Search

DONE

the blog.

Tag

Travel

My Freak Flag

I imagine it’s different for everyone but if you gave me the choice between traversing up a steep mountain or wobbling back down, I’d take the ascent any day simply to avoid unpredictable rock and dirt or a rapid unexpected butt tumble. I may be digging a bit deep, but as I walked around Pai Canyon in Thailand I wondered if my hiking preferences in any way correlated to my approach in life. Does my eagerness to climb and effort and my corresponding hesitation to let go and put it on cruise control manifest off the mountain?

Associated or not, my answer is yes. Yes. And yes.

I’ve noticed this before and even joked about quite recently. The path of least resistance? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. My work ethic and discipline have served me well over the past three decades or so. But the toil and trouble philosophy I’ve become used to is a hard habit to break, even when it’s not welcome. My attraction to effort seems to unconsciously dictate my choices and often prevents me from enjoying the art of doing nothing.

On that mountain, it became very clear that it comes down to one thing plain and simple – fear.

Fear if I just relax things won’t get done. Fear if I don’t go sightseeing I’ll regret missing something. (I believe the kids these days call that “FOMO” or fear of missing out.) Fear if I don’t write today I’ll forget about the profound realizations or blog that so eloquently flashed across the screen of my mind. Fear if I don’t get a quieter room I won’t sleep well and be cranky. Fear if I eat one more piece of bread, my tummy will lose its flat physique uncovered during my Ayurvedic cleanse. Yup. That fear still has its grimy grip on my consciousness. And, last but not least, that indomitable fear that resides deep inside each and every one of us whether we’re conscious of it or not – the fear of dying. Trust me, it’s there.

I do not advocate being fearless altogether. That’s just dumb. Fear has a purpose. It warned me not to take the unchartered descent down the canyon with bad knees. The scar on my right leg served as a fresh reminder of the consequences of being fearless. Fear also cautions you not to go down a dark alley in India alone. It warns you to leave an abusive relationship.

But when fear begins to involuntarily dictate life decisions, quite frankly, it sucks.

There’s a title reserved for those who are so fearful they dominate every situation in an attempt to ensure things go their way. They are stubborn and unable to understand other points of view or respect differing opinions. They’re called control freaks. You may know one.

My freak flag flies high as I approach the end of my travel journey. I am clear on the force pulling on the cords, raising the flag. It’s my fear of the unknown – the road that lies ahead of me when I return. I’m not sure what it looks like. Or how I’ll manage it. Even before I get home I am on the computer scheduling, contacting, and creating work for myself. If I don’t, what will I do? I can’t just return home and laze around, idyllically dreaming my days away. Or can I? Maybe, just maybe, my days will look completely different than they used to.

To combat control, I’ve been calling up surrender and faith in my morning meditations. Yesterday I attended a yoga class here in Chiang Mai whose focus was 2nd chakra – the energetic center that rules fluidity, adaptability as well as joy and pleasure. It is represented by the element of water. A smile crawled across my face knowing this was not a coincidence. As if I needed a reminder, I was reassured I will always find what I need on my mat.

 

 

 

 

 

One Of Those Days (It’s a Good Thing)

There have been times on this trip, for any number of reasons, when I’ve wanted to run home. To return to the comforts and stability of my life back in the States. Today was not one of them. Today, I delighted in the new and the undiscovered. Today, I wished I wasn’t leaving this town in 36 hours. As I sit here writing, I wish for more time to sit in the cafes I’m just discovering to be my favorites. More days to learn and practice muy thai. More stimulating and engaging conversations with the man I met over lunch. Today, in all its simplicity, was magic.

We all experience these days. We move effortlessly from one task, one errand, one conversation to another. There seems to be little struggle during the activities and engagements of our day. Even stoplights seem to be conspiring in our favor as we float through a series of green lights. We don’t analyze every minutiae of our day and seem to know exactly what to do next, if anything. Our every motion seems to be at the hand of some benevolent force pushing us along. We are, as the saying goes, in flow. Effortless. Easeful. And content and happy to be just where we are.

