Unraveling

In the spirit of freedom, two girls from our 200-hr yoga teacher training and I filmed a practice in our living room.
In our yoga, we don’t have rules or limits or walls. We have only our love for each other.

***

Yoga is a deconstruction of limitations.
A deprogramming of societal conditioning.
A path to inner enlightenment.

Often, people get lost in the “right” or “real” way to do yoga.
Often, people get lost in the way they “should be” or “should act”.
Often, people toss away their dreams to settle for something that is “good enough, I guess”.

This is tragic.

“if only this, then…” or “I wish I could, but…”

We manifest our own lives.
We move how we want to move.
We are who we want to be.

Yoga feels good. Yoga is whatever you want it to be.

 

 

 

 

 

A Gift from Goddesses

Wow, wow, wow.

I came home today to find a stamp-kissed package perched on my doorstep.

SUFEY CHEN — it sang in big bold letters.
BERGMAN — it was a love-box from darling miss wendy.

Open me, it teased. I shrieked like a child on Christmas Day.

I gingerly peeled open the first layer and gasped:
a beautiful family of polka-dotted packages peeked out under pretty yellow flowers.

I counted them— 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, seven.
My goodness, Wendy Bergman, you’ve outdone yourself. 

I opened the gifts before the letter, as per instructions.

I bubbled up in happy exclamations:

peanut butter M&Ms + fuzzy peaches (I haven’t had these since I was a kid!)
a box of funky-coloured straws (I love sipping through straws!)
The Book of Awesome (I’ve been dying to read that!)
Chicken Soup for the Soul word-finds (perfect for the plane ride to Maui!)
bright pink nail polish (my favourite colour!)
Hello Kitty band-aids (oh. my. god. Hello Kitty!!!!)
and two beeeautiful drawings from Gracie and Charlie.

Oh, wow.

I tore open the letter and tears sprung to my eyes.

That Wendy would take the time to create such a beautiful gift—
such an incredibly sweet, thoughtful, big-hearted gift—
made me so very happy and gooey and glowy inside.

And the letter, oh. It overflowed precious wisdom for my hungry soul:

Dear Sufey

Life sometimes has a way of knocking us down
and making us question everything about ourselves. 
The best advice I can give you is to just let this time 
wash over you like waves over stone. 
This experience is meant to polish and strengthen you; 
ultimately to make you even more beautiful. 

This little gift’s purpose is to help you connect with your inner child
(Gracie picked most of the gifts for you),
as the best things to heal our wounds are 
hello kitty bandaids,
cold milk through a straw,
a fresh coat of pink nail polish,
an easy word find to build your confidence
and a good book to fill your soul. 

All our love, 

Gracie & Wendy

 I melted.

Gracie and Wendy, thank you.

Your sweet, selfless act brought so much joy to me today.
Thank you for your healing love in a time of need.

You are genuine pearls in an ocean of empty shells.
And I’m — really, truly, heart-too-fully — lucky to be your friend.

I’m sipping cold milk through a straw right now.
And somehow it makes everything a million times better.

Adventure #5: Heather Jones

“You don’t need to be amazing. You don’t need to be not amazing. You just are.
You are, in and of yourself, worthwhile.”

Heather Dawn Jones (nicknamed “Noodle”)  |  Artist  |  31  |  Lookout Arts Quarry

I fell in love with Noodle the moment I saw her.

There was something about Noodle—
her bright turquoise cowboy boots,
her addictive, unscripted giggle,
her handwritten notes in big green print on pale pink paper—
that captured me instantly. Instantly.

I was at Creative Mornings with a dear friend, and Heather was giving a talk on Minimalism.
She spoke a rawness that blazed open my spirit— I listened, I connected, I lusted.
I didn’t realize it then, but she was a living possibility of what I could be.

I tackled her after her speech— I swooped down and hugged her and sing-songed:
“Will you go on a date with me?”

And thus began our adventures.

Decorating our brunch at Catch 122!

Noodle is the kind of person that gets better and better as you get to know her.
She also makes art of everything (like breakfast!)

She lavished my mind with stories of her journey, and my own forgotten dreams began to flutter alive.

Heather wanted to be an artist.
But the life of an artist, romantic as it sounds, is not one that comes easy.
She tree planted for six years and put all her earnings into the bank, keeping only $2000 to live off each year.
She would sweat and toil over the summer, then hibernate and create over the winter.
She found cheap art supplies— rocks, tin cans, broken chair legs— lived simply, and made her own clothes.

