Reflections from Bali - The Importance of Getting Quiet and Still

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I mentioned on an instagram post while I was in Bali, at one point in time in my life, “I lived to travel.” In the past, my deep-seated yearning to travel was two-fold, 1) I was not happy where I was and 2) I thought the answers to “fixing me” were “out-there”.

A few days before I left for Bali, I reached out to my friend Davis and I asked him for a book recommendation for my trip. He recommended Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. Far from an easy, light-hearted read, Becoming Wise set the tone for my Bali journey.

I practically underlined half of the sentences in the book. At our final destination, the luxuriously, beautiful Suagra Pandang Pandang in Uluwatu, I could not put the book down. As we lounged by the pool, in 90F, I would lay under the sun with full body goosebumps -- the book was that moving.

A few days after I returned from Bali, I was nearing the end of the book at home. A passage from the Faith chapter summarized what I took away from my experience on my honeymoon…

Krista was sharing a portion of her interview with Pico Iyer -- I was not familiar with him before encountering his words. During a Becoming Wise interview with Krista, Iyer said:

“And at some point, I thought, well, I’ve been really lucky to see many, many places. Now, the great adventure is the inner world, now that I’ve spent a lot of time gathering emotions, impressions, and experiences. Now, I just want to sit still for years on end, really charting that inner landscape, because I think anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around -- you’re traveling in order to be moved. And really what you’re seeing is not just the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall but some moods or intimations or places inside yourself that you never ordinarily see when you’re sleepwalking through your daily life.” -pg.196

Then, on pg. 197, Iyer said:

“So I realized I have a lot movement in my life, but not maybe enough stillness.”

Wow. The night before reading that section, in my journal, I wrote:

“...my message from Bali was very clear: nourishment starts at the roots.”

I really did love traveling to Bali with Alex for our honeymoon. However, I realized that before we left, I held out for that trip. I kept pushing myself and making myself uncomfortable (from taking on too much) because I knew a reprieve was coming. I was not taking care of myself in the moment, I allowed myself to suffer because I was holding out for Bali.

Prior to our departure, everyone told me I was going to have a magical, whimsical experience on the island and my time there was actually the opposite - it was humbling and grounding. On our third full day in Bali, we woke up at 2AM to trek up Mount Batur at sunrise. In the afternoon, we spent 4.5 hours receiving an Ayurvedic spa treatment at the Bali Botanica Spa. Halfway into my chakra massage, it hit me with such clarity, this is not going to “heal” me. And, by “this”, I was referring to all of the external practices that I seek out in an attempt to remedy or shift my internal energy.

Before I move on, it’s important to note that I think the external practices are a wonderful compliment to my personal, internal self-care practices. Nevertheless, the massages, the travels, the acupuncture, the yoga classes, the self-help books, the breathwork, the meetings with life-coaches, the reiki healing sessions, and the tea with face-masks on are not going to be the things that enable me to live life spiritually aligned, healthy, and vibrating the highest.

Furthermore, it’s also important to note that - an inner-world that is spiritually aligned, emotionally/physically/mentally healthy, with pure vibrations - is what I have been seeking all along. And, I have been putting so much energy into creating the internal landscape I desire by pursuing external practices. In Bali, what I’ve always known became crystal clear, the true transformation my Soul craves is going to come from the simple practice of nourishing my roots -- which I believe comes from surrendering to the practice of getting very quiet and still.

For the last few years, I have had a rather consistent meditation practice - being still and getting quiet is not a new practice in my life. Yet, my meditation practice has been more or less a box I’ve checked off because, you know, everybody’s doing it. Jokes aside, meditation has been incredibly important to me and the practice has created profound shifts in my day-to-day. Nevertheless, I’ve more or less viewed my meditation practice as something I needed to “get done” so I could move on to the other practices - the more glamorous, instantly feel good things.

The day I returned home from Bali, the last question I ask my guests on the Move Into Truth Podcast occurred: I began to not only know but live and embody the fact that meditation - stillness + quietness - is my best medicine.  

And, I must say, the embodiment of that knowledge has not all of a sudden made the practice any easier for me. However, I realized that my approach to the practice needed to change.

The day I returned, I talked with my friend Nina Petruzzo on the phone for a couple of hours. She helped me unpack what I had come to learn. As we spoke, I told her that I am all about morning rituals, but I can’t force myself to have the exact same ritual everyday anymore. I told her that I planned to wake up and intuitively practice what I need on that day.

If you’ve met me in person, you know that discipline is not a quality I lack - so, I decided, for me, it needs to be less about the what time I meditate at each day and more about the heartspace I hold when I enter the practice.

To rewind, for a long time, I went to my cushion in the morning, right after I woke up, because I thought “that is what I was supposed to do.” Yet, when I wake up in the morning, sometimes I need to do this very thing - write. Some mornings, I wake up and my brain is on fire and I have all of these thoughts and ideas that want to come out. Other mornings, I wake up foggy and a movement practice or reading a good book serves me best.

What I learned to embody, versus simply know, in Bali, is that it’s important for me to have a morning practice -- I am committed to pausing in the morning before I jump into the lifey stuff. Whether that pause be consciously cuddling with Mowgli and/or Alex or writing a gratitude list or taking deep breaths, it’s important I put space between sleep and emails and my phone - and by space, I mean at least 30 or so minutes. Therefore, I am committed to making meditation a non-negotiable part of my day (every single day) and practice my stillness and quietness at the time that intuitively feels right on that day - in the last seven days, I have meditated in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. It’s working.  

Through my travels and my reflections at home, I have come to learn that it’s okay if what I need each morning looks a little bit different every day. And, one thing I’ve learned about truth this year, is that truth is always changing. On Episode 08 of the Move Into Truth podcast with Charlotte, I said, “...the truth is always going to change.” I do believe in fundamental, never-changing truths -  like love, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness. Aside from those, what is true for me today will change as I change. So, I need to meet myself where I am now and be open to going in a new direction when it’s needed and appropriate.

I share all of this to encourage anyone interested in creating a quietness and/or stillness practice (meditation) to create one that works. And, instead of looking at it as a chore or something that needs to be done, remember that it’s not just something else you’re doing, it’s what you’re doing that enables you to do everything else with a greater sense of peace and wellness - at least, that is my experience.

For me, the true Soul work happens within - not out there. Bali was fun but it didn’t make me a brand new person. My relationship to and with travel has shifted - I used to view it as this important thing that was going to “change me” - and, I often felt as if it did. Now, it’s just a time for me to unplug from the drudge of the day-to-day and experience a new culture.

For me, the real exploration, the real journey, starts when I close my eyes and get quiet and still.

And, I want to conclude by sharing a funny story… A few days after I returned, life got real “lifey” and I was having a hard time with a life-situation. So, I went to the Self Realization Meditation Gardens - a place where I feel at peace - to meditate. For about ten minutes, I was sitting upright in this super-erect-serious-meditation posture and my back and neck were really bothering me because I haven’t slept the best since I have been home. I had this thought to move and get comfortable.

I stood up from my super-serious-meditation-seat and walked to this private, little corner. I supported my back against a wall and curled up into what I referred to as a “seated fetal pose”. I bent my legs, tucked myself into a small ball, and rested my forehead on my knees as a hugged my shins with my arms. I rested in that quiet stillness for at least 10 minutes and I was able to destress and reach a level of calm I had not experienced since laying by the pool, overlooking the Indian Ocean, in Uluwatu.

I know there are some styles of meditation that really value the super-serious-erect-seat; but, that’s not what I needed to reach the place of peace that was going to enable me to live life spiritually aligned, healthy, and vibrating the highest on Sunday. Sometimes, even if it’s tucked in a seated fetal pose, all that is necessary for me to truly evolve is to get still and quiet.

To conclude, Bali was fun - we scooted around, we made out a lot, we ate amazing food, we swam and surfed in the warm ocean. But, I’ll say it again, the real exploration, the real journey, starts when I close my eyes and get quiet and still.

Please, I invite you to join me in the exploration of the expansive terrain that lies within.

Move Into Truth: A Call To ‘Be’ From An Innate Energy

Move Into Truth

It radiates from my heart and the space between my ribs - an innate energy so intense that it’s almost unbearable. I grapple to understand how I can feel both constricted and simultaneously propelled to move.

This feeling comes around like clockwork every September. Some people blame it on the days getting shorter, while others chime in with, “it’s Virgo Season and it is time to get your shit together.”

I always agree. As the sun rises later and sets earlier, I know that I subconsciously remember that my time here in this human existence is very short. I also tenaciously embody my Sun in Virgo. It makes sense why other people label the intense energy I feel within as a byproduct of the season.

It’s important to note that I make a big deal about my birthday every year. And, I make a big deal about it because I tried to kill myself when I was 15.

And, I lived. I’m alive - that’s a big deal.

I also lived through 4 extremely excruciating years of incomprehensible alcohol and drug abuse. It’s amazing I’m alive - I can still hear the voices of countless medical professionals and police officers telling me, “you’re not going to make it to celebrate your next birthday if you keep this up.”

Even with the odds stacked against me, I’m still here. I’m alive. It’s a miracle.

Revisiting and reflecting on my journal entries from Septembers’ past, I unearthed a truth that has helped me place that ‘innate energy so intense that it’s almost unbearable’. That energy comes from my soul’s desire to live in alignment with my most authentic Self (note Self versus self). For a very long time, I’ve lived out of alignment with my true Self. I know that statement sounds very lofty and new-agey, but it’s the truth.

As a teenager, I made decisions that placed me positions to be harmed. From the ages of 15 to 19, I consumed massive quantities of alcohol, street drugs, and prescription medicines - at the same time. I blacked out every single night.

Bad things happened to me in those black outs. Today, I know I would have avoided a lot of the trauma I experienced had I not abused drugs and alcohol in the way I did, but I did. And, I’ve suffered the consequences in the form of acute shame and fear.

