contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

NEWS

Filtering by Category: travel

Contemplations from the Road

Jennifer Oechsner

unnamed (4).jpg

Before heading off from India I decided to have one more adventure. I always love the mountains and there were places in Northern India that I knew would be amazing to see. And I knew that retuning to the Himalayas would be a great way to say goodbye to India. When I was trying to decide whether or not to go, there was that voice of reason in the back of my head questioning the wisdom of going. I knew I would be heading to Nepal for the 10 day meditation and I thought maybe that was enough. However, when the suggestion came my way to do a 2 week trip on a motorcycle into the northern-most part of India I knew it would be the trip of a lifetime and I just couldn't say no.

When I came to India in September 2018 it was a big leap of faith so I decided, what the hell, I would take another one. As I reflect back on my life I guess this is a pattern for me. I tend to jump into things. Some might say this is foolish or irresponsible or impetuous but I guess I just believe in seizing the moment. I didn't know when I would be back in India and I didn't know if I would ever have the chance again to take a motorcycle tour in the Himalayas. I’ll be honest here, there were several leaps of faith involved. I know how dangerous motorcycles can be and I assumed some of there terrain would be rough. I also would be spending two weeks with someone I didn't know particularly well. I mean, people who get along in life don't always get along when traveling together but something told me everything would work out, and it did (for the most part). Something told me I would be safe, and I was. Something told me it would be the experience of a lifetime, and it was. Sure, my ass hurt and we got on each others nerves from time to time but I am so grateful to have had the experience. The landscape we rode through was nothing short of spectacular and the fluctuations of my mind provided great big mouthfuls of food for thought. Following the 10 days of meditation with this trip to the Spiti Valley encouraged me to delve even deeper into my psyche. There was a lot of time to think and the changing landscape and majestic mountains were a source of great inspiration each day. 

By the end of the first day the heat of Delhi gave way to cool mountain air and lush rolling mountains. I was in awe and tried in vain to capture the images with my smart phone as we drove along. The sweet energy of Sarahan, the fierce river running through Chitkul (the last village at the mountainous Indo-Tibetan border), the Tibetan style homes framed by snowy peaks in Nako, the charming village of Kabo, the grandeur of the peaks and valleys in Kaza...each place we visited provided new magnificent views and friendly smiles.

It was around day 6 when the awe I was already experiencing went to whole new level. The gravel roads and surrounding dramatic landscape made me feel as though I were on the moon. The green snow capped mountains gave way to jagged earthy dusty rocks with a muddy river flowing through the dramatic gorge. The drop off at the road's edge got closer and steeper. Periodically I would peer over the edge to check for edges of fear. A few times my heart would skip a beat but then the calm would quickly return. It was strange. I honestly foresaw myself having much more fear on this trip. There was no fear of falling because I knew we wouldn't. There was no fear about what was around the next bend because I knew Vaibhav would gracefully navigate any obstacles that presented themselves. There was no fear of weather turning because whatever came would only be a passing discomfort as is the nature of all things. 

As we rolled and bumped along the roads the blue snowy peaks periodically broke up the perceived moonscape that dominated our surroundings. Here and there the industrious people of the mountain had cultivated the land and clusters of green step farms broke up the expansive earth tones. 

The landscape of Spiti VAlley is that which I have never seen before. The scenery of the entire trip was stunning but there was something profound about being surrounded by this new terrain. It was almost as though the energetic connection to this new natural landscape facilitated a deeper energetic connection to a new way of being. As we drove I felt a softer place around my heart. As I shared my reflections with my friend and road captain (Vaibhav), my vulnerability also surprised me. Sharing fears and insecurities incited some anxiety but as soon as the words left my lips there was also peace. Although I do consider myself to be an open person, I do feel a sort of fear clouding my heart. This fear has been a familiar companion but releasing this burden is an undeniable necessity if I am to continue to grow. The new landscape  provided fertile ground in which to plant these new seeds of growth. Under the light of the Himalayan sun the shadows that follow me were slowly being burnt away. 

The mind is a funny thing. It becomes accustomed to patterns of pain and it can feel foreign or even self-indulgent to cultivate patterns of joy. But joy is real, joy is truth, joy is from an unadulterated peace. Not the joy that incites belly laughs and butterflies, but the joy that gently softens the heart. It is not a joy to attach to but a joy to return to when the pain of life returns, as it surely will. When this pain surfaces the sense of calm that joy brings can be home base, a warm place to return to when the fleeting painful situations arise. All things arise and pass away yet I truly believe that joy remains constant. It will always be there waiting if we have the patience and fortitude to live from this place of truth.

