How I made the leap to teaching yoga full-time

Cabana view in Mexico
In October 2009, I was at my first teacher training with Baron Baptiste at Maya Tulum in Mexico. The week was a re-birth for me, the time when my perspective on my world radically changed thanks to Baron and the awesome community I found there. I was inspired, full of fire and terrified of what was to come. We were asked to set an intention for life a year from that point, and I tentatively said I would be teaching yoga full-time, even though I didn't know if I meant it. I no longer loved my job, but was I ready to give it up for yoga? Um, maybe? Did I have any clue how I was going to do it? Hell no.

One year and four months later, I did it. I left my full-time job in January to teach yoga. A lot of people have asked me how I did it. Before I get into the practical side of things, you should know I'm a calculated risk-taker. I've moved to both China and Alaska knowing no one, but I had job offers both times. I would never charge off a cliff with my eyes closed. One friend compared my latest decision to jumping into the deep end of the pool with arm floaties. Guilty as charged.
Thinking things through.

But I can tell you it is possible. My way is by no means the right way, but so far — fingers crossed — it's working out. Here are some things I figured out and learned along the way to teaching yoga full-time.
  • Create an emergency fund: Yoga teachers scrape by. Some teachers I know have 18 to 20 classes a week to make everything work. I knew teaching might be dicey financially, especially during the transition, so first and foremost, I started saving. For the past year, I put all my extra yoga pay away on top of committing to saving from my regular paycheck. Most financial books advise having three to six months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. I went for the high end. Once I hit my number, I felt a lot easier about diving into Yoga World.
  • Teach yoga: Most teachers recommended teaching for at least a year while holding down another job to build a following. It also helps you figure out if you genuinely love teaching. I started off with two classes, subbed a lot and then ramped up to four at three different studios. This approach, by the way, is utterly exhausting. But you'll also figure out fast how much you love something if you're doing it on top of a 40-hour-a-week gig. Me, I needed that year. I definitely liked teaching at first, but I didn't know it was a calling until my second teacher training in September 2010. Then, truly, there was no turning back.
  • Build a full-time class schedule: I was given varying advice on how many classes is "enough." Ten is a good number to aim for, but one mentor suggested I not think of it in such a goal-oriented, Western way. She said if I set the intention, I would know when the time was right. My tipping point came when one studio offered me two more classes on top of the four I already had. I knew adding more classes would send me to the ER with a nervous breakdown unless something else gave — like my job! Another studio also lost a teacher around that time and offered me two to four more. All of a sudden I had 8-10 classes ready to go for January. Hello, New World Order.
  • Find side gigs: Yoga can pay the bills, but just barely. As an independent contractor, you don't have benefits from the studios. You rack up miles driving all over the place. Training is costly. The list goes on. It's helpful to have a side gig that uses a skill you already have and pays. Some teachers are massage therapists; others do consulting work. I am a writer, and I benefit from some stable freelance work. If all else fails, open a studio! (Kidding. Sort of.) 
  • Research health insurance: This is the first topic concerned, motherly types ask me about. I was worried, too. Some teachers go with high-deductible emergency insurance only. As healthy as I am, I wasn't willing to risk that. A few months ago, I heard about a start-up, member-based health care clinic in Seattle called Qliance. Members pay $50-$80 a month and get unlimited time with a primary care doctor. Top that off with some high-deductible emergency insurance, ranging from $100-$200, and you can cover most of your basics, including prescriptions and some specialty care. I am relying on COBRA from my old job for my dental and vision coverage. My monthly insurance bill will come in at a very reasonable $250. Look around; you may be surprised at what you find.
I know this all sounds oh-so-sensible. The truth is despite all the planning, I was freaked out to my very core. But every practical step helped ease my fears. More than that, I wanted to make yoga my everything. I'm now deep in the consequences, which is its own post. But I have no regrets. I don't miss my old job in the slightest. My teaching has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few weeks. I am running life on my terms doing something I LOVE, and it is incredibly empowering.