When she saved enough, Noodle and her friends pooled their money.
They bought 50 acres of land (previously an industrial rock quarry) near Bellingham, and dubbed it an art collective.
They live, breathe and create as circus performers, slackline walkers, visual artists, musicians… everything.

People go to lose themselves in nature and find themselves in art.

I was hooked.

Photo of Lookout Arts Quarry — Heather’s home!

Noodle was the living, breathing proof that people could manifest their own destiny.
She was so happy, so spirited, so generous, so free. She was everything I wanted to be.

“It’s one thing to make a beautiful art piece.
It’s another to create an environment that changes people.”

And that’s what Noodle does— she designs immersive art pieces: a place for transformation.

Like a 75-foot installation at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival,
where 4000 children wove recycled strips of fabric onto a gigantic dinosaur framework.

“From the outside, it was cool… but from the inside, it was a whole new world.
Kids were playing tag, whack-a-mole, crawling around, I’ve never seen so many kids laughing!”

Heather and her dinosaur from the Children’s Festival!

She reminisced about her own childhood, growing up with her cousins and neighbourhood kids.
“Once you know what that’s like [a connected collective], you’ll always be looking for it.”
And in Noodle’s case, creating it. Building it. Pouring her loving energy into it.

I could write a book about breakfast alone.

But soon we gathered up, biked our way to the Maker Faire and lost ourselves in a musical abyss.
We danced to fiddles, poked at glow-in-the-dark contraptions and surrendered to the midday sun.
We soon parted ways, and planned to meet up the next night.

But the next night, while she was biking up to my house with pho for dinner, I smashed my bike into a wall.

And this is where our friendship truly begins—
because that night, this beautiful, exquisite stranger, who I had known for just a day, saved me.

She mothered me, soothed me, and held my hand as I lay writhing in agony.
She comforted me, dressed me, and told me that I would be okay.
She took me to the hospital, talked for me, and stroked me till the wee hours of the night.
She gave me everything.

If I had been alone, I don’t know what I would have done.
I was in the kind of pain that makes a sane person irrational and crazy and reckless.
And she saved me.

That night, she was Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and every holy angel in the world to me.

I was grateful (though grateful is not strong enough of a word) to her then, and I will be always.

Because that night, I saw the sweetness of humanity in her eyes.
I tasted a radical, exhilarating love.
I felt kindness sweep up my soul,
gathering up all the cracked little pieces of me
and sewing me back together,
laboriously,
one soul-stitch by one.

I have a million words and no words left to say, but there is no need to describe a thing more.
I discovered a new language with Noodle, one that exists only in being.

 ॐ

Her affirmation from earlier that day echoed in my ears:
“I am worth loving.”

A Return to Love | 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training

The day I left the corporate world, a teaching opportunity manifested.

I said: I want to heal, travel, teach.

To touch and be touched, move and be moved.
To scrub mud on my body and joy on my soul.
To kiss the sweet earth and taste love on my lips.

I want to set my spirit alive.

He said: come to Maui, teach teachers, return to love.

And so it begins.

***

Come with: July 10th – Aug 8th. Mama Maui. 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training. Spend a month with me in paradise. x 

Here I Am

Two weeks ago, my life exploded before my eyes.

I lost control of my bike, smashed full-speed into a wall, and crumpled onto the street. I hit my vulva on the crossbar as I crashed, which led to an 8×8 cm hematoma on my right labia (as discovered later).

Pain crushed my body.
Terror choked my mind.

In that instant, I was desperate for life. Pitiful prayers to a higher power wrestled a wretched fear in my head. I’m not ready to go, I thought. Please. Let me do better.

The days that followed were a blur of hospital visits and severe anxiety. I lashed out emotionally. I was clouded with anger and a throbbing reminder of the things I was no longer capable of. Like sitting. Or peeing. Or fending for myself.

The doctors said it would take a few months to fully heal.
And thus began the longest vacation of my life.

I’m learning that life is never going to be comfortable. It’s not supposed to be easy. No matter how much we plan and prepare, there will always be challenges, roadblocks, ambushes and pitfalls.

You can fail even if you’re playing it safe.