When I made the decision to move to India a year ago I had a thought that the endeavor just might change the course of my life. This shift in my reality and the softening of my heart is not quite what I was expecting but even more meaningful than a new career path. Of course, new surroundings, new experiences and new friends have the power to blow through the status quo of the mind. However, the true wisdom lies in retaining the lessons for the long haul. We all need help to remember to keep the heart open, self love at the forefront and cultivate a deeper trust in our inner wisdom. For me, sharing these reflections with you helps me remember to stay on track as lasting change takes time and persistence to cultivate.

A deep thank you to Vaibhav of Roads and Chrome for the incredible journey. Sorry I would never let you sleep in but I hope the cups of chai I brought you in the morning made up for it. Thank you for keeping me safe on the road and for being a good friend (and therapist at times). Who knows, maybe I'll see you down the road for another Himalayan adventure. Anyone care to join me?


The Sounds of Silence

Jennifer Oechsner

unnamed (2).jpg

For the past few years I have toyed with the idea of taking part in a 10 day Vipassana course. I never was sure I could handle it and didn't think I was a serious enough meditator to take on something like this. What is Vipassana? It's an ancient meditation technique that was practiced in India roughly 2500 years ago. The tradition became adulterated and watered down and eventually died out. It was reinvigorated in Myanmar in the 20th century and is now practiced around the world. (For more information go to dhamma.org)

There are several Vipassana centers in India and Nepal and it seemed like the perfect time for me to take on this challenge. To be honest, going in I didn't know much about it other than that it was 10 days of silence and a whole lot of meditation. I thought maybe it was better to go in without expectations so with an open mind and a trusting heart I signed up for the June course in Pokhara, Nepal.

As June 1st grew closer my excitement gradually gave way to fear and apprehension. I questioned whether I would be able to handle it. Then, on the way there in the taxi I stopped at the ATM so I could pay the driver and I wasn't able to access any cash. I tried 4 different ATMs and none of them would work. Sweat dripped down my back, my breath quickened, and a knot formed in my stomach. There had been other obstacles I had to overcome in the previous week and I was feeling panic with this new one. Miraculously I was able to contact the bank and they were able to fix the issue. I definitely lost my cool on that one. Interesting timing wasn't it?

When I finally arrived at the meditation center I was pleasantly surprised by the view. The center was situated on the top of a hill overlooking a beautiful lake and rolling mountains as far as you could see. On a couple of mornings that are rare for this time of year the clouds dispersed and the mighty, snowy peaks of the Himalaya revealed themselves. Another metaphor for the journey we were on together for those 10 days.

When I was taken to my room I was surprised to see that I would be sharing a room with 5 other women. Would be interesting to be in such close proximity to 5 people I couldn't talk to or interact with.  As I crawled beneath the blanket on that first night and listened to the rain pound on the metal roof I felt the grip of fear return. I thought to myself, "what the hell am I doing here? How will I possibly get through the next 10 days?" It turns out, one day and one breath at a time. 

When the morning gong echoed through the air at 4am I peeled my eyes open and got ready for the first round of meditation. What transpired over the following days and hours of sitting on that cushion in that sometimes stifling room was an erratic mixture of emotions, sensations and energetic flow.

I knew that some people didn't last the whole time and on day 2 the first person left, then a few more as the course went on. I was determined make it through. I was fascinated by what would happen to my brain while sitting in meditation for so many hours. Turns out, it's really hard to concentrate. Part of Vipassana is connecting to the sensations of the body through a type of body scan. Starting at my head, I would often only get to my nose and my mind would wander to wondering what was for breakfast, what the next phase of my life will look like in China, wondering what happened to my first boyfriend, or the girl who was so mean to me in 1st and 2nd grade....the list of distracting thoughts goes on and on. Then the questions would arise. Was I failing?...just breath...How will I get through 9 more hours?...just breath. Will my back hurt the whole time?...just breath. I had to continually remind myself to come back, to focus, to persevere and that nothing is permanent. I had to remind myself to be grateful to be there and to embrace the gift of the journey I was on.  As I look back it was truly a microcosm of life. There is often pain in life. There so many distractions that take us from our path. We are so often faced with the choice of taking challenges head on or burying our head in the sand. We can choose to run from the pain of growth or dive in and experience the pain so we can see more clearly how to get through it the next time it arises.  There are times when we question our inherent wisdom and forget our innate compassion. The practice of Vipassana can help bring you back to your truth.

