Heart Opening

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Theresa with a baby goat

“Disenchanted” by the travelers in Dharamsala a few weeks ago, I now find myself totally thrilled by their existence! The juxtaposition between the locals and travelers is what makes Dharamsala so unique. People visit here from all over the world – and every cafe is bustling with a medley of languages and exotic faces.

The travelers are the reason for the many bohemian cafes that come alive in the evening with secret entrances and low tables – smoky and myrrh scented – and musicians playing sitars and flutes and drums. The mysterious nightlife of Dharamsala, hidden within the hills of the Himalayas, creates an inspiring distraction from the intensity of the month-long yoga teacher training course where my attention is predominantly focused.

The second week of training ended yesterday. It’s our day off and I find myself in lotus position on a colorful veranda in Dharamkot, a tiny village a mile away from the yoga shala where I stay in Bagsu. Sipping on momo soup, I’m reflecting on the past two weeks.

There are eleven of us taking the Samyak Yoga course – from France, Greece, Italy, Taiwan and India. It takes me back to my school days with a regimented schedule, shared lunchtime, and different personalities trying to absorb the same information. While some students are cramming in their rooms after a long day of asanas and yoga philosophy, others (guilty) are sleeping or exploring the village. As I try to retain the Sanskrit names of yoga asanas ‘parivrtta trikonasana, garbhpindasana’ … I find my mind wandering outside, following the scent of woodsmoke and the sound of the harmonica and guitar from Welcome Cafe.

Our teachers are inspiring, humble and very funny. They break, flex and push us in yoga poses for four hours a day and inspire us with mantras and ancient wisdom. My heart chakra has been cracked open from the relentless back-bending asanas and the first two weeks I found myself uncontrollably weeping over anything remotely cute, sad or romantic. I saw every being radiating divinity.

Memories from the past surfaced and gave me a second chance to release old pain and sadness. Along with tears, toxins were released resulting in skin breakouts and inappropriate bursts of laughter! Experiencing this totally vulnerable and emotional state, beyond any reason or control, it is more clear to me than ever that yoga is a powerful gateway to living in a supremely conscious and awake state of mind.

Namaste x

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blessings

Dharamsala

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My choices were narrowed down between Goa, Kerala and Dharamsala as places in India to study yoga. After five months of braving the harrowing ‘Polar Vortex’ in New York, Goa – located on the beach – was highly appealing. Trance-y, hippie, Hendrix vibe … on the surface it was my ideal location. The beach looked pretty, but not totally spectacular (few do after growing up spoiled rotten in Aotearoa) and no yoga schools had successfully seduced me …

I had been told numerous times about the stunning beauty of Kerala from locals and yogis alike. Lush green foliage, dripping with lusciousness and life. Backwaters immersed in jungle land akin to Utopia where colorful painted houseboats gently rock by. Kerala is known as ‘God’s Own Country’ and is one of the wealthiest states in India. But every yoga school I came across seemed to include a uniform for the students and mixed the worship of Gurus and Swamis with yoga practice. While this approach may be ideal for some, I just wanted yoga (preferably while wearing a beaded sari ensemble), pure and simple.

And then there was Dharamsala located in the Himalayan mountains. I don’t know whether it was so much the place, as it was the yoga school, that enticed me. Something certainly drew me in and my heart told me clearly that this was the place I would spend a month of my time deepening my yoga practice. Dharamsala is home to the Dalai Lama and there are both large Hindu and Tibetan communities residing here among the dramatic mountain ranges.

I arrived yesterday from Delhi on the world’s smallest and most terrifying Air India plane. It didn’t help that prior to leaving New York an avid traveller to India dubbed them ‘Crash Airlines’ before realizing that I had booked a flight. After a dodgy take-off the two hour plane ride was a surprising smooth-sailing journey.

I was shown my humble room with a small balcony and stunning view and left to discover my new home before starting the yoga teacher training program in a few days time. Roaming around the streets (or one road as the case may be) I find myself in the year 1969 (only with Internet). Psychedelic colored restaurants occupied by harem pants and tobacco are dotted through the village offering Tibetan and Indian delicacies.

As I sit perched on the veranda drenched in sunlight at Bhagsu Cafe, little children run by with red painted bindis, cows moo and hold up traffic, mules carry loads of bricks strapped to the sides of their bodies climbing the rickety hills, and a monkey steals an orange from the fruit vendor. The sound of rapid construction, frolicking birds and dub music create another layer to this most richly diverse and exotic playground.

