Whiskey with a West Virginian: Eva Ball

Posted on Jan 15, 2017 in PEOPLE, Whiskey with a West Virginian

Whiskey with a West Virginian was born out of an idea to connect with my fellow mountaineers. I have an urge to discuss how we as a community can make our state better, as well as get back to my journalism roots a bit. These are not formal interviews, but rather fun opportunities to connect, have a drink, and collaborate on how we can be a stronger state. This interview is a part of that series, which you can read of here.

I met Eva Ball after moving back to West Virginia and joining a local yoga studio. She was everything I’d always imagined a yoga teacher to be: strong, svelte, and foreign. She spoke with an accent that I loved, and I wanted to know more about her. I wondered where she was from, why she came here, and how she could stand on her head and still talk to me without falling over. I was mesmerized by something within her, and wanted to know more.

After attending several of her classes, learned more about her and eventually, felt comfortable enough to ask her to join this project. She’s also the best massage therapist I’ve ever been to, so there’s that.

Eva doesn’t drink alcohol, so we met at a local coffee shop, Bittersweet Coffeehouse, and chatted over caffeine. Eva looks always looks comfortable and naturally beautiful. She glows from within, something I have longed to figure out, and warms up a room as soon as she’s in it. She’s approachable, friendly, and incredibly inviting. We talked for nearly two hours, which felt like 20 minutes, and I learned a little more about this increasingly fascinating woman.

It sounds a lot more fancy than it is because it’s Europe, but really I was just going to grandma’s house.

Mountain Gypsy: What is your profession?

Eva Ball: I am a business owner, a massage therapist business owner. And I’m a yoga teacher.

MG: What is your hometown?

EB: I would have to say that my hometown is Littleton, Colorado. And also, Warsaw, Poland, because would spend my school year in Littleton, and then my off time in my home country.

MG: When did you come to Colorado?

EB: I was born in Poland, and then my family and I immigrated because it was Communist. We more or less snuck out. Theres a whole story behind that. We lived in Italy for a few years waiting for green cards to enter the US. So we did enter legally. We left Poland illegally but entered the US legally.

Then I moved to Dallas, Texas, and stayed there for a hot moment. My god mother’s sister was living in Denver, so you know, you tend to go where you at least know somebody, so we moved to Denver, and that was right in time for me to start kindergarten.

Then Communism ended, so I was able to travel back. And at age 7 I had my first pilgrimage to the home country. By myself. My mom put me on a plane and just wished me the best of luck, and my family picked me up on the other end. I spent three months in Europe, and I was sent back home to start the next school year. I did that every year until I went to college.

So I kinda had this split of growing up Littleton, Colorado, and my home country.

MG: So you would essentially just spend the summers in Poland?

EB: Yes, I would spend the summers in Poland. It was basically summers at grandma’s house, but grandma just lived far away. It would just be like your mama sending you to your grandma’s house because your mom worked so you have to have childcare, but mine lived across an ocean. That’s really al that it is. It sounds a lot more fancy than it is because it’s Europe, but really I was just going to grandma’s house.

You’re going toward being free.

MG: So what else should we know about you?

EB: I’m fairly ordinary I believe. I’ve been married for ten years this year. I have two children. I’m pretty simple, I really am. I guess the only other difference that might not be as common around here is that I actually am a Buddhist. I don’t just say I’m a Buddhist, I have taken what’s called refuge, so that means I actually did convert out of being a Catholic.

MG: So that’s a process?

EB: Yes. There was an initiation. They cut my hair, they poured holy water over my head, like what they call is holy water. And when you repeat mantra, you put energetic effect into  mantra. You know how water vibrates with sound? That’s what was poured over my head, was my teacher’s merit or intention.

They cut my hair to symbolize non-attachment. That’s why monks shave their heads. They threw rice at me. My lama, he said mantra and prayed over me. So it was an actual process.

MG: When did that happen?

