Updated: Oct 20
I figured it would be nice to share a little bit with you about the process of birthing Keepers of the Earth, my latest project and a life-mission of mine coming into manifestation.
First of all, I'd like to give gratitude and homage to my teachers and parents, who were my first teachers. To all my guides, mentors, teachings and protectors: thank you.
At 32 young years I've lived a pretty adventurous life and for the past 10 or so it has been pretty full on in terms of my spiritual explorations. However, it wasn't until I moved to Costa Rica in October 2020 that the path really expanded for me.
Keepers of the Earth birthed itself out of this move, I would say.
I came here expecting very little. I had worked hard to develop a pretty amazing community back "home" in Chandler, Arizona (where I am from), and for 3 years of my life I lived, breathed, and dedicated all my energy to building a hub for spiritual exploration, self-development and growth (this was to be known as Bridge the Gap Yoga, which some of you know.) I originally had a vision of what I was calling "The Institute" where healers of all different backgrounds could gather together to exchange best practices and modalities in pursuit of the higher aims of human existence. This never came to pass... or did it?
My arrival to Costa Rica meant letting go of all of this. It meant dropping the "status" as a "leader" or whatever other titles I had projected into my self-identity, and it meant reclaiming my natural and undiluted essence. This was made possible by being completely surrounded by Costa Rican nature at the peak of the pandemic.
I spent most of my days practicing, doing my sadhana while listening to the birds chirp, the bees buzz, the monkeys howl, the river flow, and the rain patter.
Stepping away from the "job" I had created as a yoga teacher and educator meant I could once again explore what yoga meant for me and what was truly effective for my growth. It is easy to get caught up in the "need to prove" mentality, and I am sure that no industry is excluded from this; perhaps because this "mentality" is exactly that - a mentality. It exists in the human psyche. And we are prone to the subconscious and unconscious patterns that drive our lives forward.
However, taking a step back from culture and social norms and necessities --- something we all got to practice to some degree during COVID -- allows us to re-evaluate and examine what is actually worth upholding. Hopefully.
I found that being in Costa Rica in those early days of my arrival were quite unsettling and at the same time, immensely liberating. I was so FREE, so vital, so filled with life. I kept hearing horror stories about what was happening around the globe but in my immediate environment I was experiencing the simple joys of a life filled with the basics. Sunlight. Fresh food. Good sleep. Nature. Rain. Flowing waters. Walks. Sporadic exercise. Lots of yoga and meditation. Music.
I spent the first year or so in Costa Rica just finding a new rhythm for myself, a new way of life. I went through a series of hard and uncomfortable growth spurts. I got to see patterns that I'd been carrying for who-knows-how-long that were simply not serving my happiness or highest joy. I saw how I was robbing myself of peace my regularly worrying about all sorts of stuff. I saw how the absence of peace led me to re-act out of fear and send me into feelings of needing to produce something or be "productive" because if I wasn't, the world would end.
Through all of this I kept coming back to my practices, and I gradually deepened evermore into my sadhana. Dhuni, the yogic fire ceremony, became a big part of my life around this time. Mostly because I could chant as loud as I wanted for as long as I wanted at my fire pit without risk of disturbing anyone.
You know, I feel lucky to have been given different sets of tools along the way by a few of my great teachers. The more I practiced them, the more these tools came alive in me. The more they scratched what would sometimes feel like an impossible-to-reach itch. But reach it and scratch it they did.
After about a year or so of living in Costa Rica I got scared. Really scared. I was in a new relationship, I was in love, and I became afraid. I saw the expansive opportunities that were rising up to meet my expanding-self and I contracted. Instead of saying YES to life I said NO and I ran away. My partner and I split up and I was sent on a long, deep "pilgrimage". A quest of recovering myself, of healing some fragmented part of me. The fear that prevented me from saying YES to life had to be examined and explored through a series of spiritual and physical journeys.
For three months I was "on the road", as in, I had no real destination and no real end-goal in mind. I was just following Spirit.
During this time I experienced so much magic, beauty, and synchronicity that I was reminded of the greatness of life when you can stay open to it.
I ended up in Mexico as the sacred musician, yoga teacher and space-holder for a psilocybin mushroom retreat. From there, I went to Arizona to see my family. My grandmother had just been admitted to the hospital so I visited her there. She is 96 years old. I thought it may be the last time I'd see her. I played music for her on my guitar while she was in her hospital bed. We were still wearing silly COVID masks.