As a yoga practitioner I understand the connection of mind and body and understand that our body holds tension that is generated in the mind. Like yoga, this is part of the expereince of Vipassana. When we are able to connect to (however uncomfortable) the pain in the body, we can then release the patterns of misery generated in the mind. The hips can hold deep rooted pain. The lower back can hold tightly to traumas the mind holds tightly to. The upper back can hold tightly to the tension of a fearful heart. I felt all of these in my body. And I also felt release. The release came with rushes of energy flooding areas of my body and this energy was often accompanied by tears. Not tears of sadness or even tears attached to a particular thought, but rather, tears of release; tears of letting go. These moments were profound. The tricky part of this was not becoming attached to the experience and letting the waves come and go with the grace of an ocean tide. 

The teaching of Vipassana is rife with life lessons. One that stood out to me that I wanted to share is the power of planting the seeds of the fruit you wish to have in your life. Do you plant seeds of doubt or seeds of hope? Do you plant seeds of faith or seeds of cynicism? Do you plant seeds of joy or seeds of misery? The mind is a powerful tool but can also be a powerful weapon when left to run wild. I believe that we can all train our mind to nurture and cultivate seeds of positivity. As the story goes, if you want to have sweet mangos, then you can't plant seeds of the bitter neem tree.

When the vow of silence ended on the afternoon of day 9 it felt strange to talk. But quickly the room buzzed with joyful conversation. Somehow we had created relationships through the shared energy and shared experience.  It felt as though a special bond was created. While at first I was disappointed to be sharing a room with so many people, it turned into a wonderful experience. Another way perspective shifted my reality.

These 10 days began a new chapter in my long journey of self-discovery. The path of awareness, the path of Dhamma, is one of truth. But it is also a path that requires patience and persistence. The path can be painful but it can also lighten your mind and your heart and deepen the most important relationship you have in your life; the relationship you have with yourself. 

unnamed (3).jpg

Opening to the Unknown

Jennifer Oechsner

66f559a8-b0bc-4bcb-847a-f8b8bdfc52a4.jpg

After careful contemplation and much deliberation over my list of pros and cons I decided it was time for me to say goodbye to India for now. I am deeply grateful for the experience and I know that Jaipur and each person who made my time there memorable will always hold a special place in my heart. There was a period during my time in Jaipur that I thought it might be my last time in India. But who am I kidding, that crazy place has a hold on me, in spite of (or maybe because of) all the chaos. 

Naturally, at the top of my list of things I loved about being there was all the people I connected with at GSD (the college I worked at). It was a small group of students so I had the opportunity to get to know everyone and I became more attached than I ever thought I would. Watching them grow as artists and individuals and helping them spread their wings was a priceless experience and worth every struggle that came my way. The day I said goodbye was tearful and emotional and while I felt I was letting them down I am glad I was able to have such an impact. Each and everyone one of them gave me the warmest hug goodbye and I asked me to come back someday. How could I possibly say no to all of those sweet faces?  A very special thank you to my Indian mamma, Meenakshi. Thank you for sharing your life with me, for being there when I needed a shoulder to cry on, and for letting me know that I was wearing pajamas as pants....and my favorite one, when I was using an oil container as a travel mug. 

With my decision to leave India came the decision of what to do next. Do I go home and pick up where I left off? Do I find a new home in the PNW? Do I travel? Should I stay in Asia until my retreat in Nepal in November? What is more responsible? What do I WANT? What will serve me the most? My mind would often spin with confusion and my heart would flutter with the vastness of the possibilities.

As you can imagine, I did not choose the "safe and responsible" route.  I decided to travel and stay in Asia and meet my retreat group in Kathmandu in November. At the moment I am in Kathmandu getting ready for vipassana (10 days of silent meditation)  Follow me on instagram to see where my path next takes me next. It’s going to be an interesting journey for sure.

As I gaze out at the hills surrounding the city, the temples overlooking the valley and contemplate all that is before me in life I find myself in a state of disbelief. This chapter of my life has been an intense one. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to wander the earth, and I have done that. Although for many years I have longed to do it again I didn't think it was going to happen. But then, the right things happened at the right time and the universe provided. Serendipitous encounters, an open heart and the power of manifestation are why I sit where I am today. Some might call it luck, but I think its more than that. I believe we have the power to create the life we want; now I just have to keep having the courage to do it. While I know where I am going to be for the next 6 months, I don't know exactly what that will look like. That uncertainty terrifies me but at the same time exhilarates me. Life is filled with varying degrees of uncertainty and some of us prefer less than others. Although I am in a place of deep gratitude, I am sometimes still fearful of this uncertainty. But when I question the wisdom of my decisions, I remember the wise words from one my 18 year old students. "Of course it’s the right decision, because it’s the one you made". Well said, girl. 

