This past February, I threw fiscal caution to the wind and booked a flight and a spot in a yoga retreat on an island off the southwest coast of Ireland with a favorite Anusara teacher, Jaye Martin. I met Jaye at a weekend workshop at the Tree of life Yoga studio in Tervuren, Belgium, where I was in the process of completing a 200hour Anusara Yoga Teacher Training.
I still marvel at the synchronicity of finding an Anusara YTT in a community right near my new home in Brussels. I had spent many hours, scouring the Internet from my previous home Arizona in the year following the completion of my first Hatha Yoga 200hr YTT in 2015.
The universe certainly is unpredictable, and you never know how it may respond when you send out your desires and intentions. So, be careful with your intentions (aka, be careful what you wish you for).
Following my own decision to follow my desire to study yoga with teachers I love, I convinced a yogi friend from the Anusara teacher training to join me. I found an Airbnb to stay in for a few nights in Dublin, a house we could share with another student on the island, followed by one night at the Inishbofin hostel, and was promptly swept back up into the chaos of life.
A large portion of the chaos in my current life involves dread over my house in Alaska, for which I seem in constant pursuit of renters and/or buyers, contractors to complete repairs, and new property managers when one leaves town or gets too busy for the job. With the 10-hour time difference, emails and calls come in just as I am doing my best to ground and settle my nerves for sleep. I went over the deep end this past fall after four months of back and forth between a couple trying to obtain a VA loan with a very unpleasant realtor. The couple eventually decided Gustavus (and maybe Alaska or the universe in general) was against them and wound up renting another house in town instead of buying.
My husband’s and my theory was that the house did not want these people living in it because they, too, were not particularly pleasant to deal with. It’s a unique, special house. When I lived in it, it served as both sanctuary and haven from the hell of divorce and a very unsustainable work situation.
I have not been able to figure out why no one has bought the house. People seem to fall in love with it, but then something happens to thwart the sale. I have started joking that perhaps I should just go back and live in it since it was my dream house, but I think it would take a lot of money and incentive to get me to ever set foot in Alaska, let alone the community of Gustavus.
Some reasons (real and perceived) the house and I remain tethered:
- It’s an older house, and it needs work. (Who doesn’t?)
- It isn’t isolated enough (in Gustavus?).
- The house is waiting for just the right person to welcome into its inner sanctuary.It has incredible energy, which I felt from that fateful moment when I first walked through the door so many years ago. (Certainly, the people who went through a truly heinous four-month process for obtaining a VA loan this past fall did not pass muster with the house, but that is a tale for another time).
- I have joked that perhaps it is my own karma, which has kept me bound to this small plot of land at the literal end of the earth.
- Could the universe have something in mind? Perhaps, some kind of ritual suffering in order to experience supreme, unbounded joy in the wake of the sale?
Suffice it to say that I have been beyond ready to close the Alaska chapter of my life for many years, and I will be partying it up like it is 1999 and then some on the day an official sale final closes.
Other elements of my crazy life involve wondering and worrying about whether my husband will receive funding for his doctoral degree and whether we will be able to survive on my meager income from editing and teaching yoga. I spend a lot of time getting literally tangled up with my dog, who enjoys winding himself around me before our walks when I am trying to put on my shoes, during our walks (one time I actually fell flat on my face like a cartoon character), and while I move back and forth around our little home (I have trouble sitting still because I am very Vatta out-of-balance and also, I joke, part squirrel…I also hide things under my pillow, which my husband refers to as my “squirrel cache”).
I go for excursions around Brussels, participating in what my husband refers to as “cultural adventures.” I take myself on mini field trips on weekends when my husband is at home studying and can watch the dog (the husky we adopted last fall is one of those references to being careful what you wish for because the universe might just give you what you want…exactly what you want, for better, worse, or somewhere in between.
I begged and pleaded for a dog who would be my shadow; who would need my unconditional love (since I don’t have human children to shower with all of my mom hormones and great big heart); and who would be my constant companion. I got exactly what I asked for (and more) in the body, heart, and soul of a great big, white, fluffy, male husky I eventually named Atticus.
Side note: It took me weeks to named this dog; he had come from Tehran, Iran with the name Hero.
I want to name him, I whined to my husband. I have never named an animal before. Someone else always comes up with a name.
We went through dozens of names over several weeks, but I kept coming back to the name Atticus. Since I spend so much time walking and on public transit, I have become quite a fan of listening to books being narrated. At the time BWD (big, white dog) came into our lives, I was listening to and then decided to listen to To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my all-time favorite books, which I reread every few years or so. I always thought that I would read it when I had kids because I was so inspired by the way Atticus spoke with his children, taking them seriously while also speaking in a language their children’s minds could understand. Well, I haven’t had human children of my own, so it seemed appropriate to read (or listen) to this book when bringing a new fur baby into my life.
