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Ahimsa

As many of you know, in the summer of 2018 my life changed radically when I had to move away from the east coast to a 46,000 acre ranch in rural New Mexico.  Wait.  That makes it sound like that just accidently happened to me.  Correction.  In 2018, I extremely reluctantly chose to move from my in every way perfect, lush, green, New England life to the very dry, overwhelmingly vast, windy, scary (to me) high mountain desert.  It was also me who chose two years earlier to pack up my 15 years of NYC living to marry a man who lived in small town New Hampshire with his then 14 year old son.  Also me who let go of a successful 15 year career teaching yoga, 10 of those years full time, to accept a job I didn’t really want at a yet to be built retreat center in said dry, windy, scary, high mountain desert.  

When I first moved, I tentatively shared stories with you about this transition.  You can read in previous posts about how my husband broke his knee 13 days after our move, putting him in a wheelchair for three months.  You can read about my struggle to figure out how to write and share with you authentically about my personal experience, while simultaneously enticing you to visit this place as part of my new job.  You can also read about my budding attempts to embrace this objectively beautiful new landscape.

If you read all these blogs, you will notice that they abruptly stop in January 2019.  A year and a half ago!  What happened you (might) ask?  That’s what the following posts will shed some light on.   As we enter two weeks of Yoga Camp, now online (thank you Covid-19), I thought I might share with you some stories about what’s really been going on since I last wrote about my time here in New Mexico. 

Our theme for Yoga Camp this year will be the first two building blocks of yoga philosophy: the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances).  The yamas and niyamas are the first steps in an eightfold path to deeper understanding of ourselves through yoga.  The yamas are guidance on how to be ethical in our relationship to the world around us.  The niyamas are about how to be responsible in our relationship to ourselves.  When practiced in order, each of the 8 steps encourages more introspection and inner refinement, eventually leading to a place of deep meditation.  Hopefully through deep meditation, we take our increased self awareness and bring it back into our everyday lives.  And then begin the steps all over again. Over and over and over 🙂 

I’ll share a story with you each day, related in some way to (me) the yamas & niyamas.  These stories are not meant to be lessons as much as personal sharings on how I think about, and often struggle with, these core yogic principles in everyday life.  I hope in some way they are useful to you.  

AHIMSA : NON VIOLENCE

As with everything in the Yoga Sutras, the order in which the information is given is important.  Ahimsa is the guiding principle over all the following principles.  Some teachers say that if you just practiced this one you could stop right there, as you would in essence be practicing all the others.  Non-violence can be studied in many ways, but the most obvious to me are the personal and societal ways we adhere (or not) to non-violence.

When I met my now husband in 2014, I did what perhaps a lot of young people do when they first meet someone they like – idealize, idealize, idealize.  I mean to be fair, it wasn’t hard to do.  I was a single lady in NYC hovering at the brink of certain spinster cat-ladyhood at the ripe old age of 34.  I had been wanting for a while to put aside my world traveling adventures for the great adventure of partnership and family building.  Out of the clear blue sky came the most handsome man I ever met – a farmer (very exciting for us city gals) Waldorf boarding high-school teacher living in a Rockwell painting, I mean a small town in Southern New Hampshire.  Granted he lived about 5 hours more north than I was anticipating, but he and it was everything I had been dreaming about.  He was generous, smart, funny, interesting, humble and definitely kept me on my toes (in a good way).  We shared a lot of the same values.  So naturally I assumed we thought the same way about everything.  Haha, just kidding.  But there was definitely a part of me that quickly filled in the fuzzy parts of getting to know someone with whatever best matched the picture I was already painting.  

At some point after we had been dating a while, I noticed a gun safe under his bed.  It caught me by surprise and when I saw it, and I felt a sudden constriction in my chest.  I had seen an old shotgun that belonged to my grandfather once when I was young, but it struck me like a souvenir rather than a tool; something that would certainly never actually be used.  I had never seen a real gun up close before (and still hadn’t – I was still just looking at the box).  When I asked Brad about it later, he said it was hand-me-down from his father.  And I, being in the early throws of ideal relationship land, took that information and fit it neatly into the story I wanted to create. “He’s just like me!  It’s just a souvenir gun!  All good!”

