I’m going to tell you a quick story. This is a photo of me (with my angel, Lacey) when I lived in my first loft in downtown Phoenix. At this time in my life I was running a design studio and small art gallery on Roosevelt and Grand Ave, right before the complete urbanization began down there. My company was called Holy Click! and there were 5 of us who worked there. I would work sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning (in not the best part of town to be up late, although we did have a good alarm system) and I would drag myself in around 8-9am in the morning. I would spend the day going to events, networking and client meetings, and the evenings doing creative work, or going to more events. On top of that, I was on the board of the AAF Phoenix Advertising Club and I would get to travel a bit to judge Addy awards. I was on the board of Urban Affair, a downtown group to promote events and urban living in downtown Phoenix. I also did speaking events, teaching and mentoring. I ran a lot and trained for 10k’s. I had a dog that I took everywhere. I played racquetball at the YMCA downtown. I partied my ass off. I lived on Mac n Cheese, coffee and donuts. That was my life for a good seven years. And in the middle of that, I got dragged to a Landmark Forum, which is never just a weekend – it sways you into weeks and weeks, of hours and hours.
I remember during Landmark we had to choose words that would inspire a new way of being in our newly cleaned up lives. I chose love, beauty and passion because they seemed fitting for any artsy designer to warrant. And I wore them well! But they never seemed to fill the void in my life. There was something missing – something beyond these three things for me. It was true purpose. The word that haunted me until two years ago. Purpose.
Because I continued Landmark, I constantly thought about my “words”. I knew I hadn’t quite nailed it. I loved my words, but they weren’t completely me. I was halfway through my SELP course and had my project – an event called “A Day With The Angels” mostly planned. It was going to be a weekend at my gallery during the Art Detour where all of the art was from artists with angels in their collections. I had six rooms of different artists’ paintings and sculptures. I had artists and vendors in our front yard offering angel jewelry, aura readings, tarot cards and anything else having to do with angels. We had workshops and lectures. It is one of the most wonderful weekends of my life! And it was my creation of love, beauty and passion. But I couldn’t sustain it.
One day I was walking home from the YMCA, in deep thought, (The Y is only one block from my house – actually 1 alley.) but I had walked the long way around, which afforded me a little more time in my thought process. (I literally have the vaguest memories in my life, but I remember every single moment of this walk home, from broken up concrete below my feet, to the sunshine thrusting down on me, to the racquet over my shoulder, to the feeling of emptiness I felt being downtown on a weekend.) It gently hit me. Health and happiness are my words. I thought, well those are great and they inspire me, but it’s too late. I just finished my SELP program, my Day With the Angels and I had just worked my ass off to be love, beauty and passion. And what do I know about health and happiness anyway?
Eventually I moved to a new loft and that is when things started to crumble. I was losing my enthusiasm, I was getting restless…and I went to my first real yoga class. Health and happiness. I really like those words. I really like yoga. I called an old friend from volleyball that I hadn’t seen in awhile because somebody at my studio told me he was an amazing ashtanga teacher. And I loved the little bit of ashtanga that I was learning at the studio! So we set up some private weekly classes, which eventually turned into twice a week. I would drive from downtown Phoenix up to Paradise Valley, which was arduous in itself, but my teacher would move his entire set of furniture out to the patio so we could practice in his studio (shared with his then super amazing girlfriend and my soon to be chant teacher)…the bed, everything! Soon more people would join us. And I would have homework – Sanskrit – which I would usually learn in the car ride up to the studio. It took me about 20 minutes to learn tiryangmukhaipada paschimotanasana (which I’m sure I just mispelled). I fell in love with yoga, sanskrit, chanting…and ayurveda. Health and happiness.
I spent the next 2 years learning, training to be a teacher, chanting, studying and diving deeply into yoga. I couldn’t see a good vision of making a career from this…I loved it, but it wasn’t my true calling. Since then I have taught so many classes, workshops and teacher trainings, but along the way I have fallen many times, becoming disenchanted with the journey and barely holding on. I loved it, experienced its power, but it wasn’t the health and happiness that whispered in my ear at the gym.
I started ayurveda school about two years ago. It took some time to integrate it into my life. It’s not easy freelancing as a graphic designer because it is extremely time consuming. There are many tasks that I do to keep websites running and updated, accounting, taxes, marketing, etc, that the billable hours really only account for about a 1/3-1/2 of the time that I put into my business. I have my own home and three dogs which require a ton of time to maintain all on my own. Now I had to find a way to be able to study too, with all of that on my plate. My life seemed to be placed on hold – less socializing, less coffees, less hiking with dogs, hardly any skiing or sports. This was hard but I was crazy about school! The first year was great and I have absolutely no regrets. I was on the fence about signing up for the second year. Is this a hobby or a career? Will I like spending so much time talking to people? Is this like yoga…a lot of work and very little pay? Is this just exciting because it’s new? Can I even fit more into my schedule? If you have ever heard the story about how I got my little Coco and Chloe, you would know I’m impulsive and could make a decision on throwing dice. I signed up.
Year two. This is going to be hard. I’m barely through year one, I have missed a ton of classes and I haven’t even started my homework. I can only imagine the Sanskrit words that are piling up that I still don’t know. But I don’t really care. The classes start and they aren’t too hard, almost as if they expect us not to remember everything. A lot of reviews before we start our classes. Whew!
I start to realize that I love ayurveda. Like really truly love it, deep in my heart. More than anything else I have ever sort of loved before. And I can’t tell you it’s from an epiphany or anything, because I have never needed much from ayurveda, so I can’t tell you it cured me of some great disease. It hasn’t. But it harbors those answers we humans seek. It is the rulebook to life. It is love, beauty and passion. But mostly, it is health and happiness…or at least it holds the keys. And I can’t think of any greater purpose in life than to help people (including myself) achieve these things.
So where to go from here? I love my studies, my homework, teaching, doing consults. I mostly love writing about and sharing ayurveda. I am working on a book about spices. I am on a personal mission to inspire everybody to get back into their kitchens and cook. And I just want to let the world know that underneath all of the heartaches, diseases, and restlessness in the world today that there is hope and a formula to ease those pains. And as much as I know ayurveda holds the majority of this secret combination to health and happiness, it is yoga that is completes the code.
Maria and Lacey living in downtown Phoenix