3 Reasons to Get in Touch with Your Inner Child

Yoga without a sense of play isn’t really yoga, at all. If you fall out of a pose and can’t laugh at yourself (as long as you aren’t injured), this creates more “vrittis,” or disturbances in your mind, and the whole point of yoga is to learn how to quiet your mind and eventually reach samadhi. Horses appreciate a human’s inner child, too, as it encourages a sense of wonder and awe.

Here are three reasons to get in touch with your inner child, whether you’re a yogi and/or equestrian or not:

1. So you can live in the present moment.

If you haven’t checked in with your inner child in a while, he or she may have a few things to say. You may need to get in touch not just with your inner child, but your past self. Events that caused you great pain as a child could still be affecting you today, even if you’re not conscious of it. I have issues surrounding separation and expressing my emotions because of things that happened when I was ages six to twelve. I’ve known for a few years now that six-year-old me was affecting the way I reacted sometimes, but I didn’t start doing serious work to heal and grow from that until recently. The work isn’t fun, but it’s essential to being able to truly live in the moment. Growth is uncomfortable and, many times, painful, but it’s always worth it.

2. So you laugh more.

Children laugh way more than adults. Laughing forces you to breathe. When you’re tense and stressed out, your breathing moves up into your chest. Laughing encourages the breath to move back down into the belly, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). So lighten up and laugh a little. Actually, laugh a lot. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

3. So you can keep learning and growing.

Children possess such open, unprejudiced minds. Think about how much you learned during your childhood. Think of what your life could be like if you were willing to continue learning like that. With yoga, horses, and life in general, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the less I know. Keeping an open mind is essential to growth.

Your inner child calls to you when you stop to notice a dandelion, when you’re stuck in traffic and see the person next to you singing her heart out and feel an urge to do the same, when you listen to the animals, and when you listen to your heart. Let that child come out to play.

 

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

 

On Sensitivity and Strength

This is for the sensitive ones out there. The ones who cry easily. The ones who feel others’ pain. The ones who have been called weak for being vulnerable. I’m here to tell you that your sensitivity, rather than being a weakness to work on, is a strength to be proud of. I’ve been told I’m too sensitive more times than I can count. The people who have told me this misunderstand me and, surely, any other sensitive beings in their lives. Unless you are sensitive yourself, it can be difficult to understand sensitive people (and animals).

I cry easily and feel everything deeply, but this isn’t something I want to change. Feeling everything deeply isn’t easy and takes A LOT of strength to endure. The Achilles Heel of sensitive people is that we tend to take things personally. So I have done a lot of work on not taking things so personally and, even when they are personal, to understand that others’ words and actions are a reflection of them, not me. I’ve gone through some tough changes and lost friendships in the past few months, and the work I’ve done on taking things less personally has been a huge help in getting through those times. Cultivating self-awareness and committing to never-ending personal growth is essential to sensitive people surviving and thriving in this wild ride called life.

What we sensitive ones must remember is that our sensitivity, no matter how many times we get criticized for it, is a strength we should never seek to be rid of. Sensitive people tend to be more introverted, not necessarily less social, but we need time to ourselves to rest and recharge. We sensitive ones are usually quiet and calm, and when we’re not calm, we have a damn good reason for it. Horses are sensitive creatures and there are, of course, some horses that are more sensitive than others. Horses’ generally sensitive nature enables them to live harmoniously in a herd and to help each other survive in times of danger. Horses’ sensitivity allows them to feel what their herd mates are feeling and what any other beings (predators and humans) around them are feeling. Did you know that if your blood pressure rises, so does your horse’s? The thing is, we shouldn’t try to get our horses to “toughen up,” nor should anyone tell a sensitive person to do so.

Our sensitivity gives us the capacity to be empathetic, nurturing, highly tuned into our environment, aware of others’ needs and wants, and, most of all, strong. Going out into the world is difficult for us some days, but we do it anyway because we must; however, on these days it’s important not to stuff our feelings down and lock them away in some remote cell within. Instead, we must acknowledge whatever we’re feeling, breathe, and say, “I’ll come back to you when the time is right.” And the right time must be soon, for any feelings we don’t deal with in a timely manner express themselves physically as sickness, pain, or disease.

