“Life is not what I expected,” Bokara Legendre stated over our lunch of sautéed prawns and a cool beet soup under a canopy of trees several hundred feet above the roar of the ocean. While the breeze from the water’s current stirred through our dining room, we sat barefoot and relaxed in our wicker chairs, continuing to become more deeply acquainted - discussing where we were in life, where life had taken us, what we have learned so far and still hoped to accomplish. Bokara continued, “but isn’t traveling so divine? Being open while seeing the world takes you to such marvelous places.” I couldn’t help but get carried away into a fantasy world of thoughts as I leaned in carefully taking in every specific choice of Bokara’s vocabulary. I didn’t know Bokara well, but I quickly understood this was a woman who knew how to get the most out of life and already in that moment I had a valuable reminder of the need to stay present and taking nothing for granted. This was the first of many personal revelations to reveal themselves during my many yoga retreats with International Yoga.
Practicing this week in the wild of Haramara, a center built on Sayulita, Mexico’s sacred ground, where mother nature’s and man’s work commingled to create a delicate and peaceful dance between the two. And where open-air chalets lent themselves to views of starry night skies and the opportunity to fall asleep listening to earful delights of pounding waves against the shores. Haramara, similar to The Shala in Ubud, Bali where I got my start with International Yoga also had the same ability of allowing restoration to set in before practice even began.
This was not only my second yoga retreat with International Yoga, but now my second trip with yoga teacher Erika Trice and my first chance to be of service and assist her for the week. I wasn’t in Sayulita to teach any yoga, but rather to support Bokara, as she not only had Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease that lead to a total fusion of the spine, but at 87 years young, was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This was truly an unusual responsibility within International Yoga’s framework, but since I felt I was not only called to be in Mexico at this time, the exact measure of one year of traveling the world solo, but also to be of service. I was looking forward to whatever the experience would have in store for me.
Being in Bokara’s presence wasn’t my only lesson and gift during that week in Haramara. In addition to my duties; waking up with the sun to escort Bokara to breakfast and practice, ensuring she was set up alright in the evening before bed and helping her with any questions or concerns she had during her stay, I was also able to meet new people, practice immersing myself with Americans again, and deepening a relationship with myself. And what started out as a responsibility however, quickly turned into a profound lesson on life and the opportunity for beautiful soul to soul connections.
Bokara had lived a wild life. I’m talking about the wild Hollywood fiction type of stuff (like accidentally crashing the coronation of the King of Nepal) you only watch projected on the silver screen with style and baubles and all. She was named after a city her mother had never been to in Uzbekistan, raised on a plantation in South Carolina, shipped off to the rigorous private boarding school Foxcroft in Virginia, and taking off into the world at every chance she got (including a trip around the world via one way ticket with her mom), Bokara appeared to embody the truest definition of leading a full and enlightening life, taking things in stride and seeking not only fun but a deeper sense of her spirituality to the max. And to top it all off, despite the constant physical pain she endured, Bokara never once complained about it. I couldn’t help but marvel at how an individual with potentially so much suffering managed to see and focus on the extraordinary in all things. I could sit and listen to her speak for hours. It was an incredible gift to be in the presence of a human who gave it all she got. Yet another personal revelation.
Now, not only was the amazing Bokara Legendre a critical path crossing in my life, but also was yoga teacher and illuminating light that she is, Erika Trice; the reason why I was visiting Sayulita in the first place. I never knew Erika before my first yoga retreat the year before in Ubud, Bali, but through the power of internet searching I not only found International Yoga, but also her retreat. I was immediately drawn to both her dance background as well as the span of years of her teaching experience. That particular Bali retreat was an immersion and most of the students also had rigorous yoga experience with many of the students also holding teaching certifications. It was a rare and unique group of beautiful and powerful individuals coming together in the rice fields of Ubud.
That week in Bali Erika explored with us aspects of living a yogic lifestyle, Ayervedic principles and chakras, as well as the teachings within a yoga practice. She held space for us to sit and learn from each other’s experiences and talk and share and be still. In one particular evening practice Erika asked us to sit in a circle and discuss making the choice to live a life of balance and happiness that you want to live and doing it without regret. At that moment in time I had just quit my job with a company I had been with for nearly 14 years and left behind not only a handsome income, job title, and job security but also one of the most profound relationships of my life all to travel the world by myself and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that earlier that week when I arrived and sat on the floor of the yoga chalet I was still carrying fears and worries within me that I needed to address. But with every word of the discussion and friendships I was making and better night’s rest I was getting, it began to reveal itself in crystal clear form that I was on the right path, my destined path and at the perfect time. I don’t see any other way that I would have to come to that personal affirmation of all the choices I had made. The time, space and frequency of being on that retreat with Erika and those students in that moment was perfectly aligned for what I needed. Another revelation.
In addition to both Bokara and Erika, my three yoga retreats (I returned to Bali in 2018 for another retreat with Erika to experience Nyepi, or Silent Day, the Balinese New Year) also allowed me the incredible opportunity for amazing conversations, deep bonds, and loads of belly laughs with some of the planet’s most outstanding human beings, who are now life-long friends. The chance to sit and connect in an environment pleasantly removed from the noise of your every day life was unparalled. There were shared tears, dreams, hopes and fears. There were glasses of wine, dancing night’s out, smiles in silence, and memory making galore. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would look like today without the stories and hugs and pictures and experiences from my time with these delightful people. Who would have thought some late night search engine results would turn into one of the most profound gifts of a lifetime?
Sadly, I have to share Bokara Legendre is no longer with us. On December 2, 2017 she shook off her mortal coil and crossed the veil in peace surrounded by loved ones. Fortunately, before her passing, Bokara was able to publish her memoire, “Not What I Expected” and I couldn’t wait to scoop it up and have another chance to feel her closeness. The book showcased her personal journey and challenges, as well as her fantastic sensibilities. It also allowed me to see her more clearly, take away small nuggets from her experience to cross examine what was happening in my life, all to make me a wiser, happier, and more grateful spirit. And so I too will be forever grateful to not only Bokara and Erika and my new friends, but to International Yoga for weaving the the beautiful web of connectedness that brought these lightening in a bottle experiences into my life.