When I stopped drinking at the age of 19, I loathed myself. It’s impossible to articulate what it felt like for me to live in my own body after I removed the substances that blotted out the severe emotional and psychic pain I experienced within my cells. I became completely physically disassociated.

After a year or so of rigorous therapy and a few years of a consistent yoga practice, I found myself at home in my body again. I also had a few brilliant college professors that gave me tools to discursively deconstruct what motivated me to objectify my physical body when I was younger.

As young as middle school, I craved attention from males. I had a gaping hole inside of me and I sought attention in an attempt to fill it.

My desire for attention, coupled with my substance abuse, severely backfired - it frequently placed me in terrifyingly sad situations. And, to add personal insult to injury, during the same time I experienced multiple sexual traumas, I worked at Hooters - not only once, but twice! It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around that sometimes. But, in hindsight it makes sense, I had incredibly low self-esteem and I felt completely unworthy and incapable of supporting myself.

As I gained understanding and confidence, feelings of safety and embodiment slowly restored. Even though I was not yet comfortable publicly sharing the details of my story that I openly express today, I no longer hated myself like I did when I was 19 years old.

During the Summer of 2010, I moved into my first apartment alone in Chicago. I will never forget how empowered and resilient I felt the first morning I woke up all by myself, in my own home. Those feelings lingered for a couple of months. Then, one afternoon, on warm Fall day, I was walking home, alone, wearing a flowy, flowery, mid-thigh length skirt and a thin tank top. I felt elegant and womanly. Three blocks from my home, a man approached me from behind and said something like, “thank you for wearing that for me.”

I tried to ignore him and walk faster, but he kept following me. As I neared my apartment, I knew better than to turn towards my street. Instead, I walked past Briar Place and took refuge in a 7-11 a block away.

Immense feelings of shame and self-loathing flooded back to me as I stood inside of that convenience store. Even though he didn’t touch me, I felt more violated than ever. I was literally nausea and shook on my walk home.

A switch flipped inside of me that day, I regressed. I began to consciously and subconsciously suppress the things that made me feel womanly and feminine.

As I contemplated this essay, I thought it was going to be a political piece about the burden women have to carry in order to protect themselves from men and how predatory males have driven me to overemphasize my masculine energy. And, I also postulated that the ‘innate energy so intense that it’s almost unbearable’ was there to motivate me to move towards my dharma of working with at-risk young women.

Nevertheless, the act of writing about this prompt - “Where is the innate energy so intense that it’s almost unbearable coming from?”-  uncovered something else for me: that feeling is coming from the fact that I have lived the better part of my life completely misaligned, internally.

I truly believe that that energy is coming from my soul’s desire to nourish the soft, sensual, graceful, gentle, feminine qualities of myself and to explore how to hold those qualities in unison and in harmony with the masculine energy that feels more comfortable for me to embody as I am today.

In academia and throughout my career, living in the masculine has served me. Yet, over the last year, the Universe has gifted me with 3 healers - a breath-work facilitator, an art therapist, and a psychologist - all powerfully rooted in their feminine. Working with these women has showed me that it is possible to radiate power from a space of flow and interconnectedness - in comparison to the overpowering energy I once thought that I needed to omit to be safe and get ahead.

For a very long time, I have focused on curating the “right” external environment in order to achieve internal homeostasis. Through writing this essay, I recognized that I must first shift my internal landscape before I can appropriately magnetize and attract the ideal external opportunities and experiences. And, that is what the innate energy so intense that it’s almost unbearable is asking of me - it’s not asking me to “do” anything, it’s urging me to change my way of being.

That energy is asking me to be wild, to flow, to practice intimacy, to love, to be love(d). It’s asking me to receive, to move with ease, to radiate from the inside out. It wants me to seek beauty in all things, to spend time in nature, and to embrace my sensuality.

It’s asking me to wait to start something new or to embark on my next project until I can first come home to myself. It wants me to be grounded in my truth: the fact that I am 100% whole and complete exactly as I am and that my divine state is love, flow, and sacredness.

My Self knows that the almost unbearable, innate energy will dissipate when I stop trying to do everything; and, instead be in alignment with my true Self. Until then, you can find me basking in the sun and moon, moving barefoot outdoors, dancing in my living room, learning how to cook, receiving, creating, praying, meditating, and spending time with people who make me feel loved.

Adi Shakti, Namo Namo

What I Did and Learned During My Month Long Social Media Detox

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A few weeks into my social media detox, I pulled into my assigned parking space next to my townhouse after an early morning run by the coast. The neighborhood was still quiet, it was a few minutes before 8AM. As I was taking my keys from the ignition, I looked over my left shoulder and I saw the silhouette of a man - he was seated in the townhome across the street, putting his shoes on.

I realized, at that moment, I have no idea who that man is or what he looked like. I briefly interacted with the woman that lived there before he did, but I could not have identify that man if I tried.

I paused and pondered. Would it be safe for me to go knock on all my neighbors’ doors and introduce myself? Would people think I was friendly or intrusive or weird? And, when in our history did our neighbors become strangers? I do have a couple of neighbors that are intimately involved in our lives. Yet, that’s the exception, not the norm for Alex and me.

Throughout the day, I returned to my early morning ponderance and placed it in the context of my social media detox. I thought, “it is so strange that for so many years, I knew what someone was eating for breakfast 3000 miles away from my kitchen table, but I don’t know 95% of my neighbors.”

These thoughts fortified my decision to take a break from my digital social life. Aside, from that, it’s hard to outwardly articulate why I wanted to embark on a social media detox mid-April.

To keep it simple, deep in my bones, I craved real life experiences unobstructed by technology. My life has always moved fast - I move fast. And, in my experience, the more time I spend online, the faster things seem to go offline.

A couple of weeks before I got married, my art therapist invited me to see what it would be like to slow down and savor the small moments I love the most: sunrises, sunsets, cups of coffee and tea, the way Alex and I link our bodies together in bed right before I fall asleep, wind moving through leaves, walking barefoot in the sand, the smell of Mowgli’s head, laughing with my friends, deep breaths…

To embrace slowness and to fully embody the practice of savoring moments and experiences, I realized I needed to minimize my distractions - taking a break from social media has been profoundly helpful and refreshing.

Through this pause, I’ve noticed that social media is just as toxic as I thought it was... However, it’s also a beautiful place to share, learn, and connect - and that’s what I have missed the most about @instagram. I miss learning about new people and ideas and connecting with my friends, near and far. And, I do miss sharing little updates about myself. As much as I love my sacred alone time, I also love outward expression. So, I wrote a post about the things I’ve done and learned to catch up on what I’ve missed sharing out loud throughout my social detox:

Here are Some of the Best Things I’ve Done During My Social Media Detox

Deliberately Focused My Attention

I’ve spent a lot of time devouring the content of one of my expanders - a concept I was introduced to by Lacy Phillips of Free + Native.

Elena Brower is at the top of my expanders list  - I am wildly inspired by her grace, her intelligence, the way she speaks, her artistic talents, the presence she carries as a yoga and meditation teacher, and her writing. Most importantly, I am inspired by her humanness  - the humility and strength in which she expresses her talents, her blessings, her faults, and her shortcomings.

As I have immersed myself in her work and teachings, I find myself wholeheartedly striving to be the highest version of myself - soft and strong, poised and fun.

Thank you, Elena.

Re-Connected to The Moon

On April 15th, my friend Kate and I went to a group reading offered by a local astrologer. There were approximately 20 people there and she went around and individually read each person’s chart aloud. At the reading, I was reminded that we all have unique gifts in this world (thanks to our planetary alignments) and I need to tap into the strengths of my Sun in Virgo and my Moon in Aquarius.

Then, on April 29th, Kate and I spent the evening outdoors as the Full Moon rose in Scorpio. We hiked to the top of a hill during dusk and walked back (with our phone flashlights) after dark. It was great to journal and reflect, but the best part was the nighttime adventure outdoors!

And before I move on, Happy New Moon in Taurus!

Teaching in Moderation

I am a teacher.

In 2017, I barely taught yoga or mindfulness or movement practices. After teaching (almost) full-time for two straight years, I had nothing left to give at the end of 2016. These past few weeks have been a wonderful reminder of how important teaching is to me, my heart, and my soul.

I’ve taught public classes, a corporate mindfulness meditation, a private bachelorette party in the hills, and a private birthday party literally less than two feet from the waves on the beach in La Jolla.

Teaching feels a lot different today.

I’ve learned, I first need to fill my cup before I fill everyone else's and I’ve learned the importance of saying “no” to teaching opportunities. Not every opportunity is the right opportunity for me and when I say “no” to things that are not a good fit, it allows that opportunity to be passed to the right person and it keeps my calendar open for divine destiny.

In short, I love to teach, but as with all good things, in moderation.

I Got a New Tattoo!!!

The Arabic word Inshallah has meant a lot to me for years. It translates to ‘God Willing’:

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I’ve Taken A LOT of Photos of Mowgli (and not much else):

Here are Some of the Best Things I’ve Learned During My Social Media Detox

Less is More

Whoa, I tremendously overscheduled myself the first 7 days of my social media detox. I’m talking an abundance of day-time commitments and 6 nights straight of evening engagements.

No joke, on the Monday AM of that week, looking at my calendar gave me anxiety.

Through that whirlwind - a maxed work schedule, back-to-back social engagements at night, and a two-day training on the weekend - I realized (again) that I need to holistically look at my calendar before I say ‘yes’ and instead say “I’ll get back to you” prior to making commitments (and let go of FOMO because FOMO is better than exhaustion).

Even though all of the social engagements I scheduled were things I wanted to do, I need to say ‘no’ in order to prioritize my priorities and my sacred alone time.

Podcasting is Equal Parts Fun + Hard

My friend Nina Petruzzo and I are starting a podcast together!!! This has been a little dream of mine for about one year now and at the end of 2017, I asked Nina if she wanted to be my co-host and she said yes!

I equate trying to start this podcast to the first time I ever tried to take off a brand new wetsuit after surfing. If you’ve never taken off a brand new wetsuit before - it’s really hard.