Sensitive ones, I feel you—literally, and I know you feel me, too. Thank you for being you. You are strong. The world needs you. So don’t ever stop being sensitive (as if it’s a choice, anyway), and embrace your sensitivity as the gift it is. Sometimes it’s hard to bear. I don’t enjoy attending most horse competitions anymore because there are so many unhappy horses and horses in pain and, not only do I recognize in their facial and bodily expressions the pain they’re in, I feel it, and I wince and struggle to hold back tears. I sometimes despair that I can’t do anything to help them. Then I remember that my sensitivity is a gift that enables me to have close bonds with horses, other animals, and nature, and to recognize their suffering and speak up for them when I can, whether it’s on this blog or elsewhere on print and social media. So if you haven’t already, dear sensitive ones, figure out how to use your sensitivity to help others, especially those without a voice. Because we feel so deeply, we don’t need words to understand another’s suffering. We just need the willingness and strength to be present with it and then to speak up and make a change.

 

 

Speak from Your Heart

Today an instructor said something to me that no other instructor ever has—she told me to send my horse gratitude from my heart. This riding instructor also happens to be an equine massage therapist, and she pointed out in my lesson that horses have bigger hearts than humans and much larger energy fields. She said that if we want our horses to continue to try for us, we must be grateful to them. Sending them gratitude comes naturally to me, for I’ve felt this way about horses for a very long time. It’s such a privilege to ride upon such magnificent, powerful, graceful, wise beings. Hearing the reminder to send them gratitude certainly didn’t hurt, though, and it felt so inspiring to know there ARE other equestrians out there who feel this way.

Horses are extremely emotionally intelligent. They are social and emotional creatures. How often do you pay attention to how your horse is feeling? Treat your horse like a partner instead of a tool or a recreational vehicle or a means to win ribbons and you’ll have a partnership, a relationship, instead of a constant struggle filled with frustration and misunderstanding. Horses want to be heard. Are you listening?

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P.S. Lara Muller is the instructor who taught me today. Here’s her website if you’re interested in learning more about her: www.jltrainingandsales.com

Out of the Woods…And into the Garden

Ever since I returned from Costa Rica at the beginning of December, I’ve been searching my heart and trying to figure out what to do with my life and how to use my gifts to best serve others. I felt like I was lost in the woods. I took steps to get another “real job,” but I felt quite a bit of anxiety about it. My passion is with yoga and horses. So I made what some would consider the not-so-smart decision and turned down the “real job.” I had faith that I would find a way to do work that spoke to my heart.

Well, I asked and the universe answered. I’ll soon begin work with Wheatland Farm as its barn manager. It provides therapeutic riding and an array of other services and activities. I’m thrilled to be a part of such meaningful work.

I spent a few hours today at the bucolic Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. I’ll be teaching yoga there every Sunday (except the first Sunday of the month) beginning February 21st. On the first Sunday of each month, my yoga mentor, Denise Moore, will be teaching, and I highly recommend attending her class, too. During the colder months, we’ll practice in the cozy greenhouse among the refreshing energy of the plants. Once it’s warm, we’ll practice outside in the lush gardens.

Stay tuned for more yoga classes to be added to my schedule. They’ll be posted here. There are lots of other exciting things in the works, and I can’t wait for them to come to fruition so I can share them all with you.

I’ve always followed my heart, and it has yet to lead me astray. We all have gifts, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what those gifts are and how to use them to serve others. If you spend your life chasing money, power, fame, and material objects, you’ll never be happy. Spend your life instead sharing your gifts, helping others, making this world a better place, bit by bit. Follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.

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What’s the Time?

Last night’s new moon provoked an emotional journey into the past and a night of very restless sleep. All kinds of memories about my pony Sugar Maple came rushing back to me, and the grief felt as fresh as it did the day I said goodbye to him forever. Grief is not something you get through; it’s something you learn to carry. Some days the load is light, and others it’s crushing.

