinity”.

The definition of divinity is the quality of being divine, godhood, deity or having divine attributes: ranking below god and above human. What is inherent in both the definition of divinity and our cultural integration of the word is a sense of hierarchy; that being divine is better than being human. If being divine is better than being human than it is no small leap to organize further by saying that being human is better than being animal. The focus many yogis have formed on being divine and hailing others who are “enlightened”, “gurus” or “teachers” has proved to be a faltering system of hierarchy. Divinity has been used as a justification for corruption, exploitation, immorality and irresponsibility. The yoga world is neither alone nor immune to this historical pattern.

Now is the time to question the implications of identifying with this type of divinity. Does seeking the divine result in you placing yourself or others on a pedestal? Does seeking divinity create a chasm between those who are doing things right and those who are doing things wrong? Does seeking divinity set a precedent in our inner world that leaks to our relationships, our community, and our environment? Unarguable, our eco-systems have suffered immensely because of our impressive ability to alter our surroundings – a divine capability. At the core of it, is there really a difference between the person that justifies working for an oil corporation and the person that justifies the abuses of a guru?

As we prepare to move forward from the darkest day of the year, a time to celebrate our most thoughtful and intuitive selves, how can we see past the illusion of hierarchy?

We can agree yoga is about union. Let us yoke together our experiences and offer the best of what we know. If divinity exists, than it exists in all of us. In every teacher, every student, every handful of dirt, every flight of a bird, every needle of a pine tree and in every burning star. Divinity is not a promotion from humanity and it’s definitely not a justification to behave poorly, contain a population of people or to rob the Earth’s land of materially valuable substances.

A blessing for us all as we reflect and re-aim: may our definition of divinity be of benefit to ourselves and by way of ourselves, especially to others.

My list of 25 things that I am proud of or happy about that happened in 2012 is full of divine occurrences. They are divine because they are indescribably beautiful. They stimulate every sensory receptor in my body and I am filled with a sense of awe and wonderment. I am filled with the thoughts “I can’t believe this happened!” and “Of course, this happened!” at once. In writing this list I have been able to re-experience and re-view some of the most moving events and culminations of 2012. This process, of honoring the past, has helped me set the stage for the future.

 Top 25 Divine Moments & Accomplishments of 2012

  1. Exploring London and India with Tania Plahay.
  2. Recharging in Bali with myself.
  3. Farms and motorcycle rides in France, Geneva & Egypt with Joshua Scott Onykso.
  4. Assisting two 200-hour yoga teacher trainings.
  5. Owning 4 yoga classes a week.
  6. Getting a raise for doing what I love.
  7. Holding a baby goat.
  8. Being wrapped in the kind coils of Chino the boa.
  9. Breaking an 8-year pattern.
  10. Seeing the Tallest Man on Earth, Bon Iver and many other artists perform live.
  11. Being Round Midnight’s Facebook profile picture.
  12.  Meeting Amy Tessler, Dakota Hills, Chelsea Richer, Ellie Fayen, Aiesha Teague, Kirsten Larsen, Lizzy Jo Williams, Chuck White, and Margo Moscou.
  13. Creating Yoga + Art with Ana Corella and Gregory Allen Klein.
  14. Taking a road trip to the great Sand Dunes with Tanika Vigil, Kolya Glick and Jared Lipton.
  15. Many motorcycle rides.
  16. Seeing someone I love become happy and healthy again.
  17. Watching my friends follow their dreams, move to different cities, and work to make a positive difference.
  18.  Being in the best shape of my life.
  19. Getting bangs.
  20. Being a keeper of honeybees.
  21. Being treated by Shamans and healers.
  22. Sharing a man’s end of life journey. Sir Johnny, I will never forget you.
  23. Clearing the skeletons from my closet.
  24. Exploring San Francisco and reposing in Sausalito with Megan Hunt.
  25. Cooking up a friendship with Chris Duiven.

Now it’s your turn. After you make a top 25 list of 2012 and you feel warm and happy inside, plant seeds for the future. Just as you would make a new residence homey, set props and place inspiration around you for what is to come. Something fresh, something wise, something soft and something solid.


something to try: celtuce


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by Angela Cotton

(photo: pinterest)

a native Chinese lettuce that looks and tastes (but is NOT) a cross between celery and lettuce. enjoy a cool growing season, and can typically take up to 6 months to mature.