Now all I have to do is continue to keep my eyes open to opportunities, keep my heart open to new and challenging experiences and take bumps in the road in stride. After all it might be scary a monkey jumps on your back, but if you remain calm and just give him your peanuts it’s actually more hilarious than anything else. 

Faith, Hope & Confidence

Jennifer Oechsner

unnamed (1).jpg

My time in India thus far has been flush with adventure, exploration,  introspection and also some struggle. I am grateful for all of it. After all, some of the biggest lessons in life show themselves when we are in the midst of a battle. It can be hard to see clearly through the chaos but with careful and brave reflection I see the message the universe is sending. 

I'm going to share a secret, and even as I write it makes my palms sweat. I am fully aware that I am living a good life and I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I have achieved a lot but I could be achieving so much more. Why do I think this? What is stopping me? Courage. The courage to fully believe in myself. I don't want this to come off as self-pity. I know that I have accomplished some great things but I also know that I am capable of more and the only way to greatness is on a path of courage and self-confidence. I also know that for most of us these qualities have to be cultivated. Over the years I have become more self assured and that shy and scared little girl I remember lives in the past (most of the time). However, I also know that I continue to get in my own way. Thankfully I have some awesome women in my life who are willing to call me on my shit and remind me of my greatness when I forget. 

To me,  important ingredients for confidence are faith and hope. Hope is defined as the feeling that what is wanted can be had. Faith is defined as trust in a person or thing that is not based on proof. This is the tricky part of confidence and what can paralyze action. If we only take action when we have proof that things will turn out as we like, then our actions will be few and our growth will be limited.

Through growth of my businesses I have learned that confidence comes with taking scary steps even when the outcome is unclear. Confidence comes when I have those tough conversations even when I would prefer to keep my mouth shut and accept what is before me. Confidence comes when I dare to dream big and take the actions I need to get there. I firmly believe that the magic in life lies just outside the comfort zone. This is part of why I travel, why I love triathlons and why run my own businesses. There are easier paths I could have chosen, but what fun is that?

One of my goals is to continue to explore this crazy world. While I know my family in the Midwest and my friends and trees in the Pacific Northwest will always draw me back, the explorer in me will always take me on adventures. Right now I am again at a fork in the road. As I contemplate the best route to choose it is important to keep in mind to remain confident in my abilities, have faith that I will make the best choice and remain hopeful that my path will continue to be one of growth. Stay tuned for what's next!

The Warrior in Warrior-Flow

Jennifer Oechsner

unnamed.jpg

After our yoga practice the other day a few of my students asked about my tattoos. You could say that the 2 larger ones express a sort of fierceness. One is dragon inspired by Shambhala, representing "unwavering strength". The other is a cluster of cherry blossoms with the Japanese symbol for warrior in the center. I laughed  to myself and thought, "they must think I'm so tough". And in some ways I am but that is not the reason I am drawn to these inspirations of fierceness. Way back in 2011 when I was contemplating what to call my business and came up with Warrior-Flow I wanted something that sounded strong and yes I am a martial artist and a warrior in that sense. But the warrior in Warrior-Flow came from something deeper which is the essence of who I strive to be in the buddhist sense of the word which is to be strong in who you are. This a battle many of us fight.

I'm going to be candid here. From a very young age I struggled with self-confidence and body image issues started very young. I was always a sensitive soul and tears have always come easily to my eyes. For much of my life I saw this sensitivity as a cross to bear and was ashamed of the tears that often fell. While I now see my sensitive soul as an asset I am still working on the tears part. However, in my heart I know that however I experience my emotions is ok. If I cry, so what. Crying is a release and an expression of deep emotion and what is wrong with that? This past week one of my students was struggling with this issue and I reassured her that her tears were ok and not to worry about how it seemed to others. I reassured her that there is strength in letting yourself feel your emotions. It was a good reminder for me to give this same compassion to myself. 

