The last week I’ve been floating around Northern California. After Ecotopia, I drove up to meet up with a friend I met in LA at the Leaders Causing Leaders Conference, Garo. He invited me up to visit Berkley which worked out perfectly because Turiya & Baraka were headed to visit friends in Sebastapol, about an hour away. We drove up together, but spent the week separately enjoying the company of other friends.
I started my Northern Cali journey in Berkley. This was one of the first places I spotted that shows how progressive California is. They have BioFuel Oasis, stations which use clean, local, refined vegetable oils (For diesel engines). Pretty rad. This particular place also offers supplied to urban farms, classes, and it’s also a co-operative owned by women since 2003!
I got the opportunity to take a yoga class at a studio called Yoga To the People. They are completely donation-based. I had actually gone to the studio in East Village in NYC last summer. I found that they have four locations, mostly near highly dense college student areas. It is a beautiful gift to the students & community to make yoga available to everyone, no matter what kind of money they can spend. The studio offers a service to their community, “In a time where yoga as a business is getting a lot of attention, the fact that it is being priced out of many people’s reach is in direct conflict with what we consider to be the spirit of yoga itself. The question our studio seeks to answer is: Can a yoga studio maintain itself as a business while keeping the focus of its intention on providing yoga as a service first and foremost?”
It seems that yes, they are. With four locations (Berkeley, San Francisco, NYC, and Seattle) they are thriving and each class is packed with people. There must have been about 30-50 people in the class, and if each person gave an average of $5-$10 the financing will come through. It’s mass quantity yoga, but I honestly love the large classes. The group energy pushes you to be your best and sweeps you up so that you don’t even think about it being a work-out. It becomes a collective breathing, sweating, tension releasing, energy raising movement!
I spent the night in Berkeley, enjoy an absolutely sumptuous dinner at Zatar, a family owned restaurant which servers eclectic Mediterranean cuisine using all organic produce, most of which is home-grown! You know how you taste a huge difference when you eat a tomato out of your own garden? You can taste the freshness, the uncommonly deep flavors, and the love… ? Well this was what our entire meal was like. Sarah (my sister & merge‘s co-creator) and I have been talking for some time now about starting our own organic garden for merge. It was really inspiring to meet the owners, who are a very sweet couple – Waiel and Kelly Maijd. They said they only open 4 days a week because they cherish their family time, gardening, travel, and time off too. Neither had ever worked in a restaurant before, but were both passionate cooks and gardeners since their childhood. Their business truly is a labor of love. Their menus covers are beautiful authentic red leather that they had brought back from their travels in Morocco. And their walls are adorned with ceramic platters that Waiel said the couple brings back from their travels each time they return to the Mediterranean.
After dinner I was walking with my friend Garo & we “randomly” strolled into a comic book shop. I’ve only read one graphic novel in my life, but I said aloud “You know, I read a book called Blankets once, it was so beautiful, I would definitely buy a book by that same author.” Literally as I spoke those words I had stopped at a table and picked up only one book. I looked at my hand and it was a red hard cover book that said Habibi, by Craig Thompson the author of Blankets… I bought it. I’m finding it hard to deny the signs the universe/angels/source/God (whatever the word you use for it) gives us.
That same evening I continued wandering around the streets of Berkeley and enjoying the sounds of a saxophone street musician. He stopped playing and started singing “Heaven, isn’t this little life a lot like heaven…” And I had to stop and smile to myself… it sure is. And I’m not kidding you, the next words that came out of his mouth were “Dear Eliza, Eliza Jane… you’re the sweetest little thing, dear Eliza, Eliza Jane.” I started laughing out loud with him because that’s my name (Eliza Jean). What a day of serendipity.