Monday, October 6, 2008

6 October 2008: plastic bottles?

A quick (6 minutes) and informative news story clip on whether plastic bottles are safe...

...and alternative reusable bottles here. I got mine at Whole Foods, and I LOVE it!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ps Randy Pausch

I'm sure you've all already heard of Randy Pausch's Last Lecture... I had, but I hadn't checked it out until today. (I'm nursing a cold so I'm lounging around at home seeking internet inspirations.) Wow. Love it. Love him. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't already. There's also another great lecture called Time Management. You'll find both here.

Sending so much love and gratitude to him and his family. (Randy passed away in July.)

30 September 2008: i heart Seane Corn

Seane Corn rocks! A beautiful, inspiring, and empowering yogi and human being, she lives and breathes her message of yoga Off the Mat, Into the World. I never tire of her teachings.

Quick video of Seane demonstrating yoga as body prayer and a great audio interview with her that you can download for free.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

24 September 2008: Changing, cleansing winds

From one side of the planet to the other and back, crossing multiple time zones and logging countless miles of travel (unfortunately leaving quite the carbon footprint along the way)...I'm back in Hong Kong, feeling more supported, more grounded, and more ME. By taking flight, I've reconnected to my digging deeper into my foundation, I've awakened more pranic energy to rebound up and out. Push down into your soles to radiate out through your soul! I am refreshed, I am inspired, I am infinitely grateful.

I've been back for a couple weeks and I'm still calculating the time difference to wonder what my loved ones in Cali and NYC might be up to. The weather here was beautiful at first, but it seems China has reopened the factories they shut down for the Olympics because each day seems to bring more and more pollution, and we're currently under a Typhoon 8 warning which means the city shuts down and everyone's advised to stay indoors.

I miss the crisp, clean air of the Bay Area. I miss my Nala. I miss all my loved ones and how normal and easy it was to regularly see and talk to everyone. Every now and then I feel the raw emptiness of separation and distance, and it hurts, but through deep breathing it transforms into gratitude that I have such love in my life to miss.

What was confirmed for me on this first trip back to the States since my decision to move is that Hong Kong really is my home now. I love California but I've spent practically my whole life there. I had a deliciously good time (delicious and healthy!) being back in town, but I really missed Hong Kong. It's definitely time to explore and flourish within a different place, culture, and lifestyle.

So here I am - enjoying taking the subway again (the cleanliness of which I appreciate so much more after taking the NYC subway, ew!)...enjoying walking around the ever-changing cityscape and bumping into friends around every corner...enjoying lazy afternoons on the boat, swaying with the water...enjoying these changing, cleansing winds that typhoons bring.

There's just something intoxicating about this place. Come visit and see for yourselves! ;)

Before I close, a couple offerings for you: photos from my journey and a class for your downloading pleasure on (called Flying High & Twisting It Up). I taught and recorded it at Santa Monica Power Yoga on donation basis and you can download it on donation basis as well! Thanks for your support, enjoy, and pass it on!!

To those of you whom I didn't get to spend time with - especially near the end of my trip when I was overwhelmed with things I needed to take care of - I'm so sorry to have missed you, but hopefully we will see each other next time around.

Wishing you well on all of your adventures!!

Big love,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today is 26 Aug- schedule update!

Oh my...the past couple weeks have been a near-blinding whirlwind (with WAY too much driving)!! I'm so sorry if I haven't yet gotten in touch with you personally. I'm trying my best but there's just so much love to go around in such seemingly short time!

I am still in the States and have about 2 more weeks left. Here's my itinerary:

Wed-Mon: Santa Monica (come take my class on the 30th @ 11a @ SMPY East)
Tues-Sat: NYC
Sat the 6th night: last night out and about in Santa Monica (holla at me if you're out and about too!)
7th-8th: Los Altos (let me know if you want to drop by my parents' place while I'm packing & prepping to head back to Hong Kong)

If you could, please get in touch with me if you want to catch up while I'm around. My schedule's a bit too constrained for all the 1-on-1s I'd like to do, but let me know if you want to help me sort through my storage crate this Thurs/Fri (and take some stuff of my hands if you need any housewares, etc)...or help me sell my VW 2003 Beetle Convertible...or practice together. Ok, I'm just joking about the first 2 (unless you're interested??) but it'd be great to take a class together! I will most likely be taking the following classes (and yes, I realize I am a total yogi nerdburger for trying to schedule this in advance):

Santa Monica (28th-1st)
Thurs 9a @ SMPY West with Rudy
Fri 830p @ SMPY West with Ally
Sun 8a &/or 215p @ SMPY East with Bryan or Jay Co
Mon 715a @ Yoga Works Montana with Kathryn Budig

NYC (3rd-6th)
Wed 6p & 730p with Dharma Mittra
Fri/Sat @ Pure Yoga with Twee (master classes)

Santa Monica (7th)
Sun 8a @ SMPY East with Bryan

Palo Alto (8th)
Mon 930a @ Yoga Source with Susan

Let me know if any of the above fits your schedule and interest and we can coordinate our mat space together. ;)


Sunday, August 3, 2008

4 August 2008: I’m going, going back, back to Cali, Cali…

…this Thursday (the 7th)! My boyfriend and I will start our trip in NorCal, staying with my parents in Los Altos, going to my very dear friends Jen & Christian’s wedding in Santa Cruz, and making our way through the Bay Area’s most beautiful spots including Monterey, San Francisco, Sausalito, and Napa. I hope to take a few classes at the studio I always go to when I’m there: Yoga Source in downtown Palo Alto.

