Wake: a.) to remain awake b.) a funeral, or celebration of someone’s life c.) the waves that a boat leaves as it slices through water.
When I look at the meanings for this word in the order I found them, I am struck by the fact that they form a complete samsara. A full cycle. You live, you die, and your life leaves a ripple. Recently, all forms of the word have been hashtagged, used and abused for better or for worse. And on a very personal level, they strike a chord: Awake. Wake. Awoke. Woke. Waking. Awakening. Wide. The fuck. Awake.
Wake. To remain awake. It’s unrealistic to expect to be happy if you constantly turn away from your own heart. Staying true to yourself or integrated as close to your core as possible; as often as possible; betraying yourself as little as possible- is really what it means to remain awake. This is also at the core of the relationship between your karma (the little individual actions or choices) and Dharma (the overall thrust of your life). The little things add up. A boat off it’s course by a single degree ends up somewhere completely different. Miss the little things, and you miss the big things big time.
My dad’s death came quickly at the heels of my grandmother’s (my mom’s mom). This past Friday, a little over a month after my dad, my grandfather (my mom’s dad) left his body. With a few drops of aguardiente (Colombian firewater) from a dropper and listening to bambucos (typical Colombian music he loved), he was finally able to release out into the stars. It’s surreal. Three pillars of my life extinguished in the span of three months. A whole lifetime and then like a candle… out. Yet their lives have left an echo…a residue…
Papo. My grandfather was an OBGYN. He was the first person to bring family planning and birth control to Colombia- an incorrigibly Catholic and therefore overgrown family kind of country. He also founded the Society for Dying with Dignity, which is, even today, a controversial and heated subject. He was a visionary and a forward thinker whose work took him all over the world, where he collected tiny trinkets from his travels. His curiosity knew no bounds. At 77, he went on a National Geographic Expedition to Antarctica with my uncle Zalo, where they lived on a boat and helped collect information from glaciers about climate change. He wanted to see their beauty with his own eyes. He was a seeker and a finder.
Yapa. My dad took over his dad’s business, exporting roses. It was a big job. Roses from our family farm probably made their way into your home at some point in the last 40 or so years. I like that idea. When Colombia was in a chaotic and treacherous civil war during the Escobar years, and in a declared State of National Emergency, he refused to leave the country with us to reach safety. He had opportunities to flee, but couldn’t bear to leave the 330 families that worked for him. He knew if he left, they would have nothing- no work and no future- in a country that was bleeding. He cared for his people so deeply that he paid a dentist to come in every Saturday to look at his workers and their families’ teeth. If they missed their appointment, they had to pay a few dollars (a lot of money to them), but if they showed up, they were seen and treated for free. He also started a library at the farm, where kids could use a computer, have access to books and get help with their homework. He cooked for everybody. No exception. He bossed, you ate, and it was delicious. He took electronics apart and then reassembled them to operate less effectively than you could possibly believe- a house full of gadgets, booby trapped to his settings, useless to us civilians. Maybe someday we’ll be able to reset the doorbell to a decibel not meant to shatter eardrums.
Lela. My grandmother had an eye for beauty. True to her time, she was a domestic artist, and her home was a triumph of order and visual harmony. She was exacting and meticulous. There wasn’t a single stain on a tablecloth or a chipped cup in her china. No matter that the china probably never chipped because no one was allowed to eat on it. She collected Christmas presents all year round and never missed anyone. And she always had cookies and delicious treats when we came to visit her. While she served them, she would tell us how fat we were getting.
Wake. A funeral, or celebration of someone’s life. People came from all over to say goodbye, to tell us about the times they remembered, little habits, funny stories, what stuck after all these years. Their legacy. It was crazy. All day long, the mourners appeared- close friends and family, folks I had met once, or never. They came to simply sit with us, for us, and be awake together to who left us. There was at least as much laughing as crying.
I wasn’t prepared for all the “stuff” that must be sorted when people die. Weeks spent frantically searching for passwords and documents, finding hidden treasures, lots of crumbs, medicine, notes to self that no one understood, gorgeous furniture, forgotten photos in weird briefcase pockets. Boxes and boxes of photos. And a surprising number of fingernail clippers. Of course, there is and will be sorting of heart stuff too, but that will take its own time, maybe after all the boxes go.
Personally, I’ve always preferred experiences to stuff. Up until quite recently I could pack my entire life in a few bags. In a breakup, I’m that person who refuses to fight over whose books or plates were who’s. Let them take it all. I’d rather start fresh anyway. I’ve never been a fan of keeping somebody else’s things around once the relationship is over because they still feel so tied to that person’s energy. I remember being completely thrown when I ran into one of my exes, years later, to find her wearing something very special I had given her. I couldn’t understand or ever imagine doing that. What did it mean? Maybe for her there was no meaning in it. That possibility gave me the CRAZIES- how could my gift be just an object like any other she liked, without our story attached to it? Did she treasure the memory? I don’t know. It sprained my heart a little.
The real truth is that I have a hard time letting go, so it feels easier to not get bogged down. I’ve learned to lose the ‘stuff’ sooner rather than later in order to begin to dig out the hook. It’s the way I’ve been able to manage.