I'll leave you with the song that has become my theme song for 2011.


So very, very scared, but doing it anyway

I quit my job. Thursday is my last day at my nice, benefits-laden job that pays me to write. Yeah, I know, let's not even get into it. It's a career I've had for 10 years, and instead, I'm choosing to teach yoga. It's pretty dang terrifying. You'd think it would be the scariest thing I've done so far in 2011. Wrong-o! I'm frightened off my rocker that I just applied for a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat at the Northwest Vipassana Center. It's unsettling on the financial level (I'm leaving paid vacation behind), but it mostly freaked me out me because I'm afraid of everything on the daily schedule. I've heard from many that meditation retreats are the hardest thing they've ever done. To quote Omar, NO DOUBT. Although it's not like the center makes it sound easy. It states very clearly on the website: 10 days of noble silence; 10 days of 4 a.m. wake up calls; 10 days of me and my head. I'd be crazy not to be afraid. I mean, doesn't this place look threatening?

But it also has become clear that 10 days was the only way. Let's take my New Year's resolution -- made eight days ago -- to meditate daily. I've already skipped two days. I don't have that kind of resistance with yoga. Oops. I spend more time overthinking meditation than doing it. (Clearly.) Unlike with yoga, I haven't had a "eureka" moment with meditation. My yoga moment was a huge shift. I was on retreat with San Francisco teachers Rusty Wells and Janet Stone in 2007 on Isla Mujeres in Mexico; Janet was working our hips like, well, a mo-fo. It was brutal. All of a sudden I felt a curious twinge. By shoulder stand, tears were leaking onto my mat. I straight-up bawled during savasana. Since then, nobody has had to talk me into keeping up my yoga practice. But meditation brings up a whole boatload of crazy-ass resistance. My motto this year is "Scared But Doing It Anyway." I've mostly gotten over the fear of quitting my job, but have not come close to conquering scary, scary meditation. So tonight, I went to the Northwest Center website, filled out the application for a week in March, shuddered and clicked send. And maybe screamed a little bit.


How to survive 365 days of meditation

I have a sweet meditation set up. There's a cute little mirrored altar table, a pretty patterned cloth, a picture of my grandma, candles, Ribbit the frog and in the summer, fresh tulips or dahlias. I recently bought a cherry blossom-print meditation cushion filled with cushy buckwheat.

But do I sit? When guilt takes over, yes. That is to say, very, very rarely. Motivation comes in weird spurts. I went to a daylong retreat with teacher Howard Cohn of California's Spirit Rock in November. He explained so many things so well. I vowed to sit again. I sat once.

But on New Years Day, something lurks in the air deeper than ordinary guilt. Resolutions and I have a fraught history, but my meditation practice needed an intervention. At 11:40 p.m. on 1/01/11, I sat my butt down on that cushion. I told myself I would do this not just tonight, but every night. There's a movement among yogis on Twitter to practice yoga 365 days this year. Real life has a bad habit of getting in the way of even the most dedicated yoga practice, and a 365-day commitment to daily asana practice seemed like lunacy. But meditation? Sweet, sweet meditation can be done anywhere where you won't be interrupted for 15 minutes. I don't know what has come over me, but apparently 2011 will involve a lot of time sitting. It's Day 3 of 365, and I don't have anything to confess. Yet.

If you're new to the practice of meditation, here are a few tips to help get you through a 15-minute sit.

1. Find a comfortable seat on a block or a chair. Set an alarm.
2. Don't try to "meditate." Just sit, and breathe.
3. When your mind starts making up stories about how bad you are at meditation, politely tell it to shut its trap, and sit and breathe.
4. If your foot falls asleep, just sit and breathe.
5. If you are wondering if your 15 minutes are up yet, they aren't. Sit, and breathe.

Happy New Year!


