• Don’t look for the fruits.

    Don’t look for the fruits.

    I have been reminded by many people here in India, “we don’t look for the fruits.” I have been sitting with this and watching it play out. 

    This is a teaching from The Bhagavad Gita and so I think what they are telling me is they don’t make the results of their action the motive to do the action.  Shouldn’t we all practice doing/giving/working/etc without expecting a reward? We think we can influence and create a desired outcome, but isn’t it true we often have very little control over the outcome of situations? Why can’t we  choose to do something without expecting something in return? Well, it’s hard to do that all the time, right? There’s the ego saying, “I want to be acknowledged for the good deeds I am doing” which is pretty common among us human beings. Maybe we think occasionally, “I want this so maybe if I do this then I can get that.”

    We have meet so many people just by chance (see David’s great blog about one such experience), just walking around, sitting somewhere, someone knows someone else that they introduce us to. When we take a moment to engage and visit it seems there is always some amazing experience that comes from it. We get invited to someone’s home, to a wedding, to a factory, to a school, to a yoga class, to a havan (fire ceremony), to a meditation event, and on and on. I find this particularly common in India. The people are so incredibly generous, friendly, happy, and so welcoming. 

    I am seeing examples of how “we don’t look for the fruits” again and again with every interaction and chance meeting we encounter. People offer us so many things from a place that is not expecting anything in return, at least it appears to me that way. Now, I am not trying to see India and all her citizens through only rose colored glasses. Nothing is perfect and everyone is a human being with human flaws at times….or maybe because of this everything is perfect? Is the glass half empty or half full? It’s always the question I ask myself…is it just me and my limited influenced perspective or is it so? Well, I think it’s a bit of both! 

    But now back to we don’t look for the fruits….here are some examples of just a few of the incredibly generous, friendly, happy, and welcoming people in India we have been fortunate to meet, spend time with, and get to know. We consider them all friends and family now! Okay, maybe we can’t live every second carrying out this teaching from the Bhavagad Gita, don’t look for the fruits in our actions, but maybe we can practice it more often and as much as possible. 

    We’re with Manoj and Atisha in their home in Bombay
    David with the Swamis in Vapi

    With Manoj and Hrishab in their home in Rishikesh
    David with Jagmohan (from Flavors) in a vikram
    With the Ayuskama Ayur Yoga group
    Met Swati in our neighborhood – we’re in her home here
    At the Gurukul in Vapi
    Cooking with Shalu
    With Jayshree, Ami, Maniti, Krisha, and more family
    David and Babubhai
  • What an Inspiration!

    What an Inspiration!

    What inspires you?

    Mr. Hartanto Gunawan is the meditation teacher at Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand. He’s a former CEO, a former Buddhist monk, who now serves as the head of the Community Learning Center there. The center’s mission is (from their website):

    • To help orphans, poor and disadvantaged children & youths receive equal opportunity in education      

    • To prevent children and youths from being trafficked and abused  

    • To help those youths to receive proper employment upon finishing their study and training with us

    • To provide scholarships as an option to continue their higher education in Bachelor Degree

    • To teach and train children & youths in right and good morality, ethics, discipline and self-development through the mind in order to be good citizens in the society

    • To maintain and promote Thai culture and tradition.

    David wrote a great blog post about him and his programs in 2018 during our first trip to Bangkok and our fortunate meeting of this inspiring man. And David recently wrote another great piece about our meeting with him this trip and his new year’s resolution.

    I’ve been thinking about inspiration. What is it about someone that makes them inspiring? Is it how they act, what they do, what they say? There are people you meet that are inspiring and truly fill you with energy and motivate you. It seems to me that inspiring people are focused on others and less on themselves. They are not doing what they do for their own ego. They make you feel good about yourself. They are happy and positive, in tune with and maintaining their own emotional health. They are passionate, dedicated, and believe in what they are doing. They are thoughtful and honest. They share their own struggles, obstacles, and practice.

    All of this, in my opinion, describes Mr. Hartanto Gunawan. David and I are inspired by him. We are motivated to help support his Community Learning Canter, helping orphans, poor and needy children/youth and preventing them from abuse and human trafficking through quality education. While we sat with him and discussed his work and programs, he said something that has stayed with me as an image. He shared why he felt it was important for these girls to learn and train to be nursing assistants. There are numerous options he could have chosen for training like maybe hospitality. But he said there is a certain level of respect that is present when the girls put on the nursing uniform. If they were cleaning a hotel room, for example, they may still get remarks and dangerous comments that could put them in danger of physical exploitation. But with the nurses uniform there is an awareness and respect that is an important part of what is he providing these girls. No matter what your societal or economic level is, most people respect and listen to what the medical professionals in uniforms say. He has considered the immediate needs of these girls and then the long term needs and impact his program will have.

