The other day, at a hostel on a small island in Bocas del Toro, Panama, a traveler looked at me and asked, “are you a yoga teacher?”
This was right after I had pulled out my favorite icebreaker, “So, what makes you feel alive?”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“Glass water bottle, your outfit, your questions,” he said.
I was wearing loose linen pants and a bandeau with mala beads.
Hm, I guess I’m a walking cliche, I thought.
Not the first time I’ve been called out for being one of those hippie Costa Rica, yoga girl, love and light, woo woo types. In fact, even in my industry, I’ve adopted the label of that travel blogger who’s into hippie spiritual shit.
Though as ridiculous as it may seem, and as easy as it is to laugh at myself, that “spiritual shit” feels really good. And people know it.
It’s the reason why readers and other travel bloggers consistently ask me how they can get started with yoga and meditation. Why I’ve got a whole tribe of people who are now traveling with water kefir instead of Pepto. And why I’ve been so successful at leading transformational women’s retreats.
People are waking up to the fact that they want to f*&king feel good and the old ways of escaping just aren’t working anymore. People are waking up to the fact that the surest way to feel good is to love and take care of yourself and to honor the sacred journey of life. And “spiritual shit” is a really awesome way of doing that.
But you don’t need oracle cards, crystals, numerology, self help books, mala beads, and meditation DVDs to be spiritual. Frankly, you can do that simply by being with yourself, tuning in with how you want to feel, and relaxing enough to allow goodness to flow. Like the poet Mary Oliver says,
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Traveling the world, living in nature, and spending lots of time tuning in with myself, has given me exactly that. Letting my sweet animal love what it loves. And part of that, for me, is every spiritual practice and nugget I can get my claws on. Which all came to me, through the journey of travel.
So today, I’m sharing with you my favorite (cause there’s no way I could fit them all) spiritual practices, teachers, and tools, to give you something to chew on. These are things that I actually do myself, that have significantly impacted my life. The same way that other travelers have gifted me with this wisdom, let me share it with you.
But remember, none of it is necessary. YOU are already spiritual enough, just by being alive. This stuff is simply here to remind you.
Yep, plain and simple, the life practice that begins with the question, “Who am I?”
Cause really, “Who the hell am I?”
Such a humble question that allows the truest wisdom to come flooding in.
Beyond any other teacher, yoga has shown me how to find my answers, peace, and fulfillment from within. Which for me is the foundation for existing as a human on this Earth. We tune inward to be more conscious and aware when we turn outward to greet the world. Yoga is the path to knowing yourself, which frankly, is the path to knowing anything at all.
People ask me all of the time how to get started with yoga. I know it can be overwhelming and many studios in North America offer more ab work than spirituality. To fully immerse yourself in the depth of yoga I recommend taking a yoga retreat (shameless promo: check out my yoga retreats) or taking a beginner’s workshop somewhere.
For ongoing support I’m a big fan of YogaGlo, which offers online classes with some of the best teachers in the world (no promo: they don’t pay me).
I’m soooo into Astrology because it makes me feel less alone in my insanity. It reminds me that there are greater forces at work that affect us all. Heck, if the moon can influence the tides in the ocean, the growing of crops, and the cycles of our menstruation, how could it not affect everything?
I get my weekly astrology fix from the ultra progressive and deeply compassionate astrologer Kaypacha who puts up new videos every Wednesday.
Come Full Moon and New Moon I consult Mystic Mamma who shares highlights from the best astrologers on the web, offering guidance for how to work with the energy of the moon to enhance your life.
Don’t worry if you get lost and confused with all of these cosmic terms like “trine,” “conjunct,” and “north node.” The nuggets of wisdom will come through and over time the astrological jargon will make more sense.
For the absolute beginner’s guide to astrology, I love the book The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need.
Do you ever really pay attention to the messages in the music that you’re listening to? Have you noticed how music can put you in a certain mood, snap you out of a funk, or break you open into tears? Think about how powerfully a musical score sets the tone for a film. Clearly, music, through both sound and lyrics, can effectively trigger our emotions.
