There is no denying the drug war or situacion, as it’s called by locals, is getting more sensitive by the day in Mexico, however, in the two years I recently lived there I not only politely declined countless invitations to focus on fear but rarely saw or felt anything but life-giving opportunities (daily mango and constantly being greeted by and welcomed by strangers will make you feel this way).
With a passion for travel, expat-living and yoga, I hit send on the purchase of a seven month Yogaworks teacher training one hour from my home of Guadalajara in Monterrey, Mexico, a city two hours from the US border. A city ravaged by insecurity, fear and violence in 2010.
Let’s be honest. I was in my expat head about it. Even more so when I heard there had just been citizens killed at the University 10-15 minutes from where my hotel was for the next …seven months. This was not just happening near Monterrey. It was happening in Monterrey. How many times would I be in a taxi going up and down the freeways where innocent people had been caught in crossfire? Could I walk to get something to eat? Run in the neighborhoods after training? Should I be leaving my son and husband every two to three weeks for this place right now? A part of me wanted to be practical (?) so I’d detour and stay “safe” in Guadalajara.
Thankfully, a couple minutes later, I remember this is the human condition, our mind’s job, and I carry the proper medicine in yoga. Call it my mantra or momtra; I was using both. I will not cause my own suffering.
After the aha a few years ago that this was indeed a silly thing to impose on myself I tuned into my love and confidence in travel, of meeting new people who would surely become friends and how fun it is, always, to prove that I can make what I want happen in my life.
Sutra 1.39 reminds us we can meditate on anything we choose that is elevating to help overcome the mind stuff.
Inspired by my first aerial shot of the “city of mountains” I felt my tallest Tadasana yet. I thought more about fulfilling something I had wanted for a long time and about the time I’d have for writing my book, how to be a walking Momtra. I only had to look below, as I was close to landing for the first time, and see the majestic structures to feel elevated.
I was tall, stable, strong, just as teachers say you can feel in this pose and filled with life breath (seeing as it was 6am and, soon, I’d be doing a three to four hour yoga practice, breath was muy bueno).
And here might lie the biggest lesson or reminder of all: the duality (RE-ality) of life. There will always be conflict and times of pain or disequilibrium however we have it in our power to choose where to flow to and what to chase after next…darkness or light?
In this way, mountains though easily symbolic of obstacle would come to mean the flip; a spiritual rising above obstacle, like yoga. Light/Luz.
Grateful for floor to ceiling studio windows, during asana or book learning segments I was able to gaze at these enormous examples of this fortitude in nature. I felt hope in each glorious peak. I felt hope in each one of us and I don’t think I’ve been happier.
As insecurity and violence continued to grow so did my mantra Yoga for Change. And is it not true? Yoga changes. Yoga is change and yoga is the heat or tapas to change.
Monterrey, though it would have been easy to believe otherwise, was the ideal place to birth 23 devotees of this change and consciousness. Forty-six hands of peace! Though my two, specifically, were sore and attached to two shaky arms they were grateful to have followed my heart to Monterrey.
Monterrey was one of the largest moving meditations of my life. And after having experienced the shift of becoming a parent, post-partum depression and now having lived in six different cities (three different countries!) in ten years I don’t tell you this lightly.
Change. Fear. Love. They are all real. And, we have a choice.
Now being back in the States, I continue to yoga for change; for that part of Monterrey in each one of us.
Join me and in your travels down the street or across the world today choose light, strength and love. You will feel so well traveled. You will have done yoga.
Michelle Ghilotti Mandel
Michelle is a writer, certified yoga teacher and graphic designer with her own branding studio, ghilotti ink, for over 10 years. She is writing the how to be a walking Momtra book (blog: http://howtobeawalkingmomtra.wordpress.com/) and guest blogs on the happinessseries.com, tinybuddha.com and thepowermob.com. When she’s not grooving on any of the above, she is running (usually to yoga), googling how to sleep on the Great Wall of China, becoming an expert in expat living and surprisingly not making many other plans. Having last lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for two years, she now lives in Los Angeles with her son and husband.