To Touch the Stars

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ~ Patanjali

When the seed was planted to undertake raising money to build a kindergarten school in Bali, it was never my intention to go it alone. It was my desire to bring this project to my community as something we could all invest in together.

Kristin Brooks says, “Community does not mean that everyone is your best friend. Community means that you can come together to support each other and that which they hold dear to their hearts.”

There is an enormous sense of joy that comes from building a strong foundation cemented together from the simple act of supporting one another. It fills your heart up with an almost mind blowing kind of love, respect and gratitude. And when you can take that loving platform across the globe to build bridges for the future of kids everywhere, it feels as if nothing is impossible.

Friends, family, people that I have yet to meet and friends I haven’t spoken to in years are all a part of my community. And the deep devotion and gratitude in my heart for their love and backing of this enormously gigantic adventure has often times left me humbled and without words for their generosity.

Today, I am proud to announce that not only have we met the goal of raising $10k, but we have surpassed it. The Bali Children’s Project’s pre-kindergarten school will be built and the children will have not only classrooms for learning, but a playground, a library and a garden. It is my plan to return to Bali in October to see the progress and present to everyone at home what can manifest when we work together for the benefit of all.

From the depths of my heart, thank you to everyone. This life is nothing if not an amazing and miraculous gift.

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The Bali Children’s Project

To Begin Again ~ Chiang Mai, Thailand

To Begin Again ~ Chiang Mai, Thailand

In May 2013, I left my life behind in Houston to set out on a   six month sabbatical through Southeast Asia. I desired to throw caution to the wind and go out into the world to see what existed beyond the confines of my American life. An eternal wanderlust with deep reverence for seva (service), I knew I also wanted to serve the global community in some way.

Delivering toys and shoes to kids in Siem Riep, Cambodia

Delivering toys and shoes to kids in Siem Riep, Cambodia

I have always possessed a passionate interest in the well being of our youth. Over the years, I have volunteered at MDAnderson Cancer Center in Pediatrics working with outpatient children, as well as being trained as an advocate with Child Advocates, Inc. Most recently, I have partnered with In-Powered, by One Significant Act, a non-profit organization to host retreats at Elm Flats Ranch. Through these retreats, we utilize the healing benefits of yoga to help empower our youth.

A month into my journey, I found myself on the enchanted island of Bali. From the moment I arrived, I felt captivated by everything around me. A sense of enthusiasm and renewed inspiration burst forth a wellspring of creativity for writing and photography and an overwhelming joy for life had re-awakened in me. The sari (essence) of this resplendent land had begun to work its healing magic on me.

Then, one jungle book morning while driving through an area of Ubud called Penestanan, my search for a seva project had ended as I discovered The Bali Children’s Project.

The Bali Children’s Project (BCP) is a tax-exempt non-profit charitable foundation registered in Bali, Indonesia. Helping children on the beautiful spirited island for almost 20 years, it is dedicated to education as a means of improving the lives of the disadvantaged youth in Bali. BCP was founded on the belief that children, empowered to realize their potential will enrich their own lives and their villages and contribute to the world we all share.

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Their wide-ranging and well structured programs include the sponsorship of children so they may complete primary and high school, classroom support, teacher training, workshops and classes for sex education and HIV-AIDS awareness, as well as health and nutrition.

Located in an unassuming building and nestled next to a coffee shop with a sign painted across the front, the sound of children’s laughter immediately drew me in. I located the director, Linda Venter and set up a meeting. We sat down for coffee and I asked her how I could be of service. Linda began listing off all BCP’s needs, from volunteering to teach the kids, to sponsoring a child, or raising money for school supplies. Dissatisfied with any of those options, I told Linda I needed bigger. I wanted something tangible and permanent I could present to my community to help me invest in. IMG_1927

Linda’s eyes lit up and she suggested that the kids need a school. The students of BCP are currently being taught in the overcrowded office front room and they need a dedicated space in which to learn. I asked her how much it would cost to retrofit a pre-existing building or build a school from the foundation up, pay the teacher’s salary for a year and maintain the school. She confirmed that $10,000 would go a long way in Bali. I told her consider it done.

We live in a global world where everyone is connected. The future and prosperity of humanity and their healthy relationship with one another is dependent on the love, support and education we provide our children. In Bali, kids under the age of seven are not entitled to a free education by the government. Early childhood education is crucial to the development of social, communicative, cognitive and physical motor skills.  By providing opportunities for education, we are giving children the chance for a better tomorrow, while assuaging the burdens of today.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high quality early education. ~ US President Barack Obama (State of the Union 2014)

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Every aspect of Balinese life is rich with ritual. Every act is completed with intention and purpose, and in harmony with the fertile earth, gods, and the smiling people with which they live.

