Yoga, Heartfulness & Writing Retreat ~ January 21-28, 2017

What better time than now to recharge and rediscover balance, bliss and freedom in daily life? We’ll invite wisdom and love to guide our intention throughout the retreat in order to help expand our consciousness and center us in our hearts.

Join us for a special time of renewal as we practice awareness and moment-to-moment acceptance through yoga, mindfulness and writing sessions. Enjoy spa treatments, eat wholesome vegetarian cuisine and take time to unwind in a lakeside paradise.

The path of beauty weaves together the practices of awareness, wisdom, kindness and compassion. Take time for yourself in our beautiful, natural setting to walk this path.

What’s Included

  • 7 nights of accommodation at beautiful Villa Sumaya on picturesque Lake Atitlan
  • 3 daily delicious, home-cooked, well-balanced, vegetarian meals plus 24 hour tea/coffee and water
  • Tuition for daily group sessions, including mindfulness-based meditation, yoga asana, breath work, restorative and yin with essential oils (mat & props provided) — 12 sessions total
  • A one-hour treatment at our on-site Harmony Spa
  • Use of our solar hot tub (sun permitting)
  • All taxes

Not included: Transportation costs, optional extra activities and excursions (e.g. Trip to San Juan/Santiago/Chichi, Kayak/hike tour, Mayan Fire Ceremony), tips to Villa Sumaya staff.

Daily Schedule

Saturday, January 21st
3pm Settle in
5pm Opening circle
6:30pm Welcome dinner

Sunday, January 22nd
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
10:00 orientation
11:00 Root chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Sacral chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Monday, January 23rd
7:30 breakfast
Optional – Mayan Fire Ceremony 8:15 a.m. (Cost will depend on the number of participants)
12:00 Solar plexus yoga practice
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Solar plexus chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Tuesday, January 24th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Heart chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Heart-centered Yin Yoga
6:30 dinner

Wednesday, January 25th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Throat chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Kirtan and sound healing workshop
6:30 dinner

Thursday, January 26th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Third eye chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Crown chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Friday, January 27th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Kundalini Chakra Yoga Workshop
1:00 lunch
3:00 Cacao ceremony /Closing circle
6:30 dinner

Saturday, January 28th
7:30am yoga & meditation
9am breakfast
11am departures

Pricing & Registration

Singles: $995 USD

Bring a friend! Doubles: $730 per person

Bring two friends! Triples: $660 per person

*Special discounted rates for full-time residents of Lake Atitlan–please inquire!*

A $200 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your space. For more info or to sign up, please write Michelle (


The Trecena of Batz: 13 Days of Creative Expression & Insight

140808122043-01-selfie-monkey-0808-exlarge-169The Mayan solar day 1 B’atz’ is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 14.

{For an explanation of how the Mayan calendar works, read the full post here.}

From then until June 26, we are moving through the trecena ruled by B’atz’: the thread of life. Its animal totem is the monkey. These days are superb for expressing our creativity with lighthearted glee.

Dance. Sing. Paint. Write. Above all, play.

According to The Serpent and the Jaguar by Birgitte Rasine, on B’atz’ days, the Maya “express their intention to freely receive all that they have requested from the universe, and to be able to unravel or resolve any matter of issue, especially family problems.” These days are “extremely auspicious for all artistic works and endeavors; in fact, it is a powerful day to begin any project.”

Another aspect of B’atz’ has to do with looking at the cycles, habits and repeating patterns in our lives.

The thread of life refers to time. Ancient Mayan artifacts depicted the Goddess Ixchel weaving the cosmos on her backstrap loom. In fact, the elements of the loom, weaving procedures, designs and the weaver herself are all part of the Maya vision of birthing and the Cosmos.

By paying attention to the patterns in our lives, we can eventually get to the root of things and uproot unwanted or harmful habit-patterns. This, in turn, creates space for our natural creativity to flow and flourish.

This trecena is also a great time to let go of inferiority and superiority. No need to compare—just be you.

Here’s to embodying the delight, creativity and curiosity of the monkey and exploring the multitude of patterns we’ve woven into the colorful tapestry of our lives.

July/August 2016 Retreats!

I am super excited to be offering two yoga retreats this summer with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher Paola at Villa Sumaya… Join us!