We plan on driving down the coast to SoCal around the 14th. After a couple nights in Santa Monica, we’ll head to OC, Vegas (from the 16th-18th…anyone else going to be there?), and San Diego, returning to Santa Monica on the 20th. My friend Jackie and I plan on having a get-together in Santa Monica on Thursday the 21st…in celebration of the past year of abundance, transition, and growth. Please stay tuned for details. I will OF COURSE be spending a lot of time at one of my favorite places in the world, my beloved sanctuary: Santa Monica Power Yoga.

I have the rather dreaded feat of sorting through my storage crate, an 8x7x5 box full of what I can only imagine to be superfluous material possessions. As I have managed to live without whatever is in there for over a year now, I hope to sell/donate/otherwise get rid of much of it, so please let me know if you’re looking for any new-to-you furniture.

I’ll be in/out of SoCal/Bay Area through Labor Day weekend. Then, I will spend September 1st-6th in NYC, attending a couple days of Twee Merrigan’s workshop at the new Pure Yoga there, and also visiting Dharma Mittra’s studio.

On Sunday the 7th, I’ll be driving back up north to fly back to Hong Kong out of SFO, but not without teaching a class! I’m tentatively scheduled to teach at Your Neighborhood Studio at 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM. Again, please stay tuned for details!

I’m so looking forward to connecting with family, friends, teachers, and students. I’ll have my BlackBerry so please feel free to email me. If you have my (310) number from last year, you can try calling me as well. I’ll have limited time so 1-on-1’s may be a bit difficult, but please let me know of any events going on, and hopefully we can connect at the get-together or in class.

So that’s the rough itinerary. CAN’T WAIT!!!!!! Talk, see, hug, down-dog-with you very soon! ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Postcard from Beichuan by Scott Wong

The following is a letter from my dear friend Scott, who recently took a trip to the Sichuan Province in China. This was the main epicenter of May's devastating earthquake. I found his words to be impassioned and powerfully moving, personalizing this disaster that most of us cannot even fathom. Below, I share his letter with you. He's included photos as well, which depict the incomprehensible loss of life and home, but also the sustained spirits of the survivors.

If you are so inspired, please seek ways you can be of service, whether by sending donations (perhaps via Children's Hope International), offering prayers, or sending healing energy. At the very least, perhaps you can pass this blog along to continue awareness that many of our brothers and sisters still need a huge amount of help.

:: Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu ::
:: May all beings everywhere be happy and free ::

Leah xo

I have just returned from an emotional trip to Sichuan Province, the main epicenter of the recent May earthquake in China. I was invited by a close local Chinese friend of mine to see the earthquake damaged areas and to assist him in a few days of volunteering. He himself has been stationed there for over a month, overseeing a daily series of "outward bound" style programs and activities for the earthquake affected youth.

A friend and I met up with Jia Guo Peng in Mianyang after flying 3 hours from Beijing. It took about 1.5 hours by car to reach Beichuan, not including the amount of time to switch to a locally hired van who is unrestricted to enter the quake area. Beichuan is a remote area in Sichuan that became well known after the earthquake for being one of the most heavily damaged counties. As we approached the neighboring villages, it became clear from the roadside refugee camps and leftover landslides that 2 months after the earthquake, the infrastructure had yet to see any improvement. Before reaching the actual villages, we stopped at some of the refugee camps where thousands of families were living in less than ideal temporary tents.

Upon reaching Beichuan, we were greeted by our local tour guides, some high school students who Jia Guo Peng had taught recently and were home for summer vacation to be with their families. As we walked through the piles of rubble and remnants of family possessions, I tried hard to imagine what this village looked like before when all the buildings were standing. It is estimated up to 10,000 people died in Beichuan. The entire area looked like a scene from a war zone that was just bombarded. With less than fluent Chinese, I was given detailed accounts of how this school was here and this many students died, or how these parents lost their daughter or son, or if you were lucky, the entire family survived but everything else was gone. In order to keep a positive spirit during our visit, I tried not to think about the fact that these people had very little before and now have even less.

Moving inward, refugee camps were spread everywhere and fortunately families have clean water to drink and food seems to be readily available. But the estimated time to rebuild the county is 3 years from now and therefore these tents, plotted on simple dirt and mud, will be many people's homes for a long time to come. The Government is providing immediate assistance, in part by doling out 10 RMB (a bit more than 1 US$) a day to help the victims of the earthquake and by providing safe and temporary shelter. Some people have taken it in their own hands and are digging out re-usable bricks from the rubble to help re-assemble other buildings and homes.

But in all of this darkness, there is a significant amount of hope that exists in the community and particularly the young people who are becoming accustomed to this new way of life. Outside volunteers like Jia Guo Peng, as well as some of the other local volunteers are everyday heroes, helping to bring back a sense of normality and community to the lives of younger and more vulnerable people. The students who showed us around demonstrated immense courage and maturity to deal with the earthquake and its aftermath and make-shift schools have been put in place to educate them. Business was brisk for those few stores and restaurants still operating. Spiritually, the community is rebuilding and I'm happy to see their determination to move forward.

For many of us, we have largely left this news to rest, desensitized to the images on our TV and internet and all too ready to move on to some other headline news story like the Olympics. However, I am one of the fortunate ones, reminded that there is still much to be done.

As many of you are aware and have seen days after the earthquake, more than 70,000 people, many of whom were children, died in this natural disaster. Some of you have kindly responded to the earthquake by providing donations. Thank you, if you have.

There are certain trips and experiences that shape our lives for the better; this one has left a deep and lasting impression on me. For some of my trip photos including brief captions, please click on the link below and run through the slideshow.