As I have mentioned, living in India has had its share of ups and downs, as life always does. Sometimes life's daily struggles seem amplified here. Maybe it's because so much is foreign and so little that is familiar. I don't mean this negatively, but rather that there is constant food for thought. Sure I have my daily routines and places I frequent but these routines are still met with a sense of having to navigate carefully and be strong in who I am. For example when I go to the gym in the early morning I have a basic structure I like to follow. When I select my weights for each exercise in my circuit sometimes some guy will come and take them when I put them down for a moment. Now, I realize that there are a limited number of dumbbells and I don't want to hog them but to me its customary for people to share in this situation, but there hadn't been this consideration. I assumed it was because I am a woman (usually the only one in the free weight area) but I wasn't sure whether I was being overly sensitive. Was their behavior a cultural thing? Was it reflective of Indian sexism? Now I think so. Over time, people started asking before they take weights that I might still be using. And now they even return them to me when they are done so that we can share. I feel like I had to earn the respect of my fellow gym-goers. I don't know why it took so long, I can certainly squat more than most of the men there who seem to only be interested in working their arms (but this is a story for another day). My point is that even something simple like gym etiquette is the source of personal reflection and cultural analysis. 

Life will always be filled with tests; tests of strength, of courage, of beliefs and of one's ability to communicate kindly. I firmly believe that strength in one's sense of self is the key. Strength begets strength and sends a positive vibration into the universe.  So the fact that I am drawn to intensity and messages of fierceness is the fact that I need regular reminders to stand strong in who I am. There is a beauty and grace in this for everyone. The only way to soar is to see that you have wings. Sometimes it hard to spread them but once you do its hard to go back. 

What makes you soar?

Your perception is your reality

Jennifer Oechsner

0c3369d3-e1bb-41dc-b81d-ce16da5b60f5.jpg

How many times have you had an experience or been part of a conversation that you and someone else remembered completely differently? How many of you sometimes love the rain but some days its the worst thing ever? How often have we wished for the warm sun on your skin but then other times just want hide from its burning rays? How is it that one day you wake up with a smile while others you just want to pull the covers over your head and avoid the day all together. 

While of course there are many factors that effect our day to day existence, but what I’m talking about is perception. Our perception shapes our reality. Our perception affects each of our experiences. I spend a lot of time thinking about this facet of life and am fascinated by the minds ability to bend and shape what our eyes see, our ears hear, and what our skin feels. We are complicated animals and our experiences along our journey through life effect our perceptions to varying degrees. But how often are we cognizant of an opportunity to look at something a different way? How often do we pause and consider changing the lens through which we see the world? Perception can be the cause of inner turmoil as well as conflict with others. Not only that, but when we become too deeply mired in our own existence we might miss the opportunity to shift our own experience for the better.

Living in India has given me so a plethora of food for thought on this topic. When I boarded that plane back in September embarking on this journey to Jaipur I thought I knew what I was getting into. After all, I had been to India 3 times before and traveled to various parts of the country, including time spent in the are I'm currently living. I knew it would be hot, but this leo loves the sun and the idea of skipping winter seemed just fine to me. And of course I knew there would be mostly vegetarian restaurants, an overabundance of horn honking and cows in the streets. However, nearly 5 months here my perspective has changed. 

Some days the horns hardly exist to me but some days the incessant noise makes my blood boil. Some days the cows are charming but some days I don’t even blink an eye at them. I suppose the novelty of things wear off but there seems to be more to it than that. Some days I even long to bundle up and play in the snow! (maybe you can’t take Wisconsin out of the girl). 

Sure, there are things that were novel and no longer are and there have been growing pains associated with living in an Indian city. There’s the “foreigner price” for things that you just have to deal with. There’s the confusing income tax system. There’s the traffic rules (there are no rules?) There’s the sometimes overwhelming attention that comes with being a white woman living in a conservative Indian city. Even my perception of this varies. Some days I find it infuriating, others I pass it off as innocent curiosity and many days I take little notice. Again, my perception is my reality and can shift on a daily basis. 

I'm borrowing a friend's scooter for a bit and I took it out for my first ride yesterday. I was nervous the the traffic would be too much and I took it out during a less busy time just to be safe. The roads are chaos here and I wasn't sure I would be able to smoothly navigate the roundabouts. However, it turns out that the being a passive participant in the back of a car is much different than playing an active role in navigating the chaos. Its far less intimidating. 

One of the struggles I face with life in India is trying to understand the Indian perspective and ways of doing things. I'm not gonna lie, it can be super frustrating. But that's part of living in another country. And part of having a peaceful existence her (and anywhere really) is being able to roll with the punches and letting things roll off my back. It’s not always easy, but it is of course a matter of perspective.

the stark dichotomies of life in Jaipur

Jennifer Oechsner

742eaa47-55cb-49ab-9673-d5a04a6cd660.jpg

On my first trip to India there was a lot of shock and awe, especially on those first few days. This bold (some might call foolish) step to move here for a short time has certainly brought its share of both. But I'm going to be real with you. Some of this shock and awe can be paired with anger, disgust and a complete loss of patience. 

