Why I Moved to San Francisco, California

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This blog has been quiet for almost a year. Over the past year I was in India living and teaching at Sattva Yoga Academy. When I returned from India in February, I decided to leave New York City and move back to San Francisco, where my yoga journey began. I thought I’d share a few reasons for that move and preview my plans for teaching yoga in San Francisco.

When I returned from living in India back in February, my initial impulse was to explore opening a yoga and meditation space in NYC. I spent a few months investigating that possibility. I talked to studio owners, I looked at available commercial spaces, I wrote a business plan, I worked on my branding, I registered a trademark, I ran the numbers backwards and forwards, and I talked to potential investors. My conclusion? It is absolutely viable in New York City. And I was excited about making it happen. But then the idea of moving back to San Francisco entered my consciousness and the dominos began to fall in that direction.

One thing I was aware of during this time of settling back into the West and exploring the possibility of starting a yoga business was that I was also in a deep process of integration. I had just emerged from the deeply intense and existential experience of living at a yoga academy and ashram in the Himalayas of India. It took a minute for me to orient myself after that. And, as a result of that whole experience (which I will have to write about some time), I was liberated to think even more creatively about my life. I now know things about myself more assuredly than I have ever known them: First, I have a deep and abiding passion for technology, for the promise and excitement of innovation, and I always will. Second, I want some semblance of a family life here in the West, what yogis would call a “householder” life, like Lahiri Mahasaya. Living as a spiritual vagabond was no longer something that charmed me. But that process revealed that this desire is not some residue of societal or family conditioning. It is authentic.

So, while I begin to get some sort of yoga business off the ground, I will pursue my technology passion and work in Silicon Valley. My experience working in NYC revealed to me that it just doesn’t offer the diverse array of technology jobs that interest me.

The Ease of San Francisco Yoga

In my experience the San Francisco yoga community is more progressive, holistic, spiritual, heart-based, adaptable, and inviting than that of New York City, or almost any other major city I have visited. (This is where my yogi friends will remind me that the experience is the experiencer and this is a lively debate I’ve had with many yoga teacher friends. But it is my experience nonetheless. It’s also possible that I completely overlooked some wondrous pocket of yoga in NYC—it is a large city after all.) Having a heart-centered, vibrant, and robust yoga community was half of the inspiration in wanting to open a studio in NYC: To recreate that San Francisco yoga magic.

Once I seriously considered moving to San Francisco, I suddenly I realized I could (mostly) re-enter the yoga community that I love and then teach here, bring a lot of what I’ve learned in India over the past four years back to my original yoga home. It feels smoother, more easeful, more receptive, like I am just plugging right back into a thriving and voraciously curious yoga community. Instead of recreating San Francisco yoga in New York, I can just reenter it! Plus, there are four Sattva-trained yoga teachers here in SF. I’m already teaching at a few places, including Love Story Yoga. And I’m talking to some San Francisco studio owner friends about combining efforts.

Marrying Tech and Wisdom / Yoga

And this brings me to a larger point about my long-term future. One thing that I’ve realized or accepted about myself finally is that I will always have one foot in the technology world and one foot in the spiritual / yoga world. My long-term goal and purpose is to somehow marry technology and wisdom / spirituality in a profound and transformative way whose shape I don’t yet see fully. Not something trivial like a mindfulness app. But a true evolutionary symbiosis. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but that’s my ultimate goal.

For this reason, San Francisco makes all the more sense. San Francisco is not only still the global tech hub, it’s also one of the spiritual centers of the world. With conferences like Wisdom 2.0; spiritual centers like Esalen, Spirit Rock, and Mount Madonna; and organizations like the Long Now Foundation, San Francisco is still very much on the cutting edge in this fusion of East and West. Sure, New York has luminaries like Daniel Pinchbeck and promising communities like The Assemblage. But it’s hard to ignore San Francisco’s history in exploring the the vanguard of consciousness, whether you look to the Beatniks, the Merry Pranksters, the Cacophonists, or those associated with the California Institute of Integral Studies, JFK University, and Esalen.

Although this is a topic for a long, separate post, I think, like Daniel Pinchbeck, that the exploding Wisdom Revolution will be similar to the explosion of the Information Age but bigger, with broader and more lasting impact. To paraphrase Dennis Hopper in the film Flashback: When we get out of the 10s, the 20s are going to make the 60s look like the 50s.

The Unshakeable Feeling of Home Wherever You Go

Of course you eventually learn to carry an unshakable feeling of being at home wherever you go. In yoga we foster the lived experienced that bliss is your natural state, something that bubbles up from deep inside, not something you find outside. So it matters less where you ultimately end up. I can now say that I’m much less inclined to have my identity wrapped up in the city I live in.

Leaving San Francisco for a time resulted in me dropping that old narrative that long-time San Franciscans love to tell, about how much the city has changed for the worse, lamenting the closing of some beloved restaurant or bar. Going back to San Francisco now I can also see how much it has also changed for the better. San Francisco simply is what it is. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to improve it, especially to come up with compassionate solutions to the homeless crisis there. But I see it clearly now, as a beautiful city with a rich history, a grand, never-ending American experiment.

Conclusion

For the first time in my life I’m moving back to a place. This feels significant. Like an old girlfriend I never should have broken up with. Sometimes you have to leave to come home. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll end up living a sort of split life, never leaving New York entirely behind.

I’m glad to have made the move to New York, in the state of my birth. I had always wanted to live in NYC. And I still love it. I think New Yorkers are the best people, on the whole. And it’s probably still my favorite city in the world. I’ve never been bothered by the things that New Yorkers complain about: the crowds, the noise, the weather. Of course NYC is now a sort of amusement park version of itself compared to the gritty New York of the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. It’s much more livable. It seems crazy to say this but I’ll miss your cheap rent New York City!