TFL take: served with hawaiian hearts of palm in a salad. the stalks are lightly grilled and dressed with olive oil and salt. the natural taste resembles a cucumber with faint hints of buttered popcorn (…seriously)

aka: Chinese lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, stem lettuce

For Love of Favas


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by Angela Cotton

(photo: Pinterest)

There are few things more anticipated in the spring than the annual return of fava beans.

They’re spring’s greatest chameleon and a chef’s favored ally- gracing green everything from fresh pastas to ragouts tucked under spring lamb or veal tenderloins.

Favas are cultivated from one end of Italy to the other which helps to explain their distinctly Mediterranean nature. In the South portion of the boot they’ve been known as la carne dei poveri, “the poor man’s meat,” and are the basis of many traditional dishes. In Tuscany, they’re called baccelli (Italian for pods) and are most often eaten tender and young, straight from the pod—and if possible from the garden—accompanied by a tart, fresh pecorino cheese made with the milk of ewes that have grazed on fragrant spring grasses and herbs. Near Rome, fave are often braised with onions and pancetta and are essential to spring vegetable soups.

It’s hard to say exactly when favas made their shift from ethnic specialty to new-American mainstay. I read in a past issue of Saveur that Chez Panisse might be accountable for first introducing favas to California cuisine. Judy Rodgers, currently of San Francisco’s noted Zuni Café, remembers shelling favas when she worked at the Berkeley landmark in the early 1970s, at which point the beans were virtually unknown in most West Coast restaurant kitchens. Now, they’re a favored crop, loving the cooler climates of California coastline but planted vastly across the bay area.

However the initial introduction, the bay area has fava fever. At the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market this past weekend, the stalls of purveyors were heaped high with favas bulging in their pods, alongside radiant, spiky artichokes, bright spring carrots, pearly spring onions, young garlic stalks, and the first fragrant fronds of wild fennel. These are the harbingers of spring, yearly reminders that warm, sun-filled days are on their way.

In fava season at The French Laundry, the dining room staff rejoices over one such savored sign of spring, while the commis’ in the prep kitchen welcome the season’s biggest pain in the ass with slightly less enthusiasm. De-shelling fava beans is more like double deconstruction- after you string and shuck them, you have to remove their individual wax-like coating. It’s a tedious amount of time to spend on a bean. it’s a daily task that usually envelops everyone at one point or another. For those of us incapable of passing the task to budding line chefs, it’s something to do on a Sunday afternoon around the kitchen table or on the front porch with friends. It becomes akin to gardening- a concentrative but thoughtless Zen-like activity that results in tangible results and a simple satisfaction unique to any other. And, in celebration of the season, it’s a task instantly eased with brightening weather, good company and a bottle of wine.

The Story Behind a Yoga Playlist



by Caitlin Rose Kenney

(photo: pinterest)

Creating playlists for my yoga classes is something I really enjoy. It not only gives me the opportunity to shape the atmosphere of the class, it allows my students to glean more about who I am, in and outside of the yoga studio. Playlists are often thematic, sometimes the message is obvious and other times the tone is more subtle, translating a perspective or invoking the sensations associated with an experience.

Yoga and music have the power to blur the lines between the experience of the individual and the experience of the collective. It is in these transcendent states that we are enveloped by the highest human vibrations of love, gratitude, peace, and grace.

Below is a playlist I created in December 2011. I had just finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck and was elated to realize that I had a greater understanding of my cultural soup and that the lyrics of Timshel, by Mumford and Sons, linked directly to Steinbeck’s novel. Without revealing all of Steinbeck’s pearls of wisdom, I will drop one juicy quote and leave you with an inspired playlist.

Man has a choice and it’s a choice that makes him a man.

Yoga 25 (Timshel – Thou Mayest)

  1. Floating Instrumental by Sahil Jagtiani Album: From the Art of Living – Avataran
  2. Big Red Machine by Various Artists  Album: Dark Was The Night (Cd 1)
  3. Lordy May by Boy & Bear Album: Moonfire
  4. Eyes on Fire by Blue Foundation Album: Twilight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  5. Into The Sea by The Album Leaf Album: Into The Blue Again
  6. time flies by Lykke Li  Album: Youth Novels
  7. Expression by Helen Jane Long Album: Porcelain
  8. Train Song by Various Artists Album: Dark Was The Night (Cd 1)
  9. Take ‘Em Away by Old Crow Medicine Show Album: O.C.M.S.
  10. Timshel by Mumford & Sons  Album: Sigh No More
  11. San Solomon (Reprise) by Balmorhea Album: Rivers Arms
  12. Heaven Go Easy on Me by The Head and the Heart Album: The Head and the Heart
  13. Long Time Traveller by The Wailin’ Jennys Album: Firecracker
  14. Bridges by Tracy Chapman Album: Crossroads
  15. Any Other Name by Thomas Newman Album: Cafe Del Mar Volumen Ocho
  16. Winding Road by Bonnie Somerville Album: Garden State Soundtrack
  17. Ora by Ludovico Einaudi Album: Una mattina