...that’s what she said. Sorry, I had to, and it’s my website, so I can that’s what she said myself.

In all seriousness though, we’ve struggled to align our schedules (she lives on the East Coast, I live on the West Coast). Also, trying to figure out how to record (and make it sound good) has been tough.

Nevertheless, trying to start this podcast with Nina has been SO much fun. I love collaborating with her - we are both so deep and creative, in our own ways. And, most importantly, I am enjoying the challenge!

We cannot wait to share our first season with you in late June!!!

My Body and Skin are a Canvas for What I Eat, Think, and Feel

At the same time I went off of social media, I got all sorts of crazy (in a good way) and I decided to stop eating desserts for awhile and to focus on eating ‘healthier’.

For quite some time, I ate ice cream every day and I ate multiple burritos a week and I used cheese pizza as a spoon for ranch dressing. So, even though I was eating relatively healthy for the most part during the day - everyday, I’d eat a lot of cheese and cold dairy... and for my body, that feels shitty.

The first few days of my clean eating quest were A STRUGGLE. Thankfully, it got a lot easier over time. About 10 days in, I noticed a difference in my skin, my sleep improved, and my body felt good - I felt nourished. Then, I ate french fries two days in a row and I immediately broke out in my ‘problem’ area.

One night while I was journaling, I wrote: ‘my body and skin are a canvas for what I eat’... I paused, and scribbled: ‘and think and feel’. In my notebook, I wrote: ‘my body and skin are a canvas for what I eat, think, and feel.’

In my opinion, that has been one of my most profound thoughts of 2018.

When my mind is calm and focused, my body is relaxed and my energy is sharp. When I reach for my practices (prayer, meditation, phoning a friend, yoga, journaling, breath work) instead of allowing my anxious thoughts to loop, I feel stronger and more flexible - physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

More and more, I’m realizing how interconnected I am. It’s something I’ve always theoretically known and I’m finally experiencing it, for myself.  What I eat impacts the way I feel, the way I feel is a catalyst for what I eat, and what I think shifts how I feel and eat.

Even though I am all about owning and loving my shadows...right now, I’m focused on creating my highest vibrations and that means healthy food, being aware of my thoughts, and staying committed to my practices to avoid feeling unnecessary stress, anxiety, fear, or worry.

In short, to summarize this past month, I have learned that the little choices I make everyday are the ones that determine how I experience myself and my interactions with others. And, I want to be more mindful of those little choices because those collective experiences amount to my big picture.  

Reflections from the Spring Equinox: Questions vs Answers

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It’s almost been two years since I stopped taking birth control.

For years, I consumed the pill daily to protect myself from an unwanted pregnancy and to keep my cycle 'regular'. Yet, I started to realize that my body is not designed to be controlled. As a woman, I am designed to naturally cycle.

Molecularly, my body is comprised of the same elements found in Space and on Earth. The same elements that cause the Earth to tilt on its axis every Spring and Fall.

I innately began to crave my own rhythm.

For the last few months, I have delved deep into exploring my womanhood - a lot of my free time is spent researching the best practices for supporting my cycle. With each new finding and discovery, I have become increasingly passionate about women’s health, as it relates to hormones and menstruation.

I’m not quite ready to share about that topic, though... I have only scratched the surface and I still have a lot to learn. Nevertheless, I guarantee you’ll hear more from me about those subjects in the very near future.

With that being said, learning more about myself and my biology has made one thing incredibly clear: the questions I ask are more important than the answers. My body, my mind, my spirit, and my life - all of those things - are going to constantly evolve and change. It’s very probable the ‘right’ answer for today will not be the ‘right’ answer for my future-self.

Therefore, I am getting comfortable with asking the questions, instead of knowing the answers. For most of my 20s, I felt as if I couldn’t be comfortable until I had everything figured out. As a 30 year-old-woman, I am getting comfortable with the idea that the answers are going to change so I need to get better at asking the right questions.

So, here are my questions for you today: Where are you at on your path? And, how do you meet yourself where you’re at in this very moment?

Why I Stay Away from the ‘Good’ Stuff and Make Choices That Hold Me Back

The question:

Why do I stay away from the 'good' stuff - and - instead, make choices that hold me back?

...has come up a lot for me in the past few months.

We have spent the better part of the last year and a half training our very anxious rescue-pup, Mowgli. In November 2017, we finally connected with a group of trainers that are getting through to him (and most importantly, me). Mowgli goes for pack-training twice a week without Alex and I and we train with Mowgli on Saturdays. We received very clear  ‘at home marching orders’ from our trainers when we started our sessions. And, as much as we want Mowgli to be a confident, relaxed dog - I don’t always follow through with our trainers' instructions.

Mowgli

In the case of Mowgli, I often make decisions that hold us back because:

1) I get lazy - the training regiment requires intense hyper-vigilance. I'm supposed to monitor every move he makes and every step he takes.

2) I love him so much and I just want to snuggle and kiss and love on him every single second.

Slowly, we are figuring things out with Mo. Yet, I frequently catch myself doing things that I know are 'bad*' in other areas of my life, as well.

For instance, I have been consciously eating a vata-pacifying diet this Winter. By nature, I am always cold and I can be incredibly ungrounded during the dryer, colder seasons. Recently, on a Sunday night, I declared, “I’m not going to eat ice cream again until it’s 70 degrees outside.”

The very next day, I texted Alex at 8PM to ask him if we could go get froyo together. Immediately after I sent the text, I had an intuitive thought: JULIA DON’T EAT THE FROYO - my mind screamed.

I silenced my internal wisdom and drove us to Yogurtland.

Right after my third bite, I knew something was very, very wrong. Whatever I bit into broke my three-week old filling. Oh, the irony - I’m highly confident that my love of ice cream caused that specific cavity in the first place.

Let me rewind for a moment before we proceed...I am absolutely terrified of going to the dentist. Before my visit in late December of 2017, I hadn’t gone to a dentist in almost 4 years. Alex, more or less, forced me to make the appointment and go.

During my first visit, I quickly learned had 3 cavities. When I begrudgingly went to get them filled the following week, their equipment stopped working half way through my appointment. Which meant I had to go back to the dentist, a few days later, to get my third cavity filled (to be clear, I went to the dentist 3x in 3 weeks).

Then, I ignored my intuition and I landed myself back in the dentist chair - for a 4th time in less than a month - WTF!

The night of the froyo fiasco, I was really disappointed in myself. Why did I not listen to the voice that was directing me to make the 'good' choice? My intuition told me - go home, eat some berries, make a fire, enjoy a cup of tea, read a book, and then go to sleep. What kept me from listening to that intuitive thought?

As I reflected on that - when I say reflected, I mean a mix of agonizing and journaling, meditating, and speaking to my mentors and trusted peers - I came to some powerful realizations that I’d like to share:

  • Self-Growth/Personal Development/Evolution - whatever you'd like to call it - requires self-love and worthiness. In order for me to move forward, I must first 1) love myself and 2) believe that I deserve a life beyond my wildest dreams. Until I can get to that place - a place where I love myself and feel worthy of life’s greatest gifts -  it’s hard for me to go anywhere.

  • Self-Growth/Personal Development/Evolution is hard. It’s painful and sad and confusing. Moving in the direction of my highest-self often means I am learning or moving through a challenging life-lesson. Or establishing a boundary. Or walking away from a relationship that is no longer healthy nor thriving. All of those things feel super shitty and all of those things are necessary in order for me to evolve and meet my destiny.

  • Lastly, I can’t step in the same river twice. When I make the decision to move towards the 'good' - to change, to grow, to develop, to evolve - that means I’ll never return back to this moment - to these feelings, experiences, relationships, patterns. For better or worse, moving on means leaving behind where I am at. And, even though that’s great - it’s tough as hell.

These realizations made one thing very clear:

When I am self-selecting things that ‘hold me back’ or not listening to my intuition, I need to check-in. I need to ask myself:

  • How can I lean further into believing in my worthiness and practicing self-love?

  • What am I holding on to that’s no longer serving my highest-self?

  • And, what can I memorialize right now so I can peacefully release it and move forward?

*For me, anytime I am making “unhealthy” choices or choosing to stay stuck - it a sign of the fact that I am afraid of the unknown.  It means there is still work to be done or something I am not seeing clearly about myself. And, while that may monetarily suck, it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s an opportunity for me to reinvent. It’s a chance to learn something so I can pass along my lessons and inspire someone else when they find themselves in a similar circumstance.
 

Me Too - My Story + The Path to Healing 

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Recently, I went to dinner with three women - we dined at the same restaurant that my boyfriend and I went to on our first date. 

In conversation, I casually mentioned that I let Alex walk me home that first night because "I thought I could take him.”

Immediately, one of the women said, "I would never want to date a guy I thought I could beat up." 

That was not the first time I said I felt comfortable around a man because I thought I could protect myself... I always joke that, in spite of my small frame, I can physically "take" most men. 

And, I am sure that was not the first time a woman questioned my desire to overpower a romantic partner. Yet, that night, her statement hit me. Hard. 

Why did I want to date a guy I could ‘take’? That question swirled in my mind for days to come.  

Making the Connection - The Origin of the Story

I realized that I did that - told myself I could "take a man" - as a form of self-protection. 

I am confident that I finally made this connection because I’ve recently been “doing the work” to heal, again. 

Someone once brilliantly said, "healing is not linear.” That has been my experience. 

Last year, I realized I was not as “healed” as I thought - I still harbored a lot of visceral pain and post-traumatic stress from sexual traumas I experienced as a teenager.  As the pain from my past experiences began to permeate my life, I prayed for a healer.

Intuitively, I knew that whatever I did, I needed to process my pain on a physical level.

To provide some context - I stopped drinking alcohol and abusing prescription drugs when I was 19 years-old, on February 17th, 2007. The years leading up to that date were horrific. 

