This is a picture of Mel and Angela, two of the great people I met at the yoga retreat. (yeah, it's a terrible picture. Damn expensive camera I still can't figure out how to work.)
I got back last Sunday and have been avoiding the blog because I haven't been able to wrap my head around what I want to write about the whole experience. It's the same problem at the root of the email dysfunction thing that I and apparently 97% of my friends have (hey, you know who you are, and the 3%, you rock...) that leads us to never write to each other. I guess it comes down to filtering your noisy head into an interesting, somewhat concise picture of what you are doing with your life and how you feel about it.
Well, let's see...
The traveling alone part in Brazil was a piece of cake. So glad I did it, as it knocked the timidity out of me that is always lurking but had crystallized quite firmly since moving here and hiding behind C's command of the language. Yeah, I still sound like a baby when I try to communicate, which I am tired of, but hey, at least now I know I can get my butt from one end of the country to the other, spend 17 days hanging out with a bunch of non-English speaking strangers, re-live all the adolescent awkwardness of a high school cafeteria (com licensa, posso sentar aqui?), and spend 8 hours a day listening to yoga lectures in Portuguese!
The experience was good, and sometimes frustrating, but overall for many reasons very worthwhile.
(For those of you who haven't read backwards in the blog, here's the 2 cent update: I was invited to a large yoga retreat center called Enchanted Mountain, in the South of Brazil by the director, an American yogi named Joseph, to sit in on his teacher training program, with the possibility of being hired in the future to teach for him.) It ended up being not unlike a 2 week audition/interview, where I felt like my every move was being observed, analyzed and documented for future reference. I was asked to teach a couple of classes, and the center directors were in attendance -- nerve racking on a regular day, but at the crack of dawn and in Portuguese and in front of 30 people... thank god for adrenaline...
So here's a little rundown of the rest of the stuff....
- Got up every morning for 2 weeks in the dark to meditate at 6am - winter's beginning here and believe me that's not the easy thing to do.
- Taught in Portuguese and was actually understood...
- Was asked to come back in October to assistant teach the next training, and will be paid.
- Met really great people and made new friends.
- Learned that like in the United States, yogis try to cover up their insecurity with a lot of yoga pretense (here that happens to be hippy clothes, righteous attitudes and toe rings -- a slightly different flavor than New York).
- Learned that I still have a lot to learn about when to keep my mouth shut.
- Learned that even experienced, respected yogis sometimes don't know when to keep their mouths shut.
- Got some great ideas for future money making schemes...
- Got bit by a million mosquitoes and one very large nasty looking but apparently harmless spider.
- Went to the beach, and plan to go back next time and learn to surf!
The last two days of my trip I spent in the beautiful beach city of Florianopolis (the yoga center is an hour south along the coastline). Florianopolis (aka Floripa) is a super cool big modern beautifully built and organized city on an island (about the size of Manhattan, maybe bigger) with about 40 beaches. I'm ready to move there. There just happened to be a big yoga conference going on there, and I hopped a ride with Angela and snuck into it pretending to be the assistant to Joseph. There were yoga teachers and scholars from all over the country and the world. A swami from India (now lives in New York) and even an American dude from San Francisco were there to teach. It was really great to see that there are a lot of wonderful people working and teaching in the yoga world here. Shame on the folks (my teachers!) back in New York who advised me not to move to Brazil because I still had so much to learn in the United States (yoga-wise). Well, that just further highlights the egotism of North Americans, because there are a lot of teachers here in Brazil to learn from -- people who have traveled to Indian and studied Sanskrit and Vedanta, wonderful creative asana teachers, ayurveda and more -- the obsession with India culture here is so deep that there might even be people more knowledgeable here than in New York! The yoga world here is really alive and kicking, and it seems my possibilities to make a career out of it are even greater here than they were back home. Ha! Take that you North Amero-centric fools.... (oops, that's a judgment on the judgment makers...)
I'll just wrap this up saying that I don't know when the last time I met a funnier person than Angela. The last night in Floripa we stayed in a house that belonged to a friend of Mel's. Mel (which means honey in Portuguese) is Brazilian but has lived most of the last 7 years on an island in Greece -(her family is 1/2 Greek, and I'll be damned if she isn't the lost twin of my friend Barrett) and the place we stayed was actually a friend of hers from Greece. We went out for sushi that night, ate big bowls of profiteroles, and stayed up late laughing until it just hurt. Angela is a natural comedian and everything that came out of her mouth just made me laugh harder until I was just gasping for breath. She's funny as hell, but even more so, she’s a touchingly beautiful, positive, radiant, gem of a person. She's the kind of person who will stop her car and jump out of it if she sees a kid she knows and grab him and shower him with kisses. She's been through a lot, including a recent divorce, but hanging out with her, she will just burst out saying, "Meu Deus do Céu! ("oh my god" -- it's how she starts about 90% of her sentences) Life is so perfect! Would you just look at how perfect it is! Look at how beautiful those waves are. Look at that sun, look at where we are! It's perfect, so perfect!"
The next morning she shared the story of loosing her younger brother to cancer when he was 18. Through the tears we were both crying into our coffee, she told me how he died at home surrounded by family, in the arms of his mother who held him and as he slipped away she started telling him a beautiful story about how they were going diving into the ocean together swimming under water deeper and deeper to see all the brilliant fish and whales. Angela just kept saying, "Robyn, it was so beautiful, so beautiful...." Everyone who sits around feeling stuck in their lives and sorry for themselves (me included!) really ought to meet her. She can make the most painful tragedy into such a beautiful story, and if she can't move you with her loveliness, she'll have you rolling on the floor laughing -- even if you don't speak a lick of Portuguese!