I recognize these days by the amount of time I’m pulled to my iPhone and computer. In these days my desire to connect with human beings and be completely present overpowers any desire to be tethered to an electronic device. What’s right in front of me is more engaging than what’s out there in the Never-never Land of space.

Today, lessons and simple pleasures abound. It was as if I could’ve written an entire book about the past 14 hours. I wanted to capture every lesson and observation before they escaped from the weak entrapment of my mind. It was if the world was happening around me and I was simply a witness. Needless to say, memories are fleeting and now, I can only recall a few highlights. I trust the ones I need to remember will remain in my mental databanks, and my heart, for as long as I need them.

I’m seeing a pattern in all my travels. I realized I have a bit of resistance to a new place the first day or two. While experiencing new cultures is wonderful, it means a lot of adjusting and maneuvering to attain some semblance of a routine. You know what it feels like to move to a new town? Imagine doing that every week or even every four or five days. It can be a little unsettling to say the least.

In my first 24-48 hours I usually curse my new accommodations for something not being quite right. I have anxiety about everything I should see or do or buy or taste. (Do you know how many bloody temples there are in Asia? Please.) By day two or three, I relax a bit, find my groove, learn the habits of my new microcosm and settle into contentment. I begin to unearth the hidden gems of a new town or city – it’s people, or it’s food, or it’s culture. I forgive any shortcomings and begin to notice the beauty that surrounds me, no matter what it looks like to the naked eye. And just when I’m really feeling love and appreciation grow, I’m rolling up my clothes and packing to jet off to the next destination. If I had a dollar for every I wish I had another two days here. I may not be a rich woman, but I’d certainly have a nice stash of spare change. I vow that I will try to relax into flow from the get go, but usually find myself once again, pissed off about something or other within moments of touch down in a new town. A mere 48 hours later, I am again, in love with the very place I sent into damnation for the rest of time.

One of the observations my new friend and I made was how we seem to always turn towards writing or analyzing our thoughts when times are shitty. My journal is filled with scribbles of discomfort, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. What does this mean? What lesson can I learn? How do I grow from this? Hell, all you have to do is take a look at my blogs. Many of them originate from pain or suffering. It seems we only ask why when we wish to alter our current situation.

That’s not a bad thing. I always say pain, be it physical, mental or spiritual, is there for a reason. Pain, if we have a desire to end it, can force us to look at our habits and patterns and notice where we have become complacent in our lives. Pain can move us to change, learn, and evolve. Some of us choose to stay in it because it’s what we know. As agonizing as it may be, our pain is comfortable. And it’s preferable to the misery of change.

So it’s a good thing if we observe the times we are sad, angry, anxious, and fearful. It’s healthy to spend time questioning the source of those emotions – especially if they are consistent and pervasive.

But what about chronicling our moments of delight? How often do we write about the awesome day we had? The beautiful sunset we had the privilege to witness. The heartfelt conversation we shared with a dear, far away friend. The laughter shared with a nearby, new friend. The giddy, tummy-turning possibility of new love. The smile we share with a stranger. The five-minute time out dance session in our living room or office. (Nicole Taylor, I’m thinking of you here!) Or the one-hour exhilarating sweat fest at the gym. How about finding a cafe that serves dairy free, coconut ice cream in the middle of nowhere Thailand. WITH chocolate sauce? We may drift into a blissful slumber with a smile on our face. We most certainly will make sure it’s documented on social media. But rarely do we write about it.

I think it’s high time we investigate and honor when we’re happy because honestly, more and more of us seem to be less and less so. When we experience those rare moments of simple pleasure we should understand what brought us to that place of ease and joy. Revel in radiance, for it is temporary, as all things are. Hopefully we don’t have to dig too deep to see that when we change our internal landscape, the outer world begins to look very different. This is what I try to remember before I board my flight tomorrow and when the next stamp bears down on my passport.

