Sarah Somewhere » http://sarahsomewhere.com Discovering the beauty of an imperfect journey Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:29:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Evolving in Recovery http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/19/evolving-recovery/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/19/evolving-recovery/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:29:00 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10941 Keep reading...]]> During my stay in San Francisco, I celebrated five years of recovery. To put it plainly, this means I have been completely free from alcohol and drugs for five years.

Five years recovery

(but not cupcakes)

Five years ago, my addictive relationship with alcohol brought me to a place of crisis. Wayne Dyer explains the term ‘crisis’ to be a situation in which a person does not have the resources to cope.

I did not have the resources to cope with my situation. I was destroying myself and the person I loved (Tyrhone). I was full of shame, confusion and self-loathing. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t even know that it was my unhealthy relationship to alcohol that had created such chaos in my life, but I had a hunch.

The mood swings, obsession with partying and drinking, depression and destructive situations I had been in over the previous 14 years gave me a clue, but were not of themselves strong enough to burn through the power of my denial.

My addiction was more powerful than me at that time.

Coming to the end of my own resources felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it turned out to be the best.

At home, alone in my apartment, I ran out of ideas about how to reassemble the wreckage of my life. I still had a job and a car and a home and people who loved me. The ‘wreckage’ I am referring to was a mental, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy which wasn’t obvious from the outside.

As soon as I had run out of my own resources for handling my life, something miraculous happened. I was given the idea to go to a recovery meeting for alcoholics.

This may not sound very miraculous to you after what I have explained, but I know that this idea was implanted in me by a power greater than myself. It spoke to me from within, via a voice which was mine but from a deeper source of self than I had ever felt before.

Maybe it had tried to get my attention before, in fact I have no doubt that it had. But I hadn’t been in enough pain to listen until that day. I listened as though I had no other choice, because in some ways, I didn’t. I Googled AA as though I was being directed by an invisible force.

The thought to do so had never occurred to me before that moment. I knew not a single soul in recovery, in fact that word was not yet part of my vocabulary. I was not even sure I was an alcoholic. That night, there was a meeting around the corner from my apartment which I had lived in (and drank in) for over 3 years. I went.

Something kept me going back to that meeting and others in the area. It was hard not to drink, but there was something among those people which I had been seeking my whole life: connection, joy, honesty and love.

I got a sponsor, which is someone who walks you through the twelve step program of recovery. She was the first woman I met at that very first meeting. And she did so much more than guide me through the steps; she became an example of selfless love by offering her time to me and teaching me that I was worthy of forgiveness.

It would only take me another four years before I would believe her, but I kept working at my recovery because everyone told me not to quit before the miracles happened.

The work was challenging and liberating at the same time. I felt like I was swimming upstream.

Everyone I knew at that time, except for my new recovering friends, drank. I still worked as a flight attendant and would pour wine all day long in the business class cabin.

I would get into my car at the end of the flight and burst into tears from the sheer exhaustion of battling the thought that I would never sip Chardonnay again. As I drove past my favourite bar on the way home I would grieve the fact that I would never stumble out of it again (p.s it is suggested to take it one day at a time, but it took my brain a while to catch on).

I attended six weddings of friends in my first six months of recovery. I felt beyond awkward, uncomfortable and like I could jump out of my skin. I wondered if I would enjoy celebrations ever again. But, I waited for the miracles.

They came when I was ready to see through the fog of my self-pity. I had to say goodbye to my old life before I could welcome the new one. It was scarey. All I had was a fledgling faith that it would get better. It did. Then it got worse. The more honest I got, the more painful it would get, for a while.

Overall though, things have gotten better than I ever dreamed they could. I’ve experienced amazing things in recovery. It has been a journey I would not exchange for anything. I don’t even have the words to describe the miracles I have experienced, as most have them have occurred within me.

You know the presence that gave me that first thought to go to a meeting? I have developed a deep relationship with it. I am conscious of a power which guides me to the truth as long as I am willing to show up for the lessons. This doesn’t mean my life is pain-free, far from it. At five years into my recovery, I have much to learn and I have no doubt that there will be more lessons ahead.

But the journey I have experienced so far forms the basis of my faith that I am being taken care of, no matter what.

In San Francisco I attended a Recovery 2.0 workshop run by Tommy Rosen, who had just released a book of the same name. I had been following him for a while and was inspired by his work of integrating yoga and meditation into the twelve steps of recovery.

Recovery yoga workshop

I listened as Tommy shared parts of his addiction and recovery story. I heard him talk about fear and resentment, steps and sponsors as I sat, delighted, on my yoga mat with a copy of his book by my side.

Tommy Rosen book

Then I followed his instructions for the powerful yogic breathing exercise, ‘breath of fire.’ I had done it before, but not like that. I was completely and utterly present. Nothing else existed for me except my awareness of my breath (that only took me thirteen years of yoga!).

I focused on the sharp exhalations with my arms outstretched as instructed. Then, as directed, I brought my hands toward each other at my heart center. I felt a buzzing energy between my hands as they hovered in front of my heart. My mind was empty and my only awareness was of this tingling energy. It felt like I was holding something.

Tears began streaming down my face and I began to sob. I was not sad, nor was there any particular thought which led me to this powerful emotional out-pour. It just felt like something was being released from me. Part of yoga philosophy is that trauma and emotion is stored in the body, and while I had practiced yoga many times before, I had not experienced such a physical reaction as this.

I felt a huge sense of calm afterwards. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even embarrassed that I had been sobbing in a room full of people!

Throughout the workshop, there were many words Tommy said which struck me to my core, but particularly these:

“Rock bottom happens when the addict tells the truth.”

“Become thrilled by the subtle.”

“If you have recovered from addiction using the twelve steps, shout it from the rooftops!”

