i have been thinking about all the things i have been talking about with people and considering how i should be documenting it all...but then i don't. i think i have a problem with follow through. which is why the completion of these two years may set a new pattern into play for me. i finished my bachelors...my masters...but still had that itch...maybe these two years have scratched it enough that i can find myself settling down for once and living the contemporary american life...yeah...i doubt it. it's a thought though....i guess these thoughts are inevitable considering that my service is close to it's end. it's hard to believe that i have been here two years and that i will soon have to make a new choice in my life. some days it feels as though i have been here ten years...as so much has happened in my life and around me. i have grown exponentially in these last two years and learned so much about myself in a foreign environment; i know i have been forever changed. so i thought i would take this time to simply document the things that have affected me and/or been running wild through my mind:

i'll start with the magnificent.

 i was talking to a friend of mine the other day about all we have experienced and learned during these past two years. there is this interesting thing in peace corps where you have a subculture within the culture. which is completely outside of the actual culture we are living in. some of us that joined peace corps are seekers, healers, wanderers, travelers, spiritual gangsters. so this experience takes on an entirely different and new face for us as we step into a world unknown with a deep need to understand, connect, and learn through each movement. every encounter, every sunset, every bus ride is impactful on a cellular level. and they add up. this experience has been one of the most profoundly terrifying, eye opening, heart opening, heart breaking, life shaking, twisty-turny rides of my life. but it has shifted me and my energy to this new space of awareness and self-sufficiency i hadn't quite known before. in that space this is my realization...i have manifested all the things i spoke about previously into existence during my time here in saint lucia. let me explain...i am a firm believer that what we speak we create...especially if there is a strong intention behind it. when i was 16 i spoke a deep desire to join peace corps. when i was 20-something i spoke a deep desire to serve. when i was in my bachelors and masters programs i spoke a deep desire to work with disadvantaged youth...and here i am. doing just that. in the exact capacity i want. some years ago i spoke a deep desire to love unconditionally. to truly understand what it means to have an open heart and open soul in all circumstances...as tough as this road has been, i have learned how to love openly and unconditionally even when the world is pressing against me. i have worked my entire life to truly understand myself and gain a deep connectedness to god and spirit...i have found that here. before i left the states to join the peace corps i spoke a desire to reconnect all the pieces of myself...the old, little sarah that was so full of life and joy...with the new, older, maturer sarah that was more grounded and focused...it has happened here. while here in saint lucia i have been forced to see myself from every angle. i have run up against myself in a hundred different ways a hundred different times...and each impact has caused a tiny crack, a tiny falling away until eventually...like the shedding of skin...i have emerged stronger, softer, more aware, and more connected than i have ever been in my life. my peace corps experience has truly been a metamorphosis...and as i face return to the states and the world that i no longer truly know...i wonder how i will fit into the pieces that were left for me.

the less magnificent pieces are the every day...the social issues i run into...the cultural differences that may never make sense. the disparity between the facade of wealth and the struggles of day to day living. the work i am doing is so rewarding and yet so challenging. every day i work to connect to and understand what these young people are going through to help them better navigate through the troubled waters...and it never fails that i hear of sexual abuse, molestation, violence, anger, fear...and these pieces are so pervasive in the world i am living in it becomes difficult to tease apart and even more difficult to find ways to help without becoming discouraged and uncertain. every day these youth come with the hope of changing, shifting, growing...and it seems every direction and every side is set up against the possibility of that happening. these kids are growing up in a world that is disenfranchised...destructive...dismal. they live in a world where you are taught not to trust anyone...to only give respect if you get it. they live in a world where the promise of success is met with destruction. where the negative is always the focus before the positive. they live in a world where the bad you do is highlighted and the good is forgotten. they are amongst babies having babies and many times have not been given the basic skills of thinking and understanding that i take for granted. so every day when a little headway is made...it unravels as they go back to the world that continues to tear them down.

i see it everywhere i go...it's not just for the "at-risk." i see families and couples and friends struggle to communicate. i see tempers and anger flare up within seconds of a conflict. and i try. i try every day to find ways for these kids to open and understand...but the world against them is hard. and then i think to myself...there is some beauty in this. these pieces...this ugliness and harshness...it has softened me. while i have been here it has forced me to become deeply aware of myself and my connection to things...deeply aware of my emotional reaction to situations and people. it has taught me to let go over and over again. and this is what i see so fluently throughout this culture. an ability to let go. there is not a lot of holding on to things...at least on the surface. when you get deep into the reality..the pain and disappointment of the harshness takes its toll...but there is this ability to live present in each moment with a deep awareness that we are not promised tomorrow. and that has taught me so much. i wish...now that i am coming toward the end of my service...that i was better able to relay my own learning and growing to the kids i work with as they have done for me. i wish i had been able to show them the pieces of my growth and opening in an effort to soften them in their ability to step into their own battles every day. i have learned so much in my time here...i feel almost guilty or selfish that i have not done the same for them.

the truth is i may never know. i may never know the impact i have had on this tiny little dot in the sea...but i know my life is forever changed for having been here...and i will never be able to go back. for that i am forever grateful. and forever...unconditionally in love.


out of the mouths of babes...

today i went on a brilliant date with a boy i am head over heels in love with...
we do this sometimes...though not as often as i'd like...and our usual dates consist of us going to Windjammer..which is an incredibly overpriced resort up the beach from my home...and using their facilities...swimming in their pool, playing with their rafts, jumping on their water trampoline, sliding down their sea slide... Sometimes...we will buy some fries for $15. but most times we just play. i remember the first time we went out on one of these dates being really unsure about whether or not we should be sliding into the pool of those who never bat an eye at $15. fries..but my 7 year old friend (at the time...he has since turned 8) assured me that we would be okay. so we walked in as if we owned the place...jumped in the pool...played on the inflatable shamu....and remained safe, invisible to the eyes of those around.

i remember a comment his mother made when i brought him home and told her how uncertain i was if we would get away with our sneakiness...of course...you are white...no one will say a word. it didn't strike me as too odd as i had heard that line of reasoning more than once...and seen it's truth on many occasions...i am in fact treated differently because of the color of my skin. not always in the way of opening up doors to fancy hotels...sometimes in an attempted excessive overcharge at the market...or in a snide remark in passing...but most times in every day interactions with young people about how beautiful my hair is and how much they hate theirs...about how soft my skin is and how they wish they could have it too...it's gotten me thinking on more than one occasion at how often skin color becomes the dominating feature in social settings...but today...it hit me on a stronger, deeper level.

