Wild Adventure-Grayson Highlands State Park

For the entire month of July we were on vacation.  YEAH! We camped, hiked, swam, and visited friends as we slowly made our way up to New York City and then back down again. Our whole trip was based around my son’s acceptance into an “elite” theatre  intensive with the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City.  On this trip, we experienced the powerful magic of nature and the crazy-making magic of the city.  A little bit of everything. Perfect Gemini road trip!

One of the most beautiful places we explored on our trip is called Grayson Highlands State Park, in Southwestern Virginia. The park is home to several herds of wild ponies.

There are signs telling visitors not to pet or harass the ponies, but in all honesty, those sweet little ponies walked right up to us and forced us to pet them! We had no choice!!! (Not sure how wild they really are, but we loved them!)

ponies

 

 

The weather on the mountain is known to change very quickly, and it did. The first afternoon we were there it was warm and sunny, but by late afternoon, and with no warning, strong winds began to blow. The temperature quickly dropped from perfect to freezing, and as the wind howled, heavy rain poured out of the sky. We huddled in the tent, feeling both excited and nervous…rain began to drip into the tent. Would our tent hold up?  Thankfully the storm passed quickly but the cold stayed with us. It was so cold that we had to bundle up in our winter jackets, the only time we needed them on our trip. IMG_4122

The air was so fresh. The views so beautiful. The energy so calm but so alive. The forest speaks a language my soul remembers.

The park has several hiking trails, there are beautiful waterfalls,  and the Appalachian trail runs right through the park too.  We spent hours skipping rocks into the river. I am certain the world would be a better place if we all spent more time quietly skipping rocks. 

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If you ever find yourself in the mountains of Virginia, go to this park, it is worth it. So beautiful.

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Beautiful waterfall At Grayson Highlands State Park

Our whole trip was really magical and I will try to write soon about each place.  

Go on a WILD  adventure~Tiff

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”~John Muir

 

 

 

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Restoring Under the Hammock

Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.

Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing.  There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much  wildlife.

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Barred Owl

Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.

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Cottonmouth Eating a Fish

 

We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.

The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.

 

We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.

Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.

Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.

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~Tiff

 

Yoga Date- Convention Center Style

On Saturday I went on a “Yoga Date” with a friend of mine. We are both yoga teachers, and mothers, so usually our hang outs are with our children, and include diapers, trips to go “pee pee”, occasional tantrums, and conversations about how yoga has helped save us from complete and total mental breakdown. “I felt like I was going to pull out all my hair and then I did some  sun salutations and now I feel completely renewed.”

My friend Melissa, who teaches Paddleboard Yoga, had a couple of free tickets to an event in Fort Lauderdale called the “Yoga Expo”. I usually avoid the big festivals and events, preferring to practice alone, or outside, but free tickets and a kid free date with my friend, was something I was really looking forward to.

We met up early in the morning and after pushing through some heavy traffic and getting a little lost, we arrived at the  Fort Lauderdale Convention Center.

On the ride down, I drank both coffee and a coconut water. Not a good idea. Because when we pulled into the parking garage, my full bladder was about to explode. There was no way I could make it all the way to the crowded bathrooms!! We giggled and I nervously found a place  in the parking garage to squat down and empty my bladder. Parking garage yoga-malasana pose! My friend shielded me with a yoga mat.. I joked that we would get arrested, and all the yogis would talk about the peeing yoga teacher in the parking garage. We didn’t get arrested. And I felt so much better.

At the expo, we were surrounded by  a few thousand yoga practitioners. Everyone walking around with yoga mats, going from class to class, shopping, and eating “yoga” food. After checking it out and feeling a little overwhelmed, it was time to practice. The event was huge, offering 6 to 7 classes every hour. All day. The classes were packed. Flourescent lighting. We were doing downward facing dog to Beyonce, Pitbull, and some very weird songs about heartbreak.

To be honest, it was hard not to “judge” the experience. The place. The Yoga fashion trend.  The noise! It was so loud.  Once again, I was presented with a big lesson. Tame the mind. Yogananda  wrote that in his early training, his teacher wanted him to go  deep into meditation, but Yogananda was being swarmed by mosquitos. He kept swatting them, getting agitated, and could not meditate. His teacher sat there looking peaceful, deep in meditation, unphased by the mosquitos. His teacher told him to train his mind.