I realised that my recovery had indeed begun when I started to tell the truth and that over the course of five years, after shedding a river of tears and discovering a source of inner guidance, I had indeed become thrilled by the subtle; the breath in my lungs, my boyfriend’s eyes, the shape of a leaf. Things I had never been able to notice before.

leaf

I had also decided a while back to forgo my anonymity as a person in recovery, in the hope that it would encourage others to seek help for their addictions and de-stigmatize the disease. His words made me feel positive about that choice.

During the workshop I experienced the different aspects of my journey – travel, recovery, yoga and meditation – coming together like a magnetic jigsaw puzzle. I felt the presence of that same power which directed me to my first recovery meeting five years before, leading me further along the path toward my truest self.

Five years ago I could not have dreamed up the evolution I would undergo in recovery. Ironically, I came into recovery because I ran out of choices. Now, I have all the choices in the world and yet I choose my recovery every single day because I am so in awe of the gifts it has given me.

Tommy Rosen book signing

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Unexpectedly Inspired on the Trinity River http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/17/unexpectedly-inspired-trinity-river/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/17/unexpectedly-inspired-trinity-river/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:23:18 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10907 Keep reading...]]> “So where are we going Jane?” Tyrhone asks, his finger poised over the touchscreen of the GPS.

“Umm… well, I am not completely sure exactly where it is… near the Trinity River somewhere in a tiny town called ‘Big Flat’?”

He looks at me with the sort of expression which says that does not help me.

We have come to rely heavily on our GPS on this road trip, so much so that we have given her a name. It’s ‘Jhepess’ pronounced with a gutteral ‘Jh’ sound. It’s a Jewish name derived from the phonetics of the word ‘GPS’. Of course.

He needs an actual address in order for Jhepess (try it from the back of your throat) to direct us, and so I look up the exact location of the fully outfitted Yurt we had booked for two nights.

With the boyfriend and the GPS now satisfied with the details of our next destination, we say good bye to our Tipi and head north to Trinity County, California.

I kinda like not having much knowledge of a place before I go. A reformed travel-planning addict, I now find it quite a rush to go somewhere on a hunch without knowing much about it. That is how I wanted to travel at the beginning of this journey and it has only taken me two and a half years to get the hang of it.

That being said, things can go either way when you travel like this. You win some, you lose some, much like life in general.

To take things as they come, rather than trying to control outcomes has been the greatest lesson of this journey; one which has brought more peace, acceptance and ultimately, abundance into my life.

Fall flames

We arrive at our destination after a spectacular drive through National Forest. The bright yellow and red fall leaves burst forth from the trees like flames. Set against the backdrop of the smoky greys and greens of the raging Trinity River, it is a visual feast I happily gorge on.

Fall leaves Trinity River

The warm and welcoming owners of the small resort, Don and Julia, take us on a tour of the property, including the cafe they first built on the site. A converted straw barn, the bright yellow building leads out onto a terrace and lush grassed area overlooking the river bank.

Straw house cafeTrinity river chair

“Well this is where I will be for the next two days,” I tell Tyrhone, having no desire to go anywhere else but the blue chairs positioned by the river.

That is, until we meet ‘our yurt’. Any idea that this may be a rustic stay is thrown out as we enter the luxurious dwelling. Complete with a kitchen and dining area, fireplace, claw-footed tub, queen bed and private bathroom, it becomes clear to me that it will be difficult to leave this place.

Trinity Yurt Californiabathtub yurtCalifornia Yurt

But leave we do, as Don and Julia have invited us to dine with them in their cafe which is closed for the evening. Don whips up a delicious chicken Marsala with fresh pasta, crisp greens and roasted red peppers.

Straw house kitchenTrinity dinner

The colour bursts from the plate with such intensity I wonder if all colours are in fact brighter here in Trinity county.

The couple’s passion for everything they do here is contagious. They built everything from scratch and have worked hard – really hard – to keep this place running to high standard.

straw house dinner

From the monstrous oak table milled from a tree on the property to the organic coffee beans Don roasts himself, to the work by local artists which grace the walls, everything here is infused with attention and love for what they are creating.

I cannot help but be inspired by what they have achieved. The couple have worked tirelessly for over fifteen years and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Don has completed a twelve hour day of work (which he does seven days per week), cooked us a delicious dinner and I hear him say, “We are so blessed” more times than I can count.

Their positive energy is a joy to be around. ‘These are people who love what they do,’ I think to myself, becoming more sure than ever that doing the things that light you up from within is the only way to inspire others.

They show just as much interest in our lives as we do theirs. While the details of our respective lives couldn’t be more different, the glue which holds our conversation together is the passion and love for what we do.

Julia asks us, “How long do you think you will do this?” and we both answer, “Forever!” simultaneously.

I attempt to help Julia with the dishes, but instead, she directs me to open some artisanal chocolate, which I do not argue about.

black fig

Over our conversation in the chef’s kitchen I learn that the couple have overcome major challenges on their journey together, including family tragedy. I am humbled and touched by her honesty and inspired even further by their strength.

It is common to believe that happy people have it easy, but I am learning that this is not the case. Happy people are usually the ones who work hard for it and often they have overcome great hardship.

Truly happy people pour their love into creating goodness in the world. There is not one path to happiness, except, I think, to do the things which bring you joy which has the ripple effect of bringing joy to others.

If I hadn’t already fully understood that fact, then my time on the Trinity River, my conversations with Don and Julia and the experience of watching the full moon through a skylight of the yurt they built with care and love was all the convincing I needed.

Don and Julie Strawhouse

Don and Julia. Visit their magical yurt and cafe in Trinity County, California!