while we were walking to the resort ahjani told me that the one thing he likes about white boys is they get to have a lot of parties and black boys don't. he then told me he liked how they got things...how they always had ipads and kindles and video games and black boys didn't really get to have those things. now...ahjani has a lot for most 8 year olds. he is a special little boy who everyone falls in love with and out of that love constantly gives him gifts. he has bikes, skateboards, basketballs, video games, animals...the list goes on...but his perception here is that the white boys have more. and he's probably right. but the insinuation stuck in my mind. the distinction has been made between me and them. the line is drawn.

later in the day we were in the pool and some guests had let us borrow one of their toys. i told him if we were going to continue using it he needed to go make sure it was okay with them. his comment was that they were up the stairs and "black people like me can't go up there...it's only for white people." i was shocked. ahjani is no stranger to white people. he has had plenty of white friends but clearly has been indoctrinated into the concept of us and them. i explained to him that it was guests who could go up there and non-guests who needed to stay down in the area we were in but i don't think that point rang as true.

it was striking. our conversation, his perception, reality. it was striking. as we were walking home we came across this:

a lizard shedding it's skin...i didn't even know lizards did this but i thought to myself...wow...imagine if we could all do this and see what is underneath before we ever see what's on the outside.


haphazardly integrated

i am in the midst of a pretty powerful break-up. it's heart breaking and wondrous in ways i have never known before. it's unlike any falling away i have previously experienced and definitely comes with it's own set of challenges and confusions...but it's intimately beautiful and precious at the same time.

having a relationship in peace corps is unlike anything i have ever experienced before. prior to becoming a volunteer, i had been single for a long, long time. single by choice. single with the need and desire to fully understand and integrate all pieces of myself so that when it was time...i could fully show up in a space that would allow even deeper growth, awareness, and understanding of the dark pieces of my shadow i couldn't see on my own. that personal growth took a long time. it took up a lot of space in the world...so much so that i got really comfortable with just me...and knew that when someone came knocking...it would be tough to open up the door all the way. but then i was in the peace corps. and life is different. and so the door opened and a little quicker and wider than i had imagined. and i fell in love. deeply in love. with another person that deeply and intricately reflected my shadows...the pieces of myself even i didn't want to acknowledge. so here i am in this world that is not mine...longing for connection and understanding and compassion and familiarity. i will be the first to admit i fell quickly into the comfort that was offered. but that is nothing new. it's my pattern. i always fall without regard and look back later wondering...if i had taken a little more time...would i have seen it differently. and consistently in that looking back i have regrets...longings and wishes that there would have been more...i would have done more, said more, known more....

so here i am in this deep, deep place with another human being...in a world that is not mine nor his...holding space in a haphazard kind of way because peace corps is haphazard. existence in peace corps is haphazard: characterized by lack of order or planning, by irregularity, by randomness; determined by or dependent on chance....and by chance my heart cracked open. all the pieces were in place for such an event. my heart was already bursting open wide with hope and possibility for this situation i was in...and when it started to prove more difficult than i expected and i became more distant from myself than i had ever known...a reflection of myself and my dreams and desires was the perfect addition to my experience. i fell in love. deeply in love with another human being. fell in love in a way i had never known before. in love with the dark pieces of myself that kept showing up in the cracks and crevasses of us. my heart cracked open. wide. and something magical happened.

i fell in love in a way i had never known. i fell in love in a way that kept me in when i could've walked away. i fell in love in a way that hurt deeper than i thought possible and kept me well aware of the truth that i am fully, intimately connected and alive along side every atom of this universe. i fell in love in a way that allowed me to see the essence of myself and ultimately fell in love so deeply that i had to walk away.

peace corps is haphazard. falling in love in peace corps is haphazard. it exists on levels that were unbeknownst to me before arriving on this island. it shelters in the storms that are forever rolling through and if we are not careful...it can aid us in getting so lost we think those bolts of thunder are how it's always been and always will be. i guess that is love though...strong, loud, powerful, scary, foundation-shaking. but here is the beauty of it...the beauty of love in the peace corps and this love that i have found...it has allowed me to find my heart open...even amidst the shadows and the pain and the struggles.

god has cracked my heart open again and again and again until this time....it is open...eternally. and gratefully. open.


finding the self in no self

It's been almost a month since I have come back from Saint Vincent. That trip and the choices since have ignited a significant change in me...one that was a long time coming and a reflection of the years of work I have done to get here. When I returned from Saint Vincent I returned with a renewed vigor for myself and my own growth. I recommitted to my yoga and spiritual practice and the integration of my past lives with my current Peace Corps life. This was not necessarily a conscious decision but more so a movement of soul. Let me give a little background.

My life has had its fair share of difficulties, challenges, edges that were mostly self imposed. I have taken high roads and low roads only to find myself forking to the left more than enough times. Somehow I have managed to always redirect my course and use the former twists and turns to ignite the next chapter all the while secretly, intricately interweaving the pieces to a form that has not yet presented itself...yet. What I have found as life has moved on and I have made choice upon choice is that those interwoven pieces somehow became lost...forgotten. Some, while painful and difficult to remember, were the pieces that truly define who I am on a deep level...a soul level. As if they are the pieces that have always been...joining me lifetime after lifetime in the hopes that the creases will get wrinkled out and the smooth form will take hold. As if they join me minute by minute in the hope that one day I will reconnect and all the pieces will take hold. I'm sure most of what I am saying makes no sense outside my own head...and even in there I'm not sure it was very clear until my return from Vincey and my commitment to stepping back on my yoga mat. Somehow that seemingly simple gesture, which I have performed hundreds of times before, turned on all the pieces of myself and the remembrance of who I am...truly...and how I wound up here.