Regards from Beijing


Saturday, July 19, 2008

20 July 2008: 108 Sun Salutations

A few weeks ago, I participated in my first ever yoga fundraiser, organized by Yoga Aid. Yoga Aid hosts The Yoga Aid Challenge in venues across the globe (in the US in September), in an effort to spread the love of yoga and to raise money for various charities. This year marked the first Yoga Aid Challenge held in Hong Kong, at the Asia Yoga Conference. Starting bright and early at 6:30 AM, a couple hundred yogis gathered together for 108 Sun Salutations led by teachers from around the world, including one of my main teachers, Bryan Kest from Santa Monica.

In short, I felt truly honored to be a part of this beautiful event.

Each of the 12 teachers led us through a set of 9 Sun Salutations with their own personal touches. Generally speaking, each Sun Salutation was a traditional Surya Namaskar sequence, which goes something like this: Tadasana :: reach for the sun :: Uttanasana :: Crescent with knee down :: Plank :: Chattarunga :: Cobra :: Down Dog :: Crescent with knee down (opposite leg) :: Uttansana :: reach for the sun. A few teachers broke this mold, most notably my beloved teacher Bryan, who was the only teacher to bring us onto our knees (met by a unanimous sigh of relief) and the only teacher to not teach one traditional Sun Salute. It made me smile, and I think everyone’s wrists appreciated the reprieve. Two other teachers stood out to me personally: Duncan Wong, who led us through his Yogic Arts - Warrior Flow, which was the only time we turned around on our mats to face the back of the room or made a sound other than “Om”, and Jules Febre, who counted the transition from Tadasana to reaching the arms up as one Sun Salute, making me laugh out loud in glee and gratitude.

108 Sun Salutations is a LOT of yoga. I made it with the help of Child’s Pose and by dedicating my breaths to the children supported by my charity of choice – the India Heritage Research Foundation – and to those of you at home for your love and support. Below I’ve listed personal thank you’s to everyone who donated, representing both coasts of the US, Europe, and Asia! There are also a few yoga-related companies represented; please check out their sites if you’re looking for yoga clothes, accessories, or downloadable classes. Thank you so much, brothers and sisters. Because of your sponsorship, I was one of the Top 10 Fundraisers. I got to stand up and take a bow and everything! ;)

This month has been a powerful and abundant one for me. In addition to the yoga fundraiser and having Bryan in town (which in and of itself was such an amazing gift, representing yet another nudge of support from the Universe), I moved into my new home, visited family in Seoul (happy 80th birthday, grandma!), and booked my flight to the States for my first visit back in over a year. That’s right, this month marks my 1 year anniversary of moving to Hong Kong!

Giggling with glee and gratitude,


Big thanks and big love to…

Allison :: Annie :: Becky :: Bernadette :: Christina :: Dcho :: Em :: Frank ( :: Gilly :: Irene :: Jay :: Jimmy :: Karen :: Kyle :: Mark :: Michelle C. :: Michelle H. :: My Soy :: Nan :: Rich :: Rob :: Ruben :: Sara ( :: Silas :: Steph :: Steve :: Susan ( :: Thomas :: Yen

in California :: Denmark :: Hong Kong :: NYC

…for your overwhelming, heartwarming, and inspiring generosity! How incredible to have a global network of support!

PS It’s not too late to donate! My page will be live and collecting donations through the end of July. Or better yet, sign up to participate at one of the next Yoga Aid Challenges!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Yogi Chocolate is Yummy" indeed

article from Elephant Journal:

"Yogi Chocolate gives you downloadable yoga classes by donation; millions of health & social conscious individuals practicing yoga at thousands of yoga studios worldwide; Ideal bite and free eco-living tips; featuring great teachers like Kathryn Budig, Laura Downing, Bryan Kest, Jay Co, Leah Kim, Sara Levere.

“Yogi Chocolate exists to bring all the yogis and yoginis together worldwide…They believe in the power of the people, in the power of connection, in the power of the ability to heal and nourish the self and thrive through being yoga… Yogi runs on donation basis - Simply put: The act of giving…Their teachers put a lot of effort and love into creating their classes for you. Yogi is committed to using their earnings to better the world. The majority of classes are hatha yoga of all different styles; you’ll also find live kirtan chanting recordings and guided meditations. 99% of downloads are currently audio, but video is available with more coming soon! They have received 800+ downloads to date! They currently have 850+ members from all 35 countries including Vietnam, US, UK, Tanzania, Spain, South Korea, Slovak Republic, Seychelles, PuertoRico, Portugal, Poland, Philippines, New Zealand, Mexico, Lithuania, Korea (North), Japan, Israel, Ireland, Indonesia, India, Hungary, Hong Kong, Greece, Germany, Georgia, Denmark, Costa Rica, Colombia, Canada, Brunei, Austria, Australia, Argentina, Algeria. There are 47 teachers with classes in Spanish and Russian. Three charities are supported through their site. Teachers have the option of giving their portion of proceeds to charity. They get to choose the organization. Yogi plans on having a “Future of Yoga” exhibit at Yoga Month Celebration in September, Downtown, LA. Their 1-year anniversary will be in just a few weeks in August 2008.”

It’s so great, I’ve become a part of YogiChocolate. You can find me in their teachers search and practice yoga with me in Spanish, all you have to do is write “Yeye”, and click “search”. Which reminds me a conversation I had this morning with my boyfriend Satchel and him saying to me: “It does not seem right to me that you review a site that you are part of”, to validate his point I say: YOU should try it and send us your review!"

