Fire Walking

A few weeks ago I visited the Golden Wings Center for my first glass walk. It was an empowering and inspiring experience. When I had the chance to return for a fire walk, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

In my previous post I mentioned that the Golden Wings Center was a bit secluded and required traversing a one-lane dirt road to get there. This time I followed my GPS, rather than their directions, and in doing so I took a wrong turn that took me even farther out into the middle of nowhere. I was still heading toward the Center, I was just going the back way and driving several extra miles down same the scary one-lane dirt road.

Drive Over Creek

At one point I reached a flowing creek that covered my path. I was concerned about the depth and backed up. A toothless man with 5 cats was sitting on the porch of a nearby house. I asked for directions and he said that the Center was just on the other site of the creeks. Yes, apparently I had to drive over more than one. He assured me that the water wasn’t too deep and he thought I could make it. I should note that my car is very small and not designed to ford creeks like in the Oregon Trail. But, I’ve learned that country boys know what they are talking about and will not lead you astray. So, I went for it. I put the pedal to the metal and made it across the creek! I was so excited when I go to the other side that I shouted “I did it! I did it! I did it!” even though nobody was around to hear it. I was thrilled when I finally saw the Golden Wings Center sign.

Golden Wings Center

There were a lot of familiar faces there for the fire walk and it was really wonderful to see everyone I met at the glass walk. We started out in the yurt and talked about what we wanted to get out of this experience and what we wanted to let go of. There is a great deal of meditation and sharing at the Center, which is why it feels like you are part of a big family.

Firewood

We went out to light the fire before sunset. The stack of firewood was huge. It was made of cedar and stacked so it would burn properly for the walk.

Lighting the Fire

We used candles to help light the fire. But it didn’t seem to need much help, within a few minutes the wood was completely engulfed.

Fire Burning

The fire was gorgeous and the flames leapt at least 15 feet in the air.

Fire Burning 2

After we lit the fire, we went back into the yurt to talk. We paired off with a stranger to talk about our deepest secrets and fears. The purpose of was to release any negativity we were holding onto before the walk. Discussing your inner thoughts and fears with a stranger might sound intimidating, but the older you get the more you realize that you aren’t alone in your experiences and there are a surprising number of people who have been through the same things.

We followed our talks with an arrow breaking ceremony . . . but that is a story I’ll share with you another day.

Fire Walk

Fire walking has been around for over 3000 years. It has been used as a rite of passage, a spiritual ritual, and a test of courage. And yes, it is hot. It’s fire. It was a very festive atmosphere with a lot of singing, dancing, and cheering.

I made 3 passes over the coals. I burned myself once, but it was pretty minor. My foot hurt on my drive home, but it felt much better by the following day. I preferred my glass walking experience to fire walking because I enjoyed the quite meditative aspects of the glass walk. However, that said, I am really looking forward to to doing another fire walk.

Golden Wings Fire

The Golden Wings Center has a wide variety of wonderful events. I already have plans to return in the coming weeks, so you’ll hear more about it soon.

Flying Through The Air With The Greatest Of Ease (A Trapeze Class & The Neon Museum)

“Sara’s off on a turnaround
Flying gambling fools
To the holy land, Las Vegas”
- Hall & Oates – Las Vegas Turnaround

I had so many so many amazing adventures in Las Vegas that I had to break things into two posts. Last week I posted about my experience training dolphins and having a proper English tea service, this week I’m sharing my trapeze adventure and a trip to the Neon Museum.

Trapeze Class
When I was looking for New Things to do while in Las Vegas I came across Trapeze Las Vegas, a trapeze center right at the South end of The Strip. I took an aerial fitness class a few months ago, but it didn’t prepare me for the excitement I had in store.

The idea of flying through the air holding onto a bar with my knees didn’t scare me, but the climb up with ladder to the platform was a bit nerve-racking. I hate heights, and having a safety harness doesn’t make me any less terrified. There was a small positive, from the platform I could see the lights of the Vegas Strip, the mountains, and the landing lights of planes coming into the airport. Beautiful!

Once I made my way on to the platform, the trapeze bar was pulled up and I grasped my right hand around it in a death grip. On “ready” I leaned forward and bent my knees and on “hep” I pulled the bar to my left hand and stepped off of the platform.