Peace Corps is an interesting phenomenon. It is two years of your life where you constantly live in a state of uncertainty...of yourself and the world around you. I have spent the last year and a half in what seems to be a constant state of fight or flight mode. It has become such a common place to me now that I think I have just settled into it as normalcy. But when I stepped onto my mat this time...I realized something bigger has been happening. In the year and a half that I have been here I have relived every challenge, every difficulty, every hardship, every bad choice through different teachers. Same scenarios, different faces. While I had a small realization of this a few months ago...I didn't truly realize it until I was sitting in meditation one day and it all came flooding back. All of it. All of the memories and pieces of me I thought I had lost..all the pieces I worked to forget. I saw it so clearly...my experience in Peace Corps has been all about letting go and letting love. All of this time on this island has allowed me to reorganize and realize the deepest and truest nature of myself. When I opened my eyes from that meditation it was as though everything had integrated. And I let go. And I joined myself again in this world. In peace.

This morning as I was beginning my yoga practice a yellow breasted bird came and sat on the windowsill for quite a while and joined me in welcoming the day. In that moment I knew without a doubt every little thing is gonna be alright.


blue moons...

it certainly has been about forever since i've last documented anything regarding my experience. it's not for lack of life altering events but more that i just haven't really had the inclination to share my experiences with the world. i was recently in st vincent on an amazing vacation discussing this point with a friend who agreed that sometimes certain growth edges need to stay internally milling about until they are ready to smooth. some growth edges are quite personal and only ours for the developing.
that being said...life has surely directed me once again to the intricately designed spot i am now sitting in. humbly. quiet. july ended the year at upton gardens girls center and brought with it a perfectly placed vacation. i took the opportunity to hop over to saint vincent and the grenadines for some much needed r & r. i have been struggling in my service for the past couple of months. i think the transition from my first assignment to my new one left me a bit disoriented beyond my own recognition. while i absolutely love upton gardens, being there means that i am no longer an integral part of the development of cdp. a program that i have so much faith and hope in. the transition was seamless intellectually but i believe my emotional self may have skirted away with a few loose threads. that being said the transition and the overwhelming weight of constantly adjusting and redefining in an unfamiliar culture left me slightly worn around the edges and ready for some down time.
i took off to saint vincent with the intention of staying 10 days and soon realized that would not be enough time...if i had my way i might have spent an eternity there...and beyond. vacation is an amazing thing...but this was beyond the experience of a vacation. i was fortunate enough to be in sync with a few other friends who were vacationing at the same time and therefore able to tap into their vacation. we hiked, climbed, bathed, swam, laughed, sang, metamorphosised, and experienced every single moment that was for the taking. the most amazing part of the entire experience was that i regained myself. leaving saint lucia and the stressors that have created a continual state of fight or flight i was able to breathe. fully. i was able to see. clearly. i was able to hear. truly.
living here i have felt the need to step into another skin. one that is not my own. one that many times i don't quite recognize but continue to move throughout my days with the hope that the reflection i see will one day become familiar. the more i try to see clearly, the less distinct my silhouette becomes. i have been looking to find balance for a while. desperately trying to find the perfect conversation, walk, interaction, minute that might snap me back into my own truth. desperately searching for the idealist who stepped onto this path a year and a half ago and becoming more lost than found with each step. the day before i left for st vincent my soul was uprooted unbeknownst to me so that it could be replanted in firmer soil.
my time away on this beautiful, mystical, magical island refurbished my foundation. reconnected me to the source of my self and the divinity within. the people and places i found myself a part of every minute of every day were constantly synchronically driven. for two weeks i found myself shedding layers and layers of hurt and pain and angst and fear and want and refilling with truth and honesty and connectedness. i began to feel again...to connect again...to breathe again. i started to notice that the reflection i was seeing looked a little more familiar. the skin a little more comfortable. i started to recognize myself and my thoughts a little more clearly. i let go.
let go of expectations. let go of perceptions and judgments. let go of hurt and aggression. let go of pain and disappointment. i let go and felt the intensity fall away.

i am now home and back to work. today was my first day back in castries and back in the flow. i prayed that my awareness and freedom would carry me through the city and through my day. and my day was filled with serendipitous meetings and immeasurable warmth. around every corner was a chance meeting with someone i needed to see or a perfectly placed conversation with a stranger. by the end of my work day my heart was just as full as it was while it was reprogramming on vacation. as i was walking through town on my way out of work...a small boy came running toward me...no parent in sight...but seemingly on a mission. i grabbed him as i thought someone would surely be missing him after he had broken away in a mad dash for freedom and brought him back up in the direction he had come running from. a woman on the side of the road asked if he was with me and i said no...so she told me to leave him with her and she would find his mother. soon after, a little girl came around the corner and said..."mom is going to beat you" to which the woman replied that if anyone beat this child she would call the police and proceeded to go into a rightfully placed dialogue about the responsibility of the parent to account for their child. and there this little boy sat. perfectly content on a strangers lap. no tears, no fear. content.

i have reconnected with that deep part of my self. my soul self. the part that aches and longs for truth and honesty. love and openness. awareness and fully realized potential. and that self knows that little boy was placed there for me today as a reminder. a reminder to trust in the goodness of the world and the guidance of spirit. to have faith. and to know that even in fight or flight mode...you are always protected.

so thank you saint vincent...for finding me while i was aimlessly directing myself down your streets. and thank you for returning me home.


you can't satisfy...