Although I am slightly disenchanted by the amount of travelers passing through (I spot the irony) and the three offending name brand stores that hover a few miles South at the entrance to the town, Dharamsala undoubtedly feels like the exotic home-away-from-home I was looking for.

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blessings

A Day in Delhi

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“How do they do the sex, the gays?”
“In the bottom or in the mouth, I guess.”

He nodded his head, conjuring up the visual. I broke into a laugh, trust me to get into a sexually related conversation with my Indian guide. What I thought was a transsexual person had just tapped on my window begging for money while we had stopped at a light in the middle of a busy street in Delhi. She surprised me in her beautiful sari and wearing a beard because I assumed India would be quite conservative when it comes to cross-dressing.

My guide, named Singh, happily explained in broken English: “He is eunuch (pronounced ‘unic’ – my auto correct prefers ‘unicorn’). They are born not man or woman. There is just a hole there (circling his crotch), that’s all.” He continued to explain that if you are born eunuch the Indian government legally allows you to beg. When healthy male babies are born in India eunuchs can ask the families of the newborns for money. My guide told me that when his son was born his father gave $8000 rupees to the eunuch community as legally obliged by the government.

This all seemed rather liberal and I was curious about gay rights, but as it turns out – my suspicion was correct – being gay is very much frowned upon in traditional Indian communities. In fact, my guide told me that if he had happened to be gay his family would most probably have disowned him … or perhaps killed him. Singh was curious about the ins and outs (pun not intended) about gay sex, hence the opening conversation. While watching the BBC later that evening in my hotel room I was paradoxically informed of gay marriage legislation passing in the United Kingdom that very day.

Singh and I had been driving around Delhi all morning together. He took me to numerous sights that included large parliament buildings, decorative arches and Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial – but I most enjoyed sharing with him our different lives. While riding together on a rickshaw through Old Delhi – among what seemed like six of the twelve million people living in Delhi, stray dogs, beeping horns, yelling men, sparkly saris, very dodgy hanging electrical wires and punctuated with a horrifying and pungent odor I didn’t think was humanly possible to smell (let alone create!) – we talked about God and religion, our homes (he gasped at the price of Manhattan rent), our weddings (his was arranged), and the differences in our cultures … Including gay sex.

It was truly a beautiful day full of many laughs and a very surprising and cool connection with somebody from a totally different walk of life. Thank you Mr Singh for a kind and open welcome to India!

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blessings

A Journey East

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

This Thursday I am leaving New York City for a one-month adventure in India. I have wanted to explore India for as long as I can remember – there is something I find undeniably alluring about the exotic aesthetic of Indian culture – and the time has finally come to explore it firsthand. I am filled with nervous energy and excitement for the journey ahead. 

I have always been fascinated by what I think of as ‘Indian’ … the colorful spices, mysterious beauty of the people, spiritual rituals, and inspiring fashion … India feels like a world so different from the one I know. In my mind it is a world that’s almost inaccessible, like a surreal illustration from a children’s fantasy book. 

I sometimes make dresses from beautiful embroidered Indian silks. Each piece of the handmade cloth conjures up images in my mind of what I think of as Indian. I am transported to a world of colorful dancing saris, marigold flowers and lush jungle land. And while my ego thinks I know something about India from my very limited exposure (an Indian ex-boyfriend, wearing bindis as fashion accessories and yoga asanas) I gather it is filled with great diversity, paradoxes and impossible generalizations. 

People say there is no adequate preparation for a first visit to India from the West. The scale of poverty is something that we are simply not exposed to. While I have totally romanticized India in my mind over the decades, I fear that I may be in for the culture shock of a lifetime.

I will be spending some time in Delhi and then travelling North to Dharamsala in the Himalayan mountains to attend a yoga teacher training program, where I will learn to teach yoga to students. While I could have taken a yoga course just about anywhere in the world, it felt true to me to learn the practice from the yogic homeland.

I may have limited access to the Internet, but I will try to post about my travels when and if possible over the next month. I am honored to share with you my intimate thoughts and feelings as I embark on this exciting journey. I always love to read your insights and words of wisdom in the comments section below.

Much love and many blessings,

Lucie x 

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
– John Hope Franklin

heartsingMy Heart Sings For Matcha Chia Glo smoothies by Organic Avenue, Sleep Studio in Soho, Wei of Chocolate – vegan and fair-trade coco love, Moroccan tea glasses, gorgeous restaurant Buvette on Grove Street NYC, Business Time by Flight of the Concords

blessings

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Hudson River at sunset

Hudson River at sunset

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
― Rashmi Bansal

I thought I would know more at thirty-one.

