Today, my Guru Julia McCabe posted a blog about “hope.” Her words of wisdom inspired me to pick up my laptop, even in this crazy heat, sweat dripping on my keyboard and write. We do what we can, us teachers, in “hope” that we can inspire others. I created this blog months ago, to tell you about the journey that led me to starting my own business in Nicaragua with a vision that it may inspire you to adopt a moral imperative to contribute positive energy to our universal family as a whole.

Life in Nicaragua ... hope for santosha

Life is hard here. In Nicaragua. Some days we turn on the tap and no water comes out. We have frequent power outages and the heat in the dry season can be stifling. The air-con broke in my truck, perfect timing. The dust is unbearable down the un-paved roads where most Nica families live under tin roofs that soak up the day's sun not allowing it to cool down even hours after sunset. No AC, no fans, no electricity for most of them. These homes, all the belongings inside, the Nica babies are covered by a layer of dust as the 4x4 vehicles speed by on the way to the best surf spots. If you give a wave of "hello," or I should say "hola," they will wave back and also give you a smile. Half breathing, they walk down these dusty dry dirt pot-holey roads, or peddle a bike to get to work. Work, that is another story. Most of them make $5 per day. They work 6 days a week. They are lucky if they bring home $120 per month. Back to the air, as they walk to work they breathe dust particles that may cause severe respiratory problems. The cows, the chickens, the horses and the pigs that roam free in the yards, making a meal later, don’t have a care in the world, they are just waiting out their time. They don’t have much to eat and are looking a little emaciated. My yogi friends and I were fortunate to do our yoga training during the rainy season. The rain washes all the dust away and keeps it away.  Everything is lush and beautiful. Ahhhh, I can envision being able to take a full breath once again and being able to blow my nose without clumps of dirt filled mucus coming out.

Recently I had some friends from North America visit. They hated it here. They were grumpy everyday. They did not see what I saw, their vision was clouded by all the dust. They couldn’t see through it. They had seen my Nica Album on Facebook and thought it would be a great place to vacation. They came for a vacation, not an adventure. An adventurous Spirit is required. They complained about the lack of water, every morning when we woke up, turned on the tap sometime shortly after 7 am there was none. I listened. I rolled my eyes. I sighed. I smiled. I reminded them that they are in a beautiful developing country and this is how the Nica’s live. They killed a spider in the bathroom the size of a shoe. I empathized. What do you say? A tarantula was making my yoga mat his home and I said nothing. They left for a few days and went to visit one of the seven volcanoes in the country. The Central American Volcanic Arc runs through the spine of the country, earning Nicaragua the nickname: La Tierra de Lagos y volcanoes, which translates to: The land of lakes and volcanoes. But that wasn’t enough for them to see an active volcano spewing gas. Nicaragua is one of the most seismically active countries. This energy has a wonderful effect on me and the locals. They said the mosquitoes were a pain. Back to the water situation. Most days we couldn't flush the toilet. That sucked. The power goes out which means you don’t have a fan to cool the dripping sweat. I get it. They were miserable. You’d be cooking and you’d run out of propane before you were finished. You’d have to carry the tank 5 blocks to get it re-filled, at some Nica’s house down a dark dirt road, there were no signs to show you the way. You can’t drink the water from the tap, even when it is running. You have to wash your own laundry in the sink, if the water is working and then hang the clothes out to dry in the dusty air. The beauty is here. I promise. I know it. I see it. Why didn’t they see it? Maybe it was because I had been ‘seeking santosha,’ and I found it.

Santosha means contentment in happiness. It is the feeling of being content with what you have. I guess the beauty I see comes from santosha and accepting the life in Nicaragua. Some people get very disappointed if they work hard for something and they don’t get it. Some people have high expectations and when they aren’t met they can become depressed about it. The real meaning of santosha is to accept what happens, but when we don’t, we become depressed.  It is easy to become unhappy about the little things because we don’t have the discipline of being content with what we have. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it Karma.  In Christianity they believe that God has a plan. My cousin Stacey once said to me when Thelma and I were questioning her about her religious beliefs, actually when we are trying to crucify her on the cross at Red Lobster over a glass of vino and lobster tails - just after my father died and before we went to Nicaragua to Pray, and she said... ‘God’s will, thy will be done. I leave it up to God, he has a plan.” She accepts what God has given her with grace, humility and happiness. She gets it. We giggled. But looking back I know she gets it. And now, I get it too! Santosha is to be happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don’t have.

