The other day I was sitting at a little outdoor restaurant with my friends at Playa Hermosa here in Nicaragua after a satisfying surf, drinking some coconut water straight out of the shell. Ahhhh-mazing. Yo amo mi vida = I love my life! Play Hermosa means beautiful beach and it truly is a beautiful beach.

Not to mention, as I looked around, people watching, many beautiful half-naked people passed by. I sat here, rehydrating, enjoying the tiredness in my muscles from the surf, taking in the salty air, the company of good friends and then my gaze stopped at a sign offering Sea Turtles Tours.

The sign initially caught my eye because they spelled turtle wrong (tortle) and I chuckled out loud then turned my attention to my Nica friend and asked if she likes Tortugas =Turtles. She replied by telling me she loves to eat them. Sí, me gusta comer la carne de tortuga, que toma buena.” She also mentioned her uncle got arrested for killing them.

I remained calm on the outside, appearing aloof as us Aquarians do but the thought of this broke my heart. I do not eat meat anymore because I love animals and believe in the innate oneness and connection to all things and beings but I kept these thoughts to myself.

Immediately I was whisked back in time via my mental tele-porter to a volunteer project and yoga teacher training in October of 2010 that first brought me to Nicaragua and what sent me down my path as a vegetarian moving toward veganism. Day by day making conscious choices, life altering changes by being fully aware of my decisions. It’s not easy but it is a choice.

Yoga is a life style. Yoga is a mindful, spiritual and soulful practice supporting all life and our planet to create a world free from destruction and harm. Karma and giving back with no attachments is also part of the yogic lifestyle and it was included as part of my yoga teacher training with my teacher and Guru Julia McCabe. An experience that I will never forget and what has since guided me down a path of peace and purpose.

This day our yoga group of 14 yogi students rode in the back of 4x4 trucks down muddy roads passing by thick lush jungle as the ox cart carried our supplies separately down the beach because it wouldn’t all fit in the trucks. The air was humid and the sun was hot and on this morning we were not allowed to speak to one another. This was a morning of silence, a moving meditation, as we embarked on a journey to assist in a volunteer project with Nicaragua’s Flora and Fauna.

As we got to our initial destination we jumped out of the truck and started our decent up the beach. We were instructed by Julia to repeat a universal mantra internally to keep our minds clear. “So-hum.” As you inhale, the sound of that vibration is "so." And as you exhale, the sound becomes "hum." The mantra, then, is a way to experience nonlocal consciousness. Many other traditional cultures have used it for thousands of years, not just Yogis. In every tradition mantras involve chanting to create special vibrations, sounds of the universe that create something from nothingness, that move energy from the unmanifest into the manifest. But I’m not gonna lie, I became bored with this after what felt like an eternity and half way into the journey my mantra turned to the popular Eminem song, Not Afraid - Lah, lah, lah.... “I’m not afraid, To take a stand, everybody come take my hand, we’ll walk this road together, through the storm, whatever weather cold or warm, just lettin’ you know your not alone.....” Listen here:

We finally made it to Flora and Fauna’s base camp. Outdoor living at it’s finest. A tarp as shelter from the elements, no toilet and only a camp fire to cook over. The Flora and Fauna team were the only visible people on this deserted beach in the middle of nowhere. Here I was, Survivor-style, on this beautiful empty beach somewhere north of Los Cardones Surf Lodge 3 hours from the main city of Managua where no one could hear a cry for help if needed. Amongst only Spanish-speaking people, a language at this time completely foreign to me.

Our first task was to clean up the beach. As I looked around my heart felt heavy and saddened by the abundant amount of colorful plastic that had washed onshore and littered the beach. This garbage which included medical supplies dumped carelessly by humans littered this once precious beach and suffocated its natural beautify. So we worked hard to restore the natural beauty the beach once possessed. We were making space for the Sea Turtle Nursery we were going to build next. We gathered the drift wood and started to construct the turtle nursery. Each year the Sea Turtles come back to the same beach they were born on to lay their eggs. Quite a miracle when you think about it. In Nicaragua poachers patrol the beaches day and night and collect the eggs right from under the turtle as they are hatching. They takes these eggs and eat them or sell them to restaurants for food. Sometimes they kill the turtle and use the meat to feed their families. Our job was to build a turtle nursery so Flora and Fauna and its volunteers could safely relocate the eggs. It would then be the responsibility of the Flora and Fauna team to protect the eggs allowing them time to mature and hatch under a mindful watch.

After the beach was clean and the nursery was built we were to wait for the sun to set so we could patrol the beach in shifts in the darkness of the night. But while we waited we swam in the river, did some yoga on the beach and joined in on a friendly game of baseball with the Flora and Fauna team. I started to think that secretly they needed us to clean the beach as it made the best baseball field for them to play and act like boys! I did take my turn at bat though. Sorry, off track. As night-time was upon us we built a fire on the beach and tried to sleep in between patrol shifts. The stars were so close I could reach up and touch them and my first thought was I’m definitely going to apply to go on the reality T.V show Survivor, I got this handled! ha! Yah right, as a few hours past, and the initial excitement of teenage girls at a slumber party feeling wore off, the soft sand below suddenly felt like concrete and the mosquitos and sand flies were having a feast on my flesh. The rain came and I used my umbrella as a tent, miserable. I was not getting any sleep but finally it was my turn to protect the beach! Duty calls.

We walked down the dark beach with head lamps, flashlights and the North Star guiding the way. All of a sudden we spotted a turtle laying its eggs but unfortunately the poacher got there before us and was already scooping them up in his leather burlap sack. Tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to choke them back. We failed! We begged and pleaded and finally negotiated and successfully bought the eggs off of him. Thank goodness. We took the eggs and quickly went and buried them carefully, in the turtle nursery. This wasn’t the only turtle we saw this evening laying eggs. Each turtle that came onto the beach, we carefully took all the eggs and safely relocated them to the nursery.

When dawn was upon us I looked around for my flip-flops but either the poacher helped himself or they were washed away with the tide. Bummer. Walking down a sandy beach with no flip-flop seems easy enough but after an hour or so into the trek my feet and legs were killing me but it was well worth the effort to contributing to the survival of a beautiful endangered species.

Our own actions bring about the situation we live in. You can only abuse and exploit animals if you feel disconnected from them. I feel connected, do you?

Being raised a meat eater makes this choice and change very dramatic but if you just reduce the amount of meat consumed and replace it with beans, kale, spinach and whole grains, you will be getting the same amount of nutrition. Day by day. Kale is the new beef! Make a conscious choice. Let’s work together to have a lighter impact on our planet by adopting a compassionate vegetarian diet, it’s a good place to start. Not everyone can do a handstand or head stand, but everyone eats. If you love animals, love ALL animals.

Watch the video I created of our volunteer work with Flora and Fauna

It’s time for a change. It’s time to come together. To protect the defenseless. To cultivate a responsible society. To recognize different societies. To see the virtue in being small and find the joy in every day. It’s time to hunt down corporation and to celebrate every small victory. It’s time to learn another language. Compassion can save our future. Together we are an ocean of forward momentum.” -Global Animal Welfare

I'm the GAWDS Representative for Nicaragua.

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