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When I finally did fall asleep, I had a dream the moon herself must have sent me to help me feel better. The Dalai Lama came to me and I asked him for his most wise piece of advice. He replied, “The only time is now.” I recently had a realization that I was letting certain things in my life stop me from being happy—that I was actually stopping myself from being happy. Truly the only moment is this present one. Focusing on NOW makes it easier for me to recognize how much I have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what I’ve lost.

I had the privilege of attending a yoga class with my most favorite teacher, Denise Moore, this morning. She led my 200-hour teacher training, and to practice pranayama, meditation, and asanas led by her this morning was such a treat. Towards the end of our practice, Denise guided us through a lovingkindess meditation. We silently repeated to ourselves, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy and strong. May I live life with ease.” We then extended the intention out to our loved ones (including our four-legged loved ones!), and then out further to our town, our state, and I eventually thought of the entire earth, humanity, animals, plants, and insects. I felt a serene oneness with the earth. When Denise mentioned living life with ease, she pointed out that this doesn’t mean challenges don’t arise—it means that when they do, we continue to let go.

I’ve learned that letting go doesn’t fix everything, but it does give me the strength to listen to my inner wisdom and find creative solutions to whatever challenges I’m facing. Letting go doesn’t mean going down the river without a paddle; it means accepting that you’re going down the river no matter what, but that you can choose which rapids to go over.

What’s stopping you from being happy? I’m going to bet that deep down, it’s you. So get out of your own way and let yourself feel joy and love and compassion. Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, but as Vivian Greene said so well, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

New Beginnings

Horses have a knack for showing us our biggest flaws. When this happens, we have a choice; we can either blame them for our shortcomings, or we can take the opportunity to look within, acknowledge our mistake, and grow. I recently started playing the Parelli Games with Snowy. It’s been a fun way for us to spend our time together and to learn new skills. Snowy has progressed pretty quickly, so the other day I introduced new objects into the games—a tarp, an umbrella, and a big ball. The tarp and umbrella were no big deal for Snowy. He had seen them before and playing the games with them seemed to make Snowy more engaged. He was having to really think, learn, and play all at once.

The ball was a different story. His fear of the ball was evident throughout our session. He always kept his eyes on it and was more tense than usual. I eventually got to the point of being able to hold the ball against Snowy’s body. He stood quietly while I did this, but I could tell from the wrinkles around his eyes that he still wasn’t the ball’s best friend.

The day after our first ball session, I had the ball out in the arena again so we could continue our desensitizing/friendly game. Snowy saw the ball from outside the arena and planted his feet, refusing to come any closer. I stayed calm at first, patiently insisting that he walk toward the ring. My insistence and patience weren’t working, and I felt frustration start to build. I had tried all the tools in my toolbox and nothing was working. So Snowy and I went back into the barn and I groomed him.

Other horsepeople may have their own opinions on what I should have done, but I’ll say this—I was aware of my frustration building, and I didn’t want that frustration to turn into anger. I’m only human, so of course I’m going to experience emotion; however, anger has no place in our relationships with horses. Snowy and I approached the arena again once we were feeling more relaxed, and he walked in with only the slightest hesitation. We worked on more friendly games with the ball and I felt very satisfied with our session.

Snowy taught me that day that no matter what my plan or goal is, I must be flexible enough to listen to his needs. Snowy needed me to be a calm, confident, patient leader, and when I wasn’t able to provide that for him, I took a step back. I would rather take that step back than take my frustration and anger out on a horse or any other animal any day. I’m still growing in my horsemanship, and always will be. Playing with horses offers endless opportunities for growth and learning. I’m thankful Snowy showed me my flaws that day, for it gives me a chance to be a better partner for him. Remember that no matter how much experience you have, it’s okay to try something new. You may feel like a bumbling beginner again, but it’ll be worth it.