I say “all good” because I had been living by the principle of ahimsa quite literally since first learning about it in my early twenties. I was a vegetarian going on 19 years.  I was against all acts of physical violence, from personal aggressions to hunting and war.  I worked at non-violent communication in my relationships, avoided violent movies, and aggressive activities in general.  I even worked for several years at a non-profit focused on highlighting non-violent peace building efforts between warring countries. I didn’t try to press my views onto others, but they meant a lot to me personally.  So I guess you could say that I never imagined one day living in an environment where guns were a significant way of life.

Fast forward a few years.  We are married now.  We survived the drive cross country (barely).  We were settling into our new home, which to me felt about as foreign as if we had moved to the moon.  I was slowly becoming aware that my neighbors, my bosses, the folks at the grocery store…everyone (it seemed) had a gun.  It wasn’t overt and obvious, but it was all around.  Weird bulges on the sides of someone’s boots.  The edge of a holster under someone’s vest.  The huge amo section at the Walmart.  And the numerous conversations about guns and hunting.  From someone who’s life up until this point included zero conversations about guns, it suddenly felt like that’s all people talked about out here in rural New Mexico. 

A week or two after his emergency knee surgery,  less than two weeks since we had left the bubble of the east coast, Brad was resting in bed and asked me to retrieve something from his night stand.  I reached over and opened the drawer.  Nothing went off, there was no accidental shooting.  Just me seeing the gun laying there, up close and personal for the first time.  I screamed.  

I was so angry.  I was so so so angry. There was a gun. In my house.  IN MY BEDROOM.  A gun that was certainly not a souvenir.  And moreover – I AM MARRIED TO A GUN PERSON.  I can’t tell you how many arguments ensued.  My stance:  I believe in ahimsa.  I never wanted to live in a house with a gun.  My husband: he wants to protect us.  The danger of large animals and intruders is different out here.  Me: then why did we move somewhere that would even necessitate the need of a gun?!  People and animals included?!

I feel like I could write quite a bit more on this, but I want to get to the main point.  I arrived in New Mexico with a very strong view on guns, and ahimsa.  Guns are bad. They are nothing but tools for violence and killing and in my heart I do not want anything to do with them.  Ever.  

More to the point: over time, I have realized that I arrived in New Mexico with more than just a strong point of view on guns.  I also brought with me some pretty strong assumptions about who the people with guns are

And this is where I was wrong.

Now before you go thinking I made some complete 180, no, I still do not like guns. But I learned something super valuable: when you live in and among people with very different worldviews than your own, those people can no longer remain a monolithic blanket stereotype.  And this is a very good thing.  One of my very first friends in New Mexico was a neighbor from the ranch next door.  She teaches retreats that incorporate yoga and horseback riding (what are the chances?!) and went out of her way to make me feel welcome. There was something about her which reminded me of my friends back in NYC.  One day at the hot springs, she started sharing about hunting and her cool pink gun. And would I like to learn how to shoot?  I felt my body tense up again and politely declined.  But at the same time, I think I literally felt my heart expand – not in the fun gushy way, more like a big tear of confusion. I like this person. She is kind and generous. She loves animals and yoga.  And she likes hunting. And guns.

It feels silly to write it now; I’m almost embarrassed to admit how unaware I was of my prejudices.  Apparently I had been putting people into boxes all this time and didn’t even know it.  They say stereotypes exist for a reason.  But they are also dangerous little suckers.  It’s far harder to live in a world where things are a little gray, isn’t it?  Perhaps that’s why we keep trying to make things black or white?  Red or blue?  But then, when’s the last time you saw a rainbow where the edges of one color didn’t merge into the next?

All that to say, pretty much everyone I know, everyone I am friends with out here, owns a gun.  I am regularly invited to “go out shooting” or “at least learn how to shoot a gun Julianna” (I’m not there yet). These are good people whom I love and trust.  And one of them also happens to be my husband.

Allowing myself to be a little less rigid, I have learned a lot about why some people have guns.  The same person who owns a gun can also be for stronger gun laws and against assault weapons.  The same person who hunts can care about sustainable land management.  The same person who sleeps next to me every night might have the gun in the nightstand because he’s just had knee surgery, can’t walk, and is trying to figure out to protect his wife in this foreign place he’s brought us to.