Whether it’s the yoga or the music, I hope my students get lost in the moment.

a pilgrimage to preservice


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by Angela Cotton

in my first weeks at the laundry, there’s plenty of moments i’ve chosen to forget. like dropping two mackerel on table 3 when they were waiting for lobster. hearing chris hoel tell me never to walk counterclockwise around table seven again, and nathan vaccaro cunningly warning me not to lean against the wall when i was observing in the kitchen (…for the third straight hour in heels, salivating secretly while watching brioche after brioche brown beautifully in the salamander).

but i’ll never forget a certain preservice, when i raised my hand and said, “chef, can you remind me of the difference between terrine and torchon?”

i was, in my non-culinary schooled / non-relais en chateau-dining upbringing, referring to the dual presentations of foie gras at the french laundry, of which i have since carried, crumbed and cleared (and will for the last time do so at the restaurant in july (!) ) to countless devourees, alongside trays loaded with trios of salts and warm, thick, (beautifully browned, as priorly suggested) toast. and i was, in fact, lying when i tactfully used the term “remind.” because my boulder upbringing didn’t exactly grace me with knowledge about the luxuries of duck liver.

the moment still strikes me because not only was i asking what several of my peers undoubtedly and eye-rollingly dubbed an “obvious” question, but i was asking it in front of everyone in the middle of pre-service. i have since learned that when he (chef) finishes detailing the accompaniments and structure of the cheese course, rounding out the spiel of savory courses on the day’s tasting menu, and without raising his eyes asks “does anyone have any questions?” … this is NOT when you ask what the difference is between terrine and torchon, unless you want to hear snickers from your coworkers for, well, life.

i’m kidding, of course. kind of. this is exactly when you ask these questions, and exactly when you expose (and at times, seek to impress) yourself and your coworkers with your knowledge… or more commonly in my case, lack thereof. before the first tables don the dining room at 5:30, i stuff a crinkled, heavily annotated miniature copy of the menu into my suit pocket. adorned with recipes for romesco and sauce perigourdine and reminders for the allergy-ridden (squid ink in nicoise olive puree!), the little papers are equally flooded with suggested course-by-course wine pairings from the sommeliers and notes on the food-friendliness of alsace versus the mosel, as well as the ever present non-food-friendly reminder to suggest napa valley cab.

and, while some are overly doodled and others barren of detail, they are saved and savored in a box by my bed- all three hundred something of them- a tangible testament to the overwhelming amount of knowledge that’s present daily at the laundry.

and the reason that i’m there, that we’re all there, after all.

Yoga Street Cred



by Caitlin Rose Kenney

published by Elephant Journal on May 16th, 2012

(photo: pinterest)

There can be a lot of pressure in the yoga world to make a name for yourself and to study with renowned teachers. As if the teacher’s you studied with will open up a network of people and opportunities, similar to the ivy league mentality of our nation. As several of my mentors have shared with me, getting a teaching position often depends on whom you have studied with. My experience in the dance world reflected a similar phenomenon: attending prestigious academies often gave you more street cred than your technique or passion for the art form.

When I was 15 years old I was accepted into the San Francisco Ballet School’s summer intensive. I was nervous and excited, I even felt special having been “recognized” by one of the top ballet schools in the country. Arriving at SFB I was surrounded by adolescent girls who were incredibly self-conscious of their body image and highly competitive. The atmosphere immediately jarred me, having come from a dance environment that focused more on foundation and technique than on contorting and denying your body. Mentally coaching myself, I reminded myself that I was here to learn and to be myself. Then, the meet and greet with the director of the company rolled around, I only remember one thing he said: you are here to look like everyone else, if you are good enough, you might be in the corps de ballet one day.

So what does my San Francisco Ballet experience have to do with yoga culture? Number one, what appears to be reality is not ultimate Truth. Number two, taking to heart what your “superiors” say can sometimes slow your progress to the realization of your personal success.