EB: It was last summer. My la ma la came down from Nepal to Charlotte. And I go to Charlotte monthly for my training. So I do my advanced teacher training, but my teacher Mara and I were in the same Buddhist lineage. Even though I’m doing my advanced teacher training, which is open to everyone of course, I have an extra layer where there’s certain parts of my training that I’m expected to know but I’m not expected to do, because I have my stuff that’s Buddhist that I’m required to do as being a Buddhist. I have an overlap in my training. It’s also advancing in my Buddhism, but that’s separate from other students, because not everyone is a Buddhist.

MG: Is there a highest rank in Buddhism or something you’re working toward?

EB: Well, you’re going toward being free.

It’s based on a lineage, so it’s based on a teacher. You don’t ever just do things on your own. You always have someone to guide you. That’s to protect you from yourself, from your own delusions. I follow my teacher, and my teacher follows his teacher, and his teacher follows his teacher. So it doesn’t become cultish. You don’t just follow one person. And if my teacher doesn’t know, they toss me over the fence to their teacher.

It’s a lineage of teachers, and if you look at the lineage, it will span back to the time of the Buddha. It’s similar to Christianity with the disciples. Let’s say Jesus had his disciples. Then his disciple had a student, and then that student had a student, and had a student and had a student. But they’re still listening to their teacher. So it’s similar to that. You just follow until you find the source. You can train the lineage.

MG: Do you go to a temple to worship?

EB: Actually I’m going to Charlotte next month during the full moon. We can practice wherever we are. We don’t necessarily have a brick and mortar, but there are brick and mortars.

So I guess that is the only thing that makes me different. I think I’m pretty ordinary.

MG: I don’t think I would ever say “Eva, my ordinary yoga teacher.” Speaking of yoga, has that always been a part of you?

EB: Yoga happened a long time ago. I was about 15, and I was watching TV. I don’t know if I was watching PBS or National Geographic, but I was watching one of those shows, and it was about Buddhism, and they were describing a concept of Bardo. And for some reason, I knew what that meant. That was strange, because I was an eastern European, baptized Catholic person, and I for some reason knew what a Bardo meant. So I was like “what is this Buddhism thing?”

A few years later, around maybe 17, my boyfriend’s sister invites me to take a yoga class with her. The only reason I agreed, was because I was like, “Oh don’t they teach you how to meditate in yoga class? Maybe I’ll figure out that Buddhism thing if I can learn how to meditate.”

We didn’t learn how to meditate, but we did learn Downward Dog, and I thought my teacher was cruel and mean and trying to kill me. I didn’t think Downward Dog was easy, I thought it was extremely hard, and I was like, “crazy people doing yoga.” I was sweating, but nonetheless, I kind of stuck with it. And I’ve been doing yoga ever since.

It’s an everyday thing. The way you act, and the way you think, that becomes your practice. Everything becomes part of your practice.

MG: So how often do you practice yoga? Multiple times a day?

EB: My yoga practice is very different now that I took refuge. So most people understand yoga as the postures, that’s where the majority of us start. And only later do we understand that there is more to yoga than just postures and exercises.  That’s where I started too, I started with postures, but now that I took refuge, I still do postures, but they are in the form of prostrations. A prostration is anything where you bow in a certain way.

So like in Jewish religion, they recite their texts and their rock a little bit. Or in Islam, they roll out their carpet and they bow, and then they listen, and they bow and they listen. Or Catholic, they stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit dow. I was Catholic, I know! But those are called prostrations.

Buddhism has its set of prostrations, so every morning, I do sometimes 100 sometimes 200 sometimes 300 prostrations. But from outside it look like I’m doing yoga poses, like a Sun Salutations. That’s just my practice now. That’s what I have time for. I don’t have time to do that, and then also do another yoga practice. The only time I do another yoga practice is when I am creating a class for others for BrownDog Yoga.

It’s an everyday thing. The way you act, and the way you think, that becomes your practice. Everything becomes part of your practice.

MG: I’m not Buddhist, but I would agree with that, too. I started yoga, and it was just a workout, and then it became so much more than that.

EB: And then you live it every day. So when someone asks you if you do yoga every day. Yep. Every day.

MG: Do you have a goal as far as your practice or life or business?

EB: The main goal right now is to make sure my children get raised, have shoes that fit, and that I can send them to college. That’s the most real one right now. But aside from that, there is a goal that is always there of teaching others what I know so that they can be free, too. That’s what you sign up for. It’s an act of compassion. Somehow always be teaching, so that others can be free as well. That’s the ultimate goal.

