Six of the Most Useful Things that I Brought To Baja

Caravanning 1200 miles down The Baja, I didn’t know if I’d stay here forever, so I packed enough to survive if I did. I didn’t know if I’d like it here or if I would be too hot all the time or if I would click with the women I am traveling with. It has been a dream of a trip, better than I could have imagined, and a few things made it really comfortable…

Internal Homeopathic Arnica – I’ve shared it twice and it’s soothing for everyone’s heart to see tiny vial of Sweet Hope pills after falls, spills and bang-ups. It helped my new friends to rely on me a bit more and to trust and appreciate me – so valuable in the early days of the trip when we didn’t really know one another, which made me feel good.

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A Squat Pint Mason Jar – No spill! I served countless medicinal tincture cocktails in the car to my driver Julia while caravanning 1200 miles down The Baja, and I have soaked a lot of cashews and dates for vegan pies in this friend. A great coffee cup. I brought the plastic Mason jar lids, which aren’t drip-proof but are still easier to handle than the two-piece metal ones while on the road.Small Mason Jar

My Smartwool Pullover – Paid full price at MountainAir Sports in downtown SLO and will never regret it. Perfect weight, great color, 100% wool. Soft and yummy. I’ll wear it until one of us dies.

!SpanishDict! AppAll you need is to say the name with a certain tone and it gets a grunt of a laugh among our group of feminists – but seriously, quick translations of words and full sentences in English or Spanish with audio pronunciation has been really helpful and comforting. It was such a disadvantage without it for the first leg of the trip.

An Attitude of Possibility – God’s got a better plan for me than I can drum up when I am in anxious-mode. The month before I came here, I packed up my shit, threw it into storage, let go of my apartment and said “!Hasta luego!” to most of my clients. It has been a dream of a trip, better than I could have imagined, because I am staying easy-going (most of the time), trusting that the Universe has my back and sporting a sense of humor. I lightened up. I have been able to maintain a feeling great love for my companions and for my life and appreciating Infinite possibility – a “This or something greater” approach, an “I can deal with this, I’m in a foreign country” mindset. I am going home to the gift of a new Yoga studio that I didn’t expect to be given, with a bunch of new friends and the experience of living at beach retreat in Baja, to which I will return with friends from here and from home in the future.

Little packets of Coconut Oil from Trader Joe’s – An all-over cooling moisturizer – it’s so dry down here! Great to stave off hunger pangs. A little in the nose while camping in dusty RV parking lots. A little in the ends of the hair to make it cute. A little on the anus to soothe the tissues after diarrhea. Cuticle care. A protective sheen to swab on the ears. Makes vegan pies more substantive. 4 – 6 tablespoons per day for seven days kills intestinal parasites.

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AND ONE FOR GOOD LUCK! Spices – Thyme, Ground Cumin, Ground Ginger, Himalayan Salt, Cinnamon, a special Thai Green Curry dry spice. Brings the campsite alive!

Other things I am glad I brought:

My Preferred Clear Zinc Sunscreen and Sunscreen Chapstick (I ran out of Zinc and had my girlfriend bring me two jars when she visited)

Raw Cashews – can’t find ’em here

This Laptop

A Silk Scarf  (it’s my towel, my warmth, my sun- and wind-screen, my beach blanket, my window shade in the car, my sheet on the bed in unknown territory…)

Gluten and Lactose Enzyme Pills (I’ve eaten in more restaurants in eight weeks than in two years in SLO and haven’t had too many problems butI take these at every meal.)

Small Washcloths – I use one or two instead of a big towel for after showering. Takes up less space.

Extra Bags – plastic garbage bags, cloth book bags, ziplock bags, backpack, change purse, passport purse, endlessly useful.

My Earth Shoe Ugg Boots with the plastic clog-like shoe part. Great for sand walking.

Essential Oil Bug Spray – I am using DoTerra Terra Shield and one I made from a mix of oils I already had and put that in a glass spray bottle with witch hazel. The spray bottle is super convenient. Clove oil taken internally in water kills intestinal parasites.

