I’m one week in to my Italian adventure and I’m learning so much about myself already. When I embarked on this adventure, I knew I loved Italy but I didn’t know the answer to the question “why here” and I still don’t. What I do know is, I’m not here for the love of pasta or as inspired by Aziz Ansari to live out my sabbatical days making tortellini. It’s a lot deeper that I ever thought it was going to be.
The first thing is my host family. I didn’t go to college, so I never had the traditional “study abroad” experience. Before I got here, I had about 10 friends warn me that I could be getting set up to be trafficked. That’s ten too many friends who have let their Liam Neeson fantasy get the best of them. I found my host family on a cultural exchange website and we Skyped several times before I got here. I was nervous, but I knew it was divine intervention when the only legitimate reply on this website I got came from a family in the first Italian town I ever visited, on a 10 hour layover. I believe that I was sincerely called back to Bergamo and I’m slowly putting together the puzzle pieces about why. Now back to my host family. To keep it sweet, they are simply wonderful. My host mom is a bold, stylish, independent woman who teaches high school English. My host dad is a kind hearted executive who travels a lot for work, but still makes time to snuggle his boys. And the boys are my favorite part. The oldest is a hip, music and theatre loving teenager who joins me in my yoga practice from time to time. The youngest a sweet faced kiddo who competes with me nightly in bouts of Just Dance and is always asking how I am. Both are so well mannered and mature for their ages, which speaks to the wonder of their parents. Each nightly dinner forces me to listen to Italian and I am slowly (“piano” in Italian...but like I mean turtle speed) starting to decipher words and phrases. I’ve been told by my family that I will get to see Italy as a traveller, not a tourist and that experience is priceless. I find myself almost daily imagining May when I leave for my next adventure. I think I will cry, for their hospitality and generosity, but also for the friendship that I know will grow from here. I wonder what our relationship looks like after I leave and I truly hope that they stay in my life forever.
Then, there’s the dancing. I found a studio here in Bergamo before I even left SF. Ah, the wonders of Instagram. As a studio owner, I pride myself on having built a genuine and safe space for all people to dance. Coming from a professional dance background, I know that often times isn’t the case. Needless to say I was nervous about where I would take class. I walked into B.Music School a new dancer & resident of Bergamo. I left my first class having been told that I was welcome and that this was my new family. They clap and yell for each other while learning and while performing. They film at the end, but it’s not excessive. All I could think was that I felt like I was staring at a mirrored image of what I had worked so hard to give SF in a space that is 6,000 miles a way. I didn’t know that I came to Bergamo to fall back in love with training and dancing. Hell, I didn’t know that I had fallen out of love with dancing at all. But, when your passion becomes your work it is easy for you to lose the spark that drove you to that passion in the first place. I’ve treated myself to a new pair of heels and I can’t wait to break them in. My soul is a glow thinking about dancing and that to me is worth this journey in and of itself.
The last thing is my independence. Do you know how much we take our ease of communication for granted? I rode around on the bus, lost, for an hour the other night because I can’t roll my R’s and asking the driver “does this bus go to Monterosso” was going to sound so bad I just turned on my GPS and wished for the best. It didn’t go well and I still had to ask anyway. Italy is forcing me outside of my comfort zone. Most people here only speak Italian, which is in essence is English to Americans - only so much more beautiful. I walk around here by myself and I smile at the locals and I try my best. If I get lost, I plug in how to ask for help. If I want a coffee, I plug that in too. The people here are so patient and understanding. But, I’m giving myself credit for being brave enough to say it out loud. This trip is forcing me to humble myself and to let go of the comforts being at home has brought me for so long. It’s challenging me to figure it out and bump my head along the way. To Italy I will forever be grateful for that.
All in all, I’m only 7 days in. I’m sure so much more will come to light about why else I’m here. But in 7 days I’ve gotten three distinct answers: friendship, love, and freedom. For now, I’m okay with that.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
I’m t-minus 72 hours from the trip of a lifetime. While I’m so incredibly excited, there’s this little monster that keeps creeping up on me trying to ruin my vibe.
Today I am addressing the elephant in our minds. The one that stops us from being the best and highest version of ourselves. The one that nags and nitpicks and tells us we aren’t good enough to attack all of the things that we really want to. The one that stops us from living our most complete destiny. That elephant’s name is Fear.
The argument behind the inception of fear is a hot button topic. Many people believe that fear is a learned behavior while others believe that fear is innate. Most researchers would say both are the right answer. Our bodies have shown us through our instinctual method of “flight or fight” response, that staying out of harm’s way our natural reaction to danger. But, did you know that our brain and body respond the exact same way to ANY potential fear as we would to a life or death situation? This means, for me, that “gardener snakes” and “man chasing me with knife” are physiologically in the exact same category. It sounds really silly as I write it out, but as human beings we often don’t stop to assess the validity of our fears. Here are a few tricks for stopping fear in its tracks as we feel it starting to rise:
In my day to day life I like to regard fear as an acronym. We can either choose to:
I’m rising to an elevation of 35,000 feet and tackling this sabbatical with pride. Which one will you choose?