And that my husband doesn’t want to divorce me! I have to make time for him.

MG: That’s how I feel right now, too.

EB: My husband will remind me, like “You realize that you walked into the house and you didn’t even kiss me once.”

MG: I do that, too. It’s bad.

EB: Husbands get the brunt of it. We’re so busy. And they’re busy, too.  And we expect that they already know that we love them. We don’t show them always that that’s what’s there, because we expect that they already know that, but we have to show that.

I still have that attitude, because I was raised by eastern European women.

I am a family of eastern European women. The only men that were in my family were the ones that were married into it. There was never a male child, except my father who was the only male born.

My mother’s side of the family, all females. The only men were the husbands who were married in. So I was raised by eastern European women.

We take care of our own. We do our own thing. That’s why Buddhism has been so humbling, because I was raised by eastern Europeans, but in Buddhism, when my teacher walks into the room, it doesn’t matter if I am in the middle of the airport, and I see him and there’s like 50 people around, I bow. I lay down with my face flat on the ground, and I bow. How many people can do that? It’s extremely humbling, but that’s part of the practice. That was hard for me, when I was taught how to bow before another person, being raised the way I was, I was like “are people watching me?”

But once I did, it liberates you. You think it’s an imprisoning thing to bow in front of someone, but it actually does the opposite. Your like “I can do anything.” It frees you. It makes you free. Everyone is watching you, and you don’t care. That’s why they do it.

I was raised by eastern European women. We take care of our own.

MG: So when was the first time you did that?

EB: It was last summer. It was crazy the way it happened. I had been doing certain practices with my teacher, Mara, for a while, and I’d been a yoga teacher for a while. And I called her up one day, because I had this intense urge to know about, in Buddhism they’re called Dakinis but they’re basically goddesses. They’re energies. There’s not like a goddess that sits in the sky, it’s an energy that you have within you that you’re trying to manifest.There’s a goddess of love, there’s a goddess of empowerment. It’s something you already have within you that you’re trying to bring out, something you already have.

But I wanted to know! And there’s very many of them. And you can’t Google them. I wanted to know about them. Somehow, everything that I had done had led me to a point where I was like “Oh my gosh, I need to know what these are.” So of course I call my teacher, and I’m like “Tell me what these are! I wanna know!” And she’s like “Uhh no.” And I’m like “WHY?!” And she said “Because what you’re asking for is like you want to know something that’s step five, but you haven’t done step one, two, three, and four.”

But I’m like, what is step one?!

She tells me “Step one is taking refuge. You have to decide what you’re going to do. What are you going to do in terms of your spiritual practices? Do you want to be a Christian? Do you want to be a Buddhist? A Hindu? What do you want? What do you want to do? You have to decide.”

So I’m like “I think I know, what do I do?” And she tells me “You need a teacher.” And I’m like “For heaven’s sake! I live in West Virginia! There’s not just one next door.”

And she’s like “Ah, no problem. My teacher is coming to town next week.”

Right when I called her! He was in Nepal, and only comes to the states twice a year, maybe. So I packed my bag and I went. And I still don’t know everything about those Dakinis, but I’ve at least done step one.

MG: That’s so great. So what is your mantra?

EB: I have a very long mantra. There’s mantras that I teach to regular folks, and that’s for them, not for me.

MG: I love the one you say in class.

EB: May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the lower realms be empty forever. May the aspirations of all practitioners…yeah that one’s for everybody, but it’s actually for my Tibetan Buddhist text. What I say in class is not necessarily part of my mantra but it’s part of my Tibetan text that I do every day. That’s what I give, that’s what I want for everybody. But my mantra is very long.

MG: Can you give me a snippet?

EB: Do you want it in English or Tibetan?

MG: Both!

So, I wasn’t even going to attempt at transcribing this beautiful language, so I included a clip of Eva reciting her mantra in both Tibetan and English. 

MG: That is so beautiful! So you say that every day?