I am so grateful to Glamping Hub for connecting me with yet another inspiring experience. Our itinerary with them has included a stay in a Treehouse in Yosemite national park, a traditional Tipi in the Californian Forest and of course, this magical Yurt. I cannot speak highly enough of their efforts to connect people to unique, privately owned lodgings in beautiful natural environments. Check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Embracing the Wild Woman Within http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/10/wild-woman-within/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/10/wild-woman-within/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:22:30 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10858 Keep reading...]]> It was a gift which arrived at just the right time (as all good ones do). A book; a real-life-made-with-paper-book which carried the weight of the message inside it. It arrived during our stay in San Francisco from a kind, thoughtful friend and I relished the process of unwrapping it, reading the accompanying message, “All intriguing women should read this book,” and palming the pages in anticipation of the adventure ahead.

Women who run with the wolves

“We are all filled with a longing for the wild. There are few culturally sanctioned antidotes for this yearning. We were taught to feel shame for such desire. We grew our hair long and used it to hide our feelings. But the shadow of Wild Woman still lurks behind us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed.”

- Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PHD, from ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves.’

As we drove into the historic town of Nevada City in northern California for the next leg of our road trip, I felt my body relax as my lungs expanded to take in the crisp air. Once a mining town built upon the riches contained within its depths, the streets were now lined with a gold of a different sort: yellow fall leaves bathed in afternoon sun.

Gold trees

We drove several miles from the center of town to our home for the next few days; a peaceful retreat surrounded by forest which consisted of a delightful tipi and several small cabins set around a fresh water pond.

I had never been in a tipi before, let alone slept in one and I was thrilled at the prospect of a new experience.

Sarah Somewhere Wild

tipi details

tipi wild

After sharing a delicious wood-fired pizza at a local brewery, we returned to the tipi upon nightfall. It was still early but the forest was shrouded in darkness and there was a severe chill in the air. Thankfully, the tipi came with the modern convenience of electricity so we could find our way around as we added more layers, snuggled into our sleeping bags and pulled the cozy duvet over us.

It didn’t take long for our bodies to warm up. My hands and nose, however, bore the brunt of the chill as I devoured the pages of my new book.

The following day we headed out to explore Nevada City and the neighboring town of Grass Valley. We strolled through parks and along streams and sipped freshly brewed, strong coffee.

That evening, we were treated to a delicious meal by our generous hosts. Chris and Vic built the retreat on land which was once inhabited by Native American people. The conversation flowed easily and the warmth of their hospitality was matched only by that of the roaring wood fire.

Wild table

They suggested we stay in the nearby ‘Cowboy Cabin’ due to the cold. It was cute as a button and contained a wood stove which heated the small place in minutes. With bellies full of roasted chicken, apple puree from the orchard and freshly baked pumpkin pie, we drifted off to sleep like content puppies.

cowboy cabin

The next day was spent exploring Lake Tahoe on foot and by road. It was absolutely stunning, made more beautiful by the clear, crisp day which showed off it’s many hues of blues and greens.

Tahoe

It was a spectacular day but as we returned to the cabin to settle in for the night, I felt a nagging restlessness within, a longing for something I couldn’t quite define.

It is a feeling I am not unfamiliar with and one which has lived within me always. While it once tortured me and has often driven me, I have, in these past few years made friends with this yearning, churning feeling when it arises. I have also begun to listen to it rather than suppress it.

“I miss the tipi,” I blurted out to Tyrhone, who was comfortably nestled in bed reading. He gave me a surprised look when I told him I wanted to sleep in it one more time.

He bid me goodnight at the door of the cozy cabin as I clutched a torch and my book and crept toward the tipi under the glow of the almost-full moon.

Wild Moon

Inside, I felt comfortable. I found it easier to breathe in the cool, crisp air and I relished the space of my solitude. I am so grateful for my relationship but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the balance of giving myself what I need, when I need it. I needed to be alone.

tipi bed

dream catchers

The dream catchers dangled above me as I flicked through the pages of a book on Native American Animal Medicine. I drew a card from the accompanying deck and flipped it over to reveal the image of a Bear.

The medicine of the Bear is believed to offer us time to be alone to contemplate, rest and reflect. Just as the Bear hibernates over the winter, we too, need to take time to be still and absorb everything we have learned and achieved throughout the year.

Those words filled me with relief. I had been a little anxious about the upcoming winter and wondering if I will be able to maintain my equilibrium without my beloved ocean nearby. The wisdom of the Bear removed my insecurities and I lay back, gazing up at the dream catcher overhead.

dream catcher

The sounds of the forest sporadically startled me throughout the night. Leaves falling on the tipi seemed louder than they should be and I thought I heard some forest creatures scurrying around outside. I surprised myself with how on edge I was about this and had to laugh at my dramatic imaginings of being attacked by a woodland animal.

I sent up a prayer to the spirits of the Wild Women who lived upon those lands before I did. I asked them to guide me on a mini vision quest and show me what I needed to know, even if it made me uncomfortable.

It was a fitful sleep. My mind was going off on tangents and there was some low level fear I had to face. I faced it all. My restlessness, my desires, my fears, my dreams. I did eventually fall asleep because at some point in the early hours of the morning, I woke up.

Though I mustn’t have had more than a few hours, I felt completely renewed, refreshed and undeniably peaceful. I was thankful to the spirits of the Wild Women for untangling my restlessness, helping me see through my fears and guiding me to connect with the Wild Woman who lives within me always.

“The old one, The One Who Knows is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-pshyche of women, the ancient and vital wild Self. Her home is that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet – the place where mind and instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thous kiss, the place where, in all spirit, women run with the wolves.”

trees, wild

Thank you to Glamping Hub for connecting me to this wonderful experience.

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Notes from the Big City http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/03/notes-from-big-city/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/11/03/notes-from-big-city/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:32:00 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10788 Keep reading...]]> It’s been a beautiful week in San Francisco. The weather has been perfectly clear, showing off the bright, shiny city. We’ve strolled along the Castro, walked around Land’s End, ogled at the Golden Gate headlands from which the bridge stole it’s name (and quite possibly, it’s glory).

city view

Golden gate

Our friend Sam took us on a beautiful day-long hike through Redwood forest in Marin county and Tyrhone took to the skies on his twentieth flight over the stunning beaches of Half Moon Bay.