What appears to be reality is not ultimate Truth. That’s a bit esoteric, here’s where I am going. A piece of advice that gaining yoga teaching positions depends on who you have studied with is not advice at all, but an observation that appears to be true. Perhaps, it is true some of the time; a studio may hire you because you studied with someone famous. The assumption that an individual is a good yoga teacher simply because they studied with a reknowned name is an illusion. The intrinsic gifts and external cultivation of a skill, such as teaching yoga, are not obtained by a single pathway. Studying with a well-known teacher may enhance your ability to be a good yoga teacher, but what is more important is the inner teacher and ability to synthesize the lessons you have learned from living. Similarly, to be a good ballet dancer I did not need to look like everyone else, I needed to practice my art form and feel inspired from within, to feel and emote movement and creative energy.

I know that my yoga teachers did not intend to discourage me, but instead were offering a sobering observation of a common perception in the yoga world. If I choose to take this “fact” to heart, than I am limiting my pathways to “success”. I may not notice the divine teacher that exists in a friend, stranger, child, or in nature. Taken to the extreme, I may not even listen to myself, to my own wisdom that discerns what is right/wrong for my body, mind, and spirit. The collapse of several guru/cult yoga schools suggests that obsessing over your teachers is not sustainable, and in many ways has been destructive. The primordial wisdom of yoga and how it was traditionally passed from teacher to student has evolved; it is this evolution that makes yoga potent. We must look to the past to create a better future, not to replicate what was. Imitating the ancient systems is futile, life and living is impermanent, we as yogis should know this.

So the question remains, how do I earn street cred in the yoga world? Studying with a famous teacher? Practicing for 50 years? Walking away from society for a decade and returning enlightened? Do I have to make a pilgrimage to India? Should I practice alone or take public classes? Do I need a spiritual name? The questions tumble and fall forever.

To assuage the self-doubt and overwhelming task of becoming a great yoga teacher I have chosen two questions that serve me:

  1. Do I feel like I am on MY path? More often than not, am I organically growing and finding inspiration from within and without? Is there a sense of “rightness” and things “falling into place”?
  2. Is what I am doing stimulating positive self-evolution and having a positive impact on my community?

If I can regularly check-in and examine the answers to these questions, then does it really matter whom I studied with? Like so many things in yoga, the answer is both yes and no. YES it does matter whom I study with because how I relate to my teachers and the knowledge I have gained from them profoundly impacts my practice and my teaching. What does NOT matter is whether my teachers are famous, where they are from, how long they have been teaching, or whether they are “in” the yoga community. Important teachers can embody diverse traits, countless forms of wisdom, and appear as many incarnates.

Some of my yoga teachers are under the radar, so to speak, and others are internationally recognized. I am inspired by colleagues have completed one official teacher training and others that are training junkies. I know practitioners that almost exclusively practice by themselves and others that attend public classes to maintain their practice. Some of my teachers are not “yoga” teachers at all, but people with incredible amounts of compassion and drive to improve the lives of others. Age is irrelevant; I know many people who articulate wisdom well beyond the years of their current lifetime.

Gaining street cred as a yoga instructor isn’t defined by “who you studied with.” There are infinite formulas for success. Yoga has never had a single pathway. It is inherently diverse, just like the civilization it was born from. The Indus Valley Civilization at it’s peak had a population of over 5 million people and was created by the synthesis of two major (and many minor) cultures, and it’s prosperity was largely dependent on trade. Over time, yoga has been refined and redefined within the mosaic country of India. Today, yoga has permeated Western society. To pigeon hole yourself, as one kind of practitioner or instructor, is antithetical to yoga. Earning respect from the yoga community begins with embracing your unique dharma, taking actions that feed your inner Truth, and practicing your yoga to reach understanding and union with the greater spirit of humanity and nature.

Glen Ellen Star


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by Angela Cotton

written February 8th, 2012

After a long lunch shift at The Laundry, a nausea-inducing drive over the Oakville Grade wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for a Friday night. But the Benziger property at dusk, a toasty oven and a toast-worthy group of Glen Ellen residents proved well worth the twists and turns to an R&D dinner for the Glen Ellen Star, wine country’s wood-fired addition come spring.