A Home Away From Home

For as long as I can remember, I imagined that I would be happiest living at the beach. While I never frequented the ocean as much as I should have during my time in LA, no matter where I am, as soon as I lay eyes on blue water and sense sand through my toes, tension melts and I feel at peace. Swimming in salt water seems to ease my body and my mind better than any massage or therapy session ever could. There was no doubt in my mind, sooner rather than later, I would retire to the beach – my dream home within meters of crashing waves, tiny trails of sand leading to my front door and lingering through my living room.

My time at Ashburnham Estate in the tea country of Sri Lanka made me question that certainty. There, I was surrounded by hills of lush green tea plantations, mountains and fresh water. One of my favorite past times during my stay here was walking down to the 30 meter waterfall and cooling off in the freshwater pool. I loved the feeling of pulsating water pounding on my head and the sound of torrential sheets crashing to the pool below, magnified when I dunked my head under.

Amidst the union of earth and water, my vata was subdued and I found an ease living here that I haven’t felt in a while. For a week I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be the perfect place to hang my hat for a bit and write my book. Long meditations melted into lazy morning breakfasts. From 9:30am to 12pm or so I indulge in toast with lots of butter (Gluten be damned. The local bread was amazing), drink coffee or tea or sometimes both, and either write or converse with other guests about our travels or my lovely hosts, Ollie and Laura, or my friend Max. Here, I am in no rush to respond to emails or even blog. Time seems to be soaked up in experience of the surrounding beauty.

During a few hikes, I also reflected how, in a small way, the environment at Ashburnham was similar to Austin. Albeit there are a lot less people hanging around these parts – the guesthouse is at full capacity with around 15 guests – the immediate access to nature, if I remember correctly, is also a main draw for many in the town I’ve called home for the past two years. Many people land in the ATX, as we like to call it, for its active and outdoorsy lifestyle, despite the heat and humidity – also found here in Sri Lanka. But like LA, I never took advantage of it as much as I could have. The cool dipping waters of Barton Springs and the trails and pools of the Greenbelt. The hikes of the hill country and of course, for the quick escape or walk, Town Lake.

Comparable to many moments I’ve had here in Sri Lanka, I surprised myself when I found myself bragging about how wonderful Austin is to Ollie, Laura and other guests. I unabashedly used ACL as a selling point and am lobbying fiercely for my new friends to head “West” to join the festivities this Fall.

Home is what we make it. Granted, I probably would be slightly displeased living in the middle of the desert or in a landlocked town with nothing but concrete sidewalks and overpasses, but despite its rapidly expanding population, ATX’s natural beauty has not been overrun by cars and metros. Not yet, anyway.

Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of perspective and remembrance. Sometimes we need to leave what we have to appreciate what we’ve got. And not forget it.

The Greatest Lesson Of All

I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning these past couple weeks. It’s right time I share some sunshine.

Through all of my frustrations and inner messy dialogues, it’s evident the biggest treasure of Sri Lanka is its people.

One moment I’m cursing the taxi driver for not knowing what, to me, should be a well known destination in the city. Not seconds later, the very same misdirected guide turns to me to thank me, tells me I’ve given him too much money, and places change in my palm. In that moment my hard “city girl” exterior melts and I continue to let this country soften me. And my expectations. (On that note, however, do not take your NYC and other metropolitan city cab drivers for granted – they may seem grumpy and disenchanted at times, but they know where to go and how to get you there. STAT.)

Once we finally arrive at my destination, the Sri Lankan post office, it seems no one is willing to help me send my package home. (For those of you who advised me to leave with an all but empty suitcase, you win. Lesson learned.) I get shuffled to another building down the road and then from there another office. And another. And another. Part of this is due to the language barrier and inability to communicate explicit directions making multiple questioning and directing attempts necessary. I am told the office closes at 3:30pm. It’s pushing 3:26 and the tough girl exterior returns, my impatience surges and I am, once again, exasperated.