the other day i was on a bus heading to work. i was sitting in the seat closest to the door and when the woman next to me got off i moved in one seat. this placed me next to an older, white gentleman who wasted no time in asking me, "do you notice the condition of this bus? the engine noise and the stalling out and the jerking?" up until that point i hadn't really noticed other than it was a red bus which usually indicate a less than smooth ride. but it got me thinking. he waited to ask me that question because the color of my skin somehow indicated that i would have been disturbed by the "condition" of that bus. which i wasn't. since it's par for the course here...but he wouldn't have known that the red buses are the ones to look out for. that the high top white or gray vans are the ones to ride in if you are looking for style. and he wouldn't have known that i am privy to that information based on the color of my skin. he assumed that i, like him, was incredibly insecure and uncomfortable on that bus. which i wasn't.
during that same bus ride i noticed a young secondary school girl at the bus stop who had the most hateful, angry look on her face. if her face had frozen in that position she would surely look at herself one day ten years from now and regret all that anger that had been filling her soul...at least i'd like to think that...maybe she'd still feel the same way. but it got me thinking. and observing...and replaying the same internal conversation i have been having for weeks in my own mind....
i have been noticing this trend with the youth here...this deep seeded anger that many times seems displaced and uncontrollable. i work with girls every day who comment about the inability to control their anger...how a feeling just takes them over and they can't stop themselves from reacting violently either with words or actions. i see young people on the streets every day speaking harshly and violently to one another...angry. over what i am unsure...maybe the cards they are dealt? the life they are not privy to have? the longing that they will never fulfill.
i have noticed that the generation below me...and the upcoming youth have a sense of entitlement i have never experienced before. i will be the first to admit that i was spoiled growing up. i came from a family that gave...and gave a lot. i am certain my father wanted me to have and experience all he never did and he made certain that i and my brother never went without...but the concept of work and dedication wasn't lost on me. i knew that his work ethic and drive were what put us where we were. and was the same thing that insisted i get a job when i was at the appropriate age. but there is this stirring in youth today...this belief that they are entitled because they are here. seeing this play out in saint lucia comes with it's own set of idiosyncratic ways. here is why i think it's led to such anger....
the youth of saint lucia are like all other kids all over the world. they long to be abreast of the latest trends...to have the newest phones...to wear the most stylish clothes. they long to emulate what they see their american heroes like trey songs, beyonce, nikki minaj, lil wayne and the likes wearing, driving, sporting, drinking...and in many ways saint lucia provides a facade that those things...that lifestyle is just within reach. unfortunately the truth is there is a serious discrepancy between the world they see and the world they are a part of. they live in a world where if the veneer were ripped off...the poverty and need would be exposed. the faulted education system and lack of opportunity. the pressure to perform to the highest standards without any promise of a future career or access to higher education.
so here we have these kids growing up witnessing a world of haves on the television...living in a world of miraged haves in their country and longing to have in their hearts. and when they begin to see the truth of their existence...the little that is being offered in comparison to the greatness they have imagined they get angry. their psyche and every ounce of their being tells them they are entitled and every ounce of their reality does not provide. and this discrepancy...this blazing truth against what their internal mechanism tells them is the truth...causes anger. discomfort. aggression. fear. and all of this manifests in the collective youth culture.
i hear people say all the time that the influence of america...of western culture...with the advent of television and marketing...changed the soul of saint lucia. for the longest time i didn't want to hear that. i wanted to blame it on the parents...on lack of education...of babies having babies...on ignorance...but then i remembered the polynesian cultures who had never had incidents of eating disorders until they were exposed to american culture. and i saw a polynesian woman comment on how fat she was in the face of the plastic, carved white women she served every day in her hotel job...and i questioned...maybe it's not that far off.
we live in a world of over stimulation. kids today are growing up with this awareness of what the world has to offer. and they want it. and they want it now.
the roots are being lost. the essence is becoming harder to find. and the kids...they are angry. really, really angry. so as i sit in my last year in saint lucia...i wonder...how can i affect these kids in a way to balance out their wants and needs versus what is available. how can i affect change among an entire generation who is underserved and unsatisfied?


change agent...

i want to preface this blog by saying this is not to offend anyone...there are a number of wonderful and incredible things happening around me...but today...today was difficult...and i needed to share.

in relation to my last post i would like to expand on some things i am struggling with today...things that have always been present...but are boldly shouting at me in this moment. peace corps is an amazing experience overall. the ability and expectation of embedding yourself into a culture that is not your own. of working to help create change from the inside out. of building lifelong connections and friendships that root in ways you never imagined. but no matter how deeply you integrate into your community and your workplace...you will never be of this culture. there are ways and means that will always allude you...and on days like today...haunt you. when i signed up for this journey i had an entire two years planned out in my mind. i knew what i would be learning, what i would be teaching, and what i would most likely struggle with. all of those presumptions were off by a million miles. here i am...a year and a half into my service...and i am continually struggling with the same social issues i have been since day one...okay...that's not fair...in the beginning i was definitely on my honeymoon with saint lucia and she could do no wrong...so let's say since month four.
i think one of the greatest reasons peace corps is still in saint lucia 50 years later is to address the social issues that everyone is talking about but no one is doing anything about. today, the problem is...how can i be an agent of change as an outsider to a world i don't understand with issues i vehemently disagree with?
today i was on the bus when this whole dialogue started in my mind. i was watching things pass out the window when i noticed a group of guys sitting on the block. i see guys sitting on the block all the time. twenty to thirty somethings with no job, no education, nowhere to go...nothing to do. this isn't a new site for me. but today for some reason it struck me that i will never understand the issues those guys face. i will never understand what it's like to wake up day after day with nowhere to go but the stoop down the street and nothing to do but smoke herb all day and watch things pass you by. i can listen...if they wanted to share...but i will never understand. i am here as a peace corps volunteer. with a masters degree...that granted i have yet to pay for...but it's mine. no one will ever take my education away from me. and i worked for that so i am in no way discounting the importance and power of that education...but i will never be able to understand the plight of those guys..sitting all day. content with watching the cars and people and life pass them by.
when i got to work one of the girls was passing me on the road...i asked her where she was going as i knew she was supposed to be in school. she told me she was going home. when i arrived i asked if they knew she was on the road and explained what she had said...it was a joke. no harm done...but it turned into an issue of disrespect. and therefore she was reprimanded and asked to apologize. i don't really understand what she did wrong...but due to the difference in culture didn't want to overstep and insert my opinion.
later in the day i faced the dilemma of another girl who has left home because of the incredible abuse she has to endure from her mother. this time...she left because she feared for her life. she has been the recipient of all forms of abuse...heinous abuse...but she is still in her mother's home. and at this point i realized...i have no leeway here...i have no idea what to do or where to direct her. the only thing i can do is let her know i am there...share with her what i know...and pray that the center supports her in her need for safety and security. but it got me to thinking about my deepest issue here...personally. the violence masked as discipline.
i cannot go a day without seeing a child being yanked, pulled, hit, kicked, knocked down...in the name of discipline. discipline for things as simple as being a child. being a normal child who does what children do. it's beating. it's what people do here. but i don't understand it. and i will never understand it. and when i hear lucians talk about how they don't understand why the country is turning so violent...why youth are so aggressive and quick to act out...i have to purse my lips...and not share my thoughts. violence is a cycle. if you learn it at home you will repeat it out of the home. and i look at this beautiful girl who has the world ahead of her and she has been beaten down. given the message over and over again that she's worthless. no good. unloveable. and then when her mother comes back with affection...she gets confused. and then she perpetuates this cycle in her life...through promiscuity...living what she's been taught. and then she is beaten for that.
there is no discourse. there is no deep delving into the issues at hand. there is violence. and anger. and it's becoming...at least for today...incredibly hard to swallow. i love the career path i have chosen. the work that i am doing here assures me that this is the work i have been called to do. but days like today...i wish i had a different perspective...a different group of kids. or...now that i think about it...i wish more that i could expose these kids to what "normal" feels like. what it's like to be heard and appreciated and loved and respected. what it's like to be disciplined in a way that makes sense...a way that you can grow and learn from. discipline from love not anger or fear.
i know i will not make the change i sought when i first came. i will not change the structure or the social setting. i will not change people's speech or belief in corporal punishment. but i hope...i pray that i will help these kids change the way they see themselves. and change the cycle that has taught them they are less than and worth nothing more than aggression. i pray that they will choose a different route than the one presented to them so that they may be the agent of change everyone talks about but does nothing about.