Monday, June 9, 2008

4 June 2008: The Maldives

The Maldives. Wow. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in my entire life. My boyfriend agrees. And we've done a notable amount of globetrotting. Between the two of us, we've lived in the States (California and a brief stint on Oahu), in London, on a boat in Thailand, and of course in Hong Kong...and apart from the places we've called home, we've traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Germany, Holland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Russia, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Nepal, the Philippines... But as we sat on an untouched Maldivian beach under the stars, we shared the sentiment that this is one of the most amazing places we've ever been, and hands down the best holiday either of us has ever had.

Let me try to verbalize the setting I find myself in as I write to you. I am in our "beach bungalow" which is as far from a beach bungalow as you could imagine, because it is a Four Seasons beach bungalow on the Four Seasons-owned island of Landaa Giraavaru. Absolutely enormous: vaulted ceilings, sliding doors that open out to the beach, which is only separated from the bungalow by our private plunge pool (ozonated and therefore chlorine-free) and a covered deck. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that this is a two-person occupancy, as outside alone, there are two poolside lounge chairs, two beach lounge chairs, a couch, a table, a swinging platform, and a platform IN the ocean. The oversized classic Four Seasons bed has a mosquito net around it for when we want to sleep with the doors open (but I somehow still managed to get bitten on the eyelid again, can you believe it?!). The bathroom alone is quite possibly bigger than our flat in Hong Kong, with the longest bathtub I've ever seen, both an indoor and outdoor rainshower, and complete with, mais bien sur, a bidet. And although the bungalow is completely open to the beach and the outside gate is more for appearance than function as you can walk around it on both sides, it's completely private.

It's rainy season here so the weather's been a bit unpredictable, but the intermittent showers simply make the moments of sunshine that much brighter.

The water is clean and clear and warm. I daresay I have never been in nicer oceans. My boyfriend the dive master has gone on 2-3 dives a day, and has seen octopus, reef sharks, rays, turtles, and whale sharks. I merely snorkel the surface, but I've seen some stunning coral reefs with vibrant and sometimes funny-looking fishies...including my boyfriend who I swear must have been a fish in a past life. When we were staying on the yacht, we saw spinner dolphins playing, spinning up and out of the water. They're tiny, and so cute!

The yacht we stayed on was the Four Seasons Explorer. WOW. We were so lucky, with only one other couple on board and 26 crew members!! From marine biologists to avid divers to fishermen who could catch fish with their bare hands, we had true ocean lovers on board. The chef's meals were so varied and delicious that with each subsequent meal, I proclaimed "THIS is my favorite meal!" And there's nothing like having fish immediately after you caught it the grouper (lightly steamed to perfection) our fellow guests caught or the 8-lb trevally (bbq'd to perfection) my boyfriend caught. The wait staff immediately caught onto our tastes and always anticipated our needs: iced coffee mid-morning, fresh lime soda with mint in the late afternoon, peppermint tea before bed. Everyone was so helpful, friendly, and somehow there when we needed them without overwhelming us or taking away from our privacy. It was 5-star service but so personal and comfortable we felt like we were at home. We all knew each others' names and my boyfriend and I were honestly sad to leave them. In fact, I still miss everyone and hope I will get to see them again in the future.

The Republic of Maldives is comprised of 200+ inhabited islands and 1000+ other islands with vegetation, mostly within atolls of varying sizes. I think we're having the best possible full experience of the Maldives, having spent the first night in the capital city of Male, four nights on the yacht, and another four nights on land. From in the ocean, on the ocean, on various islands, and even from seaplanes in sky... I've never seen anything like it. Breathtakingly beautiful.

I've practiced and meditated on sand with the ocean water lapping at my feet, on the rocking boat (talk about a challenge to maintaining balance!), on the outside deck hut with the fall of cleansing rain, and on the platform in the ocean under sunshine (which really is coaxed out with Surya Namaskar!)...always with the sound of the ocean joining my Ujjayi.

Love, practice, and travel. This is my life's happiness.

My man has just returned from his morning dive. We're off to do some sailing (by which I mean he will sail as I hold on for dear life) followed by an afternoon at the Ayurvedic spa. We had an enlightening consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor yesterday. From a quick read of our pulses, he determined our doshas and gave an impressively accurate account of our personalities. With this information, they are mixing oils individually suited for our needs, using fresh herbs from their garden.

Like I said... WOW!

I'm posting this back in Hong Kong. It's been quite a shock to return to gloomy weather (black rain? come on!), the busyness of the city, the never-ending sounds of construction... We're suffering from PMD, post-Maldives depression! :P Good thing we have our photos, the highlights of which I've uploaded here. There are a lot, so I recommend viewing the Detail option, where you can view multiple photos per page but still see descriptions. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

25 May 2008: Meditation in coffee

:: zen and the art of drinking coffee ::

I suppose you know you're really addicted to something when you try to claim that it's part of your meditation practice, but really!! The process of preparing, pouring, and just plainly and purely enjoying a cup of coffee is a meditation for me.

Sometimes it's a shared experience with my boyfriend. We wake up, usually deliciously late as neither of our jobs follows the usual 9-5 timetable (though the daily grind in Hong Kong is more like 8-8, if not later; yikes!), and I ask, "Shall I make some coffee?" to which he almost always answers, "Sure, why not?"

Other times, it's a quiet experience of solitude.

Either way, it's one of my favorite ways to start the day or pause in the afternoon, and I much prefer brewing my own coffee (with love) at home. I pour some cold, filtered water into the kettle and prepare the French press. I choose an organic bean of the day to grind...will it be one of the specially sent blends from my friends in Santa Monica - from Groundwork or Urth - or the uber pricey (but totally worth it) Jamaican Blue Mountain...? After the kettle sends out its whistle, I wait a few minutes before pouring because the temperature of the water should be about 90 degrees Celsius (that's about 190 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans). I grab the carton of skim milk from the fridge and the container of Maui raw sugar. I usually stand waiting in the kitchen, looking out the window; sometimes a friendly, chirpy sparrow sits on the sill.