So the question is, what kind of emotions do you want to trigger? How do you want to influence your subconscious mind? What kind of mood do you want to be in?
Sometimes I love to get angry and scorned with Alanis Morisette or get down and dirty with Kanye, but most of the time, I want music to uplift me and take me higher. So, most of the time I listen to conscious music. Not church gospel and not (just) Sanskrit yoga music. But relevant, rocking, emotional, and awesome music full of medicine. Some of my fave artists include Nahko and Medicine for the People, Ayla Nereo, and Trevor Hall.
Have you ever had a certain animal keep crossing your path or powerfully inhabit your dreams?
Shamanistic cultures across the world have long used the messages of animals to guide them in their path. Animals carry medicine that we receive the moment we tune in with what they symbolize in our world.
I’ve been reminded to play by the enchanting hummingbird who likes to visit my garden. I’ve felt peace in letting aspects of myself die from the presence of a bat who invaded my bedroom. I’ve been drawn to the depths of the meaning of life from a jaguar who appeared in my dreams for years.
Start noticing what animals enter your reality and look into the deeper meaning of their presence in your life. I love the book Animal Speak which gives a directory of animal meanings along with ways to work with animal medicine. You can also just Google the name of the animal along with “shamanic meaning” to get an interpretation.
Rituals and Ceremony
The more time I spend living in nature among indigenous people, the more I appreciate the importance of ceremony and ritual. Yep, we’re talking smudging everything with sage and palo santo, chanting in a circle, and engaging in practices passed down generation after generation by sacred ancestors. And oh my goddess I love it.
Why is all of this necessary? Is it just a waste of time? Is it a bunch of hoo-hah? Here’s the thing, what you do has as much meaning as you give it. Ceremony is a time where everything that we do carries tremendous meaning. That makes it feel powerful. It makes me feel present. It makes life and the simplest acts feel deeply sacred. And for me, that feels really good.
Some of my favorite ceremonies I’ve done include the traditional sweatlodge (called temescal in Mexico) which you can read about in this post of mine. I also love cacao ceremonies, drinking a ceremonial dose of chocolate which intends to open the heart chakra and allow deeper experiences to be had. And I’m involved in some kind of ceremony every New Moon and Full Moon.
Ending a relationship can be a ceremony. Blessing a new creative project can be a ceremony. Each morning can be a ceremony with the sacred ritual of bathing in the ocean, smudging my home with sage, and sitting in the garden to meditate. I take opportunities to make everything in my life a ceremony, because it makes my life feel more meaning to me.
Feminine energy is f&*king POWERFUL. Think about it, a woman’s sexuality and organs create another human being. Yet, we’ve been taught that femininity is weak, needy, and even crazy.
Connecting with my own divine feminine essence has offered me a power that resonates on a completely different level than the masculine shell I adopted from a culture that requires it for “success.” Remembering my power as a woman (rather than a woman who knows how to play like a man) feels cathartic, raw, real, and true.
I recommend getting started by seeking out Women’s Circles/Moon Lodges/Red Tents (ceremonies that hold safe space for women to share and receive sacred wisdom) in your area, attending a Women’s Retreat (shameless promo once again), and connecting with my friend Sacred Female Space who leads circles and online immersions for sacred female wisdom.
If you want to take it up a notch, I recommend purchasing a Yoni Egg (ancient practice used by Geishas to tone the pelvic muscles and unlock sacred power), and learning about the Goddess archetypes in the book Awakening Shakti or Native feminine wisdom in The 13 Original Clan Mothers.
Guess what, tantra is not just about having sex for fifteen hours a day. Though, if you dedicated your sex life to tantra, I’m sure you could do that if you wanted to.
Tantra is actually a lot like yoga, in the sense that it’s a life practice that affects every aspect of the practitioner. Tantra means different things to different people, but in my life tantra reminds me that my divine light is accessible in any moment, and by honoring, rather than shaming, my sensual, bodily, human desires, I allow myself to be a living expression of light who reveres all beings in that same lightness. Pretty freakin’ beautiful, no?