Once I arrive at the right desk, a gentleman steps up and communicates very clearly the steps I need to relieve myself of this 10 pound load. Since I’m in no hurry to receive yet another pair of elephant plants and multiple sarongs I’ve collected in the past 7 weeks,to save $50, I decide to send my package via “sea mail” relinquishing any expectation of its return in Austin. At least in one piece. Until my mate starts securing this flimsy box of cardboard. He goes to town with some industrial packing tape and with every crisp tear of tape, my faith in the safe arrival of my contents blossoms. My trinkets and treasures are as secure as if they’d been locked in Fort Knox. The only reason I won’t see my treasured elephant pants again is if this box gets thrown overboard.

The kind sir doesn’t charge me a dime for tape, using a pen, or his explicit direction. The box itself was about $1.00. Try finding a USPS office that will offer free tape, much less that kind of service and assistance.

And then there’s the driver from the hotel to the train station this morning. I revert to my all to familiar panicked rushed travel behavior and am concerned about making it to Colombo Fort in time for a 7am departure. This guy asks me if I mind if he goes fast. Now we’re talking my language! As his foot accumulates lead and he weaves in and out of motor bikes, tut-tuts, and  busses, even the NYC girl in me gets a little concerned. I tell him to be safe above all and he assures me he is a great driver. He gets me there in less than 5 minutes and in that short time shares his dreams of coming to the US to open a restaurant. He tells me he is a great chef. I surprise myself and encourage him to establish a Sri Lankan eatery in the States. This after complaining about the food. My smile is proof I’m embracing this new culture. I hope his dreams become a reality.

I could go on and on with stories of generosity and graciousness during my almost three weeks in this country. But I trust any of my beneficiaries during my time in Sri Lanka know who they are if they read this. To you, I bow with gratitude. I need no visits to temples or shrines or tours to prove to me the divine resides in all of your hearts and to experience the best part of your country.

While I may not have experienced deep epiphanies here in Sri Lanka, I have seen the kindness and compassion of the human spirit.

There is no greater teaching than that.

Oh, Fear.

Today in the cab the fear set in. I believe it took its familiar seat in my heart in the morning but during my cab ride into town, sans connectivity to the electronic world to distract me, it made itself known and continued to expand like a ferocious virus. Inside the solitary confinement of a vehicle fear gripped my mind and ran with it. The cycle of thoughts that have been plaguing me since my arrival in Sri Lanka dominated any faith I had in the future to the point of tears. I couldn’t sit in traffic another moment. For ten minutes which seemed like 10 days, that cab was my personal prison.

A kind soul had granted me access to an amazing hotel to sit poolside and stare at the ocean, swim in the lap worthy salt pool and relax. That’s where I was headed. Instead of feeling giddy with excitement at this generous invitation, I was sad. What was wrong with me?

Almost eight weeks after I departed Austin, this trip can no longer be considered an escape or vacation. While I didn’t feel like I was running from anything in particular back home, maybe I was. From my fear of the unknown. The answer to “what’s next”?

Coming to a pool and chilling by the Indian Ocean felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford. Figuratively and literally. I have no job right now. No consistent source of income. And yet I know I can’t go back to doing the same thing I was doing.

While I can see what lies before me, as I mentioned in my last post, I have no clue how to get there. Or, like a mirage in the middle of the desert, if it’s even a real.

I don’t want to struggle any more. Even though I know these past three months will be remembered as nothing less than priceless treasures and, logistically, everything has gone relatively smoothly (i.e. No major medical catastrophes other than a minor tooth procedure) I’ve wrestled with enough struggle in the past 7 weeks to last me a while. Both internally and externally.