    When I contemplate a word I like to look it up in the dictionary and see how it’s defined there and the various ways it’s defined. The Oxford definition of inspiration is:

    • The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
    • A sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea.
    • The drawing in of breath; inhalation.

    I love the connection and reminder that inspiration is also inhalation! When we inhale we fill up and expand. Being with Mr. Hartanto Gunawan is like this inhale, this creative force, a full feeling, a feeling of expansion, a motivation to take care of the mind do good.

    He has created programs which, not only literally saves girls from human trafficking, but also instills self respect and self development. He travels far distances all over Thailand to talk with girls he hears maybe getting lured into, unknown to them, dangerous human trafficking situations. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation. As you might guess, young girls are the most common victims of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Preventing human trafficking is such an import action. Unfortunately it is on the rise and sex trafficking is one of the biggest criminal businesses in the world. Meeting these girls in person has motivated me to learn more about it and to find ways to prevent human trafficking, like supporting this specific program. He literally saves them and provides them with a means for an income. And just as important, he provides them with meditation training which helps to increase their confidence and understanding of their mind and perspectives.

    David and I are inspired to support his programs in ways we can, which right now include sharing what he does with others and providing some financial support. If you are looking for a good cause to donate to HERE IT IS! Thank you to everyone who has already made a donation since David’s blog post. We have raised over a $1000 and David and I have matched the donations with another $1000. We hope to be able to host Mr. Hartanto Gunawan in the USA, in NH, at Sharing Yoga at some point in the future so that he can share directly with others about his programs and meditation philosophy.

    What inspires you? Inspiration is all around if only we are open to it!

  • Island of the Gods

    Island of the Gods

    Bali, what a beautiful place. Known as the Island of the Gods or the Island of a Thousand Temples. Big friendly welcoming smiles, lush tropical vegetation, warm weather, incense smells floating in the air, little temples and offerings tucked away in unassuming spots, and an energy that calls you to slow down and relax.

    Pura Tanah Lot – Bali Sea Temple
    Rice fields share an area for vegetables and flowers – walking areas from our bungalow

    We had considered traveling to Bali during our year away but had heard it was too touristy and since we already had so many other places in mind we didn’t really pursue it. But during our travels and in the past year while home, we have meet numerous people who have traveled to Bali and said yes, it is touristy in some areas but it’s also beautiful and definitely worth a visit. We did some research on the internet and bought a guide book to find out more. Well, and here we are.

    Campuhan Ridge Walk
    Rice field walking path by our bungalow
    Walking path by our bungalow

    As I have learned more about Bali I have discovered it’s considered one of the spiritual energy vortex areas of the world. Some say that merely being in Bali can bring to the surface old patterns ready to be released. It’s an energetically charged place that is home to an active volcano, ancient and cultural traditions of meditation, prayer, and reverence.

    Pura Luhur Batukara
    Pura Tanah Lot – Bali Sea Temple

    There’s an easy living feeling here. Maybe it’s the warm, humid weather that demands a slowing down. Every day we hear the are sounds of roosters, birds, and geckos. And although it is hot and humid, there’s always a soft breeze. It’s hard to tell what’s a temple and what’s a home. Maybe it’s just my novice eyes for this culture but to me things seem to blend. There’s an architectural design with traditional homes that is said to be in alignment and “in harmony” with the universe. Everything has it’s specific placement and symbolism, which doesn’t seem so different to me than the temples. As we walk along I often wonder, is this a temple or someones home? And the best way I can tell is if there’s a sign that says “Pura” because that means Temple in Balinese. But, my mind has started to relax since first arriving and “trying to take it all in” and isn’t so intent on knowing if it’s a temple or a house – it just is what it is and it’s in harmony with the universe.

