"I always wanted to be old. I remember days when my grandma would take me to this old folks' home to visit her girlfriend. We would walk into this place, smelling of medicine and air freshener, and spend hours there. While the grannies sat there chatting about things that I did not understand, I would go through the drawers of the dresser where she had her towels neatly folded and tucked away along with soaps. When I got home, I would take the towels from my mom's linen closet and organize them in the same fashion along with soaps in my own dresser."
Sitting across from me at a clear round kitchen table is Tamara. Her kitchen and the entire house are a reflection of her - filled with light, beautifully decorated and welcoming.
As I get ready to feast on a dish of white rice and humongous shrimp in tomato sauce that she had prepared, she lovingly takes my six-months old daughter and I ask her a question to which I know the answer, but because this is the first Goddess Interview, I must ask for the record.
"Tamara, are you a Goddess?"
"I am a goddess. I am the Queen of Goddesses," she laughs.
I met Tamara in May of 2013 at the very first Moon Circle that I ever attended. She arrived a few minutes late, after we had already started, and for me it was like an amazingly ornate fiesta joined the party. She was wearing wide silky pants and a colorful top, lots and lots of jewelry, a mane of blondish curls pouring out of her turban.
I had never seen anyone dress like this in real life.
I immediately wanted to be HER, and since it was a bit of a far-fetched goal, I decided to at least get to know her better.
"I just recently picked up photography and need people to practice on. Would you be interested in posing for me?" I asked, as my heart beat one hundred beats per minute.
"You want to photograph ME?" she asked incredulously.
Little did I know that it would be my first goddess photoshoot, but that's another story.
Three years later, now that I have the honor of calling her my friend, I get to sit down with her and talk about things that inspire her and wisdom that she would like to share with others. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
You are always so happy and radiant. What is your formula?
It's not because bad things don't happen, negative things happen to everyone. It's important to look at it from a different perspective.
Change your perspective.
When something negative happens, acknowledge it, see what you can learn from it, see what you can take from it that can make it better. If there is nothing there, because some events are just awful, acknowledge it and move from there. And try not to carry the negative emotion and judgment forward. It takes practice, to snap out of it. Sometimes I wake up and I just know that I will be grumpy today. And my husband says, "You are just choosing to be grumpy." And I suppose I do it because I want some attention, because then everyone asks, "are you ok? what's wrong with you?", even though I hate when I get asked that.
You turned 40 last year. What did it mean to you?
Since I always longed to be old, or older, 40 is very exciting to me. I've been wanting to celebrate it since I turned 30. I always wanted to be old because I felt like I had to be of old age in order to be a credible source of wisdom. Upon turning 40 I created a list of things I learned, because I wanted to start compiling thoughts, memories and wisdom for my children and for me to turn to when I most need it. Some of the things I learned are to take each day one step at a time; to not live in the past, or the future, but this present moment; to not judge yourself, or others harshly, if at all; to accept that the thought is there, but it is my mind that gives it meaning. The example that I give sometimes is of the snake in the room. One is deathly afraid of the snake and cowers in the corner, as far away from the snake as possible. The other one doesn't mind it. Knows to have respect for the snake's abilities, but is calm. What makes one afraid and not the other? I believe it's their mind's interpretation of the snake in the room.
What did 40 mean to me most? It meant getting a little closer to being wiser, and being able to make a positive impact on the world and others, on my family. I felt that I needed to be old in order for people to believe the wisdom that I had to share, that I had experience and knowledge because of my age, like the lines of my face were the ID card for wisdom sharing. But with turning 40 and making my lists and putting my words on paper I realized I DO have things to offer and share to be able to help others. That's all I ever wanted to do in my life, help others. Help them see their light, find their joy, connect with their soul and spirit. And I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up: I want to be a midwife for the spirit and soul.
I just recently found out that you create beautiful paintings. Do you consider yourself an artist?
I used to say "I like to paint"; and when I started saying "I am an artist", I started to fall into that flow of being an artist, into that feeling of being an artist. It changes the energy about how you feel, just like when you start calling yourself a goddess.
I didn't consider myself or any of the artsy things that I liked to do to define me as an artist. It wasn't until I realized that my joy, my inspiration, my motivation comes from my creation, my creating, my beautifying. I think for me it works hand in hand: my daily experiences, and way of processing them and expressing them is through my creating of artwork, painting furniture, decorating, changing furniture around, dancing, gardening, the way I dress, doing yoga, and vice versa. It is all these things that i like to do that inspire me daily that make me want to share, inspire others, learn more, change more, experience more. And then I go and physically create again. It is a never-ending creative cycle.
Life alone is art and creative, we all do so many interesting things on a daily basis, no matter how small or big, it's all art, it's all creation.
I think we are always changing. So I don't decorate my home and then I am done with it.
My surroundings are also an ever-changing, evolving and unfinished product. I've noticed that in my clothing recently I have changed color, pattern, to a more subdued, more simple selections. I feel what we wear on the outside is not a choice out of vanity, but it is a true expression of our inner process, of what's going on inside of us. In certain cultures the choice of widows, for example, to wear black after the death of a spouse or a child - their insides are in turmoil; the society expressed that the color black signifies that sort of feeling. Not only are they following a way of tradition, which I think is important, but they are also expressing their feelings.
