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Business and other pursuits

A friend once told me my life moves uncommonly fast. He said that if he didn’t read my blog regularly he would be totally lost because my life evolves and changes more than the average person. After a break, he said checking in was like turning in to the middle of a movie and having no clue of who the characters are or what was going on in the plot. At the time, I felt he was just teasing me, because when you are in the thick of your life, it feels as if progress and change is cumbersome and painfully slow. Yet every time I take a few months off of writing, I come back to the page and think “Where can I possibly begin to explain all that has changed since last time I wrote a blog entry.” All I know is my silence is always due to the simple fact that I’ve been tossed some huge challenges to overcome these past years, and it has taken all my time, attention, and effort to overcome them and turn my problems into opportunities for growth and fresh beginnings. My blog breaks have never been a lack of writing discipline- more a sign of priority demands forcing my energies elsewhere.  But, oh how I miss writing and the insight it gives me.

Anyway, I’ve been busy this past year, working harder than can be described.  My life bottomed out and I had no choice but to dig in and begin repairing the damage.  So, for some time now I’ve been working 7 days a week at building a business (three in fact) to repair financial damage. Meanwhile, I work at my new romantic relationship to repair and overcome the emotional upheaval that comes when someone you love throws you under a bus without blinking. Painful.  I also put a great deal of focus on my parenting to repair the painful, family damage that had my daughter unstable a mere year ago and me in a panick over it. All told, I had a mountain of issues to face.  But one by one, I keep thrusting the shovel in and moving a small mound of dirt at a time. This kind of labor at my age makes a gal sore and tired but low and behold, my mountains are more like hillsides now, on the way to becoming rolling hills planted with beautiful blooms. Yes, the landscape of my life is taking shape, and not a day goes by that I don’t pause to notice and celebrate all I have to be grateful for. My business has planted roots and it is sprouting in all kinds of directions. It’s taxing energetically but exciting.  My daughter is healthy, beautiful and the joy of my life. My romantic life is truly lovely. I’m still just getting used to being treated with authentic love and respect and Wow, to be valued and appreciated for what I contribute to our life is a humbling thing. 

So since I can’t write about everything, I should pick one thing. Today, I will write about my business pursuits and the funny ways new doors keep opening.

When your life crashes, you have to pause and take stock of what you have to work with begin anew. My financial and emotional resources were extremely limited, but I had no choice but do something and fast. I had to make a living or the little I did have would soon be gone.   Healing is never easy, and all I can say is yoga saved me. Sometimes I think my life bottoming out was meant to be because it gave me first hand knowledge of true depression and personal pain and I am a much more compassionate individual because of it. Most importantly, I understand the power of yoga now and in that way, my hardships were a precious gift because they brought me to a deeper understanding of life and what I believe separates a truly decent and well meaning person from those who give lip service to their beliefs yet don’t act according to them.

Anyway, I had a little money, but no home, no car, and no prospects and while I wanted to just invest in a comfortable living situation, considering my lack of work experience in anything other than being a small business owner, I knew I had no choice but to start a new business.   I sure wasn’t up for the task at hand emotionally. The sheer idea of starting a business again after the relief and joy I felt upon retiring (an early retirement I believed I had earned and very much needed since I had sacrificed “living” for “working” for twenty years in a quest to meet the endless responsibilities and financial demands of those I lived with). Well, that had been tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper, and all the angst and excuses in the world wouldn’t make a dent in the cost of raising children or prepare me for a future retirement or even take care of the immediate crisis of my getting by and supporting myself in a responsible way.  So I opened ReFlex, meditating and doing whatever it took to maintain a good attitude and be effective and functional when I really just wanted to give up on everything. Trust me, it wasn’t easy.

As it soon became apparent, ReFlex was two businesses in one. The school was in one part a dance studio – a choice I made for practical reasons because there was no learning curve to that element and as my dad liked to tease, “The chckens always go home to roost.” It felt like a safe choice and in some ways the only thing I could count on. But the business was also a yoga studio. I loved and believed in yoga and I felt drawn to see what I could do with it. All of my life experienced seemed to be a training to prepare me for this practice. I felt  yoga had a deeper purpose and that  the work was filled with significance and purpose that was not only inspirational, but a perfect fit for my new stage in life.  OK, I admit, Yoga was also a logical choice considering the market place and the holistic mindset of society today.