    Devotion and reverence is thick in the air. Canang sari is a daily household offering and you see them all over. They are square shaped palm or banana leaves pinned together with flowers, flower petals, cookies, crackers, oils, and other items inside and incense laying on top burning. A gesture to offer reverence to the gods and to ask the demons to stay away. We’ve seen them on the sidewalks in front of stores, houses, hotels, restaurants, and temples. It requires one to walk mindfully, paying attention so as to not step on them. As I understand it, it is a form of selfless offering and gratitude for the peace given to the world. And most everything in it is edible so that the offerings can also feed stray dogs, monkeys, birds, geckos, lizards, and other animals.

    Canang sari in front of a home
    Canang sari in a temple
    Canang sari on a walking path

    Bali should also be called the land of the fruit – so much fresh local fruit! We have been so fortunate that the family we are renting from bring us fresh fruit almost every morning. We have eaten tons of dragonfruit, papaya, pineapple, bananas, mangos, and passionfruit. The food overall is delicious and although we love having a kitchen to prepare and cook our own food we have enjoyed some local dishes like gado-gado and nasi goreng.

    Coconuts, a popular drink, just stick a bamboo straw in
    Morning market – a little but of everything
    Morning market selections
    Morning market – if you don’t have time to make your own offerings

    We rented a motorbike from “our family” and ventured out into the countryside. What did we ever do before we had google maps?! Navigating from the backseat of the scooter with my phone helped us find our way when we otherwise would not have know a street from a driveway and which roads were dead-ends and which might actually lead us somewhere. It’s hard to tell what’s a street and what’s a driveway. Now, unlike the temples and house, we do often need to know which is a road or street and which is a driveway. ha! We would pick a destination to head to; a temple, a village known for it’s particular style of art, a cave, or rice fields and then enjoy the journey to get there. So much fun traveling by motorbike! The open air (we did have helmets on) and wind to help cool us a little but at a speed that was never very fast so we could take in all that was around us. And with motorbikes , when there is traffic, you can move around and snake through areas a little easier. David was a great pilot and followed the cues of the locals.

    The pilot of the motorbike!
    Views from the motorbike
    Views from the motorbike. Gunung Batur, an active volcano, and a lake in the caldera

    We spend a good deal of our time doing yoga, being students and attending classes at a great yoga studio only about a minute walk from where we are staying, and also filming classes at our bungalow. We walk and explore new paths and trails every day in our neighborhood village mostly walking among the rice fields, visiting artists shops, and checking out the markets and grocery stores. We are surprised how much we love Bali. It really has pretty much the best mix of everything for us – warm weather, nature and also good wifi, yoga, meditation, and spirituality and also good shopping, coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants, interesting culture and friendly people with big genuine smiles, and affordable – meaning the US dollar goes far here. And last but certainly not least, there are Ganesh statues everywhere I look! That’s always a good sign to me. I don’t think this will be our last time visiting Bali, the Island of the Gods.

    Intuitive Flow Yoga – our Bali yoga studio home away from home
    Part of our Bali family – Wayan, Wayan, and David

  • And We’re Off Again!

    And We’re Off Again!

     

    So, we’re off on another adventure. Three winter months abroad, spending the time on the continent of Asia again. We’re nearly a month into this trip already. We have been to Dubai, India, and are currently in Thailand.

    It feels like chapters are missing since my last blog, nearly 11 months ago. I haven’t been able to sit to write because, well I’m not sure exactly but, I think because it feels overwhelming to start. But, here I am….a reminder to myself that just like everything I enjoy or want to do…I just need to sit and start. What might not feel easy or comfortable at first slowly becomes familiar and even enjoyable. Seconds turn into minutes and the flow is happening. There’s a feeling that comes when I take time to write and process, maybe I could describe it as pleasant, content, open, relaxed, almost serene like. I think it’s one of the best ways for me to digest my experiences and emotions and it’s definitely a practice of mindfulness.

    I’m sure that happens to all of us. You really want to do something but somehow the transition to actually do it feels overwhelming or insurmountable or just too much. I don’t have time, not good at it, don’t feel like, it doesn’t really matter….there are various excuses the mind comes up with. Once you start though, oh that familiar feeling, the easeful peaceful feeling or is it the “peaceful easy feeling”. Wink, wink, is this what the Eagles were talking about?

    While working on these blogs posts, sometimes I like to take in the local sounds, it may be loud noises overloading the senses or sometimes it’s natural soft sounds of nature gently teasing my sense of hearing. Sometimes, like today, I put my earbuds in and listen to a yoga mix I made. A familiar sound to relax the mind and bring a smile to my face. And to drown out the sound of the washing machines and the kids music playing overhead, currently it’s The Farmer in the Dell song. Thinking of you Mom!

