Princess of Light

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Botanical Gardens

Shortly after my return from India, I received what was quite possibly the longest Facebook wall post ever from friend and fellow yoga teacher, Tatiana Bueno.

“Hello Michael. How nice it is to have you back in Honduras and what beautiful photos from your sublime experience in the ashram in India. I wasn’t able to go this time, but the lovely people at the ashram wrote to me and told me that they would be waiting for me next year. My duty as a mother, which comes before all else, kept me from going. I hope to share in much of what you learned on this Road of Knowledge, and that we may use it to awaken ourselves even more! Experiences that we will share together on the Road await us in the future, and I won’t get upset with myself for not having been able to travel this time. Each experience that we have connects us all – the warriors of light – who travel constantly in search of truth while elevating the consciousness of the world. We will continue to manifest LIGHT. Remember that you are LIGHT, and only as LIGHT can we bring heaven to earth, guided always by the knowledge of the heart. I bless you and thank you for your wisdom, light, and teachings.”

Tatiana sent the message in response to the photo albums I had posted after my month and a half long adventure in India. We were supposed to have traveled there together to take an advanced yoga course, but the sickness of Tatiana’s four-year-old daughter had made that impossible. Instead, Tatiana wanted to know when we could meet to catch up and so I could share some of the things I had learned.

I’ve known Tatiana for well over a year, and I can safely say that she is one of the freest of spirits I have ever come across in life. Take the time, for instance, when I accompanied Tatiana to El Progreso’s botanical gardens. I had seen the occasional butterfly or two in the gardens before and assumed that they were infrequent visitors. However, when I went with Tatiana, the garden suddenly came alive with the fluttering of butterflies of every color combination imaginable to the human eye. Metallic blue with white spots…tiger-striped patterns of orange, black, and white…or tree-colored with spots shaped like angry owl eyes. The charming creatures that floated around us like blossoms in the wind appeared as though they had escaped from the pages of a fairy tale. One even landed on Tatiana’s shoulder. It relaxed its wings slightly as Tatiana turned her head and acknowledged it with a gentle nod.

There was also the time Tatiana and I were treated to lunch at our mutual friend Mahchi’s house. We were sitting at a table outside when a curious, aqua-colored bird with peacock-like ocelli at the tips of its extended tail feathers perched onto the chair next to Tatiana. Shortly after landing, the blue-crowned motmot tilted its head and chirped.

“It’s because I have a special connection with all animals,” Tatiana told us in a voice that seemed to melt into the heated air.

The motmot chirped again, as if to affirm the truth of Tatiana’s words.

“Oh don’t talk bullshit, Tatiana,” the abrasive Mahchi said. “No one can talk to birds!”

“Of course we can,” Tatiana said with a coy grin. She turned to acknowledge the motmot. “Isn’t that right, my little bird friend?”

The motmot chirped once again and tilted its head to the other side.

“You are a being of light,” Tatiana told the bird. “And you make the world even more beautiful by virtue of your god-inspired grace.”

The bird chirped three more times and jumped on the table in Tatiana’s direction. Tatiana extended her hand and the bird hopped even closer towards her fingertips.

I don’t recall exactly when my jaw dropped, but I started drooling on myself as I observed the bizarre yet undeniable connection between homo sapien and ave.

“This is insane!” Mahchi yelled. His voice was uncontrolled and it startled the motmot, which fluttered away out of instinct.

“Mahchi!” I said. “How could you do that?”

“Don’t worry, Michael,” Tatiana said. She lowered her head slightly and stared at me with crystal-colored eyes that draw people in with vacuum-like force. “All of our auras are connected, transcending time, transcending distance.”

