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Adventures in Italia!

We have finally arrived in Salento, Italy, which is in the heel of the Italy “boot,” south of Brindisi. (Actually, we arrived Saturday night but our luggage didn’t make it until last night (Monday). More on that in a minute). We are staying at place called Yoga Salento at Agricolo Samadhi. It is a beautiful, idyllic location, dedicated to bringing in yoga teachers from all over the world for yoga retreats.

We are surrounded by at least a thousand olive trees, an organic farm where all sorts of herbs and vegetables are grown – sage, lemon balm, lavendar, rosemary, chicory, wheat, squash, zucchini, eggplant, lavendar, and mint, to name a few – along with fruit trees, and enumerable scented wild flowers.

Our yoga space couldn’t be more perfect. This place, like a few others I have encountered in my life – including an Ashram in Homestead, Florida and the Rainforest Retreat in Coorg, India – buzzes with the primordial hum of nature. Imagine hearing what almost sounds like the inside of a conch shell vibrating constantly and faintly beneath the other more usual, perceptible noises like cicadas, birds, and human conversation. The yoga room buzzes more loudly with this sound than other areas of the retreat center and invokes a warm, peaceful feeling deep in my being.

So far during each of our practice sessions – both morning and night time sessions – we have been joined by one or more of the feline yogis that inhabit this place. They are the sweetest and they really seem to be innately attracted to yoga – like they can sense when yoga practice is occurring and couldn’t possibly resist the urge to join in. The other night one joined our yoga practice and laid on Jessi’s pillow with her after tratak (a candle gazing meditation):

Getting here was a bit hectic. We had three flights, the second of which was delayed enough to cause us to miss our third flight from Rome to Brindisi. No big deal as we were able to take another flight out of Rome only a few hours later. But, in the meantime, there was a bit of a mix up with our luggage. Lost luggage is the sort of inconvenience that happens often enough, though I must admit I got nervous when we showed up at the luggage lost and found to see that the printer they were using to aid in processing claims was the old-school, tractor-feed paper printer – remember the kind with the holes along the margins? I hadn’t seen one of those since grade school when it was hooked up to our classroom TRS-80. (Bonus points if you remember either of those!)

But it was really difficult to get upset about it given our surroundings, the amazing home-cooked organic meals, and the wonderful hospitality of the retreat center. Rather than get upset, we went with the flow and headed into town to buy a few items to hold us over until our luggage arrived. Warning – the clothing sizes in Italy (and probably most other countries) are much different than in America, where people are generally larger. Each of us bought large or extra large clothing only to find that they fit more like a “smedium” that we had to sausage our fat American asses into. Here is a picture of my hubby in his “large” Mickey Mouse shirt bought here in Italy:

And I didn’t have most of my toiletry supplies – including all my usual hair removal products. The result was reminiscent of the scene from the “Black Light Attack” 30 Rock episode where Liz Lemon reveals, “Everyone, I’d like you all to met Tom. Tom Selleck. He’s my mustache.”

But everything happens for a reason, right? We might not have ventured out those first few days without the luggage issue, and we would have missed that humorous adventure which turned into a great blogging opportunity, along with some of the best gelato we’ve had thus far. And its hard to say in what other ways that missed luggage has and will continue to “butterfly effect” our lives. The theory being that even the most minute happening – like a single flutter of a butterfly’s wings –  sets off a ripple effect that ultimately can dramatically alter the outcome of our lives. And in my world, it is always all good.

And speaking of Tina Fey (Liz Lemon), in her autobiography, “Bossypants,” she explains how she treats her life according to the principles of improv, which can be very useful in situations like these. She explains that the key to good improv is a concept called, “yes, and…”

What it means is that the actors go with the flow and accept what a co-actor in the scene has set up without contradicting it; while at the same time adding something to it. For example, in my improv scene if my partner says, “this is a really nice ice cream parlor we just walked into,” it would be against the principles of improv to say, “this isn’t an ice cream parlor, it’s a skating rink.”

Instead, an appropriate response would be, “yes, this is a nice ice cream parlor and don’t you like the climate here on Mars?” In other words, you accept what your partner has set up and add something to it.

I am finding this principle very applicable to living a life where we simply love what is; a life lived in accordance with the principles of yoga. That is, when things happen, we don’t try to contradict reality by pretending it is not happening or by telling ourselves and others that it “shouldn’t be” happening. Instead, we accept what “is” first, and then add on from there. In the context of our luggage, we would say, “Yes, our luggage was lost. And we are going to take this opportunity to experience a portion of our trip without our luggage. We will journey into town to buy some items, and we will see what adventures might ensue.”

Many of the ancient yoga and Zen masters advocate this approach to life, along with more current spiritual teachers like Byron Katie (“Loving What Is”) and Eckhart Tolle (“The Power of Now”). It is an approach that surely makes life more contented and fun; it also makes it easier to see the good in the bad and avoid the tendency to limit our perception by only seeing what we expect to see. By that I mean, if we believe that the lost luggage is an example of how everything always goes wrong, we box reality in and we tend to perceive other things “going wrong” all around us. Whereas if we leave space for the possibility that the lost luggage was meant to happen as part of the larger interwoven tapestry of life where everything works out for the best in the end, we are open to experiencing the good that comes along with the bad.

All that being said, it was sure nice to get our luggage back. I found it amusing that my 3-year old was completely oblivious to the difference between having our luggage and not having it, even though he is capable of grasping the concept of “lost.” To him, all of life is bliss regardless of what is going on. Sure, he has moments of unhappiness or anger; but those moments quickly dissipate as he returns to his natural bliss. I think that bliss is a natural state for all of us; not meant to simply be enjoyed by children. Being here this week is sure to help us connect to that bliss, so that we might start to enjoy more of it for ourselves.

Stay tuned, more adventures to come! Don’t want to miss a blog entry? Type your name in the “Follow by email” box above and you will be notified when new posts come out.

Want more of me? Follow me on Twitter @HastingsKelli Like Sister Lotus Yoga on Facebook and visit my website for more information about private yoga instruction and upcoming yoga retreats:

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