Atticus arrived amidst the chaos of my husband deciding to fly to Portland, Oregon and leaving less than 12 hours after this decision, the end of my Anusara yoga teacher training, hell on wheels with the failed house sale of fall 2017. I was so desperate to invite calming, grounding energy into my life; I kept coming back to the name Atticus. Atticus Finch possessed this soothing, reasonable, kind persona. Perhaps, naming my adopted dog after him would instill some of these energy elements in him, a self-fulfilling, canine prophecy of sorts.
While Atticus is what my husband refers to as “husky light,” I would not say that he is exactly akin to Atticus Finch. Perhaps, in Finch’s wilder, younger years? If you can imagine he was ever another age than the old, wise, father, and lawyer in Macon, Alabama.
Atticus has only caused minor damage to two of my belongings: a yoga block that now holds his tooth marks in a couple of corners and a pair of sandals from Rome, which I found in his mouth when I came downstairs after going up to pee (when he first came home, he would get so upset with me for deigning to leave him for as long as it took to go up to use the bathroom that I would find him with a sock in his mouth or some other of our possessions at his feet, like he was letting us know he could destroy them if he so chose but that he would refrain since I had agreed to return to him from the second floor). I often feel like I am running a BnB for four-legged beings. Cats on the second floor. Dog on the first floor. After about six months, the larger of our two cats began tentatively coming downstairs and now moves back and forth freely between the two floors. It took a little longer than that for Atticus to figure out that he could indeed ascend the very narrow stairs that lead to the bedroom loft. There is a space between each stair, and the are a bit hairy even for a human. My husband also reminds me to hold onto the handrail at night when he is going out of town for a conference.
Sometimes, I feeling like I have a pretty good grasp over what is going on and being said around me, and other times I feel completely out of my element and wish I could magically beam myself into a Trader Joe’s and be done with it.
It was only in the couple of weeks leading up to the retreat that I approached trip preparation with renewed vigor, if not enthusiasm. For me, excitement over a journey often does not arrive until I set foot on foreign ground. It feels surreal until it becomes real.
It feels real in this moment as I write, sitting aboard a train bound for Galway, watching the scenery pass by in reverse since I had to guess the direction of the train when purchasing tickets…and I guessed wrong.
As Jaye Martin said in the workshop we attended in Waterford this past weekend (more on that soon), Think about a time you made a mistake and remember, you’re not dead yet! A mistake can be an opportunity for how you can do something different in the future.
Choosing train seats that are not facing the direction of travel is not necessarily a mistake on a grand scale, just a guess that didn’t work out as intended. Many of my life choices have been like this. A kind of leap of faith for one possible future scenario that feels right at the time. Mostly, the scenario unfolds far differently than my original intention or imagination, but I do the best I can in each moment, with the information I have, to make the choice that seems to be the “best” one for me at the time.
This trip is an opportunity to take a break from worrying about the big life choices and plans, as well as the daily little chaos of my life in Belgium, and to try my hand at toning down the anxiety and panic and turn up the volume on my bliss body. It’s no easy feat. Every few minutes, a new burst of panic over renting and selling my house in Alaska jumps right back into the forefront of my attention.
Last night as I was getting ready to do a sit, I texted my husband, I’m so tired of Alaska, Richard. I want it to be over. I hate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every fucking day I have to think about Alaska.
My husband, ever the grounded voice of wisdom to my out of balance, flighty vatta, responded, Stop trying to control it and just allow the universe to drive. Nothing bad is happening. All is fine.
Did I acquiesce to his suggestion? No. I continued to voice my fears.
Bad will be having to pay my mortgage with no rental income. But I will try to relax.
It won’t be the end of the world. You won’t be harmed. It will all be over eventually. Let go!!! Non-attachment.
It is like it [the house] won’t go until you let it go.
I want to let it go.
Do a let it go mantra.
I will meditate on that…again. I have been doing a Ganesha mantra for removing obstacles!
[Side note: I question the wisdom of focusing intention on Ganesha. While it is true that Ganesha is the one to remove obstacles, he is also the one to create them. Remember, be careful of your intentions!]
However, I did my sit, chanting silently for half of the sit:
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha.
Once I passed the guru bead, I shifted to my own mantra creation:
Aparigraha Aparigraha Moksha Moksha.
Non-attachment. Non-attachment. Freedom. Liberation.
In the morning, I awoke to a positive message from potential tenants/buyers in Alaska with just a small catch (did Ganesha remove one obstacle only to add another?). I am deciding to just roll with it and try not to think about it (as much as possible) in order to be fully present on the Irish Rail bound for Galway.
Stay tuned for many more stories of my journey in Ireland.
Thanks for reading!