Flying Trapeze

Suddenly, I was flying through the air. I listened for Stephan, the owner of Trapeze Las Vegas, to shout for me to pull up my legs, wrap them around the bar, and eventually release my hands.

It was absolutely exhilarating. Despite doing my share of hanging from the monkey bars as a kid, it was disconcerting to only hold on with my knees. Even though I was in a safety harness, it felt as if I was flying through the air completely unaided.

On my second trapeze attempt I let go of the bar too soon and it slightly pulled my knees forward off of the bar. l felt like I was going to fall. For a moment I was scared, however, Stephan had me grab the bar and just try the release again. Fortunately, I was successful on my reattempt.

Finally, after 3 solo attempts, we had an opportunity to be caught midair. For the first time, I was nervous; my heart was absolutely pounding. I trusted the guys training us, but I didn’t trust in myself to do my part. I was worried that I would somehow screw something up and potentially injure the person catching me.

Everything went by quickly. It started out the same as all of the other times, but as I reached back with my hands, someone grabbed me out of the air and off of the bar. It was so fast and so natural that I didn’t even have to think about what I needed to do. I think it’s the closest I’ll ever get to knowing what it feels like to be caught by Superman.

I absolutely want to try the trapeze again. It was empowering to able to literally let go of my fears. Next time I’m in Vegas I’ll definitely be going back for more.

Neon Museum
Last time I was in Vegas, I wanted to tour the Neon Museum. However, we tried to book a tour too late and everything was sold out. On my return visit, my friend Alaina joined me for an early morning tour before I had to leave for the airport.

The museum is organized by the era, location, and type of sign. The tour began with the old school Vegas casino signs.

Neon Sign Museum

The first sign we came across was for The Golden Nugget, the yellow “casino” sign above, which was is one of the oldest casinos in Vegas. 

Sassy Sallys

We meandered past the Moulin Rouge, the Showboat, the Horseshoe, and Sassy Sally’s. All of which were huge and incredibly impressive.

Jackpot Motel

After the classic casinos, we viewed the historic Vegas hotel signs. They made me want to do another road trip out west and stay in old school motels along the way.

Queen of Hearts Hotel

The Queen of Hearts was one of my favorites.

Neon Wedding Sign

They had pretty much any sign you could want to see.

Las Vegas Club

Even an obligatory Las Vegas sign.

Stardust Neon Sign

Like most of the signs, photos don’t do justice to the epic Stardust sign.

The museum also has a night tour, which I can only imagine is absolutely beautiful. Hopefully, I can get back to Vegas again this year to see it (and have a whole list of other new adventures).

A Day As A Dolphin Trainer

A Day of Dolphin Training
This week I made my way back to sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. I went with a group of friends to enjoy March Madness (Go Vols). The trip had perfect timing; while Nashville was trying to decide what season it was, Vegas was gorgeous and 80 degrees. It was the perfect weather to jump in the pool and make some new aquatic friends.

I went to Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat to spend a day as a dolphin trainer.

Dolphin Under Water

We started with a tour of the facilities and the 2.5 million gallon dolphin habitat. I have no idea exactly how big 2.5 million gallons is, but I can safely say it is a lot larger than Peyton Manning’s 3.2 gallon tank I have in my office. Part of tour took us below for an awesome underwater view. The dolphins are pretty curious so a few came to investigate who we are and what we were doing.

Dolphin Feeding

Our day started with feeding the younger, adolescent dolphins. MiraMar, above, is approximately 2 1/2 years old. Part of our job was to reinforce the training the dolphins had already received. All of the “tricks” the dolphins do are extensions of their natural behaviors for the dolphins that they do on their own in the wild. The trainers condition the dolphins to associate the jumps, spins, flips, with specific hand signals. If they do it right, they get a reward. I’m getting to know MiraMar and giving him a delicious fresh fish (sorry Peyton). The dolphins eat 15-25 pounds of fish and squid per day.

Dolphin Jumps

Here are the three youngest (Bella, K2, and MiraMar) having some fun and getting some exercise.

Dolphin Petting

After we were done with the youngens, we moved on to another pool to spend some time with Beetle. Beetle is around 10 years old and an absolute sweetheart. He was kind enough to give us lots of dolphin hugs and kisses.

Dolphin Hug

He seemed like a very happy boy. He is also a very heavy boy.