On each of my trips to India I have found great joy, seen amazing beauty and experienced deep compassion. On each of these trips I have also experienced anger, tears of frustration and the ugly side of human existence. As I have said before, in spite of this, I am continually drawn to return.

As I sit and write horns continue to blare and as the the sun sets a layer of dust settles over the city. But the other side of this same coin is the Peepal trees and Bougainvillea blossoms adorning the city, the overpasses painted with pink and white Rajput designs and the bright smiles shared with me each day from the people selling produce on my street. India is filled with these dichotomies.

Many Indians take great pride in the natural beauty of the country. The Himalayas, the stunning coastline, enormous banyan trees and the thousands of glittering temples are all celebrated by Indians and foreigners alike. Yet there are still so many people who think nothing of tossing discarded plastic wrappers on the ground and burning piles of trash. (although I was pleased to find out that many cities ban the use of plastic bags in stores and instead give you "carry bags" made of recycled fabric)

There are signs of economic growth everywhere. Construction is heavily underway in Jaipur and part of this growth is bringing a metro system to the city. Some portions of the city are nicely maintained including signs calling on its citizens to "keep Jaipur clean and green". Yet at the same time, a large segment of the population remains undernourished and illiterate. 

Another part of the scene that I find strange is the situation with the cows. It's charming that cows roam freely on the streets and that they are cherished so deeply. Most Indians I've encountered in Jaipur who do eat meat wouldn't dream of eating a cow. Of course there are religious reasons behind but there is also a pragmatic one. (one might question which came first) One cow can provide nourishment to many people for many years with its milk. The meat of one cow can only feed a handful of people for a short time. It makes sense to avoid eating them, particularly in a country where there is so much poverty. The strange part is that the cows on the street are often fed vegetable scraps that are left in plastic bags. This results in the cows eating plastic bags and part of the reason so many sick and malnourished cows are roaming around. 

Along with these dichotomies I observe is the interesting roller coaster of emotions accompanying my experiences here. The beauty is breathtaking yet the waste can be repulsive. I have met amazing and inspiring people and I see others who treat people like animals. Of course these type of dichotomies exist everywhere but they do seem to be more pronounced here. And of course life is always filled with ups and downs, this is part of the richness of human existence. Without sadness there is no joy. Without pain there is no pleasure. Without rain we don't appreciate the sun; or in the case of living in desert state of Rajasthan, the constant sun deepens my appreciation of rain. 

Living in a place that so much is different means walking around with eyes more open. This heightened sense of presence is party self preservation because if you don't pay attention you might get side swiped by a tuk tuk. But I also think that taking in the surroundings with an open mind has been good for my practice of mindfulness. I have realized that this is part of why I love traveling so much. Its not only about seeing the natural beauty of another country, ancient architecture and finding culinary treats. The simple experiences of wandering the lanes in a foreign city make me look more deeply at my own life and my own thought processes. When I feel anger or fear or sadness what are my own patterns of thought that take me to these states of being? When I place judgements on others how do I justify doing so? What habits can I address to take me away from self-created suffering?

There are many reasons I chose to take this leap and move to India when I had a perfectly good life in Portland. In the time I have been here I have heard time and again that India "India will change you". It is always said with a gentle smile. After 2.5 months in India I am starting to feel those shifts. Like all of us I am a work in progress. There are many layers to this work but one commitment to the process of self development is keeping my eyes open to the lessons each day has to offer. I know I didn't have to move to the opposite side of the world to do this but it sure is an interesting place to learn life lessons.

                           

Finding my flow in Jaipur, India

Jennifer Oechsner

facade-of-the-hawa-mahal-palace-of-winds-in-jaipur-rajasthan-india-636950806-58e24eed5f9b58ef7e556bbb.jpg

From my first day of exploring India in 2008 I was hooked. From a very young age I was enchanted by the far east and had a yearning to see the world. My wander lust took me many places, including time spent living in Ireland and Japan. But India was different from any other place I had yet experienced. On that first wander around Delhi I was enthralled.

I found India to be a constant stimulation of the senses. The noise of the traffic and muslims being called to prayer, the women gracefully navigating busy streets adorned in beautiful saris, the smell of the coagulation of 17 million people, countless dogs and cows wandering the lanes, the beautiful architecture alongside the makeshift homes of people living on the street, the heat of the day and the palpable emotion of the people....the chaos drew me in. 