After a few minutes, I intuitively sense that the coffee is ready for consumption. I prepare his (a spoonful of milk and a dash of sugar) and mine (a dash of milk and a spoonful of sugar), take his to him in his study, and take mine onto the couch, snuggling into our oversized cushions. I feel almost like a kid on Christmas morning; I know I have a somewhat mischievous look on my face. Before sipping, I inhale. I offer gratitude. I am present.

With the first taste, I feel a soothing warmth, comfort, and peace start flowing through me. My mind feels at ease, my breath naturally deepens, I smile. I daresay I feel inspired. You'll never see me multi-tasking with a cup of coffee, distracted, distanced, downing it on the go. No, that cup is my drishti and I am certainly strengthening my ability to direct my energy and have one-pointed focus.

I believe the combination of coffee's mental and physical effects and my presence of mind when drinking coffee all contribute to my overall experience of coffee consumption. My mood is elevated, my heart is lifted, which means yeah, I feel a bit high!

So here it is, confession of a yogini: coffee is my crack, my Kryptonite, my Achille's heel. But as my lovely friend Erin recently reminded me, coffee contains antioxidants and potassium, so it can't be all bad. As long as I stay hydrated and watch for any unhealthy degree of dependency, I am happy to accept this "imperfection" of my yogi self.

And yes, of course, I just finished a delicious morning brew...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

12 May 2008: Shenzhen

"It's China!"

That was my catch phrase this weekend.

A girl friend and I went to Shenzhen, right across the Hong Kong/China border. We had heard of these massage/spa/hotel places that offer unbelievably cheap massages 24 hours a day and decided we deserved a weekend of pampering.

Shenzhen is a stone's throw away from Hong Kong, but I, as a US passport holder, needed a visa that costed about $140 US. Traveling there is nothing more than taking a few extra train stops, but the instant you are technically out of HK, you know you're in China.

Everything is at least a little bit backwards. English language signs often have a perplexing juxtaposition of words and an interesting idea of grammar, people are very reluctant to help, and there's absolutely no semblance of order in the train station's taxi waiting area, which is comprised of 8 different queues, with the lines at the front getting all the taxis and the lines at the back being SOL. As in other cities in China I've visited, there's a heavy dullness (tamas, for you yogis) that seems to saturate everything from the hills to the rivers to the high rises.

Or maybe that's just the general stink of pollution I was trying not to breathe into my already congested lungs.

Upon arriving at Queen Spa, however, all of our weariness and criticisms were flushed away by the sheer grandeur and absolute hedonism awaiting us. 5 huge floors of nothing but spa and massage amenities including pools, saunas, Chinese massage rooms, Thai massage rooms, aroma massage rooms, sleeping "capsules", a fresh fruit bar, restaurants, a public cinema room, private cinema rooms, barcaloungers galore, and hundreds of staff at literally every corner to jump at your every need. As soon as we stepped foot into this heretofore unknown world of never-ending massage treatments, we were shuttled into the ladies' locker room, stripped, and put into our striped uniform (which we at first laughed at but swiftly came to appreciate bc they were really comfortable). We asked a lady (and by "we" I mean my friend, as I sadly still have not picked up any respectable amount of either Cantonese or Mandarin) (ps did you know that "Chinese" is technically not a language?) where we were supposed to go, as we hadn't yet registered or anything. She simply shooed us away in a carefree grandma-like manner saying, "Go to the 3rd floor and get massaged!"

We appreciated the efficient simplicity. There were massages to be time to waste on the particulars!

So to the 3rd floor we wandered, still mesmerized by the enormity of this place. We merged into the sea of fellow indulgence seekers, all of us looking a bit like psych ward patients in our striped garbs and rubber slippers, wide-eyed, wide-mouthed, and giggling with anticipation. I asked my friend if she'd seen anything like this before, since she was born and raised in Asia (Singapore), and she said, "No, I was impressed by Foot when I moved to HK!" (Foot is the BEST massage place in Central, HK - pricier than other places, but clean, modern, and luxurious - but it's totally small potatoes compared to this, the Costco of all spas everywhere.) It had a Vegas feel in that you couldn't tell if it was day or night, everyone was somewhat numb with glazed-over eyes, and the women on staff were in short skirts. Instead of slot machines were the barcaloungers, complete with flat panel tv's on swinging arms and instead of free alcoholic beverages was a seemingly endless supply of traditional Chinese tea.

We looked at the spa menu and proceeded to build our itinerary for the next day or so. Acupressure, Thai massage, physical therapy, aromatherapy, phalange treatments, ear cleaning, foot skin scraping, toe skin scraping...and practically free at an average of $20 US for a 90-min treatment. When we were ready for our first massage, we were led to a computer kiosk to "pick a massage girl." We didn't quite know what that meant at first - pick on what basis? Area of specialty? Level of training? No, pick based on their headshot, name, and height. We were rather surprised, but hey, it's China!

For the most part, the massages were quite good. Except...I did have to send one girl away because she was so bad she actually made me feel nauseous, like I was being mercilessly poked by a giant holding a tree stump. She was giving me an oil massage with no oil and she would periodically only use one hand, whilst making text-messaging noises with the other. And there was a phlegmy man, who sniffled, snorted, and coughed through the whole massage, and finished it off by punching my shin bone so hard that I actually yelped. And another girl sneezed on me. (It's just how it's done in China.)