Love, light, and lion vibes. 🦁❤️
I woke up on Christmas Eve morning full of joy. I got ready for my day in a way that I usually don’t, trading in my leggings for a sweater dress and bare face for some makeup. Today I was going to see my family! I headed to SFO early and treated myself to a breakfast of chicken and waffles while calling friends to do one of my new favorite exercises, the gratitude countdown. (I’ll tell you all about it later.) On the top of my list was “I’m grateful to squeeze my niece and nephew today.” I was only six short hours away from sharing dinner with the ones I loved while picking out one special present to open on Christmas Eve, likely with my 90 pound golden retriever, Piper, laying in my lap. My flight was on a small delay of 20 minutes but that wasn’t going to dampen the joy that I was feeling in my heart. I had two hours to make my connecting flight in Salt Lake City, so it was no biggie. Not until that 20 minute delay turned into an hour and 20 minute delay and I found myself touching down in Salt Lake City as my flight to Oklahoma City was leaving.
I followed the rules, I talked to the agents, but all they could promise me was a flight to Oklahoma City that left at 6 PM the next day with no hotel voucher, no food, and a guarantee that I would miss virtually all of Christmas with my family. My joy had run thin and at this point I was pissed. I was about 10 minutes into verbally berating the airline at the cost of Faith on the other end of the line, when it dawned on me that there was nothing I could do or that she could do to remedy the situation. To remember that this wasn’t her fault, to remember that this wasn’t my fault. To trust and understand whatever reason the Universe had in store for me not making it home on Christmas. To have empathy that Faith was spending her Christmas working. To understand that the present moment was the only moment that actually existed. This little change prompted a huge realization in humility, patience, and gratitude. I offered Faith an apology and my understanding which was met with her negotiating a full refund with her supervisor for the cost of my flight. I tried the same tactics with the airline that I had purchased my return flight on, and they rebooked me on another flight home free of charge. I rebooked my trip and I’m going home to see my family on January 1st. Everything is well after all.
This frustrating, exhausting, unexpected day allowed me the opportunity to look within and realize what patience & gratitude can do for our lives. Mindfulness, enlightenment, and an inner-practice is not about being happy all the time. It’s not about never having a bad day or hard times. It’s stopping to re-center yourself in the present moment and trying to find the bright side in any situation. It’s about training your brain to view the things that happen to you as an opportunity to learn. How much farther can we get in life when we stop to breathe in patience? How much happier will we be if we practice empathy and gratitude for all that we have in our lives instead of focusing on the negative? I can go back to that day and think of so many things I have to be grateful for. Here is my list:
The close of this list brings me to the game that I told you about earlier. A practice of gratitude can allow us to lead more empathetic lives, raises our dopamine levels, and shifts our focus from a mindset of lack to a mindset of abundance by giving thanks for all that we have in our lives. You can start small in your practice. Think of basic things that you have in this life that you’re thankful for. Some examples might be a roof over your head, food, clothes, or fresh air to breathe. But as you grow in your practice, try to think of more specific things. Some ways that I like to practice gratitude are by making lists and writing them down. I also pause at moments throughout my day if I see a situation that hits me in the heart and thank God for taking care in my life. The gratitude countdown is my newest method for practicing gratitude and I learned it from Tamara Levitt, who is the creator of the mindfulness app Calm. A gratitude countdown is the game that you play typically with someone else. You call a friend or sit with a friend and say “OK gratitude countdown”, that friend then takes his or her turn listing off 10 things that they are grateful for in that moment off the top of their head, and then you go. You can do this exercise as many times as you want in a day with as many friends as you choose. Ideally, you should do it once a day, but in my life it happens about once a week. And that’s okay. If you’ve never had a gratitude practice, this is a really good way to start because it holds you accountable by having a partner and adds value to the lives of others by bringing your loved ones into a practice of gratitude themselves. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I hope the close of this holiday season and the close of this year gives you a moment to reflect on everything that you have accomplished and that you have to be grateful for. I hope that you can take time to be thankful for the lessons that you learned and for the new beginnings that you’re about to experience. I hope you practice patience with other people today as they’re running around trying to prepare for the celebration. I hope you practice patience with yourself today as you undoubtedly focus on the hardships and the things that you did not accomplish this year. I hope that you resolve to be a better you in 2019 and not to put specificities on what that looks like from a physical aspect but that you turn inward today and focus on growing from the inside out. Above all else I wish you a safe, exciting, exuberant NYE surrounded by loved ones. I pray that you enter 2019 with peace of mind, on the road to abundance, and with joy in your heart. Happy New Year, friends.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
December is always a crazy time of year. We spend so much time worrying about gifts to buy, people to see, parties to go to that we seldom stop to realize how crucial it is this time of year for us to self reflect and recharge. This is the peak of our year’s mountain and it’s important for us to look down from the top of the summit on all that we have accomplished, and what we need to work on, as the year comes to a close.
