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November 16, 2018

EVERYTHING THAT I EXPECTED, NOTHING THAT I EXPECTED

When I traveled to Thailand, I had expected to stay at the Lamai Muay Thai Camp and train daily. I did that. I expected the become physically stronger. I did. And I expected to meet good people. Another check mark.

On the basic levels, my month-long stay in Thailand went exactly as I expected. But as I reflect back on my time there, I realize very quickly that nothing went the way I’d expected.

I’d expected to return to my normal, hormone-balanced weight…nope, didn’t happen. (But it eventually will haha) I’d expected the weather to be cool…it was unbelievably hot (100 degrees in Oct/Nov!).  I’d expected that I wouldn’t get anything done…I somehow wrote three books in one week! I thought I’d meet new friends…but the new friends I met actually became new family.

Transformational Reiki

Also during my visit, I received a Reiki session from my new friend-turned-sister that completely rocked my world. I’ll be honest, I was completely skeptical of Reiki…I didn’t think gliding your hands above someone’s body could really do anything. But because I vibed with my sister Sheila, I wanted to support her. She explained that the process was all about energy flow and healing, similar to acupuncture–without the needles haha! I rolled with it all, without expectation.

As I think back on the session (Oct 28th, a special day for me because of my Heavenly Grams), I’m still amazed. When her hands were on my head, my thoughts went very quickly from useless (“did I remember to turn off my cell phone ringer?”) to transformational (visualization of myself as a being of light, moving into the galaxy). Everything was so real and it became like a waking dream. I saw Mooji laughing and encouraging me to drop my small self and merge with everything. It was a spiritual call for transcendence…and I witnessed myself resisting the call, instead choosing to stay in my small self to spread light, and potentially make new light. It was surreal.

As Sheila continued the Reiki, I felt other sensations…like feeling my heart race, as she moved her hands over my heart (omg!), and I had other scattered thoughts as different parts of my pysche were activated. But I kept returning to the universal vision and experience of that level of freedom. I experienced moments of light-headedness, but Sheila always seemed to know when to pull back to alleviate those feelings.

When we were done, I think I called her a magician haha I was floored by the experience, but to my surprise, so was she! During our talk, she expressed to me the crazy activity she felt in my mind (she said it felt magnetic), and she told me she wasn’t surprised about the deep thoughts I was having. She told me that she felt my heart was working overtime, but that there was some conflict.

In my solar plexus, my sense of self was rock solid…almost as it was pushing her away! She felt my independence and strength there, and helped to make a bridge between my self and my heart. Messages of “freedom” came through to her…and, most unbelievably (and believably), Sheila told me that one of my Native American ancestors joined that session and told her that “she is me.” By this point I’m floored, and in tears, as Sheila told me of her experience with this ancestor who cradled me and participated in the healing. She apparently told Sheila about how some of my dislikes and likes were hers. Even now, my heart races a bit thinking of it.

It was a magical experience, and nothing that I expected.

Even now, I don’t know what it all means…but on some level, I know that I’m not supposed to understand. I think I’m simply meant to have appreciation for the experience and an understanding that there are so many forces greater than us…that are a part of us…that we may never understand.

I was reminded that often times we go into situations with clear expectations about what the experience will be…and we are proven wrong.

I remain so thankful for the experience that I had in Lamai…and for the lifelong bonds that were created. I was transformed in ways that I never thought I would be…and those changes always carry unexpected ripples into the future. Here’s hoping that those ripples are as beautiful as this memory.

Namaste.

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image source: by mmpninja

Thanks, Sheila <3 + xo ;)

Phoenix
November 16, 2018

PHOENIX

While I was in Samui (Thailand), a friend mentioned a former Buddhist monk that he’d visited with…and later received a Sak Yant (sakyan) tattoo (made by using a bamboo rod with a needle tip that is tapped into the skin, and later filled in with ink). My friend mentioned that he’d received insightful wisdom from the former monk, and though I was not interested in getting a tattoo, I decided that I wanted to meet him. So, the next day, I did!

The Visit

Before meeting this monk, I thought of my other monk-friend…Dr Wu! For years, Dr Wu (a former Taoist monk) gave me wonderful acupuncture (ironically, needles) treatments in LA, and taught me Qi Gong and a little Tai Chi. We had deep conversations, and Dr Wu always provided me with insightful observations. I never took his word as law, but I had respect for his insights…and I have been inspired by some of the wisdom he has shared.