Honduran Moth (Polilla)

Transcending time is something that seems to come naturally to Tatiana. Tatiana is in her late forties but looks like she’s at least fifteen years younger. That makes her living proof for many an aspiring yogi/soccer mom that yoga truly is a fountain of youth. Hailing from Colombia, one of those South American countries that spit out Miss Universe winners and runner-ups on a near annual basis, Tatiana is beautiful, tall, and constantly radiating in the aura of her own bliss. Even after giving birth to four children, with one of those births having taken place just four years ago, Tatiana’s slim and conditioned body shows absolutely no signs of having experienced any form of childbirth.

When it comes to her yoga practice, Tatiana’s gifts are self-evident. Her spine is as supple as a cobra’s. Her balance is as steady as a tree’s. And she can perform splits, forward bends, and inverted postures with ease.

Beyond her physical qualities, Tatiana possesses the unique ability to talk to anyone about anything at any given time. When initiating a conversation with her, one must be prepared to be in it for at least an hour and a half, regardless of the time of day. It’s normally best to be seated and comfortable before bringing up something Tatiana is excited about – which is almost everything. At the same time, you don’t want to be too comfortable, especially if Tatiana is talking to you during the wee hours of the morning, as you might fall asleep in the middle of her lecture. Going unconscious won’t stop her, as Tatiana only considers that to be an alternate plane of existence. Accordingly, Tatiana will continue talking until you wake up.

One day, Tatiana and I met up in San Pedro Sula, where she took me to a seminar on Arhatic yoga taught by an instructor who had come all the way from Nicaragua. I went armed with a notepad and pen, ready to take notes on a style of yoga I had never heard of until that day.

We started off with a few stretches and then sat down at the white conference tables for the instructor’s PowerPoint presentation. One slide led to another until an image of pink, white, and yellow flowers appeared on the screen that reminded me of Easter. After a few seconds, Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” started playing in the background. The PowerPoint slides slid to reveal sing-along lyrics.

I sighed. I couldn’t help but recall the day my kindergarten teacher forced my nose-picking classmates and me to listen to “Heal the World” back in 1990. Even then I thought it was as bit much. Fast forward to 2012 and the song was just plain ridiculous. (No offense, Michael Jackson…may your soul rest in peace on an alternate conscious plane.)

I was too embarrassed for myself and everyone else in the room to actually look around for someone to sympathize with. So I lowered my head, closed my eyes, and silently sang the chorus to “Judas” in my mind until “Heal the World” went away.

When the song ended, we proceeded to take part in a meditation called “Twin Hearts.” The meditation is a recording by a Filipino monk who has managed to trick a significant percentage of the meditating population into thinking that he is a divine spirit. To perform his meditation, you have to sit in a chair and extend your hands. After closing your eyes, you have to pretend that golden beams of light are blasting from your hands onto a mini-sized earth. Said beams of light are supposed to “heal the world” (damn you Michael Jackson…but bless your soul all the same) until all of the world’s problems are fixed. While doing this, the Filipino man speaks with a Yoda-like accent, saying funny things like, “Make all of the happiness come alive,” and “Let the entire earth be blessed with loving kindness.”

I nearly fell over and died when I heard the Filipino man tell me to “bless the world with loving sweetness.” I started to wonder what the room’s reaction to Twin Hearts would be if they opened their eyes at the end of it to find that one of their peers had gone and noosed himself from the ceiling fan. I bit my lower lip and maintained my composure. Just like life, the meditation came and went.

Following the meditation, the Nicaraguan instructor took the opportunity to elaborate on the style of Arhatic yoga. He mentioned that Arhatic yoga was “so interesting,” “amazing,” and “life changing in so many ways.” To top those insightful comments off, he concluded that those in attendance “should really find the time to study Arhatic yoga more in depth.”

I searched the room for rolled eyes or wrinkled expressions. Instead, the sparkly-eyed audience applauded the instructor, who I was certain had done absolutely nothing for us whatsoever except waste our time. The others smiled and clapped with glee, like kindergartners at the end of a clown’s birthday party performance.

After the applause, the woman running the event informed all in attendance that we had to pay $10 for the workshop.

