Fall 2015 Yoga Freedom Retreats in Guatemala

Tiger temple inside with roofOctober 17-18, 2015 / Yoga Freedom & Bhakti Bliss Weekend ~ Yoga, Mindfulness, Kirtan & Cacao Dance / Villa Sumaya ~ Lake Atitlan

Come enjoy a weekend of Yoga, Mindfulness Practice & Bhakti Bliss with Michelle and Joshua Param Sevak. See all the details. Please email reservations@villasumaya.com with questions or to sign up! RSVP on Facebook!

149849_10151922777265400_482001232_nOctober 31-November 2, 2015 / Day of the Dead Yoga Weekend ~ Yoga, Meditation & Ritual / Pasajcap, Lake Atitlan

Celebrate life and honor the dead through hatha and yin yoga, meditation, and building an altar for Dia de los Muertos. Led by Paola and Michelle at Blue Deer Yoga and Art Studio in Pasajcap (San Marcos La Laguna)

ash guatemala earthlodge yogafreedomNovember 20-22, 2015 / Grounded in Gratitude ~ Yoga, Writing & Meditation / Earth Lodge ~ Antigua

join Michelle for a relaxing, fun weekend of yoga practice, writing practice (sharing optional) and meditation practice, in addition to volcano gazing, good eats, sauna, hammocks and more. See details and RSVP on Facebook!

10410505_10153420105025400_3605252282646110413_nNovember 26-29, 2015 / Thanksgiving Retreat ~ Yoga, Mindfulness, Gardening & Cooking / La K’zona ~ Lake Atitlan

Join us this Thanksgiving weekend for Yoga, mindfulness, cooking, gardening, nature and gratitude! We will explore what might have inspired the elephant swallowed by the serpent Cerro de Oro! Ceremony at the Mayan altar, explore its caves and enjoy the majestic views of Lake Atitlan!

Space is limited. Contact Us to Register!

Ode to My Dad


My dad is awesome.

I appreciate him more with each passing year.

My dad is a sailor. He has owned one sailboat or another as long as I have lived. We have had the joy of drifting over the water, gazing at the sunset and moving with the wind.

My dad is a classic rock aficionado. He instilled in me an early love for good music.

My dad is an engineer. He worked for the same company for nearly 40 years.

My dad is retired. My dad and mom have been to the beaches in Belize and Hawaii this year. I’m so happy for them.

My dad is kind and generous.

My dad is grounded and balanced. A Libra.

My dad is subtle. He is not the life of the party, but he has a quiet humor you have to pay attention to get.

My dad is patient. Unbelievably patient. Miraculously patient.

My dad is understanding and open-minded.

My dad is simply wonderful. And today is his 63rd birthday. So I thought I’d write this in lieu of sending him a coffee mug via Amazon.com that says World’s Best Dad. (Even though he is.)

Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for being you.


Writing Down the Chakras

Writing is an art, a gift, a practice.

I practice writing as taught by Natalie Goldberg in her many books, primarily Writing Down the Bones. Her few, simple rules for writing include: keep your hand moving, don’t reread (until after the writing session), don’t edit, let go of control, don’t worry about correctness (spelling, punctuation, complete sentences, or even making sense).

Writing practice, like any practice, is something ideally done daily or nearly daily. Writing is a skill that improves with practice. We cannot only write when we are inspired. Writing practice is the foundation of our mindfulness practice and our published works, as well.

Here are some suggested sentence starters to use during your writing practice, categorized by chakra…

The root of the solution: Muladhara ChakraRoot / 1st chakra

I am ___________.

second_chakraSacrum / 2nd chakra

I want ___________.
I feel ___________.
I desire ___________.I move ___________.
I flow ___________.

third_chakra_imageSolar Plexus / 3rd chakra

I will ___________.
I do ___________.
I go ___________.

fourth_chakra_imageHeart / 4th chakra

I love ___________.
I give ___________.
My heart is ___________.
I am grateful for ___________.

fith_chakra_imageThroat / 5th chakra

I express ___________.
I listen to ___________.
I hear ___________.
I speak ___________.
My voice is ___________.

sixth_chakra_imageThird eye / 6th chakra

I see ___________.
I visualize ___________.
I look within and ___________.
I feel intuitively that ___________.

seventh_chakra_imageCrown / 7th chakra

I connect with ___________.
I believe ___________.
My spirit ___________.
My soul ___________.
I have faith in ___________.
I trust ___________.


Just Say No to School

{Read the original on elephant journal}

“To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.” ~ J. Krishnamurti

Although I am grateful for my conventional education and experiences in traditional schools, here’s why I don’t want my child to ever be subjected to the tyranny of the classroom.