In short, my expectations for meeting the monk in Thailand were fairly high.

When I arrived at the monk’s house in Samui (on Oct 31st), a student of his (a woman) immediately began to ask me what I wished for (weird) and gave me a book with photographs of tattoos the monk had done before. I informed her that I was just there to talk, but she continued telling me about the magic of the tattoos and how it could change my life. It quickly began to feel like a sales pitch. Still, I listened patiently, and then she began asking me about my wishes again, as she wanted to tell her teacher (he was still in one of the back rooms). I told her I didn’t know and she peppered me with more questions, “Do you want good luck? Or more love? Or money?” I replied, “Obviously, none of those things would be bad, but I’m just here to talk.”

She nodded her head, seemingly resigned to the fact that I was going to be a tough case (not my intention!), and walked away to get her teacher. By this time, I’m feeling skeptical. But I still tried to maintain an open mind–maybe the student was not an accurate reflection of the teacher?

When the monk came in, it was easy to notice his kind smile, and he had a certain sparkle in his eyes. Maybe this would be good, after all. He asked me to write down my birthday (day and month), and then he took out a small book.

While he was reading, the woman asked me what I did for a living (“these days, a writer,” I said) and the monk nodded as he read. In English he said, “Many thoughts…many ideas. You can be very calm, but sometimes not,” he added with a mischievous grin. I just sat there, trying to simply nod at these general words. haha

Then he continued, “Four elements. Balance key. Step by step, day by day. Sakyan good for you. Improve luck, improve balance, improve life.”

I tried to maintain a neutral expression…I’m not sure if I succeeded. I felt like what I was hearing was so general that it could be applied to anyone. Then the woman spoke up and asked again, “What do you want?” I answered on impulse, “Freedom.”

She nodded and said, “Teacher said, you are like a bird.” (The monk had not said anything haha) But then, the monk began speaking again, “You are very strong…have a lot of fire.” Finally, I could agree with them on some things haha

He continued, “Life is good and bad.” (Losing me again haha) I nodded. The woman chimed in and said, “Yes, bad things in the world. Need protection. Sakyan good for you.” (I kind of checked out then) 

In an attempt to remain engaged and be polite, I asked him what tattoo he would recommend for me. He grabbed his book and said, “Many people come to get a tiger…but no, no…you don’t need that! For you, this.” He pointed to the picture of the phoenix (pictured above), and that finally gave me something to think about–I have always felt connected to the mythological character of the phoenix.

I asked to take a picture of the image, and he nodded. I told him I’d think about the tattoo, but we both knew I’d already reached a decision haha The woman started talking again, though, and explained how the tattoo came with a meditation and ceremony and would likely take four hours to complete. She prattled on about the prayers the monk would infuse into each tap, and the way the tattoo would protect me from everything. I kid you not, as she continued talking, the monk lit a cigarette and began smoking…right then and there! I wanted to laugh! But instead, I thanked them and started making my way to the door haha

I left shortly after. (And no, I did not go back for the tattoo.)

Reflections

First, I think it’s important to say that my visit was meant to be the way it was for me. This re-telling of my experience was not meant to discredit the sacred art of sakyan, or the monk I visited. I’ve talked to people who found their visit with this monk, and their tattoos from this monk, to be transformational…and I believe them!

While I was not inspired to get a tattoo, I found that the visit gave me some things to think about, especially relating to birds. (Ironically, when I left the monk, the first thing I saw was a group of roosters walking around–pictured below.)

When I think of birds, these are simply facts: When Dr Wu read my chi, he told me that my original spirit was a bird…a stork. My constant travel could easily be compared to a bird. And I’m allergic to cats (it’s true! haha). I’ve always loved the phoenix.

The phoenix is the mythological symbol of rebirth. As legend goes, the phoenix dies, typically by fire, and is reborn in its own ashes. It represents the idea that the end is only a beginning (something I firmly believe). The magical phoenix has its origins in both Greek and Egyptian mythology…and it is typically depicted in red/orange/purple colors because of its connection to the sun and fire, and royalty.

All of this resonates with me.

Even now, the tips of my hair have become reddish in color–from the sun–and I think that it looks as if it has been licked by flames. I feel a transformation happening, and I know that I am on the cusp of another rebirth. As with the phoenix, it is both magical and a bit terrifying haha But it’s a feeling I’ve felt before, and I know that it will be good.