It is easy to relax the mind when in a peaceful setting. The real work is to relax the mind when we are in an uncomfortable setting. Convention center yoga. Take out the tools, and calm the mind. When I was able to get deeper into my breath and be present, the judgement melted away. Yoga always teaches us.

After a couple of flow classes, and with very exhausted legs, my friend and I drove home in the late afternoon. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly, of mainstream yoga culture.  And while we both agreed that there are things we don’t resonate with, we both acknowledge that the truly important thing is that more and more people are being introduced and drawn to yoga. So many people find healing through yoga.

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Post Convention Center Yoga 🙂

Yoga is a path and the wisdom of Yoga unfolds at a natural organic pace. . Even after 18 years since my introduction, I know I am still a beginner. I am still learning and being challenged everyday.

Yes, “yoga” is a huge trend.  And yes, there are problems with our mainstream yoga culture. But truth be told, beyond the expensive yoga clothes,  is the actual practice. A very personal and profound practice. A practice that can truly help heal the world. 

 

~Tiff

 

The Beauty in The Sunrise and Sunset

A few weeks ago, I taught a beach yoga class that I will never forget. A beautiful strong class.We went into a very deep meditation.  We were all blanketed in this magical feeling, and for many minutes after class officially ended, we sat silently, softly smiling, everyone feeling that ‘Yoga high’.

Well, that high ended with an accident, a horrible accident, that shocked us all, and left me confused, frazzled, and ultimately feeling very guilty. 

The ocean was wild that day and the lifeguards had put up a red flag. It was warm out, blue skies, but very rough water.

One of my students (who is also a friend, healer, and a teacher),he walked to the shoreline, and decided to dive into the water. He unknowingly dove into very shallow water and his shoulder hit the sand very hard. He came up with his arm hanging several inches lower than it should have been, and his collar bone sticking out, it was grossly out of place. It felt like this weird nightmare, caught in between these two worlds,  and I  really didn’t know what to do.

The lifeguard came over and kind of knocked us back into reality. He was grounded in the situation, and he gave us firm instructions. He also said to my student, in his macho but caring lifeguard voice ” Dude, I know you are in a lot of pain, but we saw that dive and we all thought you broke your neck. You are very lucky.” I am sure he didn’t feel very lucky. And as reality sat in, so did my guilt.

My student was rushed to the hospital, and had to have surgery. And I  kept thinking, “if he hadn’t come to my yoga class, none of this would have happened.” 

I have tried to remind myself that I didn’t instruct him to dive into that shallow water, but the guilt is still there. The concern is there. The pain is there. The memory of this beautiful man, soaking wet with a horrible injury, is still is fresh in my mind. And I have to process and work through that feeling that somehow it was my fault..

I have tried to remind myself that although this has changed his life, it likely has put his life on a track that could only open up because of this accident.   It was the tragedy of my sons seriously broken arm, that forced me to homeschool him, and ultimately allowed us to take a trip to the Azores, a trip that changed our lives, and led to the birth of my daughter. A beautiful path opened out of a very painful situation.  There is a way to look at this situation (any situation) and someday understand the reason. Because there is a reason behind everything. But just because my student will get through this doesn’t mean it isn’t insanely painful. I know it is.

Recently, I have had two very close friends experience intense tragedies, both involving death, in nightmarish ways. My heart goes out to them.

 

We all experience misfortune. And right now, in this moment, my heart goes out to anyone and everyone experiencing grief, loss, sadness, guilt, pain, or fear. Experience it. Surrender to it. Pray. Love. Forgive.

Life and death are mysterious…We can be jolted out of our bliss at any moment. In an accident or even death. Samsara.  This life is impermanent. We only have so many breaths. Everything is in a constant state of transformation. Death included.

I have been doing a meditation about death, and it is surprisingly healing. When we realize our life is impermanent,  we try to make each moment count.We live each breath.  We see the beauty in the sunrise and the sunset. 

Namaste, Tiff12248193_10204499516517914_5042567486272250404_o