So I say fuck it and follow bliss. Again and again. When I die, I want to be covered in dirt and scars and drenched in tears. I want to have traipsed the world and built an empire and watched it collapse and built another. I want to fight. I want to be worn, used and fully spent, consumed by the fires of a deep and blazing love. I want to say I’ve been true to my heart. I want to say I’ve given it my best shot. My all.

And so here I am.

Big changes are coming again.

Adventure #4: Ty Heathcote

“We had the option to be inspired or threatened — and we both chose inspired.”

Ty Heathcote  |  Yoga Teacher  |  22  |  @typeacenlove  |  ty’s blog

I have a vivid recollection of the first time I saw Ty on stage.
She was 15 or 16, a tiny, fiery thing with a marvellous eloquence.

I remember thinking, quite smitten, “I want to be just like this girl one day.”
She went on to win debate provincials, place 1st in public speaking, and render the crowds speechless.

Not much has changed.

A week ago at Landmark, I felt a hand squeeze me from behind.
I looked over and gasped  it was Ty, the last person I would’ve expected to see.
We screamed, hugged, hugged a little more… It had been years since we last saw each other.

As it turns out, she moved from Kelowna to Victoria. Found the love of her life. Ditched competition for collaboration.
“Who would’ve imagined?!” She giggled  “Both of us little debaters as yoga teachers!”

The past few years had taught her a profound lesson.
After a rocky relationship, a year of journalism school and battles with severe anxiety, she hit her own rock bottom.
Her doctor prescribed pills. She flushed them and went to yoga class instead.

Soon after, she quit her job. Took a risk. Bought a flight to Bali. Immersed herself in yoga.
The Balinese men said: “Yoga girl, you walk too fast.”
And Ty realized: “I do — I need to slow down.”
And it was here that she began to heal.

She learned to let go. To breathe. To love.
And love flowed into her life.
(Funny how the Universe does that, eh?)

We strolled down the streets under a big blue sky.
She posed beside the tulips. Owen Wilson and his son whizzed by on bike.

“We’re just babies, you and me,” she said with a smile that could light up the sky.
“We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us.”

Dear Life

Dear Life: Oh my god.

This week was crazy. This month, really. Or year. Or maybe I’m deluding myself about this perpetual nonsensical roller-coaster ride that never ends.

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.”

I think this is the first time I’ve understood Shakespeare in my life.

Mama was practicing her calligraphy the other day. She was working on one word, a particularly complex and obnoxious-looking word. It was made up of the Chinese character for “people”, with heavy burden-like structures placed on the shoulders of men. It was an imposing word — busy, dominating, space-consuming, important.

“Do you know the meaning of this word?”
“No, mama. What does it mean?”

“Nothing.”

I went to the Landmark Forum this weekend. I saw people — normal, functioning, wonderful human beings — completely devastated by the meanings they’ve inserted into life.

A wealth manager drowning in debt.
A successful entrepreneur robbed of joy.
A mother crippled by the death of her son.

Because they took the experience of life itself and created a story around what life really means — a story that limited their ability to be fully alive.

I listened to their stories. I really listened. And I found my own.

I, too, am full of inconsistencies.
I lack integrity.
I am a sham.

I have a perpetual belief that who I am is not good enough.
I chase success, again and again, but I am never truly fulfilled.
I choose to make small my dreams and settle because I’m scared to be a failure.

There. The truth is out.

I preach self-acceptance but I don’t always accept myself.
I teach people to act with kindness and love but I beat myself up.
I talk of fulfilling relationships but I am terrified to give away my trust.

I got it. Finally. I got it. All of it.

So many people spend life hiding who they really are from other people who are
hiding who they really are.

I’ve lived so much of my life pretending to be something that isn’t true.
I’m done with that.

And you know what?

The most marvellous part of self-discovery is the possibility of something greater.

Something magical.

I’m not scared anymore.

Adventure #3: Nhi Le

“Success is when opportunity meets readiness.”

Nhi Le  |  Photographer  |  31  |  @noyocreative

Nhi is the very definition of a gentleman.
He picked me up at 6 o’clock sharp with a big smile on his face and a solid plan of action.

I, being new to Vancouver (and a huge fan of Nhi’s work), was super excited to adventure with him.
He just grinned: “I was in your shoes three years ago. I didn’t know anyone either — I’m happy to pay it forward.”

As we strolled down Beaver Lake Trail, I was hooked on his captivating tale:
At fourteen, he was left in Toronto to raise his younger sister alone. “I had to really hustle.
I learned the value of working hard,” he said. “If you don’t see results, work harder.”