softening corners...

it's been a while. which unfortunately is also indicative of my yoga practice. i was on quite good there for a while but then about two weeks ago i started having pretty severe back pain. it's nothing new...i've struggled with back pain for a while but this was a new sensation. i spent a good portion of a week delving into slow, silent, meditative practices trying to decipher and decode whatever the message was behind the pain but to no avail...or so i thought. it appears the main issue is flexibility...if i push too far in one direction..the other gets stuck...and vice versa. i always find the physical manifestation of things quite interesting. i am definitely one of those people who believes most everything that shows up physically has emotional and spiritual dimensions to it. maybe i read too much into it but so far every time i have had an illness, an ache, a pain...it has always led me to some deeper understanding of myself. and in this case...life. i can't quite gauge why or when the pain started...only that it showed up in the midst of a deep practice...and caused me to sit in meditation for a long time after the asana trying to tap into what was going on.
as i said...this has been going on for a while but is more intense and in a different light than it has ever been before. the main focus seems to be balance...cultivating balance in movement, thought, intention, work. so last week was our mid service training for peace corps. my entire group that i arrived with was on saint lucia for a week long gathering of inspiration, creation, intention all culminating in an end balance that seemed to bring everything full circle. at least to this point. we stayed in a really nice hotel with hot water and nice beds and good food...but in the heart of rodney bay which is the most touristy area one could find in saint lucia. so here we are...service workers living by simple means thrust into the role of tourist...the exact role we have worked to avoid...the label we have eschewed for over a year. balance.
but the balance didn't come...at least for me...until it was all said and done. i was well aware that i was not assuming the role of "that white girl" while in rodney bay, my neighborhood, for the week. i was any white girl. i was anonymous...unassuming. even though i ran into people i knew around every corner. even though my home is only a stones throw away...i shed the cloak i have worn for the last year and a half and slipped into america. it was odd. but when i came home friday afternoon, the reality of who i am and where i am washed back over me. about halfway up the road that leads home..the scents became familiar and the sounds brought me back. balance.
i would be joking if i said i didn't struggle for a day or two...the rush of ants and mosquitoes that didn't seem to exist at the hotel...the cold, cold showers, the sunken in bed....the lack of inspirational, deeply philosophical conversation...the silence. it took me a series of long, deep breaths by the beach in solitude before i was able to begin to snap back into me. here. in saint lucia. and with that awareness also came a new awakening...of how far i have come...how far all of these people i can truly call my friends...my family...have come here in the eastern caribbean. we have become balance. teetering between two worlds with the ability to exist softly in either while pushing back deeply in each. balance.
so back. back...i had another physical therapy session today. where i had accupuncture. and it opened up some of that energy that has been stagnant. the energy that has been stuck between two worlds...that of then and now. i know i still have a lot of work to do...but the journey...and the ability to teeter softly may elicit just the right balance i need to bend back when needed or push forward when it's right. balance.
i hope the healing of pain continues so that i may come back to my mat...and begin again with a thirty day challenge...and a new awareness of what i have yet to find.



suuuuupermooooon. how apropos that today is the scorpio supermoon. on a saturday. for sarah. :)
i just finished a nice afternoon practice. good way to begin the upcoming afternoon of chores. it's amazing to me how as this journey continues...things keep falling deeper and deeper into place. i have been feeling the synchronicity more and more...and though i know it is always there...it's not always the case that i am tapped in or aware of the seamless fluidity of the events of my life. there was a time when i was so connected...when at the exact moment i needed them the right person would show up...or the phone would ring...or i would find the missing piece of the puzzle. but lately...for quite some time honestly...those events haven't been syncing up. life has been occurring and it's been great...but it's been missing that mystical piece...until recently.

so this morning i knew i wanted to do a more gentle practice...and i knew that it was the scorpio supermoon which is bringing with it all sorts of emotions and openings and triggers and boldness...so i wanted to honor that piece of me and deeply connect to my own personal emotional state and/or baggage. seems like what you should do for a supermoon right? so i found a practice entitled 'emotions...let em' flow.' and it was perfect. the entire practice related to deep holds, deep breaths, and deep awareness. really tapping in to what it is you are feeling physically...but then going deeper into the emotional message behind that. what is there? what do you find? what do you feel? can you let it go? can you allow the breath to move you deeper into yourself and deeper into trust and opening so that you may let go and let god in a way that no matter what occurs, no matter what comes your way...you know you are supported?

i feel so grateful for the practice of yoga...and for this commitment i have made to bring it back into my life. the things i am finding in myself...the lessons i am remembering and re-challenging myself on...are the same questions and ideas that brought me to the peace corps and into a life of selfless service. i have been missing the selfless part...allowing myself to let go and serve through spirit. i have been serving but without the essential element that makes it true...that honors love and one another. the awarenesses that are occurring daily through each practice are not only bringing me back to the path of self...but teaching me...reminding me how to gently honor each individual and where they are on their path. because we each have this light in us...we each have the ability to find our way to our essence and truth...but only when we are living from our deepest connectedness to that source are we truly able to affect one another. only then does opening a random book bring us the message we have been needing...or at least the awareness that message was meant for us...at this time.