On that trip to India I explored the Himalayas, the grand state of Rajastan, experienced the grandeur of the Taj Mahal and the relaxing beaches of Goa. After 5 weeks there, I knew I would be back. I traveled to India again for my yoga teacher training in 2010 and again in 2014 for my first international yoga retreat. Each time I visited India I longed for the opportunity to stay, to soak it in for a while; to become a local in this fascinating place. I finally got my chance.

As the result of a very serendipitous encounter in Nepal in 2016 I was offered a position to teach yoga and English communications at a small design college in Jaipur called Gurukul School of Design. As everything was coming together for my position and relocation I kept feeling as though I was in a dream. The job seemed to be the perfect fit. I was to be a wellness coach, yoga instructor and English teacher for students learning fashion design. And the location seemed great. I had only spent a day in Jaipur on a previous trip and I remembered it as a city rich with culture and liked the fact that it it's not too big. Yes, 4 million people live in Jaipur but that pales in comparison the the 17 million living in Delhi just 4 hours away. 

Although I had long wanted to live in India I was faced with a tough choice. I loved living in Portland. After nearly 8 years in the Pacific Northwest it had become my home. I had lost love, found love, grew my business and have a wonderful community of friends who became my family. Yet, I knew that if I didn't seize the opportunity I would always wonder what might have been. Maybe the job wouldn't be great, maybe I wouldn't love living in Jaipur; but maybe I would. And after all, my wander lust still lives, my sense of adventure guides my heart and I knew I could always return to the PNW....so off I went.

Those first nights in the hotel were filled with dreams. Dreams of the past; stressful disorienting dreams of the future. I would wake up tearful and exhausted, wondering whether I made the right decision. I was thrown into things at work and felt out of sorts. The noise of the traffic got to me and the intense heat was stronger than I thought it would be. The hotel was clean and quiet and when I stepped out the door in the morning I felt bombarded by the surroundings. I knew there would be an adjustment period and I tried hard to keep that in mind.

The days passed and things got easier. My co-workers and I became fast friends which has been a huge help. I found an apartment, found where to buy the things I needed to make it a home and slowly I am finding my way. I have made a few more friends, gotten (more) comfortable running through the neighborhood in the early morning hours, found a gym and become acquainted with the local vegetable markets. Its slowly becoming home. I've traded the cab ride for a 30 minute walk to catch my ride to school and love how it feels to be part of the city starting its day. The rooftop of my apartment building provides the perfect backdrop for my morning yoga practice and I'm becoming accustomed to the heat. (although I am definitely looking forward to the "winter" people keep talking about)

I am slowly finding  rhythm in my life in India. Its been 1 month since my departure from Portland and as I find my routine I'm finding my flow. Like so much of life, its the little things that make such a huge difference. Naturally, I'm looking forward to returning to Goa, camel rides in  the desert and train rides to visit enchanting palaces. This is all part of what enticed me to take this leap. But life is made up of many small moments, not just the exciting ones. It's how we choose to live each of those small moments that forms our reality. Wherever we choose to go we have to learn to seek out happiness, to find our flow that brings us peace. My flow is in friendships, love, health and laughter. I am finding all of that here. How do you find your flow?

The Sardinian Way

Jennifer Oechsner

unnamed (1).jpg

Last weekend I returned from an amazing trip to Italy. I had the great fortune to host my most recent yoga adventure on the island of Sardinia. The island was the perfect backdrop, I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful location. We spent part of the week in the charming Catelonian city of Alghero and part in the cozy beach town of Cala Gonone. We swam in the awe inspiring turquoise waters Sardinia is famous for, practiced yoga, ate, drank and explored together. It was an week filled with deliciousness, adventure and laughter. 

Being on Sardinia for a week was magical. I felt that I could easily slide into life there. I could feel the slower pace, the energy of the people and natural beauty draw me in. I loved starting my days with a walk or a run, sipping a cappuccino and taking in the surroundings. 

One of the interesting things about Sardinia is the longevity of its people. Sardinia is one of 5 "Blue Zones" in the world which are areas identified as having inhabitants that often live beyond 90. The other four are Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, Calif.

The secrets of the longer lives in Sardinia aren't really that surprising. Seafood is plentiful and meat has a weekly rather than daily presence in the diet. Sheep cheese is a staple and goats milk is part of the traditional diet. Sheep cheese is more nutritionally dense and much easier to digest than cheese made from cow's milk. Goats milk is high in omega-3 fatty acids and is anti-inflammatory.  Sardinians also eat what they grow and grow what they eat. Being an island, access to food from elsewhere is more costly and less accessible. As a result, sustainability reigns and eating with the seasons is the common way to go.