Marin

Redwood tall

We’ve had clam chowder and sushi and Thai food and Vietnamese food and Indian food and fish ‘n chips; bowls of cafe latte and buckets of Rocky Road ice cream and cupcakes.

Lauren

And I got to meet this girl!

We’ve been lucky enough to stay in Sam’s sister’s lovely apartment on Noe Street, situated on a hill between the eccentricity of The Castro and the gentrification of Noe Valley.

Full house house

And not far from the street on ‘Full House’!

The wonderful thing about traveling is that you get to try on different lives, and like clothes, some fit better than others. Just as my wardrobe has paired down to a few items which I feel comfortable in, so have the places which fit me well.

San Francisco, in many ways, has it all. Districts which almost trick you into believing you are in a smaller town than you are and stunning natural landscapes less than hour from the heart of the city.

It reminds me of Sydney in many ways, which may be why many of my Australian friends love it so much here. It is a city rich in diversity, culture, art and social conscience.

But as I have mentioned before, I am no longer as much of a city girl as I once was. Like your older sister’s stilettos that you like to try on for size but couldn’t possibly walk in, cities are interesting to me, but not very comfortable.

Maybe I have spent too long as a beach bum in Mexico, but despite understanding the economic necessity of cities, I think it strange that people choose to squeeze into one space when there are so many other places to go.

The other day I headed into The Mission District in search of a recovery meeting. I set off early, seeking solitude among several million people. It amazes me how one can disappear into anonymity surrounded by so many others, and yet, it’s easy. I headed into a bookstore and found solace among the pages of a paperback.

There are great things about cities and second-hand bookstores are surely up there at the top of the list. Perched on a stool inside an enormous cavern filled with books, I read the first chapter of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ allowing the therapy of the words to fine tune my emotions till they were purring like a well-oiled engine.

Bookstore Mission

As I strolled further along 24th street, the landscape of the city completely transformed. The pavement was no longer populated by Lululemon-clad women marching toward Wholefoods, but by people less concerned with being on trend and more concerned with surviving.

I exhaled for what felt like the first time. Finding myself in familiar territory surrounded by Mexican restaurants and colorful murals, I felt weirdly at home, realising that if given a choice between gentrification and grit, I will take the grit, hands down.

Guadalupe misson

Hole-in-the-wall Pozole joints and Latino music blaring from passing trucks bring me more comfort than organic, free-range, fair-trade cafes filled with Macbook Pro-littered renewable oak tables.

There are actually some of those places springing up in The Mission District and I laughed out loud at the juxtaposition between the clientele squeezed into those trendy spaces and the people outside going about their lives (some of whom I fit in well with by laughing loudly to myself).

After spending an hour in a room with strangers meditating, sharing, laughing and crying, my mind and heart opened a little further.

Making my way back home after the meeting, I tried to look everybody I passed in the eye. Of course, I missed a few, I mean, I am not a full-out crazy person but more of a closet crazy person like most of us.

I think what I find challenging about the city is that it is more difficult for me to hold onto myself. It’s certainly not impossible though. It just requires a bit of extra effort to find stillness, beauty and connection within the busyness and that can only be a good thing to practice.

“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha – which is to demean oneself.”

- Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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Finding My Center in Yosemite http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/27/finding-center-yosemite/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/27/finding-center-yosemite/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:48:50 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10702 Keep reading...]]> After our jaunt with my sister in Vegas which involved eating, shopping, attending an amazing festival, reconnecting with lovely friends and eating some more, we were definitely ready for some time in nature.

If this trip through the US has taught me anything it’s that I would rather be in nature than a city any day of the week. While I do enjoy some of the conveniences of city living, I find that a week or so is my limit before I start craving a slower, simpler way of life.

After Vegas I needed to decompress and find my center again and hoped Yosemite would be the place to do it.

As we drove into the park the heady smell of pine needles replaced my anxiety with a grounded sense of calm. I am not making an original point when I say that nature is good for the soul, but I am still surprised with the immediacy with which it rejuvenates me when I’m feeling depleted.

The eight hour journey from Vegas melted into a distant memory as we picked up the keys to the amazing tree house where we would be ‘glamping’ for the next few nights.

Treehouse Yosemite

If the simplicity of cooking our own meals again seemed like a luxury to me, imagine my excitement when Tyrhone took to the kitchen, allowing me to have a private sun-downer overlooking the forest.

Treehouse cooking

Yosemite sundownerSunset Yosemite

The steak, greens, potatoes and jalapeno foccacia tasted far better than if I had made them myself. To top it off, Tyrhone even did the dishes. Yes, that happened.

Glamping cooking Yosemite

The following morning we woke to the sounds of chirping of birds in the trees and sipped coffee on the deck while we planned our day.

Coffee glamping Yosemite

We were both keen to get moving after being sedentary eating machines for the last few weeks and decided to hike the Upper Yosemite Falls trail for as long as we could handle it.

As we drove toward the trail head we caught a glimpse of our first jaw-dropping vista. It was different to any other landscape we had seen in the US so far; lush forest wedged between soaring cliffs and jagged peaks.

yosemite-forest

We began our hike, not thinking much about how far we would climb. We chose the ‘very strenuous’ trail to get our hearts racing and our lungs working again and the upward ascent delivered on all fronts.

Rest stop Yosemite falls trail

It also delivered some amazing views which almost made me forget about my screaming muscles.
We passed the point we thought we were aiming for and while the hike was difficult for two fairly unfit travelers, we both welcomed the challenge.

Tyrhone Yosemite fallsThe bright blue sky shone overhead as we were treated to the most amazing spectacle Mother Nature had to deliver. She showed off her might with soaring vertical rock faces, sculpted by time and streaked with ancient elemental brush strokes.