I can’t say I agree with a lot of what I’ve learned about guns. But I have learned.  And in learning there has been some much needed listening.  And with the listening there has been  understanding.  And with all that, there has been an expansion of the whom I can call my friend.  Ahimsa is most often translated as meaning non-violence, but it can also be translated to mean non-harming. We harm each other (and ourselves) in so many little ways all the time.  But when you know someones’ name, their family, the deeper reason behind their choices – even the ones you don’t agree with – there is a better chance that you will not only go out of your way to not harm them, but also go out of your way to take care of them.  And that might just be one of the best possible outcomes of non-violence I can think of. 

 

On Resiliency & Complacency

Last night, a group of my old college friends gathered around zoom to celebrate our dear friend’s birthday.  There were costumes, abundance of gifts, and a general lighthearted joyousness all around.

A little over three months ago, we celebrated another dear friend’s birthday.  We all barely got it together to figure out how zoom worked, gifts were sparse, and the conversation was heavily laden with uncertainty and worry.

This morning I was reflecting on how much has changed on the inside for all of us since this pandemic began….even though so little has changed on the outside.  Like most humans, even though the circumstances that originated our fear and confusion have in large part not changed, we have figured out ways to acclimate, adjust, and make the best of it.  My first thought was to celebrate that.  We are collectively smart, capable and resilient beings.  We figure out a way to make things better.

 
But a closely followed second thought was the other side of that coin.  Complacency.  We like to be comfortable.  We do not like to be stressed.  If there is a way to move away from the uncomfortable to the comfortable, we will find it.  And that place can be less than altruistic, less than compassionate, and less than motivating to do what is right for the sake of others beyond our own comfort zones.

 
With so much of our collective baselines being thrown up into the air with coronavirus, no wonder we were all looking to feel a little more stable.  Absolutely myself included.  I feel I am more capable of reaching beyond my comfort zone into the world of others when I’m coming from a steady place.  That’s all well and good.  But I must also look at the place in myself that just wants to be comfortable.  That wants everything to be “fine”.   That might need to push myself, on purpose, to be uncomforatble because that is certainly what is needed if there will be any real, lasting change in our society right now.

In the past few weeks, there has been a light shining very brightly on racial injustice.  The injustice is not new.  The collective concentrated motivation though has felt different than anything I have experienced up until this point.  I think I am really writing this note to myself, and sharing it in case it resonates with anyone else; now is not the time to stay comfortable.  If you have figured out a way in the past few months how to make your personal situation more stable – that is wonderful.  Truely.  It makes you even more able if you choose, to step out of the comfort zone and extend your voice and action where it is sorely needed.  I know I usually write with the encouragement of finding your own center point.  I am still doing that, and also asking that we continue to use that center point to guide us out into the world with positive, tangible action.  Action that benefits others.  Action that might be uncomfortable, take sustained patience and effort on our part.

 
This is a marathon.  Good news; you’ve all been training for it for a long long time.  Keep going.

 
For my part, I will continue to do my personal inner work.  Part of my outer work is in helping others find and maintain their steadiness.  Not just when there is a crisis, but cultivating over a long period of time a baseline of steadiness within.  So when the world around us feels more shakey than usual, we are an army of relatively steady humans ready to go – marching purposefully and consciously through it.

With love and gratitude,
Julianna

It’s 2019.

Happy New Year!!!!  It’s been a while, huh?  

An entire season in fact.  Last I wrote I had just returned from the green green green of my previous life, back to the land of many unknowns. But time away provided perspective and I had a plan.  One year. Outstretched arms, palms up, heart open.

So here is how it’s been going.

New determination to see my circumstances differently were conveniently accompanied by the beautiful backdrop of fall.  Summer faded away and gold pinion pine illuminated the bright blue crisp apple skies. It was somewhere around then that I discovered the magic of the Santa Fe Farmers Market; all the rich variety of Union Square, but a little softer, and the permission to walk more slowly. But perhaps the real turning point: fire roasted green chillies.  OH. MY. GOD. I would drive the hour and 20 minutes twice a week just to smell the intoxicating aroma tumbling through the large metal cage barrels. Something about it all reminded me of India, Manhattan, and New England all at once. The combination of vibrant colors, palo santo, and rugged smiles made it hard for contentment to not slowly seep into my softening walls.  

