Like a crystal growing out of dark and hidden mineral deposit, my Vision for Honey Heart Kid’s Yoga has been growing slowly out of me for years as I kept asking myself, “What is my Life’s purpose?”
Since 2001 I have worked with children within schools. After achieving a Bachelor’s in English and Philosophy, I started my career with children as Therapy Support Staff for a beautiful bold seven year old girl in South Philly who was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and recovering from sexual abuse. My work with her, her friends, and her siblings led me to going back to school and earning my Master’s in Elementary Education at Temple University. This led to working in the Philadelphia School District first as a Literacy Intern and then as a certified k-8 teacher. Always, my love for the children kept me going as I taught full time during the day and pursued my graduate classwork at night. My work with the children pushed me to pursue a deeper Inner Truth. I kept asking questions like, “How can I be more present, more effective? Is my teaching having a positive impact? What do my students need most?”
Although I was committed to the children, working in the Philadelphia School District was overwhelming for me as a novice teacher with a suburban cultural background and very little support. Each year I seemed to be placed in a more difficult school. After five years, I reached the point where I needed to acknowledge that I was simply burned out. I needed to discover Joy and Adventure in my Life. So I packed up my world and headed out for seven months of traveling inquiry. I spent a couple months in Guatemala, a couple months at Esalen in Big Sur, CA studying Gestalt groupwork, Tai Chi, Ecstatic Dance, and organic farming. I traveled a bit down and up the California Coast on Highway 1, flew out to Boulder, CO, then the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for the Burning Man Arts Festival, back to Colorado only to return back to the town where I grew up in Pennsylvania with a heart full of emotion, but no clear idea of where to go from there on.
To be honest, I felt quite devastated. I thought I was going to get a Clue on this journey of traveling Freedom, Beauty, and Daring. What I couldn’t understand then that I deeply appreciate now is that this traveling adventure was all about cracking open my heart. I had to begin with a Journey of Opening so that my Journey of Healing could begin. Only from a more healed place could I ever begin to answer my Life’s Calling. There was no Big Answer to be found. Not even a Big Clue. There is only a trail of lights to be searched for and followed on a pathless trek through the wild Wilderness of the World.
So how did I get from devastation to seeking out a career as a Kid’s Yoga Instructor?
Which is really very funny to me, because everywhere I had traveled seemed to be a yoga practicing center with gorgeous natural backdrops- highland selva, Guatemalan azure lake of destiny, crashing trueness of Pacific blue on Big Sur cliffs, Colorado Rockies, Nevada desert sunrise. Everywhere people were practicing yoga around me. Once I even woke up from a nap on the famous Esalen lawn during a yoga convention weekend to find myself in the center of a circle of laughing hula hooping yogis! Now why they felt the need to have their hula hoop circle around my sleeping form, I never asked. They didn’t seem to see me, and I was too annoyed at the time to ask (Sometimes, I can be a little grumpy when I wake up). But when I came back to the town where I grew up, a fairly unimaginative place consisting mainly of housing developments, malls, and shopping centers; when I returned without an inspiring Vision of what to do next, I felt a deep hunger for Peace. It was only then that I found myself irresistibly drawn to the Mat.
Where I grew up an hour north of Philadelphia, in what was once Mennonite farm country, the only place to practice yoga was at the YMCA, which became my haunt three to four times a week. Every time I was sure I was losing my mind, I would go to yoga, read Pema Chodron, study the chakra system, take a walk. In short, I began to practice chilling out, which makes me laugh, because I’ve been practicing yoga since 2007, and I am only starting to get an inkling of an idea of what it means to chill out. And that is exactly what has been so awesome about this journey! It is always just beginning!
I practiced a year at the YMCA with the sweet teachers there. Then I moved back to Philadelphia and had an amazing year practicing yoga at Dhyana Yoga Studios through their work exchange program. While in Philly that last year, I landed an heart-fulfilling long term kindergarten substitute teacher position at Powel Elementary, and reconnected with my love of teaching children. In addition to the standard subjects, I taught them how to sing Bob Marley and Cat Stevens, and the Joy I felt there fueled me in following my heart and relocating to Portland, OR where I have been since 2009.
It was my intention to resume teaching in the public school system when I relocated here, but I soon became aware that Portland Public Schools was not in a position to hire. My search to find a job in education led me to becoming a teaching assistant in Montessori preschools- first in a toddler community for two and a half years, then in a primary classroom for a year. During that time, through countless changes and revisions, the practice that has kept me grounded and returning to my Heart has been Yoga.
Confronted with challenging major life shifts in 2011, I once again found myself asking, “What is my Life’s purpose?” This question still left me with a feeling of groping in the dark for lost keys. So instead I started asking myself, “What kind of future can I feel good about investing in?” Now this second question feels a whole lot more approachable to me. I love Yoga. I love working with kids. Why not try sharing Yoga with kids for a living? I started looking into kid’s yoga training and found the Yoga Calm program in which I just finished my certification. One parent gave me a yoga storytelling book; another gave me a yoga game. I started practicing yoga with the toddlers, and their genuine enthusiasm was a tonic to my spirit that encouraged me to share it with my older primary friends when I moved to a new school. In May 2013, I was blessed with opportunity to participate in the Street Yoga Program’s training.
It is such healing work to share what we Love with our children. I feel confident that this is how we are going to Heal the World. Everyday, more of that old feeling of being lost is getting replaced with a more open feeling of Grace, Appreciation, and Wonder. I’m still not sure what my Purpose is in this Life. I don’t think I will know that until I step away from this Life toward the Great White Light that seems to always be waiting and welcoming all of us. In truth, I’m not even really that interested in the question at this moment, which feels GREAT!
I am interested in how I may serve this Human Experiment, more importantly, I am interested in how I may become who I truly am by serving in a way that fills my heart with more Joyful Inquiry. In fact, now that I am breaking this down, I believe this is the purpose of every life!
What else am I interested in? I am interested in deepening my yoga practice, eating my garden, sharing organic homegrown food with my neighbors, building and living in my dream treehouse, singing and dancing ecstatically, returning to my Latin American roots, learning how to raise honey bees and a family, forming vital and creative community throughout the world, and sharing this Ultimate Learning Journey with my most precious, openhearted friends. This Vision of Heart Centered Sustainable Community that feeds its sacred children with honey from all of our hearts, that teaches by example how to walk joyfully in the ways of Light throughout the World, this is the Legacy I wish to live. It is a Joy and an Honor to serve our children!