This year I was fortunate enough to recharge and reflect on a trip to the Bahamas with two of my best friends. We were hosted by the beautiful Super Club Breezes along Nassau’s famous Cable Beach. We spent our days teaching classes, interacting with the local staff, reading, eating, and living our best mermaid lives. This time of year in the Bahamas is a beautiful time to go, because it’s low season. Nestled in between the holiday rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas, there were only a handful of people dotting the beach. This gave me the beautiful Bahamian ocean as the perfect backdrop for yoga & meditation every morning, made no need for dinner reservations at night, and allowed us the opportunity to really chat with and get to know the resort staff - who were all kind, genuine, and hospitable people. Needless to say, it was a beautiful experience and I can’t wait to go back.
The hotel’s namesake inspired this entry because the way of life in the Bahamas sincerely “Breezes” by. The days felt long, but in the best way. It was like you actually had time to accomplish all of the things that you wanted, which can be a daily struggle for me here in the Bay Area. The people were hospitable and so real. We made friends on a night out that literally showed us the entire island and we were truly privileged to have an authentic Bahamian night out, complete with my new favorite dish, Conch Salad. It was a beautiful experience and I can now say that I have friends in Nassau, which is sincerely my favorite part of traveling. There’s nothing like friendships that dot the globe.
Some personal practices that the Bahamas gave me time for that I’ll be working to continue in my day to day life are:
The one thing I didn’t do as much of while I was in Nassau was my journaling. I did write affirmations and gratitude lists two of the the three days I was there, but I had a year end activity to do in preparation for 2019 that I didn’t get to. I’m going to share the prompt with you, so that we can be accountability partners and do them together.
One habit to develop:
One habit to break:
I would like to focus on:
I want to learn how to:
I want to improve my:
I would like to spend more time:
I think we could all benefit from ocean air and sand between our toes. Maybe you don’t have the time or the means for a quick trip to the Bahamas, but you can take this time to carve out quiet moments and create your own beach. Maybe that means watching your favorite movies, treating yourself to a nice home cooked dinner, or if you’re local - bundling up and hitting one of our Bay Area beaches. Take time to pause, be present, and be grateful for the life you live. Take time to visualize all that you want and will have in the New Year. Reflection is a beautiful way to feel the breeze now before we dive into the depths of our future.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
Two years my car died (RIP Gen) at 11pm on a Friday night heading into SF on 101. It was a terrifying experience and after having three CHP officers YouTube how to get my car into neutral and off the highway, we resorted to a tow truck and blocking three lanes of traffic for about an hour. My car was towed to the dealer to be diagnosed and they found that after only 3 years and 55,000 miles, Gen’s engine had gone to metal heaven. My warranty covered a rebuilt engine, so I had them replace it. I drove her around soundly and smoothly for months after the rebuild, but with constant thoughts of what could’ve happened that night, I just didn’t feel safe driving her anymore. Thinking back now to the concept of rebuilding an engine, gave me an idea about our own set of morals, values, and codes. How many times a day do you think about the rules of your life and where they came from? This has been a constant in my day to day life lately and it has become my challenge to dissect the rules I’ve been following and create a set that sits with me in mind, body, and spirit.
Essentially, we should look at our mind and ourselves as the car. From the time we are born our parents and elders put gas in, facilitate oil changes, drive through the car wash, and tell us how fast we can go - or they don’t. They let the car sit with dirt and dust. They drive around on empty and with lights on the dash, but still expect it to get them to where they’re going without issue. With the car is an inanimate object it’s bad enough, but when you think of yourself as the car, isn’t this the worst? How many of the principles that were instilled in you as a child do you still latch onto of which you don’t feel connected to? How many hurtful things were done and said to you that you’re still clinging too? How many times have you been called to do something, but didn’t for fear of judgement from loved ones? How many times have you held your tongue when you had a valid opinion of something, because that’s just what you’re supposed to do? Maybe it’s time for us all to step into the role of mechanic and look under our own hoods.
I want to help people reprogram their moral foundation. Because we base our believe system and our morals upon following a set of rules that were instilled within us before we were old enough to actually negotiate those guidelines. We made and accepted agreements unknowingly based on the pretenses of obedience and maybe even teachings of fear. My goal is to help people realize that you have to follow the path of your soul and trust your intuition and what you personally feel to be right in order to actually fulfill your purpose in this lifetime. You have to rebuild your engine.
As we close out 2018 and move into 2019, I want you to answer some questions for yourself:
Repeat this exercise for as many standards that you can think of that rule your day to day life.
Take a second to peel back the layers and take apart your engine. You might find that something is cracked or bent, something needs cleaned, to be replaced, or to be removed. You are not at fault for the programming or experiences that were presented to you in your youth. You are entirely responsible for making sure that your engine is operating in tip top shape in adulthood. This drive called life is a long and windy road. Take the time to reassess and make repairs where needed.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
Hey, again. It's Shonna.
I'm one part dance diva, one part sunbeam, and one part lioness. This blog is a highlight reel of my favorite moments, my travels, my dance classes, and my spiritual journey. It is a place for me to express, share, and heal. Through my journey, I hope to inspire, create, and spread happiness. I truly enjoy making others feel good - about themselves, about their circumstances, about life in general. With any dash of hope, maybe you can feel that way too.