Also, having a passion, or doing things with passion changes everything, makes everything more alive, more inspired. You can almost feel the love, the passion, the inspiration with which the person has done that particular thing. For example, a mom, like me, who isn't of the best cooks. They tell me how delicious the food is. Either they are saying this to be nice, or they are really feeling the love, the care, with which I prepare the food and they can feel it. Hopefully, it's the latter.
Just like intentions, and setting the intentions, everything we do and say, there is an intention behind it. Choose carefully those intentions, because they are what brings things to fruition and sets the tone for energy and things occurring.
You are infamous for rescuing old furniture sadly awaiting the garbage truck on the side of the road. And then you breathe new life back into it. What moves you to do that?
I feel we have become a society of discard. We throw things away so easily, we don't even think about it, we toss perfectly good clothes and shoes and mattresses and items, we just throw them away. And they are just a little bit broken, dusty, old, maybe out of fashion, not useful for what it was once intended. And this has leaked into our view of relationships. Maybe when a marriage is not as exciting, or as romantic, or friendship that is not as wild or useful as it once was... Divorce, breaking up friendships, you are no longer my friend because we don't speak anymore...
I wish, with my up-cycling of home furniture, to bring back its luster and appreciation for that which, in the observer's eye, lost its sparkle. I love what is old and worn and used. It has memories, it's priceless. It has knowledge, shine, experience. And with just a new coat of paint, a new set of eyes to see through and found appreciation, it comes back to life.
How did you become a yogi? Did you travel to India, like many do?
No, I did not travel to India. The closest I was to India was when in high school i would stay up on Saturdays to watch Bollywood movies on PBS. I would be so tired the next day, and I had to go to church, but even that didn't stop me from watching my Bollywood movies. Since childhood I liked Eastern philosophies - Chinese, Asian, Indian, and especially Middle Eastern. i feel like i am from those cultures even though i am not. And i used to say that I was Egyptian, even though i wasn't! I started reading about yoga and meditation and do a little here and there. After i had my youngest daughter, I was home for seven years, with no real connection to the outside of world, except for mommy and me, and I did have some friends, but they were not my tribe. I began to lose myself. I was no longer a woman. I was mama...
Now you have a beautiful yoga practice and have a large following of students who adore you. What advice would you give to those who are just starting out on their yoga journey?
First of all, yoga, just like learning to walk, it is a step by step process. When we fall, and sometimes it can be a literal fall, we get back up again and keep trying. Go back to that childlike state when nothing stopped you. Imagine, if we gave up walking when we were little, we would be a society of non-walkers. My favorite quote that I learned during my masters program, is "Little by little, bit by bit, I am improving every day". I repeat it to myself when I am frustrated.
We all come to yoga as beginners and work our way through. There is no such thing as a natural born yogi. Although some of us are more flexible, whether it is by nature, or because they were dancers or gymnasts. But there is always something that one person has that the other doesn't and vice versa. So it's ok - wherever we begin, we begin.
Another thing that is important is that each day is different in our practice: some days we will be stronger, other days we will be more flexible or balanced, and then miraculously comes a day when all three, strength, flexibility and balance, or mind, body and spirit, all work together as one.
"Bravo!", you think, and then with that, it's all gone with a blink of an eye or with a release of the breath. You then have to learn to resettle, close your eyes and begin again, without judgment, without expectation, but with a little more faith that all is possible. It just happened, so why not again? One of my favorite things to hear from my students is "it's getting easier!" and I tell them, "it is not getting easier, you are just getting better".
Try not to compare yourself to others in the class, or even to yourself yesterday, or a month ago, or ten years ago. The only constant in life is change. So wherever you are in your practice today is exactly where you are meant to be. Believe in the higher reason, the reason for it being the way it is at that moment in time.
What does it mean to be a yogi?
To me being a yogi doesn't mean practicing yoga every day, twice a day, eating only leaves and bark, while wearing skin-tight yoga pants or saving every animal from the shelter. To me being a yogi means staying focused on the present moment and finding even smallest things to be grateful for. Being kind, loving and patient to your loved ones, to those who cross your path every day, and especially to yourself. Being a yogi to me means having faith in the impossible, knowing that you can and will achieve what your hopes, wishes and dreams are. Being a yogi is holding a door for someone, reading a book to your child during a busy day, sharing a meal with a lonely friend, making eye contact with the homeless man on the corner, not making him feel as if though he is a pariah on this earth, as others may make him feel by not sharing a glance out of shame and pity. It's saying hello and sharing a moment of a smile with a stranger. That smile does not belong to you or me, it belongs to the person who is seeing it, it is what brightens their day and their heart.
What does yoga mean to me? Yoga to me is the beginning, the beginning of anything and everything. The practice brought me to the beginning of creating this woman I am today, it allowed me to acknowledge and appreciate all I had been and done before yoga and from there begin to mold and create this whole other person, the same as before, but even better, the person that I am today. Sometimes I wonder how I'd be or who and where I'd be if I had never begun, but then I realize that somewhere along the line this was just meant to happen anyway. Twenty years ago or twenty years from now, yoga would still be a part of my life.
Yoga to me is the source of all. All the light within us. It is my peace, my joy, my acceptance, my frustration, my patience, my love, my friendships, my family. It's all encompassing.
Connect with Tamara on Facebook if you would like to attend one of her yoga classes, or if you need help finding a perfect home, breathing new life into your old furniture, or if you just want to get to know this beautiful soul!