In 2006, I earned my alternative teaching certificate and brushed up on my Spanish. School worked for me, so much so, that I decided to work for it. I was overjoyed. Going back into the classroom was like a sweet homecoming, bringing back cheerful memories of my early school days.

So why wouldn’t I want that same experience for my daughter?

As a teacher, I gradually became more disillusioned with each passing year. At the end of the day, between mandatory tests, curriculum, and policies and procedures, I had little left to give, regardless of how creatively I approached the content.

I am still a teacher and a mentor. I am also now a mother, which has clearly shifted my perspective on education as my partner and I continue to contemplate what we want for our girl. (She’s currently two.)

I am thrilled to never again have to coerce kids to sit still, nor make them line up, nor force them ask my permission to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. I am blessed to have this opportunity, yet I have also made it happen through my choices which have led me to drop out of the system and to embark upon a new learning experiment here in our neighborhood.

Follow the project, The Pasajcap Learning Circle, via EnlightenEd. I’ll be blogging there at least twice a month about this new way of learning we are putting into practice.

J. Krishnamurti quotes on education from his brilliant essay, Education and the Significance of Life:

Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult.

Reaction only breeds opposition, and reform needs further reform.

It is only when we face experience as it comes and do not avoid disturbance that we keep intelligence highly awakened; and intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life.

As long as education does not cultivate an integrated outlook on life, it has very little significance.


My Life on Paper


Hey, yall.

It’s Friday.

Outside, the soft breeze is blowing, and it looks like it will rain in a little while. I have been online too much today. I am working away on lots of little things. I am about to unplug and go breathe and play with my daughter and hug my husband.

But first, this post! In revising this website as I tend to do seasonally in great spurts of sudden enthusiasm, I had updated my resume/bio section to say the following:


  • Yoga Freedom, Founder/Director (2002-present)
  • EnlightenEd, Co-creator (2014-present)
  • Villa Sumaya Retreat Center, Retreat Coordinator (2015-present)
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish) School Teacher (2006-2015)
  •  Advertising, Marketing, Copywriting (1999-2005)
  • Semester abroad at the University of London; traveled to Wales, Ireland, Spain & France (Fall 1999)
  • Lived in the San Francisco Bay area and ran Yoga Freedom, learning entrepreneurship by fire (2003-2004)
  • Completed 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course in Texas & 3-week Spanish-immersion course in Mexico (2007)
  • Solo trip to northern India for 5 weeks; completed another 10-day Vipassana course (Summer 2008)
  • Moved to Guatemala and became an expat (2009)
  • Gave birth to a daughter, Jade; traveled in the US, Mexico, Ecuador & Colombia; got married (2013)

And then I deleted it because it was on the home page. I don’t need to share all these details on the home page. I need to share them, and many more, in my memoir, which I am finally back to writing!

But I couldn’t just delete it forevermore. No, I had to cut and paste it to this little post here. (What would we ever do without cut and paste?)

This is my life on paper/on screen. It sounds good. It sounds ideal. And my life IS good and ideal for me at this moment. But it is not perfect. Perfection is an evil, nonexistent creation of the consumer monkey mind, that nagging feeling that always leaves us seeking more, unfulfilled with the tiny joys of the mundane.


Sacred September

Hello, there. Welcome to a new month… well, it’s already the third day of the month, but I’m just now getting around to checking in.

I haven’t been writing as much lately.

There are, after all, so many distractions. Essays I want to read. Photos I want to upload. My daughter’s incessant viewing of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox on the iPad the past few days… or her wails when I finally take it away. Emails coming in, needing replies. The Facebook.

For the past few months, living in a new place and starting a new job, I’ve been feeling in touch with the ground, the earth, getting my foundation re-established under me. A lot of lower chakra work. You’ve gotta go down to go up, as they say.

I have not been doing writing practice — I have not been writing daily or with any real regularity and definitely not feeling inspired until very recently. And now I am so inspired, with so many ideas, so many plans and projects that all I can really do is sit still and sink in before attempting anything else.

I have been rereading random chapters of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. So inspiring, so common sense. The basic premise is to write as a zen practice. The #1 top writing book of all time. Or, my favorite, anyway.

This is a month for gratitude, change, work, transformation, stillness, movement… Happy September!

p.s. What do you think of the new yogafreedom site design?

6 Years an Expat.

Reflecting on Lake Atitlan
Reflecting on Lake Atitlan – 2010

I didn’t leave because I was disillusioned.

I wasn’t running away from anything, at least not consciously.