I first met Ari Weiswasser, chef/proprietor of the Star, drenched in sweat slicing sous-vide poached lamb tenderloins as a chef de partie at The French Laundry. Even in a kitchen chock-full of the country’s most aspirational culinary talent, Ari exuded a silent professionalism and a natural grace that you see in someone that, frankly, is just plain good at what they do.

And rightly so. Ari’s weighty Michelin-starred resume includes time at New York titles like Daniel, Corton and Gilt and Philly’s Le Bec Fin. Experience has clearly done this guy good.

Decamped from the east coast, Weiswasser headed west in 2010 for Thomas Keller, and found home with wife Erinn Benziger (yep, the Benziger‘s.) along with a gig at The French Laundry.

This past January, Ari left The Laundry, shedding his blue apron and nearly a decade on the line in pursuit of something to call his own. The calling was a wood oven inspired menu, an opportunity to highlight seasonal, local California produce, and the obvious skill and stature of family-in-law and wine legends, the Benziger’s. The answer? Glen Ellen Star- “rustic yet refined” fare serving 30-some seats brick oven based cuisine.

In preparation Glen Ellen Star’s opening, Chef Weiswasser has hosted weekly R&D dinners to help perfect recipes and slate purveyors for his menu’s Spring debut. Lucky enough to find myself amongst Benziger family and friends, plus a few French Laundry fans, we stood in the kitchen sipping house Sauvignon Blanc and watching Ari trade quenelling spoons for terracotta cookware.

Yet even donned in what look like firemen gloves fit for an eagle’s landing and a pizza ‘pitchfork’ to move the cassoulets inside the 350 degree oven, Ari’s finesse and timing are completely on point with the chef I knew and loved in a white apron at the Laundry. He traveled to Seattle to train with professionals using the same ovens, and is well on his way to mastering the science of smoldering. Point blank: he’s done his research, and his food is evidence…

friday february 3, 2012


gems tossed with grilled escarole, fried bread, and lemon-caper vinaigrette.

cast-iron “quick bread”with local feta, Za’atar and Benziger olive oil.

wood oven roasted beets with harissa “strudel,” citrus and Kent’s oxalis.

blistered ricotta gnudi with prosciutto crudo and wild mint.

red-wine braised shortribs with marinated radicchio and mustard blossoms.

chocolate souffle with salted caramel ice cream.


Benziger Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 / Benziger “Tribute” 2007

Also en cue for the menu are a few wood-fired pizzas, paellas, and even a much anticipated whole baby lamb for large, pre-planned parties. Eddie Lopez, pastry sous at The French Laundry, is slated to produce half-pint ice cream in fabulous flavors like bourbon vanilla maple and salted caramel (which, dare I say, is a knockout for the salt savvy).

From the chef I watched from the breezeway of the French Laundry, to the one putting out the coals as he lectured on the geeky mechanics of wood-fired cuisine, I couldn’t help but think. About food, family, friends and the “fire” it seems to capture.

Glen Ellen Star will open late March of 2012. The hot spot in the house? There are 8 bar seats around the open-air oven… actually, make that 7. Mine’s taken.

A huge congratulations to Ari and Erinn, and the rest of the Star team.

A Traveling Yogi’s Mantras


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by Caitlin Rose Kenney

written November 27th, 2010

(photo: pinterest)

Follow your dreams.

Trust in the universe and your own destiny.

Be open and receptive.

Be observant of yourself and others, but mostly of yourself.

Don’t be afraid of who you are, don’t be afraid to shine.

Give and you shall receive, but don’t forget to give again.

Smile at the simple things.

On “firsts”


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by Angela Cotton

written February 2nd, 2012

From the heroine of food writing herself, a bout of brilliance.

There are a lot of firsts in life. First blogs, first posts on your first blog… first glass of your birthyear-vintage Krug. But first impressions count. So enough about Krug. And the 3 inches of unforgettable 1988 splendor that graced my glass after service. And more on MFK. How true is this?

A woman of poise and prose, she believed that eating well was one of the “arts of life,” and explored it as such through her writing. There is so much beauty in the culture and craft of the culinary world. I live this every day, surrounded by cases of Sterling caviar and scales of weighty white truffles (…okay, the tartufi said bid their adieu in January. D-e-n-i-a-l.), amidst the hands of the humblest chefs and their prized spoons and knives. Though so often scowled for high prices and higher egos, the Michelin star world is both a blessed and a storied one, of which MFK would agree has the potential to paint the prettiest prose. So perhaps this is my mission statement of sorts: to shed light on the life of fine dining, through the romanticism of days at The Laundry, and the people and places that fill it’s table.