Living from the Heart: Stress-Free Lifestyle
July 2-9, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Nutrition, Ayurveda, Hikes and Healing

Yoga, Mindfulness & the Transformation of Suffering
August 13-20, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Permaculture, Learning and Healing


Writing Down the Chakras

Writing is an art, a gift, a practice.

I practice and teach writing as taught by Natalie Goldberg in her numerous and fabulous books, primarily the classic, 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). Let your heart-mind stream its consciousness onto the page. She encourages writing by hand, with a pen or pencil, in a notebook. Especially in our day and age of so much screen time, so much sitting the fluorescent glow of computers, writing longhand is a wonderfully prehistoric thing to do.

Writing practice, like any practice, is ideally done daily or as frequently as possible. Writing is a skill that improves with practice. Everyone can write; anyone with intention can be a writer. 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 ___________.
I come from ____________.
My roots are __________.
I feel safe and secure when ____________.
I feel unsafe and insecure when __________.
I connect with Earth by _______________.
I need _____________.

second_chakraSacrum / 2nd chakra

I want ___________.
I feel ___________.
I desire ___________.
I sense ____________.
I move ___________.
I flow with ___________.
I connect with water by __________.

third_chakra_imageSolar Plexus / 3rd chakra

I will ___________.
I do ___________.
I’ll go ___________.
I am now _____________.
My passion is ___________.
My purpose is ___________.
With my effort, I ___________.
I connect with fire by ____________.
I manifest __________.
I create ___________.
I destroy ___________.

fourth_chakra_imageHeart / 4th chakra

I love ___________.
I give ___________.
I freely share ____________.
My heart is ___________.
I care about _____________.
I cultivate compassion by _________________.
I am devoted to _________________.
I adore ________________.
When I was a child, I loved _______________.
I am grateful for ___________.
I appreciate ________________.
May all beings ______________.

fith_chakra_imageThroat / 5th chakra

I listen ___________.
I hear ___________.
I speak ___________.
I say ____________.
I express _________________.
I communicate ________________.
I write ________________.
I convey ______________.
My voice is ___________.

sixth_chakra_imageThird eye / 6th chakra

I wonder ______________.
I see ___________.
I visualize ___________.
I look within and ___________.
I feel intuitively that ___________.
I imagine __________.
I close my eyes and __________________.
I open my eyes and _________________.
I envision ________________.

seventh_chakra_imageCrown / 7th chakra

I connect with ___________.
I believe ___________.
My spirit ___________.
My soul ___________.
I have faith in ___________.
I trust ___________.
I am inter-being with ___________________.
I am interconnected with _________________.
God is _______________.
The universe is _____________.
Life is _________________.



How to Practice Poetry Writing with Children

Writing poetry with children is delightful for all involved in the process.

Step one: read poetry to children. Lots.

Step two: give them the guidelines. Poetry does not have to rhyme. Poetry may rhyme. Sometimes. A few of my favorite types of poems to teach to children and teens include: haiku, limrick, cinquain, color poems, spanglish poems, comparison poems, superhero poems, question poems, wish poems, dream poems, prose poems, stream of consciousness poems, acronym poems and ecopoetry. More on these in future learning activity blog posts here on EnlightenEd.

For today’s lesson, we will use the “I Used to Be / But Now I” structure.

Here is my model:

I Used to Be an Eraser, but Now I am the Pen.

I used to be a teacher, but now I am a learner.
I used to watch a lot of TV, but now I see television for what it is.
I used to do yoga, but now I practice mindfulness.
I used to have a little black dog but now I have a long black cat.
I used to live in Texas, but now I live in Guatemala. I leapt over Mexico to get here on my rainbow-colored unicorn, Stacey.
I used to be a daughter, and now I am a mother, too.
I used to be a sneaky trickster but now I am nonviolent and loving.
I used to work at Life but now I live Life.


Step three: let them write! Tell them not to worry about spelling or punctuation or making sense or sounding perfect. Let them write in pencil, pen, marker, crayon. Let them paint their poem.

Step four: let them share. If they want to. In partners, small groups or the whole group. Let them show what they did. Let them read it out loud. Let their voices be heard.

Step five: let them revise and edit.

Step five: let them publish and select what to write next.

