Living Your Most Authentic Life – on more than a penny a day

Let’s face it. We all want to live our dreams — whatever that may be — an artist? a musician? a cook show host? sail around the world? Who would rather balance some big corporation’s books than do something else – anything – that’s more fun, stress-free and where we are in the flow, as Csikszentmihalyi (author of “Finding Flow”) advices. Most of us, I reckon, did not grow up encouraged to “live our dreams.” Worse yet, coming from the Tiger Mom culture similar to my upbringing, the only viable options of life are to become a world famous pianist or settle as a doctor or lawyer, never mind if either parent never attended college.image

Well, I never got to settle as a doctor or lawyer. Instead, I’ve spent the last two years as a yoga teacher in one of the most expensive cities in America. Growing up in a lower middle class family in a developing country – Penang, Malaysia – the leap from a successful (read: boring) corporate job to teaching yoga feels like crossing a threshold into oblivion. While I led a “corporate life” for over a decade, the journey to becoming a yoga teacher in a city where everyone knows someone who’s a yoga teacher is reserved for another blog post. In this, I specifically want to address how to live your dream and still be able to pay the bills. And at what point is that balancing act no longer making sense?

Another fact to face in life — we all need to pay bills. Unless you’re a trust fund baby, or married to a wealthy spouse or perhaps have saved up a healthy chunk of change, we all still continue to accrue expenses. Surprise! Sure, there are ways to “go around the system” or avoid paying bills perhaps for awhile. But I’m not interested in that. When I started teaching, I was aware it would not be a main source of income. In fact, i was actually working at the yoga studio I began teaching at. To this day, working at studios has helped tremendously. It’s given me great insight into how a studio operates. I’ve also picked up part time work and odd jobs along the way. For the side income, I’ve tried taking on only work that’s been of interest in the past or those I find in accord to keeping my bliss.

The next big task for me was to find affordable housing in a city where rental gluttony has become talk of the town and much debate. It’s taken me a year to find such a place – and that was with help from friends and my amazing yoga community who offered temporary housing along the way at affordable rents. Moving 4 times in a year is not quite an ideal nor sustainable way of living; yet I could not have done it without the amazing support. I am now facing potential eviction as my new found abode is being primed for the glut. But I figure I’ll deal with that when it actually happens.

Aside from supplementary work to support the more authentic calling and struggling to find long term affordable housing, I’ve to admit another huge factor how I’ve been able to “survive” financially comes from the years of schlepping books and saving every penny I could. That safety net of financial savings is a habit inculcated from tiger parents, ironically. Having grown up with very little is also how I’m easily accustomed to the less is more style of living, another factor probably necessary while first finding your foothold into a new calling that may not bring big financial payoffs. It’s also very apropos to my endeavor as a yoga teacher and living its philosophy. At the end of the day, I can certainly attest, these days of living minimally beat the years of driving an SUV, dining at 5 star restaurants around the country and buying all kinds of things I didn’t even need.

The final factor to living our dream is a willingness to do whatever it takes. And by that I mean work as hard as ever before. And to work with the highest level of integrity, honesty and reliability. These attributes I believe will carry you through life in any setting. At my side work, I continue to carry this work ethic with me even if the pay is way below what I was used to. More importantly, this demeanor has to be even more true when doing work that promotes or helps advance the said “authentic life” which you won’t get paid for at all such as marketing your services or looking for clients, customers or students. All aside, working smartly and knowing how to prioritize will greatly benefit this effort.

Come the day my apartment building gets sold, I will have at least four months (thanks to somewhat helpful San Francisco rental laws) to reassess my situation and ability in continuing my pursuit of life in SF as a yoga teacher. For me, when I can no longer pay my own bills with income I’ve earned where I’ve given my most earnest attempt to make it all work, it’s time to reconsider, modify and make changes that will support the ability of living a dream. And in the end, it’s also an exercise in fine tuning what’s in my heart’s deepest desire and to align it with what the universe’s intentions are for my life’s purpose.


warrior 1 GGbridge


About Magi Khoo

Yogi Freedom Fighter. Magi teaches yoga in San Francisco with a flair of humor, grounding, breath, mindfulness, strengthening and balancing it all together in one simple om.

One Response to “Living Your Most Authentic Life – on more than a penny a day”

  1. Magi July 21, 2014 10:30 pm #

    Follow up on my own article are these quotes I just found by Maya Angelou:

    ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’ ‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.’ ‘My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.’ ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’

Leave a Reply