Yosemite cliffsThe further we rose, the more life we encountered, from birds, to lizards to enormous moss-covered tree trunks and more than a few squirrels.

Yosemite squirrelWe arrived at the Upper Yosemite Falls look out. I had pretty much reached my limit, as had my water bottle which was far lower than I wanted it to be. I told Tyrhone we should call it a day, but as usual, he was not easily convinced.

I tried the water angle, telling him that we did not have enough to get us to the next point and back down again, smacking my dry lips together for dramatic effect.

His response: “It’s okay to be thirsty, Jane. It’s good to go without.”

As much as I wanted to fight him on it, I knew he was right. I am always encouraging him to eat better and exercise more so I enjoyed seeing him relishing the challenge of the trail, especially since he had just eaten more hamburgers in a week than should be humanly possible.

Yosemite fallsWe rationed our remaining sips of water and pressed onwards and upwards. We were rewarded with stunning scenery at every turn and the experience of being in a high altitude woodland on the top of a mountain..

I repeated the mantra “It’s okay to be thirsty,” over and over, making peace with my dry mouth as Tyrhone encouraged me to be in the moment and enjoy the experience.

When we stopped for a banana break, we both agreed it was THE BEST banana we ever had the pleasure of eating. Our one tiny sip of water tasted like nectar of the Gods.

We made it just past Yosemite Point after climbing a total of 3,000 feet over 4.5 miles and took a well deserved rest on a private rock-ledge. I forgot all about my dry mouth as I drank in the spectacular view of half dome and the surrounding peaks.

Yosemite Point View

Sarah Somewhere Yosemite Point

Feet Yosemite Point

The descent took longer than we anticipated, but the water we gulped down when we reached the bottom tasted even better than we dreamed it would.

That night, as I soaked my strained muscles and aching joints in a huge claw-footed tub, I felt my sense of peace return, mingled with a dose of accomplishment and gratitude.

bathtub glampingIt dawned on me that in order to find my center I needed to venture to the outer edges of my comfort zone and remember that sometimes, it’s okay to be thirsty.

Thank you to Glamping Hub for connecting us to this wonderful experience and for teaching me that claw-footed tubs are not at ALL overrated.

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Rise http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/21/rise-festival/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/21/rise-festival/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:50:12 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10643 Keep reading...]]> I first came to Vegas in 2004. It was the typical twenty-something trip to Sin City (if your typical twenty-something trip includes dancing on bars and pulling all nighters). I called it a ‘great trip’ because I was so desperately trying to live a particular version of a good time at that point in my life.

The truly great things about that trip were that I was with one of my best girlfriends Kelly who I have known since I was ten years old and that I reconnected with my sister Holly (same Dad, different Mum) who I hadn’t seen in over 18 years.

The last time I visited Vegas was in tragic circumstances after Holly’s son Mason passed away. It was a trip I was terrified to make and difficult to face but one which I am extremely thankful I did.

I can’t say I have great associations with this city which has, in one way or another, forced me to confront some pretty painful parts of my self and my journey.

Despite this, however, I was looking forward to my visit this time. Holly visited us in Mexico three times in the past year and so I was looking forward to returning the favour (!). It was Tyrhone’s first trip to the famed city so we booked our first night in a hotel near the strip so he could see what all the fuss was about.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from it as a sober person with no interest in gambling. In fact, I didn’t expect very much except to catch a glimpse of the Bellagio fountain which I missed on my trip ten years ago (due to being severely hungover most of the time).

We checked into our large, modern suite at The Tuscany hotel which we got for a screamin’ deal and headed down to the strip just in time to watch graceful arcs of water dance in unison to music.

Bellagio fountain

After strolling alongside the reconstructed canals of The Venetian hotel we walked along the strip, overwhelmed by the sheer number and diversity of people, from crack addicts to cardigan-wearing grandmothers.

While a wonderfully bizarre experiment in hedonism and manufactured entertainment, we were looking forward to heading to the ‘local side’ of Vegas to stay with my sister.

Before our arrival, she had sent me a link to The RiSE festival. I was intrigued by the event which appeared reminiscent of the famous Yi Ping festival in Thailand which I’ve only seen in photos.

The freeway was backed up for miles as we approached the exit to the Gold Strike Casino where we would take a shuttle bus out to the Jean dry lake bed for the event.

Despite Holly outsmarting many of the festival goers by performing an illegal U-turn on the freeway to avoid the lengthy queue of cars, once parked at the meeting point we joined a several mile-long line of bodies who were waiting for shuttles.

rise festival crowd

Maybe it was the fact that my sister had very generously treated us to the tickets or maybe it was the double rainbow we were privy to as we inched toward the bus, but since I had no expectations or preconceived ideas about the event, I was filled with a sense of calm.

Rise-festival double rainbow

Rise queue

The eclectic, polite and chilled out crowd certainly helped. There was a very different vibe to any festival I had ever attended; less angst and more intention. We were gathering to release lanterns inscribed with our dreams into the night sky and aggression or frustration would have been out of place.

We filed onto comfortable buses as the sun was beginning to set over the mountains framing the arid desert landscape. As the sky darkened, the glow of The Strip illuminated the streaky cirrus clouds which hovered above it, serving as the only reminder of the four mile-long piece of real estate which most visitors don’t step foot outside.

I wasn’t involved in any of the planning which resulted in us attending the festival (including a very special lady giving up her tickets for us), so as we rode through the darkened desert to our destination, I thought about all the decisions and efforts made which allowed me to have this experience.

Arriving at our ‘post,’ we rolled out the yoga mats provided to us and gazed at the night sky punctuated with stars and moving aircraft.

Then, we snacked.

rise festival snacks

We wrote our messages and dreams on the lanterns which had been laid out for us.

Tyrhone Rise festival

Then, we snacked some more.