EB: Yes. And when I’m in teacher training and we are told to practice mantra, because my teacher and I are in the same lineage, when she says to everybody “I want you all to learn this mantra and practice it 50 times when you go home,” I’m expected to understand that mantra, but my instructions are to practice my refuge mantra. That’s my responsibility. So every time there’s some new technique being taught in class, I have to understand it, but when it comes to practice, I’m not allowed to practice it. I only practice what I’m supposed to, because I took a vow that that’s my practice.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the lower realms be empty forever.

MG: Other people who have taken refuge, do they have to do the same things?

EB: They all do the same thing. The lamas and the monks have done this forever. So in terms of helping people, they have it down to a T. They have it in steps. And I won’t be practicing this forever. I was actually given a certain number of times I have to do this. Once that’s completed, then I am checked, and if I have the results that I’m supposed to have — because they don’t tell you the results, they just tell you the practice — if I have shown results, then they’re like “Okay, you can move on.” And they’ll give me a new practice. If I don’t show the results they were looking for, then they’re like “Okay, practice 10,000 more times and we’ll see.”

MG: So is 10,000 the number?

EB: My number was 10,000. Some people have different numbers.

MG: Do you just check them off every day?

EB: I have a tally. I have a whole book of tallies.

MG: Oh my gosh. Okay, so talk to me a little bit about malas, speaking of counting.

EB: Malas! Yes, that’s one of the ways we count. There’s a hundred and eight, so if I am away from my alter, if I’m traveling, I’m still expected to practice, so this helps me practice wherever I am. So I know I did a hundred and eight, and that becomes a part of my practice. And for regular folks, it’s also a way for them to count. A hundred and eight of anything, it can be a mantra, it can be anything, it can be part of your spiritual tradition, it can be very neutral if you haven’t chosen a spiritual tradition yet, but any practice with your full attention, with all of your heart, a hundred and eight times with deep concentration, is one karmic correction. Because one hundred and eight is a karmic correction. So one whoopsie-doo gets un-whoopsie-dooed.

MG: I have used mine in that way. And I’m not Buddhist, but I’ve used it as prayer and I use it in meditation, or when I’m worried about something. I use that and it really does help.

EB: And it becomes an energy exchange. So it’s all about energy. So when you are practicing whatever your mantra is and you keep repeating, repeating, you’re putting that energy, that intention into your mala. It holds it.Then it becomes an energy exchange.

So let’s say you’re having a day that is not great. You have low energy, you lost the purpose of life, everything’s crashing, your dog died, your car broke, it’s like everything. Just putting on the mala becomes an energy exchange, because it holds that energy. It reenergizes you, and then you take that energy from your mala to life you. It’s holding your intention, your energy, and then you reload it. You practice again. It’s like a sponge.

And also like your alter, or any place devoted to practice, like if you have a little meditation space, ultimately what it’s becoming is an energy exchange. If you’re doing mantra or prayer or whatever it is that your practice is, then just entering that space will reenergize you. So ultimately, it becomes an exchange of energy, and while you’re doing it, it becomes a way for you to clear your karma, and it becomes more powerful when you do it, not for yourself but for someone else. Anything you do for someone else creates a stronger merit, stronger effect. So if you sit and meditate, instead of doing it for yourself, you do it for someone else or for the greater good, or when you do your mantra you’re doing it for someone other than yourself, it’s stronger. Anytime you give, it’s stronger.

Anything you do for someone else creates a stronger merit, stronger effect.

MG: Wow. A lot of times, honestly, when I meditate, it’s about someone else. Or something out of my control. It’s not like “please make me wise,” it’s something I want to be better for someone else in my life.

EB: And your results will come quicker, because every time you’re wanting something for yourself, you’re almost trying to force this kind of effect to happen. Like “I want this” and when you’re forcing it, it’s won’t happen. So forget about you! There’s always someone on this earth that has it ten times worse than you. So do it for them. And then you’ll see results just happen for you, because you’re doing it the right way. You’re giving.

MG: That’s a beautiful way to be. You act like you’re just ordinary, but you’re not!

EB: I am!

MG: Well let’s talk about some ordinary things! Favorite book, favorite band, favorite TV shows. Do you have any favorites?

EB: Favorite book, there’s too many books. Right now my favorite book is the book I’m reading.