I won’t’ go into too much detail about my innitial busines pursuits, except to say that the first year was a nightmare because I counted on dance to carry me and cover overhead, but that division of the studio limped along  (and still does.) wounding my ego while wreaking havoc on my long term business plan.  Yoga had a slow start as well, but that made sense because I was starting from scratch in a competitive field during a recession. Ah well.
In effort to survive, I had to think of something quick. So I decided to educate myself in yoga beyond my early beginnings so I could bring more to the table as a teacher. I enrolled and completed a yearlong RYT -500 programs to enhance my credentials. Meanwhile I became chair yoga certified, children’s yoga certified and I stared studying things like energy systems, bhandas, Buddhism and other related interests.   I dove into all kinds of metaphysical and new age studied partially because I found this world fascinating and partly because I needed to understand and connect to the yoga world if it was going to be my business. I became a Reiki healer, but even my reiki mentor gently teased me and said, “I just can’t tell if you really believe what I’m teaching or if you are just here out of an academic interest.”

That was a fair criticism because I often would come home and say to David (who has gone through much of this training with me) “I feel the jury is still out on that one…..” This would set off all kinds of deep, intellectual conversations on quantum physics, reiki, universal energy, astrology etc….. All of which helped me embrace things that might otherwise seem a bit out there for me to feel comfortable trusting. I am one who needs to come through the doorway of logic and science to accept those things that are hard to prove.

Anyway, I should point out that I believe in tons of stuff that a few short years ago I would have poo pooed. And I have deep spiritual beliefs that you couldn’t shake now with all the logic in the world.  I am a practicing Buddhist who meditates and studies at the Kadampa Meditation Center in Sarasota. I practice Reiki, and spend the bulk of my time watching new age metaphysical documentaries.&n
bsp; In every case I come away with a deeper understanding of life and the difference between our physical, astral, and comos levels.   Yep, I’ve become one of those crazy yoga types.

But at the same time, I am as logical – no MORE logical and down to earth than I ever was before. I feel grounded in this new understanding of the human existence.  My only regret is that I am so busy; I have no time to write about it. Well, that time will come later. The point is, yoga helps me find balance which helps me life a productive life that is filled with meaning and poignancy.

I am knocking off two birds with one stone here. Yoga is my business…. and a beautiful right livlihood it is. But it is also an adventure.

Anyway, I channeled all that training into my business in the form of a yoga teacher training program which has become the backbone of my entire business now. The average yoga studio in Sarasota (some have been in business dozens of years) trains about 12-16 people a year in their RYT-200 programs. I have been offering my program for 18 months now and I’ve done 6 complete sessions due to some innovative formats and good marketing. In no time, I’ve gained the reputation for the strongest program around, and now word of mouth brings new yoga teachers my way every session. As result, I’ve trained over 85 yoga teachers in just over a year, and over 100 yoga teachers in specialty courses such as aerial yoga and chair yoga. Next year, I’m offering an advanced RYT-500 program and I have lots of people ready to sign up. It’s quite amazing! I work way too much, but I love what I do and I’m very good at it. Each session the program grows stronger. I have a remarkably good assistant. Teaching has always been my gift and teaching this level of yoga seems a perfect fit for me.
Considering my school more of a training facility now than a yoga school, I’ve been trying to get a Reiki master’s program off the ground, but it is still in the infancy stage, and next year I’m adding prenatal yoga and children’s yoga to the training courses. I am in a yearlong Ayurveda course to become an Ayurveda counselor – something I will write about later, but this too is bound to open doors to new programs and services at my school. I even have dreams of producing ayurvedic oils and homopathic products with natural herbs etc…. for sale.

I have to teach a Kiddance seminar this summer if I am to maintain quality in my dance studio,  so I thought I might as well add this to my official training programs and make children’s dance education training formally available to others. I am working on a website to pull that company from the ashes, with a slight name and format change, and now I have to find time to overhaul my syllubus and rework the material so it isn’t dated and reflects all I’ve learned in these past years. I’m actually adding much of what I’ve learned in yoga to my teaching methods now.  I hired a company to make me a new logo and someone is building a Kiddance Concepts website. I might really do something different with this program this time around….. and this may be the window into a new children’s yoga program. Hummmmm…..

Obviously, I am going in many directions, but I am excited by the new journey I’m on, and the very best part of it all is that it connects me with beautiful people who have kindness and compassion in their heart.  My crowd is a bunch of socially conscientious, giving people who care about others. They are reiki healers, yogis, tai chi, vegans or energy workers, quick to lend a hand, offer a shoulder to cry on, and go out of their way to serve others. I only seem to attract dancers now who have generous artistic spirits. I love that working with children bring laughter and playfulness into my days. Yep, if you believe that the company we keep alters our perception of the world and we rise or fall (ethically, energetically etc..) depending on our companions (I do) then I couldn’t find a better way to protect and nurture my best self than through going to work each day and interacting with my yoga and dance peeps.

More on this later – I’ll write a “beautiful people” blog someday to introduce the colorful, kind characters that fill my world.