It was a long wait for all of the festival goers to arrive on their respective shuttles, but the uniqueness of sitting on a yoga mat in the desert surrounded by thousands of people doing the same thing was not lost on me. It was an experience I would not likely be repeating and I was intent on soaking up every minute.

The moment arrived to light our flame torches, and shortly afterward, our first lantern.

rise festival lanterns

Rise lanterns

Even though I was holding my camera, my eyes rose skyward as the first golden cylinders of light were carried into the sky. A rush of breath entered my lungs as my eyes attempted to capture the scene of thousands of floating orbs before them.

IMG_1479

It was a moment which was beyond senses, judgement or comprehension.

Overwhelm of the best kind smashing any attempts to categorize or describe it; a complete absence of the mental monologue which usually accompanies me, except in moments which eclipse normal perception.

Moments like falling through the sky from 10,000 feat; witnessing the majesty of migrating whale sharks or fleeting glimpses of inner stillness during meditation.

In this case, it was over 20,000 vessels of golden light rising into the night sky on an invisible breeze.

Rise festival Mojave

I was, in that moment, united with presence.

Absorbed by awe.

One with now.

And I wasn’t the only one. Holly and Tyrhone felt it too and we didn’t need to say anything to know we were experiencing one of those moments which exist beyond description.

The expression on the faces of those around us signaled that they felt it too.

Rise festival goer IMG_1487

Then, the moment drifted away along with the tiny specks of light which continued across the inky sky, returning me to my normal state of comprehending, categorizing and interpreting.

Rise Holly

And posing for photos…

As we departed the desert in a state of heightened awareness, I thought about the choice which we face in each and every moment; whether to remain tethered to our own limited imaginings, or to Rise, and experience the infinite possibilities of our existence.

Rise fest

Rise Festival Sign

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This post is dedicated to Briana and Hope, who gave up their place at this event for us, to my sister Holly for buying our tickets, and to Mason Chamberlain for being the light which brought us all together.

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L is for Love http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/13/l-is-for-love/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/13/l-is-for-love/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:10:35 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10588 Keep reading...]]> We made it to the USA! A South African-born British citizen and an Australian (with no fixed address) driving a Mexican-plated car made it across the border to the land of the free.

american-flag

What felt like a genuine conversation about what we have been up to these last few years may have been just that, or it may have been a well-played immigration interrogation, but either way, they let us in with a few head shakes, a handshake and a smile.

We got off to a rocky start when we managed to find the worst neighbourhood in Phoenix to spend the night. Our Travelodge motel became a scene reminiscent of the show ‘Cops’ when armed officers made a friendly visit to our neighbours in the middle of the night.

It definitely put my trust that I am always where I am meant to be to the test, but I have to say I passed, managing to get a few hours sleep in spite of my fear and the sinister noxious fumes of our room (thanks to a lot of prayer and a little lavender oil).

Our gratitude at surviving the night almost made it worth it and fueled our desire to immediately head North to the small town of Flagstaff.

We were hesitant to book more than a night’s accommodation after our bad experience, but we managed to hit the jackpot with the L Motel, an exceptionally clean, well located and reasonably priced little place on the iconic Route 66 which we have been very much at home at for the last few days.

L Hotel Route 66l

Despite our shaky start, we have been having a blast. Even our night at the crime scene of a motel has become fuel for our non-stop laughter since arriving here.

I’ve been convulsing in fits of giggles at Tyrhone’s dry humour which includes but is not limited to a one liner I am not likely to forget. After a failed shopping trip to Walmart for some cheap winter woolies, he declared without a hint of a smile that “Walmart is where decency goes to die.”

Marveling at the natural magnificence of Arizona’s Red Rocks and Grand Canyon has certainly injected some major wow-factor into our first week stateside.

mountains-4

red rocks smiles

mountains-2

The stunning Red Rocks of Sedona

sarah grand canyon

desert view grand canyon

on the edge

desert rain grand canyon

The grande, big, huge, humungous, gigantic, awe-inspiring, ancient, wondrous Grand Canyon

We have also been relishing the seemingly ‘simple things’ like Thai food, awesome burgers, sane roads, English and brushing our teeth with tap water.

I’m not sure if it’s the new beginning or overcoming the logistical challenges of driving ourselves and all of our possessions to another country, but we seem to be thriving as a team and I dare say, we haven’t been this happy together for a while.

trusty steedOur trusty steed at the GC

us grand canyon

Our mugs at the GC

As the beautiful fall leaves of historic Flagstaff signal the end of summer and the beginning of winter, our relationship seems to be entering a new season.

fallStill a clown…

fall leaves

While I am hesitant to burst our love bubble by blurting it out on the internet, it is kinda what I do and I would be remiss to only focus on the challenging times rather than the free and easy ones.

I’ve never made it a secret that our relationship has been far from perfect. But we have stuck it out through some pretty dark times and managed to sail into the light in a major way. I’m aware of how far we have come, now, more than ever.

I never had any healthy relationship role models or any clue as to what a real one entails. I failed miserably at it for a long time because I had no skills and it’s been a slow, painful process to heal the things in me which blocked me from experiencing real love (hint: it has everything to do with self-love).

I’m not talking about Hollywood-style romance or magazine-esque images, but real, raw love which is painful and confusing and uplifting and healing all at once.

I’m still no expert on love, far from it, just as I am no expert on travel or writing or recovery or anything for that matter. The only thing I can ever hope to be an expert in is my own journey, and I believe the same is true for any person on the planet.

It’s just that right now, I’m feeling more in love than I’ve ever been able to feel. I’ve been with this guy for eight years and we have fought hard (literally) to stay together through a lot of clenched teeth and buckets of heartbreak.

But right now, as we take yet another major plunge together, we are laughing and loving harder than we ever have.

For someone without a clue about Love, I seem to have been given a chance to find one. And it feels good.