At one point, we were waiting to get barcaloungers in the non-smoking section, and smokers were standing in our non-smoking section waiting area, smoking. In response, I coughed loudly and waved my hand around dramatically. Only one guy heeded the not-so-subtle hint and immediately stubbed out his stick o' poison. No one else could be bothered to care. China.

We eventually snuggled into our seats and requested a 90-min foot massage. They looked at us blankly, saying, "We only have 45-min foot massages." We said we knew, but couldn't they just double it? They said, "But then you'd have to pay for 2 massages." Taking deep, compassionate breaths of patience, we said that would be no problem. (Come on, people, let your brain out of the box!) They said ok, and proceeded to give us each a 45-min massage. Freaking China!

We slept soundly on our beds-slash-massage tables (they're efficient, the Chinese...). Upon waking, I stretched into my ritualistic morning Child's Pose and jumped out of bed, eager to be as productive as possible (level of productivity to be measured by how relaxed and pampered we felt, but of course).

We wanted to book a private cinema room so we could watch a DVD we had brought. It took more than 10 people 4 tries before we settled into a room. At first we were taken to the wrong type of room with no DVD player, even though we had pointed to the picture of the room we wanted, and we had told them explicitly that we wanted to watch a DVD. Then we were taken to a room where they knew the sound wasn't working, and it took 3 people to figure out how to change the Input button on the remote control. Then we were taken to a room with no DVD player, at which point a staff person looked at us and asked if we had the DVD player with us. Um, yeah, sure, it's one of those really advanced invisible DVD players that fold up into our pocket. Then we were taken to a room with a DVD player, but it wasn't plugged in, and at one point there were 7 staff people in the room trying to figure it out. The so-called Tech Guy took at least 10 min to realize which color plug goes where (red goes with red worldwide, no?), to realize that in order to get picture, the player must be somehow connected to the tv, and then to realize "Oh, this is the broken player, let me go get you another one." When it finally got sorted, our foot massage therapists came in and plopped down right in front of the tv, rendering our intentions and the combined efforts of our 10 box-confined helpers pointless.

To put the perfect layer of artificially-sweetened and colored lard euphemistically known as "frosting" on this morning of frustration, as I was craning my neck to glimpse scenes from the movie Juno (pretty good film!) around my phlegmy therapist, I saw in my periphery something grey scurrying on the floor right outside our room. That's right. Mouse. Fluffy grey rodent with a long pink tail trailing behind him. By the time I got my friend's attention and she told the masseurs and they hit the service button and the manager came, the mouse was - of course - long gone.

Soon thereafter, so were we.

When I came home and told my boyfriend the whole story, he simply said to me, "Baby, it's China!"

Monday, February 11, 2008

India Chronicles by Psalm Isadora

The following are excerpts from my fellow yogi Psalm's most recent journey to India. Her words were so touching that I asked her if I could share them with all of you on my blog. Enjoy!

Also, please check out her website, and those of you who live in the Santa Monica area, check out her classes, workshops, and/or trainings.

Much gratitude and love to you, Psalm.


jan 20
greetings from mother india! every day is more wonderful than the last here, something inside me deepens as does my love and understanding of yoga. i am still in goa, my students have left (they will be rejoining me at my guru's ashram later this week). i find myself a traveller alone in india again. of course i am not really alone...i have such good local friends here. nothing is too much to ask, they drive me around on the back of the motorcycles (sometimes 3 people on a bike!) and feed me for free. how delicious and free it feels to ride motorcycles in india, like the freedom of childhood. there is of course, all the trash around and pollution, but the beauty of india is in people's hearts. people smile at you, and you will never forget their faces, the genuine smiles burns themselves in your memory. i am teaching yoga to the workers at my friend rohan's restaurant in the mornings. they sleep on mats on the floor and wake up for surya namaskar. we have so much to be grateful for in the states. your eyes are really opened to that here. and yet my friends here are happy and sincere with so little. what you have to give is your sincerity and smile. the culture is so different here, but i am not learning to follow a new culture, i am learning to follow my own heart. that is the greatest gift that ma india, my guru and these people have given me, the courage and strength to follow my own heart.

jan 21


i invited a man from delhi to have dinner with me and some friends at rohan's restaurant tomorrow night. we were at the night market, which is like a tiny city filled with booths, almost like something i would have imagined in morocco, except with a little trance mixed in. he said, "inshallah, if it is meant to be". inshallah means as god wills. it is a good phrase to pick up in india, where so little is in your control. i repeated this to my friend ramesh, and he said, "but you are god". i thought about it. if god is living in you and me and nature, then god willing would mean self, others and environment willing. all these forces combine to make our destinies. it is not only what my own self wants but also what the greater Self wants, and how i can find myself in harmony with the greater will. inshallah.

jan 23
i am very excited to come home and share what i am learning! i am in pune now....and for different reasons than i originally thought. i do not find myself being pulled to the osho ashram, instead i feel my heartstrings pulling me to my guru. there are many people here seeking, the searchers. it is a strong energy. but right now, i just want to sit and be with my teacher who i feel knows what i am looking for. this trip has brought a real maturation in myself. this yoga is a living thing inside me and she grows of her own accord, through desire and grace...and it is fed by the friendships that come to me. my time in goa was so magic. i am planning to come back next rent a house and teach donation yoga there to the locals and the travellers. things have come together in an interesting and powerful way.