A few months after I stopped drinking, I started weekly counseling sessions with a woman who specialized in trauma and addiction. At that point, in 2007, there were a lot of things inside of me that needed to be healed: The issues that acted as the catalyst for my suicide attempt at age 15. The subsequent suicides of my father and step-mother when I was 16 and 17. The problems I had with my family. And, above all, my pain and my shame from physical violence and sexual assaults. 

It was healing for me to speak to my therapist. Yet, last year, I learned that working with my therapist many years ago was only the first layer of relief in my healing process. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that I created a narrative around being stronger-than to protect myself from men. 

Stepping into Honesty Through Conscious Work

In August, the Universe connected me with Blake. Blake is an incredible healer and breath-worker. Through her guidance, I am moving through a program she developed called Sacral Embodiment

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with Blake before our session and I sobbed.  As I sat in front of her - crying harder than I have in years - I shared with her and she listened.

I told her how I wanted my memories to go away. I shared my doubt that they ever will. 

I doubt that I will ever get to a place where I won’t have flashbacks of what he did to me many years ago. 

Not only what "he" did to me. 

But, also what "he" did to me. 

And, "him", too. 

There are more than one "he's" in my story...

Over the last few months, I have thought a lot about him. And him. And, him. 

In my daily meditations, I focus on forgiveness. Forgiving them. Most importantly, forgiving myself.

Given the fact I have been focusing on my personal experience with sexual traumas for the past couple of months, it was almost surreal to see the large volume of "me too’s" that flooded my social media feed on the morning of October 16, 2017.

Almost

Since I wrote the article "What's Stopping You?" in 2015, countless women have reached out to me to share their own personal stories of violence, rape, and sexual assault. I know more women who have been sexually assaulted - assaulted, not just harassed - than women who haven't been inappropriately touched by a man. 

As I said at the beginning, I wanted a boyfriend that I could "take" because he (and he and he) physically hurt me. 

And I don’t ever want to be hurt again.

More so because I don’t want to have another real-life nightmare to remember. 

It’s really uncomfortable for me to share my story. But, for me, I’ve learned that staying silent sucks more. 

Every time I share my story, I feel lighter. Its almost as if it has less power over me as the listener walks away, carrying with them some of my words. Brene Brown says it best, “vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to feeling worthiness”.

I wholeheartedly hope that the vulnerable act of sharing “me too” will prompt the connection that leads to worthiness in both women and men. How sad and powerful was it to see that many women speaking up? What can I do to ensure that young girls will not have to face what generations of women have endured? 

I know that the men who hurt me were hurt, too. That’s no excuse. But, it is a damn good reason for me to take the necessary steps to heal. If I am hurt, I am bound to hurt myself and others, too. 

Thank you for reading my words. For each set of eyes helps me to feel a little bit worthier. 

If you or someone you know suffer from any form of sexual harassment or assault, please seek support: https://www.rainn.org/get-help

 

 

 

Struggle, Perseverance, and Perspective

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While I was participating in Yoga Teacher Training in 2012, I was invited to be a volunteer/researcher on a trip to Kenya with a nonprofit organized of faculty and staff from DePaul University. At the time, I was wrapping up my first year of graduate school at DePaul and I was absolutely in love with yoga.

I became passionate about international, nonprofit organizations after studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. In Cape Town, I volunteered through a U.S. nonprofit at an orphanage in the township of Khayelitsha. My experience in Cape Town left me with many unanswered questions about U.S. nonprofits operating internationally and I was excited to have an opportunity to personally seek some answers in Kenya. 

Upon arrival to Kenya, the culture shock I experienced stunned me. In preparation for our trip, I focused all of my energy on my research instead of preparing for the journey itself, which was equally as important because of my dual role as a researcher and a volunteer in a third world country.

I naively thought I would be “okay” with volunteering in Kenya since I had spent time in South Africa, I did not consider how the people and the environment would impact me emotionally. Once we arrived, my overwhelming emotion turned to panic. At one of our sites, there was extreme, abject poverty. The community lacked all basic resources: food, water, sanitation, and proper education.

I will never forget that deep sensation of fear, how uncomfortable I felt the moment we arrived to Athi River. There was an animal carcass, dripping in blood, swarmed by flies, hanging in the front window of our hotel; they butchered the meat there. My room was tucked in the far back corner of the building. There were dried, dead mosquitos on my wall and a net covering my bed. As I stood mortified in my hotel-room, I was most pained by the fact that I knew my accommodations were significantly better than the majority of peoples’ living arrangements in the local community. 

I felt guilty for being so uncomfortable in our Kenyan home. At night, it got worse. My room was directly underneath the area the staff stayed. At all hours, indecipherable sounds flooded my room. While I was there, I was miserable. In addition to being scared, hungry, tired, and sick from my malaria medication, I experienced intense sadness and guilt. 

With that said, there were many moments of smiles and laughter, but I still cried every night.

The women and men I met were positive, hardworking, and happy. In spite of my perception of what I thought they “lacked”, they lived meaningful, purpose-filled lives. The gentleman responsible for our stay at the hotel was so kind and sincere, yet I still felt so vulnerable and afraid. It was hard for me to accept their reality, I couldn’t get over it — I could not get over how I “struggled” with things in my life back home, where I had absolutely everything I needed and more, while these people were happily living with next to nothing. 

To come full-circle, I am grateful I pressed pause on teaching yoga to instead volunteer and research in Kenya. Traveling to Kenya made me the teacher I am today. Through the process of experiencing fierce, visceral emotions, I learned how to truly sit with discomfort and fear. In the moment, I was petrified. In hindsight, it is one of my most powerful, cherished memories.

Through this experience, I learned the value of intense, personal struggle and of perseverance. When I arrived, I wanted to book an immediate ticket home, but instead I stayed. Staying gave me empathy for those who are scared and want to quit. Staying taught me that we are all more the same than we are different. It humbled me. And, it reminded to stay open and vulnerable because growth and evolution always happen outside of my comfort-zone. When I extend myself, I elevate to a higher perspective. 

This originally appeared on VuoriClothing.com. Vuori is an incredible performance apparel brand from my local community. 

The Evolution of JuliaSparkman.com

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Alas, JuliaSparkman.com version 3.0 is live — launched perfectly, imperfect. 

From 2013 to 2015,  JuliaSparkman.com was hosted on Wordpress. Last June, I transitioned to Wix.  

Approximately three weeks ago, I received a notice from Wix.com; my renewal payment had been denied. For months, I had wanted to transfer to Square Space and I did not know I was set for an automatic renewal on Wix. Thankfully, my credit card was compromised over the holidays — what seemed to be an inconvenience in November graciously forced me to update my website. 

In Wix’s honor, it’s an easy to use platform and their backend requires little to no effort to function and look clean. Nevertheless, I prefer the look and features of Square Space — the payment decline was just the nudge I needed. While I am confident there will be major changes in weeks to come, I am happy with the updates and the aesthetics of my present rendition. 

I decided to re-write all of the copy on my website before making the change — that included new personal and yoga biographies. 

As I reflected on what I wanted to say, it made me consider why I launched JuliaSparkman.com in the first place. Initially, JuliaSparkman.com was a platform for me to write outside of academia and for me to share my story. Since I was 19, I’ve known I’ve wanted to write a book about my life and I viewed JuliaSparkman.com as an opportunity to practice “speaking” from my authentic voice. 

Shortly after I bought the domain, I began writing two posts a week for an organic, fair-trade incense company and the need for my own site became obsolete — I was being paid to write about yoga and wellness! From 2013 to 2015, JuliaSparkman.com received very little attention from me. I loved writing for myInsens, yet it was not a platform for me to tell my story.

A year ago, I was ready to share “my truth” and I updated to Wix. In hindsight, I was not as ready as I thought — I held back most of my truth and refrained from sharing A LOT of important stories. 

My resistance to put it all out there came from overwhelming fear and shame. It also came from listening to naysayers. Fortunately, I am no longer held back by what anyone else has to say. As of late, I am wholly surrounded by people that ask “why aren’t you sharing your story?” versus “why would you share?” 

For the last six months, I’ve barely written at all. I got tired of writing shallow stories that barely scratched the surface. I also was uninspired by a lack of purpose for the site. While my website is a nice landing page to direct students to find my classes — I wanted to have a greater vision behind my energy investment. 

Even with the templates provided by each host, building a website takes a lot of time and effort. Through building websites, I’ve learned that all a goal takes is a VISION and hard WORK. 

I’m happy to launch this new version with a clear vision in mind: 

A space to share my public yoga classes, teacher trainings, events, and retreats.

AND

A platform to share MY story and the stories of other inspiring beings. 

My stories and the stories of others will be coming soon. I cannot wait to share my heart, soul, and experiences with you. 

 

Tails from Mowgli

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At the end of April, I moved from Mission Hills to Cardiff by the Sea, California. The move was highly intentional and desired. Yet, it happened quickly and it required me to step away from teaching 15+ yoga classes I loved and my grounding morning rituals.  On the morning of May 7th, I rushed out the door to teach two classes at CorePower Yoga Del Mar. There are few things I adore as much as my morning routine and I am still learning how to best incorporate them into my lifestyle in North County. 

After my classes, I arrived home incredibly hangry. Alex and I immediately journeyed to Claire’s on Cedros to eat — completely oblivious to where we would go when we were done eating. There were several dogs on the patio at Claire’s and that led me to asking Alex if we could adopt a kitty.

Unsurprisingly, the conversation shifted to adopting a dog — something I also wanted to do. After we wrapped up lunch, we headed straight to Helen Woodward to “look” at the puppies available for rescue. 

I had initially browsed the Helen Woodward website to coax Alex into adopting a feline friend. As I searched, I noticed one shepherd puppy listed on the page and was eager to meet her. Upon our arrival, that beautiful babe was on her way home with another family. 

I was a bit disappointed until we walked around and I laid eyes on a little black pup. 

When we first met him, Mowgli’s name was “Illinois”. It may have been his floppy ears or the fact that I was born and raised in that state, either way, I was immediately drawn to Mowgli’s cage. We asked to visit with three dogs — Mowgli was the first on the list and the only one we actually met.