Two Other Sizes of Mason Jars – a half-gallon and two quart jars. Bottled water or purificado from the agua store is essential .

My Down Pillow with Two Pillowcases and a two Flat Sheets – sheets are great for the sand and I sleep better in my own linens.

A Pumice Stone – everyone’s callouses fell off when we got here. My feet started disintegrating. But my heels are so smooth now!

Born in the Year of The Rat, I tend to pack heavy but I am glad to have these resources to make traveling comfortable.

Here’s a recent New York Times article that mentions this town. 

Here’s a video of where we are (a view of why I never want to leave and plan to return and lead Yoga and meditation retreats here – join me!).

AUM

 

 

My Medicine in Mexico: The Pharmacy, The Dentist and The Doctor at The Clinic

viagra bajaWhen I got here, I thought I might never leave. Ex-pat! Me! Yes! I couldn’t even dream of it, though, because I was told by my doctor that I had to return to the States within three months to renew a psychiatric prescription or else my “case” would be closed. If it closed, then I returned and reopened my case, I might not get the same psychiatrist – the only psychiatrist in the SLO county mental health system who prescribes this particular medication. I was fucked, stuck in another kind of psychiatric hold, and entrapped by the snare of the U.S. pharmaceutical drug ring. I couldn’t ex-pat because of my health… or could I?

Cut to la farmácia. My blood pressure medication cost $2.50USD when I ran out and bought more. They didn’t carry the time-released one, but I would be OK. Yes, they have my thyroid medication in case I run out. Lamotrigine? Yes, they have that, too. The brain med. I could live in Mexico! I never had to go back to see that doctor again! (They also sell Viagra – the little Mexican cartoon guy with a boner advertises it outside the pharmacies. Isn’t this a Catholic country?)

I hadn’t had my teeth cleaned in years, so I dropped into the dentist’s and had them shine me up. It was like going to the car wash/auto detail place. The noises of the tools! The hosing off of each set of teeth after he buffed them out! Oh, and I got fitted for a mouthguard because I grind my teeth: 1000 pesos. That’s like fifty bucks. Fill cavities? 1000 pesos each. But I have twelve, he said, so maybe not today. Twelve cavities? Really? Mmm, not now, gracias. Teeth cleaning? 900 pesos. That’s like $45USD. That guy’s doing some bizness in downtown Los Barriles, I tell you what. My jaw feels weird tonight. Could I have an infection? Were those tools clean? Sterile? I think I saw his assistant washing them in the sink as I left. I wasn’t asked to sign any waivers – there’s no record of my patronage – oh, wait! He took that impression of my teeth for the mouth guard. Evidence. It’s cool.

Is my paranoia so American?

Tomorrow I poop in a cup and take it to East Cape Medical Clinic where, for 250 pesos, they will sample my stool for parasites: giardia, dwarf tapeworm, all the things that make you sick. That’s, like, twelve dollars. Then the medicine is, like, four dollars.

The US pharmaceutical industry is the largest in the world, folks. No other country spends as much as the States on prescription medication. What else are they overcharging us for? Simply being alive?

I might ex-pat, but not this spring. I got stuff to do in California Norte. A one way ticket, SLO to Cabo, costs about $250USD right now. In case you’re interested in another way to live. Just sayin’.

Baja Biosana – An Experiment in Sustainable Community and Sociocracy

I’ll cut to the chase: The most fascinating thing I heard on our morning tour of Baja Biosana, an intentional community near Santiago, Baja California Sur, was when our unsuspecting tour guide, Andrew Jones, mentioned Shamanic Permaculture: exploring the inner landscape. How many times was I going to hear about entheogens and spiritual journeying on this Mexico trip? Ayahuasca, the psychedelic frog, shamans being flown in from Peru in February and did I want to try to find God with the help of a natural brew…? I am perfectly content in knowing that all I gotta do is close my eyes and remember, smritti, that God is within. Yoga gives me that access and direct experience. Meditation is my psychedelic of choice. But I could see from the moment I met him that Andrew was special and grounded and effective in his work, and he took us on an unexpected tour of not only the property but of some natural building resources in Baja and mainland Mexico. Permaculture, the inner landscape- it’s all one and the same.