MG: I love that answer! I love when people say they’re favorite is what they’re currently reading.

EB: There’s too many! But right now it’s “Back to Buddhism.” Now favorite TV show, gosh.

MG: Do you indulge in TV?

EB: I do when I have time. My TV is usually once the kids are in bed, the husband and I sit down with a plate of food, it’s like 9 o’clock at night, we turn on something we’ve DVR’d, and then I’m asleep in like 15 minutes. And then I have to re-watch it later as I’m folding laundry. So I never get to get through a show. I really looked forward to watching The Walking Dead, but I didn’t like the last season so it’s not my favorite show anymore. Orange is the New Black is back out, but I haven’t watched the new season yet.

MG: What about Game of Thrones? Did you get on that train?

EB: Oh I tried really hard, but I didn’t love it. My husband has watched all of it, but it just didn’t click for me. I wanted it to! You know what I watch consistently that never bores me? Dateline! I watch Dateline!

MG: What kind of music do you like?

EB: So I do like country music, but only during summer time. My favorite type of music is I guess what you would call techno dance music, that’s probably my favorite, but the kind with words. Not just the electronic sounds. I’m a raver at heart. That was a phase. And I like mantra music. But I also listen to what’s popular, just on the radio. I hate rap music. I can’t listen to it, and then if it’s vulgar — I’m not, ya know, I like saying “fuck” just as much as anyone else, for flavor you know, but sometimes, when it’s used in the wrong way, I feel like I’m being spit on.

MG: What is your favorite spot in town? Restaurant, bar? OH, wait you don’t drink!

EB: Yeah I don’t drink!

MG: I’m just wondering, do you have any kind of indulgence, since part of Buddhism is controlling what you eat and drink, right?

EB: Yep.

MG: So do you have anything you indulge in?

EB: Oh it’s been a while. This is what Buddhism does to you! But I really love Thai food, so if I’m indulging and just going to shovel it in, it’s Thai. And it’s generally based vegan or vegetarian, because they use coconut milk in everything, so it’s very easy for vegans and vegetarians to eat Asian food. If I have an indulgence, it’s in that realm of food. I can’t go to any American restaurant and find anything to eat besides a side of broccoli or a salad. That’s it. And I like to eat. When I sit down to eat, I want to eat. I want to be in a slight coma!

MG: Do you feel like that’s kind of a misconception about vegetarians, that you just don’t eat or like to eat?

EB: I feel like they eat more! Because when you’re eating nothing but plants, to feel full is harder! I mean, if I’m eating a big plate of kale, I have to eat a shit-ton of kale to feel full. So we eat a lot!

MG: And you have a farm, right? You have chickens and stuff?

EB: My neighbors have chickens right next to me.

MG: So you just partake?

EB: Yes, we partake in their chickens. I live on a mountain in Wayne County, and I only have just a few neighbors. One has a lot of chickens, and another has pigs and goats and everything. I’m the only one without like a farmstead, like actual farm animals, but I partake in theirs. And when they are out of town, we babysit the chickens. There’s no fences or anything up there, they’re just right there.

MG: Do you have a favorite place you like to go in Huntington?

EB: You know what I really love about this area? What I love about West Virginia is that a lot of it is unbuilt. I have trails that are walking distance from my house. I have a creek and trails, and that’s my favorite part. If I can be on a trail in the woods, then I’m in my favorite place. And West Virginia has that. We have a lot of unused area that they haven’t built on, and you can just go and walk.

That’s also one of my big things that I don’t understand about West Virginia — why isn’t this a place that’s on the map to come for hiking and camping and white water rafting? In Colorado, you about have to sell your kidney. Here, it’s cheap and available and have better weather, in my opinion. Why haven’t they built that up more? They call this the unhealthiest area, but they have some of the healthiest activities in the backyard. I can go hiking in my backyard.

Another thing they could do — and this is something they also do in Colorado — is all of the areas that you can go camping and hiking and do all of that awesome stuff, a lot of times it’s associated with a certain park, and you have to buy a season pass to partake in the land. It’s not really expensive, and that’s revenue, it creates jobs and revenue.