I did not feel the urge to get prayers tapped into my skin by a bamboo-rod needle, but I do feel prayers laced into the fabric of my being. I read once that your grandmother’s prayers are still protecting you and I feel that to be true in my spirit. I am thankful for this divine protection…I am thankful for the experiences that would not have been available to my ancestors (historically, these monks were not permitted to meet with women; and our technology has made the world small, as travel has become easier)…and I rest in the moment of now, imagining higher states of beauty. And transcendence.

Namaste.

 

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Koh Samui
October 8, 2018

NOMAD

I’m writing this post from Thailand…at the Lamai Beach Muay Thai camp in Koh Samui. It is one of my favorite places to unwind and focus on physical well-being.

I’d been trying to keep up with all of my travels and impressions on this site, but after a few months—and twice as many cities—I have some catching up to do haha Hopefully I will get to that eventually, but, for now, I am reflecting on the nomadic life that I’ve had the great fortune to be living.

It is a great privilege to be able to travel the world so freely, and I am constantly humbled by the opportunities I’ve had to do so. I’ve learned that travel never really makes sense financially, but the gift of following your intuition and going on that adventure is a thrill beyond compare.

Though there are many places in the world left for me to see, I find that I am drawn back to places that have made strong impressions on me. This Muay Thai camp is a great example…I think of it when I feel that I am on the cusp of something new. It is almost like the physicality of the training helps me to focus and dig a little deeper. I am so grateful to be back here again!

As I’ve started in on my training, I’ve been reminded of another thing—I was more fit the last time I was here! Haha! Perhaps I have more muscle now, but I was more lean before so the kicks came easier. But despite that, I still train. I know that I will get better.

I share this because I think we all have a tendency to make arbitrary markers to determine when we should start something. We will do this when we get more fit…or that when we gain a little more information.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that it’s best to start where you are, use what you have, and learn as you go. Perceived failure is often the better teacher, even though the cost can be in the form of great discomfort.

So…wear that bikini! (Haha!) Invest a little in something you don’t fully understand! And plan that trip that’s been living in the back of your mind. I believe that life rewards the adventurous spirits, if only because we have the faith to believe in life. In the words of Mooji, Life takes care of life.

Namaste and love.

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July 31, 2018

REDONDO

As I write this post, I’m looking out onto Redondo Beach and feeling at home again. The ocean breeze, blue waters, and muted sun that is so familiar to me from my years living here are all so welcoming after being away for a year.

I am so thankful and fortunate that I’m getting closer to “normal” after the whirlwind travel I’ve had over the past months. The experience in Monte Sahaja, and some allergies I experienced in Boston (from my dear friend’s cats!) are all behind me and I’m thankful. Now that I’ve had the chance to eat all of my favorite foods that I could get on the island, I’m more motivated to regain my fitness haha After finding a great new gym, I feel that I’m on the right track ;)

But the best part of Cali has always been the people! So great to be back among my tribe and grateful to be surrounded by the love of friends and chosen family :) My nephew constantly gives me new life!

As I think back on all of my travels and the nomadic life I’ve lead for the past few years, I’m simply thankful. That I’ve been able to (safely) travel so freely around the world is an enormous blessing and I’m so grateful. Though I feel like the same person, I know that I am not. My view on life has been expanded and all I endeavor to do now is to have more faith. I know that I have a tendency to try to create my own reality…but I’ve come to learn that reality always creates itself. All I have to focus on is allowing myself to be open and continue to participate in the unfolding…knowing that everything is going to be alright.

Namaste.

 

Photo: Redondo Beach from my mobile phone.

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July 31, 2018

BOSTON

Soooo, while in Lisbon, I decided to travel to Boston to surprise my niece for her 17th birthday! She was at Harvard this summer to take classes (yes, she’s brilliant!) and my sister/brother-in-law traveled down to kindly take her and some of her friends to dinner. Under the rouse of arranging dessert for the dinner, I was able to get the details of the time and location from my unsuspecting sister haha Showing up at the dinner with my niece’s favorite dessert was such a happy moment! I am so glad that I was able to pull it off!! :)

Beyond the surprise, I’m fortunate to have great friends in Boston…and I was lucky enough to make some new ones! It was a fun, though brief, visit…and only strengthened my ideas about returning to America. Good friends and fun can do that! ;)

 

Photo: Exiting the train at Harvard station as I went to find an Italian bakery for my niece’s birthday surprise! <3 #July12

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July 31, 2018

AZORES

Before traveling back to the USA, I stopped over for a couple of days in the Azores Islands…on the island of Terceira.