Dolphin Kiss

They were practicing socializing the dolphins with each other, so they pulled K2 away so MiraMar and Bella could work together. They used that time to work with K2 on his signals, and that meant more dolphin kissed for me. Incidentally, K2 is named after the charity organization, K2 Adventures Foundation.

Dolphin Ride

After lunch we hopped back in the pool for some swim time with Osborne. I swam out to the center of the pool and extended my left hand and waited for Osborne to meet me. He swam straight towards me, placing his dorsal fin right in to my hand. I grabbed on and he towed me along to the shore. Dolphins are surprisingly fast, and can go approximately 22 miles per hour. That might not seem quick, but just wait until you are being pulled behind an aquatic mammal.

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Lightning hopped out of the pool for a photo.

Dolphin Training 2

Just when I thought we’d done everything we could, our day wasn’t close to being over. We had yet another training session with the dolphins.

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More training. Hello dolphins!

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Next, we moved on to some underwater time. We strapped on snorkels and went below to see the world as they see it.  it was really cool to hear their vocalizations underwater (which are made with their blowholes rather than their mouths).

Dolphin Petting 2

After snorkeling, we went to spend some time with the ladies. Above is Huf N Puf, who just turned 14 a few weeks ago.

Dolphin Belly

Finally, we got to spend some time with Duchess, the matriarch of the family. Duchess is 32 and has been at the Mirage since the habitat opened. She is a very big girl, weighing in at just over 500 pounds. The trainers at the habitat get the dolphins to go through a standard medical routine in case they might actually need treatment. By getting them to randomly go through the motions when they don’t need special care, it makes it easier to collect blood or other samples when it is needed. For example, Duchess is upside down presenting her tail because blood is collected from a vein in her fin, just like blood is collected from our forearms. However, no samples were taken the day I was there.

Dolphin Trainers

At the end of an amazing day, we stopped for a picture with some of the trainers. While the dolphins gave us a very unique experience, the day would not have been possible without the humans who work with them.

English Tea Service
The next day we began our morning with a trip to the Bellagio spa, for several hours of relaxing and detoxifying. After the spa, we made our way downstairs to Petrossian for a proper tea service. It was possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Along with a cup of yummy vanilla jasmine tea, I had mint cucumber watercress, chickpea goat cheese, and quail egg salad sandwiches, all of which were delicious. I absolutely devoured them as fast as I possibly could.

English Tea Service

After the sandwiches, I moved on to the scones. I tried lemon curd and clotted cream for the first time, both of which I suspect I’ll develop addictions to. The mini tarts and cakes were also indescrible. Along with the tea, we got a few glasses of champaign to kick off our day. Why? Because it’s Vegas.

We enjoyed tea so much that we plan to make a habit of tea time together once we are back home.

Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

This week I went to my first murder mystery dinner theater. The Murder Mystery Company hosted Murder at the Masquerade, a Billionaires’ Annual Masquerade Ball that takes a turn when one of the guests is killed. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so I’ll go light on the details.

My friend Jamie, from my hang gliding adventure, joined me for the evening. Mona the French Maid greeted us at the door and led us back to the party. When we walked it, we were interrogated and had our mug shots taken. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of it to share.

Murder

While we were waiting for the show to begin we were served our first course and chatted with the other guests at our table. Each table a guide to Billionaire’s slang, a/k/a “How to speak like a 1 percenter.”  Some of the sections were “Taxes = What poor people pay,” “Laws = A minor inconvenience,” and “Place in the Hamptons = Billionaire camping.”

Not long after the show began, someone was murdered! Oh no!

Detective

Fortunately, a trusty decretive soon arrived. Members of the audience were pulled into the action, and may were suspects for the crime.

One of the best audience participants was a guy named “Shady Fingers” (below) a known pickpocket (who was unsuccessfully trying to kick the habit). Both the suspects and the interrogators moved around during interrogation breaks. The interrogators tried to get clues to solve the crime. Shady, however, spent his time stealing things from other guests’ tables, which resulted in a pretty impressive bounty at the end of the evening.

Interrogation

At the end of the evening the murderer was reveled … but who it was, I’ll never tell!

They have at least 8 different themes, so they change the show every 4-6 months. I can’t wait to go back for another performance!