I know people at first would rebel against it, but this creates jobs for people, it keeps the areas safe and clean, because you’re able to pay rangers to stay out there, make sure there’s no litter and trash or half a dead animal. And if you get lost or something happens, there’s someone there to help you. It creates jobs and revenue for the state, which could open more things. They can maintain these areas and make them more accessible for trails. It ends up giving you more back. Like $50 for a year, even $100 for a year, you’re paying for something that’s going to help your community. That’s something I don’t understand about this area. But yeah, that’s my favorite place to be. If I can be outside.

My family is what I miss the most. I would give up all of the travel, if they could just live down the street.

MG: So do you consider West Virginia your home now?

EB: That hasn’t happened to me yet. I haven’t assimilated in yet, for some reason. When someone asks me where I’m from, my first instinct isn’t West Virginia.

MG: You’ve also lived so many different places, so it’s hard.

EB: I also think it’s because the only family I have here is my husband and my children. I don’t have any roots here, and my children weren’t born here. I don’t have a root here yet, but maybe that will change. But even when I was asked where I’m from, I’ll say “I live in West Virginia but I’m from Poland.”

MG: That’s how I feel about here. I’ve lived in different places, and no matter where I’ve lived or how long I lived there, I’d say “Oh I live on 6th street but I’m from West Virginia.” I get that, completely. What do you miss most about Poland?

EB: Just my family. Sometimes I have resentment toward my parents for moving us to the states. Communism was bad, but communism ended shortly after they left. Now, they didn’t know that was going to happen, but it could have gone on forever. By the time they were leaving, it was really awful. But I always was kind of like “I wish you all would have just stayed.” Because my family is what I miss the most. I would give up all of the travel, if they could just live down the street.

I tried to recreate that here. That’s why we moved to West Virginia, because Matt’s family was here. If I can’t have mine, maybe I can have his. We live next door to his parents. We bought the house next door, so I think that’s where I suffer in my life, where I wish I had grown up in my country, just for my family. That’s what I really wish. But because I couldn’t have that, I at least want my babies to have that, so they wouldn’t feel separated. I love my husband’s family, but it’s not the same as my family. And I think that’s why I haven’t totally assimilated to West Virginia, because even though I live here, I’m still lonely here. It hasn’t fixed my loneliness.

MG: It’s just a part of who you are. You can connect with a hundred other people, but no one gets you like your family gets you.

EB: I try to accept it and understand that that’s part of my life experience here. We don’t get what we want, but we get what we need. I needed to learn what this feels like, I really truly believe that’s part of my karma, my human existence, my experience, to learn what loneliness feels like. So I accept it. And I’m lonely, and no matter what I do, I still am. I got married, I had kids, I made friends, I do this, I do that, I try to assimilate, but still lonely. So when something follows you like that, it just means it’s something you were meant to learn and experience in life. It’s part of my journey, I’m meant to understand what that kind of loneliness feels like.

MG: Why do you think that is?

EB: It’s just part of my karma. The only reason you’re on the planet is to learn something. Your soul is craving to understand something. Certain things happen to us, some good, some bad, but in the end, it’s because your soul is craving to understand what that means. I feel like my soul is craving what it feels like to be lonely.

Because if you think about, okay so what happens to the soul when the body dies? You go back to love, right? You come from love, you go back to love. So love you understand. But you might not lonely love, or you might not understand angry love, or you might not understand messy, brutal, hurtful love. You understand pure, because that’s where you came from, but you don’t understand the different aspects of it. That’s why you’re here — you’re here to understand something that you didn’t — and it’s not always necessarily something you want, but it’s what you need. So I was meant to understand that kind of loneliness, because no matter what I do, it’s not fixed. When I visit my family, it’s worse.

MG: How often do you get to see them?

EB: Every few years, we like to go back to Poland to visit.

MG: Had your family got to visit you?

EB: They don’t come out to the states. My grandmother did, but it’s complicated to travel. Visas are complicated. It’s easier for me to come to them, but it’s also expensive, so I can’t afford it every year. So we go every other year, and stay for three weeks or so. It’s easier now, because I have a better understanding of my finances and my money, so no it’s actually becoming easier. And my kids are older. When you have small babies, you’re a little bit confined, for a little while. But my kids are getting older.

