Day 273 to Day 279 – solitude

Day 273 – the healing power of food

My brother, his wife, Vero, their little princess, Bella and Oscar (who is presently still a bump), come today, which basically means an endless stream of conversation between my sister-in-law and myself. Vero’s cousin was married only recently. Her husband has had Hodgkin’s for most of his life and recently fell sick again soon after their wedding. Recently, though, they began a raw food, vegan, organic diet. When they told his doctors about this detox, the doctor dismissed it, saying they may as well say goodbye and give in to the disease and instead suggesting another round of chemo and radiotherapy. The decided to try the diet anyway and what has followed could be called a miracle or perhaps common sense… Not only did his health improve, but swelling went down, test results came back with dramatic differences and he is fast on the road to recovery. Vero’s cousin can’t wait to go back to the doctors and show them that they were wrong, so wrong. What we now call “raw” and “organic” and “biodynamic” is what a hundred years ago was called simply FOOD. Unfortunately, for most people, what we consume is far removed from the original plant that nature gives us. Yes, nature provides gifts as food and humans have found the most cost-effective way to ruin it with chemicals, pesticides, hormones, toxins and anything else that will cause mass-production, increase in yields and therefore, larger profits. I could go on, but we have heard it all before. The best books I have read on the subject were by Michael Pollan. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which traces the origins of four meals, from organic, to groceries, to McDonalds is a well-researched eye-opener on the corruption and deception that is the modern food market. The documentary Food Inc. is based on this book. Pollan’s other book, In Defence of Food has some great ideas as to how to best avoid the trap of clever marketing and chemical bombardment, such as,

–       never feed yourself where you feed your car

–       avoid supermarkets

–       if you must go to supermarkets, stay around the edges, where the freshest food is likely to be- kept cold

Not everyone believes that our food could be causing cancer, or that it has the capacity to heal it and I am sure some people are blissfully ignorant, or choose to stay that way. Maybe one day people will wake up. Maybe one day organic food won’t be so expensive. Maybe one day we will stop spending money on cars and instead buy seeds. Maybe one day cancer will mutate into the zombie virus and the whole world will end, thus forcing us back into simple farming practices in order to survive. Maybe I digress…


Day 274 – I will miss you

I am no stranger to separation. I am not afraid of being alone. Actually, I quite like being alone. For someone with such a wide social circle, who clearly likes to be heard/read, I also very much enjoy quiet solitude. In the past month, I have spent almost every day with him. We have indulged in each other’s presence and now that he is leaving for a few weeks, I know that I will miss him. But I also know that I will be fine. I am not the kind of girl to go crying into my corn flakes because I am alone. Actually, when he rings at midnight, half asleep, I mumble something about how great it is to stretch out and take up all the room in my double bed. Sorry! Yes, I miss you already, but I know how to make the most of a situation. I know how to embrace change, embrace solitude and be on my own. Finding myself quietly sitting in my room, I remember all that time I spent alone in India, with only myself as my guide. I was my own best friend, my own teacher, my own student, my own listener. I knew I had family and friends far away but I was there for myself when I needed myself the most. Here, I am surrounded by people and sometimes all I want is to be alone! Yes, I will be excited when you get back, but I get to keep myself company right now. And you know me; I am pretty damn fun to hang out with.


Day 275 – the food predicament

No wheat.

No dairy.

No sugar.

No alcohol.

My brother’s cupboards… There lurks temptation. It comes it all shapes and sizes; tiny chocolate coated teddy bear shapes, flat, square biscuit shapes, long stringy cheesey things, “all natural” yogurt and on the bottom shelf… oh god is that a chocolate cupcake? I am starving by the time I get there and nobody is home. I have to find something to eat quickly before I dive head first into the jar of nutella. I find frozen vegetables and half packet of quinoa that I left in there from the last time. That will do! I whip up a stir-fry and relax. But I know the nutella is there.

I can resist anything but temptation

–       Oscar Wilde

No wheat.

No dairy.

No sugar.

No alcohol.

Well, nutella has no wheat. It has very little dairy… It is about 50% sugar… but at least it isn’t wine! Just one spoon… And I cave. Sometimes you have to cross over to the dark side.


Day 276 – Nan Tien Temple

I can’t believe how many times I have driven past this place and never stopped. Finally I am standing before the enormous Buddha at the front gate. He is beautiful in the hot sun. The grounds are immaculately kept, with perfectly trimmed lawns, littered with tiny child-like Buddha’s in tai-chi poses. The flowers are in full-bloom despite the humidity and at the main temple, incense pours down the stone steps. This is apparently the biggest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. I slowly enter the temple where the tall Buddha stands, surrounded by tiny candles. The walls are covered in gold blocks with Chinese characters carved in red. I look up at the smiling face of the enlightened one. And I cry. I buy a small candle to make an offering and choose the WISDOM card. I stand and pray to Buddha. I pray for the strength to take me away from my vices. I pray for the insight to follow my dharma. I pray for the universe to guide me on my path. I pray for my shadow that occasionally takes me away from the light. In temples, making offerings, praying, crying. How many times this year have I found myself doing this? What happens in these holy places that causes such an emotional reaction? It isn’t sadness. It isn’t fear. It isn’t loss. It is like the feeling of the divine becomes too much for me to handle and I just crumble. Maybe it is the ego that is afraid. Maybe it is sad for its own loss? I don’t know, but when I leave the temple I sit outside and collect my broken self together. I check my mascara and move on. Crying is a huge spiritual release. If there is an emotional block, crying can move energy from spaces where it becomes trapped. I do feel better, but I also feel like I have asked myself so many more questions that 276 days into this bliss project, I know that I am only at the beginning. I know who I am now, I know myself and I have learned to love myself this year. But I am barely scratching the surface of this life long path. There is still so much to learn.