Looking out at the vastness of the Hudson River I find myself humbled by how little I know. The consciousness of this body of water has seen so much. This river has been flowing southward for tens of thousands of years – breathing long before it was named after the English explorer Henry Hudson.  A flowing vessel where Native Americans would fish and catch oysters … and who knows what else before that? And still the river continues to be a silent witness. Ever present. Skyscrapers grow over the decades, floor-by-floor shadowing over the city, and still the river runs by.

As a little girl I knew I didn’t know anything! I was at the mercy of the school system, my parents and society. I assumed that one-day I would know it all, like those very-together-looking adults buzzing around with rules and conviction – presumably knowing it all. I quite clearly remember thinking how good it will feel when everything has been revealed and when I will always know the right answer …

The river is gently rocking, lapping up against the pier and teasing me … and then I remember something that Maya Angelou once said in an interview with Oprah – the same force that made her, also made the rivers and the lakes and me and you. Yes.

I pay attention to the infinite wisdom of my heart. I listen. I may not always pass the test or get the answer right, but just like the Hudson River my heart is filled with endless knowledge. 

“A great man is always willing to be little.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

heartsingMy Heart Sings For Steve Jobs commencement speech at Harvard, Samyak Yoga in Dharamsala – woohoo! Sexy slouch pants by Mara Hoffman, Golden by Jill Scott, Never Give Up – this tear-jerking all inspiring yoga video with a mere 10 million views! Ripe and crispy apples from Mother Earth. 

blessings

 

The Artist’s Way

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“Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control.” 
― Julia Cameron

Many years ago I was a fashion designer who had a small clothing boutique.

About six months after opening my shop I had a meeting with a business developer who was helping me to brainstorm ideas to increase my sales. He asked me what item of clothing I had sold the most. It was a collection of hooded sweaters and I had sold out the entire range – about ten hot pink and black sweatshirts.

Mister Commonsense suggested that seeing as the sweaters had sold so well, it would make perfect sense to produce more. How could I not have thought of this? It was so obvious! I got to work designing and manufacturing thirty new sweatshirts of multiple designs.

Months later I put the new sweaters in my boutique to sell, eager to watch them fly out the door!

But they sat untouched for weeks …

Then months … 

Seasons passed by with almost no customer interest at all. 

I just about had to give the stubborn sweatshirts away to get them out the door! It was my first understanding of the magic and mystery of great art – the only difference between the first collection and the second was love.

The first collection of hooded sweaters was divinely inspired and created for no other purpose than an artistic expression. I had painstakingly made each one myself – figuring out how to insert reversible zippers, overseeing the printing and watching with delight as I finished each one by hand.

The second collection was a rush job, designed to be a ‘cash cow’ (the most awful expression ever) and made by a large manufacturer. There was no heart in the art – and therefore no art. The divine light and beauty that had attracted a frenzy of customers to the first collection, was totally absent in the second lot.

Mister C. had unknowingly given me a crash-course in making art: it is not rational and does not make ‘perfect sense’ – at least not in any measurable form.

When we create from a place of pure passion – free from the prison of money and expectation, we allow divine creativity to flow through us from the Creator. Everything else created, pales in comparison. Trying to work out what will sell and be the ‘next big thing’ is futile in the face of art. The ability to make great art takes letting our ego and physical reality fall away so that we can become a channel for the light. We can only make art for art’s sake! 

“The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

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Channeling creativity into love-capes!

heartsingMy Heart Sings For great art! The healing benefits of grapefruit juice, this wonderful TED talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert about divine inspiration, peanut butter on Ezekiel bread, this beautiful limited edition Lavender Dress by Amber Whitecliffe, antique teacups 

blessings

Wanna Be Sproutin’ Somethin’

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Turmeric Salad (raw / vegan)

Very tasty little salad! I add a scoop of hummus or an organic and pasture raised hard-boiled chicken egg on the side for a little protein.

Small handful of alfalfa sprouts
Small handful of mixed lettuce leaves
2 beets peeled and grated
1 avocado sliced
3 Tbs raw sauerkraut
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs of dulse seaweed flakes
1 Tbs ground turmeric
Amino acids
Apple cider vinegar

Toss vegetables in two serving bowls and sprinkle with nutritional yeast, dulse and turmeric. Add amino acids and apple cider vinegar to taste. Serves 2.

Blessings of love for our beautiful food.