What workshop? I wondered. Alas, no one seemed to have read my mind.

My stomach growled, not from the intensity of our Arhatic yoga session but from not having eaten anything that day. I stood up as soon as the class was over and headed to the refreshments table in the back. Small Honduran finger foods like sliced baleadas and nachos were being offered. I decided that if I was going to get my money’s worth, I might as well make a meal out of the tortillas and beans.

I only made it to the drinks when I bumped into Tatiana. She asked me what I thought about the workshop.

“It was very…interesting,” I said.

“Next month they are having a shaman come to teach us about crystals,” Tatiana said. “You should really take the course on crystals. You would love it and you would learn so much.”

A middle-aged woman who looked like she was searching for nourishment stopped to ask Tatiana and me about our yoga experience. It soon became evident that she wanted to learn about how yoga could spice up her love life.

I turned to Tatiana. She batted her crystal eyes the way she always does when she’s intrigued. She lowered her chin to her chest, and a mischievous grin spread across her face.

“Yoga activates all of the energy portals and vortices of the body,” Tatiana said. “Starting with the root chakra…”

Dammit, I thought. I had gotten stuck in another one of Tatiana’s lectures thanks to a woman who was trying to figure out how yoga could resolve her sexual needs. The moment was entirely inopportune, as I was both starving and standing. If that wasn’t bad enough, the snacks I so desperately longed for were within arm’s reach. But a line of the workshop’s attendees had already formed. Their wide eyes and visible skeletal structures suggested ravenousness.

“Your mooladhara chakra is the foundation of your system,” Tatiana continued. “It connects you to the earth as would the roots of a tree, providing you with a feeling of groundedness if it is sufficiently activated. But if you are having trouble with intimacy, then this chakra is blocked, and there are numerous negative consequences if one has a blocked mooladhara chakra….”

The woman stared at Tatiana with swirling eyes, tranced as she was by the chakra talk. Over the course of an hour, I shifted my weight from one leg to another, waiting for Tatiana to finish speaking to the woman about centering one’s vortices and the science of utilizing crystals to heal past wounds.

It wasn’t until all of the finger foods were gone that Tatiana turned to me and let me know that we had to pick up her daughter from school at noon.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

My gaze shifted to the table of empty finger foods. I smiled and nodded lightly.

“Let’s stop by the grocery store first and see what we can get for lunch,” Tatiana said.

Tatiana smiled and continued to talk to me about vortices until we pulled into the parking lot of the supermarket. I looked at the clock. It was 11:45.

“Aren’t we going to be late, Tatiana?” I asked.

“Time?” she asked. “Time is present, past, and future. Time is an amalgamation – a holy triad. It is nothing and it is everything all at once.”

It sounded nice, but I was quite certain that Tatiana’s conception of time wasn’t going to help us get to her daughter’s school by noon.

It didn’t take long to gather the beetroots, grapefruits, and carrots Tatiana needed to make her lunchtime smoothie. Still, by the time we made it to Tatiana’s apartment it was well past noon. Once we had actually finished drinking the smoothies and wrapped up a small discussion about the pros and cons of Bikram yoga, Tatiana decided it was time to get back in the car.

It was one of those rare rainy days in San Pedro Sula. Knowing that we were late, Tatiana drove faster than usual. At one intersection it was clear that she wasn’t paying any attention at all to the road. She pulled forward as a speeding car zoomed towards us.

My life and all of my previous incarnations flashed before my eyes the way they say they do just before death. The seconds grew heavier until time started to trudge. I watch the events unfold before me in slow motion on the conscious plane. The oncoming car swerved to the side. Tatiana’s car hydroplaned and skidded to the left. Rain continued to patter against the blurry windshield.

But the car passed by us without collision. Somehow, we were saved.

“See?” Tatiana asked, smiling and as calm as ever. “I always say that the spirits are watching over me. It’s because warriors of light are connected to the heavens.”