Snow shocked all of us in early October – and there have had at least a dozen snow storms since then.  I love it! The Sangre de Cristos wear beautiful white lace covered hats and this Buffalo girl will always and forever love a gray snuggly snow day.  Meanwhile, acquaintances are growing and neighbors (and by neighbors I mean those that live between 3 and 25 miles down the road) are rapidly turning into legit friends.  This has a been the nicest surprise so far. Maybe with everything from grocery stores to restaurants being so far away, you enjoy spending time with the people around you a bit more.  Back in Brooklyn, friends were technically not that far, but getting there, getting back, scheduling, and schlepping all amidst the hustle of just trying to get through your normal day – it all felt so exhausting that I often just craved being alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my alone time (I’m living in the right place for that now!) but spending time with others doesn’t feel as exhausting as it used to. Neighbors out here means you share a meal at someones house vs meeting out, or you really just do stop in for a chat and cup of coffee.  This year we spent a whole afternoon driving around in our neighbor’s pick up truck “hunting” for Christmas trees. Every now and then I would stop and wonder how I was closer to people I met 5 months ago than I was to neighbors whom lived 10 feet away for years.

Another fun thing – all the visitors!  Another thing I used to loath when living in NYC! Ok, not loath, but I was definitely that person that gave you my keys and said see you tomorrow night for dinner!  Now I get excited about all the beautiful places I can take my friends (HOT SPRINGS!) and genuinely get excited to just spend time together.  

And lest you think I am simply spending my days soaking in the charms of New Mexico living – work has been picking up too.  The buildings at Valmora are rapidly transforming into living breathing abodes of possibility. The dining hall, yoga studio and half of the residence areas have been gutted. Architectural plans have been made and renovations are underway. There are crews to supervise, master plans to organize, flooring and fixtures to choose, tours to give, networking dinners to have, and did I mention we are opening a coffee shop up the road as well?  Yes, in the little tiny town of Watrous, New Mexico ( 3 miles up the road from Valmora) we are opening a coffee shop with the help of Santa Fe roasters Iconik.  So yeah…it’s busy!

But thankfully not so busy that I haven’t found time to bring yoga teaching back into my life (YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!). After subbing for an angel of a friend at a studio in Santa Fe, those classes turned into permanent class offers and as of December, I am teaching my own classes again.  To say that piece of the puzzle is integral to feeling my feet on the ground again would be an understatement. I still have a ways to go in figuring out my true course out here, but some fun side projects have popped up in the meantime. My favorite: exchanging private yoga lessons for private horseback riding lessons 🙌🏼

Family came to visit for Thanksgiving, and further pushing the boundaries of who I thought I was (a cat person) to whom I might actually be becoming (a cat and dog person), little Freddie Fox Mercury showed up on our doorstep, quite literally.  He might have tricked me into thinking he was a cat in a dog’s body, but he’s definitely a part of our family now – and getting a little more comfortable in his new surroundings everyday (just like his mommayup, I’m one of those people that has anthropomorphized their dog).

As we ring in the new year, there is even more snow and a growing sense of direction I didn’t feel when I first got here.  Brad’s leg is almost healed and the two of us are navigating the tricky balance between life partner and work partner better and better.  There are still bumps (currently: the water pipes are frozen!) and I’m still committed to my one year reevaluation. But things overall have definitely been smoother, allowing for panic to subside and the unknown to feel not so terrifying (imagine that!).  I’ve wondered a few times in the past 4 months why I didn’t write more. I realized it’s a bit like reaching out to my friends – when there is a crisis or something to complain about, there is a lot more to say. A resolution for my new year is to shift that tendency.  Writing, talking, sharing about what’s good doesn’t have to equal bragging. Sympathy doesn’t have to equal value. I want to challenge myself to share with you the whole picture, as honestly as I can. So more soon. Until then – hoping the new year brings you greater ease in what you know and what you don’t.  And in the words of C.S. Lewis, “remember you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”.

xxo, j

Remedies for Reset

And that about sums it up.