i had planned to do a yoga podcast tonight...let someone else lead me so i wouldn't have to think about the poses i was doing...for some reason i had it in my head that i wanted to do arm balances...wanted to strengthen myself and work through a challenging practice. my body had other ideas...let me regress for a minute. one of the main reasons i decided to begin this challenge was because i was finding a disconnect between myself and my spirit...my faith...the universe. i found that while i am going through the daily motions and trying to work deeply with the girls at upton gardens...i am only going through the motions. the deep level of understanding and connectedness was missing. i know from experience that i am only in that mindset and heart space when i am consistently stepping onto my mat. the other reason was because of my own emotional...rather lack of emotional...space that i have been sitting in for a while. while there are things happening...monumental, trying, difficult, exuberant...life changing things...happening all around me...i am almost storing them and not experiencing them. i can physically feel the weight of my world in my body..and i can feel it pulling me down. i know again from experience the only way to allow all of these emotions to be is to step onto my mat...and delve deeply into my breath and the opening that may bring...in whatever direction.
so tonight...when i was searching for a podcast...for a voice that i would connect with...i found none but my own. my own internal guide telling me to step on my mat...and flow. don't think...just allow. don't fight...just breathe. so i put on some good music and began my practice. what i found was that while in the beginning i was  one step ahead of myself...trying to figure out what should come next...where should i be going...how to counterbalance...slowly...i let go. slowly...the future and the past....the linkages and the steps weren't important...the present moment was all that mattered. the current breath was the only focus. and so i began to flow. and from that space i created. ultimate, open, creativity...from deep within. through pain and conflict to joy and resolution.
when i stepped off my mat...and looked at the clock...it was 9.15. i had just lost myself in a 2 hour practice. no concept of where i was headed...no concern for what might occur when i get there...just honest, open intention for the present moment and whatever emotions or challenges might come up in that space. and as they came...they went. and i found a renewed sense of not only myself but my connection to god...and to all that is. and so...i remembered.
and tonight i will sleep with a deep sense of gratitude and peace for i have once again connected to the source...and feel the true honest love that comes with that knowing.



one of the things i love most about yoga is that when i am consistently practicing...the world is practicing with me. when i soften the world softens...as within...so without...i said i would post daily...or maybe i said almost daily...so let's play a little catch up...on my monday morning trip through castries...i found the battle field just as i had left it but my spirit seemed to walk a little quieter...the roar of the chaos seemed a little gentler. in the moments when the growl began to rise...i remembered my morning practice and a sense of knowing washed over me...while yoga is a personal practice, it radiates out to everyone and everything because it's essence is union.uniting breath, body, movement, space, energy, the little self and the big self, the unknown and the known, you and i, we... so even while i am at battle in a world that is not my own...i am still deeply and intricately connected to every soul i pass.
during this mornings preparation for the battle field, i was offered a ride straight to the gate of upton gardens by a kind young man from india. wednesdays i teach yoga at a secondary school, so i'm not sure if it was the mat in hand or the enlightened aura i had surrounding me that enticed him to give me such a lift...but it was greatly appreciated and left me with a renewed sense of connectedness to all that is. it is rare that i get a ride to work via anything but the bus...and this morning i was running a little late so it was odd that i didn't notice the bus that had passed me and was four vehicles in front of us. as he pointed this out it became apparent to me that i have stepped back into the flow. it's been a long time since i have been here...the place i was before i stepped on the plane to come to saint lucia...the world of synchronicity and heightened awareness. the complete and ultimate connectedness and trust in the universal order and flow of things. the union of what is.
needless to say my consistency in commitment is paying off. on a grand...esoteric scale. this last year of my peace corps service will be one in which i try to hinge all of the tools in my box into some sort of meaningful purpose that will move me on to the next phase of this journey. in these last six days i have been reminded of the depths of my soul...the offerings i have and the impact i asked to make on this world. as i continue this thirty day journey...i will continue to draw inward and look to all the pieces so that this life of service i have committed myself to will know no boundaries and may push me even further than i had ever imagined.
this yoga thing...there's something to it.
so much love and gratitude. all ways.



i am inspired. the simple act of stepping on my mat three days in a row has given me a renewed sense of self...a renewed sense of purpose. i have reconnected with it...whatever it is...and feel like finally...i am tapping back into the source. that being said i have decided to commit myself to a 30 days of yoga in 30 days challenge. i am currently on day three. day three brought me to a woman's home this morning via my boyfriend which assured me that my commitment is perfectly placed. she invited me into her home while the boys harvested her property for mangoes, sugar cane, calabash, bananas, and herbs. the minute i walked in something clicked. in the entry way was a laughing buddha...arms raised in welcome. her friend was receiving a massage on the porch overlooking the sea while meditation music played as the backdrop. there were ancient carvings, gongs, hard wood floors, and a bookshelf full of energy and inspiration. books on chakras, books on energy work, books on yoga, meditation, power of attraction...books upon books upon books of my history...my truth...my essence. as i sat with this woman..sybil...i realized that i had just tapped into the vein of saint lucia i have been longing for over the course of the year.
something magical is happening in this 2012. something auspicious and awakening. i have lived out the last twenty years of my life in the year i have been in saint lucia. i have repeatedly been pushed up against my former self...my challenged self...my lost self time and time again. i have re-discovered, re-examined, re-evaluated, and re-learned every aspect of who and why and how i am. if you believe in karma...which i do...i have managed to effectively (at least i hope) work through all of the karmic debt i have brought upon myself through the former years of my life. and somehow...in the ending of the fourth month of 2012 i am healing, releasing, and finding a greater opening to god and myself than i have ever known.
so with the three days of yoga and conscious commitment it has brought to my own well-being i have decided to seal the deal with 30 days of transformation. my goal is to post most days regarding my awareness, my struggles, my downfalls, and essentially what my practice consisted of that day.
so far i have engaged in two deep vinyasa practices, a yoga nidra practice, and a 20 min vinyasa flow. in the midst of each of these practices i have felt my body and my breath in a way that i haven't in a long time. i have been absorbed in my life in the peace corps in an unconscious way. i have been working...pushing...struggling...but not flowing. i am opening to the flow. remembering what it is to be in my body connected through my heart and my spirit. i am remembering what it is to be aligned with my truth and what it was that brought me here in the first place. i am waking up...consciously. no longer drifting through the sea of saint lucia with uncertainty.
that being said...tomorrow i have to make my way through castries and up cedars to get to work. which is similar to going to battle...struggling to get through eons of people walking in every direction with noises and sounds and chaos around every corner. so we'll see how i take my three days of practice into the world.
i know this much...now that i've found you again old friend...i am going to take my time remembering every corner of your being and exploring every cell i have yet to know.
thank you god for the practice of yoga. and for everyone who has inspired me along the way.
see you again tomorrow with an update of my yoga challenge and my morning commute.
all love. all ways.