I could barely breathe, let alone vocalize my single thought: If I hear you say light one more time…

But perhaps there was some truth to Tatiana’s words. I knew from a previous conversation that Tatiana had gotten into a serious car accident fifteen years earlier. She had been the only one to survive, even though her neck had twisted at nearly 180 degrees. Her neck broke but she remained alive. Later on the doctors told Tatiana that she would have died had it not been for her flexibility.

It wasn’t long before we arrived to the school of Tatiana’s youngest daughter, Isabella. There were no other cars or parents. When we pulled up to the entrance, I saw a disgruntled looking teacher standing with a small child behind the door.

Tatiana exited the car as Isabella came running towards us. Tatiana embraced her and lifted her up into the air. Isabella dangled in Tatiana’s arms, her expression devoid of anything that might resemble elation.

Once she was buckled in the car, Isabella straightened out the wrinkled fabric of her white dress. She proceeded to glare at Tatiana’s reflection in the rearview mirror with angry beads for eyes.

“Why were you a million minutes late?” Isabella asked.

“Isa, we weren’t a million minutes late,” Tatiana said. “It’s only…”

Tatiana’s eyes shifted to the car’s clock. It read 1:15. Even she couldn’t help but chuckle at how late we were.

“Time is present, past, and future,” Tatiana said. “Time is an amalgamation – a holy triad. It is nothing and it is everything all at once.”

“But I’m hungry!”

“We’re going home to eat now, Isa. Just be patient and we’ll be there soon.”

“But I want to eat something now.”

“I brought you your favorite yogurt,” Tatiana said. She grabbed her hand-made purse and pulled out a small blue yogurt carton and a metal spoon.

Isa accepted the yogurt, but she didn’t seem convinced by the offering.

“But I wanted the red yogurt.”

“Isa,” Tatiana said, the warning in her voice unhidden. “Yesterday you told me the blue yogurt was your favorite.”

“But today it’s red!”

“Isa,” I said, interrupting the small altercation. “I’ve had the blue and red yogurt, and I think they’re both really good. Just give it a try since I want to know what you think of it.”

Isa crossed her arms and huffed, not wanting to listen to my efforts at diplomacy. After a few seconds of hunger pangs, she gave in and opened the yogurt.

Back at the apartment, Tatiana prepared Isa a lunch of pasta and vegetables. While waiting for her food, Isa, who was in much better spirits, decided to show me all of the yoga she had been learning. Downward dog was her favorite posture, but she could also perform a full wheel, touching her feet to her head with ease. With a single posture, the four-year-old managed to inspire nothing but jealousy in the twenty-seven-year-old me.

Tatiana called us over for lunch. She had prepared me a plate as well, since she correctly assumed that our pre-lunch smoothie wasn’t enough to quell my hunger. I told Tatiana how impressed I was by Isa’s yoga skills. Tatiana said that all of the postures seemed to come naturally to Isabella.

“She must have been a yogi in a past life,” Tatiana said. “Or a princess.”

Tatiana lowered her fork to her plate and stared at her daughter. Isabella was sucking noodles greedily into her mouth, slurping chunky bits of tomato sauce across her cheeks.

“What are you the princess of, my love?” Tatiana asked.

Isabella carried on inhaling another fork-full of noodles, acting as though she hadn’t heard the question.

“Isa,” Tatiana said, her voice a cautionary hum. “Tell Michael what you are the princess of.”

Isa dropped her fork into her bowl, spit out the noodles, and let out a small breath of a sigh.

“Light…” she said, rolling her eyes.

Tatiana lowered her chin to her hands and smiled at Isa like a teenage girl beholding her first love.

“Yes you are,” Tatiana said, her face illuminated with pride.