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Transforming the Pain of Loss into Love

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“Oh, Sugar, I miss you. I want to see you right now! I can dream of you. But that’s still not enough. Oh yes, it’s pretty rough without you. I’m sailing up to the stars, catching some sparkles for you. Oh, Sugar, how I miss you. Your shiny, velvety coat and flaxen mane and tail. Oh, Sugar, I miss you! Yes, I do.”

I wrote this note to my pony when I was eight years old. School was a distraction; my horse was my life. Not much has changed, but Sugar Maple has moved on to another plane. When I found this note the other day, it hit me in the depths of my heart. Sugar was my pony soul mate. He taught me patience, perseverance, empathy, and compassion. He taught me love. He saved me. You never get over a loss like that. It’s been over a year and a half since I said goodbye for good to Sugar, and the pain is still there.

Even in his death, Sugar taught me. I thought I would never love another horse again. I didn’t think I could. And yet, Snowy, Sugar’s grandson, has worked his way into my heart and makes me smile every day. Sugar has shown me that loss can lead to healing if you allow it; that grief can open the door to more love.

Snowy always knows how to make me laugh.


When I discovered the note, a great sadness settled into me, but right next to it was joy. I never knew sadness and joy could exist simultaneously, but in my heart they did. I was sad for my loss, sad that Sugar is no longer here; but I was also joyful that I was lucky enough to have such a special love in my life. My relationship with Sugar cannot be summed up in words. Our bond surpassed language.

Snowy has been a vital part of my healing process. He makes me laugh even on my worst days. His facial expressions at times look just like Sugar’s, and sometimes I could swear I see Sugar twinkling in his eyes. Still, Snowy is a very different horse than Sugar was and Snowy has taught me new lessons. Snowy lightened me up and taught me not to take myself or life too seriously. He humbled me and showed me how to laugh at myself. He taught me when to be bold and when to half halt.

Horses are mystical, emotional creatures, but they still have four feet on the ground. They can teach us how to soar while staying grounded. They can teach us how to be the best versions of ourselves. They can teach us how to love. The world is going through a turbulent time, and now more than ever we need to remember that love can accomplish more than hate. Compassion will allow for healing and guide us forward into a future with less violence, less racism, less prejudice, and less fear. The horse can show us the way if we simply open our hearts to learning from their wisdom.

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Setting Boundaries: What Horses Can Teach Us

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses issues of bodily autonomy, and may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual trauma.

“I’m not comfortable with you standing so close and touching me. Please stop.”

At least three times, I had asked a drunk male acquaintance at a party I recently attended to back off. Each time I asked a bit more firmly. I repeatedly walked away from him to interact with others and escape his inappropriate advances. When he approached me again and interrupted a conversation I was having with a friend by touching my thigh, I again told him firmly to stop touching me. When it didn’t work, I raised my voice and gave him the equivalent of a horse kick. No, I didn’t literally kick him or physically assault him in any way. I do not advocate physical violence in any situation. But I did verbally stand my ground. I told him it was unacceptable no matter how drunk he was to continue harassing me or any woman after she had repeatedly asked and told him to leave her alone. And what was his reaction to my standing up for myself so strongly? He called me mean. Because in our society, when a woman demands what should be a given—bodily autonomy—she’s considered a bitch.

This is only one of many, many times a male—ranging from acquaintance to stranger—has touched my body without permission, and it could have been worse. Other women have experienced much worse. But the cause is the same—the patriarchal notion that women don’t have bodily autonomy. We treat animals in much the same way. I’ve seen countless horsemen (and women) touch, groom, saddle, and ride a horse when the horse was clearly uncomfortable. How many times have you entered a horse’s, dog’s, or other animal’s space when it was giving you signs it didn’t want you to come so close? The importance of respecting bodily autonomy for women, horses, and all animals cannot be emphasized enough. 


We must build relationships with our horses and earn their trust. We must view other humans and animals as equals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We must not enter another’s personal space without permission. How often do we objectify horses in much the same way women are objectified, determining their worth based solely on conformation/looks? How many times do we enter a horse’s or other animal’s space and begin petting them without heeding warning signs they’re giving that we’re moving too quickly? We must awaken to the fact that horses are sentient creatures. They feel fear, love, affection, grief, and joy. We must realize that all humans and animals deserve to have bodily autonomy.