I found out about my ancestry. I found out where my dad's grandfather was born -- a place in what was formerly Germany but is now Poland. I went from Arizona to the UK to visit my yoga teacher, Steve. On the way, I was invited to be a sacred musician and space-holder for another set of plant medicine ceremonies. I helped with two different retreats in the UK and in between them, I went to Germany and took a train to a random small village in Poland where no one spoke English. I ended up meeting a woman who took me to an old German graveyard in the middle of the forest. I felt ancestral spiritual forces for the first time and prayed for their support and help towards whatever life was asking of me. After this wild ancestral pilgrimage through Europe and the UK, I went to Peru for a 10-day isolation "dieta" with a plant medicine curandero (a plant "doctor", or shaman, although they would not call themselves this). I drank more ayahuasca than I imagined was possible and ate plain rice and boiled green plantains with no salt or spices for almost two weeks.
The combination of these experiences culminated in my final ayahuasca ceremony in "la Selva" (the Amazonian jungle).
The curandero, "DC" we shall call him, was plucking the strings of his charango, a small 10-stringed Peruvian instrument. It was day time. We had just gone through a grueling 9 days of the "dieta" and 4 ceremonies. We were on our 10th day and the fifth & final ceremony of this ritual process.
(Side note: a "dieta", as it is called, is a crucial process in the South American "shamanic" traditions as it helps the individual develop a close relationship to the various plant intelligences. Basically, you eat very little, very plain food and spend time in isolation while consuming large quantities of a particular plant. You "get to know" and various biochemical properties of these plants by removing all other distractions and experiencing their affects directly. A dieta is seen as a rite of passage and initiation on the medicine path. I knew it would be an intense process and that was what drew me to it. I'll do almost anything if it will help me grow.)
Deep in the Amazonian jungle, on that final day, DC began to play his charango. I just started to cry. The sunlight was in the Maloca as it was a day-time ceremony and I was weeping openly like a baby. I wept for my life. I wept for my misgivings. I wept for the errors in judgment and mistakes I'd made. I wept for my cowardice and at the same time, I wept for my strength. I wept for community. For my friends. I wept for all the times I hadn't shown up. I was seeing so many areas of my life that could be improved if I could just show up for them. It felt simple and it felt big. I cried and cried as I listened to the charango play. The ayahuasca was strong but not too strong. My emotions were stronger. My heart was cracking open as I reflected on my three month journey up to that point -- from leaving Costa Rica, to going through Mexico, to seeing my parents and grandmother, to my teacher Steve in UK and the plant medicine ceremonies that we did there, to Germany and Poland and my ancestors... I reflected on my entire life path and simply cried. It was a good cry. It was culminative tears. The good and the bad. I was able to feel.
I suppose I really just wept for my life. It was pretty profound. Up until that point I'd sat in maybe 30 or more ayahuasca ceremonies but I hadn't cried in a single one until then. The tears felt good. Grief wracked my body but underneath it was a joy, a bliss, and a confidence.
After my dieta in Peru I knew I needed to return to Costa Rica. I went straight back to the mountain of Chirripo, where I'd left three months prior, with the intention of healing. It was hard, and it was right. I knew I'd ran away from something -- myself -- and I was avoiding that. Of course, this "running" was related to everything, including my relationships, and in particular my relationship with my now beloved. But I didn't want to run anymore. I knew if I really confronted myself, like I had done in the jungle of Peru, then there was greatness on the other side. So I committed to that.
I returned in December 2021. And since then (almost a year ago at the time of writing this) I have been riding the dragon.
What I mean is that all of my practices, all of my teachings, everything has been continually put to the test. It has been a tempering process, really. I've known I wanted to created a Yoga Teacher Training program for years. I knew that this would be my biggest creation and would demand all of me to do it in a way that was ... real. Effective.
What I was really running away from and avoiding was THIS. The level of commitment and sincerity and growth and discipline that creating a Yoga Teacher Training program that I would be proud of would demand.
I don't take this work lightly. Far from it. I know the power of these practices and teachings and I thoroughly respect them. They have gifted me with the strength to be sensitive. I am not sure if this journey would have been possible without the support of the teachings & practices. And I know that, for me, as a young yogi and someone who has only been on this path for a relatively short amount of time, I would need to step up on many levels to provide something (a Yoga Training) that people would seriously benefit from. These practices gave me the courage to do what I needed to do.
I knew that all of this -- this dream of doing a YTT -- was so far beyond my ego's ability. In order to do it "right", it would demand initiation. Challenge. Sacrifice.
So, for months, initiations are what happened for me. I had my sight set on the goal -- create a teacher training program -- but I didn't know how it would happen, where, when. I was clear about what I wanted .... but the HOW was unclear. I walked my path.