Sometimes the best way is through….and sometimes the best way is to just take a break.

I feel like a new person after 10 days back in New Hampshire: teaching, resting, reconnecting with those who know me well, deepening friendships, listening to sage advice, breathing the green mountain air, swimming, hiking, walking, talking, laughing, crying, thinking, reading, writing and re-setting. I can’t thank enough all the angels who showed up while I was back. Sometime you don’t know how much your body, heart and soul need taking care of until others step in to remind you.

So I’m ok. Maybe better than ok ☺️

I’ve always been a huge advocate for retreat (obviously). I know sometimes from the outside it can seem like escapism or bubble life, but for me it’s a way to reconnect with the feeling I want motivating me through life. Let’s call it “the nugget”.  And despite my best intentions to have the nugget with me all the time, I am learning that‘s just not realistic. There will be bad days. Bad months. Rough patches and downswings. But hopefully I can catch myself before the ship gets too off course. Daily activities that remind me of the nugget are crucial. But even then, sometimes a bigger reminder is needed.  It’s not running away.  It’s running back, in, towards.  So I can run forward again.

It’s what I hope I can provide others as part of this new venture.  The reminder, the experience, and the return.

Before I  got back on the plane to New Mexico, I committed to two things. One, don’t let the nugget get so far away again.  Two, I’m ready to walk more forward now.  As long as I stay committed to the nugget – the nugget of relationship, family, work, community and myself – I’m ready to move forward ❤️

Somewhere over the freakin rainbow

Oh hey. It’s been a minute.

I think you should know I’m pretty sure I really started this blog as a way to work through all the emotions coming aboard the Julianna train these days. There was also the intention to share what we’re doing out here and hopefully entice you to come and join us in some capacity sometime soon. But I’m realizing that these two things might not be as compatible as I thought they would be.

Business Brain: stay positive, not fake, but be uplifting in some way.

Heart: I’m a wreck.

Business Brain: Your bosses might read this. Don’t say anything negative!

Heart. I’m really struggling.

Business Brain: You’ve been running your own business for 15 years. You have a career to continue and an “image” to hold up.

Heart: WTF is that?

BB: Be optimistic, strategic. There is a lot of great opportunity, raw material and possibility out here. Don’t complain. Also, your family may be reading this. And other people.

H: I’m tired. And sad. I feel guilty for complaining about anything but it doesn’t change the heavy feeling in my chest. I miss my old life; the me, the us I had known up until this move.

BB: Hang in there.

H:

H:

H: ?

So I guess I could keep this blog going as the rosey version of everything going on out here….I could do that – there really is a lot of positive momentum, interesting and objectively exciting stuff going. And truly beautiful pictures to paint for sure.

But that would only be half my heart and I’ve never known how to do just one and not the other (ok, let’s be honest – I only know how to rejoice in the joy after the sorrow has been properly addressed). And part of what I miss the most is the heart connections I had on a daily basis – teaching isn’t/wasn’t just a job for me – it’s a lifeline to the heart space, to the wordless feelings I could share with so many of you over and over every week for years and years, just by being together in the space of yoga for an hour and a half. I miss that SO MUCH. And now – it feels like this writing is all I have – the only way I can at least tap into it on my end and hopefully when we connect again, this little thread will have helped maintain the connection.

So I’ll be honest. It’s been really hard. I think I might have already said that. Hard in some ways I anticipated and others I didn’t expect.

Brad’s injury was a bit more serious than I let on last time (see note above: don’t scare anyone away). When he fell off the ladder, he was 6 feet up in basically a giant concrete container. His foot got caught between the top rungs as the ladder slipped and his body went one way, the leg the other. The only thing preventing him from falling on his neck, back or head was that leg. It eventually broke, just below the knee where the shin bone meets the joint. Emergency surgery, 4 nights in the hospital, allergies to medication, no walking or driving for three months, fainting from low blood pressure, not to mention the emotional struggle of this happening so soon after we got here and the hold that put on a lot of our plans. But still, we were really lucky, and I mean that.