Back to the business subject….
So since my school is all about training programs and yoga now I decided to split out the yoga and dance businesses – I know I announced that in a previous blog and shown pictures of my second school . But as this year closes, I have to decide whether or not to sign another lease. I know my dance studio is solid where it is, and I love how dance keeps me grounded and balanced and in touch with my original self. But I keep thinking I could do more with yoga. So I’m on this crazy quest to find a chunk of land for a yoga retreat center where I hope tol move my trainings and offer retreats and healing courses for others. I have this clear vision of what could be – a place where nature is a soothing accompaniment to yoga or writing or art courses – a place individuals go to explore their inner world. 

In my search, I stumbled upon 18 acres with a huge 6000 square foot metal building I could convert into a yoga training studio. The grounds are amazing, it is only 10 minutes from HWY 75 and the land is private, beautiful, and some of it is even fenced for animals or whatever. (Yes, I daydream of going back to Georgia to get my donkey and bringing him home… silly I know, but I assign such meaning to that animal and all the broken dreams I associate to him. I’d love to reclaim a piece of my heart.) If I had 18 acres, I would definitely keep bees to provide all the honey I need for my tea room atthe studio, and set up a huge herb garden for students to care for too.  I imagine a permanent Buddha walking trail there and a big fire pit for students to gather around for Kirtan or conversations. I can see myself offering night retreats (full moon yoga) and writing retreats and corporate retreats and … well…. The possibilities are endless. So that is my project now. Financing it will demand creativity, but I have three years behind me of paying huge rent and my business is finally thriving in a solid way, so I believe I can find a way. And frankly, my training programs are so strong that they alone can support the cost of the land. And that is not taking into account all I can do a resource like that to work with.  I will be the only person in this area with a retreat center, and this kind of enriching, holistic yoga training experience. People can take a learning vacation. Connect to nature and eachother. Nice!

I don’t do anything without a business plan, so I had to come up with a name. David is a master at creative names and he came up several ideas, but the one I liked best was Chakra Garden. I nabbed Chakragardencenter for a website, and charkragardengoods for the products I hope to produce and sell there in sa future art gallery, herbal product store (that is a whole different enterprise I’m working on.) and I contacted a company in India to  design my logo which I then trademarked.  Ha, I don’t even have a place to put this business yet, but I am acting as if I do. David says things happen for me because I manifest them through positive thinking and good energy and effort. I hope he is right in this case.

So while I am finishing three separate yoga
training programs, and preparing a recital in the dance studio and starting a new import business (not yet explained) I am also trying to look at land and buildings etc… to see what opportunities for growth for my business might be out there before I sign another lease. Sigh.

Now you might think all this sounds crazy or as if I have forgotten one important thing about yoga – to have balance  in your life.  But I have learned that my efforts are not what they seem on the surface. I don’t work all the time because I want to make money or because I’m a workaholic. I am a person with a gift for building things. I push the envelope because it gives me pleasure to create and build something out of nothing. Yes, it isn’t the bottom line I’m looking at, but the endless potential and possibilities for personal growth and giving something to the world. I like being a part of something bigger than me and my little interests… If I wake up and one day have something to show for my efforts that will be nice. But honestly, not a day goes by that I am not proud of what I’ve done already, even if finances are rocky or the effort seems to outweigh the monentary rewards. It simply isn’t about producing income as much as it is about producing a yoga community, a remarkable dance school, a program where we foster free reiki shares and community programs to give back to others, and a chance to learn something new and see what I’m capable of….

Since I keep mentioning my import business and new doors opening, I perhaps will say a short thing about that project too. I started selling yoga swings when I started my training programs a year ago. I found a company who makes them in Bali and I started placing big orders so I could get swings manufactured at a reasonable wholesale cost to sell them in my store and on E-bay. This was just a little side enterprise; the income is like mad money, always an unexpected bonus. I only made about 6K last year off of swings– not exactly a windfall,  but it has been fun and it takes no effort really. David and I both keep saying that when we get some time, we will design an online store and offer additional products. We are forever coming up with witty T-shirts and seeing things that we believe would sell in a new age online store.

That got me thinking about imports and yoga stuff. So I started reading books on import businesses and how customs work etc…. And one thing led to another and as often happens with me, I couldn’t resist doing a bit of trial and error shopping to learn what works and what doesn’t.  And before you knew it I was in the thick of starting a new yoga fashion import business. I found two big glass jewelry display cases on Craigslist and David and I went in the truck to pick them up. We set one up in both the dance and yoga studio. Then I started ordering bulk jewelry pieces from Tibet and Nepal. I mostly order reiki and yoga designs, pendants, bracelets and such handmade in India. They are beautiful works of art. This week I added yoga scarfs. Yep, I’m finding all kinds of gorgeous stuff as I learn about economies of scale and how to order across cultural boundaries etc…  And like everything else I do, I’m doing it on a shoestring in a grass roots sort of way. David has offered to take money out of his retirement account to invest in this project because he says, “I absolutely believe you can do anything you set your mind to, and you will be successful at any project.” But I rather do it on my own, at least at this point – when I gather all the info I need to understand what I’m doing without error, I will write a business plan and see if I need outside financial help.I don’t believe my enthuasiasm and experiements should put anyone else at risk. 