From the outside, Baja BioSana is a group of six residents on a property surrounded by organic farms, near the Sierra de Laguna range and El Chorro Hot Springs, divided into fifteen home parcels, formed as a Mexican non-profit dedicated to living in a permacultured way while integrating “sociocracy” – a collaborative governance method which aims to create dynamic, harmonious, resilient, productive social environments and organizations.

Responsible production is the foundation of permaculture. Experimenting with the patterns of nature, the immediate eco-system, natural building techniques and utilizing materials from the local region with a nod toward ethics for a healthier, more sustainable natural environment are all part of creating “permanent agriculture.”

Considerate of the whole system – people, plants, land, climate, culture – properties that I have visited which are devoted to permaculture principles often have a peaceful, flowing quality, abundant with plant life, water features and buildings that blend into the landscape. The banana grove – a good fifteen degrees cooler in thick of it than in the sunny garden beyond it – and the buildings made of adobe, superadobe, earth bags and other natural materials were the highlights of our tour.

How It Happened

One day, I couldn’t help but overhear a guy talking loudly on a group call on the patio of The RoadRunner Cafe in Los Barriles, did I mention that he was talking very loudly about breathwork, then realized that this is the breathwork guy who lives at BajaBioSana, Dan Brule. His call was ending, so I introduced myself and told him that I had emailed Baja BioSana twice without a reply and had a group interested in visiting. He told me to bring the group on Friday morning at 8:30am.

 

Wouldn’t you know that Dan was on a run to San Jose on Friday – not present at the scheduled time – but Andrew Jones greeted our unexpected group and he swooped in graciously and gave us a tremendous tour. Humble and serviceful, with a depth of spirit and resources, Andrew Jones is a superstar. Here is a picture of Andrew through the first door that he built, looking in from his home into the enclosed patio where he and his lovely wife reside.img_6177.jpg

From the inside, this may be a social experiment, artistry in a challenging climate, a difficult place to live up to its own ideals. If we put ourselves up to high standards and try a new way of living, however, we might be working hard at something really worthwhile, that changes and beautifies our little corner of the world.

The Universe Has Your Backside in Baja

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Our Lady of Guadeloupe roadside shrine, Transpeninsular Highway, Baja California Sur

Get Away

Why do we travel? I left for Mexico for new perspective and to relax. The political climate and the collective anxiety were rocking me. I had been repeatedly robbed multiple times by my neighbor this fall, I was fighting with my girlfriend, had island fever SLO-style and I just needed to be outside more. Camping down the Baja with four strangers sounded great.

We should count ourselves lucky that it was eight long weeks into our trip to Baja that we began to engage the pile-o’-poo emoticon.

I ate the most ridiculously delicious tortilla soup on Tuesday. Experience tells me that only MSG can make food taste that good. MSG is a contaminant if you are sensitive to gluten. Plus, I ate ceviche two days in a row last weekend,swam in a pool under a waterfall and got water in my mouth… how did I get sick? No sé. My brain and bowels are just starting to function to where I can could out of bed two days ago,but I’m back in bed again.

In addition to my Mexican food poisoning this week, one of the gals in our crew was diagnosed with a parasite yesterday (dwarf tapeworm – charming) and tonight I got The Big D. She and I have been eating the same things, so I am a little spooked that I might have the dreaded parasite known as tapeworm, too.

I’ll poop in a cup in the morning.

Fortunately, I lucked out and I am staying at this really nice place where it’s kind of a luxury to rest for days and watch the wind in the palm trees and the sky change over the cerro and the sea, and I am feeling better… and then worse… I binged on Netflix’s Stranger Things while semi-comatose this week, so the tapeworm visual is pretty fresh I am a little freaked out, but if I got it, I got it and they can get it with meds.

Tengo allergia a harina y trigo. 

Living with gluten-, soy-, dairy- and other food intolerances has made the simple act of eating my most dedicated mindfulness meditation. Even so, I get inadvertently food poisoned. “I have an allergy to flour and wheat” was one of the first things I trained myself to say in Spanish on this trip.