date night...

tonight i had one of the most incredible and important dates of my life. it was with one of my oldest and dearest and closest friends. the friend who taught me about living your truth and breathing your essence. the friend who reminded me that even in the darkest hours...there is still light. the friend who has always been there with me through sweat and tears and pain and grief and fear and wanting. the friend who has never given up on me no matter how many times i have walked away...disappeared...gotten lost. the friend who has always been and will always be the root of my soul.
tonight i stepped onto my yoga mat for the first time in a long time and i remembered the first time i ever stepped onto a mat. i remembered how yoga saved me when i was lost at sea without any idea how to reach shore. i remembered how yoga kept me adrift every time i slid backwards...every time i face planted into my own ego...my own disregard.
tonight i found myself. again. found my essence. my quiet truth. tonight i am quietly humbled.


turn that frown...

i am forever amazed at the lessons i learn about life through my every day interactions and experiences here in saint lucia. i am doing a lot of personal work and growth while i am here...growth that i thought i had already reached but is now lengthening tenfold. i am settling into my life at upton gardens quite nicely. and with the administrator resigning...i will be spending a day at court diversion once per week when they re-open. i am feeling like everything has finally found it's settling spot and i am really excited about the possible progress that can be made through both organizations. upton gardens is really putting me back into my professionally trained brain and allowing me to exercise my knowledge and skills as a psychologist. it feels so good to be able to connect on that level in an environment where i am not only supported but my expertise are expected and honored. i have been getting better acquainted with the girls day by day and feel like i am finally starting to settle a little myself so that my own personality and isms can shine through. today was a perfect example of my skills/self shining through and even more...one of those important life lessons in humility and grace.
every day at uptons we eat lunch with the girls. we being myself and another volunteer and then usually a staff member. there is invariably, on any given day, some sort of conflict or trouble that arises between two or more girls. today was no different. before lunch began i was having a conversation with j who is about to graduate. a simple conversation about my nail polish...she was smiling and we were in a really good space. out of nowhere l tells n to move to another table...which gets n upset at which point s butts in with an "eh eh" which causes j to fly words at s. did you follow that? yeah...basically a bunch of nonsense. so within a fifteen second span...attitudes and faces shifted. all of a sudden j who was in a perfectly fine mood was incredibly irritated and upset by an issue which had nothing to do with her. so...i stepped in...after staff involvement and asked her...what is the point of that...to which she replied...but s is always getting in everybody's business...so what does that have to do with you...well...i mean...it's just not right...but again i ask...what does that have to do with you? you were here all smiles having a conversation with me and now your face is all screw and your whole mood has changed. you've got to let it go. put that smile back on and let it go...it's not your battle to fight. and in that moment i saw something really amazing happen. this girl..j...she brushed her shoulders off...let go and moved on. while s...carried her negative attitude and frustration through the whole of lunch.
now...this might not mean much but it's the life lesson i have been working on lately...allowing things to pass. not becoming so emotionally invested or diverted by someone else's stuff. whatever it is...whether rudeness on a bus or a sideways comment from a friend...it's not my battle to fight. and it takes up so much energy. so to watch the difference as one girl let go and enjoyed her lunch and engaged in jovial conversation while another sat angry and unbending...made me realize how much the power is in us to let go and let love. every minute of every day we choose how to react to the situations placed before us and each one of those choices greatly affects the next....
so...as the universe is such a powerful teacher...very shortly after i was given my opportunity to put this lesson into effect. when i arrived home...sweaty and thirsty and tired...longing to come in the house and throw on my suit and go for a quick swim...i realized my keys were locked inside the house and sitting on top of the fridge. i could see them...but had no idea how to reach them. i guess i would be making a trip up to gros islet to get an extra...but here's the piece...i was hot and tired...i could have become incredibly cranky and angry...but i didn't. and it wasn't even much of a thought. i sat down...ate a mango...cooled off and devised a plan. shove my bag in the house...go up to gros islet. on my way to the bus stop i ran into a friend whom i shared my dilemma with. he promptly told me i didn't need to go all the way up north...i could just go ask one of the neighbors to give me a mango picking stick and get them myself...genius. he definitely gets wednesday's hero award...which he will have to share with the next guy across the street from me who made a long tool for me to retrieve my keys with. so i came back across the street and within about ten seconds had my keys in hand and door unlocked. all the while with a smile on my face and an even greater feeling that i had just accomplished that with the help of others. and without getting upset or irritated.
so...these are my lessons for today...always keep a smile on your face. it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. thus exertion of more energy. never get upset by adversity because out of adversity many times comes creative strokes of genius. and always befriend your neighbors...you never know what kind of knowledge you may have to share with one another.
and when i retrieved those keys...the first song in my head....
i love my life. bless up!!!



paradigm shift. something amazing is happening.

determination can move mountains...

yesterday i hiked gros piton. which is one of two side by side mountains on the southern coast. they were my first vision of saint lucia when i was flying in to begin my two years..