This was all in the midst of the power and water going out frequently, no internet (I know I know but the pain was real) and on a more serious note, an unexpected death in the family. Amidst the three of us (Brad, Adan and I) navigating and adjusting to our new living environment, both together and independently. There’s been a whole lot more cooking and cleaning and little bandwidth for reimagining my yoga career so far. There’s not as much clarity and personal agency work wise as I am used to.

Ok. And.

The people out here are incredible. Everyone is SO FRIENDLY (from a NYC veteran this warmth is still taking some getting used to). The connections I had before I arrived have been lifelines, introducing me wholeheartedly to their communities and friends. The are A LOT of freakin rainbows. I mean a lot a lot a lot. I’m still in love with the bunnies. The Mexican food is AWESOME (holla NH!!) My legs are finally getting a little color. We have good health insurance. We’ve had a lot of visitors and the most incredibly kind neighbors. Our employers are generous, the mountains are breathtaking, and over the weekend we drove by a herd of buffalo. We have internet now, and a generator, and the utility and delivery companies are figuring out where we are. And maybe most excitingly, I was able to sub a few classes in Santa Fe (thank you Cigall!)

So. This and that. My therapist would be proud 🙂

Mmmm, I think that might be all for now…..thank you for listening…..I’m boarding a plane to NH to teach for ten days. Will spend the flight trying to balance the excitement with the guilt, the old with the new, the green with the brown and the dark with the light 💕

?!&?

Once again, not sure where to start. It’s only been two weeks but it feels like a year of experience has already transpired. Should I write about kindness and the awe inspiring amounts of it I have been on the receiving end of throughout this transition? Should I write about the relationship between gratitude and fear and how you have to sometimes force yourself to see it one way or the other? Should I write about the crickets? Or how a 5 foot bull snake forced me to start wearing cowboy boots? Or about writing this from a hospital waiting room, waiting for my husband to come out of surgery for his shattered tibia?

Let me start with the crickets. There are crickets!!! Like, a lot of them – in fact, I think there are several living in our new house 🙂 And there are birds! Bright yellow and blue, and most unbelievably, blue heron! And if that didn’t help me feel like New Hampshire is right around the corner, there are also wild turkeys, wandering around the road just like back “home”.

Also wandering around looking at you with wide eyed disbelief: about 300 black Angus cows and their adorable babies. This is in addition to the beautiful horses, elk, antelope, mule dear, and my favorite, jackrabbit – one who has unofficially become our outdoor pet named Sparky (named by my step son Adan – no word yet on getting my Siberian cat or llama).

The first few days were full of alllllll the feelings. Well, truthfully, the very first day was primarily filled with one emotion for me. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Full. On. Meltdown. Yes, I knew there was an enormous amount of beauty and wonder and luck and opportunity surrounding me, and yet the truth was I was completely freaking out. Luckily my good friend Sarah who now lives overseas (after a lifetime in Brooklyn) wrote to me and said when she moved, even on the good days she cried for a month. So I feel a bit more normal. I will admit though, for all the spiritual study I’ve done I’m a little disappointed with myself for not being more graceful through this transition. I know I know. Self compassion. Acceptance. But is it ok that I accept I am disappointed in myself in how hard this transition/letting go is for me?

I’m sure that will be the topic of many a forthcoming blog, so I will move on for now….our home is beautiful. After years of apartment living it feels strange and indulgent to have so much room. It’s a two story “ranch” house (if that makes sense) with lots of room for guests* (hint hint and * once I unearth the floor from all the boxes).

The backyard looks out onto an old stable and the front yard looks out onto what will be the future retreat center (about a half mile away). I am still getting used to how quite it is at night and how our nearest neighbor is three miles away (which is better than 6!).