 

One usually finds the same things traveling that they do at home, though, right? The language, landscape and textiles change.

Here in Baja I’ve found kindness, like at home, and some good Yoga, and some drama, and some Yoga drama. I got quiet again thanks to the remoteness of Baja and far away enough to notice the dance of my own ego with my mind. My ego enjoys inconveniences to a degree, because my mind gets off on finding solutions from which my ego can grow. That makes my mind and ego feel useful and I feel an immediate gratification from acting upon my sense of purpose. It’s spiritual growth. Dirty water, dirty vegetables, camping, fake news, fake facts, corruption – it’s all inconvenient, but I can grow from it. We get badges on our imaginary sashes for overcoming all this.

With Travel Comes Clarity

Home is calling with a bigger purpose. I have been offered to steward an established Yoga studio in SLO County, so in the last couple weeks I have been praying and attuning and working on that from here. I have a lover at home whom I miss, even though we drove each other crazy before I left – but we’re growing. We have a friend from the twelve step community who died in an accident this week, and I want to be home to grieve and celebrate, in shock, in fellowship, which strengthens community ties.

Falter and Fly

I’ll go home back to the USSR, er… um… I mean, to the US (I couldn’t help myself), with the new perspective that every country has their pros and cons, and with the appreciation for life and love that only separation and death can reveal to us, and with a renewed purpose which is expressed by my work and mission, a renewal which only the universe and the distance of travel could bring.

Stay healthy. Be safe!

Yoga in Baja

IMG_5838I drove in a caravan of three cars, three dogs, two trailers, and five women to Baja in December on a reconnaissance mission-slash-much needed vacation.

A woman I knew while finishing Yoga Therapy training in Grass Valley owns property here on the beautiful East Cape of the Sea of Cortez. She is interested in developing an off-grid spiritual retreat center. She invited me on an adventure because she knows I am interested in the same damn thing.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Baja without some trouble, though, now, would it?

Thirteen hundred miles and two flat tires later, having abandoned one trailer after getting stuck in quicksand, with my suitcase, tent and other perceived essentials 100 kilometers north of La Paz, we have arrived safely at our destination north of Cabo San Lucas.

We are smirking and swearing a lot, eating amazing food, including local chocolate and fish caught by the ladies, playing Cards Against Humanity, swimming, SUPing, doing Yoga, getting tan, nearly suffocating with laughter and planning our permanent relocation here.

It is Shangri-La and I hesitate to name the town. I want to keep this place a secret. However, if you’d like to come down, meditate, go offline from time to time, leave the current administration behind and enjoy restorative Sunshine Therapy, let me know and maybe we can arrange it!

Happy New Year

 

 

 

Everyone Was Coming Off Psych Meds In Yoga Class Tonight

10483306_10203263186093284_9187530179595185087_oCal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Recreation Center, Studio 2, 5:25pm Wednesday night. Restorative Yoga Class taught by me. Three students: two staff members, and one participant who is staff and a student.

I ask, “I am a Yoga therapist. I bring Yoga into the medical community. My passion is yoga and mental health. Anyone have anything significant going on they’d like addressed during this session, physical or emotional or mental or spiritual? It’s a small class, so we can tailor it.”

Girl in the middle says, “I’m coming off anti-depressants after a decade. I am having brain zaps. I’m getting through it but it’s been crazy.” She was describing detoxing.

The guy on her right says, “I wrote a book about my experience coming off anti-depressants. It took months to feel better.” He turns to the girl in the middle and says, “We should talk after class.”

There is a global movement: coming off psych meds. It’s hip.

There’s a place for medication, right? Sometimes it’s forced on people. I’m not sure if that’s right, ethically. I take medication daily. I fear the-coming-off. I question if I could appreciate life’s turbulent environment without defiantly losing my mind. (I couldn’t stop myself when I was younger. It was defiance for justice. I was enraged and uneducated. I had no alternative then. It seemed like the right – the only thing to do.)