Horses excel at setting boundaries. They give nonverbal warning signs when their space is invaded, pinning their ears, baring their teeth, and sometimes partially lifting a hind foot in warning. If the invading horse or predator chooses to ignore these signals, the horse will deliver a painful, sometimes fatal kick or strike. Humans can learn a lot from the way horses set boundaries: give warning signs; give the intruder the opportunity to walk away; gradually escalate the intensity of the warning; and, if necessary, deliver the kick or strike (again, not actual physical violence—rather standing up for yourself in a highly assertive manner and/or getting help, including the authorities, if necessary).

Sure, the intruder may call you names, but so be it. His or her opinion of you matters not. What matters is protecting yourself and setting boundaries you’re comfortable with. I believe we can all do better. Bodily autonomy is certainly a feminist issue, but for feminism to be successful, it must be inclusive. Women are not the only ones suffering from violations of bodily autonomy. The journey is far from over, but one step at a time, we can make this world a better, safer place for women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, young girls and boys, horses, and all other animals.

Why I Practice Yoga on Horseback

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“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~Rumi

“Do what is healing to your spirit, and without effort you will bring the world healing in return.” ~Alan Cohen

Pain is part of life. Pain enables us to heal and grow. My journey of healing began with horses and continues with my yoga practice, both on the mat and with Snowy. I began practicing yoga on horseback out of curiosity. My passion for yoga and horses fueled a quiet, but nagging thought in my mind—what would happen if I combined the two?

Good horsemen and women learn a lesson at some point in their equestrian careers: horses are much more than recreational vehicles—they are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. This lesson punched me in the gut when I was eight years old. The equestrian center my mom managed at the time housed an athletic little Appaloosa pony named Trixie. She and I would explore trails for hours. She was every little girl’s dream come true—pretty, reliable, and fast. One day Trixie and I returned to the barn and my mom noticed with horror that Trixie was huffing and puffing and lathered in sweat. My mom pulled me aside and explained to me in a stern voice that I couldn’t just go out and run Trixie as much as I wanted to. She said to me, “Horses aren’t machines. They have feelings. You have to be considerate of them. You should never cause them suffering.” My heart ached for the way I had treated Trixie. Until that day, I didn’t realize that horses had a limit, that they shouldn’t be run all the way back to the barn even if they seemed willing. I felt horrible that I had caused a sentient being suffering. As I walked Trixie out that day, allowing her to cool down, I vowed to never cause such suffering again.

“Under no circumstance should your hand disturb the horse’s mouth. You must learn to stay calm in all situations and control your emotions. There is no room for anger.” ~Xenophon

That day proved to be a turning point in my horsemanship. From then on, I dedicated myself to learning all I could about horses and how to have harmonious, mutually respectful relationships with them. I participated in Dressage, Centered Riding, and Natural Horsemanship clinics. I read all the literature I could get my hands on. And, most importantly, I learned to listen to the horse. My horsemanship and training methods are based on a deep love for and ever-increasing knowledge of the horse as a sentient being. Do I still make mistakes? Of course, but I learn from them. I do not force my will upon any horse. I do not cause any horse pain or suffering. During my yoga practices with Snowy, I pay close attention to him to see if anything I’m doing is causing him even a hint of discomfort, and if so, I immediately stop doing that pose.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” ~Carl Jung

When I embarked on my yoga journey, I couldn’t have fathomed where it would eventually lead. I first tried Hatha yoga at Smith College during my first year there. I was bored and could not for the life of me understand the point of savasana. During my senior year, a friend dragged me to a Baptiste Yoga Studio in town, Shiva Shakti Power Vinyasa Yoga. I walked out of that first class feeling like I was floating on air. I had officially experienced my first yoga high. Classes with Brandon and Naima transcended a physical workout and showed me how to use yoga to look within and grow spiritually. I attended classes there daily until I moved away after graduating from Smith.