From the get-go, it was evident, Mowgli had found a home. After playing with him for less than ten minutes, we were ready to initiate the adoption process. 

We arrived as two and left as three. 

Mowgli was a precious angel for the first twenty-four hours after we brought him home. Quickly, we learned that Mowgli is a lot like his mother — playful, energetic, and mischievous. 

Mowgli’s spirit has reminded me the importance of being curious. His actions encourage me to stop and wonder, “what’s that, why is it there, and what is its purpose?” His curiosity often gets the best of him and he finds himself in trouble. For instance, I see him questioning the taste of the carpet as he goes for the chew. It was cute the first time, I must admit. Now, it challenges my patience.  

Patience has been a lesson I’ve learned from Mowgli throughout the last couple of weeks. Mowgli sincerely does not know any better when he does naughty things. More than anything though, I’ve learned to be patient with life’s transitions and its’ “in-betweens”. Through his antics, Mowgli is teaching me to appreciate the moments that frustrate me. Even though I desperately want a well-trained dog, there is nothing cuter than a puppy and I must savor every [annoying] moment. 

As Mowgli learns the difference between “right” and “wrong”, it’s helped me reflect on the importance of seeking guidance from others. Alex and I have both had dogs in the past, but we’ve never been responsible for training a puppy of our own. Therefore, I find comfort in seeking guidance from trained professionals. In addition to Mowgli, I am finding it equally, if not more beneficial, to seek guidance for myself. It is powerful to admit you do not have all of the answers and to ask someone else for assistance. 

It’s funny, all of the advice I have received for Mowgli has paralleled to my life. Everyone suggests we create a routine and set boundaries. Similar to Mowgli, I am quite wild. Having a routine allows me to ground and strategically prioritize the things that create peace and purpose — like meditation, eating well, yoga, and journalling. 

For me, creating boundaries is challenging — thankfully, Mowgli has demonstrated how necessary they truly are. In the wise words of Brené Brown, “boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love.”

As Mowgli may not initially understand the boundaries we set, I realize people in my life will also feel put-off by some of my decisions, as well. Nevertheless, as Brown says, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

It’s extremely hard to disappoint a puppy. But, through the boundaries we create,  I’ve learned the power of unconditional love — it supersedes any test of patience, annoyance, or “misbehavior”.

Lastly, bringing Mowgli into my life has reminded me that life happens fast. The morning of May 7th, I had no idea I’d go to bed the owner of a dog. Mowgli has taught me to expect the best — anything and everything is possible. 

 

Deconstructing Feminism: A Reawakening of My Divine Feminine Energy

On a brisk day in the Fall of 2010, fate struck — I arrived to work scheduled to serve a private party for Gloria Steinem. As a waitress at Fred’s at Barney’s New York, celebrity clientele was the norm. Nevertheless, that afternoon was my first encounter with a prominent women’s rights activist. At the time, I was a senior at DePaul University and heavily entrenched in the critical, intersectional analysis of cultural and gender disenfranchisement. Awestruck by her unexpected presence, I do not remember much about the experience given my overwhelming excitement. 

My undergraduate and graduate studies thoroughly uncovered various gender inequalities. From historical prejudices to problematics of socialization to disproportional access to opportunity, it became empirically evident that my identity as a women left me at a societal disadvantage. 

As the data I uncovered revealed these truths, I started to feel as if it was “wrong” for me embody feminine characteristics. 

My interpretation of feminism became suppressing my sexuality, building my career over starting a family, and fighting for my place at the “top” of the capitalistic hierarchy. In short, elevating gender “equality” meant embodying stereotypical masculine qualities: independent, aggressive, tough, competitive, and so on and so forth. With this understanding, I made it my personal responsibility to promote gender “equality” through my work. 

After graduate school, I spent two years working full-time in yoga — I stepped down because felt as if I should be doing “more” professionally. I transitioned to a short-stint working for a burgeoning company. Then, I independently launched a consulting agency. I started The Julia Sparkman Agency to prove something (to myself). 

After The Julia Sparkman Agency gained traction, I met Alex. Our relationship shifted all of my perspectives. For the first time, being a woman in the stereotypical sense felt good — to be soft, vulnerable, and supported — it is beautiful. For years, I thought I needed to be strong and do it all myself.  It is unbelievably nice to have a man that can care for me, while he simultaneously encourages me to follow whatever path feels intuitively best. 

With that said, today, being a feminist means making informed, authentic choices.

Cultivating my divine feminine energy means giving myself space to feel and to openly express myself. It means appreciating some of the stereotypical aspects of being a female and neglecting some of the others.

Feminism means embracing that my story will differ from other women’s stories. 

Constructing my own understanding of feminism, I personally reflect less on professional choices and more on lifestyle and self-fulfillment. For years, I thought it was crucial that I up-leveled women’s ability to earn and take on similar roles to our male counterparts.

Today, I am less concerned with my title and more concerned with the legacy of my work. As a feminist in 2016, it’s imperative I empower women to make decisions that align with their intuition and to worry less about what others’ think and to trust the outcome of their choices.

The more I can cultivate a space for others to create a life that works for them, I truly believe I am uplifting the lives of both women and men. 

To uplift — that’s feminism. 

Lessons I Learned From Deciding to Move While in Mexico

On the afternoon of Friday, April 1, Alex and I departed from San Diego, California to travel to West LA — we used LAX as our launch pad for our trip to Mexico City.  Prior to leaving, we stopped for two of North County’s prized gems: an iced Americano from Zumbar and a Mozy’s burrito. As we merged into the traffic of I-5, I experienced a twinge of sadness as I watched the surf minimize from the rearview mirror. Paradoxically, that emotion actually made me happy— until that moment, I had never been bummed to leave the place I lived in to travel somewhere else.  

For years, I longed to be aboard every plane I saw trail across the sky. When I began actively traveling six years ago, subconsciously, I traveled to escape. Now, I travel for enjoyment. 

Mexico City gives meaning to the word “sprawl”. By foot, metro, uber, and bike we trekked to a handful of its fabulous museums and sites. We went to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Museo Frida Kahlo, Museo Soumaya, Palacio Bella Artes, and the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Each location was incredible and we especially loved all the unique, vibrant neighborhoods (Colonia Juárez, Roma Norte, La Condesa, and Centro Histórico… to name a few). We also ate well and drank A LOT of espresso. Nevertheless, this is not a post about Mexico D.F. — instead, it’s a summary of what I learned from deciding to move on my trip. 

When I left on Friday the 1st, I was confident I would eventually move to Cardiff. However, I had no idea I would call it “home” when I crossed back over the border. Over a late lunch, after our trip to the pyramids, I texted my landlord my thirty-day move out notice for my apartment. Month-to-month leases are amazing, aren’t they?  

Once the text was sent, I felt a rush of positive emotions. The only thing I really worried about was my yoga classes. Even though I did not realize it at the time, I set things in motion for this transition prior to departing. A week before I left, I made the challenging decision to give-up my permanent classes at studios outside of CorePower Yoga. I realized, if I wanted to teach full-time and give 100% to my clients, I needed to teach more classes at LESS studios. Some weeks, I would teach at up to eight different locations. Bouncing all over the city to teach a class or two at a time was NOT sustainable. When I made the decision, I knew I would miss the students and the energy of each space — I did not know I would be setting myself up for an easier transition once I made it back to the States. 

Secondly, I have been a part of CorePower Yoga’s teacher training program for a few years. In December, I decided to take “two” rounds of facilitation off. When the February session of teacher training began, I was sad that I was not slated to rejoin the teacher training staff until the Fall. For a moment, I considered asking to join a summer session — something inside told me not to act. Since I waited, I am now a coach of the Summer Power Yoga Teacher Training team at CorePower Yoga Del Mar. Had I emotionally reacted, I would have spent the summer commuting North to South. And, I would have missed the opportunity to coach with one of my best friends, Kim. 

Therefore, the first lesson I learned in Mexico City was the powerful, long-term impact of my decisions. Making the choice to step away from three wonderful yoga communities and to take time off from South County teacher training was really hard. At the time, it honestly seemed a bit illogical. Now, I understand that some of the decisions I make take time manifest into really beautiful things and I must have faith in their magic as I practice patience.

The aforementioned decisions were made because I trusted my instincts — the second lesson I learned while I was away in Mexico.

If you know me, you know, this is not the first time I’ve moved on short notice. Previously, my moves were motivated by the same thing that prompted me to travel: a desire to escape my present circumstances.

I was/am happy with my life in San Diego. Yes, I taught at a few too many studios, a problem I amended before I traveled. This move was/is powered by an instinctual feeling telling me this is what is best. At times, it can be easy to silence the true voice that lives inside of me, especially when it is telling me do to things that are "risky"  or things that may not settle well with other people. I am happy I listened to the loud whisper of my heart, things are transitioning quite effortlessly and I am blessed to move “home”.  

That leads me to the third lesson I learned from deciding to move while in Mexico City: haters gonna hate and it’s unimportant what anyone else thinks.

It is my goal to keep this paragraph as positive as possible, yet I feel it is important to highlight the naysayers and what they've taught me. First, a HUGE thank you to those who have wholeheartedly shared their love and support. And to those that have proverbially “shitted on” my move, I must also say, THANK YOU. Thank you for being my greatest teacher. Through you, I have learned to THINK before I speak and to try not to place my own doubts, fears, and judgements on others. 

This experience has taught me life moves really fast and it is my responsibility to make the best of it.

It's impossible to tell how the decisions I make today will impact tomorrow, so it is important I listen to my heart and silence the thoughts of others. I've learned, it’s ALWAYS the journey, not the destination. And more importantly, it’s who you are journeying with that makes the biggest difference. 

7 Things I Am Doing to Keep My Spirit Sparked

Pioneering as an entrepreneur has been the most exciting, torturous, confusing, certain, and fulfilling time of my life. Often, I am completely exhausted by day’s end, in a good way. It reminds me of the same exhilarating exhaustion I experience the first six months of living in a new city. That time when you have no idea where you are going or where anything is and something as simple as navigating home becomes a complexity. Nevertheless, in most instances, the magic, the spark, that drives entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs comes from the pursuit of their diverse passions.