jan 24
feeling my heart pulled to my guruji's ashram, i will be flying there this friday. i will be studying more pranayam, mantra and bandha with him. also teaching a women's workshop in vizag on the same while i am there. you should see these is such a joy to teach them! it fills me with purpose and shakti coming here and teaching the locals, their love for the yoga is so pure and simple. and they are so receptive to me as a teacher. the first time i came i thought the indians wouldn't want a foreign teacher, but it seems they really appreciate someone coming from so far because of such a great love for the practice. their hearts are so open, it helps my heart to be more open and the teaching comes through with no effort on my part. just this great guru energy on this well worn path of people reaching for something higher...going back, back for thousands of years and even before that. we are very blessed to be a part of it.

jan 25

the question of suffering

yesterday afternoon was very difficult for me. pune is a pretty small city in india compared to mumbai, dehli or calcutta. but every time you get into the city, there is the noise, the traffic and the most extreme poverty. the most extreme poverty. it breaks my heart, but i am here for a reason and if i take it all in i will drown and not get anything done. women come up to me in the dusty streets, covered in dirt with their babies slung to their hips. they do a silent pantomime of holding out their hand to me and then bringing to their mouths to show they need my money to buy food. and their eyes, their eyes are big haunting black discs that convey so much sorrow. are they really so sad? are they really so hungry? i don't know, but coming from america it is a terrible thing to see a mother and child asking for money and food like this and to say no. there are so many of them that even if i emptied my wallet, i wouldn't even begin to make a change. and then i would be left with nothing, and wouldn't be able to do the work i came here to do. it seems to me that people who need help usually need more help than you can comfortably give. so i will work on myself, i will let the change in myself grow until it can't help but bring change for others. this is how i usually think of things, people need help, i want to help, but how do i want to help? how can i use my special talents creatively in a way that will bring me the most happiness and contentment? i have made it a rule for myself not to hand money to people on the street. the first time i came to india, a little boy came begging when i was sitting in a rickshaw stopped in traffic. rickshaws are basically motorcylces with metal shells on top. they are much cheaper than taxi cars, but they also leave you open to the streets. in a real car, your windows would be rolled up and you would have some distance between yourself and the rest of the world. i gave the boy a rupee note, and then 5-6 more boys came running up, climbing on and into the rickshaw, grabbing me. traffic began to move and they were almost getting run over, holding on and running along with the rickshaw. the driver began beating them off with a bat. i sat in the back terrified and sickened, i have learned that things escalate quickly here.

i said no so many times yesterday. to an older woman with a small child who dragged the child through traffic to follow me. to a teenage boy with a stump for a leg. to an old man with a cane. to a young mother with the most beautiful face and a baby on her hip, standing at the side of my rickshaw. i remember all of them, i remember their faces even though i put out my hand and say no. even though i have to pretend i don't see them, looking straight ahead as if they don't exist. even though i yell at them, "amma, no, no", begging for them to stop begging from me. they don't just go away when you say no, they stand and stare or grab at you, until you have to be very clear, very insistent on not giving them anything. you have to do it to cross the street, you have to do it to go anywhere, to do anything. i remember all their faces and i am sorry. sorry that i am not able to help each of them. i came back to my hotel last night to have some tea before bed, and there were a group of dogs begging for food. most of them looked pretty healthy, but one puppy had a lame leg and you could see it's whole skeleton wrapped under it's skin. she was a pathetic sight. one of the tables was throwing naan bread to the dogs, and every time the little one ran for some, the other dogs would snarl and scare her away until she limped off, nursing her leg. so i took her in my lap and caught some of the naan bread and fed it to her from my hand. she gobbled it up with her tiny, sharp teeth, almost swallowing it whole. after awhile she must have gotten full, because she stopped eating the naan and curled her tiny head on my lap. all bones, i could see her spine as she curled herself up, like a seashell on my lap. she tucked her head inside my elbow like a little bird. when she looked up at me, she was so small and pitiful, but also beautiful. she is a little blond dog with big black eyes that look like they are rimmed in kajol, the black indian eyeliner. i sat and held her in my lap, wrapped in my shawl for warmth, trying to give her a little comfort and a resting place. i could feel her little belly breathing against mine, a little bony belly, so fragile. after awhile i had to put her down, i wanted to take her to my room, but i could see the fleas all over her. i put her down and walked away quickly, i looked back and saw her limping behind me, so i walked faster so she could not follow me. i got to my room and started to cry. so much suffering i am confronted with here. human suffering, animal suffering, nature is suffering also. it was difficult to breathe. what to do about all this suffering? you do the work that is in front of you. you do the work that wants to be done. you do the work that has begun itself and just asks for you to go with it's flow. i know this. i know that everything is suffering, but also everything is bliss, i know this. i know that the people and the little puppy have been born and will die, and that i am attached to the idea of time, of when. and how and where. and i believe that we all are involved in choosing our births, our families, our lives circumstances so we can learn as individuals and inform the whole. i know these things, and i know how silly i am, every day there are hungry dogs and people, and yet i still live my life. but put one little dog right in front of me and i am brought to my knees. i am drowning in my feeling of the suffering of the whole world. i am not looking for answers or philosophy. i just know that when i have to turn someone away, i armor my heart and it hurts me. so i cried and that released my heart, and then i fell asleep.
today i will do the work that is in front of me, i will take the little dog to the animal hospital. i will do what i can here and now. and tomorrow i will leave for another city, i will leave the little dog behind. and maybe i will have made a difference, and maybe not. but i will have stayed present to the circumstances and genuine to myself. that is all i can ask, to move lightly with love, and to help because it gives me pleasure, not because i am trying to save the world. to do the work that is in front of me, the work that is asking to be done.