By “publish,” I mean make a final copy, in digital and/or analog form, to conclude the work on any particular poem. Put it into a personal portfolio. Publish a class collection as an anthology. Hang it on the refrigerator with your best magnet. Submit it to the New Yorker. Hold a poetry slam. Serve juice and cookies.

Writers (of all ages) write best when they are choosing what to write. Let them choose what to write next. Another poem. A story. A letter. A comic strip. An essay. Another poem.

Now you try! Write a poem with eight lines or more using the general structure of “I used to ___, but ___.” Share it in a comment or email if so inspired!


Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry by Kenneth Koch

poem crazy by Susan Wooldridge

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Poetic Freedom – a collection of student poetry compiled by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Why Write?

“Don’t be a writer, be writing.” ~ William Faulkner


Why am I writing? Because the blank page is daunting until the moment I sit down and write. I face fear, truth and reality and let the letters and words flow through my fingers.

Writing is one continuous, tangential discourse with myself.

And also with you.

Writing lifts up my heart.

I’m writing what I enjoy and enjoying what I write. I’m writing to harvest delicious sentences and cultivate bountiful paragraphs.

Because I adore words.

I delight in the act of creating essays.

I love language and crave communication.

I’m writing because in the act of quality writing, I have no choice but to be present.

Hence, I’m writing as a mindfulness practice—a daily life practice—I’m writing to express myself.

To connect.

To unite with you, for just this one moment as you read these words.

I’m writing to benefit myself and all beings, or as many as I can possibly affect with my string-of-pearls-of words.

(Keep reading)

The Importance of Daily Curiosity


Every morning, I ask myself these four questions:

What am I writing for? What am I practicing for? What am I teaching today? What am I learning?

The answers vary widely yet patterns emerge. I am writing for peace. I am practicing for enlightenment. I am writing to be open to what arises. I am practicing to go with the flow.

What are you creating?

If you’re a writer, “what am I writing for?” is a valid and important inquiry. If you’re another type of artist, you can insert the appropriate word. What am I painting for? What am I singing for? What am I designing for?

It’s also valuable to answer the question, now and again, “Why do I write?” (Why do I paint? Why do I draw? Why do I sew? Why do I act? Why do I play this instrument?)

I write because I feel I must.

I write because I enjoy the act of filling up notebooks. I write because I can. I write because people can really connect through the written word, and what is more precious than a real connection? I write because words are little packets of power. I write because life’s precious and mundane details beg to be documented.

When a subject saunters into view that I feel the urge to explore through writing, I clear my voice and express my ideas. This freedom of expression through writing, like my body’s freedom of expression in yoga, is a genuine and great freedom for which I am eternally grateful.

What is your practice?

Mine is hatha yoga and Buddhist-flavored mindfulness meditation.

But what am I practicing these things for?

I practice yoga and mindfulness for sanity. I practice to maintain and improve my flexibility, strength, balance and focus. I practice to be more kind and compassionate to all beings, including myself. I practice to create space in my mind, body and aura for new ideas to arise. I practice to be a more present, loving partner to my husband and mother to my daughter.

I practice to be present with this breath going in and this breath going out.

I practice to soften. I practice to open. I practice to practice. Yoga and meditation are the means and the end.

What are you teaching?

As a school teacher, my third question is practical: What am I teaching today? What skills will we be working on? What will my students be reading, writing and talking about?

Equally as important: how can I be a model of mindfulness and compassion for my students? How can I teach them to love learning and reading? How can I teach them to explore and think critically? How can I teach them to be present and kind?

Even if you’re not a teacher, you’re a teacher.

So, what are you teaching? Ask yourself.

What are you learning?

Learning is a lifelong process. Learning happens from the moment of birth (or before) until our last exhale.

Failure is learning. We learn by reading, seeing, looking, watching, but most of all by doing. (And by teaching others.)

Currently, I’m reading books about marriage, happiness, Buddhist meditation and the life story of Nelson Mandela. I’m learning how to be a mom to a 1-year-old on the verge of walking. I’m learning how to cook more exotic vegetarian meals. I’m learning how to become a freelance blogger.

I’m learning 1,001 things I don’t even realize I’m learning. Our human brains are just that brilliant.

A huge part of learning is reflection. So, be curious and reflect every day. Ask yourself these sacred, mundane questions in the quiet of each morning or night.