Dining yogically at Sutra

I never forgot about the blog; I just managed to make it two months or so without writing on LIF. I'd like to pretend it never happened, but time stamps don't lie. But three days before Thanksgiving seems as good a day as any to set an intention to re-commit to this little blog. Pinky swear.

With that, I'd like to talk not about yoga, but tell you about a restaurant called Sutra. On the eve of possibly the most ridiculous eating holiday on the planet, though I do love it so, Sutra is at the center of a more civil, sane and gentler kind of food indulgence. I'd hear murmurings about Sutra from food friends, particularly vegetarians, and I also heard about it from yoga peeps. Like Ubuntu in Napa  (where I ate the most incredible vegetarian meal my tasteybuds have ever had), Sutra is both yoga studio and restaurant.

It is a darling little spot on the main drag in the Wallingford neighborhood, and the restaurant works very hard to be efficient. Its open kitchen, which lines the side of the small dining area, churns out vegetarian verging on mostly vegan and limiting diners to two prix fixe ($35) seatings a night to cut down on leftover food getting tossed at the end of the night. All the wine is local or organic. Our water also came purified and free of chemical impurities or something like that.

All very well indeed, but what matters to me is the food. Oh, the food. If I was the violent type, I would beat myself up repeatedly for not making it there sooner. The meal starts with a ggggooong from Chef Colin, who introduces dishes with titles like New England and Red Kuri Pumpkin-Leek Soup with a Garlic and Marjoram Gremolata Served with a Pickled Treviso Radicchio-Roasted Yellow Beet and Shaved Fennel Salad. Despite its name, the first course won me over immediately, with the tart acidity and crunch of the pickled radicchio cutting the sweet richness of the smooth, lightly creamy pumpkin-leek soup. But then the second course -- Lemon-Basil Cashew Cheese Stuffed Pimiento Pepper Served with a Beluga Lentil-White Chanterelle and Porcini Ragu -- arrived, and I was smitten again, convinced I could eat this dish every day of my life. The in-house, lightly fermented cashew cheese, both chewy and light, was encased in a perfectly spicy and completely adorable petite little pepper. I wanted to cuddle it.

But then there was a third course. Curses, Sutra, can't I just be happy with the dish I just ate? But the gnocchi (technically Celery Root Gnocchi with an Ambrosia Apple-Heirloom Tomato-Peach & Limon Habanero Caponata Served with Fresh Arugula finished with a Balsamic Reduction and Truffle Oil) was a fantasy of pillowy gnocchi snuggled next to chunks of fruit married with luscious tomatoes and the pop of habanero. The fresh arugula salad with its simple balsamic dressing provided a lovely, peppery balance. It is in contention for Nicole's Top Dishes of 2010.

I adored the fourth course, but the bar had been set very high. Plus I had trouble wrapping my brain around how the chef made a dairy-free truffle taste as sumptuous as the kind with heavy cream. Coconut was the alternate, vegan-approved fat for Sutra's version and the Raw Cacao-Dusted Madagascar Chocolate Cardamom Truffle had that intense hit of chocolate any self-respecting chocolate addict craves. A delicious tiny cup of fresh ginger apple cider was served on the side.

I came away the kind of full I always wish for, neither too full nor convinced I will be hungry again in an hour. The gong, and perhaps the dish titles, are the only elements that give the place a slightly cheesy vibe. In fact, the restaurant is so elegant and its food so sophisticated that the yoga elements become incidental. At the same time, my nerdish yoga self was happy to know how much care was paid to the vegan food, how much attention was paid to minimizing waste and to how damn delicious it all was.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 gongs


Rocked to my Cahillian core by Krista and Brock

I let Krista and Brock Cahill have their way with me over the weekend, and my shoulders still ache in the most glorious way.