The aforementioned sentence is something I remind myself of daily, it is what keeps me inspired to create time and space to pursue what I love. I understand entrepreneurialism is hard-work and being from the Midwest, hard-work is something I love. I’m sure I could “hustle harder” and “be further” than I am right now. Yet, as I venture down the road of pursuing new projects, I am committed to staying true to my heart and I have found it’s the following 7 things that most keep my entrepreneurial spirit sparked:

1. Acceptance of a Non-Normative Schedule

I weigh all seven days equally. For me, I have learned running errands is more efficient midday on a Tuesday and fortunately, I am in control of my schedule, so that’s when I go. Furthermore, I do a lot of my most creative work early in the morning and late in the evenings. And, I often connect with friends midday during the week because that is when it is convenient for me. For awhile, I mentally struggled when I rested on a weekday or worked on a weekend. And now, I am learning to do what supports my schedule best regardless of day or time. 

2. Putting on My Oxygen Mask First

As I write this post, I have other deadlines for The Julia Sparkman Agency and other clients I need to address. I am confident I will complete my tasks; however, I am committed to writing a post weekly for myself and it is Saturday and not finished, so I made this my first priority. 

The Julia Sparkman Agency is not Julia Sparkman. Any entrepreneur or any worker, for that matter, can take the underlined words from the previous sentence and first exchange their place of work/business/startup and then their name. 

To keep my spirit sparked, I must spend time working on my projects.  

3. My People 

My closest circle, the people I spend a majority of my time with, is relatively divergent. I teach private yoga to business executives, a logician, and an artist. My closets friends are wildly successful, pursuing their own things: one runs a nonprofit, another is the Founder/CEO of a yoga subscription box, there is a financial maverick, one dear friend owns a Pilates studio, the list goes on….. Also, teaching at a variety of yoga studios exposes me to a plethora of amazing people. 

Level water seeks level water. 

4. Repeating the Mantra: Discipline Creates Freedom

I am an avid listener of The Tim Ferriss Show. I strive for a utopian of efficiency and optimality, yet I am a free spirit and I love spontaneity. The foundation of all of my pursuits rests upon my disciplined practice of morning meditation, followed by hot water with lemon and eating breakfast. Keep in mind, I have to be at a yoga studio to teach two days a week at 5:30AM. So, to accomplish my routine, I must wake up no later than 4:40AM. 

At first, it was painful (and it still can be depending on what time I go to sleep). However, this simple act of discipline enables me to live the rest of my day more freely (every time). When I first started, I would skip my routine on the days I had early mornings. I did not notice a real shift in my life until I started meditating everyday. I’ve learned, I must start with something I can commitment to, then add on. What began as a five minute meditation is now the best twenty minutes of my being. 

5. Openness

At first, I took a myopic approach presenting my services and identifying my market. As a consultant and creative partner, it is essential I stay open to the needs’ of my clients. Initially, I tried to tightly package my offering and approach and that stifled my creativity. Now, I am finding greater success and personal enjoyment through simply listing my offerings and allowing conversations to natural evolve into a project. I look forward to rolling out TheJSAgency.com 2.0 soon! 

6. Historical Reading

It’s easy for me to get caught up on screens, communicating strictly with emojis and bitmojis, living my life from apps. So, for me, it’s healthy to remain grounded in history and continuously expose myself to literature with the proper English and grammar we lost to the twentieth century. Biographies are my favorite, I am currently reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley — I am finding many parallels and lessons relevant to my daily life. As I build for the future, I find it most helpful to understand and reflect upon history, from diverse contexts and perspectives.

7. Making Health a Balanced Priority

In some way, shape, or form, I move everyday. My diet is a balance of raw fruits and vegetables, burritos, and pizza. I’ve learned, all it takes is fifteen minutes of movement to make me feel good. An hour class is obviously preferred, but if fifteen minutes at home is all I have, it is better than no minutes and keeps me accountable and on track. For nutrition, I literally eat raw carrots and spinach everyday — I crave it. I do my best to eat seasonally, too. I also eat dessert everyday. And, there is not a week that goes by without a burrito and pizza. 

I schedule meditation/yoga/Pilates/running/hiking/time outdoors into my day. If I am not taking time to enjoy life, eat good foods, and move, my work does not manifest the same. Healthy balance is essential to my best performance. 

8. Overachieving

I say I am going to do seven things, then I do eight. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs because they want to go above and beyond. I keep my entrepreneurial spirit sparked by continually surpassing my own personal expectations with a full heart. 

Goals, Intentions, and Feelings -- Manifesting 2016

Manifesting 2016.jpg

Last Sunday, BuddhiBox Founder, Maxine, hosted a party inspired by Danielle Laporte’s, The Desire Map, for her local BuddhiBabes. Familiar with The Desire Map, I was eager to join. Since October, I have hosted an intention setting workshop called After the Mat. I designed After the Mat to transition the power of intention I found in my physical asana practice to daily living. Practicing yoga from a place of intention allows one to manifest the quality physically — as we invite that framework into our anatomy it is easier to find it within our thoughts and activities. 

To achieve goals, After the Mat focuses on intention — The Desire Map focuses on feelings. For instance, my goal to travel is produced by my desire to feel freedom, spontaneity, adventure, and presence. More than the travel itself, I want to feel those feelings — travel without the feelings of freedom, spontaneity, adventure, and presence would not satisfy me.

The Desire Map inspired me to examine the why behind my goals. What do I want to feel when my goal is accomplished? If the desired feelings are absent, the outcome will feel less meaningful. 

Yoga teaches me NOW is always the best time to start. Whether it is a New Year or a new day or a breath, we can begin to live the life our dreams at a moments notice. And, through my practice, I’ve learned, things are perpetually changing. I cannot expect static goals/feelings/intentions to serve my ever changing reality. Internal and external stimuli tirelessly shift my physiology and ideologies. It is essential I regularly examine and spend time with my goals, intentions, and desired feelings. 

Converging the wisdom I learned from After the Mat and The Desire Map, here is my process of intention setting: 

1. Clear Your Mind

Breathe. Flow through a few round of Sun A. Meditate.

Meet yourself where you are at — if you are tired, move; if you are anxious, move then sit still.  Do whatever you need to do to ground and relax. 

2. Visualize Your Ultimate Desires

What does your dream world, day, job, life…. look like? Imagine your highest vibrating self — what are you doing? What makes you feel most alive? 

Take a few moments to meditate and let your mind run free… Once you’ve explored your thoughts, journal. 

In an email I sent to the After the Mat participants recently, I said, “Journaling is about getting to know yourself and to me, that’s what yoga is, too. In the same way we explore and understand our physical bodies through asana practice, journaling connects us to our thoughts and emotions — it’s “exercise” for our mind and heart.” 

Tangibly explore the thoughts from your meditation on paper. How does it feel to write your ultimate desires? Will you be vulnerable enough to go after what you desire? Give yourself permission to manifest grandiosely. 

I’ll courageously share my part of my vision for 2016 to get you started:

In 2016, I cultivate the incredible relationships I developed in 2015 — while deeply cherishing long-distance relationships with my sisters and friends. I return to my dedicated personal practice. My practice is as important as my professional and personal responsibilities. I attend one spiritual gathering each week. I journal, read, and meditate every morning and evening. 

My yoga-teaching shifts. As I transition away from income-based teaching, I explore opportunities that allow me to teach to disadvantaged groups. At CorePower, The Little Yoga Studio, and Bird Rock Yoga, I share the many lessons I am learning in my life with my students and open myself to learn from them, too.  I write weekly for my personal website and contribute regularly to BuddhiBox, Fast Company, LinkedIn, and NPR. 

I prioritize playtime and constantly seek new adventures. Shelley, Tara, and Curtis come visit me in San Diego and Madeleine and I travel somewhere we’ve never been before (Macchu Picchu?!). I visit Jade in New York, Leeann in Hawaii, and Melody, Stefan, and Jade in Austin.  I take at least one trip alone and one trip with someone I have never traveled with before — and one of those trips will be abroad. I participate in a silent meditation retreat. 

I let go of my need for perfection (and accept that I may eat out more than I cook, and be okay with it). 

3. Identify the Feelings

Examining my vision, the feelings I identified were: 

Prosperous | Purposeful | Loved | Spontaneous

Prosperous: I want to thrive so I can help others to thrive, too.

Purposeful: Everything listed is purposeful. My work, yoga teaching, and writing are all rooted in my desire to inspire. 

Loved: It is my goal to deepen relationships with the people I’ve met in 2015 and visit my loved ones throughout the US and globally. 

Spontaneous: I am incredibly open to how these things manifest and I am excited to experience the journey organically. 

4. Set An Intention: 

Personally, it is helpful for me to have one word that guides my yoga practice. As I sat with the feelings that emerged from my vision, I felt most drawn to purpose. 

In 2016, I am make decisions based on the “Hell Yes” or “No” principle. For far too long, I would agree to things because I thought I “should” do them. This year, I make decisions that support my purpose — my desire to live prosperously with love and spontaneity. 

Take a moment to sit with your vision and your feelings. Decide what most calls to you and set an intention from that space. 

Once you’ve chosen your word, continuously reflect on how you can bring that quality into every aspect of your day-to-day routine. How can you approach the most mundane and complicated task from your intention? 

This post was originally share on The BuddhiBlog. Visit the BuddhiBox Store to find items to support you on your journey of living your intention fully. 

You Can't See What You Don't Know

As the sun was setting last Sunday, my friend Michelle and I stopped for tea at Cafe 976 before taking a casual stroll on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. Inside the lushly covered cafe, the teas appropriately rested on shelves behind the u-shape counter, in the back corner of the old renovated-beach house, approximately ten-feet, at eye level, from where I stood.

