Farewell, Amigo

A friend died last Thursday.

He ended his own life. A friend I hadn’t seen in years, but a friend all the same. A teacher, a musician, a husband, a father. With a daughter close to the same age as my own: five. He was forty years old.

I received the sad news one morning last week. In a message from a mutual friend. It was the first thing that entered my mind that day, this tragic news, and at first it didn’t compute.

He took his life. He is the first friend I’ve known who has committed suicide. It doesn’t seem real, that this person who was so alive and intelligent and complicated and hilarious and all the other things he was, to be gone just like that. It almost doesn’t seem real because there is no mention of it on social media amidst any of our many mutual friends. We are respecting his family’s wishes. But it is true, damn it.

red rain flower

I wrote his wife, now widow, who is my friend too. Even though there are no words, I wrote her. I’m thinking of her and him and their daughter and sending them love and metta.

I cannot imagine what she is going through. Even though I’ve read books written by widows about the experience of living through and beyond their beloved’s death, whether sudden or prolonged, I simply cannot fathom the grief and pain.

The other night, my friend appeared in my dream. As we were embracing in a big bear hug, I broke down in sobs. But I felt comforted by him, not sad about his death. In the dream, he was not dead. I was crying about something else, and he was consoling me. Only today as I was walking to yoga did I realize, on some level, the dream level, that that was our goodbye.

Adios, dear friend. Thank you. We will miss you. May you be free.

The Path of Beauty: Yoga & Writing Weekend Retreats

pathofbeauty

Yoga has altered my life, for the better, for more than two decades. I’ve been teaching for the past sixteen years. I’ve also been writing pretty much since I can remember. Diaries, journals, blogs, poems, essays, articles. So I’m beyond thrilled to be offering a few weekend retreats in August & September that are all about yoga and writing — and gratitude and practice and community and love and kindness and laughter and the path of beauty.

YOGA & WRITING WEEKENDS at Villa Sumaya in August & September!

{2 day/1 night, Saturday & Sunday affairs} * Suitable for ALL LEVELS!

Join me at the divinely inspirational Villa Sumaya for a weekend getaway to relax and recharge with a heart-opening yoga practice designed to accommodate all levels, ages and body types. Participate in a writing circle, focused on introspective journaling and optional sharing, clarifying your life goals by tapping your creative muse and inspiring new growth.

AUGUST 18-19        SEPTEMBER 1-2        SEPTEMBER 22-23

We’ll start Saturday at 11am with the opening circle, followed by lunch, free time, afternoon workshop, dinner. Sunday we’ll gather together for morning practice, breakfast, and finish with a closing sauna ceremony.

About the Instructor

Michelle Margaret Fajkus is a longtime yoga teacher, writer/blogger, and heart-centered human being. She has been  joyfully teaching yoga for over sixteen years and has facilitated yoga and mindfulness retreats in Guatemala since 2010. Her classes are suitable for all levels, ages and body types and incorporate hatha, vinyasa flow, dharma yoga, yin yoga, pranayama/breath work, chanting, mindfulness and relaxation.

Details: http://villasumaya.com/event/group-retreats-michelle/

Discounted day passes available for lake friends!

Life, Death and Volcanoes

eruption of volcano during dawn
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Holy wow, what a week. Last Sunday, June 3rd, el Volcan de Fuego (“Fire Volcano) erupted violently, killing at least 100 people. It is one of 22 volcanoes in Guatemala, although only a few of them are active. Fuego sits several miles outside a popular tourist destination, the colonial city of Antigua, and is known for its impressive shows of smoke puffs which are a regular fixture on the skyline visible from Guatemala City, Antigua and even from where I live, 3 hours away, at Lake Atitlan.

The villages that sat near the base of the volcano were hit hard. So many people and animals were killed, burned or otherwise injured and traumatized by this natural disaster. There is no possible evacuation when pyroclastic (gas and rock mixture) explosions speed down the mountainside. This makes the recent, slow moving lava on Hawaii’s big island look tame. The destruction is unfathomable, and the pain and suffering are palpable. All of us “gringos” who live in Guatemala have received countless messages from friends and family asking if we are okay. We are. The ones who are not okay are the people who lived by the volcano, most of whom were struggling to get by financially from day to day even before the tragedy hit.

Adding salt to the wound is that fact that the Guatemalan government, if you can even call it that, is so defunct and corrupt that the powers-that-be are not able or willing to provide meaningful aid. International aid is slow and minimal, since foreign countries know that most of the money they send will not be applied toward the disaster at hand. This display of rampant greed and ignorant cruelty is disgusting.

At the same time, thousands of people have been contributing to the relief effort–rich and poor, Guatemalans and expats, everyday citizens and emergency professionals–to search for and rescue survivors, to collect and distribute donated supplies for those who lost their homes and all their possessions, to build shelters, to comfort the brokenhearted with their outpouring of love and kindness.

volcano pacaya fuego backbend
Me and Volcan de Fuego puffing, 2010.

Overnight, hundreds of crowdfunding pages were created by caring individuals to raise money for the medical care of those injured and the rebuilding that will certainly take years. (Hopefully, they are caring … as always with tragedies, there are some who look to profit personally from it.) Guatemala is home to hundreds of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) due to many issues in this country stemming from extreme poverty of much of the mostly Mayan-indigenous population. These organizations are the ones to support.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, here are 3 highly-recommended, vetted, grassroots non-profits that will doubtless use every dollar in the most effective and efficient way to alleviate suffering:

Thank you for caring!

May all beings be safe.

Strange Fruits

I live a life in Spanglish, surrounded by exotic flowers, bright colors, blooming nature. Here are some of the things I eat regularly now. Ten years ago, prior to moving to Guatemala, I either didn’t know these existed or rarely to never ate them:

  1. Platano (Plantain)
  2. banana tree under blue cloudy sky
  3. Granadilla (Passionfruit)
  4. Papaya
  5. Freshly cut pineapple
  6. Pitaya (Dragonfruit)
  7. Tomate de Artbol (Tree tomato)
  8. Avocado (3 for a dollar)
  9. Cacao (Pure chocolate)
  10. Chia (Chan)
  11. Amaranto (Amaranth)
  12. Pepitoria (pumpkin seeds)
  13. Habas (lima beans)
  14. Kombucha/Jun tea
  15. Maracuya
  16. Bee pollen

amaranth_mayo_indian_LRG