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“At BCP, we are determined to help their students know their potential and be motivated to grow and explore possibilities. Not to become western but to become limitless, to see beyond the confines of poverty and to want an education for the sake of knowledge. Great volunteers really help with that mission.”

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It is my intention to raise $10,000 to build a kindergarten school in Ubud. Will you help me and contribute $5 a day for one month? That is only $150. Your donation will be the foundation of these children’s education and will support a community for years to come. The building has already been chosen for this school. All that is needed are the funds we raise to manifest this gift of education for the youth of Bali. Our combined gift of $10,000 will go directly to funding the construction of a school in Penestanan and supplying that school with the requisite furniture, school supplies and teacher’s salaries for one year.

If you are unable to contribute monetarily, you can still help by collecting and donating:

  • school supplies: crayola crayons and markers, play-doh and pencils
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • legos
  • picture books for 4-6 year olds

It is with a heart full of love and open hands that I wish to give back to this lovely community that gave me so much. With your assistance, I look forward to watching this school be built, brick by brick and classroom to garden, as the gates open and a new learning center is created. Please join me in helping to establish this space that will contribute to building a brighter future for the children of Bali.

To donate, please go to my indiegogo campaign at: http://igg.me/at/Build-a-School-in-Bali/x/1343115

 In love and service,

Jenn

The Sari of a Friend

Her presence and attentiveness, even in the silent moments, revealed an intention for complete sensitivity to where I might be in any given instance. This kind of focus and sweetness is the epitome of generosity in friendship.

Within one week of my arrival in Asia, I met Kathy Gade. Super acro yogi, playful spirit, handstand extraordinaire, outrageous goofball, intensely serious lover of all things related to food, phenomenal scrappy chef and as it turns out, filled with an exquisite heart space for friendship and love.

I want deep friendships. I want to make a connection for a lifetime. I never want to say goodbye. ~ Kathy Gade

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Ipoh, Malaysia

I came here broken in half and traumatized by deception, heartbreak and loss of friendship. I was in complete agony, and I spent the first month in a coma like state trying to understand the why of things. The safety of my inner family circle had imploded and emotions came roaring out like ravenous monsters exposing never before seen anger and rage and metamorphosing me in a way that I had become unrecognizable to myself. Living a life of love and compassion had been replaced with darkness. I no longer trusted the people I loved most in this world. The love, passion and joy in me had burned out.

In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Magically, however, medicine arrived for me in the form of Kathy. For a week, while on retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I laughed with careless abandon. We connected through play and her silliness provided the perfect outlet for my silliness to reveal itself again. The foundation of Acro Yoga lies in cultivating trust, playfulness and community through partnership. Three of my favorite things! Generally uncomfortable with flying due to lack of exposure, Kathy flew me with patience and grace. I recall the exact moment of our first partnering together when trust was established in her and I witnessed her gift for teaching.

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Star – Om Waters, Sri Lanna National Park, Thailand

Kathy was five-ish months into her travels and had another two months to go. Unlike me, she knew exactly where she was headed after Thailand. She wanted to return to the island of Koh Rong, Cambodia where she had previously spent five glorious weeks. I was not capable of making important decisions about where to go next. I wanted to trust that time would lead me in the right direction if I listened to the messages. And it has done exactly that. No planning, just feeling my way through and allowing myself to be guided by intuition.

We had discussed the possibility of my traveling to meet her in Cambodia, but after “Greek Tragedy” struck, it was no longer a viable option. She decided to shave one month off of her trip and go home early. I told her that I would travel with her for her last month, wherever she wanted to go. She chose Bali. Best decision ever! We spent one month living a beautiful existence in a magical kingdom of devoted devotion to tradition and soaking up everything we possibly could. We were alive, present and engaged in the world according to Bali. (More to follow on Bali in another post)

Early on, we were fascinated with the word Sari, which means “essence” in Balinese. I asked Kathy what she believed Bali’s sari to be and she responded, “I believe the essence of Bali is its healing power. I have received so many gifts from the smallest of things, which makes me want to give even more.”

And these words define her sari… gracious, loving, possessed with a wicked insight and a deep inquisitive nature of self and life, loyal, tender yet fiercely courageous, vibrant, generous and above all, present.

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Mount Batur, Bali

I have often wondered what it would look like to have my love reciprocated back to me. I showed up with no expectations. I was happy to have someone to travel with and share in some laughs to distract me and soften the shock of having uprooted my life for six months. It soon became apparent though, that I was in the company of someone like me, who freely gives their love away, expresses and pours out their feelings and who sometimes invests too much of self in the well being of those they care for.

I want to live from my heart space, make connections and risk my heart every day.  ~ Kathy Gade

Sharing space with her was like being with myself, but with a better version of me. I do not know another who has shown such an unshakable interest in me. From the moment I awoke, until the minute she would drift off to sleep, she constantly checked in with me, wanting to know, “where are you right now?” She wanted to communicate. We could be completely silent and still or fully engaged in the most philosophical and thought provoking conversations and no matter which of the two, there was always a look in her eyes telling me, I am here with you. I do not have a desire to be anywhere else.

