Day 362 – happy hippies

Is is the Tibetan Prayer Flags that give it away? Or the attempted mud hut in the backyard overlooking the jungle? It could be the Alex Grey pictures that IMG_6184make so much sense to spiritually minded people. The Ganesha, Buddha and stone Aztec calendar all contribute to the vibe around the caravan but it is the word, LISTEN, painted on the tree that gets my attention the most. In the same way my excessive jewellery, tattoos and flowing clothing seem to mark me out, it is always a bit fun when someone who has never chanted with Hare Krishnas can turn around and blatantly label you as a hippy. To me, this is just how I am. This is how my friends are. Walking around barefoot makes more sense than high heels. Meditation groups make more sense than group sports. The hippy whose dwelling this was comes with me through the supermarket as we search for lentil burgers, discussing giving up fish as the final step toward becoming a true vegetarian. We both agree that cheese would be the hardest thing to give up. Because vegans are just intense, man. I guess if all this is what makes me a hippy, then I am a hippy. Light up the incense, pull up a djembe and sit on the bare dirt cos we are about to fry up some haloumi.

Day 361 – simply truth

I am guilty of overcomplicating certain matters. I know how easily I can turn a tiny thought into an enormous problem in my mind within seconds. Ever see me with that vague, far away look in my eye and it is pretty much already happening. I can let a seed of doubt grow a trunk and spread into branches and vines of mess in my mind until it feels like an overcrowded jungle with no space to let the light in. When we go to dinner and Mr “why/howcome/whatfor?” Six has more than enough questions to keep us answering for ages. What amazes me is how openly he can ask questions that adults would shy away from. But what is more amazing is how much the answers make more sense when they are simplified for him to understand. There is no fluff, no euphemism, no bullshit. Simple words, simple answers. Suddenly the jungle is cleared up and the light breaks in. Life and death are not so complicated. Some things just are the way that they are and peace is all about acceptance. In India, when I met Rupali, and told her that I didn’t smoke and refused a drink, she told me that she liked my simplicity. I guess I am a little more simple when I am travelling anyway, when everything I own fits into a duffel bag and when I can’t even say that I have a job. Well, I am on holidays now. I only have that duffel bag with me. I haven’t even bothered carrying around my handbag- which suddenly makes me realise how superfluous everything in it truly is. What a city thing, this handbag is, full of useless trinkets and objects that seem so essential to me in Sydney. And I don’t have a job anymore. I have decided not to go back. So here I am, back in my simplicity and there is a lot of light on the jungle floor.

Day 360 – boxing day

When I was a kid I always thought that boxing day was the day you had to pack all your new toys back into the box and not touch them, just to make sure you were really grateful for what you got for Christmas. It sounds like something an older sibling would put me up to, but I remember my mum just playing along with it, while I sat staring wistfully at my box of new toys. Eventually I would cave and beg mum to let me play with just ONE.

As I got a little bit older I was told that boxing day had something to do with boxing kangaroos. Today is the day they would meet up in the bush and have a boxing match.

Today I spend a few blissful minutes with Alfred Lord Tennyson, reading one of my favourite love poems, The Miller’s Daughter. I think if I create a new tradition for boxing day, it would be to read a poem in silence. That would tick a box for me.

 

A love-song I had somewhere read,

An echo from a measured strain,

Beat time to nothing in my head

From some odd corner of the brain.

It haunted me, the morning long,

With weary sameness in the rhymes,

The phantom of a silent song,

That went and came a thousand times.

A trifle, sweet! which true love spells

True love interprets right alone.

His light upon the letter dwells,

For all the spirit is his own.

So, if I waste words now, in truth

You must blame Love. His early rage

Had force to make me rhyme in youth

And makes me talk too much in age.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Miller’s Daughter

Day 359 – Christmas Day

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We hug and say Merry Christmas. We hug and say thank you for the gift. We hug and say hello. We hug and say I love you. But Christmas is all about the food, right? Prawns so big they are almost small lobsters. Champagne in coupes, reminiscent of prohibition times and oysters so creamy and delicious, I get sad when I swallow the last one too quickly. Two types of fruit mince pies- puff or short crust pastry. I better try both to see which one I prefer. Presents… I know that people can see exactly who I am when I unwrap a dreamcatcher, a book called 1001 Ways to Tranquility and a lotus notepad. Then we play put-put golf. Turns out I am better at beer pong. I feel like I am part of a new family this year.

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My favourite quote from my new tranquility book:

Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug

-Mark Knopfler

Day 358 – Christmas Eve, the family meditation

Traditionally, my family celebrate Christmas on this evening. We would wait until midnight to open the presents but since my brothers have small children now, we tend to do the present opening during the day. This year I am not with them, but I still call to wish them a merry Christmas. Both my brothers sound busy, though my eldest brother still manages to throw in a bit of a lecture about tattoos and not drinking too much. My mother tries to get upset about my plans to get a motorbike license and for once I am a little bit grateful not to be around them all today- it seems they are in the mood to have a dig. I know it comes from a place of love, but it is interesting to look at my journey and see that the things I have done that have worried them the most have also made me the happiest and ultimately, left them the proudest. Not that they will always agree with tattoos or riding motorbikes, but one thing I will always know is that if they see me following my bliss and finding happiness, then they are happy for me. My mum may worry when I travel to third world countries alone, or when I go camping in the snow, but she has always told me that my only job is to be happy, so I know that she will support me no matter how crazy my adventures get. I do miss them, even when they are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me. It is beautiful to spend time with another family, to feel the love they have for each other and be reminded of how much love I have felt from my own brothers and sisters. Meditating on family love, I realise that the first part of this year, I had to escape everything from my life in order to find bliss. I had to find myself. I had to be alone, to totally remove myself from the world, from my relationship, from my family and friends and strip back all the layers that had influenced me and hidden my true self. Now, knowing who I am, being comfortable enough with my true self to let it shine, I am ready to share my bliss. I am ready to find bliss with the people I love; and with one in particular. Now, finding bliss isn’t about escaping but immersing and experiencing.

Day 351 to Day 357 – the new path is carved

Day 351 – Judi

Just when I am ready to throw in the towel, when I don’t want to do this job anymore, when I have had more than enough… I meet Judi. She is in a retirement village; shocked at how quickly age caught up with her, but when she speaks, you can tell that her mind is still sharp as a tack. I stay longer than intended, listening to her stories of life and soaking up her sage advice as she tells me that I am charming and can succeed if I just finish my degree.

She tells me, “At age 18 I went to Paris with my bets friend and a map. I never for a moment thought I wouldn’t go. I had this indelible belief that I would be safe and that nothing bad would happen.”

I know this feeling so well. How many times this year have I made snap decisions and just believed so much in this crazy path that it led me to amazing places? How many times have I just opened my eyes and seen a sign that led me somewhere unknown? There were times I had no clue what I was doing and all I could trust was that the universe was leading me exactly where I was supposed to go. I have learnt to listen in to the whispering winds of change and act on little more than gut instinct. I have learnt to trust myself, to follow my own lead and to flow with the current of life.

When I stand up to leave, this beautiful woman who has loved and lost more than she can count, who never married or had children, but instead travelled the world and protected the young men in her care like her own, who in her 80’s refuses to be called a geriatric, grabs my wrist and stands stock still as she looks at my unicorn. I hold my breath, scared that my charms will be lost for my body art.

“I love it!” She tells me fiercely as she looks into my eyes with a cheeky smile. “Every woman needs a unicorn to chase away the dark thoughts.”

 

Day 352 – blue bottled

Today is my last day of work and how fortunate I am to have had a cancellation. It is hot and the ocean is bright turquoise. I race back for a quick costume change and I am in for a swim across Malabar. This is the greatest feeling in the world, my fingers passing through the cold water as I fall into rhythm. If I were the sun right now, staring down at this tiny moving figure, would I wonder why she does it? Or is it just known? No blue bottles in the whole beach but somehow I find the single figure that is tangled up amongst some seaweed. A piece of tentacle becomes stuck on my right middle finger and it takes a while for me to realise and pull it off. I have had enough of these to know that it is nothing. I get back home and as I change, I see myself turn pale. The pain is going up into my glands and I want to vomit. I have never had a reaction like this before. I just want to lie down. As I lie there, sleepily staring at the clock tick towards my next appointment, I think of the poor blue bottle that stung me. Usually they float around in a little group, washing into the beach, innocently bobbing around in virtual suspended animation. This little guy had been caught in some seaweed, isolated from his clan and taken far enough away that the two of us met and he blessed me with an afternoon off to rest. This may be painful but I am still grateful.

 

Day 353 – the constant gardener

Another tattoo. This has been my most active year under the inking needle. This time, I am getting a full garden piece down the back of my left calf and the outer side of my shin. The lily is already there, so it is getting coloured and connected by some green vines which curl around my ankles. The grapevines represent my work with wine, the sacred drink; the chilli is for my Mexican heritage; the lotus flower is a symbol for yoga; the bird of paradise is my mother’s favourite flower and the LIZard is me. I can’t believe it but I am nearly asleep as the tattooist colours my skin. It’s like as soon as I finished work, my body and mind has just switched off. Time to wind down. Four hours later, we have an outline of my garden and some scattered colour done. It looks amazing. Gardens are all about staying grounded and feeling connected to the earth mother, knowing where your roots come from and staying true to them.

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Day 354 – the work path

The decision has been made. I am now on holidays and I have already had two job interviews. One is for a job teaching yoga. I know that this is my true path. The other is for bar manager of a new bar opening next year. I can’t go back to selling wine. I did meet some amazing and beautiful people in that job, but I know when something isn’t quite right. I miss teaching yoga and I don’t even have the time to study, so I am re-enrolling in Uni, quitting sales, learning how to ride a motorbike (the pollution issue drives me mental, knowing I am driving around for nearly 100km per day), and going back to yoga and bar work. For the first time in months, I feel genuine relief about a decision that I have made. Now that there is no more work for the rest of the year, I can really hear my internal voice and it is once again speaking its truth about work.

 

IMG_6069Day 355 – another drum circle

It was all because of a drum circle that I found my yoga path to begin with. At the work Christmas party, I am struggling to fit in with the group. I feel a little bit sick so I go in to lie down and under the Christmas tree I find three djembes. As my work friends come in, I silently hand them a drum and we start to play. At first the sound is disjointed, but eventually someone grabs a guitar and we fall into an erratic rhythm which eventually flows into music. Singing along with a guitar and a djembe, I can remember where I come from. I know I am making the right decision in leaving this job and going back to yoga. I think I need to get myself a djembe. This beat conjures inspiration.

 

Day 356 – the long and winding road

You know a relationship is serious when you are introduced to the family. I am scared out of my whits. We drive about 9 hours up the coast to Byron Bay to spend Christmas with Matt’s family. When we pull into the driveway, I gasp, “Are we here already?”

It was not so long ago that a friend of mine had to meet her partners family and my advice to her was, ‘Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.’

So right now I am trying to be a unicorn. I can only fall back into my own skin and hope that they see why Matt loves me. Why am I so nervous? For the past four months my job has been to walk into people’s houses with wine and win them over with personality and charm. Why should I be so nervous about this?

It’s always hard to tell but if I know one thing about myself it is that I am good at being me. I don’t really know how to be anything else. And I love me. So hopefully they do too…

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Day 357 – in the open air

Matt has been telling me about this open-air cathedral and when we pull up, I didn’t imagine it would be so beautiful. Overlooking a valley, the sandstone cross rises up in front of a cloudy sky. The pale green logs make pews under the sun and the sandstone altar immediately inspires thoughts of the Sermon on the Mount. This is how it is supposed to be. Outside, with the wind circling me, it is easy to feel the presence of god. Of all the temples, mosques, churches and sacred buildings I have prayed in this year, this has to be my favourite. I look past the cross and into the depth of the green beneath. I start to say the Lord’s prayer, but I leave off after a few lines. It means nothing to me. My most sacred moments have been in open honesty with the divine. So I find a simpler way…IMG_6098

Keep him safe.

Bless our love.

Thanks for making life so awesome.

Ok, not so sacred but sometimes that candid statement says more than the ‘thou who art…’

And I do feel blessed.

Day 343 to Day 350 – breathing underwater

Day 343 – breathing slowly underwater

First day of my diving course. Matt has sent me to do this so that I can dive with him in Vietnam. The whole day is spent in the pool learning the skill set we will need to be underwater with all this equipment. What becomes apparent is how slow and long my exhale is. I realise that the breath regulation I learnt in India has completely changed the way I breathe. Here it is quantifiable in bubbles. It is also quantifiable in bar/psi- at the end of the day I have the most air left in my tank. The reason for this, I guess, is that more time is spent on the exhale and a longer exhale empties the lungs, allowing the inhale to more efficiently absorb oxygen, making for a more economical use of the air in the tank. We also get measured on how many breathes we can get out of the hose after the air is switched off and the instructor is a little surprised that I got 4-5 breaths out of that small amount of air. Now, becoming more conscious of the effectiveness of this breath pattern I remember more often to breathe with an inhale for five seconds and an exhale for ten seconds. This is four breaths per minute; however it is still only a work in progress. A true yogi breathes no more than once per minute. Of course, these same rishis can probably sit underwater with no tank and just absorb oxygen from the water molecules. That would take a little longer than a day in a pool to master.

 

Day 344 – script, number, action

This week of work we are doing something called Phone Action. I have only done one before. It is considered to be a bit of a nightmare, unless of course you can use it to your advantage. It is a great opportunity to make a lot of turnover and sell a lot of wine. Basically we call our old customers with a deal they can’t refuse and with Christmas around the corner, everyone is buying wine… Everyone except the people I call. At least nobody has told me to get lost. They have all been really cheerful so after a full day on the phones, I have sold nothing but I have had some really great conversations. I guess sometimes I am not aggressive enough to make the sale, but I am friendly enough to enjoy myself anyway and just send some good energy out into the world. Well the first day of phone action is always the easiest…

 

Day 345 – sacred spaces

The second day of phone action is getting harder. I am starting to crumble under the pressure. It is harder to keep the energy on the phone as we get to the end of another ten-hour day. The boss announces power hour and pours everyone a glass of German sparkling. A customer tells me off and I just need to create a little space just for me and escape away from the world. I take my phone, my pen, paper and glass of wine under the desk and create a little fort. From there I make a sale. FINALLY! I am the last one in the office to do it. When we make a sale we have a little silver bell on the desk that we ding. I stand up and slam it with my fist, then in a fit of frustration-excitement-relief-mixedemotions, I throw the bell on the ground. The room is full of applause. Not just about the sale but about my dramatic way of announcing it. All it took was my sacred space. I just needed to find myself alone. When I find me there, I can do anything.

 

Day 346 – boot camp

Boot camp is hard today. It is a kind of drill that has no rest period. 14 jump squats, 14 grunts, 14 push ups and 14 sit ups. Run around the circuit twice, do it all again. Drop down to 12. Then 10. Start from 14… It isn’t about speed, there is no race. It is just constant movement. Did I mention it is done in soft sand? My internal dialogue has learnt to shut up. It knows that once I turn up on the beach at 6,30am, there is no way out. The trainers don’t take no for an answer and it has taught me an immense amount of discipline that I otherwise would not have in training. It is also the opposite of a yogic way of practice which encourages rest when necessary. The upside is that I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been before. When we get to the end, the trainer tells us that this session was dedicated to the two soldiers who died last year. Nothing makes you swallow your pride like hearing that. If I thought 14 grunts were hard, then I can’t imagine what they would have done. Moral of the story is to just keep moving and don’t complain. If training on the beach is the last thing I ever do, then it has been a beautiful morning.

 

Day 347 – I don’t know what I am doing

I am at that point in my life where I realise at least two of my friends have a PhD and I still haven’t yet finished my undergraduate. I can’t seem to organise further into the future than next week and I have three separate resumes depending on the job I am applying for. I have been in more airports than classrooms and more embassies than banks. I have more speeding and parking fines than I do money to pay them, my credit card is maxed out, yet I always have enough money in savings to buy a plane ticket. My desk is covered in Unicorn oracle cards, an empty bottle of wine and a blank travel journal. I can never find my car keys but I always know where my passport and yoga mat is. I don’t know if I am grown up yet, or if I am still leaving my window open at night for Peter Pan. I can, however, speak 3 languages, translate most yoga poses into and out of Sanskrit and physical form, tread water for at least half a day, identify and explain the use of more than 30 crystals and name 40 different grape varieties off the top of my head. I have learnt more through life experience than I have ever been taught and even though I may not always know what I am doing, I always know exactly who I am. So, to the boss, the ex, the principal, the jealous friends and the teachers who said I had no chance, who called me a dreamer like it was a bad thing and who promised that I would be homeless and poor- tell me, how many times a day do you smile? Because I don’t think I ever stop.

 

Day 348 – earning, learning and yearning

It is Friday. I have had enough of this job. It is going to be the death of me. I am dying for a change. At this end of a fifty hour week I am going to a friend’s bar/restaurant to see if it is the kind of place I would like to work. He used to have my job and he left for much the same reasons. When I arrive at Neild Avenue, it is beautiful, elegant, with large display bottles of Dom Perignon and tall ceilings. We sit by the open window facing the street and order wine on tap. Surprisingly it is great! I sit down and watch the waiters all dressed in white. My friend is wearing a bow tie and an apron. I know this isn’t me. This is the kind of place I would have to hide my tattoos, take off the red nail polish and all my jewellery. The kind of place where my Mohawk and leopard print hair wouldn’t work.

I feel like change is around the corner- the right opportunity is about to present itself. Later that evening as we walk down to the pub (in high heels, I might add), some cheeky fairies separate our little group so that I end up having a deep and meaningful conversation with one of Matt’s best friends. As all mates do, I get the feeling that he is trying to suss out my intentions. By the time we get to the pub, we meet up with the others and quickly turn around to go straight back home. When this friend comes in the door a few hours later, he just points at me and says, “respect!” Whatever I said, I feel like I have passed some kind of test. All I can do is be myself, but it seems like that is enough for these people. They don’t need me to dress up in white and hide my tats. They respect honesty and bravery and a girl who will walk a mile in high heels without complaining.

 

Day 349 – under the sea

Today is my first day open water diving. We descend slowly and go for our first little dive to acclimatise and get used to being under the sea. Yes, in my head, I can hear Sebastian from the Little Mermaid singing along. My internal DJ is also playing the song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Someone needs to invent underwater iPods. As we move along, my brain starts to run away with thoughts about what would happen if the regulator got flicked out my mouth, or what if I panic? What if I run out of air? What if I get lost? I can hear my heart pounding in my head. I am starting to spiral around with these stupid hypotheticals. Just breathe. I go back to rule 1 in diving (and life); don’t ever stop breathing. I slow my breath down and just focus on that for a while. It calms me right down and I start to enjoy this feeling. This is like every underwater dream I have ever had where I suddenly realise I can breathe in water. Except now I am doing this in reality. No need to panic, just breathe. In yoga, in diving, in life, the one thing that I know for certain is that it is ALL about the breath.

 

Day 350 – part of the ocean again

I once lived on a boat. I used to love having salty hair all the time. I loved how smooth my feet were from being constantly wet and polished by the gravelly deck. I loved how I could eat a mango over the side of the boat and then jump in the water to rinse off the sticky juice. I used to love eating fresh fish that we just hauled in whilst trolling. It has been ages since I spent all day in the water and this weekend has reminded me of how much I miss it. I love my hair when it is all salty instead of using product.

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