Also getting used to the fact that everyone, everyone, is telling me I will need to learn to shoot a gun. Not so much because of trespassing but because of various animals such as rattlesnakes, bear and wild cats. Um, hello? Guess no one out here realizes I’ve been trying to practice Ahimsa (non-violence) for the past twenty years. So not quite sure how that will all shake out (future blog post for sure – comments and personal thoughts on that topic welcome below) – but one thing that has definitely changed is my footwear. I arrived in flip flops and my new boss, Rebecca, came over with a pair of cowboys boots. I said thank you but no thank you until this showed up on my back porch one morning:

That’s 5 feet in case you can’t tell. Have I scared you away from coming to visit yet? I hope not: A) he’s a good snake – not a rattler – and has been living at our house longer than us! Apparently just saying hello. And as we bring this property back to life and back into the hands of humans, the animals in general want to leave us alone too. B) If I can get over my city girl dramatized version of “scary” wildlife, I am positive you can too 🙂

Speaking of city girl – number one piece of advice from total strangers so far? Relax. Literal advice (given to me from a kind teacher of spirituality at the oil change place): ” All that fast paced efficient get things done bam bam bam keep moving stuff? You gotta let that go out here”. And: “New Mexico is really healing”.

Most charming thing so far? When the cowboys tip their hat and say “Ma’am”.

Well let me get to the surgery part as the doctor just came out to let us know everything went really well. There is a large cistern that holds water from the 24,000 gallon a day spring on the property. It was being cleaned out the day before so it was empty yesterday morning when the ladder slipped as Brad was climbing in. Long story short, his leg went one way and his body the other. We are so so so lucky it was just a few fractures at the top of his tibia. But certainly this will alter the plan we had envisioned for these first few months out here – so lots of writing material ahead for sure 🙂

For now I’m going to sign off and give my mountain man a big hug…more updates soon….thank you so much for listening/reading – sharing a slice of what’s been going on is good for my soul!

xxo, julianna

7 days

A common question I have gotten ever since it became obvious we would be moving, was why didn’t we just hire movers and fly out to our new home…wouldn’t that be a lot easier? While I now 100% agree with the HIRE MOVERS part (see note above) I could never imagine making this journey and not slowly driving into it. The transition from urban, then country and now dessert life already felt dramatic enough….I knew how we made the transition would be important.  That parachuting into our new terrain would have a very different feel than having a relationship with the wild and winding road in between.

Something I often tell students is the importance of buffering time….give yourself time between one thing and the next; digest and try not to rush. After class, wait 5-10 minutes before checking your phone.  When coming home from vacation, give yourself a day to do the laundry, make a good meal, soak in the time away.  And if you are making a big life changing move, take some time to consider what it really means and what you are really stepping into.

Ha.

6 days ago I was in Wilton NH, sobbing inside of our moving truck – at the moment because half our furniture wouldn’t fit – but for many obvious reasons beyond that. You may have heard the saying that ‘life is learning how to let go’….true.   But man, when the letting goes come on one after another like an avalanche, all you want to do is hold on.

Goodbye NYC.

Goodbye Northeast.

Goodbye Green.

Goodbye new friends, new students, new doctors, new grocery stores, new routines.

Goodbye little cafe 5 minute walk from the house.

Goodbye house on the hill.

Goodbye neighbors less than 6 miles away.

Goodbye teaching yoga Every. Single. Week. for the past 15 years (….for now anyway).

Goodbye half my furniture.  No, most of my furniture (always get the bigger truck.  Or, HIRE MOVERS).

My last night in our old house, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to the sound of crickets and started crying.  What if there were no crickets in New Mexico?  What would be the sound out there instead?  I had been dreaming since the day I moved into Brooklyn of the day I would fall asleep to crickets – I just got here!  I drifted back to sleep, only to wake up again at 3:30.  To deafening silence.  I mean, I have never heard it so absolutely quiet.  There was nothing.  It was creepy.  And uncomfortable.  But also peaceful, and spacious.  I drifted away again.  4:30.  A new sound.  The birds!  I totally forgot – there are birds!!  In my sorrow over the crickets, I completely forgot there would be birds.

As nice as it sounds to take space and time in-between, I think we all know that life does not often work like that.  Most of our biggest changes have hard edges and feel like something is being ripped away.  So it feels extra important when you have a chance, a precious chance, to spend some time in the quite void between one thing, one breath, one thought – and the next, take it.

It’s 2,096 miles later.  10 states, 7 hotels, 4 family pit-stops later.  Countless gas stations, plates of french fries, car dance parties and rambling conversations later.  But most importantly – 2,096 miles of wide open wandering spacious mind later – and I am happy to report I am getting excited for the birds.