It was a beautiful place, with lovely landscapes and a very small town feel. The island was neat and clean with the cutest houses! It was all very quaint…and the owners of the bed/breakfast quinta that I was staying at even kindly picked me up from the airport! The flight arrived two hours late and all of the restaurants were closed by then, but they took me to a food truck for dinner and it was great! It was a lovely welcome.

The quinta (the term used for the large house on a farm) was lovely and I took an early morning walk to see the area (the photo was taken looking out from the quinta).

I enjoyed my brief stay on the island and I’m thankful for the quiet, peaceful moments experienced between traveling from one large city (Lisbon) to another (Boston).

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July 31, 2018

MONTE SAHAJA

After spending almost a month back on my island, I traveled to Portugal (mid-June) to attend an advanced spiritual retreat with Zen Master Mooji.

I met Mooji for the first time in 2017 and was transformed by his teachings. His direct and accessible style, his sense of humor, his pointings and his PRESENCE were life altering. When the opportunity to attend this retreat came up, I hesitated at first but then decided to join the lottery. My hesitation was partially based on the “silent” aspect of the retreat. After spending almost eight months in a near-monastery state on my island, I was actually looking forward to human interaction haha!

However, once I was informed that I was selected in the lottery, I decided I must go. And so I went to his ashram (called Monte Sahaja) in the Alentejo region of Portugal (pictured).

The area was incredibly beautiful and the ashram is awesomely peaceful. The energy there is great and it is a special place in the world to get away from everything, including yourself ;)

I went to the retreat with a specific question…I wanted to know what place in the world I should go to next. What awesome freedom to even be able to ask this question! While I have enjoyed so much peace and freedom from being in Santo Antao, I always had an idea that I was not meant to stay there on a full time basis forever (especially considering my frequent travels). However, during the time that I was working on my second and third books, I couldn’t have been in a more perfect place!

But still, with that question in mind, I went to Monte Sahaja. After landing in Lisbon and staying in that area for a few days, I traveled by train to Alentejo. Even from the train, I could feel the temperatures climbing. Added to that, it was a very sunny day. But I was so excited to visit Mooji and attend the retreat that I did not focus on this. However, my subconscious did register some alarm.

After arriving at the retreat, I was taken to my luxury accommodations (a single person hut with a bed, shelf, window, and small trash can haha) and settled in. It was in the afternoon and almost 100 degrees outside and a headache started to build. Unfortunately there was no air conditioning…or even a fan…in the hut.

The first day included a welcome session to familiarize all in attendance (from all over the world!) with the area and scheduling. And then Mooji came to welcome us, which was lovely. His smile and warm presence was transformative as ever, but still I realized my clothes were sticking to my body as we all left haha

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On the first day, the day-time temperatures climbed to over 100 degrees! I began feeling intense headaches and went to see the doctor on duty at the ashram. My vitals were good, but he recommended that I start taking ibuprofen three times a day to ease the painful symptoms. I don’t love taking medicine, but I followed his advice.

By the second day, I had the headaches plus the inside of my mouth felt inflamed and it hurt to eat food (a healer later told me that it was probably the heavy grain-based diet on the ashram that caused inflammation…I don’t normally eat grains). I went back to the doctor and asked if he had hydrogen peroxide for me to gargle lol. I was desperate and that seemed like a good idea. The doctor was kind and just recommended I wait it out. However, an hour later, I think he saw me struggling to eat in the dining area and he kindly brought me a bottle of hydrogen peroxide haha! It was a silent retreat, so I mouthed “thank you! to him haha I gargled, but it didn’t help much.

The night of the second day was hot and there was zero breeze in my hut. I felt myself going a little mad and sneaked a late night phone call to my sister (I know, I know haha). Wise, Iris advised that I leave haha Stubborn, I insisted on staying another day. I didn’t want to run away but I was feeling pretty awful. Iris’ point was that I might not be able to fully participate due to my discomfort, and she was right. After the third day, I realized it was time to go, and so I did.

Fortunately, I have dear friends in Portugal and I was able to rest and recover at their lovely home. The weather was thirty degrees cooler and I had access to great food and an awesome gym. The road to recovery was smooth at first, but then symptoms started to return and I decided to see a doctor. After many tests (and expense), they (fortunately!) did not find that anything was wrong. And, honestly, all I could think about at that time was getting back to America. I wanted to be in a familiar place with a culture, language, and medical system that I understood. And that was when I realized that my question was answered…I felt a pull to move back to America to live on a full-time basis again.