    So maybe I will go back to those missing chapters and write what the past year has been like. I’ll call it the second year without heels. How I settled back into life, a different experience from my work prior to travel and a different experience from the year of travel. But, to get started I need to ease into writing again. So this short blog is just priming the pump, I hope! 

    We spent 3 nights in Dubai, reportedly the 4th most visited city in the world. Most of the population of Dubai is not from Dubai. People move there from all over to work and live there. Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 163 floors, almost 830 meters tall. And the world’s largest choreographed fountain show, Dubai Fountain, is right there. That was incredible. The water and lights move and dance so beautifully to music. It’s really pretty amazing and stunning to see.

    We spend almost 3 weeks in India – Bombay (Mumbai) and Vapi (about 2 hours north).  There’s lots to process and share from those incredible experiences. More to come.

  • Reflecting on our Year

    Reflecting on our Year

    This is a blog post I have been putting off.  I started it while we were still away.  I’ve looked at it and thought about it numerous times over the last few months since we’ve been home.  Something in me just didn’t want to complete it.  After spending some time reflecting on this I realized I was subconsciously not wanting to end my year without heels.  I have so much to say about what I have learned that I can’t figure out how to say it.  If I publish this post does that mean I’m done with my year without heels?  If I publish this post does that mean I am done writing and reflecting on my experiences living, learning, traveling, and exploring?

    We’ve been back for over 3 months now.  I am still reflecting on what an incredible year I had, full of rich learning and exploration, lots of time for introspection and practice.  I am still integrating and processing this experience.  When regular routines are disrupted it offers different perspectives and time for reflection and contemplation.  Through this adventure I learned about the true power of the present moment.

    I learned about love, kindness, and compassion. I learned about humanity and humility. I learned about the value of friendship, family, connection, community, and support from others.  The experience for us as a couple was just beyond words.  I learned more about David, myself, us, about life, exploring what it means to be content and happy.  How important it is to continue to grow and to be more comfortable with myself.  Exploring the inner self.

    There were endless surprises and we had no choice but to constantly adapt.  Long term traveling has its fair share of challenges.  With each challenge we learn, we grow, we become more patient, we soften, and we strengthen.  Like our flight we couldn’t board to Ecuador because we didn’t have the yellow fever shot, the taxi that wouldn’t bring us to our hotel the first night in Delhi, the flight we thought we scheduled from Rishikesh to Delhi but apparently never went through and we did’t realize until we tried to check in on line the day prior, food poisoning, infections, feeling sick, all of these experiences helping me to soften, strengthen, and building resilience.  Delays, wrong ways, loud noises day and night, these things can help you to be more adaptable.  I think we might be a little more flexible in the mind and gained even more skill to “go with the flow”.

    I experienced deeper trust through vulnerability and taking risks. There were many times when we were dependent on others because we couldn’t speak the language or we didn’t know where we were. We had to rely on others.  We said yes as much as we could, taking risks, like to offers to eat at someones home or opportunities to join with locals.   We didn’t have the ability to be choosy or picky at times.  Sometimes you just get what’s available.

    Constantly seeing people who share joy, smiles, and offer nearly anything they own selflessly to you – it’s so humbling.  It appears they have so little materially but I quickly became aware of how much people can have inside.  These moments and interactions will stay with me.

    I learned to see and think in different ways, practicing and feeling what Ram Dass says, “We don’t necessarily see things as they are we see them as we are.” We all have cultural norms.  Sometimes we don’t question things that we learn from a young age, you just grow up around these cultural norms not realizing that’s what they are.  How you are raised and your culture makes things seem normal and potentially the right way or the only way.  What and how we eat, what we wear, how we think, and what we choose to see.  What is outside of our perception? Having to think in different ways opened me up to greater flexibility and creativity.

    I am looking forward to continued learning and growth.  I really like the idea of more “slow walks and frequent talks” here in NH but….. that might be more enjoyable come spring.  I have already noticed a different lens from which I can choose to see and experience life here at home.  I have a finer appreciation for the small things.  I am noticing things that I might not have previously.  The brief interactions with strangers – who knew the T in Boston was full of friendly helpful strangers with beautiful smiles?!