I continued to practice vinyasa yoga at Awakening Yoga Studio near Savannah, GA, where I lived for two years after graduating from college. Classes with Lisa, the owner, enabled me to continue to grow my practice. I achieved headstand under her knowledgeable instruction. When I moved to Virginia in 2013, I discovered Yoga Time Studio and went there to sweat away all my stresses and uncertainties. Mindy, the owner and fabulous teacher, had a way of helping me focus on the present moment intensely while having a great time doing so. She told me about a teacher training that was being held at her studio, and that’s when I met Denise Moore. Denise created and led the first Open Dimension Yoga Teacher Training, which I graduated from in May of this year. I have never met anyone as knowledgeable and passionate about yoga as Denise. Through her training, I gained thorough knowledge of how to teach Hatha yoga to beginners and advanced beginners, and also learned about anatomy, pranayama, meditation, the yoga sutras, and more. You can learn more about Denise and her yoga classes here.

I came full circle, beginning with Hatha and ending with Hatha, although my yoga journey has really only just begun. I’ve been teaching Hatha yoga classes at Native Barre and Barre Buddhi and hope to return to teaching when I get back from Costa Rica. What I love about Hatha yoga is that it builds a strong foundation that yogis can practice on for the rest of their lives. If and when a yogi decides to try other types of yoga, Hatha teaches him/her how to stay safe and prevent injury through being mindful of proper alignment and breathing. The more I practice and teach Hatha yoga, the more I love it.

“Truth is a matter of perception. People only see what they’re prepared to confront.” ~Unknown

One sure thing I’ve learned about horses and yoga is that there is always more to learn, there is always room to grow. Admitting I don’t know it all enables me to keep learning, and I will keep learning, but I will never know all there is to know, and that’s okay. I will learn all I can and pass on all the knowledge I can, and that will be enough.

“The willingness to face life’s challenges before you have the skills in place—without shrinking from the fear and pain involved—is courage personified.” ~The Power of the Herd by Linda Kohanov

I’m making up this whole horse yoga thing as I go, guided by my heart and Snowy’s responses. I practice yoga on horseback for no other reason than I love it. Practicing with Snowy enables me to deepen my yoga and horsemanship skills. It has also cultivated even more trust between me and Snowy. There are no tricks in my photos. No one’s standing just outside the frame in case Snowy decides to move. Sometimes Snowy does fidget, and that’s when I pay extra close attention to see if something I’m doing is uncomfortable for him. Most of the time, though, Snowy stands quietly, breathing deeply, steadily, and slowly, enjoying the yoga high as much as I do. The deep peace I experience during savasana with Snowy is extraordinary.

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” Ron Swanson

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” ~Ron Swanson

Some critics have said I’m doing this for attention. Others have said it’s cruel to the horse. Allow me to address both of those concerns. I am not doing yoga on horseback for attention. I share my journey on social media in hopes that it can inspire others, and I share it to make others aware that horses are beings with emotions and depth, and that they deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. And to those who think practicing yoga on horseback is cruel, I’ll tell you what’s cruel. Competing a horse in a sport it doesn’t enjoy because it feeds your ego is cruel. Confining a horse to a stall with hardly any time to just go out in the field and be a horse is cruel. Using any bit with a harsh hand is cruel. Using ill-fitting tack is cruel. Using spurs, whips, and harsher bits because you lack the skills necessary to have a mutually respectful relationship with your horse is cruel. Blaming the horse for your mistakes is cruel. Viewing the horse as anything other than a sentient being is cruel.

Yoga on horseback can be cruel. If I ignored Snowy during our sessions and tried to force him to stand still when he’s clearly trying to tell me he’s uncomfortable, that would be cruel. Any equestrian sport has the potential for cruelty. What matters is whether or not the horseman or woman understands the horse as a sentient being and respects its desires and emotions. I do. I always put the horse first. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to come watch, or even participate in, a yoga practice with me and Snowy.

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

I know that no matter what I say or do, there will be critics, but I’m not here to make everyone happy, and for every critic there are countless others who are inspired and supportive. I’m here to follow my heart and stay true to myself. I dare you to do the same.