And hustling paid off: He skipped — not one, not two, but — three grades. Finished his Masters of Medical Biophysics. Supported his little sister all the way to university. He was doing well… But it wasn’t always easy. “At one point of my life, I was in a research lab and hated what I was doing. I went through a big breakup. And I decided I need to physically move.”

He packed up his bags and moved to New York. Took up photography. Took a pay cut.
“When you’re passionate about something, you make compromises.
That’s the reality you face as an artist— it’s a lot of grinding, but it’s worth it. I knew I had to pay my dues.”

And following his heart also paid off: he runs two kickass companies now, one in New York and one in Vancouver.
He’s booked to the brim. He’s built up a huge community of fans. And he still loves to shoot for fun.

And fun was what we had. We climbed up trees, admired the ducks and took time to smell the roses.
We settled on Third Beach and watched a magnificent sunset — reds and golds streaked through the sky.
And when our tummies couldn’t wait any longer, we finished off the night with an exquisite vegetarian meal at Heirloom.

“I’m hungry,” Nhi shared. “I can always do better.
There’s no ceiling in business and there shouldn’t be. I always have to up my game.”

And that, truly, is the spirit of success.
A thirst for growth. A will to work. A gleeful delight in it all.

I’m hungry too.

 

Adventure #2: Sophie Hsin

“When you have the knowledge that you are really, really loved, you live life a different way.”

Sophie Hsin  |  Artist  |  25  |  @sophie_hsin

I first found Sophie on Instagram, where her stunning (seriously, stunning) artwork captured my heart.
Her use of white space, meticulous creativity and vivid concepts inspired me day-after-day.

So when I met up with her, I was surprised by how incredibly open, down-to-earth and humble she was.
No fancy, no frills. All real.

Originally from Taiwan, Sophie moved to Vancouver less than a year ago.
She was torn  she had just finished medical school, but knew deep down that she wanted to be an artist.
So she dropped everything to chase a dream. “I felt so hopeless in hospitals. I wanted to create.
Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but I have to keep going. There’s no going back for me.”

We spilled open our hearts on Sunset Beach, and I dove layer after layer into her intriguing life.
She’s a pianist, violinist and guitarist. She sings at soup kitchens with her church.
She teaches art therapy to autistic children. And one day, she wants to write books for kids.

She pulled out Eric Carle’s “Mr. Seahorse” and I giggled I had never seen that in a purse before.

Coming from similar backgrounds, we reminisced on our traditional Asian upbringing (and our resulting perfectionist tendencies). She told me stories of scootering down sketchy streets to visit the Ming Tombs and I admired her the way I would a (much cooler) older sibling.

When we left, the sun had already set. We took the bus home and hugged as we parted.

Something she said lingered on in my mind:
“Be bold about trying new things. You never know what’s going to happen.”

And I thought, “That’s the best part.”

Adventure #1: Jesse DeLisle

“I’m an open book. The world writes on my book  and I’m the publisher.”

Jesse DeLisle  |  Artist  |  24  |  @thewildtraveller 

It’s rare to find individuals that strike the perfect balance between ambition and compassion — but Jesse is one of these special gems. He had his camera up, mid-click, when I spotted him on the corner of Granville and West Georgia.

We hit it off immediately.

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Turns out he recently moved to Vancouver from Australia, fell in love with the city (and a lovely girl) and was passionate about connecting the community he organized an instameet in January and spoke eagerly on bringing youth together.

As a fellow newcomer, I asked how he established himself so quickly. He answered: “If you aspire to follow your dreams, people come to you. And it‘s true — I found it impossible to contain my excitement while talking to him. His inquisitive mind sparked new thoughts in mine. His zest for life filled me with energy. 

But I think it was his big, bold actions that impressed me the most. He hides real art in public places (#wildphotohunt), sends film photo prints to his followers, buys coffee for strangers and is clearly dedicated to becoming the best version of himself. Meeting someone who turns inspiration into reality every day is truly humbling.

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If I were to take only one lesson from Jesse, it would be to keep opening to life’s possibilities. His penchant for growth, endless optimism and big dreams makes him a person to watch this won’t be the last you hear of him.

As final words of advice, he says: “Be open-minded.

Good things always come out of bad, no matter how bad they seem. Think: how can I grow?“