There’s no long-term research on the medication that I take. My life has been shortened already, I am convinced: kidney and thyroid dysfunction after ten years of using prescribed lithium carbonate. I consider coming off the current drug more and more frequently, – I consider it only briefly, each time… wondering if I trust the support around me… if I could handle “it”…  I always, so far, decide I am doing alright for now. My life span might be shorter because I take medication, but the quality of my life right now is really good. I’m alive. My sister is not. My dad’s not well.

This free .pdf,  Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Of Psychiatric Drugs, written by Will Hall, could offer more info on how to stop using psych meds wisely – for you or those you love.

My student tonight, Brian A. Schultz, has a program, The 90 Day Happiness Project, a holistic approach for those suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression, including a cookbook, mindfulness audio tracks, and more. Get it on Amazon.

A life coach, Brian came up and thanked me after class. “I want to know about your book,” I said.”I wrote a book, but it’s a program. I was on anti-depressants from the age of 12 until I was 21,” Brian said. “I came off cold turkey. I wouldn’t recommend it.”  His program describes how he lives well now in recovery. “My program is a lot like this class. Mindfulness is a big part of my program.”

All three participants were spacey, relaxed and joyful when class ended tonight. Yay!

I kept thinking, What are the chances that two out of three students in Restorative Yoga tonight have had the same experience? I told them to KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT.

I felt like I was in the flow, offering Yoga therapy tonight, out loud for mental health… I also felt like it would really, truly be possible to write my own book. Would you read it? What would you want to read about?

Peace AUM

On Seclusion: Do nothing

Along with silence and mindful breathing, seclusion is accessible, often overlooked and under-appreciated medicine. Different than isolation, seclusion is a foundational practice for sages and artists, called The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People.

Einstein, Kafka, Tesla, Picasso all lived creative, productive lives with the help of seclusion.

Seeking shelter in these times – for rest, contemplation, space for creative pursuits – is a radical, necessary, pacifying and appropriate act to maintain mental stability and resilience.

What are you creating that could use a boost – family? career? An extraordinary relationship? A personal paradigm shift? A healing lifestyle? Consider secluding to write, rest, dream, zone out and tune in. Don’t worry about looking lazy! With so much pressure to produce in this industrialized culture, resting may be the antidote for the Atomic Age – the period of history following the first artificial, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. This science-fiction-turned-reality ushered in profound changes in sociopolitical thinking, lifestyle, the course of technology development and our health. Slow it down.

My meditation practice has changed this year. I fell in love and now live with my partner. I also altered my business, so my daily rhythm is not as controllable as it once was. When I lived alone, I could easily sit and meditate for hours a day. What bliss!!! I have voluntarily exchanged some of my idealistic meditation sadhana (spiritual practice) – ideal in an ashram setting, which my home had been, living alone so long – with a relationship sadhana, and a kitchen sadhana, a puppy sadhana (we just adopted a Maltipoo!) and a seclusion sadhana. Empathic, I need alone time to recharge. I love the quiet, shaded house while my love is away. I love our bed, where I write and rest. I love listening to the windchimes and working at my own pace.

“Cabin fever:” seclusion may have reached a peak and it might be time to shift to more public activity – to participate. This could be as brief as a trip to the store to buy apples. Making a phone call might be plenty, or open the way to more overt activity. Facebook? To participate or not to participate? A weekly meeting with a consistent group of people (a class or self-help group, for example) and one-on-one time with trusted friends are two healthy social scenarios. I appreciate 12 Step recovery groups – consistent group meetings with a repetitive, predictable format ease stress for me.

Practicing mindful seclusion is encouraged to avoid burning out either end – with either too much participation or from too much seclusion. Trust yourself that you will know the difference.

My spiritual practice includes approaching, with wisdom, an indulgence in quietude and in good company as I feel ready – without pressure or rushing, guilt-free.

Clarity comes with calmness. Calmness comes with quietude. Quietude results from seclusion. As monks, poets and artists: do what might look like nothing – a simple, effective reset for better health.

Come participate in healthy seclusion in a small group setting Saturday, July 15 at Grateful Spirit Yoga in Atascadero. Register at http://www.brookewestyoga.com/workshops

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