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Finding Presence Amidst the Planning http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/02/finding-presence-planning/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/10/02/finding-presence-planning/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:26:03 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10532 Keep reading...]]> Mexico has made it quite difficult for us to leave thus far. We tried to go to central America back in March but Guatemala chewed us up and spat us out (a little older and and wiser, I might add). When we crossed back over the border after an immensely confusing and challenging time with Tyrhone’s paramotor training, I could have kissed the ground.

I think I may have, actually.

It’s no secret I love this country. We both do. The natural landscape, the food, the ancient cultures and the sheer variation of experiences it offers travelers must surely be one of the world’s best kept secrets (thank you, Fox News).

We have traversed this fine country from the Yucatan, to Chiapas, Campeche, Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, Nayarit, Jalisco and a thousand tiny towns in between. We’ve scaled ancient pyramids, eaten exquisite foods and swam in fresh water sink holes.

Aktun Chen cenote

Palenque Chiapas

I jumped out of a freaking plane which was something I never thought I would do. Best of all I was able to introduce my Mum, my sister and Tyrhone’s sister to this country which they loved as much as us.

mum and me

My Mum and I in Oaxaca City

El taj jacuzzi

Tyrhone and Taunee livin’ it up

whale shark boat

On our way to swim with whale sharks with Holly…

We’ve relaxed, stressed, fought, loved, enjoyed, connected and discovered.

We found an unexpected home on the road in Playa del Carmen; a place our hearts reside in even when we are not there. Don’t get me started on the people I met there or I’ll cry.

Me Jorge Alison

While we know that one day we will return, for now, a new adventure beckons.

The last time we were in the states, I wasn’t ready for it. Looking back, I was actually quite stubborn in my resistance to being there because I had ‘my’ central and South American road trip dream firmly embedded in my brain.

It actually contributed to the strife we got into in Guatemala because I hadn’t been open to our plans changing. If we had stayed in the states longer, Tyrhone would have had more training and experience and we wouldn’t have had to rely on someone we didn’t know to give him more training.

The universe took care of it all in the end and taught me some very painful and valuable lessons about being open to what is rather than what I think they should be. I learned the hard way that flexibility is always better than rigidity when it comes to what I want.

Truth be told, I don’t know what is best for me. What I have received is always better than what I wanted and if I had only ever gotten what I wanted in life, I’d have sold myself short on the life which is actually available to me.

Which is why, even though I am excited about our upcoming plans – road tripping through Arizona, visiting my sister in Vegas, camping in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, visiting my friend Sam in San Francisco, house sitting stints in Montana, Washington state and Colorado – I realise that nothing actually exists except each moment I find myself in.

Colorado Rockies

And those moments are likely to be very different to what I’ve experienced so far…

I don’t want to get lost in plans again. I don’t want to pin my happiness on a future event, because I’ve learned that life is about being present where I am. In fact, the only place I can ever be open to what life is teaching me is here, now.

The lure of travel and adventure can become as much of a drug as anything else, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad vice to have. But this journey has taken me across the globe and thrust me into so many surreal and crazy situations to show me that the fulfillment I seek from life is always within me, waiting patiently, while I run around looking for it outside of myself.

Connecting with the power and peace within me has been my main focus since Guatemala. Maybe you think I am crazy writing about consciousness, meditation, awareness and eternity, but as someone who has falled and fumbled my whole life in search of the missing piece, to realise it was inside me all along is the greatest gift I have ever received.

Every day I am humbled and awed in the face of it and so utterly, completely grateful for the internal adventure I am on.

I have no doubt there will be more mistakes, more pain and more lessons in my future. Getting out of my comfort zone again in the states will challenge me as well as us as a couple.

But no matter what happens, I will continue to show up in each moment with as much presence as I can muster, with the knowledge that wherever I am – mentally, emotionally, physically – is exactly where I am meant to be.

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Announcing My Bali Meditation and Yoga Retreat! http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/09/29/bali-meditation-yoga-retreat/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/09/29/bali-meditation-yoga-retreat/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:14:24 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10086 Keep reading...]]> I am very excited to announce my meditation and yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia, next year. And you’re invited!

Bali yoga meditation retreatThis retreat combines so many elements which are close to my heart, and will take place at a secluded location which is very special to me.

I first attended a retreat at the Bali Mandala resort on the north coast of Bali in 2010, and returned the following year because I loved it so much. Words cannot express how special this place is to me. It was a catalyst for great transformation in my life. I wrote about it here.

Bali meditation and yoga retreat

Gisela, the resort’s owner and meditation teacher is an exceptionally inspiring woman. Her teachings are delivered in a gentle, open and simple way which makes them accessible for first time meditators (as I was).

Ever since my last visit in 2011, I have wanted to return.

I knew I would return.

When I contacted Gisela to get her thoughts on hosting a retreat for us, she gladly agreed and encouraged me to use my ‘manifesting energy’ to bring together a group of people who will benefit from this experience.

I am so happy to be able to connect more people with her wonderful teachings based in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, delivered in this beautiful, healing space on ‘The Island of the Gods.’

I am thrilled to invite you to join me for this special journey; a week long retreat of relaxation, self-care, delicious, nutritious meals, gentle yoga, meditation and massage, surrounded by a spectacular natural landscape, far from the hustle and bustle of southern Bali..

Buddha Bali retreat

Perched over the North Bali Sea and set amongst lush tropical gardens, the resort consists of individual bungalows, a large yoga and meditation shala, a waterfront restaurant (which serves delicious food!), day spa and a fresh water pool overlooking the sea.

Yoga Bali retreat

The bungalows are simply and elegantly furnished, with fresh flowers arranged daily. You’ll listen to the birds in the trees and the waves crashing onto the shore from your individual terrace or the delightful outdoor shower.

bali retreat room

The spacious meditation shala is set under a high thatched roof with doors that open to the elements, allowing the sea to become the soundtrack to your stillness.