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.” 
― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Turmeric is native to Indonesia and southern India, where it has been harvested for more than 5,000 years. I was recently reminded of the benefits of turmeric by Alisa Vitti (author of Women Code) while searching for remedies to heal adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance. Turns out turmeric works wonders for both! 

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Pearl and me during Hurricane Sandy

Humbled on Sunday: by New York City.

“New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” ― John Steinbeck

It is difficult not to be humbled in New York City! My God, it’s intense. There are 12 million people on the tiny island of Manhattan at any given time. It’s bustling and busy and wild. It’s non-stop. Relentless. Gritty. Competitive. The power is always turned to ON!

New York is a melting pot of contradictions where anything is possible.

There is an underlying energy in this city – a hum or vibration … Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ….. it’s palpable. Some of this energy must surely be enhanced by Manhattan’s bedrock which is over a billion years old. Often it feels as though I am confronted with my biggest spiritual obstacles in this city. I feel like I’m constantly tested and pushed to my edge. When things can’t get any harder, New York will prove that they can. 

As devastatingly difficult as living in New York seems to be sometimes – it is juxtaposed with miracles and ‘New York’ moments. The quintessential and larger-than-life American culture dazzles in this city! 

A favorite New York moment of mine was being driven home by a jazz drummer in his stylish mid-century Porsche … or walking home at night to see world class opera singers pouring their music forth from a church alcove to passersby …. Incredible street dancers, nude and dancing Occupy Wall Street protestors, celebrities, homeless people sleeping in boxes, drug addicts, artists, every possible nationality, unexpected and elevating conversations with strangers …. all of it magical and mystical. It is like the dream plane – only physical. 

New York is my spiritual playground that always has me humbled to my knees. 

“New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water.” 
― Truman Capote

heartsingMy Heart Sings For sweating it out in the dead of winter on the treadmill to Michael Jackson songs … heaven yes! Sexy lingerie by Stella McCartney, Brown Sugar Scrub by Fresh, peace lily house plants, the people of Ukraine. 

blessings

NOW PLAYING: Life

LUCIE“You do not exist to serve the illusion. The illusion exists to serve you.” 
― Lauren Zimmerman

Yesterday was potentially a rather stressful day – a frantic combination of running to and from subways, printing/filing/signing government documents and diplomatically trying to charm security guards and embassy officials. Disguised as a-pain-in-the-bum, this was certainly one of God’s divine tests … Would I pass? All I needed to do was stay present.

My flights are booked for India at the end of this month for a yoga teacher training in Dharamsala. I assumed the visa process would be fairly straightforward. I filled out the application online (easy) and then called the Indian Embassy to make an appointment … not so easy. Out of the ten phone numbers listed on numerous websites – not one worked. When my e-mail bounced back I decided to try a different course of action.

Off to Yelp I went, in search of missing answers to my questions. With a two star rating I prepared for the worst. “Two weeks to book an appointment”, “Three weeks to obtain a visa”, “I queued for four hours” … My optimism was fading rapidly.

I finally came across a review of a woman who had success with a company that process visas as a third party. Out of my apartment I ran! I had one hour to get visa photos, print my application and get uptown.

Jessica signaled me over to look through my documents. The fastest she would be able to get a visa would be five days too late. There was nothing she could do. I sat opposite her a moment longer, in a state of sadness and surrender, and asked her one more time if there was anything – anything – she might suggest.

“I don’t know if this will help. Go to the front of the line at the consulate and ask for Mike, he’s the security guard on the door. Tell him I sent you.”  I can do unorthodox! I thanked Jessica and my legs steam-trained me up to the gold door on 37th Street. I continued to trust the test.

Big Mike was on the door – aptly named, charming – and happy to help me. He personally escorted me inside the building and to the front of the queue where I could ask Raju any burning questions. I soon discovered that I would need a renewed passport and seven days to process my visa. It would be tight – but things were looking possible, positive even!

I walked along Madison Avenue in a state of wonder, accepting my fate and trusting that the Universe had sent me this challenge to help me grow. I acknowledged the angels along the way – the Yelp reviewer, the subway drivers, Jessica, Big Mike and Raju. 

I watched myself as if I was an actress on the big screen and observed the role I was playing. Why are similar scenarios are so exciting on the movie screen and not in real life? We sit bug-eyed on the edge of seats! Will she or won’t she get to India (or get the guy/job/happy ending)? 