If you want to dive into the courageous path of radical acceptance that tantra requires, I highly recommend taking the LIFE-F&*KING-CHANGING course I did The Tantric Way (she’s got one coming up in December 2016 in Nicaragua and April 2017 in Guatemala). It’s not for the faint of heart, but my goodness you will leave feeling more empowered and authentic than you’ve ever felt in your life.
Becoming certified in Reiki instantly opened me up to the world of the unseen. I experienced unexplainable sensations in my body and hands. I received potent messages without warning. And each time I work on someone I’m blown away with how my intuitive mind can read exactly what they’re feeling.
I personally give myself Reiki every single day. If I’m having trouble sleeping, I place my hands on my eyes and melt into relaxation. If I have menstrual cramps I just place my hands on my low belly and they stop. If I feel hurt or alone, I place my hands on my heart and feel deeply comforted and loved. Reiki shows me, in a very sensory way, my direct connection with Source energy.
If you want to get into Reiki, it’s just a few days and a few hundred dollars to get certified. I did my training in Costa Rica with Avani Gilbert at Om Yoga, which was amazing, but you can find trainings everywhere.
Come on now, I wouldn’t fit the archetype of the yoga girl living in Costa Rica if I didn’t get down with oracle cards.
If you’re not familiar with the cards, they’re kinda like tarot, but less scary and easier to interpret. Some decks offer sweet affirmations that lift me back into my highest self. Others offer a dose of some tough love and reveal to me the wisdom that I already know deep down.
I don’t use cards to predict the future or obsess over my life, rather they support me by reminding me of my Soul’s truth. I also use them with friends and groups to open the door to deeper connection.
When I want to expand my logical mind, I love to read spiritual books. They awaken new concepts for me and have facilitated big awakenings in my life. That said, reading a book is very different from actually living its truth. Which is why I recommend meditating and writing in a journal when you’re diving into a spiritual book. This allows you to integrate what you’re reading into your human existence.
Past Life Readings
Let’s be real, there’s A LOT more going on in this experience we call life than what our conscious minds can actually understand or recall.
How else can you explain that feeling when you meet someone and it’s like you’ve known them your entire life? Or the knowing that you’re destined for this greatness that you can’t seem to actualize yet? What about those nightmares that you’ve been having since you were a kid?
For me, past life readings have offered me great insight and solace. Thanks to uncovering the past, I’ve recognized and resolved unhealthy patterns in relationships. Felt a connection with my highest self that I recall when I need to feel worthy. Released old traumas and moved forward with less fear.
How do I know that these past life readings are…real? Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is, do they resonate with me? Are they helpful for me? I’ve gotten readings and felt full body chills and cried tears of catharsis without knowing why. I’ve used themes in my readings as metaphors to help me process challenging situations. The key is to use the past life reading for your benefit, now.
And it’s really important that you choose someone who knows what they’re doing. Which is why I recommend my friend Ryan aka the Modern Magic Woman, who has done all of my past life and tarot readings over the last year. She’s grounded, insightful, and delivers her messages with true, deep compassion. Most importantly, I feel empowered when I receive her readings to take action in this life in a way that resonates on a soul level.
Right now Ryan is offering a super sweet deal just for you guys! Book a Past Life Reading with her and she will give you a FREE Month Ahead Tarot Spread for you. Just use the offer code “This American Girl.”
Loving What Arises
At the end of the day, that feeling that we’re all seeking, whether we’re meditating on a mountaintop or having sacred sex, is love. The sweetest spiritual reminder I can ever receive, is the one that brings me back to love.
Not just in the yummy women’s circle oracle card reading cacao sipping ecstatic dance moments. In all of the moments. In the messiest moments. Loving every emotion that arises in every one of those moments.
The teacher who brings me back to that key intention in the most loving way possible, is a man named Matt Kahn. Watch his video about Soul Mates and Twin Flames for deeply moving guidance on learning to love yourself and check out my post How I Found My Soulmate on the Road.
There you have it, the spiritual practices that for me, make all of the difference. Care to share yours with us??