Krista and Brock are L.A.-based yoga teachers, and they traveled to Seattle for a weekend workshop. They are, basically, sensational. Not only are they gorgeous, fun and mesmerizing to watch, but they, to quote Brock quoting a student, also make "what seemed impossible merely challenging." (Yoga is so much the same as life, LOVE IT.) Leaping into handstand from downward facing dog, jumping into crow from down dog, taking crow to handstand, taking one legged crow to handstand (see a theme yet?). For the first time, those impossible transitions seemed possible. I've been working on my jump forward from down dog for a few months, focusing on engaging mula bandha (root lock) and thinking it was mostly time to increase my strength to land like Holly Golightly. But after two intense sessions with them, I am leaping so much more airily, with so much less fear and so much more joy. I feel like I will have it in no time at all. Crow to handstand? Sure! Some day.

I was grateful to hear it took Brock one year (of obsessive practice) to hold handstand; Krista five. It took her 12 years to master the jump-through. It's an inspiring future.

But it's not just the graceful lifts into handstand (and down to crow and back up and hovering in between). It's the way their words landed in my body. Krista in particular has such a clear understanding of physiology and way of communicating what to do. One of my studio owners said the difference between good teachers and great is how their words translate, and that's absolutely true with the Cahills. Other teachers have taught me the jump forward, but Krista explained how to keep the spine straight and the shoulders integrated into the sockets when still in down dog, knees bent deeply, positioning the body perfectly for handstand alignment before springing forward. After a few powerful bursts, all of a sudden I was flying and holding myself up, if only for a few seconds. Yowza! I can't wait to get back on my mat to do it again, and again, and again.

Their class also was a blast back to my first year of practice. I practice Baptiste power vinyasa flow yoga almost every day and my body has adapted to the strength required for that flow. But Krista and Brock pushed me to entirely new levels of physicality, and I found myself getting incredibly tired, resisting their instructions and dropping my arms out of exhaustion during Warrior II, something I haven't felt the urge to do in years. I woke up aching all over. The experience was a powerful reminder about empathy as a teacher and also for my own practice, for how far I've come and how far I still have to go.

Krista and Brock were at yoga festival Wanderlust the last two years, but I wouldn't say they're household yogi names like Shiva or Seane Corn. Yet. I have total confidence in their ability, like the good yogis they are, to change the world, one handstand at a time.


Perspective among the rocks

The brochures say Bryce Canyon is one of the most photographed places in the world. I believe the brochures.

My favorite angel formation
It's sort of cheating to say you gained perspective when you go to places like Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah. The rocks are big. Really big. The clouds are big. The sky is the biggest. You are small. Lesson learned.

But before I went to see those big rocks, I went to a dharma talk with Ajahn Sumedho, a revered monk who lives in England but grew up in Seattle. I listened to him speak at St. Paul's Cathedral on Capitol Hill, the same church where he grew up attending. Now he was back, head shaved, robed in orange, talking about meditation and the human condition. I know, it's weird. But what was not weird was listening to him speak and somehow finding myself relating to this monk. I have never lived in a monastery nor washed my layers of robes every day nor eaten from a communal bowl of glop collected from kind-hearted villagers who support the monks by giving what little they had. What I have experienced is the judgmental mind, the mind that resists eating food that looks unappetizing, that judges the reasoning behind washing the robes every day, the mind that relies on external approval to gauge whether one is a good monk. It's so easy to be unsatisfied with our lives. But that's the human condition, he said, to think collectively in a particular way. In the American way, we tend to think that we don't have enough, we criticize others, we judge our lives. But he was clothed, he was fed, he had no reason to hate washing his robes. Once he saw he could change how he thought about it, he did.

Ajahn Sumedho was not so bold as to ask us to put a screeching halt to our Western way of thinking and to stop us from wanting more in our lives. But he hoped we could see the distinction between what we need to be fulfilled in life versus what our culture has conditioned us to want, the things we think will make us happy. The clothes (more lululemon!), the relationships, the homes, the right job, the list goes on. But humans can endure quite a bit of sacrifice (even a life without lululemon) and while we can't always control what's going on around us, we can control how we think about it. Instead of worrying about non-delicious food or uncomfortable robes, welcome life as it is. "Life is like this," he says.