Yoga Makes Cupcakes Taste Better


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by Caitlin Rose Kenney

published by Elephant Journal on December 5th, 2010

(photo: pinterest)

In May 2010 I graduated from CU Boulder with a bachelors degree in Psychology. I was proud of my accomplishment and ecstatic about the sense of freedom I felt. I was suddenly committed to nothing other than pursuing my dreams. I wanted to focus whole-heartedly on something I loved, yoga.

I began taking yoga classes when I was seventeen as a replacement fitness for ballet. Over the next five years yoga both grounded me and quenched my curiosity to know more about myself. Like many others, my early adulthood was ripe and dynamic. I struggled with mild depression and unabashedly sailed high on waves of success.  Luckily, over this time period I also developed an asana practice that began to tame my extreme fluctuations. Over the years my yoga practice evolved from being a purely physical outlet to a mental and emotional therapy. Interestingly, I was hardly aware of this process and it has only been recently that I have begun to appreciate the profound impact yoga has had on my personal growth. Yoga became a process of exploration in which I found my body, mind, and soul transforming.

One dreadfully grey and cold February I realized that yoga makes me a better person. I walked out of a yoga class and I was warm for the first time in a long while. Prana was pouring from my soul into my veins, pumping bright energy to my organs, limbs, and mind. And as I walked through the door from the yoga studio into  the “real world” a cupcake lay waiting for me. In the moment that the sweet cupcake touched the tip of my tongue my mind cracked open and there I was—reveling in bliss. Colors were brighter, objects were clearly defined, and the people! They were captivating! Oh the joy of actually seeing and feeling human beings moving around me. All of my numbed emotions and stale thoughts had crumbled away.

From that moment onward I knew that yoga was something I wanted to grow within me and carry with me every second of every day. I was not quite sure how to do this, so I set forth with the intention of dedicating time and energy to taking more yoga classes. By the Spring of 2010 I was 110% ready to take a leap and do a yoga teacher’s training.

In September, I tucked the pearls of wisdom I had gathered from my teachers in Boulder under my wings and I flew to Bali to do a six week long yoga teacher training hosted by Rachel Hull.

I was ravenously hungry in Bali, and not just for the buffet brunch that awaited me after 3 hours of pranayama, meditation, and asana. I was hungry for knowledge. I loved cultivating the practical skills of choreographing classes, talking students through postures and giving hands-on adjustments. I could listen to Emil Wendel’s lectures on Indian history and philosophy for hours. And I could read about ayurveda, yoga’s sister “science of life”, before bed every night for an eternity. Every ounce of me was stimulated from my cellular body to my intellect and my sense of childhood wonderment. All I wanted for was more time.

I spent the majority of my stay in Bali in the mountains in a small town called Penestanan, which neighbors the famous place of Ubud. This region has been a beloved spot for western expatriates, yogis, and local and international artists. While Ubud is fairly westernized, it truly stands up to its reputation as a magical place. The local people gracefully blend modern life with traditional Hindu devotion. Seven days a week my hostess Made (pronounced Madae) ran nine guesthouses and performed three (or more) Hindu offerings. (An offering is a small container woven from vegetation filled with flowers and rice for the gods. Several of these packages are given to the gods each day in a ritual that involves burning incense, praying, and flicking water). In this land of temples, life revolves around pleasing the gods. To do this, ceremonies must take place for a variety of occasions. There are ceremonies for the temples, the rice, newborn babies, the deceased, the cars, the motor scooters, the rupiah, you get the idea. During each ceremony there are hand-made offerings, elaborately colorful giant paper animals burning, and hundreds of Balinese dressed in their finest. Needless to say, a lot of love and time is poured into their faith, community and honoring their traditional culture. It amazes me that they have adapted these ancient practices to contemporary life.

My time in Bali did not change my life, but it did peel my eyes wide enough to see that inspiration lies in beauty and gratitude. Within this mindset, I found my life. I am not a different person from who I was because my true essence has always resided perfectly within me. In a balancing act of self-inquiry and passive observation I kindled a passion for yoga and for living. Having love for what I do, how it shapes me and turning it into a gift to be shared with others is immensely powerful. With these intentions, I continue my journey.

May the journey of all beings to gain experiential knowledge of the body and mind be as the Buddha says,

lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle, and lovely in the end.