3-Day Juice Cleanse

I woke up the first day of the cleanse absolutely starving; this did not bode well for the weekend. I went to the Center of Symmetry (where I tried chakra cleansing a few month ago) to pick up my first batch of juices. I got a carrying case filled with bright beautiful tropical drinks. It wasn’t what I was excepting and I was suddenly very excited about the cleanse.

With the first set of four juices I recieved a packet of chia seeds to add to the juices, a snack for the day, and antioxidant tea. I also received a packet of information about the cleanse, which is the first time I’ve ever had a meal that came with instructions.

Juice Cleanse Day 1

My first drink of the day was “Chipper Elixir,” which contained mango, orange, and pineapple. It was delicious! And, believe it or not, it actually made me chipper. I had a lot more energy after drinking it than I do on most mornings.

Two hours later I got to try my next juice: “Metaboost” which contained lemon, apple, and cayenne pepper. My first reaction was “WOW!” It tasted like an apple and a pepper made sweet sweet love. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I suppose it all depends on your feelings on fruit-vegetable procreation. (Yes, I know a pepper is actually a fruit).

Metaboost Juice

Finally I got to have my mid-day snack, approximately 1 cup of nuts and berries. I’ve never been so excited about trail mix. Halfway through stuffing my face as fast as humanly possible, I realized that I was supposed to have my “snack” after my third drink of the day. Drat! I packed up my trail mix and exchanged it for my lunchtime “Pick Me Up” drink (cucumber, kale, apple, and lime). Not only did it taste like cucumbers, it made my office smell like cucumbers.

Detox Trail Mix

My last drink of the day was “Immunitude” which was comprised of apples, carrot, beets, and ginger. Despite being super hungry, I just couldn’t finish this drink. The ginger was a little over powering and made the drink gritty. Once I let the grit settle, it wasn’t so bad, but I had to leave about 1/4 of it behind.

It was around this time that I started craving food. ALL of the food. Anything I saw on TV I wanted. I wasn’t certain how I was going to make it through the rest of the weekend.

The next day I went to the Center of Symmetry to pick up my second day of juices and have a massage. The massage was part of my cleanse package and a great way to start a Saturday morning, However, at one point I was talking to the massage therapist about this winter and how it snowed a lot when I first moved to Nashville 11 years ago. He responded, “I remember that, I think that was my 7th grade year.” I felt super old. Although he did make up for it later by telling my I was really flexible.

Juice Cleanse Day 2

The juices for day two were good, but not as good as they were day 1. Or, perhaps I was just getting tired of drinking juice. Day 2′s juices were: Invigorate (apple, lemon, and ginger), Replenish (cucumber, apple, and coconut water), Power Boost (apple, kale, pineapple, and ginger), and Vitality (apple, carrot, and spinach).

Green beans and carrot chips

I spent most of my day being really hungry and fantasizing about food. At one point all I could think about was 7-11 nachos and cheese. However, once I had my daily snack of green beans and carrot chips I felt much better. (No, really, they were good!)

By day 3 I wasn’t as hungry, I got over most of my cravings, and I was less grumpy about my liquid diet. Yet, I yearned for Monday when I could eat solid food again.

Juice Cleanse Day 3

The juices for day 3 were: Awake (orange, carrot, and ginger), Refresher (strawberry, apple, spinach, and lemon) (yum!), Beta Cleanser (red grape, beet, apple, and strawberry) (super yum!), and 20/20 (tomato, celery, carrot, and lemon) (not so yum). By day 3 I never wanted to see ginger or any ginger-related products again.

Dried Fruit

It felt like my body got used to the new diet by day 3. I see why people can do longer cleanses. After a while, it just feels kind of normal.

I thought I might feel rundown or weak during the cleanse, but I had just as much energy, if not more, than I normally do. However, I didn’t feel the same beneficial effects that my friends reported after doing juice cleanses. They’ve said they’ve felt healthier, “lighter,” and have even lost weight. I am a vegetarian and eat lightly in general, so I don’t think I benefitted the way others do. I had no expectations or goals going into this, so I don’t feel let down.

A friend of my did the cleanse with me (misery loves company) and she said that she plans to incorporate juices into her everyday diet and use this as a launching point to be more selective about what she eats. Other than going back to the Center of Symmetry occasionally to have more of the juices I really enjoyed, I don’t plan to incorporate juicing into my diet.