To hold a friend in the heart without judgment, without demand – simply to care for this person because we are interested in what she thinks about our ideas and because we know she is ready to listen to and understand us and be on our side. Even though other factors are at play in friendship, its essence is loyalty. ~ Piero Ferric

How is it that a friend’s loyalty gives us strength and hope? Because in this quality we see a person’s true measure. When we show loyalty in hard circumstances, we show how much we care, we show the stuff we are made of.

Kathy forced me to confront some of my demons and requested that I view things in my life from an alternative perspective. She called me out on my bullshit, insisting on playing devil’s advocate, a position that pushed unfamiliar and uncomfortable buttons, but which are necessary in any healing process.

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Gili Air, Indonesia

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Ubud, Bali

Kathy infused me with strength to stand back up on my own two feet and reclaim MY power to be my most radiant and noble Self. She reminded me that I am love and loved and worthy of sincere and loyal friendship. My ability to rise above and persevere were hovering at the surface of my being and all I needed was to listen to my soul and stop fighting with life when things fall apart. Her friendship encouraged me that despite these most difficult circumstances, I did not have to remain shut down indefinitely and I did not have to harden my heart against others who love me. That notwithstanding the pain of betrayal and loss of trust in one friend, I could allow for another to walk into my life and love me in the most simple and kind ways. The gift of Kathy’s presence and desire to be my friend, to hear me and to tell me that she was available for me in whatever way I needed was profound.

In Hinduism, Atman is the innermost essence of each individual. It is the little voice inside that guides us. It is the knowing in the heart and if we follow its wisdom, it will guide us far better than our mind ever will. The atman and the sari of her radiates in the beauty of her face, in the kindness of her eyes, the generosity of her heart, her presence, curiosity, and interest in what I have to say. I have known very few people who truly exemplify living with the fire and passion of their convictions and who adhere to those convictions in a purposeful manner. She offers herself to the world as a work in progress and she represents the kind of truth and authenticity that mankind would do well to learn from.

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The Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali

During our time in Bali, I witnessed both Kathy’s vitality and her vulnerability. It was as if Bali had infused her with its god-like powers. In her courage to show up and let herself be seen, she was able to participate and offer her greatest strengths. In return, doors marvelously opened and provided her with unfathomable opportunities. And from there, she continued to step into her dynamic Self, while continually turning inward to inquire how she could better respond to obstacles that threw her off her game or forced her to reevaluate her position on certain situations. In this brilliant blossoming of her Self, she discovered that her passion for acro yoga, building community and fostering more loving kindness are the breadcrumbs that would guide her on her path in life.

There came a time when she said to me, “I am ready to go home and leave you to have your own experience and growth without anyone distracting you.” The words stung me, but in her willingness to admit not only that she was ready to go back to her life, but that she also wanted me to continue flying and have a legendary adventure of my own, there was nothing but kindness and sincerity in her desire for me to find my own way. I realized that this was my opportunity to practice letting go and allow for our travels together to end as naturally as they began. Our time together always had a shelf life, which unfortunately went by too quickly.

She must take the journey all on her own, from the beginning to the end, because its very purpose is that; to go alone into the flames, to burn away the illusions and to arise from the ashes with the prize of one’s true self. ~ Elizabeth Lesser

There exists an idea that nothing is born and therefore nothing dies. If everything is nothing, then nothing can be separated from anything else. So in that nothingness, we are all connected becoming everything at the same time. Kathy believes that we are each a tiny speck in the cosmos and therefore there is no need to hang onto anything, because nothing is in harmony with everything. In moments of pristine clarity, where we both found ourselves in awe of the beauty of this idea of nothingness being everything in life, an informed admiration arose in us for the opportunity to be where we were turning over rocks in remote corners of the world, and to partake in these occasions of greatness together. How could we not appreciate the wonderfully complete, brilliant, vulnerable and flawed humanity we shared? In its simplicity, these snapshots of experiences were epic. The kind of slideshows that stay imprinted on you as you scan the memory books for splendid moments in life.

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Gili Air, Indonesia

Each one of us matters, has a role to play and makes a difference in another’s life. Each one of us must display respect and love for everything around us, especially each other. Thank you for making a difference in my life and for showering me with love, helping me to heal my wounds and for honoring our friendship.

May we both continue to be love, so that the love returned by others can be received as the gift that it is. Love is its own reward. Generous, expansive, inclusive, receptive, liberating and supportive.

You are loved. You are seen. You are heard. You are appreciated. Here is to carrying around each other’s sari everywhere we go.

To love is to see yourself in another… We are reflections.

Happy continuation (birthday) day.
No birth and no death.

Of course!