While money may not buy happiness it sure can make a bumpy ride a bit more comfortable. It can buy conveniences. Things like air conditioning. A nice hotel. Taking a cab wherever, whenever I feel like it no matter the cost. Good clean healthy food. Turns out, not unlike the States, vegetables are more expensive than rice and carbs here but to such an extent that they are not found on any menu in abundance. A premise I have that is confirmed when I receive lunch. I order ceviche – a “Tower of avocado, fresh seafood ceviche, micro greens, mango and pineapple”. It arrives and I see no “tower”. Just a tiny scoop of some sort of tasteless fish with mayo and an inch of diced avocado. All to the tune of $12. Not a grand sum of money I understand but considering it would have required I eat no less than five of them to fill the tank, it could have been considered a $50 meal. I request cucumber and carrot sticks, something even a local bar in the states can accommodate for relatively cheap and I get handful of cabbage with small slivers of carrot and cuke. I’m starved so I gobble my seafood sampler and resort to something I’ve gotten used to taking more than I’d like – bread and butter.

I re-read this well aware I sound like a whiney five year old stomping her feet because she wanted chocolate and all they had was vanilla. But when you are wrestling with fear and worry and anxiety and hunger and constipation, the struggles feel real. You crave ease, comfort and access to a small trust fund.

The crashing waves offered a small respite from my mind –  assurance that everything will be just fine.

But as I pay my bill, the saltwater pouring from my eyes is a not too subtle reminder that no amount of external comfort or beauty will offer me peace today. It is something I have to find for myself.

Money may buy comfort and assurance. However, usually, such ease comes at the sacrifice of growth and learning. I try to remember this today and every day here on the road.

Courage

Leaving the past is hard. All the pain and the hurt. The ideals we professed as truth that have proven themselves to be oh-so-false. The image of who we convinced ourselves was real. We begin to notice self perception can be a lethal liar as it slowly but surely reveals its true identity as a crumbling facade. 

We know there is a better way. A way to be happier, more free and loving. More successful and prosperous. Yet we cling to the past like an old lover no matter how much we want to move forward because it’s what we know. It’s familiar. What’s to come is unknown. Even if we get the hunch it’s so much better than we could imagine it can seem daunting. How do we begin to get from here to there?

Some people are of the opinion I’m brave to embark upon the adventure that I have. Leaving for India with nothing more than a one way ticket. A journey unplanned. While I acknowledge this can certainly seem daring and bold, I’ve never struggled with those two traits. Just ask my mother.

Yet I contest that my grandest acts of courage lie ahead. I’ve seen what is in front of me. I know what I’m capable of. I feel nothing is beyond my reach. But it’s much easier to walk on the beach, listen to waves crash, do yoga, and dream of a grand future than it is to return home and do something about my premonitions.

My mind runs its incessant, continual course like laps around a race track. What is the next step? How will I support myself? What if my visions prove to be false? Another mirage of lies? To me, overcoming these what at times, feel like insurmountable fears is much more formidable than haggling with a tuk-tuk driver. Enough to make me turn around and go back. 

Right now, 6 weeks into this world adventure, just shy of one month home (I’m not even sure where that is), this is what I’m up against.

Yes I’ve hit some moguls amidst my travels, but I know my biggest challenge is yet to come.  Upon my return I’ll be at the top of that black diamond trail, staring down at a long slope of fear wondering if I have the courage to let go and push off.

Days In Pondicherry

For the past few days, I’ve had thoughts I couldn’t wait to document in my journal. Now, here I sit at breakfast pen in hand with little desire to write. I rather sit and enjoy my cappuccino, eggs and toast. Soak it all in. Record the memories in my heart rather than on paper. As if talking about them or writing about them would somehow rob the moments of their magic. While I can offer details of what I did and the things I saw, undoubtedly my explanations would never equate to what yogis call bhav – feeling or sentiment. Words would undoubtedly fail to describe what I smelled when I walked past fragrant jasmine and garbage simultaneously. Or what I tasted when I took that first bite of homemade local bread from Auroville with fresh melted butter. Or the colors and emotions that exuded from an artist’s music and dance performance in the intimate setting of his own salon. No. Words would not suffice.