Listen to the answers; they just might change your life.

Originally published on Be You Media Group.

A Survival Guide for Novice Bloggers: 10 Quick-Pro Tips


The beauty of blogging is that anyone can publish anything, anytime.

Its downfall, too, is that we can all publish anything, anytime.

The endless options of topics about which to write and angles from which to write can be overwhelming. The insane number of blogs and blog posts already floating around out there in cyberspace can feel intimidating.

Regardless, you have a voice, and it deserves to be heard. The good news is, with consistent practice, we can hone our writing, blogging and marketing skills.

Here are 10 simple tips on how to break through the clutter of the bazillion blog posts being published today.

1. The title has to rock.

Without a great blog title, few will click on your post. I find that putting numbers in my titles does wonders. (Sometimes.) There are no hard and fast rules. Titles need to be intriguing, unique, and captivating. Spend time on the title. Come up with a bunch and narrow it down to the best one. Ask for others’ opinions if you feel like it. Always make your title something that, as a reader, you’d definitely click. (Here’s a great, free resource on writing powerful headlines.)

However, even with a fabulous title, if the post is inadequate, no one will be compelled to comment or share. And comments and sharing is what spreads your message far and wide.

2. Make your posts amazing.

Be creative, honest and compelling. Follow up your amazing title with an equally amazing post, whether it is an article, poem, essay, video, or whatever. Be passionate about what you write; share your views and feelings. Be open. Share something of yourself without apology.

Say something specific! Offer information of value to the reader.

3. Read well-crafted books & blogs.

Seeking inspiration? Read books about the craft of writing. Also, read books that are not about writing. Read great authors—fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, classic, postmodern. Whatever calls to you. You absorb bits of style, syntax and diction by reading the writers you admire most.

Also: read great blogs. Know your medium. Blogs are usually on the shorter side, but whatever the length, notice how most great blog posts are made up of chunks: short paragraphs, lists, quotes, section headings. Notice what blogs make you want to keep reading. Emulate the successful—but be true to your own voice.

4. Be compassionate.

Consider others’ points of view. Respond to comments with gratitude and compassion for the reader who took the time to read and the effort to write a comment. And if you get any really nasty, mean comments (which you probably will, eventually)—don’t hesitate to delete them. The internet is teeming with terribly closed-minded comments; it can do without any more.

5. Be a humble expert.

You are somebody who knows something about something—through experience. Consider yourself an expert in what you are writing about. Know all about it.

6. Be a sponge.

At the same time, you are a beginner. Be open, curious, in awe. Thinking less of yourself is humility. Wanting to be something other than who you are, wanting to run from what you are experiencing in this moment, is a natural, human tendency.

Feeling small, frustrated or petty? Pause, breathe, and get in touch with your purpose, your heart, the reason you put words on the page. Recall your innate goodness and inextricable connection to all else.

7. Ditch perfectionism.

Writing is a skill. Skills take practice. We are constantly changing, evolving, and sometimes even improving. Let your writing reflect that.

Any legitimate writer needs to write, often. As daily as your life allows. Keep a notebook with you or nearby at all times for jotting down ideas when they come to you.

Develop the ideas that are the most interesting to you. Write about anything and everything. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Write where you’ve been. Write where you’re going. The options are limitless!

8. Beware of oversharing.

A rookie mistake of many personal bloggers is sharing too much information about their personal lives. While a personal connection and anecdotes from one’s own life experience are valuable and should be a regular part of your blog posts, be sure to know your boundaries and draw the line where you feel comfortable, personally and professionally. I suggest keeping a personal diary separate from your other notebooks or files on the computer.

9. Use categories and tags.

If you don’t know how, learn. Labeling your posts with relevant categories and tags helps your blog’s search function better and can help keep readers on your site reading archived posts about topics that interest them.

10. Live by example.

Don’t just write about yoga, mindfulness, meditation, relationships, parenting, gardening, or whatever it is you are writing about. Live it. Practice what you preach. Live with integrity and express your truth through actions, not mere words.

These are just a few guidelines that I try to remember throughout my own writing process. Rules are made to be broken.

One last reminder. Earning lots of page views is super and exciting, but sometimes a piece that gets just a few hundred views will connect with just one individual reader who is so moved that they leave a thankful comment.

As a blogger, that’s what I’m writing for.