Nicaragua is a beautiful developing country. And when I’m here I’m constantly challenged to live in the same way that the Nica’s do. It is a good lesson for me. The Nicas, appreciate what they have and the experience of being able to experience it along side of them is priceless. Not everyone is blessed like those from North America where they can enjoy their Starbucks in an air-conditioned cubicle, cockroach and scorpion free, breathing fresh air, taking home a paycheck of at least $2k per month if you are working a corporate job plus benefits and potential bonuses. Not having to worry about what chicken or pig they will kill for their next meal, or who’s going to do the dirty work.  The only concern is which drive through they will drive through, so many options, so they can rush back to their desk, check email, voice mail, maybe Facebook if the IT department hasn’t banned and blocked it, and count down the minutes before they have to do an hour commute home down the I90, listening to Howard Stern just to ease the pain, road raging and rushing to get home in time to catch the newest episode of Survivor Nicaragua and maybe pick a fight with their kids, wife, husband, roommate, girlfriend or boyfriend because they are watching Football or Home Make Over instead. Or because that was such a stressful day at the office and an even more stressful drive home because “that son of a bitch cut in front of me on the highway and slammed on his brakes and the asshole behind me was playing with his radio and didn’t look up to see the traffic had stopped and I was rear-ended.” And life goes on. The next day. They get up. Do it all over again. Race to Starbucks to stand in line and order a Grande Carmel Macchiatto Soy Latte with extra foam, steaming hot with extra caramel drizzle and a scone on the side. Maybe if they are lucky they can make it to a yoga class since Survivor Nicaragua isn’t on tonight. Sure, life is different here.

To be here, an adventurous spirit is required. Patience and understanding are necessary. Santosha is crucial. Trying to live life as a yogi one must find a purpose. A mission. We must continually strive for “evenness” of mind to find internal peace to live comfortable in the external world. Having a purpose or a mission will compel action. It is my moral imperative to give back to a community and humanity. I’m taking control of my life after all the events that led me on this journey in the first place. A roller coaster endurance ride of pain. I’m not choosing pain anymore. I no longer have room for it in my life. I’m not working for the man anymore. I’m working for me, the “wo-man.”

I'm currently volunteering with The Happy Waves Project that was created by Rex Calderon, the best surfer in Central America and Nicaragua. The Happy Waves project was created to make a change in the life of Nicaragua kids currently living in the San Juan Del Sur community.  Rex got his first surfboard at 9 years old. It was given to him by a gringo guy that makes surfboards. Tom Eberly. Eberly Surfboards.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at Maderas playa one day. He told me Rex used to sleep with his surf board. Rex wants to give back to the kids here, give them a chance. He’s the only sponsored surfer here in Nicargaua and not in the same way we know sponsorship back in North America. He lives with 9 people, including his grandma and they barely make ends meet. They eat beans and rice and are content with that. Santosha. He worked hard with nothing to get where he is today. Tom gave him the opportunity and he took it. You should see the smiles on these kids faces when they catch a wave with Rex’s help. They splash around in the sun and the surf. They are hopeful. These are the true surfers, not mimicking or doing it for their sponsors but enjoying life, santosha, content with what they have. My past volunteer work with Nicaragua's Flora and Fauna during my yoga teacher training inspired me to try to make a difference by giving what I can.

“The less forgivable the act, the more it must be forgiven. The less lovable a person is the more you must find the means to love them. Being educated and wise you realize it’s impossible for one person to make a difference but that just means the more you must. Being educated and wise makes us privileged to be sitting here at this juncture. No one else is better to sustain a contradiction like this and use it as a moral imperative.” Robert Sapolsky

Be hopeful. Keep living. Keep loving. Keep giving. Be thankful. Be kind. Strive for santosha. Be content with what you have. Inspire others if you can. Take only what you need. Breathe.

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