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” ~Dan Zadra


  
  
  
  

Burning Man: A Rebirth

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Photo by Josh Winslow

I dreamt about Burning Man last night. I was relaxing at a camp, surrounded by people I had just met, but whom I felt I had known for lifetimes. My favorite thing about Burning Man is the deep connections it fosters. People have been asking me to describe my experience, and all I can say is that it was like living an entire lifetime in one week.

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One of the many dust storms that rolled through Black Rock City.

Especially since this was my first time at Burning Man, I feel like I entered as a child—innocent, ignorant, curious, open—and left as a new person—experienced, a little wiser, still curious, and wanting more. Burning Man certainly does not make you more adult-like. If anything, you become more childlike. The Playa encourages playfulness, curiosity, open-mindedness, spontaneity and joy.

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Of course I found the only horse at Burning Man.

The artwork was moving, thought-provoking, and sometimes interactive. You can’t go to Burning Man and just observe. To get the most out of it, you must participate and engage. The art cars were creative, funny, beautiful, and musical. The dust was not as bad as I thought it would be, even though it seems this was one of the dustiest years in quite some time. The theme camps were diverse. There’s something for everyone. I especially enjoyed an aerial camp that happened to be right across from Distrikt, so after taking flight on the rings, I shook my booty over to the music and got lost in the many sick beats.

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There was a dust storm during the Black Rock City Hash House Harriers Red Dress Run. We still managed to find trail. On-on!

I tried acroyoga (loved it, of course), drank a margarita at the end of the world, stopped by a bad advice booth, stargazed, watched the sunrise, went to the movie theater, rested on mushroom benches, hopped and danced on colorful LED lily pads, felt awe during the Man burn, released grief at the Temple, became entranced in the primal energy at the Thunderdome, then found myself utterly spellbound by the Serpent Mother.

Center Camp always had something fun going on, from live music, to acroyoga, to spoken word poetry, and more.

Center Camp always had something fun going on, from live music, to acroyoga, to spoken word poetry, and more.

What I didn’t do was take many photos or videos. I wanted to be wholly present in every moment, so I found myself taking out my camera a lot less than I thought I would, and I’m okay with that. Immediacy is palpable on the Playa. It’s now or never. You can’t do it all at Burning Man—there’s artwork, events, camps and more that I missed—but all you can do is allow yourself to be drawn to whatever speaks to your soul while you’re on the Playa. Going with the flow is so important. I’m grateful for everything I experienced at Burning Man and I absolutely plan to return.

Not my photo, but I am in it. I went to the Reddit meetup and had a blast.

Not my photo, but I am in it. I went to the Reddit meetup and had a blast.

As you enter, the greeters say, “Welcome home!” I think one reason Burning Man feels like home to so many people is because radical self-expression is encouraged, so you can be the most authentic, weird, quirky version of yourself and, as long as you’re not harming anyone, you’ll be accepted, because radical inclusion is definitely a thing in Black Rock City. If you’re interested in reading more about what makes Burning Man such a loving, open place, I recommend starting here.

Sounds like fun.

Sounds like fun.

Burning Man isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Extreme weather happened. Drama happened. Misunderstandings and miscommunications happened. Sadness, disappointment, and anger happened.

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But so did love, healing, joy, and acceptance. Burning Man tested my limits on many levels, and I left a stronger person because of it. I left more open, accepting, curious, and loving. The difficult task is holding onto all the goodness created and shared at Burning Man. How can you cultivate that same love in the default world? I’ve learned it comes from within. Love and accept yourself, and that love and acceptance will naturally extend to others. Burning Man is so much more than a music, art, or yoga festival. It truly is another world where outward exploration leads to inward discoveries. Oh, and one last thing—burners definitely give the best hugs. 

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When I got home, I just wanted to curl up in my pink furry jacket and sleep until Burning Man 2016. Unfortunately, that's not an option.

When I got home, I just wanted to curl up in my pink furry jacket and sleep until Burning Man 2016. Unfortunately, that’s not an option.