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60 to 60: Travel Stories/Yogi on the Beach

On a recent trip to Cozumel, Mexico I had three fairly amazing travel encounters. Moments with "perfect strangers" is why I love to travel. The airport/airline/bus/taxi seats hurt my back and now, there's always a delay or ten. It's difficult to find anything in most airports your body would actually like you to eat. But oh how I love the random conversations I have with people!

The first encounter happens the day after I've had a scary dive incident. That afternoon, the most my feet leave the earth is to move my lounge chair around, away from the sun's hottest rays, always on the lookout for prime beach real estate, a palaypa. I'm reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. This book reveals the life story about the man (monk, yogi, teacher, guru) who essentially became the 'Father of Yoga in the West'. It's been translated into more than 50 languages. As I read I seem to wander through all real or imagined walls--religious, social, geographical, emotional--with his enticing, funny story-telling. Amongst other gifts, Paramhansa Yogananda brought kriya yoga to a huge part of the planet, through his organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship. He presented specific yogic techniques not as an esoteric, mystical "woo-woo" notion but as practical and scientific methods to invoke lasting change in an individual.

Kriya yoga is essentially, the science of energy, mind mastery and breathwork. To say my life has been changed by this form of yoga (and study and practice of the 8 Limbs of Yoga) would be unfair, way too simple. However, it IS beautiful in its simplicity. It's like when you're working on a puzzle. You've got all the outside edge pieces arranged except for one. Dang it. How are you going to work on the puzzle if the edge pieces aren't all there? So you look and look at the pile of puzzle pieces, telling the mind to (for the love of god) find the last edge piece. You try all these different tactics, maybe even getting a little anxious now, moving this here and there, moving some pieces back to the box cover, shaking them around. Surely the one missing piece will reveal itself.

It does, eventually, with time. It fits as it should rather perfectly. I've been a practitioner for many years, trying different types of yoga classes including kriya yoga. When I discover Sattva Yoga Academy and the practical, beautiful teachings, the loving delivery and science-backed breathwork and kriya techniques, the puzzle pieces fit. I've now got all of the edge pieces. Slowly, the rest of the puzzle pieces come together, no rush, no where to be.

Here at this resort, I've been aware of the man, about 15 feet away. He's American, about 40, from Detroit Michigan, a dad of two young teens, a boy and a girl, a husband to a woman who looks like she'd like some quiet time, thank you very much. (Yes, I'm a good listener! Or eavesdropper. Always thought I'd make an excellent spy.) Two older teen boys run by and kick up sand near the man, who then admonishes the boys for being basically stupid heads. The teens then respond with a few grunts and a nod in the man's general direction. He looks over at me. I say, "I'm pretty sure you just got told to f--- off in German." He says, "What? Those kids don't speak German!" I reply, "Well, whatever language it was, I think the message was clear." We laugh. After glancing at my book, he sits straight up, turns to face me and says, "THAT book! Great book!" I am a little embarrassed to tell him it's the first time I'm reading it cover to cover. I don't know why I always blurt out these random truths, but it's a habit of mine. He's enthused: "Oh, you're gonna love it!"

What follows is most likely, not the typical conversation happening at that time where the Happy Hour volume over at the swim-up pool bar suddenly rose up with some classic Donna Summer. (Don't get me wrong. I used to love a loud bar. Life is just so different these days. And, I'm sorry, but I can't help but wonder if people sitting there for long periods of time on those wet barstools ever the pool. My nose crinkles at this thought.)

This man and I excitedly share yoga stories for just about five, six minutes. I tell him all about teacher training, he tells me about some times his mind was blown by a rigorous breathwork practice, and for a few moments we share a mini sangha- a like-minded community of souls who happen to get lit up by yoga and meditation. I imagine this might be similar to meeting someone on vacation, far from home, who happens to go to the same church as you.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the young casino worker from India I met at the Cozumel airport. I was reminded to 1. never, ever judge a book by its cover and 2. always ask to share a table with a "perfect stranger."

See you then.


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