It's not the easiest idea to practice. It's a bit much for my not-so-calm and not-so-Zen mind to consider. I want a lot of things. But to know that this rather incredible human being struggled that much with the same concepts was both encouraging, then exasperating because he clearly has overcome them to some degree. But he was undoubtedly inspirational, just like those rocks. Yes, we're back to the rocks. The rocks remind me not to be buried in the little things. The little things, the drama, the junk, they don't really matter.


Bethenny does yoga, her way

If you squint, you can see Bethenny Frankel of Bravo's "Real Housewives" fame on the left. To the right is a yoga teacher (and apparently model) named Kristin McGee. I don't claim to have standards when it comes to television -- "Jersey Shore" and "The City" are DVR staples  -- but I can't get into "Real Housewives," to the disappointment of one of my friends. She very badly wants me to love the show, but I don't, so she is instead trying to convert me to the brand of Bethenny.

It's working, sort of. I like Bethenny's website and tips on healthy eating. I watched half an episode of her new show, "Bethenny Getting Married." I'm oddly enamoured by her personal story and the way she spells her name. And I did her yoga DVD, "Body by Bethenny with Bethenny Frankel."

My Bethenny-loving friend is new to yoga, so I helped her with confusing poses. Because despite Bethenny's supposedly helpful subtitles -- "Warrior Three: Hamstring and lowback strengthener" -- her yoga was not accessible for newbies. The video is set up as a class, with Kristin "teaching" Bethenny, a long-time practitioner with fairly good form, a flow series. Kristin's yoga is hard, like intermediate hard. The level makes it easier for Bethenny to play the part of friend, chatting up her favorite pose (triangle), suggesting bring-your-boob-to-your-knee asana, and showing a few modifications. I could have used even more. Kristin dives right in with upward dog, with no discussion of a standard modification, low cobra, until Bethenny shows it to us. Kristin moves on speedily through some warrior series, including this flow:  chair -> warrior 1 -> warrior 2 -> reverse warrior -> triangle -> warrior 2 -> forward bend -> pyramid -> warrior 3 -> half moon -> standing split. Not easy at all.

We broke a sweat in the 55-minute DVD. Bethenny utters some very yogic themes, such as "You can't have an ego about yoga." There also are a couple of odd choices, like doing back bends after core, in reverse of the order intended to help neutralize your back post-back bend. Kristin does nothing new or earth-shattering in teaching technique or her flow, although I suppose that would steal too much thunder from Bethenny, our real yogi star. Still, I've gotta give the housewife credit for spreading the gospel of yoga, even if it did introduce some cringe-inducing, aerobics-style attitude. It can't even come close to ranking among great yoga videos, but it's not supposed to. Rating: C-


Sunsets, naps, yoga and Al Green

I'm way into this picture of the sunset I took on a Fourth of July backpacking trip to Cape Alava and Sand Point on the Olympic Coast. If you need directional help, I was in the remote part of Washington where Twilight is based, just north of Forks. See? Now you know where I was.

Such beauty inspires a lot of joy. Go Lauren!

The coast was the best place ever for coolly perfect naps in the sun.

The long drive to and from Ozette Lake also left a lot of time to listen to music and ruminate about playlists. I no longer suffer from panic attacks about my playlists, but I still obsess about trying to mix it up more in yoga class. When I'm fixated on a song, I'll play it on on repeat for months at a time. I'm afraid I've lulled my early morning class into an indie stupor with my repeats of Beach House, The Cave Singers, Belle & Sebastian and The xx.