They will get shipped off to Poland, even if I don’t get to go. My father is retiring this year, so my kids will be shipped off with him. He usually spends several months in Poland every year, so my kids will just go with him, so they can get that experience. They need to know that side. So even if I can’t go, I’ll send them.

The only reason you’re on the planet is to learn something.

MG: What is something West Virginia has taught you?

EB: There’s a sense of community here that you don’t get in larger cities. When you move from big area to a small area, everyone knows you, and you end up knowing everybody. When you’re in a big area, sometimes you can live next to someone and not even know what their first name is. I’ve done that! So there’s a dissociation from people.

But here, West Virginia has taught me to let go of some of my barriers. Because people are going to figure out who you are, they want to know who you are, what you do, they want to know what religion you are, they want to know what you eat, what your kids’ names are, who your Papaw is, they want to know everything! So if anything, West Virginia has taught me to let go of those barriers, that wall you build around yourself that you don’t let anybody in.

West Virginia has taught me to let people in. Because they’re gonna come a’knockin’!

MG: Yes, and they’ll bring a pie.

EB: Exactly! Also, West Virginia has taught me to sit down and actually learn who other people are, too. And not just be so all about me, but open your heart and know who others are. They want to know about you, so then you sit down and you’re like “well, what about you?” And this conversation gets exchanged and you actually learn to meet people, I think, better.

When I was in West Virginia for probably two weeks, looking for a house, had just moved here into my in-laws’ house, and I’m out with my realtor and we’re looking for a house to buy. There’s a house I want, and I go back on my second visit to the house, and I think I want to buy this one, and out come my elderly neighbors, with muffins. I’m like “I’ve only seen this on TV.” I haven’t even bought the house yet, and here they come. They’re like “we’re so and so” and I’m like “Oh, I’m Eva.” And they go “Oh that’s nice…what church do you attend?” When you live in a bigger city, that’s almost rude, so West Virginia has taught me to let go of my bubble. And I’m just like “Are those blueberry?”

But it’s not bad. It’s nice to know who you live next to — it becomes a part of your community. It was actually helpful with my kids, so my kids play sports and want to go to their friend’s house. Well I know EVERYTHING about this kid’s parents, so I don’t have to worry. Because I know everything about them.

MG: That was always the first thing my mom would ask me as a kid when I wanted to go to someone’s house. “Who are her parents?” She needed to connect them somehow, and of course she knows everyone, so she just needed to know who she was connected to.

EB: It’s become a blessing to know everything. And a life lesson to allow people to know things about you.

The best way I can live authentically is just to be kind, regardless of what’s being thrown at me.

MG: Do you have a favorite West Virginia-ism? Like a word you didn’t know before you came here?

EB: I don’t know if this is West Virginian or not, or if it’s just a southern thing, but “pink,” the word “pink,” I used to say it but then I heard someone say “pank.” And I alway try to say that. I love it. Oh, and I love — my father-in-law does this — he doesn’t say “washing machine,” he says “warshing machine.” Or “Warshington.” I love that, so I always try to say it that way because I think it sounds cool. And then my mother-in-law, when I say “I’m going to the movies,” she says she going to the “thEEAYter.” I like that.

MG: That’s so funny. My dad says “warsh cloth.” But “thEEAYter,” that’s a pretty unique one. Okay one last question — how do you live authentically? I think it’s so important to live an authentic life that we leave behind, so how do you do that? And what do you want to leave behind?

EB: Just kindness. If I want to be authentic, then no matter the circumstance, you’re just always kind. Even when someone’s nasty to you, you’re kind. We cannot control what other’s do, but you can control yourself. Kindness. The best way I can live authentically is just to be kind, regardless of what’s being thrown at me. Just kind.

I saw one of those memes on Facebook that said “To live a happier life, don’t be an asshole.”

MG: Yes! Just don’t suck. It sucks to suck.

EB: I loved it! Maybe I wouldn’t say it in those words, but yeah. If you want a happy life, don’t be an asshole.

Photos of Eva courtesy her Instagram @evayogini. Follow her there for her yoga adventures, to book a massage, and just be super freaking inspired. 

1 Comment

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