    I have so much more to say about what I have learned or unlearned.  If I publish this post does that mean I’m done with my year without heels?  NOPE! If I publish this post does that mean I am done writing and reflecting on my experiences living, learning, traveling, and exploring?  No way!  😉

  • Reflections on the words given to me……

    Reflections on the words given to me……

    As I am transitioning to being home, having spent nearly a year of separation (in miles but not in thoughts and love) from my “kick ass girlfriends,” I wanted to take some time to reflect on the words they gave me.  During our last group gathering, before I ventured off a year ago, I was presented with a word from each of them.  I considered the words a blessing, something to practice, something to cultivate, and like a wish from them that I deeply experience all that each word encompasses.

    The words were – love, rest, inspire, synesthesia, and curiosity.

    Love – it’s hard to even attempt to put into words my blessings with this.  I have felt love, offered love, seen love.  The kind of love that is simple and just is.  The people, the smiles, the eyes, the interactions, the animals, nature, the fireflies, the elephants, the cats, the ocean, the mountains, the jungle, the tea fields, the rice fields, the holy river Ganga.  Not just the kind of love sometimes associated with desire and pleasure, although there was plenty of that – food and really good chai come to mind.  And the experience of love for myself, that which is me, and that which connects all beings everywhere.

    Rest – oh what an amazing gift, real rest.  I have been able to rest my nervous system, rest the physical body, rest the mind.  I remember sleeping so much when we first left.  What a feeling to wake up in the morning when your body signals it’s time to wake, no alarm, just waking with the sun, and feeling rested.  Spending time noticing what helps me to relax and ways to strengthen the vegus nerve. Resting not just with sleep but slowing the pace down, meandering, eating better, mindful deep breathing, meditation, laughing, reading, moving the body more, more mindful moments.  Letting the body experience more “rest and digest” verses “fight or flight.”  Oh yes,…rest, relax, rest.

    Inspire – a year out of your home country, not working, and far away from any previous routines instantly inspires me!  ; )  Meeting people who own so very little material items and seeing the biggest smiles and feelings of joy is inspiring.  I have had countless interactions with people who have inspired me and I can only hope that I may have offered some inspiration to others.   We thought we were doing something unusual in my “yearwithoutheels” but come to find out there are lots of people traveling, living abroad, working, retired, exploring other counties outside of their country of citizenship.  I am even more then ever inspired to think what CAN we do rather than what can’t we do.  There are people all over the world helping others, animals, nature, you name it, helping selflessly.  Helping others because it’s what they do.  Being able to have small windows of opportunity to experience other cultures is inspiring.

    Synesthesia – being encouraged to experience everything through all my senses. Sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing.  Taking my experiences in on the level of all 5 senses, plus the unspoken 6th.  Right away, our first country and the county we spent the most time in, India, sets you up for this.  The sights are colorful and vibrant, the smells are strong at times, you can’t help but touching and being touched with crowds of people, the sounds (horns, traffic, people, chanting, silence) keep you in the present moment, and all of this at the same time with the taste of spices.  It’s a whole body, mind, and spirit experience.  Staying open to and practicing the integration, the process of combining, digesting, mixing together, and understanding. It was a gift to have the time and space to practice utilizing all the senses and then to integrate that experience for inner understanding.  Writing these blog posts has been another way which helped me to process, choose what to share and what not to share.  I enjoyed working with this concept, experiencing through all the senses and integrating my experiences.

    Curiosity – what a year of curiosity!  Languages, cultures, foods, people, transportation, architecture, coffee (never knew there were so many ways to make and serve coffee), landscapes, animals, infrastructure, and lack of infrastructure.  Getting curious about what makes people happy, what makes me happy.  Staying curious as to how to communicate when I don’t speak the local language, how to be sick and heal, how to spend 24/7 with your husband.  In each place we were curious and wanted to learn about the politics, the healthcare, education systems, the currency, country history, etc.  We were curious to learn where others travel to and why.  We would often ask locals “What do you think we should see or do here?”  So interesting to explore how food differs in each country and region. Markets and grocery stores in different countries had all kinds of fruits I never knew existed before.  I loved seeing, hearing, experiencing things that opened up my perspective.  From ancient ruins to modern metros there was always something to be in awe of.

    I am so grateful for these “kick ass girlfriends” and for the love and support we all share with one another.

    Thank you!

  • Quito

    Quito

    Did you know the word Ecuador means equator?!

    Quito, Ecuador – we spent one week here when we first arrived to Ecuador and then returned for a few more weeks after our time in Loja.

    Quito is located a few hours south of the equator at 2800 meters (9350 feet) above sea level.  That’s really high up.  I got a little altitude sickness, which is common, first day we arrived.  Nothing major, just a little headache, and then adjusted fine.  Quito has a population of  over 2.5 million.   The old city has been named a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. There are lots of beautiful main plazas, squares, balconies, red tiled roofs, colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and mountains in the view from most directions. The weather is like spring (in New England) all year round.

    We were able to practice our Spanish speaking.  David is a star with this!  One of Ecuador’s most famous exports is chocolate!  Of course we had to try some.  But, it doesn’t travel well in our backpacks so we won’t be arriving home with any.  Unfortunately, there’s big city pollution, mostly from the diesel city buses that are billowing black smoke every time they stop and start, which is frequently.

    We rode the Teleferico. This is the world’s second-highest cable car. In about a 10 minute ride, it brings you from downtown Quito at 9350 feet up to 4,000 meters (12,000 feet). From there we hiked higher, up Pichincha Volcano. In 1999, it covered the city in two inches of ash.

    We visited La Vírgen del Panecillo. It’s a large statue made of aluminum of a ‘winged’ Virgin Mary on a hill overlooking the city.

    We stayed in an apartment right across from Parque La Carolina and spent lots of time there. It is one of Quito’s most frequented parks. On weekends, thousands of locals go to have picnics, play sports, enjoy the skate park, BMX course, pedal boats, and to just relax on the grass in the shade of the tress.  We enjoyed yoga on the grass numerous times!

    We took Vegan traditional Ecuadorian cooking lessons.  We were so fortunate to find this as there is not a lot of vegetarian and vegan food.  We went 2 times and learned 4 soups.  So fun to learn how to use green plantains!

    We hiked in the Metropolitan Park, a huge park in the city with tons of hiking trails.  It’s 580 hectares (1433 acres)!  It’s said to be the main lungs of Quito.  It also has a piece of the Inca trail.

    Ecuador uses the US dollar as their currency.  That was not planned but an interesting experience as it’s our last country before we head back to the USA.  What an enjoyable couple months that allowed me to deepen my rest and sense of self care by actually slowing down even more….if that seems possible, connect more with nature, and start to process our anticipated transition back home.

  • Elevation in Ecuador

    Elevation in Ecuador

    Getting high in Ecuador!

    Less than an hour from Loja, taxi to get there and 50 cent bus ride to return, we hiked up to 11,154 feet and along a mountain ridge at Podocarps National Park.  It was a beautiful 5 hour hike and a bit challenging.  We were in the sun, the rain, and the clouds!

     

    We took an hour bus ride (only $1.25) to Vilcabamba, The Valley of Longevity, to explore the small town and surrounding trails. And, well, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for spiritual elevation!

    Back in Quito we traveled a couple hours each way by car to visit Cotopaxi National Park, with an active snow capped volcano.  It’s right up there on the list of the highest active volcanos in the world.  We took the switchback trail and hiked up to The Refugio at 15,960 ft. We were feeling some dizzying effects of the elevation.  Enjoyed a snack and took the straight down trail.  Making our way down through loose ash, sand, gravel mixture that filled our sneakers by the time we made it down.

     

  • Where Eucalyptus and Cala Lillies Grow Wild

    Where Eucalyptus and Cala Lillies Grow Wild

    We got in the taxi at the airport headed to Loja.  We started going up and up and up.  The taxi going around sharp curves climbing a mounting. Sometimes going pretty fast for a winding, narrow road up the mountain, passing other cars, trucks, buses when able or slowing significantly when stuck behind them.  As we climbed the landscape changed.  Moving into the countryside.  Views of small homes with chickens, cows, laundry hanging out to dry. At one point we had to stop in the road to let the cows slowly amble across the road. Views of mountains behind mountains behind mountains.  The clouds so puffy and alive against the blue sky.  I remember thinking, catch this moment.

    I was feeling slightly nauseous and tying not to let “that” overshadow “this”.  Nearing the end of our year long adventure I started to get a little lax during our week in Quito.  We are in South America, the closet to home we have been all year.  How bad could it be to brush my teeth with water from the faucet?  I was sampling lots of exotic local fruits, eating and trying local juices.  Well, now the day we are traveling to Loja my body is reminding me that we are in South America.  The same precautions we took extreme care to follow and stay mindful of in Asia should apply here as well.  Don’t drink the water, don’t brush your teeth with tap water, be careful about the water when eating out, ice cubes, juices that might have been made with tap water.  Water, what an incredibly important and precious commodity that I used to take for granted.   Not anymore, not after a year of bottled water and using a water purifier … all…the…..time. (And then there was the water use restrictions in Cape Town.)  Bad water can really make you sick.   After a week of feeling bad and then better and then really bad again, 2 rounds of antibiotics (which you can get from a pharmacist and don’t have to see a doctor), lots of rest, and super careful attention to food and water….finally, my body is properly functioning again.

    So back to that cab ride, I was trying to stay focused on the beauty and let the views distract what my physical body was doing to impact my emotional state.  We got to the top of the mountain, where we could see wind turbines, 11 of them that frame the mountain top.  Then we headed down the other side of the mountain, for the city of Loja.  Loja is know as the music and cultural capital of Ecuador.  It sits at an elevation of 2,060 meters (6,758 feet) with a population of about 181,000.  We made it to our airbnb apartment, were warmly welcomed by the host family, and settled in.

    From our balcony

    As I mentioned the first week was spent with full attention to the physical body, healing, and resting.  I really had no other choice.  It wasn’t until I was feeling better that we were able to really enjoy Loja.  Again, another reminder for me of how my experiences are shaped by so many factors and health often overshadowing it all.   We are saying on the southern edge of town, near a river with walking tails on both sides and in both directions.

    We can walk to the grocery store and into town along the river or can go in the other direction to more remote areas.  Even though this is a pretty sizable city there is abundant nature to explore.  Trials that  introduce you to various birds, cows, horses, dogs (tons of wild and pet dogs here), bamboo, gardens, and lots of other planets and flowers, particularly noticeable to me are the cala lilies and eucalyptus.  I don’t think I have ever seen them growing wild.  Often my sense of smell identifies them before my sense of sight.

    The trails also include people of all ages meandering or running for exercise.  Our walks include frequent brief exchanges; buenos días, buenas tardes, hola, cómo estás, bien y tú. A very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Where eucalyptus and cala lilies grow wild, a slow pace and a relaxed feeling.

     

     

     

  • Choosing How to Spend My Time

    Choosing How to Spend My Time

    Choosing how to spend time…..

    I don’t ever remember feeling like I had extra time at home.   It may have been self-imposed, but for many of us our jobs and careers take over and any extra time is spent growing and developing skills and knowledge in our chosen area.  I have many passions and my previous work in hospice was definitely one of them.  So, any extra time was spent connected to that – extra courses, reading, conferences, anything and everything related I sought it out and soaked it all in.  Over the course of this year I have had an opportunity to direct that time and energy other places.  (Okay, full disclosure….I am still reading hospice and healthcare articles….but not as much.)  I am spending more time on my yoga practice, Sanskrit, reading fiction and spiritual books, writing, exercising, cooking, and “games”.

    I have found that minutes can turn into hours before you know it.  I am learning and constantly practicing how to choose what and where I direct my energy rather than letting the unconscious mind lead me around.  Not letting the urge to check unread messages overtake me.  I am guessing this is a universal challenge and you don’t have to quit your job and travel for a year to recognize this!  I am working on stabilizing these patterns and habits, so when we return home, the more challenging practice of maintaining awareness of consciously choosing what and where I direct my energy then can be maintained.  What an adventure and learning experience I am having!

    David is teaching me chess. It’s kind of complicated and slow going.  Have not really gotten too far in that.

    An interesting “game” we have been playing is asking each other questions.  I shouldn’t really call it a game because for one, David hates games, and for two it’s more like a practice in listening.  It was all prompted by an article I read in Huffington Post.  It was 36 questions to ask your partner. It was thoughtful, deep, and pretty funny at times.  We actually learned some new things about one another. I encourage you to try it out with your partner or a friend.

    #8 was kind of fun: Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

    Here are our answers, which created a nice list.

    1. Interest in spiritual development
    2. Vegetarianism
    3. Love of travel
    4. Volunteering
    5. Love of music
    6. Nature

    So then that got us on a little practice to regularly ask and listen.  It seems simple and maybe boring to some, but for me it was just one more way to practice being present in the moment, truly listening, learning, and connecting.

    Working on my Sanskrit homework

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