Meditation shala

It is a space which is both nurturing and invigorating, allowing you peace and tranquility while connecting with other individuals on the same journey.

 What’s included:

  • Six nights’ elegant bungalow accommodation.
  • Three delicious and nutritious meals per day, including herbal teas, coffee, mineral water and one fruit smoothie per day.
  • Three one hour massages at the on-site spa.
  • Group transport from South Bali (meeting point to be advised) to the Bali Mandala and return.
  • Twice daily yoga and meditation classes, involving a variety of techniques including stillness, movement and contemplation, taught by our masterful guide.
  • The use of two Stand Up Paddle boards during your free time.
  • A visit to the resort’s community project, the Saraswati school for local children.
  • A welcome gift.

The cost of the retreat is AUD $1199 (approx. USD $1050) for twin share and if you don’t have a room mate you will be paired with one. If you would like your own room, the cost is AUD $1399 (approx. USD $1230).

Read more information about the retreat HERE. You may also download the information PDF here.

Bali retreat sunset

I will be available from now until then to assist you with flights, hotel reservations for before and after the retreat and answer any questions you may have.

We will be participating in the retreat together, receiving Gisela’s wonderful teachings centered in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition which includes different practices of stillness, contemplation, movement and more.

bali flowers

This is not just any yoga retreat. This is a unique opportunity to discover your true nature in a nurturing and relaxing environment, while enjoying the delights of sun, sea, delicious food and pampering massages.

Retreat from daily life to recharge and connect so that you may manifest your truest desires and most authentic self. Take time to relax and reflect, away from the demands of work and responsibility, so that you may access the power, peace and wholeness within you.

Photos of Bali Retreat

Spaces are limited to ensure an intimate group and I am very pleased to have already filled several places (including my Mum, one of my oldest, dearest friends and possibly my sister Holly, but she just got a big promotion so we’ll see!).

So if you would like to be part of this experience, book your place!

Location of Bali Retreat

I look forward to hearing from you and I cannot wait to share this special experience with you. Please share this with anyone you think may be interested in joining us!

Sarah xxx

Contact me here for bookings and questions or email me on sarah.somewhere@hotmail.com.

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Where I want to be http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/09/24/want/ http://sarahsomewhere.com/2014/09/24/want/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:41:35 +0000 http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=10411 Keep reading...]]> It’s 1030 AM on Thursday in Puerto Vallarta. I’m in a women’s twelve step recovery meeting. Here, women gather to support each other in their recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, co-dependency, love addiction or overeating. Most things, basically.

It’s a simple room, painted white and filled with plastic outdoor chairs. Same as the ones in the meetings in Playa del Carmen but different to the ones in Perth. In Chiang Mai we sat outside in the park. In Beijing, we gathered in the 42nd storey of a high rise apartment building.

I don’t know anyone here and yet I am known. A feeling I never felt before I went into recovery yet have felt in every meeting I have been to on this journey. London. Bangkok. Bali. Sayulita. San Miguel de Allende.

The highlight reel of this whole journey is the one I haven’t shared about. Lost on the streets of Beijing looking for the meeting, frustrated yet willing myself not to give up. Finding the building and being led to the meeting room by a kind cleaning lady clutching a mop. Arriving five minutes before the end yet grateful for the comfort they bring.

It’s something which is difficult to describe. It’s about the alcohol but it’s not. I don’t want to drink but I need meetings like I need air.

Plus, I love the adventure of it.

One time I paid a taxi driver in Goa, India, forty bucks to drive me an hour and a half to the closest meeting which wasn’t on that day. I was devastated but knew it was all part of the journey. The willingness to go out of my way; to take action no matter how inconvenient.

We’ve driven past countless meeting rooms in rural Mexico which are emblazoned with signage that is decidedly un-anonymous. They provide me the comfort of just knowing they are there.

There have been so many amazing moments on this journey and almost all my favourites are connected to my recovery in some way.

Shaking hands with locals outside a meeting room in Mexico city while I tried to explain in terrible Spanish that I was one of them.

Volunteering at a recovery convention in Playa del Carmen and watching 13,000 Mexican people from across the country flood through the gates after traveling all night on buses to get there. Meeting a man from Cuernavaca with 45 years of sobriety.

Feeling connected to something so much greater by virtue of my mistakes and failings. Feeling loved because of them rather than in spite of them. Having instant friends all over the world.

Fleeting moments of unconditional acceptance. A place where success equals progress and where perfection is thrown out of the vocabulary. Words like ‘grateful’, ‘hopeful’ and ‘relieved’ are spoken regularly.

It’s not what you think it’s like. I’ve sat in meetings with priests, district attorneys and psychologists. They feel the same as the people on welfare or the factory worker or the stay at home Mum.

That’s the beautiful truth which keeps me coming back like a moth to a flame. It’s one of the only places I ever feel cozy, free to simply be. Nothing to explain or prove. Healed by stories.

As the women’s meeting continues, I sit and listen, then share when it’s my turn. When I finish I am filled with a knowing. It’s a voice which speaks to me in moments of clarity, of which I’ve had only a few.

“This is where I want to be.”

Not just this particular room in this particular country or even this particular type of meeting. Just here, in this space of being and sharing and connecting.

For someone like me to finally know where they want to be, it’s a sweet relief. I first came because I needed to and now I want to. I want to take it into other areas of my life because it’s not just addicts who need healing and connection. Everyone needs it.

We addicts have a frame of reference which involves buckets of suffering but we do not hold the monopoly on pain. If anything, we are the lucky ones. We received the gift of each other. It’s kind of ironic really.

I wish there was more true connection in the big wide world, but like Gandhi said, if you want it, be it, or something like that.

So, I’ll continue to put myself in the middle of it, telling the truth over a cup of tea (or the coffee I’m sipping on now) and allowing others to share theirs.

Because, in the end, “We’re all just walking each other home.” (Thank you, Ram Dass).

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