Having trouble reading the small labels on the tea canisters, Michelle walked closer to the counter to read their selection on a different menu. I proudly stayed in the same spot and boasted over my love for carrots and my impressive eyesight, as I read the tiny labels from afar. 

“Earl Gray, Organic Rooibos”…. I got to a word I did not know, “Darjeeling Putabong” — those letters went fuzzy. 

Every other word on the shelf was legible.

It did take a small squint to make out, “New Zealand Sunnyslopes”. However, “Darjeeling Putabong” was practically impossible to read. I walked closer to the counter and phonetically sounded it out. Once I captured the word, I was able to return to my original spot and read it with greater ease.

In that moment, I realized: I could not see what I did not know without shifting my perspective. 

It seems so simple; yet, the phenomena made me question what else I was missing? My faculties did not fail me, it was my ignorance — I could decipher the word once I got close enough to see it. The experience reminded me to continuously pursue new understanding.

Without a change in perspective, it is quite possible I may miss something. It’s my responsibility to seek clarity. 

My reflection inspired the work I do with The Julia Sparkman Agency — anonymous organization-wide assessments of executives and staff for a comprehensive analysis and strategy. As a consultant, I metaphorically walk leaders closer to the counter — I provide a clear, non-biased perspective and actionable recommendations for optimizing. 

By function, leaders’ perspectives are different than their subordinates. In some instances, a leader may “rise the ranks” and have a familiarity with the positions they oversee. More so, leaders are disconnected from their subordinates daily responsibilities — unable to fully comprehend their staffs’ organizational experiences and present needs for obtaining optimality.  

As my aforementioned experience shows, it’s simple, once you know it, you can see it.

Yet, even the most approachable leaders are often shielded from organizational realities — inhibiting their ability to efficiently guide their teams and execute initiatives properly.  For leaders to see clearly, it requires a new perspective and a willingness to pivot and try things differently. 

Going for Greatness

There are a select few individuals born exceptional— for most, greatness is a practice, an attribute to work towards daily.

For me, “greatness” requires a copious sum of sweat equity and a refusal to accept “good” as satisfactory.  Over the course of my life, I’ve walked away from a lot of really good things — knowing, that if I held on to that goodness, it would inhibit me from experiencing greatness.

For some, good is enough, for me, it’s not.

The Apple dictionary defines greatness as, “the quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent” and great as, “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average”. In the dictionary, greatness and great are nouns and adjectives, descriptors.

To me, greatness is a verb, an action word… it’s a tireless passion and the pursuit of leaving a positive mark. 

Aspiring to be great is hard.

It’s painful to step outside of the norm and strive for something better than average and it often begins incredibly uncomfortably and messy. Greatness comes from a willingness to let go of perceived limitations and a commitment to do work. To be great, one must accept that greatness takes constant hard work.

I’ve learned, it’s impossible to experience true greatness without embodying the qualities of greatness wholeheartedly — seeking greatness in relationships, friendships, career, health, and spirituality. It’s important to note that greatness is not derived from the immediate outcomes of ones’ efforts; yet instead, it’s measured by the attitude and approach in which ones’ endeavors are pursued.

Great people realize failures can manifest marvelously and continue to live greatly in spite of difficulty.  

Sir Issac Newton said “if I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” His sentiment is the foundation of my greatness: my community. When you are continuously surrounded by great people, it requires far less effort to be great — this realization was a catalyst for The Julia Sparkman Agency.

It takes an enormous effort to be truly great, I founded The Julia Sparkman Agency to support organizational leaders and their team members on their paths to greatness. True greatness requires an outside perspective, an actionable plan, and accountability. 

The Julia Sparkman Agency is shifting the paradigm of our current work/life experiences — elevating greatness as an organizational norm instead of an elite exception. It takes courage to be great…Are you living greatly or are you just good at what you do? What will it take for you to infuse greatness in all your pursuits?

Pursuing greatness is neither egotistical nor self-serving. As the individual becomes great, so will their community. 

Greatness is finding your spark so others’ can light theirs, too. 

The Julia Sparkman Agency logo was proudly made by Humble Goods

 

Come Alive - The Olivia Wong Story

For the last few months, I’ve been writing for BuddhiBox, my dear friend Maxine’s company. I am grateful to have Maxine in my circle — as she finds her own success, she is focused on elevating the strengths of others.  Each month, BuddhiBox donates a portion of their proceeds to a nonprofit — and it is my job to write an article about that organization and its’ founder(s).

A story I recently wrote really affected me. Through that experience, I was inspired to take some of that work to my own platform to share other women’s inspiring stories. I truly believe I find success because the people around me are finding success, too. Even though those in my circle have different end goals, we are all sharing the same resources and supporting one another as we find our growth. 

The first person I thought to reach out to was Olivia Wong. I met Olivia this past March at the 6th Annual Live Well Project. I was introduced to the Live Well Project by Neeta Bhushan, Neeta is the Founder and CEO of Independent Awakening (IA) — Olivia is the President. Olivia and Neeta co-hosted the Live Well Project and I was asked to teach a short yoga class for the girls.

My interactions with Olivia the day-of the event were brief. I simply remember an aura of professionalism and positivity. What impressed me most about Olivia was her follow-up. A few days after the event, she requested a short phone call to seek feedback on my experience as a volunteer. I am always most impressed by those driven to grow and I have gravitated towards her ever since. 

Last week, Olivia shared a powerful message with me, “come alive”

She described how a simple phone call sparked a desire to live more fully. “I was on the phone with Neeta and she was pushing me -- she was like, ‘hey, I want you to be more edgy this year. You know, more matter of fact.” says Olivia.

Olivia was ready for the challenge. By day, she is the Program Officer at the Tarsadia Foundation and at work, Olivia is required to change her password every thirty days. “I began to set these intentions”, she said by using “sayYES2life” and “Lifelive2theFULLEST” as her secret code for day-to-day operations. 

A few days after her conversation with Neeta, Olivia was invited to go skydiving. Despite having previously gone cliff jumping in Vietnam, she classifies herself as “deathly afraid of heights.”

Nevertheless, she said yes to skydiving because she knew it would push her limits to be more edgy, “Surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid and didn’t think twice. I looked out the tiny window and saw the sun setting on the horizon. Suddenly it clicked, I was about to jump out of a plane. And right as the hutch opened, I said ‘leap!’”

The experience of jumping out of the plane was exactly what Olivia needed to take the leap and “come alive.” 

“It shattered any fear I held on to and reminded me that fear originates from our mind and the quality of our thoughts. Skydiving pushed me out of my comfort zone; it pushed me to be more edgy. I leaned into the fear so much that I actually passed through it. At first, everything seems so far removed from what we are capable of. But our limits are not created by reality. They are created by our own beliefs. Once your shatter your own limiting beliefs, there’s nothing that can stop you.”

In a few days, Olivia will be boarding a plane again. But this time, she won’t be jumping off. 

Olivia will be traveling to India and Southeast Asia, where she will visit projects that the Tarsadia Foundation supports. “When I was young, my grandfather taught me to travel with purpose. He’d often say, ‘travel to see faces, not places’. I am not going for site seeing; every leg of my itinerary is centered around a purpose or a cause.”

Sprinkled through her travel plans is a visit to Shanti Bhavan, a school for slum children and a stop in Malaysia to meet with philanthropists over IA’s newest ventures. In between for leisure, Olivia is excited to enjoy herself at Sunburn, a large music festival in Goa.

When I last spoke with Olivia, she announced that both her and Neeta were “evolving IA” to scale their impact. “With our old model, we’re only able to reach women in the thousands. We need to drastically recalculate our approach if we want to affect change on a global scale within our lifetime,” says Olivia. 

To come alive then, seems to be rooted in the idea that time is a scarce resource.

To best utilize their resources and scale their impact, Olivia and Neeta have decided to pivot IA from a nonprofit organization to a purpose-driven foundation, “the IA Foundation is investing in women to solve complex problems in the world. We’re looking for female entrepreneurs who can design innovative solutions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.” 

Just as we are about to hang up the phone, she concludes, “No one needs to wait until the end of their life or the end of their career to come alive.” 

Indeed. Through her work, Olivia is encouraging others to “come alive” every day and she’s doing it at 24.

In the spirit of not waiting a moment longer, I leave you with her request, “Ask yourself, what does it mean for you to ‘come alive?’” 

Olivia can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thoughts on "Doing" and "Being"

I’ll be honest, I’ve felt twinges of angst all week at the delay of sharing this post. Posting weekly on my personal website is something I do for myself — additional viewership is simply an added bonus. (Nonetheless, thank you for the bottom of my heart for reading!)

When I recommitted to sharing weekly, my schedule was different. Initially, posting on Monday was effortlessly attainable. Now, I teach four yoga classes on Monday — the window of opportunity to post has narrowed.

Writing for my website is important to me because sharing is a vital component of my personal wellness. Expressing myself in an open forum is liberating. It makes me feel alive and brings me great joy and happiness.

The dark moments I have shared on my site has diminished the power those instances have over my thoughts and identity. All-in-all, sharing on JuliaSparkman.com is one of my favorite activities. 

I am writer — I journal, I write for my personal website, and I am paid to write for other websites, as well.  I am also a yoga teacher, the Founder and Chief Consultant at The Julia Sparkman Agency, and I volunteer in my local communities. For years, I suppressed the desire to write for my own website to instead use that time and energy for projects that fiscally benefited me.

Now, the compensation I receive from the personal commitment to myself and the dedication of time to cultivate my passion is far more valuable than money. 

With that said, I will be the first one to admit that I am always overcommitted. This week, my other time-sensitive obligations prevented me from taking the time I needed to complete this article early. Yet, the anxiety I experienced not dedicating the space to complete these thoughts made me terribly uneasy. It was a great reminder to focus more clearly on my priorities.  

I am driven to be an active participant in life — experiencing as many things as I can with cognizance and conscientiousness. In addition to my external pursuits, since the age of nineteen, I have explored a connection to myself and spirituality. In undergrad, I took every philosophy and religion class I could squeeze into my Communication major.