The experience reminded me that the answers to the questions we seek will often come to us in unexpected ways. Instead of worrying ourselves through problems, it is better to understand the guidance that the experiences are giving us. Though I did not have the opportunity to attend all of Mooji’s sessions, and though I fell ill, I am thankful for the experience. It gave me what I needed.

Namaste.

 

Photo: The view of the mountainside, just leaving Monte Sahaja in a taxi. Just before this photo was taken, I had a lovely conversation with a sweet woman and six year resident of the ashram named Amala. She came to speak with me about my early departure and make sure that everything was okay. Talking to her was one of the highlights of the visit…and I also realized that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I’d stayed at the silent retreat. That experience, too, was a gift.

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July 29, 2018

BACK TO PONTA DO SOL

After a full trip to Praia, Senegal, and The Gambia, returning to my island was so beautiful! Though I was challenged again with food options, it was such a restful and beautiful time.

I’m so thankful to have found the beautiful city of Ponta do Sol…and I’ll forever be thankful to the beautiful people of the city (and the island!) for adopting me! It’s another place in the world that feels like home…and it’s great to have a home base there. What a blessing it is to know that there is a beautiful and peaceful place in the world…off the grid from everything else…that I can also call home!

 

 

Picture: The shared ride van I took from Porto Novo (port city with ferry) back to my city of Ponta do Sol.

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July 29, 2018

THE GAMBIA

Similar to “The Bahamas,” I learned that Gambia is, in fact, correctly called “The Gambia.” It is a tiny sliver of a country that’s actually within Senegal geographically. While Senegal was colonized by France, The Gambia was colonized by Britain. As a result, the language there is English. However, the natives communicated in a version of Wolof that was actually different from the Senegalese version of the language.

Fortunately, Joli had friends who made the drive from The Gambia to Senegal to pick us up and show us around! They helped to smooth over every aspect of our visit and that was really lovely.

What I most remember about the journey to the Gambia was first that it took seven hours (we originally thought it would be 3). The car was without air conditioning…which was fine for the cooler areas. But when we hit warm, dusty patches of the drive, I was challenged haha Still, it was interesting to see the landscape and have a peak into the lives of some of the smaller, more rural, towns of Senegal.

Once in The Gambia, all I could think about was showing and getting a massage haha After learning that the hotel across the street from our original hotel had a spa, I was on a bit of a mission to transfer haha! Fortunately, Joli was on board with the move! What followed was a relaxing day for me on the beautiful hotel grounds…with lots of time spent at the spa! The massage was also great. Though our friends were lovely, and kindly took us around the city, the downtime and massage were what I really needed. Since we were only in The Gambia for a day, we also decided to fly back to Senegal haha! I think the journey is best told in pictures, so I’ll share some below ;)

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We had another night in Senegal before we left (the party night), and finished the trip with flair! Definitely a trip for the books! Special thanks to my bela Joli for letting me tag along and for putting up with my high maintenance requests haha! Every night, we laughed our way to tears as we recounted the adventures and wondered how in the world two America women like us who appreciate comfort and nice things ended up living in Africa of all places! haha! Many parts of developing countries do not have the “creature comforts”that we’re used to in the Western world, but the charm, beauty, and simplicity makes up for a lot of what one might feel is missing.

Traveling to mainland Africa was an experience…and it definitely made me appreciate my beautiful little island of Santo Antao even more! The beauty, peace, and simplicity of the island definitely fits my chill vibe. But, perhaps since I am a Gemini, I do appreciate the upbeat city life from time to time as well ;)

 

Main photo: Walking down to the beach from the spa at the resort in The Gambia (Coco Ocean Resort and Spa).

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July 29, 2018

SOUTHERN SENEGAL

After several busy days in Senegal, Joli and I stayed for one night at a resort in Somone, Senegal. It was a beautiful town and reminded me of the beauty of Africa that so often does not get captured by the media. There are endless beaches and beautiful nature throughout the continent!

Somone is also known for its fruit, so we enjoyed that! I especially remember how good the watermelon was! :)

Though our stay at the resort was short, it was nice to have a little down time in a beautiful and restful place before our journey to The Gambia. Had we known how long that journey was going to take, we might have stayed at this resort haha!

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