Wake. The waves that a boat leaves as it slices through water. Inheritance is something I hadn’t really given much thought to-in regards to belongings. I’ve always cared about leaving the world a better place than I found it (which feels impossible at times), and there is definitely an inheritance there, but it’s an inheritance of purusha (subtle matter), not prakriti (matter).
However, for the first time, when asked, I decided to keep a few family heirlooms. They had to be relatively light so I could bring them across to the northern part of the continent. It seemed like a lot of stuff at first, too much, but I made myself bring it anyway.
Now I’m finding great comfort in the sprinkling of amazing little details throughout our apartment. They cut through the sea of my grief like a sunset burns a line of fire in water. My grandpa’s foo dog- from his travels to China- which now keeps Hanuman company on my altar. I did my puja with that foo dog this week as Papo melted away, meditating and chanting and focusing my energy through time and space to be with him as he transitioned out of his body. My dad’s knife (you’d be hard pressed to find a Borrero without one), which he carried in his pocket every day of his life along with his wadded up cash and credit cards, and which I now carry in…Yup, my yoga pants. There was never a greater honor than being offered a slice of apple from the end of my dad’s knife. And then there’s Grandma Lela’s Mexican pottery dove, on the fireplace mantle looking over our living room, inspiring me to live in deep harmony with dessert, presents at the ready for anyone who’d like to get fat and be gifted right along with me.
You probably know this better than I do, as I can be slow to the table, but these ‘things’ are important little ritual reminders. They are the meditation beads and bells scattered around my life now. Not only do they allow me to celebrate my people every time my eyes or hands fall on them, but like meditation bells, they ignite qualities that I inherited. Matter transformed to subtle matter.
I have not lived in Colombia for 22 years and for the first time in a very long time, these belongings have allowed me to feel a tether between the Colombian me and the me that lives here. My belonging. Neither country foreign. It’s wonderful to be able to sense my lineage and the netting of my life within a larger legacy and not feel so much like an island. It’s as if I’m growing roots all of a sudden in the space created by loss.
I am gutted. And my heart is broken. But for the first time in my life I have understood something about ‘vairagya’, non-attachment, which is weird, because my feeling was always that stuff bogs you down. I’m beginning to suspect we can attach without living in attachment. You can have your past without being stuck in it; you can bring all of your people with you and let them be present without living in loss. It’s a feeling that who you are is stronger with all of them behind you, not just because of the experiences you’ve shared and what they’ve taught you but because they are all in your blood. They are your energetic tribe. Your angels and warriors. The forces that watch over you and help propel you forward through time and space.
These ‘things’ bend time and fold the past into the present into the future. I belong to my grandpa’s foo dog- it’s a little beacon on my dresser reminding me of my own curiosity and inner visionary. That’s me. That is his hand in mine. His courage to break boundaries and travel into more, dangerously, gloriously more than what is here right now. When I graze my dad’s knife in my pocket, his bravery and his love for his people reminds me how I feel walking into a room and seeing all your faces. The importance of the work we do together. And my Dharma of being of service to you. And my grandma’s dove is a constant reminder of beauty and her love of making things just right. Also cookies. I love cookies.
Their Dharma lives on. It affects me daily. Proving that our actions matter. These little reminders are there so I continue to choose joy and to choose well for my heart so that I can bring my gifts to light. So that I nourish the brightest part of myself. Not just for me. But for them, and for you, too. So that I can continue to encourage you to do the same and in that way we can create something meaningful. A wake. A complete Samsara.
***I’m recording a podcast and calling it Wide Awake in honor of this blog post. It will entail conversations with friends and professionals of various kinds about things I’m curious about, things related to yoga and spirituality, and the business of being alive. I’ll release an episode once a month along with my newsletter. You can listen to the first episode here.
If you have topics or things you are curious about or want me to discuss on here, let me know.
This month I interviewed Milard Roper Owner of The Funky Om Yoga and Wellness and Om Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Long Island: Becoming a yoga teacher was a natural progression for Milard. Milard is a licensed Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist as well as a Board Certified Chinese Herbalist. Milard has also taught Kung Fu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for many years. His passion for these arts and his innate knowledge of the body comes through clearly when he is teaching yoga. Milard’s enthusiasm for life and the balance he has created in his professional and personal life is inspirational to his students, patients, friends and family. Milard was trained directly by Ana Forrest and Raghunath. Milard incorporates Ana’s focus on alignment and connecting to the breath as well as Raghunath’s strong physical practice and rich tradition of yogic philosophy into his classes. Owing everything to his teachers he feels blessed to have made such powerful connections both in the Forrest and Bhakti communities.
I decided to make it happen anyway. If you get a wild hair, come!
The Jam (Master Class with music)
All Sunday’s from 12:30 to 2:30
Pure Yoga East
$35 walk in
or to register visit the Pure Yoga Workshops page or just come.
Heart Over Head: Backbend Master Class
February 11 from 9-11am
For more information check go to
With Miles, Caroline and Doyal
March 2, 2018
Pure Yoga East
$45 All are welcome
The Jam: Back Bending and Hips
Fair Haven, NJ
Synergy Hot Yoga
March 17 from 1-3
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Shape Vs. Space 100 Hr. TT
With Miles Borrero and Rebecca Sandlin
At Pure Yoga East
Shape- March 22-25/Space May 31-June 3
Thursdays & Fridays 5-9
Saturdays and Sundays 9-7
For more info or to REGISTER CLICK HERE