Independently, I read spiritual literature and religious books and I visit churches and temples.  I pray. I practice yoga.  I meditate. I practice compassion and kindness. I volunteer. I teach yoga. And today, for me, these practices are as essential to daily living as eating and sleeping. 

Given the high degree and importance I have placed upon the aforementioned practices, I was recently scrutinized for my desire to “do” versus “be” — for identifying with so many identities. 

Paraphrasing, I was questioned, "if you are seeking to become one with yourself and all things through meditation, why are you so loudly going after your outside pursuits and so many external activities (aka actively posting on social media and chasing my day dreams)? Why can’t you be happy just being? When will ‘I am’ suffice as your identity? If all things are one — why do you shield yourself from the darkness and only seek the light?”

After wrestling with the thought of “doing” versus “being” — deconstructing “I am” — and, pondering my quest for lightness —  I arrived at a conclusion that satisfied me… 

In this lifetime, it is my dharma to initiate enlightened engagement in people and places — that requires me to act, outside of myself. 

Fortunately though, through my practices of yoga and meditation, all of my “identities” originate from our common source of oneness and all of my work seeks to uplift others to their highest capacity.

I am still uncertain as to why I shield myself from “darkness” — as many of my darkest moments have led me into the proverbial light. However, I do know, that whatever I do, I am going to do it loudly, because Malcolm X shared it best in his autobiography

 “I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things. My older brothers and sister had started school when, sometimes, they would come in and ask for a butter biscuit or something and my mother, impatiently, would tell them no. But I would cry to and make a fuss until I got what I wanted. I remember well how my mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice boy like Wilfred; but I would think to myself that Wilfred, for being nice and quiet, often stayed hungry. So early in life, I learned, if you want something, you had better make some noise.” 

 I truly believe everything you need is inside of yourself but if you want to go beyond your needs to help others’ achieve their own, sometimes it requires stepping outside of oneself and speaking loudly. 

 

26 Things I am Grateful For in 2015

  1. My meditation practice — 15 minutes every morning. 

  2. Beacon’s Beach — An oasis and beautiful manifestation of infinity. 

  3. Iced Americanos — Especially from Cafe Gelato VeroCaffe Calabria, and Copa Vida.

  4. My Home Yoga Practice — Self discovery through organic movement. 

  5. Christina Lynch, Dani Anderson, Jenna Huffine, Jennie Groom, Leeann Hepler, Libby Goral, and Maxine Chapman — Women that get after it and inspire me to do the same!  

  6. Go Light Our World and Kayla Nielsen — A nonprofit and its’ founder and their mission to bring light to the World transparently and authentically. Fall 2016!!! 

  7. The quote: "You accept the love you think you deserve."- Perks of Being a Wallflower

  8. My Yoga Students — For they teach me far more than I could ever teach them. 

  9. Baked Bear — M&M and Funfetti Cookie with Cookies & Cream Ice Cream. 

  10. My Mentors (Past & Present) —  Sue McShane, Professor Dave Ross, Dr. Barb Willard, Dr. Michela Winchatz, Dr. Suchitra Shenoy Packer, Dr. Alexa Murphy, Elizabeth Hinker, Jordan Newmark, Samantha Galvin, Diane Miller, Kaivan Dave,  Melissa Hernandez, Kat Sand, Sheri Colismo… to name a few. 

  11. The Feral Cats in My Neighborhood — A playful reminder to stay curious and ready to pounce. 

  12. The Autobiography of a Yogi — A transformative book that redirected me spiritually. 

  13. Boundaries — Understanding who I am and what my limits are… 

  14. Punjabi Tandoor — The most delicious Indian restaurant in San Diego. 

  15. Tuesday 6AM C2 @ North Park CorePower Yoga — Committed students with wonderful energy and passion. 

  16. Bean and Cheese Burritos from Bahia Don Bravo — Must pour green salsa into wrap before every bite!

  17. The San Diego Yoga Community  — Especially CorePowerBird RockThe House of Yogi East Village, and The Little Yoga Studio. 

  18. The Tim Ferris Show Podcast — A productive, self-building gem in every show. 

  19. Yoga Playlists — Matching my sequences to the musical flow. 

  20. The Anza Borrego Desert — Sunrise meditations and Palm Oasis hikes. 

  21. Gerolsteiner Mineral Sparkling Water — The little things that make the biggest differences. 

  22. The Julia Sparkman Agency — Believing in myself and riding the waves. 

  23. San Diego Weather — The ability to walk barefoot outdoors and feel sunshine on my skin everyday. 

  24. Nighttime Runs through Balboa Park — The European vibe and romantic lighting. 

  25. JuliaSparkman.com — For giving me a space to reflect and share. 

  26. My Family — For shaping me into who I am today.

East Village - I Am Listening

The first time I went to East Village, I was completely dumbfounded. Tents, people of all ages laying in tattered sleeping-bags and rags in the middle of the side-walk, with provisional carts full of belongings at the foot of uber-tall modern condos and apartment buildings. I remember thinking to myself “this is what it will look like everywhere when the World is ending.”  

Coming from Chicago, I knew danger, but I did not know the depths of homelessness, as it is present in San Diego. I always feel safe amid the homeless here, but over the course of one month’s time, I saw four penises while walking to and from Hale Holistic — a yoga studio. I believe the exposures were largely due to the mens’ lack of access to privacy. 

Seeing male genitals and feces is disgusting, but witnessing countless homeless children is purely devastating. And when seeing random penises and homeless children and hundreds of people living on the street became an everyday part of my life, it became impossible for me to sit back and not do anything. 

Studying non-profits in graduate school left me skeptical towards privileged-outsiders effectuating real changes in communities like East Village — I wholeheartedly believe that the solution is found at the roots and is supported, not implemented, by community outsiders. So, I decided to ask East Village community members two questions: What would you say to someone who could make a difference in your life? How can we help you? 

The idea stemmed from ethnographic research I conducted in Kenya for my graduate thesis. Even though my apartment is less than two miles away from East Village, I feel as far removed from the issues in East Village as I did from the lives of my Kenyan friends.

So, I decided to take what I had learned from Kenya and implore a similar project in East Village — with a few upgrades to provide a louder voice to the community. 

Ever since I started talking about the project, one of the first questions I am typically asked is, “have you heard of such and such organization?” I did do some research before I set out… But, I am largely underwhelmed with the support the East Village community is receiving. I am confident the organizations and the field workers are going above and beyond to provide what they can; yet, it is quite evident the needs of the East Village community far surpass the organizations’ present capacities.

Something is missing. 

Several times, I have asked myself, “Who am I to document these people? Who am I to share their stories? I am an outsider — I pass by them on my way to teach and practice yoga. What if I give these people a voice and no one helps them and nothing changes?”  

While I may not have definitive answers to these questions, I am 100% certain I cannot continue to pass by masses of people living on the streets, next to my yoga studio (my place of peace), and not do anything. 

In the movie, Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore asked Marilyn Manson, “If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, who would you say to them if they were here right not?” and Marilyn said, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.”

And that’s how I plan to start supporting my East Village Community, listening.  

What Kind of Person Are You?

On Saturday evening,  I took the long, neighborly stroll from my apartment in Mission Hills to Old Town. We set out with the intention of dinning at Sushi Tadokoro — upon arrival we were told they were booked through the evening. Teetering on the verge of hanger,  we went straight to Indian Grill.

If you're a San Diegan, I know what you are thinking: who goes to Old Town for sushi or Indian food? We do! 

Having finished the Autobiography of a Yogi on Saturday afternoon, the thought of Indian food saturated my thoughts all day. After reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s description of their feasts, I craved Punjabi Tandoor — my absolute favorite place to eat Indian food in San Diego. Since I was unfamiliar with Indian Grill’s menu, I asked my server to select me the “best vegetarian entree”. When it arrived, it could not have been further from what I envisioned myself eating — she brought me the biryani.

I often ask my servers to surprise me and nine times out of ten, it works in my favor — I typically receive something incredible, a dish I may not have personally selected.

On Saturday, it backfired.

In my head, I saw myself eating a creamy curry concoction, full of spice, rice or lentils, and steamed vegetables. I imagined myself dipping our garlicky naan into the overflow of sauce on my plate. Instead, before me was a large heaping of Indian fried rice, no sauce for the naan in sight. The dish was spicy and dry; far from the decadent, juicy meal I had fantasized.

I nonetheless take full responsibility for my dissatisfaction, the waitress adhered to my guidance — it was vegetarian and to her, the biryani may have been the best vegetarian item. 

At dinner, I knew what I didn’t want — I did not want a dish with meat. However, I did not take the time to specifically address and/or seek out my desire and I left feeling discontented.  

While writing in my journal later that evening, I reflected on the experience and it brought me back to a question that had plagued my week… “What kind of person are you?”

The question was initially asked spitefully a week ago on Wednesday — after I made a decision that misaligned with someone else’s life views.

Then, Jacki Carr more delicately re-presented the same question with different verbiage on a short phone call on Thursday afternoon. Jacki asked me to consider what my values are and what my legacy will be… Questions that required me to not only be cognizant of what I didn’t want but intimately familiar with what I do. 

With great clarity, I am now able to answer the question, What kind of person are you?:

I am passionate. Passionate about love, life, and inspired, hard work. I am thinker, a learner — constantly on a quest for new knowledge and insights. I am emotionally, physically, and mentally open and strong. I am a whole person — I refuse to compromise any part of myself for anything or anyone. I am reader, a writer, an adventurer, a yogi, a runner, a teacher, a student, a volunteer, a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, a friend, a best-friend, a consultant, a coach, a strategist, an artist, a dreamer, a traveler, an eater — I am a believer.  I believe the good for me and you is better than the good for just me in each and every single situation and I choose to only surround myself and have relationships with people who believe that, too.

I am Julia Jane Sparkman and I am sure that the person I am today will continue to grow, evolve, and change, so I’m certain you’ll meet a newly developed version of me soon.