I knew I needed change, but hadn't found anything that struck me as particularly novel. But after the backpacking trip, I was fiddling with my playlists and noticed one titled "an R'n'b flow." What's this? The playlist was unfinished, but it included gems like Ginuwine, B2K and Ja Rule. (Those are gems in my book!) Most importantly it featured Al Green. His mellow, soothing classic "Let's Stay Together" is hardly a new idea, but who can resist Al Green? No one! And he's never made an appearance in my class. I quickly elevated Al to a new playlist that may or may not also include Kylie Minogue. Let's groove.

Al Green, "Let's Stay Together."


Review of Nala Seattle pants

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I am lululemon addict, otherwise known as a lululemming. It's embarrassing to be so sucked in by the fancy, shmanciness of it all. I cope by refusing to wear the clothes outside of yoga class (except for getting there and back). The problem is I have yet to find better yoga pants or tops. The fit of the Power Y and Scoop Neck tops are almost perfect, and I pretty much worship the Wunder Under pants, which never ride up (or down) and make everything look slim and cute with its flattering cut.

But one of my studios recently offered teachers a discount on a new brand, NaLa Seattle. At the time, I had added on a lot of assisting and teaching on top of regular practice, and I didn't have enough yoga clothes to get through the week without doing laundry. But my budget grew cross at the idea of dropping another $68 on lululemon pants, so sight unseen, I took the plunge with NaLa and ordered some harem style black pants and gray, ruched cropped tights.

I adore the harem pants, but maybe for the wrong reasons. They're a soft cotton, with a folded over waistband and a loose leg and tight ankle that can be worn long, M.C. Hammer style, or pulled up just below the knee. Worn that way, they are just a little baggy and are ridiculously comfortable. They are the best for lounging around the house. They're not, however, all that great in the studio. The loose cotton sticks in patches when I sweat, and the cotton doesn't wick, so the pants feel heavy. But when repurposed as sweatpants, they're awesome.

 NaLa Seattle

The gray crops (pictured above in black), however, aren't working out at home or in the studio. The pants are a nice, rich gray, fit snugly with cute ruching detail along the sides and are flattering. But the "wicking" material has got to go. Instead of feeling soft, they feel like polyester. As for fit, to be quite explicit, the crotch (oh-so-important in yoga) is slightly off-center. It's just plain uncomfortable when you're in crescent lunge, in three-legged dog, half-pigeon or even when I'm just walking around while teaching. Needless to say, they didn't score a spot in the regular rotation.

I love supporting local companies, but NaLa also is priced about the same as lululemon (the gray crops cost $78), so I can't even make the case that they are more affordable. But I'm still curious to see what other yoga clothes are making the case in the battle to knock lulu off its yoga pedestal. What are your favorite brands of yoga clothes? I'm open to suggestions!


Embracing gratitude via barbecues and sunshine

If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?
- Maha Ghosonanda

I have been feeling especially cranky recently. At first I blamed the terminally gray skies, but then it was sunny and things still didn't change. I came up with a lot of other reasons on top of the weather: work, lack of vacation, getting up early to teach yoga, not practicing enough yoga, teaching too much yoga. Irrational much?

So I foisted the problem on my yoga classes. Well, I had better intentions than that. I set gratitude as my theme for classes the last couple of weeks, hoping to help both them and myself out. I love it as a theme, and I particularly love the meditation of gratitude, when we spend time noting what we are grateful for and let it sink in. It was a semi-effective mini-lecture to myself. But apparently my funk was deeper than this yoga teacher could fix, and as soon as I walked out of the studio, the rain washed away the positive and I was back where I started.

But then. But then, I had a housewarming. Right up until the party I was still a bit antagonistic, but then the day of the party itself was rather amazing. Gathering people from all walks of your life in one place is such a beautiful thing. I've never had a space large enough to entertain more than three or four before, but my new place, rather my new backyard, easily holds 20 and could probably handle 30 to 40 without too much strain. It's a lovely place, my backyard, particularly when the sun is shining.

