Sisterhood of the Traveling Mats: Part 1

Sisterhood of the Traveling Mats: Part 1

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Anyone who says that writing their first blog post isn’t one of the most intimidating things they’ve ever done is a liar. I have been contemplating what I should write for weeks, and without fail every time I take out my notebook I stare at it… It stares back at me… and then I proceed to put it back in its drawer. The whole idea of putting yourself out there in such a concrete way, private ideas and thoughts to be shared and, ultimately judged, gives me an extreme amount of anxiety if I think too deeply about it. Or think of it at all, really… However.

As I sit here on a flight headed to Maui, reading magazine article after magazine article about resolutions and letting go of the past in order to jump into the New Year, I feel inspired. What’s more I feel challenged. And with a competitive nature rooted deeply in my bones, I felt the urge to take out my notebook and finally take this on.

So hello there. My name is Jackie, I’m 29, live in LA, and I teach yoga. Like a lot of people experience toward the end of their late twenties, last year was the year for me that I needed to do a bit of soul searching. The “finding myself” phase; it started to sink in that what I had been preparing myself for and working towards throughout my adult life didn’t quite fit. The only thing I had ever wanted to do (since the age of four) wasn’t agreeing with me anymore. I was at a loss. I saw all of these people around me who were succeeding in life, truly passionate about what they were doing. I started to realize that I was not. Not the way I should have been. Certainly not the way I wanted to be.

I had been doing yoga for about six years at that point. For some reason, and as fate would have it at this crossroads, yoga was the one thing I really clung to. It was the one place I could go and trusted as an absolute fact that I would feel better for it. I trusted that my daily reprieve of yoga was saving me from my early life crisis. And, it did. I started to feel my instincts again. I was taken off of autopilot and became present enough to feel my gut hinting to me that I should look into teaching as a path. So I did my research. Different programs, different teacher training,  rates, schedules, so on and so forth. I then sat with the information. Thinking about it. Weighing it out. Procrastinating.

Funny thing about my journey over the past year is that every time I became stagnant, the Universe (or who I’d presume to be the Universe anyway)would give me a bit of a nudge, dangled the carrot in front of my face and, luckily, I followed. A few weeks went by and I got a Groupon in my inbox. I’ve always subscribed to the getaway deals that they e-blast on sites like that. Quite ironic, given that I never actually went anywhere. I never left LA for fear that I would miss something. What can I say, it’s a symptom that LA dwellers develop sometimes. But, as I perused that day’s specials, I came across a trip to Bali. To say that it sparked something in me is a complete understatement. That day I spent hours scouring the internet looking at flights, hotels, attractions, local haunts, landscapes, etc. I had officially acquired Bali fever. I needed to go there. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew that it would be a stop on my journey. I took a break and called my (then) boyfriend. The conversation went something like this:

Me: (totally excited)” Hi baby! So I know it’s only April but I’ve been doing crazy research online, and I thought it would be really cool for us to plan a trip together. I’ve been looking at places in Bali and maybe we could go for my birthday in September? I would pay for the hotel and everything, all you’d need to get is your airfare.”

Him: (not so excited)”I would, but I don’t know what work’s going to be like then, and I can’t plan that far out. Maybe we’ll talk when it’s closer.”

I am in fact paraphrasing, but you get the gist. Needless to say I had the wind knocked out of my sails. So I sat back, arms crossed over my chest, sour look on my face, and took a deep breath. For some reason as I looked around my room there was a thought that crossed my mind to look on my yoga studio’s website. I opened my computer again, went to their website and clicked on the teacher training tab, which I had done so many times before. And for the first time (it was previously there, I just never paid attention) I saw the residential button. As I clicked on the link, to my surprise, a page about training overseas came up. The first one on the list? Yep. You got it. Bali.

It was one of those moments that just make you feel like you are exactly where you should be and it was appreciated. However at this time I also realized that it was starting in two weeks. There was no way. I had a job, a boyfriend, pets and bills to account for. There was just no way, but I also couldn’t just ignore my findings. So I told myself that I’d just find out when the next one was. Probably much more doable. I’d wait and I did or tried to. Over the next few days that word “wait” started to dig at me. That magic word. Wait. What exactly was I waiting for? It started to sink in that I had spent my entire life waiting for something to happen. It hit me. I no longer wanted to be that person. I decided I was going to go for it. If nothing happened then nothing happened, but at the very least I would be content with doing my part. Needless to say, I was on a plane two weeks later with a sneaking suspicion that my life was going to change. In a big way, and completely content with the fact that I went for it.

To be clear, this decision was not well received by anyone around me. Well actually, everyone thought it was great when I was just talking about it, but when I had actually signed up and bought my plane ticket it became some sort of a crazy idea. I just hoped that if I moved then the Universe would move for me. I’m big on things unraveling the way they should, a common thread  throughout my life. I was notified after I left by my boyfriend  that I was dubbed the “Eat, Pray, Love girl”. Actually, he kept saying the “Love, Eat, Pray girl”, which clearly lends to why we broke up–both on the negativity tip as well as the intelligence factor. Point being, you can call me the “Eat, Pray, Love girl” or whatever variation you’re comfortable with; frankly you can call me whatever you want because that one instinctual decision was the best one I made in a long time, if ever.

In itself, yoga teacher training is always going to be somewhat transformational. Couple that with Bali and the a-ha moments are infinite. Honestly I can’t quite tell you what happened to me there. All I can say for sure is that I was forever changed by that experience. Not in the cheesy, cloud nine kind of way, but in the most grounded, level-headed, coming in to your own skin way. Yeah, I guess in the cheesy way too, Bali does that to people.

It was the most awake and present I had been in a long time. So I started looking at it. Looking at how I lived back home and how I was so much happier living in a hut on the beach where the walls didn’t even connect to the ceiling. Where my shower was water dripping out of a pipe coming out of the middle of my wall. Where a bat lived in my bathroom or the time I woke up with a gecko on my face (this was not pleasant, shut the mosquito net).  I can list these on and on, but I realized that it had nothing to do with any of it. It was that I was out there in the world and it was filled with infinite possibilities of where I could go next. I was doing something I truly loved. There it was. That passion.

I feel like society feeds our generation with a lot of bullshit about how we’re supposed to live. We study, we prepare, we work toward something. What if it’s not actually what we’re supposed to be doing? Do we block out or dumb down these clues and grains of knowledge about ourselves and just go back to what we’ve been used to all these years? It’s a possibility. I, however, could not. I thought about all those soul changing moments I experienced in Bali and (competitive nature in full force) thought what would it be like if I could make a life full of as many of those as I can find?

So I set my intention to live freely and fully in the face of adventure. If I try things I’ve never tried maybe I’ll find things I would’ve never expected. And if not, so what? At least I’m trying.

When I found yoga I found a safe place to explore, create and connect. I found myself, and I’m eager to see what the possibilities hold. I’m not entirely sure what comes next, but I’m willing to put aside my doubts and fears to find where I fit in in the world. So to keep the ball rolling I’m in search of more yoga, and hopefully find more of myself along the way.

Don’t worry, I’ll be putting myself out there, vulnerabilities and all, if you’d like to join me on my travels.

xo Jackie Smyth

Sisterhood of the Traveling Mats: Part II

Sisterhood of the Traveling Mats: Part II

Q&A: Amanda Botur, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Q&A: Amanda Botur, Jackson Hole, Wyoming