Another influence of the long lives of Sardininans is the inclusion of a small amount of red wine on a daily basis. The traditional red wine produced there, cannanau, is particularly high in flavanoids which are anti-inflammatory and help ward off disease including heart disease and alzheimers.

Sardinians also take things at a slower pace and live in community. Meals are an event shared with friends and family. They take time to prepare, to enjoy and linger over them. Elders are cherished and looked after. Afternoons are  quiet and slow and Sundays are more often a day of rest. I feel blessed to have experienced a small sliver of life on Sardinia and look forward to the day I can return.  

The Joy Within Discipline

Jennifer Oechsner

jennifer_runner.jpg

On September 5th I embarked on a 30 day plan to clean up my diet, change some unhealthy habits I had adopted over the summer and prepare for my fist olympic distance triathlon. I eliminated inflammatory foods, focused on getting more sleep, decreased my social time to turn my attention inward and up-leveled my training which included more rest days. All of these things required concerted effort and non of them were easy (yes, even taking more rest days). Making change, even when we know the change is positive, is not easy. It takes discipline, but discipline doesn't have to be a dirty word. Over the past month this discipline has helped me cultivate a sense of peace and an unexpected undercurrent of joy.

In the Shambhala tradition the snow lion represents joy, unconditional cheerfulness and a mind free from doubt. Over the past month I have noticed a shift in my general sense of well being, beginning to feel the embodiment of the snow lion. Skipping the wine with dinner improved mental clarity in the morning. Eliminating coffee took away a crutch I realized I didn't need. Implementing more rest days helped me push myself to greater improvements on my training days. Although there were moments of joy when I felt my muscles getting stronger riding hills and on my training swims in the Columbia. Even more importantly I felt a greater sense of peace.  Life's struggles are still there but there has been lighter feel to obstacles. Even training through a hip injury felt more navigable than it might have been

I was certainly not perfect on my 30 days to healthy living plan but that was also part of the process for me. Faltering didn't derail me as it would have in the past. Taking extra time off of training to nurture an injury was hard but worth it in the long run. I left room for self compassion when I wasn't perfect and recognized this as a growth point rather than telling myself I failed. 

When the day of the triathlon came after so much anticipation, pain and excitement I felt ready to dive in full force and accept what happened in my body. I might not be able to run, I might have to take breaks but I committed to doing the best I could. And it turned out, my mental an physical training paid off. I soared through the mile swim, climbed the hills with a vengeance on the 25 mile ride and found my stride on the last half of the 6 mile run. As I sprinted toward the finish line on my runners high there were tears of joy in my eyes. Joy for completing the challenge, the amazing backdrop of the endeavor, and gratitude for my blessed life. My heart is full.

Want to know how you can up-level your life with 30 days to healthy living? Contact me at warriorflow@gmail.com

Foster Global Oneness

Jennifer Oechsner

In these uncertain times it is easy to shut yourself in. It is easy to sit paralyzed with fear, wondering which direction this country will take. It is easy to fall into the trap of anger and resentment. It is difficult to cultivate a sense of hope and togetherness when there are strong lines of division. We are a city, a state, a country and a world that is made up of many different kinds of people. People with different religious beliefs, opinions,  genders and races. Yet we all still want some of the same things. We all want to be happy, to be healthy and free to make our own choices. Just as there are things that divide us, these common desires create a common ground. 

Recognizing these universal truths is part of why I love to travel. It is easy to get caught up in our everyday lives and disconnect ourselves from the world at large. Traveling introduces us to new people, places and ways of living. It stimulates the mind and the senses. But it also can remind us of our similarities. We all laugh, we all cry, we all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones. We all want to love and be loved.

I feel blessed to have traveled to many countries and to have spent several years living abroad. These experiences have shaped the woman I am today and have inspired me to share my love of travel with others by organizing trips to new and interesting places. 

In 2014 I led a group to India, this year me and Kimi Marin led a group to Nepal. In March her and I are taking a group to Ecuador! On these trips we create an experience of togetherness, compassion and adventure.  

We will start our journey in Quito working with street children. Humanitarian work fosters human connection and reminds us of the commonalities between us. While you will undoubtedly be struck by how differently we live, you will also notice that laughter is the same. Love is the same. Compassion is the same.

After we leave Quioto we will travel to the rain forest where we will spend the remainder of the retreat exploring, connecting with locals, meditating in the jungle and practicing yoga. I look forward to sharing each of these experiences with you. Contact me for more information Or visit Kimimarinyoga.com to make your deposit.