Tatiana and Isa returned to Colombia shortly after Tatiana found out that her father was in his final stages of a prolonged battle with cancer. I covered some of her yoga classes in San Pedro Sula as she remained by his side. She stayed in Colombia for over a week, surpassing the amount of time that she was permitted to be away from work. I waited for bad news – a phone call or an email that would inform me of her father’s unfortunate passing.

But the news never came. Instead, I saw Tatiana in Facebook photos standing next to an elderly but otherwise alive and healthy-looking man. In the captions she thanked the supreme consciousness for his gift of life.

Before long Tatiana was back in Honduras.

“He is the strongest man I’ve ever met,” Tatiana told me over the phone. “The doctors said that he was on his deathbed. But I performed my pranic healings and mantras on him every night until he got better. Now he’s up and about as though nothing ever happened.”

Because of her absence, Tatiana had lost her old yoga-teaching gig at the gym. It didn’t seem to matter to her, since most of her students were ready and willing to leave the gym where she was teaching to take classes with her privately.

After a few weeks, Tatiana called again to tell me that things had taken another turn for the worse for her father. She wanted to meet up one last time before she departed for Colombia, this time permanently.

When we met, Tatiana and I embraced. My body went warm and tingly upon contact, as it always did in her presence.

“I like your earrings, Tatiana,” I told her. They were dangly and shaped like elephants.

“I wore them because of you,” she said. I had never told Tatiana that elephants were my favorite animals, but I wasn’t surprised.

“I wanted to give you something before I left,” Tatiana said. She opened her car door and reached inside. She stood up with a glowing smile and presented me with a black and white bag with the word “COLOMBIA” stitched in black letters on white.

“Bogota is your next destination,” Tatiana said, her tone serious. “I will see you there, and we will practice yoga together.”

I lowered my head and smiled. Tatiana had been telling me for months that my next destination would be Colombia. Even though my contract in Honduras was approaching its end, I still wondered how I would manage to pull off a switch from Honduras to Colombia. The feat seemed impossible.

“I’d love to go to Colombia, Tatiana,” I said.

“And you will,” she said. “Whatever you visualize will come true. You are a warrior of light, and the universe will conspire in your favor.”

Several weeks passed. I resumed with my semblance of a routine – work, travel, writing, yoga, and spinning with ridiculously good-looking instructors. Then one day I received an email from a friend of a friend who asked me if I would be interested in applying for an opening at his non-governmental organization.

“Where’s it based?” I wrote.

“Bogota,” was his reply.

I applied mostly out of interest in the position, but also to see if Tatiana’s prophecy would in fact come true. Though I had gotten my application in a few days after the deadline, the organization decided to process it anyway. I answered the questions, secured the letters of recommendation, and took part in the interviews. Within days I received word that I had landed the position with Ahmsa in Bogota, Colombia.

I contacted Tatiana right away to let her know that I was coming.

“See?” Tatiana wrote in an email. “I gave you that bag because I knew you would use it and that you would be coming. I look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land, my country…”

Tatiana told me in that email that her father had been placed on life support. After much deliberation, her family had agreed to pull the plug and let the suffering come to its end. Tatiana had been against the decision, and instead of giving in she continued performing pranic healing sessions day and night. Miraculously, her father survived being taken off life support. On Facebook, he was back on his feet, looking healthy and fresh in a gray suit.

After reading the message, I stared at my Colombia bag – a folded piece of stitched black and white that sat practically shapeless on the ground near my feet. Honduran ground. Ground that I had been so happy to inhabit but felt ready to leave for something new, fresh, and irrefutably foreign. An alluring and sanctified pleasure for the seemingly aimless traveler.

Of course I’d miss all of the memories, but Tatiana would tell me not to be bound by them. They were simply events of the past, no longer to be delivered to me on the present plane. Instead, I would have to open my eyes and enjoy what was before me. A present riddled with excitement and mystery. A future that had become the object of light-filled dreams and clairvoyant visions.

Existence would always be an amalgamation, I decided. A holy triad comprised of nothing and everything all at once.

Bag of Destiny

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