I witnessed my thoughts and ego. It was a rare Eckhart Tolle moment. I recognized that I am the leading lady in my movie called Life. I can control my actions, but I can’t control the outcome. Just like in the movies, the Creator will have the last say. I can either struggle or surrender with grace.

I choose surrender. So be it. 

“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” 
― Eckhart Tolle

 (names have been changed)

heartsingMy Heart Sings For yoga in India! Amethyst crystal for healing, delicious and romantic suppers at vegetarian-Korean restaurant Hangawi, beautiful actress (and her dress) Lupita Nyongo, this great story of an Indian man who invented a sanitary pad machine

blessings

Fame.

Lucie Boshier New Zealand Fashion Week 2008

Lucie Boshier New Zealand Fashion Week 2008

“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” 
― Marilyn Monroe

I learned of Charlotte Dawson’s death last week. I didn’t know her personally, only that she (like me) had the experience of fame in a very small town. I imagine that celebrity life is difficult anywhere, and in small communities it all feels so personal – you can quite easily bump into the person who has slammed you in the Sunday paper while grabbing your morning coffee. Charlotte’s tragic suicide took me back to a time in New Zealand when I was (for a very brief moment) regularly appearing in the media. My persona seemed to be loved and hated equally. The hate part stung, and the publicly printed words of contempt stuck like super-glue to my consciousness. It took a move to New York, three years of spiritual development and a conversation with an extraordinary Maori man on Ohui Beach to heal my broken relationship to my home country. 

My very short-lived celebrity life in New Zealand lasted from about 2006 – 2008. I was a fashion designer with a store in the heart of Auckland City and had been designing for my label for ten years. I worked for haute couture designer Patrick Steel for four years before opening my first little boutique in Kingsland, Auckland with the help of my family. I had the rare privilege of having parents who could afford to support my dream of opening a shop. And perhaps on a karmic level I needed to fail as I had not earned all of my success on my own. In Kabbalistic terms, receiving without earning is referred to as ‘Bread of Shame’ and we evolve on our spiritual path by removing it. 

Looking back with five years distance and 15000 kilometers of ocean between my hometown and me, I can see that the bad press wasn’t personal at all – it really wasn’t even about me. But at the time it hurt like hell. I am sure that many people would have said that I brought on the attention of the media myself – which in many ways was true. I used provocative marketing techniques to build exposure. Some of these techniques were brilliant and authentic and some were totally foolish and naïve. There are things that I would certainly do differently and other things that were an incredible expression of creativity. But the extent of public personal attacks seemed – and still seems – so totally futile.

Through so much of my spiritual work in New York I have come to see that what we judge and criticize in others, is always what we don’t like in ourselves. When we gossip and bad-mouth people it is a reflection of the parts of ourselves that we need to heal, whatever it is. Judging others is a human trait that is hard to resist (God knows I’ve been guilty of it!) but as we resist, we create the space to evolve. 

Auckland is a tiny city with silent cultural guidelines that I didn’t obey … I don’t think I knew what they were until I left (the blonde and busty: beware). There are guidelines all over the place: a silent dress code in Paris, heterosexuals only in Russia … Even in New York there are certain guidelines, albeit loose (we like you liberal). It is heartbreaking to feel as though you’re not accepted by your own culture – but perhaps we all just need to find a place where we feel we fit in. While running down the Hudson River yesterday I passed a man dressed entirely in 1920’s paraphernalia with a waxed moustache and then passed another man running with headphones and twiddling a baton in his hand conducting an absent orchestra. There is no doubt that I am meant to live in New York!!

Sadly in our modern culture we have become obsessed with celebrity life. Pulling someone down (who we have often never met) gives us a momentary flash of light and instant gratification, but in the long run, it hinders our growth and causes us deep pain. If we can point the finger at somebody else, it takes the focus off having to look at ourselves. So much of the media revels in stories of politicians having affairs, child abuse cases and celebrity misfortunes – taking the edge off the writer’s own fears, fantasies and failings. But it’s sad for the public, because I think we’re smarter than that. The shitty press is easy for us to digest quickly because we don’t have to think. But if the media used their job responsibly it could be a major tool and platform for spiritual growth and multiply peace on earth. 

My deepest sympathy to the friends and family of Charlotte Dawson. Sweet soul, may you rest in peace. 

heartsingMy Heart Sings For the Gauguin exhibition at MoMA, flowers from my love-babe, Happy by Pharrell Williams,  this beautiful silk carpet from ABC Home, Housing Works bookstore and cafe in Soho, the documentary I AM

blessings

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