Riding a Mechanical Bull

Like many of my adventures, this week did not go as planned. Originally I intended for curling to be this week’s New Thing. Yes, like the Olympics. Bridgestone Arena had an open house and curling was one of the advertised events. However, it was on “synthetic ice.” I thought this would be like grass vs astroturf and would somehow be equivalent to actual ice. It was not. It was essentially a painted wooden board and the curling “stones” had wheels on the bottom of them. We played one round (I lost) and we decided to go out in search of another New Thing.

Logically, the only thing you can do when your curling plans go awry is to find a mechanical bull to ride. Fortunately, mechanical bulls are not difficult to come across in Nashville, TN. We went to a place called the Wild Beaver Saloon. Because what else would you call a bar with a mechanical bull?

Once I got the nerve up, I paid for my bull ride and sauntered over to the bull. Being really short it was hard to climb on. Once it started moving it was difficult to keep my balance. I was determined to only use one hand, but wasn’t really certain how to ensure that I didn’t fall off. Frankly, I would not have faired any better with two hands. Eventually I was ejected from the bull and thrown on to the giant balloon cushion bellow.

Riding a Mechcanical Bull
After my turn we stuck around and watch other people take their turn. It was evident that the bull operator treated woman and men very differently. Women would actually get a chance to ride, while men barely had a chance to get near it.  He’d spin the bull around so fast they would immediately be thrown off. It was hilarious.

Eventually the bull started staring me down, taunting me to go again.

Mechanical Bull

The second time around I was determined to stay on longer. This time I used legs to hold on as tight as possible. While this made things easier, riding a bull is a lot harder than it looks. It seems like I’m not moving very fast, but it takes a lot of work to fall off. The slightest movements really throw off your balance.


The next day I woke up with an 8-inch bruise on my thigh and felt as though I had a tough workout the day before. I don’t think mechanical bull riding will be something I try again, but I’m glad I’m able to cross it off the list.

Walking on Broken Glass

It’s been a while since I’ve done something adventurous and it has made me a little stir crazy. Moreover, after posting about bingo last week, I felt a need to counter it with something that was actually interesting. I first heard about glass walking while looking for places to walk on hot coals. Unsurprisingly, you can do it at the same place.

I went to the Golden Wings Center in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. If nowhere had a middle, it would be in Bon Aqua. There was no cell service (which was actually quite nice) and part of the drive included a one-lane dirt road. The Golden Wings Center is a 30-acre retreat that has fire walks, glass walks, a sweat lodge, and a plethora of other activities and features. You can even spend the night there.

The glass walking ceremony was held in a yurt, a circular tent-like structure. When we first walked in, the bed of glass was in the center of the floor and covered with a blanket. I could not see what lied beneath, but I could see the peaks and valleys of glass shards several inches deep. It was a little intimidating.

We started with a guided meditation practice, which I am inherently bad at. I don’t possess the ability to turn off my mind. I usually don’t even bother to try. Then came the big reveal. The blanket was pulled back unveiling the remnants of 125 broken wine bottles.

Broken Glass

Each person had two people by their side for support. When it was my turn I asked Angela and Justin, the owners of the Golden Wings Center and all-around awesome people, to guide me. I placed my hands on their forearms, closed my eyes, and took my first step. I shifted my left foot until it felt comfortable on the glass. I made sure no shards were pressing directly into my foot and shifted my weight onto it. I lifted my right foot and again tried to find a comfortable spot in the glass that would support my weight. The second step was scarier because it meant that I was solely supported by the glass.

Walking on Broken Glass

With each step I could hear the glass popping and feel it breaking beneath my feet. It was a bit unnerving. I decided to do the walk with my eyes closed because I wanted to be completely in the moment and only focus on what I was doing. I’ve had a lifetime of my brain telling me that walking on glass is a bad idea, by closing my eyes I was able to shut that out and rely on what I was feeling and trust myself and my decisions.

Feet on Broken Glass

Believe it or not, I made it the entire way without a single cut. I’m really glad I did the glass walk. It was a very empowering experience. I’m am looking forward to retuning to the Golden Wings Center soon for fire walking and the sweat lodge  . . . stay tuned.

I’ll leave you with a song that has been stuck in my head all week. It has nothing to do with my glass walking experience, but you can’t go wrong with Annie Lenox.