I started with the idea that I might make some yoga jewelry  to sell in the studio for fun and extra income. My years in Georgia got me all into home crafting and exploring handmade art. I took over a dozen courses at the Campbell school on basketing making, pottery, caining, jewlery making etc…. But for all that I love the artistic outlet of home crafting, you can not produce fair income after expenses to make up for the time it takes nor do if you have bills to pay. I loved the idea of crafting when we were retired with enough insavings to live responsibly for the rest of our years, but to consider having to make tons of this stuff to pay my electric bill would turn me into a factory worker. So, for me, homemade yoga wear will be something I do for medatitive creativity, a relaxing pursuit to enjoy and I’ll also create original pieces just for me or as gifts for special friends. For business purposes, I’ll leave the cranking out of goods to the indian artists.  And I look forward to traveling for purchasing so thereis always that to look forward to. Anyway, I have been buying reiki and chakra stones and healing crystals, chakra pendants, turquoise and silver om pendants, carved yak bone braclets etc… I have om silk scarves coming, and energy wands and other goodies. The purchasing is fun -I am bargain hunting with numbers in the thousands ofminimum order to get prices down. I’m looking for quality, talking to people who speak broken englishandhave different senses of manners or how to communicate. I’m keeping track of numbers, working out risk and COGS and all that fun business stuff that makes a dream suddenly look like a makeable putt.       
I am starting with products for sale in my business and on a new e-bay store. But I’m designing a program for resale for yoga studios so people like me who want to earn extra income selling yoga wear but don’t have tons of money to invest can get a variety of products at a fair cost to start yoga fashion sales in their studios. And that got me thinking about yoga jewelry parties and how the Tupperware company got started and finding ways to get distributors and reprentatives for a new company that will include yoga teachers and well….. let me just say that I a cooking up a remarkably interesting idea about a new company based on yoga imports and yoga teachers sharing more than yoga with others.. More on this as the idea unfolds.

Anyway, the end of it all is my business pursuits keep me busy 24/7. But I am enjoying the process, and learning all kinds of things about the world beyond dance or farming. I am evidently aware of my age and that this is my time to earn, produce and contribute before aging slows me down. I do miss quiet days, my barn, nature, and sleep. But a walk on the beach now and then grounds me and I often remind myself that life unfolds in cycles and I am working hard now so I don’t have to later. And every door that opens leads me someplace wonderous.

OK, I have indulged myself in enough writing time for today. These bIogs take time. I am long winded, but to do anything right means
not skiming the surface. I beleive wholely in savoring the time and space to say what you feel like saying and if people on the other end have too short an attention span to stay with it, sad for them.

Still, I need to clean my house. And my car. Life is a demanding taskmaster at this place and time. This weekend I am graduating a class of yoga trainees and I have to make their certificates today and plan what I will say about each student. I have to go to Sams to pick up wine and a big cake. In dance areas, I have a new acrobatics teacher that I will be watching teach on Saturday who plans to join the school and bring some students and  I have some serious recital planning and choreography to do this weekend so. Must change hats to be in dance mode. But tonight I am teaching a three hour journaling course to a dozen yogis.  Another hat. Eeesh. At least writing isn’t’ work.I adore teaching others to write! Thatis not all I adore. In a bit I have to pick Neva up from school and she will gush about her day and demand I buy her an icy.She wants to be taken back to school at 5 to see a show her friends are in and I will head back to work then to teach journaling. Neva knows she always gets top priority when it comes to my time and attention, so we will enjoy our short connection and talk about our day and before you know it we will head in different directions again. meanwhile, David has a new job in Sarasota (he is on day two of a new position after losing his job last week- he went a total of 4 days without employment – the big slacker. That is another long story I will share one day, but all I know is I’m glad he’s home, and he has mentioned more than once that I probably manifested the change. Ha. Wish I was that powerful…..

Anyway, we will end at 9:30 after my writing class. We will share a glass of wine andI will hearall about his take on his new employment and tell him about my day’s accomplishments and frustrations. Never a lack of things to share after busy days such as these. I assume he will read this blog (he’s a fan of my writing) so at least hehas a head start…..

Life isn’t easy, but it is good. And tomorrow is an adventure yet to unfold…. 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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