Along the way, I was given opportunities to grow towards this outcome. They may have seemed unrelated at first, but I noticed that each time I said YES to a growth opportunity or a nudge from Spirit, the manifestation of Keepers of the Earth became clearer. Keep in mind that I had no idea about this name (KotE) at first, I was just certain I wanted to provide a yoga training for yoga teachers-in-the-making.
It was interesting to notice this. As soon as I really accepted the GOAL -- the dream, that is -- of hosting my first YTT, I was presented the steps to achieve it. However, that meant I had to walk the steps. Some of them proved fairly difficult.
Over the summer I was gifted some freshly brewed Ayahuasca. The combination of vine and leaf that is concocted to produce this hallucinogenic beverage grows here in Costa Rica. When I was given this dark, thick brew, I knew what I needed to do with it.
I took it to my fire. I have a very special, sacred fire pit in my backyard by the river where I live in the mountains. The yogis call this sacred fire pit a "dhuni". You read more here about different elements of the dhuni. Basically, the dhuni is the cleft in the ground where worship is performed via the technology of fire, mantra and ritual. It is considered sacred as this is where we can offer our limitations up to Divine energies and ask for the purification and transformation necessary to carry out our divine purpose. In our pagan past, these fire pits would be the first form of a "temple", before there were more advanced structures. For those who know about the dhuni, or who have experienced one, will understand what I am talking about.
It was early July. I took myself, my questions, my path, and this freshly gifted plant medicine to my dhuni, and I prayed.
The process itself -- the chanting, the fire, the drinking of the medicine -- was all a relatively straightforward ritual process. Of the addition of Ayahuasca was an added variable ... potentially a big one. Although I felt comfortable with the dhuni, Ayahuasca was a powerful psychoactive and could be potentially unpredictable. It felt like another initiation. What would happen? Would I be able to handle it? I'll save the details for another story, as there is a whole lot that can be said about dhunis and even more that can be said about Ayahuasca.... but I did it. After a three-and-a-half hour process with the fire, and went inside to have soup and return to the Earthly plane. I had my soup and went upstairs to lay in bed. Once I was in bed, I began to receive some very powerful visions. I thought the medicine would wear off with the soup, as I took it all at the beginning of my dhuni, but what actually happened was that it started to affect me even more strongly once I was in bed.
I laid there and experienced some of the most powerful hallucinations -- auditory and visual -- that I'd ever had before. I found this interesting as in nearly every ceremony I'd been to, save for one, I experienced next to no hallucinatory effects. Mostly the ayahuasca worked with me in an internal processing sort of way. However this time was quite different. To this day I am not sure if it was the combination of the intensity of the dhuni that allowed my channels to open more to her spirit, or if it was because I was alone, or both of these factors. But I certainly was in for a ride at this point.
Eventually the visuals calmed down and then the inspiration started flooding in.
"Keepers of the Earth is a School of Yoga and Mystical Arts dedicated to the preservation of Natural Law and Sacred Wisdom."
This single sentence kept repeating itself. Over and over again. It would repeat, then I would see visuals of people at trainings, going through deep processes, learning, growing, studying together. I saw different images of sacred sites and people in prayer around the world. I saw this idea of living in alignment with Nature. "What does it mean to be a good human being?" "What does it mean to live in alignment with Nature?" "How do we leave our corner of the Earth better than we found it?" I kept asking these questions. I knew they were the pillars what was to become KotE.
The inspiration firehose was turned on full blast. I couldn't sleep a wink that night, nor did I want to. I feel like I was given a set of codes and instructions from the Universe. Keepers of the Earth started to become alive.
The next day and the days to follow were the real test. Inspiration is one thing -- taking actions to manifest inspiration are another. It can be easy to "get high" and receive beautiful information from the celestial realms. It can be difficult to take the cosmic instructions and put them into the forms of the world. From that night on I knew it was time to really put things into motion. I felt like I had finally received the green lights from Spirit. So I went for it.
Now, months later (it is October at the time of writing this post), I have managed to create the Keepers of the Earth website, get its school formally registered as an official Yoga School through Yoga Alliance, and launch our very first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program, combining all of this initiatory juiciness into one extremely impactful, transformative, potent transmission of Yoga.
Why am I sharing all of this? I think the story can be helpful to understand the mechanics of what, exactly, we are trying to do. Although it has indeed been observed in shamanic and other ancient societies that ritual leaders would spend time alone and in many cases with mind-altering substances to receive instructions for the tribe, this doesn't mean you (or anyone else) needs to dabble with plant medicine to achieve their goals and dreams. That this particular "way" happens to be part of my path is coincidental. What seems fundamentally worth noting here is that there seem to be underlying mechanics to this process of transformation and that is what I am constantly learning about, speaking about, talking about, and te