.i thought it apropos that i should climb one almost a year after my official swearing in date. though this wasn't necessarily a forethought. i was told by quite a few friends who had already climed this mountain that it was quite an easy hike and didn't really require too much effort...so now...this is either the first time i am feeling my age, the first time i have ever been this out of shape in my life...or they were lying. first let me start by saying that the initial tromp to the trailhead proved to be a little more of an adventure than expected. my friend bethany and i

jumped on the soufriere bus only to find that the road to soufriere was closed and we would have to pay extra to take that bus around the other side of the island to get to where we were going...later we realized we could have taken a different bus to get us there and in less time...but i regess...so the bus finally leaves and we are on our way...when we reach our destination...so we think...we are dropped at the road leading to the trailhead...which is two miles away. okay...no worries. it's a beautiful path and i have great company...so we walk and walk and walk...and then come across a seemingly 'crazy' man who is mumbling something about water, go that way, blah blah blah...so we laugh...and then about 100 feet ahead realize the crazy man was warning us of the huge gap in the road where the bridge had collapsed and you could not cross. ha ha...joke is on us...he knew exactly what he was saying. so we find an 'alternate' route which leads us to cross a creek while scaling a wall and almost collapsing. so the adventure begins. 

after our two mile trek we finally reach the gros piton station where we are met by our amazing guide curlin who will be taking us up the mountain. 

so off we go. it's hot. and i realize quickly into this hike that i will be doing a lot up uphill...climbing. i was winded and sweating and struggling. about halfway through my legs began shaking and i thought...i might not be able to do this. bethany was cruising up the mountain at which point i said...maybe this is part of being 34? before we reached the 300 year old mango tree...

i was having these conversations...what if i don't make it..i don't know if i can do this...what if i get stuck up here...man...i'm really thirsty...do we have enough water...then we got to the mango tree and something happened. i realized that i was pushing myself up that mountain. fighting to maintain a rapid pace rather than just enjoying myself and taking my time. i remembered when i was younger this was always a mission...challenge, push, see how fast and how far you can get. but on that mountain...something happened. i softened and quieted myself. i listened to that little voice inside of me that started to sing a different tune. i began to have these conversations...you are so blessed to have the strength and ability to climb this...take your time...enjoy the sounds and the sights...breathe...take each step in remembrance of those who cannot. 
and so i climbed. and i listened. and i breathed. deeply and purposefully. and i reached the top of gros piton with a new sense of myself and my spirit. and when i got to the top..i surely enjoyed a nice cold piton...

and enjoyed the view with my incredible friend...
before we began the hike back down...which by the way...was much, much easier. so thank you gros piton for giving me more than a great workout and a beautiful view but also yet another new perspective on saint lucia, on myself, and on this incredible journey we call life. 


the ides of...change...

march used to be the first month of the year and was named for the god of war. war brings change. the first is the beginning. and so it is. march.2012. happy new year.
this new year comes with change and growth in a positive direction. growth and occupation of new lands from war. i fought through 2011 and rounded it out apparently in the beginnings of 2012. but using march as my starting point i begin again. i have switched job sites after struggling for months to find footing and constantly slipping. it took a lot of soul searching and letting go to come to that decision because i have so much love and respect for the mission of the CDP and the kids there. but alas...i just couldn't quite find my niche and so i moved. i now find myself surrounded by a crew of girls with a variety of problems and so so so much love to give. while i am continuing my work with an at-risk population this one comes with a little more stability and thus better footing. it has taken me a short amount of time to find my ground and begin to step. and i am so fully supported in this mission. i have been building my own personal skill set and challenging my mind. i have been reading journal articles and searching treatment programs to leave an impression that may last and be meaningful. i have remembered that i am a psychologist. and a good one. a passionate one. an insightful one.
something strange has been happening to me over the past couple of days. i have settled. in a way that is indescribable to anyone who is not in this experience but in a way that is so magnificent and life changing. i am stretching myself and my skin...growing into the self i always projected myself to be. settled in a world that is not my own but is giving me the space and inspiration to fold into me. i am reconnecting with the true definition of me.



so there is this cycle in peace corps...it's the cycle of transition or something like that. it basically represents a roller coaster...the ups and downs you will have while in service...the honeymoon phase...the reality check...the grounding...the un-grounding...the recycling...something like that. there is an interesting piece of the cycle that i don't remember being built in to their diagram though that seems to be upon me. the clicking back into self.
i have spent a good part of the past year working to integrate, working to understand, working to not leave out one good morning, afternoon, or good night. i have worked to keep my head above water when i feel like i might sink and maintain an air of non-judgment and wide open wonder. i have worked. and then yesterday...i stopped working. i settled into me. the essence of me...as is.
i have spent the past week reconnecting with myself and my yoga practice. setting the alarm for 6 every morning and arising to the mat in order to ground and connect for the day ahead. in the midst of that week something has shifted me back into place. not to say that i have been un-authentic...but something has been happening on my mat that is bringing me back to my own core. my own essence. i have shed the wanting to...the desiring to...the needing to. i am here now. being. nothing more. nothing less.
i have been working so hard to understand how my ideals fit with the ideals of this culture. i have been working to bend and mold myself to the needs and desires of those around me. i have been working to fit and i finally realized there is no unlocking that needs to happen in the world around me. it's the world inside of me that needs to settle, relax, and breathe into what it is i am doing here. i am not here to be anyone but myself.
i have been humbled by the hierarchy of power. humbled by the lack of certainty in situations where i would traditionally 'know.' i have broken apart every piece of my soul and my being only to come back to the same internal fire and know...truth is truth. only when living from my own essence, my own truth, my own presence of being can i truly affect change.
this past year has been difficult for me in ways i never would have imagined...and 2012 started off quite rocky...but this shift that is happening in me is bringing me back. it's not some divine intervention that is changing my ways...it is reminding me of my ways. it is bringing me back to myself. my. self. and my connection to god and all that is. peace corps...you have no idea the ways in which this experience has affected me and shaped me and reminded me to be.
i have nothing but the utmost gratitude for yoga. for you truly are the union of self. the union of spirit. the unifying connection to all that is. the greatest lesson i have learned over this past year...my true form...my true nature...my true self is the one that is already integrated into all communities...because it is the connection to humanity. only when we stop and listen and breathe are we reminded of how essential that essence is.

and then there was this. in my morning yoga practice this beautiful creature was in my field of vision.

which apparently means this (if you are into this kind of stuff...which i am):

There is nothing more magnificent than the power of the horse. Horses are truly the bridge between the world of heaven and the world of earth. Throughout time, horses have been associated with strength, victory, nobility, freedom, movement, wisdom and guidance. The horse is the faithful companion. His dedication and affection bring courage and valor. He represents the fire within you. He is your guide, constantly carrying you on your path.

And since our practice this morning he has been faithfully standing outside my gate. I love my life.