I don’t want to describe in detail what transpired during my time inside the Matrimandir or all the divine circumstances that led me there without the compensatory orientation. I protect those moments and sensations in my heart, like a momma clutches her baby to her breast.

In a world of incessant sharing of every detail of our lives on social media and Did it really happen if it wasn’t posted on Instagram? it’s tempting to share all the events of my time here in Pondicherry. Normally, I enjoy doing it. Offering a glimpse into the wonders of parts of the world you may otherwise not see or experience. But something inside me restrains me. Prevents me from over-share. Besides, as any of my friends who have journeyed alongside or before me will attest, words would be a miserable substitute for true knowingness.

All I know is somehow, a force greater than my own will has guided my time here. The people I’ve met, conversations we’ve shared over coffee and meals, the serendipitous moments – cataloguing them all is unnecessary. Memories of the heart will remain there and, like flowers nurtured by the sun and water, continue to bloom as I bring them to the forefront of my mind. Whether or not I tweet them.

 

 

Post Purge

After four days of rubdowns in enough oil to put Houston out of business and “massages” of pounding bags of hot rice on my body I had reached the moment of truth in my Ayurvedic treatments – what’s known here as “purgation”. Last night I downed a small bottle of oil with a chaser of warm water. A far cry from a tequila shot with lime, but the results were somewhat the same had I had 10 of those. After a somewhat sleepless night and several trips to the bathroom later, it was fair to say by 9am I was empty.

I’m not going to lie. I looked and felt awesome (never mind the fact it felt as if someone had siphoned every last drop of energy from my body.) The 28 year old in me loved how flat my belly was! I indulged my ego and stood in front of my mirror checking all angles. More than once. And yes. I took photos. To say I enjoyed this moment would be an understatement. Where were the cameras when you wanted them? I’d shoot a cover or video like this any day!

But this was also the look and behavior of a girl who constantly struggled and was always looking for acceptance based on this perfect appearance. It was a hard show to maintain. This girl was deprived of love, joy, and inner peace.

This 42 year old woman is dying for above referenced margarita, guac and chips and some fresh grilled fish. This wiser (I can only hope) more mature (this I know) woman still struggles from time to time with loving this body just as it is – bloated or flat, toned or flabby, tired or energized. But thoughts of weight and size don’t consume her minutes hours and days as they used to nor do they prevent her from sucking the joy out of life. I know I still have ways to go – evidenced by my need to document my fabulous figure post purge. But I do know I will not sacrifice my life to maintain this shape. For now, I’ll accept myself where I am and end this blog. Dinner is about to start.

Going Solo

It’s my first day truly on my own here in India. Up until today, I’ve been surrounded by friends or fellow yogis with a common language. People I could turn to to help me process and lighten the load a bit. Those who understand and support me.

Today I feel my journey starts anew after 2 ½ weeks in India. I love that I’m here by myself now. I truly enjoy meeting new people, making friends and connecting with new cultures. I’m good at it and it’s how I’ve come to experience some of my most memorable adventures all over the world. But now I’m feeling drawn to something very different. The bliss of solitude. A newfound love of being with myself. While there is little agenda here at Somatheeram other than my 4-6pm treatment time, somehow my days feel very full. With writing and walks on the beach. Swims in the ocean and pages of books. Returning to my mat only to find my practice anew after time in Khujarho. A new reverence for my practice – and myself. Some days include research and planning for the next destination and even that seems to impose on my time as I truly savor the present moment and not being attached to itinerary. Planning places me in the future. While I know it’s a logical must do, for now, I’m relishing in throwing logic aside. Which means not worrying about money and paying a little extra to get from one place to the next with the help of my travel agent in the States instead of wasting my time Googling ‘best hotels in Sri Lanka.’ Or deciding on a plane ticket instead of a 10 hour overnight bus.

I have over another week more here being pampered and cared for. The only thing preventing that is me taking care of myself. I feel I’m on the right track.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