But soon, so soon after arriving I had a gut feeling that this would become my lifestyle. I didn’t know whether I’d stay in Guatemala after my initial two-year contract was up, or try my luck in another Latin American country, or maybe take a leap and move to Asia or Africa like so many of my friends and colleagues have. But I felt pretty certain that I wouldn’t be returning to reside in the States for a long time.

I was immediately free—as in the opposite of busy.

It was so liberating! Even in an oppressively dangerous, dirty and foreign city, I was free. I’d been busy in Austin. Lots of work, both during and after school hours, family visits, dinner parties, chores, errands, grocery shopping. Suddenly, I had no obligations (other than work, and my job was a lot less demanding than it had been in TX), no plans and no expectations.

In retrospect, it almost seems as if I was fleeing from something specific when I left home but I really wasn’t aware of it at the time of departure. That something is best summed up as The System. I was stepping out of the frame, quitting the race, moving off the national grid, opting out of my chosen (and initially beloved) career as a school teacher.

Today, I’m just as disillusioned with the field of schooling and “education” as I was when I left my first career in advertising and marketing. If not more so. Because I never saw advertising as I saw school teaching: as worthwhile, inspiring and important.

Now, I see traditional schooling for what it is: a way of training the masses to be oppressed.

After three years of living in Guatemala City, I was in for another huge shift in lifestyle… the biggest ever. Becoming a mother. I met my partner, got pregnant and moved to Lake Atitlan in 2012. I became immersed in the colorful, complex Maya culture. The world did not end that December 21.

For the first three years at the lake, we lived in or near Panajachel, a bustling small town with a unique mix of local Mayans and non-Mayan Guatemalans, long term expats, short term volunteers and really short term tourists.

Just over two months ago, life shifted yet again. We moved across the lake into our own home on our own newly bought land.

We are really off the grid now, and I’m so excited for all that is to come.

My career has shape-shifted into a mix of entrepreneurial endeavors related to yoga, writing and continually discovering what enlightening education (for my self, for my daughter, for my students, for our community) means.


Rustic Sustainability

A report from the woods…

IMG_3490A disclaimer: I am (was) a Spoiled North American Woman.

It never really crossed my mind until adulthood that some people (a.k.a. most of the inhabitants of the Earth) actually live without a washer/dryer. Or a dishwasher. Or a refrigerator. Those handy home appliances are standard in my country, at least for the middle class and higher income brackets.

Well, on June 1 of this year, my family took a great leap into the muddy unknown and (somewhat unwittingly) became a whole lot more sustainable, at least as far as our carbon footprint. My little family (hubby, toddler daughter and myself) moved to a new place, a place we had sought and bought with the profit I made from selling a house I’d owned for nine years in Austin.

So now we live on a few acres of land in a little two-story house. And by little, I mean tiny: it’s just under 400 square feet. It does help that this land and house happen to overlook majestic Lake Atitlan, the sparkling blue rural Guatemalan place we’ve called home for the past three years.

Forgive the too-much-information, but I feel compelled (and a little proud and a little ashamed) to tell you that since that day, I have been digging holes and shitting in the woods. I bathe precisely twice a week, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend and neighbor whose running water and delectable solar shower is just a 10-minute hike away. Running water is something we are still working on getting hooked up here on our land. As of today, our newly-constructed outhouse (baño seco/dry composting toilet) is—at last!—ready to use. So, no more hole digging.

My beat-up old 1993 Lancer cannot handle the rocky roads in our new neck of the woods, so we’re in the process of selling her. No more car. Public transportation: moto-taxis and boats locally, buses or shuttles if we need to go further, and perhaps one day an actual airplane ride, though for now our time, energy and money is going into home renovation projects.

For the first two weeks of our new residency, we had no power. We burned candles at night and usually went to bed not long after dark. Then, we got our solar power system all set up, which is enabling me to type and publish this very blog right now. The wonders of technology!

This experience has reminded me how flexible and adaptable I am/we are. How we humans can pretty much get used to anything, for better or worse. And how to be grateful for the little things.

My daughter Jade is a great teacher in this regard. Whenever she spills or breaks something, she has taken to saying, “No importa, mama!” (or papa). Translation: it doesn’t matter. It’s gonna be okay. 

Sometimes, in the first few weeks, I had to remind myself: I chose this. Although I’ve been gradually moving further and further from the lifestyle I led in the USA for the past six years, this was no doubt the most drastic and sudden shift into shocked sustainability. I would wake up feeling a mix of anxiety, fear, excitement, boredom, curiosity, and doubt most days.

Now, six weeks in, I’m beginning to feel more and more settled—both in my own skin and our new house. I have lightened up and am learning to live by the mantra of my little girl: No importa!