Photo courtesy of KJ's Hipstamatic

Preparing for the bbq started the upswing. I was so happy to buy fixings for farro and fruit salad, for barbecue chicken and for grilled asparagus. I couldn't wait to share cupcakes for dessert. I was practically humming cleaning my floors. Once my friends arrived, everyone in their sandaled, summer best, bearing loads of food, drink and lawn furniture for my empty backyard, I knew gratitude again. Gratitude for their friendship, for their smarts, for their kicky senses of humor, for their love of Seattle and sun, for toes in warm grass, for their generosity, for their openness to others and for community. The thing is, life is so easy once we make it so. Thanks to you all.


The Yoga Panic Threshold

The sure sign that my life is a little too frazzled for my own good is when Yoga Panic sets in. It doesn't take a lot to send the alarm bells shrieking in my head. This week, the alarm went off on Friday when I realized that if I didn't squeeze in a lunch-hour class that day, I would only practice max three times that week. ALERT. Yoga meltdown on the horizon!

How did I get to this (admittedly) mental place? Yoga is kind of funny like that. It used to be three times a week was OK. It was not ideal, but I could live with it. Then that number crept up to four. Then five. Now it's six. In my perfect world, I cut my body a break one day a week and stay sane the other six. I'm not sure how I got to this point, but yoga is sorta sneaky. You start off thinking, "Oh, I'll go a couple times a week, yoga will help me get more flexible, yay, that sounds great." Then all of a sudden you look around and you're practicing six times a week and teaching and it's like, whoa, what just happened?

Yoga Panic also is a useful barometer for me to see what's happening in the bigger picture of my life. It lets me know if I'm overbooking (almost always), working too much or generally not making enough time for myself so the people in my world do not have to duck and cover to protect themselves from a raging yogini. For all those who have suffered, knowingly or not, I beg for your forgiveness. But I know I'm not the only one. Do you have a Yoga Panic Threshold? What sets it off?


A walking meditation in the San Juans

Memorial Day weekend in the Pacific Northwest did not get off to a very good start. It was raining buckets on Friday, and then it dumped even more on Saturday. Rain rain rain.

My friend Maria and I were headed to the San Juans for a weekend camping trip. Maria, being a scientist, explained the rain shadow effect, which I'm incapable of repeating because I'm a writer and my brain is a sieve when it comes to science. Essentially, she said it was much less likely to be raining there than in the city, which was all I needed to know.

Except it was still drizzling when we got to the Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island. We considered upgrading to a canvas tent to try to keep ourselves from freezing. I regularly vote to bail on backpacking in favor of camping, but full-on glamping in a fancy canvas tent was another, expensive story, so we stuck with our original plan. Camping at Lakedale is still pretty swank. A sink to wash our dishes in? Yes, please.

We needed it to clean up from our dinner: burgers, asparagus and whisky.

We both wished we had thought to get a clam-digging permit. Look at this cute cockle Maria dug up on the beach. Mm, tasty. Next time.

Moving on. On the first day, Maria and I went for a long walk at "American Camp." The camp is located on the southeast corner of the island, and if there ever was a place that looked straight out of "Wuthering Heights," these wind-swept cliffs were it.

We saw a lot of foxes that were not scared of us. We don't know why.

Wandering the windy bluffs also took me back to meditation. My meditation practice has dwindled to practically nothing, though I think about it frequently. But this remote, windy field looked like the perfect place for a walking meditation. The wind roared past, hawks glided overhead and the ocean crashed into the coves below. The sounds were incredibly rich. It seemed such a shame to waste it by living in the past and present drama of life. Although it's almost addicting to let go of meditation and not try to keep the brain in check. It's so much easier to just get lost in the mind's constant murmurings that are always either hung up on the past or hung up on the future. All those thoughts seem quite reasonable when there is nothing to say stop. But I know I don't want to live that way, which is why I am going back to meditation class next week. And on Saturday, for a few steps at a time, I absorbed the beauty of those fields, the beach and the wet grass and, especially, the sound of the wind for a brief moving meditation.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr