Meanwhile in the Amazon

This is the story of the time I started on a spiritual journey and one week in got locked in the Amazon due to a worldwide pandemic. In true Kenzie fashion, I had made an impulsive decision to buy a one-way ticket to Peru to become a yoga teacher; the plan was to do my yoga training, then head out on a few treks in Peru and Patagonia, finish up with a few weeks in Colombia, and then make my way back home. This was my plan. Turns out, the universe had a different plan. 

Expectation
Reality

So I decided to become a yoga teacher. I discovered yoga about eight years ago, at a time that I was heavily involved in athletics and simultaneously dealt with anorexia. I only practiced once or twice a week, but the chance to connect with my body, tune out the world’s montage of voices, and find some sense of calm through movement felt like a saving grace. Yoga saved me then, and it remains my guiding light now more than ever.

My reasons for deciding to do a 200-hour yoga training are long and multi-faceted, but one guiding line of thought was that if this thing has been a cultural grounding for over 5000 years, there’s got to be something to it, and that something has to be more than just making you flexible. So I signed myself up for a course in the Amazon and two weeks later arrived in the jungle with 19 other incredible individuals, each with their own fascinating and impressive life story that led us to where our winding paths crossed. Embarquing on this spiritual journey together, we quickly embraced our little community and found common ground in our deep appreciation for our interconnectedness. That first week was full of mystical, spiritual, loving, frustrating, and tiring moments that shaped up to be a beautiful beginning. And then one day, we got the news that the apocalypse was coming – and yes, by apocalypse I do mean the worldwide pandemic of Coronavirus that we are all in the midst of. Within a few hours, 5 of the students had flights home for that night and the next morning, as Europe was scheduled to close its borders. Without any warning, all of our studies on non-attachment, focus of presence, and awareness of self were put to the test.

The first wave of border closures came from Europe, which threw a wrench in our group dynamics, but still left 15 of us with reason to stay. By the following night, that was already a different story when Peru decided to close its borders indefinitely with less than 24 hours notice, which left us without even enough time to dash to the nearest international airport. And thus commenced a tumultuous journey that repeated daily in phases of acceptance, upheaval, emotional chaos, acceptance, upheaval, etc. Not up for debate was the fact that we were to be quarantined at our location for 15 days. We were all pretty much okay with that. Where the uncertainty lay was in our ability to get home after the quarantine ended, and the uncertainty of the quick political changes that could further isolate us from our families. Two weeks was one thing, but when would Peru lift the border closure? Would the US close its doors by then? Flights for weeks in advance were already overbooked, so would there even be flights available? Would we be able to make it to an international airport at all? No matter how many times we refreshed the latest page of news, no one could answer our questions.

As a freelancer, the immediate drive to return home was quite small. Unlike many of my fellow yogis who had jobs, significant others, and even kids to tend to, I was quite content with the news that I would be staying in South America for an unspecified amount of time. In fact, I left Seattle on a one-way ticket, so the idea of staying for a few months wasn’t Earth shattering to me. Even still, it was jarring to realize that home was no longer an option. Not right now, and possibly not for a really long time. I was no longer just exploring wherever the wind took me, able to book a ticket and fly home whenever the time was right. Truly, home was not an option. I was stuck in the jungle.

For a moment, I felt scared. I felt lost and abandoned. I had no ground to stand on, no compass to point me North. And this is when I realized that, as cheesy as it sounds, I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is a weaving of our physical body and our emotional body; one cannot stand without the other. Unlike much of our common practices that require pure wit with no grace, yoga requires an equal balance of toughness and softness. We can not deny our bodies, but instead have to look inward and work WITH our bodies to find our center of gravity.  With every push of discomfort, an equal force of ease must greet it. And when we find that perfect equilibrium, we find that there is a beautiful little space right in the middle that doesn’t belong to either side; it’s a space that is filled only with light, and feels something like a hug from the universe. Some people call this spirit, some call it God, but right now it feels like the space in me that feels like home.

And so, stranded in Peru, I decided to celebrate that little slice of home that is inside of me, and is inside of all of us. Not a house, but the love and light that we carry with us always. This is our center, and this is where we can always find strength, grace, compassion, and even gratitude. No matter what.

Fast-forward to now and I am on a farm with 350 acres of life-teaming jungle; solar powered electricity; wifi that works … sometimes; bats that live in our roof; a musty mattress and trusty airport pillow; 4 resourceful, radiant women; and an abundance of love, laughter, uncertainty, and doubt. Somewhere along the way, the five of us new yoga teachers surrendered to the present and decided to create a space of magic and curiosity. We don’t know how long it will last, and we don’t know what crazy curveball tomorrow will bring. But for now we are here in our little space of a continual trustfall, embracing the dualities and navigating the stars as best we know how.

It can be frustrating to not be able to follow through on your plans. It’s hard to find personal, financial, and social balance in a time of crisis, particularly this one. And even still, I can’t help but feel that this is a time of healing – both for the planet and for our inner lights that we have neglected to care for in favor of our to-do lists. The threat to our health is the first line of concern, but for those of us lucky enough to have rock star immune systems, take a moment to explore with curiosity that little space inside of you that rests between grit and grace, and feel what it feels like to let go of the rest.

Maybe it’s time to listen to that little voice we train ourselves to tune out. Maybe it’s time to think about what we really want “normal” to look like. Maybe it’s time to find complacency in stillness. Maybe it’s time to simply breath and let the planet heal alongside us.

Thanks for reading, and as always: live fully, live graciously, live wild.

Art & Spanish study nights: no power? No problem.
Yogis of Moksha Yoga Amazonica

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