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Day 277 – tired of my own game face

I am tired. I am drained. I see a dead pigeon on the pavement today and, in a daze, I take a photo of it. I am thinking pigeon pose- Raja Kapotasana. I am so spacey, I put my keys in the fridge and then stand staring into the freezer for what seems like an eternity. There isn’t any food in there. In this world I feel like I have to have my game face on all the time. I want to switch it off. I want to hide. I want to get away. My friends are begging me to go out, but I am tired. I am PMSing. I go to bed and can hear them asking about me outside my room. Sometimes it feels like everyone wants to share your light, and you give it away until your flame is barely flickering. It is my responsibility to hold my fire, to keep it alight. It is my turn to take care of myself and stay in bed, to rest. Grateful to this wisdom that has kept me home, I fall asleep.


Day 278 – solo mission

The Blue Mountains are thick with fog as I drive down to Megalong Valley. Clearly, my Apple Maps have never been here before because it wants me to drive down Six Foot Track. It is a dirt running track. Hmmm… My instinct had me going further down the main road, so I decide to follow it. Eventually I find the right signs down to the valley. As I descend, the fog clears completely and I see the lush green cascading over the road. It is like entering another world. I reach the campsite and there is still plenty of light. I throw up the tent and then sit on a tree stump, listening to the birds. In the dusk, their song fills my heart.

In the dark, I heat up a can of soup to keep warm. In my tent, I have a head-lamp on as I read Hindu stories of the gods. I can hear the noise of the crickets, lulling me to sleep. Finally I have peace, solitude and nobody but myself.



Day 279 – birds

I wake up to the song of birds. The rain stopped in the night and the small log I turned over last night is still dry underneath. I eat a quarter of a watermelon over my hot tea and stare at the sunlight coming through the trees. The air is fresh and cool and I feel myself in a sacred space down here. The birds bring up the sun, flying like souls to the heavens. I have always had a passion for birds. I remember the first bird that I ever noticed and, wondering what it was, looking up a bird book. It was a great black cormorant. My favourite sounds are Magpies in the mornings, Whipbirds in the bush and Kookaburras at dusk. I have a tattoo on my back of a quetzal bird. It is native to Central America and Mexico and is the national bird of Guatemala. It is a symbol of freedom as it is near-impossible to keep in captivity as it will stop eating to commit suicide. To the Mexica people, its feathers were more valuable than gold. If I could be any animal, it would be a bird.


I pray to the birds.

I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward.

I pray to them because I believe in their existence,

The way their songs begin and end each day,

The invocations and benedictions of earth.

I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear.

And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.

–       Terry Tempest Williams



Day 60- holy basil!

We arrive at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok just before midnight, but by the time we check into the Novotel hotel it is around 1am. Due to jet lag and a long sleep on the plane (how good are those quiet flights where you get a whole row between two of you?), we are starving for some dinner. I had very meekly denied the meals on the plane as they had forgotten that I was a vegetarian so between week old shrimp and beef, I chose more sleep. At the hotel, the buffet is already preparing for breakfast so we order some noodles and then wonder up to the room for three hours of sleep. I want to stay up and watch a movie but the only thing on is the Omen and I am not in the mood for something as terrible, horrifying and unbearably gruesome as that acting. At around 7am my eyes fly open and I wonder over to the window to find that there is a beautiful garden right beneath us. There is a water feature, a bridge, some statues and a bell. I get dressed and wonder down to the floor where I calculate the garden to be, but find only more rooms. I go down to the lobby and before me are an enormous set of marble steps with a sign; GARDEN.

When I enter the beautiful garden, it feels like it could have been created for no other purpose than meditation. I mean, even a place as unlikely as the glossy Western city of San Francisco has a yoga room these days, so a meditation garden at the Novotel Airport Hotel in Buddhist Thailand is like old news. I step over the wooden bridge and stop to look at the names of the trees. Holy Basil? If I eat this, will I be endowed with sacred and mystical holy powers? Or is it like holy water? Because I know you aren’t supposed to drink that. I sniff it anyway and move on. The statues in the moat are of goddesses playing various instruments, which reminds me of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, सरस्वती. She is the goddess of knowledge, learning and intelligence and is associated with literature and music so is often depicted playing a sitar. She is also the river goddess, as the flow of water symbolises the growth and flow of knowledge. Actually, I am sure these statues are Saraswati.

I find the small space of floor beneath the window where I first saw the garden. I attempt to sit on a rock but realise it is hollow and made of plastic. Ah, yes, the sacred and holy airport hotel meditation garden. I sit on the ground and take of my shoes and close my eyes. I sit in the quiet revery of being completely alone with myself and wonder why it is that nobody else is in this beautiful space. The bubbling water feature beside me is a gentle reminder to stick to the present, but after only twelve minutes my eyes are open again. I may have found this small sanctuary in the most unlikely place and I may have all the ingredients for a satisfying meditation, but the difference between a noisy airplane and the secluded garden in this case is only time. On the plane yesterday, I knew I had ten hours in front of me. Here, underneath the bamboo and holy basil, in the depths of my mind, I am secretly aware of the clock ticking before we need to check in for the next flight. I take my leave of the lotus flowers and go back up to the hotel room where I sit at the window and look down at the garden. The rocks may be hollow, but it is holy enough for me.