At the end of yoga class, we alway practice Savasana – corpse pose.  A practice in letting go.  The point it to practice letting go while you can, so when the real letting go comes (as it inevitably will) you are a little more ready.  Not ready because you know there will be birds, but because you have learned to let go.  I’m not quite there yet.  Remembering that there will be birds is helping a lot.  But who knows, maybe I’ll get there…we still have 263 more miles to go 🙂

Ohio

Indiana

Oklahoma

The Journey Begins

Again.

If you had told me last August, as I unpacked 15 years of life in NYC into my new small town country life of New Hampshire, that I would be doing it all over again less than 12 months later – but this time for the remote high dessert of Northern New Mexico – I would have assured you, you were mistaken.

And yet.

Life had a funny way sometimes, doesn’t it?

In just a few days we’re packin up the Uhaul and drivin off into the sunset (almost quite literally).  If you haven’t heard the story of how I got here, read on below.  Otherwise, this is where to read what happens when you take a NYC/NH based yoga teacher and transplant her to the middle of New Mexico cowboy country 😬.  Pics and road trip shenanigans will be up on the Valmora Retreat Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/valmora_retreat/).

More soon – but right now these boxes ain’t packing themselves – so ye-ha y’all….here we go!!

***

Last fall, my husband and I received a phone call from a mutual acquaintance regarding a unique opportunity; would we be interested in creating and running a self-sustainable yoga, meditation and educational retreat center – fully funded …..in New Mexico (!!) Obviously it was quite a shock. Many times we had discussed the hopes of opening a place someday where my husband Brad could work with young adults through counseling and biodynamic gardening, and I could offer yoga, meditation and holistic wellness retreats (and continue teaching). But neither of us imagined doing it outside the northeast communities we already knew and loved – and New Mexico?!

PS, I just moved from NYC to NH!

Well, obviously we had to check it out. The property, located less than 100 miles north of Santa Fe and 6,000 feet up on the mesa of the front range Sangre de Cristo Mountains, was originally built in 1904 as a sanatorium for tuberculosis. Rich in history and transformational experience, the property was converted to a school for troubled kids in the early 2000s, officially closing in 2009. Approximately 80,000 sq. feet of buildings, 900 acres of land (now part of the larger Watrous Valley Ranch of 44,000 acres) has been literally sitting (waiting?) there ever since.

We were struck by the immensity of the landscape – the vastness of the sky, the wild herds of elk, antelope and mule deer. There was a palpable energy to the land, and I guess you could say we were sold when we discovered the property included a natural spring that produces approximately 24,000 gallons of water a day. In other words, gardening/farming sustainably in the high desert will actually be possible.

Long story short, we were super inspired by the documentary “Wild Wild Country” …. just kidding 😊 After many many conversations, visits, and a lot of due diligence, we decided although this was an enormous project with a lot of unknowns, it was also an enormous opportunity we didn’t want to look back later in life and wonder, what if?

So, we’ve been hired to bring this place back to life. This place, named Valmora Retreat (in keeping with the original namesake meaning “Valley of the Mora”) when originally built described itself as “an ideal place where people of modest means might come to regain their health”. This is not too far off from the vision of Valmora we hold today – a place where people of varied means may have an experience of holistic health and well-being, inside and out. We hope to renew the history of this land as a site of transformation, and bring it into a modern day context….that hopefully you would like to come and visit!

The first step will be to build a sustainable agricultural system and infrastructure to support the retreat center. The next stage will be to restore the facilities – this will include spaces for yoga, meditation and contemplative practices, utilizing the natural landscape for outdoor activities, opportunities for craft workshops, comfortable accommodations for short and long term stays, farm to table dining, recreational facilities, etc. etc. etc 🙂

It’s a huge undertaking – we know! But also a huge adventure we couldn’t pass up. We hope to be up and running with our first programs in Spring 2019. It’s a bit scary but also a relief to finally share this news with you – I don’t know exactly what’s ahead for us, but can definitely say we are excited, nervous, and everything in between.

You can see pictures of where we’re headed on the Valmora Retreat Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/valmora_retreat/).

More soon!