jan 25

someone gave me the name of a vet who came to the hotel to look at the puppy, i have decided to call her lola. of course she does not belong to me and i cannot take responsibility for her, but her belly is full of chicken tonight, and she is sleeping soundly wrapped in a warm shawl in my room. the vet was wonderful, he even does yoga! he helped the puppy and then i helped him with his back pain by prescribing some squats, fierce chair pose and uddiyana bandha. he gave the dog an injection for her leg, and said we are best leaving her to find the balance in nature. he said that her little body is strong and most likely she will find the strength to recover herself. the drive for life is so strong in all of us. his words reminded me that it does not all ride on my shoulders, i am not that important. i surrender the dog to god, grace, nature and her own innate intelligence. earlier today i fed her and when she was full she ambled away to lay on a sunny patch of grass. her little face was so content and serene, the warmth of the sun was comforting her. there are so many variables that it is a great mystery what will heal her. i caused myself a great deal of suffering last night by putting the weight of the world on my shoulders and not surrendering to that mystery. i am grateful for the encounter, it showed me my attachments, my fear, my limitations and my compassion. inshallah. tomorrow i fly to the ashram.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2 February 2008

It is freezing in Hong Kong.

Ok, so, it’s not literally the temperature at which water freezes, but it IS 8 degrees Celsius- apparently the coldest it has been here in several years. The rain and humidity make it feel colder than it is, too. It is cold enough that with every exhale outdoors, I see my breath float out in front of me.

I’ve just returned home from an afternoon at Brunch Club, a cozy café/bistro, with a college friend. It’s a popular spot – particularly on a rainy Saturday – in Soho on Peel Street, which is where I live. It’s just a quick three-block walk up from my flat (I love the convenience of being able to walk everywhere). We waited outside for nearly an hour to sit down, staring hungrily through the French doors at three tables with a combined sixteen people, all of whom were finished with their meals, blissfully unaware of us shivering in the cold. Ironically (or maybe karmically), after scoffing at their selfish social behavior, we ended up sitting at our table for six hours. (*insert sheepish shrug here.) A cozy spot indeed: the walls are lined with reading material, there is free wi-fi, and the wait staff does not rush anyone out. Patrons are invited to sit back and relax, and we did just that…ordering breakfast items, lunch items, milkshakes, and coffee. A total of seven of us came and left our four-person table during our time there. It’s how things flow in Hong Kong...people walk by, drop in, come and go.

My friend was my big bro in our business fraternity at UCLA (yes, I was in a business fraternity; it’s funny, I know), which means he took care of me when I joined, helping me feel comfortable, giving me advice, and sharing his own experiences. I looked up to him. He was the nicest big bro I could have asked for, and being a fellow Aquarius (his birthday is just one day after mine), we’ve always gotten along quite easily. He’s been in London for the past few years and plans on staying there for the foreseeable future. I realized today that I followed in his big-brotherly footsteps when I moved to Hong Kong.

Everyone, everything, every moment, every thought, every breath affects us, at some point, to some degree, whether we recognize it or not. There is an incredible, inconceivable order to the apparent chaos of bits and pieces that comprise our lives. And the Universe/God/Big Mind constantly offers signposts of comfort that everything is unfolding precisely as it should be. Oftentimes we digest these signs as coincidences or serendipity or kismet; I personally think déjà vu is part of the phenomenon as well.

"Synergy." *insert that funny hand movement Topher Grace’s character does in the film “In Good Company” here (PS you ought to watch it if you haven’t yet).

Even if we just take, for instance, Peel Street (where I live, in case you weren’t paying attention above). My cross street is Hollywood Road (I came from the Los Angeles area), around the corner is a store that sells statues of Buddha (including a (necessarily) scaled-down replica of Thailand's Reclining Buddha, my favorite Buddha statue in the world; he sits front and center in the main window so I pass by him every day), one block up there is a Buddhist altar, the studio where I practice is a five minute walk away (I've always wished I had a studio close enough to walk to), and one of my closest friends from college has been living on this same street for three years (unbeknownst to me when I first moved in). I take all these signs as confirmation that I am exactly where I should be.

A few of my friends will remember that in the month before I left California, I said I had a feeling I would end up in Hong Kong. It didn’t make sense to any of us, as I’d never been here before, I’m not Chinese, and I’m not a big city kinda girl (rather, I've always wanted to live on an island, although unbeknownst to me at the time, Hong Kong actually is an island). But my intuition – which I’ve become more strongly connected to through my yoga practice – was telling me that Hong Kong was to be my new home, and it was absolutely on spot.

As time passes, I realize more and more that my present moment is my dreams made manifest. There are countless points of perfect synchronization between my life as it is and what I've always wanted. Everything from living in Asia, on an island (I am an Aquarius – the Water-Bearer – after all, and therefore love being near water) (and you might remember that I think I was a mermaid in a past life) (not to mention that my boyfriend is a diver, who I believe found me in the ocean in that past life), on Peel Street... To teaching yoga abroad (which was an idea that came to me during my very first Teacher Training)... To even the smaller things like telling my friend back home that I had a student last week that looks like her, and that student showing up in my very next class... Or seeing the Manulife building in Causeway Bay for the first time yesterday morning, and meeting someone last night who works in that building.


Thoughts become things, per the law of attraction (you’ve seen or read "The Secret", right?). Whatever you want to call it, the truth is that you create your own life…every piece of it. I believe this is what is meant by destiny, what is reassured by moments of déjà vu, what is signified by coincidences. Know it, own it, have faith in it.

And as Sister says: Manifest, manifest, manifest!

PS I kid you not, I had déjà vu whilst writing this to you.