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Vacation Alone January 31, 2011

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Who goes on vacation alone? I never even thought about it until last year when I was reading the Artist Way by Julian Cameron. The book was written, as a creative tool to discover and recover the creative self. Part of the 12 week commitment was taking myself out on weekly artist dates, which, by the way, was a completely foreign concept to me.

I thought I was comfortable being alone since much of my time was spent solo, but when I really got to the guts of what she was asking, I was terrified. I was at a loss as to what to do so I spent the first 3 weeks making myself delicious home cooked meals by candlelight and taking myself to the movies (which, by the way, sucks on a Friday night if you’re single). By week 3 or 4 Julia says (and I’m paraphrasing), “… if you’re still taking yourself to the movies or making yourself a romantic home cooked meal, as your artist date, get out there and go on a “real” date … be creative and have some fun  …”

Have fun going out alone in public? Really? That didn’t sound like any fun at all. It was much more fun sulking around the house playing the abandoned victim who would never love again.  I didn’t know what to do, but the daunting task of being more creative opened up a whole new chapter in my life. My inner child awakened and I had permission to be authentic without fear of predisposed judgments.

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Closer to the end of the course, she assigned us the task of writing down our dream weekend. Not knowing the next week she would actually have us carry out the big dream, I went all out! I visualized myself on the beach basking in the sun doing yoga and eating gourmet meals and sipping on vintage wine. I was reading on the beach and writing by the pool. I was sleeping in and beginning each day with a leisuring bike ride.

Determined to complete the assignment, I took myself (kicking and screaming) to Destin Beach.

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I so wanted to back out, but in staying and facing my fear, I empowered myself beyond measure. I reconnected to a part of myself that was abandoned, as a child and my energy shifted to a more subtle vibration. My sense of being was awakened and renewed and it felt good to be in my body. I had confidence and strength and saw my life’s purpose in all its glory. It felt good to be me and I was proud of myself for facing a paralyzing fear and stepping in to the unknown. I was showered with abundance and joy and for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to smile from the inside.

Who knew vacationing alone could bring so much joy and clarity and insight. There’s just something about being away from distractions and not having to coordinate schedules with anyone, but yourself. Your perspectives and judgments shift, as you notice your surroundings with every sense. It’s truly a spiritual gift to travel alone, as your inner voice becomes the only voice and the wisdom that speaks to you ignites the internal flame of the mother womb and we are immediately taken back to the place within us that’s pure and beautiful.

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Trip to Agra October 14, 2008

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The trip to Agra was quite the adventure. Our driver just about side swiped another vehicle ripping off the side mirror. The guy, who was driving his employer’s car, motioned for us to pull over, but our driver refused. They didn’t have “auto insurance” in India so accidents weren’t handled in the same manner as they were in the US. 

I was actually surprised we didn’t see more accidents while we were there, but I’m sure they happened all the time, as the drivers were absolutely insane. I thought we lost the other car until there was a loud whack on our driver’s window and I looked over to see the driver of the other car screaming and waving his fist. The next thing you know, both drivers were at each other’s throat screaming obscenities in such raw anger.  It was extremely unsettling, as I’ve never felt such frightening energy between two people.

The course leader got out of the bus and stepped between the two drivers to see if he could get them to calm down, but there was no getting through to either of them. Sriram tried paying for the damage just to make peace so we could be on our way, as it was his nature to be sweet and loving in the midst of conflict, but not even Sriram could bring peace to the situation, as it became an issue of pride. The driver of the other car could have lost his job and been in a lot of trouble because it was a really expensive vehicle, but a man’s word was a man’s word.  

There was nothing anyone could do except let the owners of the vehicles figure it out even though everyone saw it and knew it was our driver’s fault. It was awful to be in a Foreign Country and witness such hostility and extreme aggression between two men and all because of ego, as neither one of them wanted to be wrong. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait for the owners to figure everything out. The transportation  company sent us another bus to take us the rest of the way.

It was a really rough four hour trek, as the roads were not paved and the cars drove  like they were in the line of fire. I think all of us were car sick at some point, but we were definitely distracted by everything happening around us. I don’t even know how to explain half the stuff we saw. It was like watching some bizarre movie like the Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

There were pigs trudging through the garbage, kids walking up and knocking on the windows for food, naked children laying on the sidewalks starving to death, tractors carrying flat beds of women coming home from working in the fields, vehicles broken down on the side of the road with huddles of men grouped together trying to repair them, houses of cow dung with thatch roofs, poverty worse than New Delhi, camels wondering by, herds of sheep, wild hungry dogs, bicycles hauling mounds of stuff whether it be lumber, sugar cane, fruit, or beverages, and market style shops that sold anything and everything under the sun. 

Along the way we stopped off at the Swami Narayan Temple. It was enormous…not like anything I’ve ever seen. I was amazed at the level of security around the grounds, as there were actually men with automatic weapons standing guard. We weren’t even allowed to bring our purses in and even then we were still thoroughly searched.  Thankfully the females were handled by women because they pretty much felt up our entire body.  

We had a private tour set up, which turned out to be really cool. I enjoyed the experience, but I have to say it was HOT. I just about passed out. I was dehydrated, hot, and hungry…not a good combination. I remember seeing white spots and every one’s voices getting really far away. If it hadn’t been for one of the girls coming up and putting a wet cloth on my neck I probably would’ve collapsed.

Thankfully we just ordered lunch so food and water were on the way. We all ordered veggie burgers because we thought we were getting an American Style Burger, which we desperately needed after all the Indian food, but even the veggie burger turned out to be a lentil curry burger fried, topped with creamy coleslaw, and served between two pieces of white bread. It wasn’t the slightest bit healthy, but nobody said a word, as we were absolutely famished. 

After lunch I found myself in the nastiest bathroom I’ve ever seen and without toilet paper or soap to wash my hands. I usually carried a travel roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer in my bag, but everything was in the car so I wasn’t very happy.

We were given a sweet biscuit-like-thing before we left. It was suppose to bring us all prosperity and divine blessings, as it was blessed by the Swamis of the temple. I was really looking forward to eating it until I realized mine was also being blessed by two little ants, which came crawling out of the box just about the time I was ready to put my mouth around it. The only thing I could do was laugh, as I didn’t know which was worse…the filthy bathrooms or the “blessed” ant infested biscuit.

Even though I was still dehydrated from walking around in the heat all afternoon, I was scared to drink any water because there didn’t seem to be any place along the way to pull off. It was as if we were in the middle of a past life regression taking a rough dirt road through someones past. Even so, the drivers found some run down place to stop, which turned out to be a set up. 

Apparently the driver’s hook up with certain vendors and make deals to bring tourists to certain places so they spend money. The drivers receive kickbacks on whatever the tourists spend so they were very pushy to the point of aggravation. We noticed it back in New Delhi, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, as maybe they were just trying to “help” us out by telling us where we could find the best deals.

The place we stopped was full of treasures that looked like they had been around for ages. Everything was dark and covered in layers of dust. The prices were ridiculous and the drivers kept pushing us to shop. None of us bought anything, but it didn’t matter. We still had to stay until the drivers finished their meal, as it was all part of the plan.

A lady even came out of the middle of nowhere and in to the bathrooms when we first arrived to hand us TOILET tissue to dry our hands. She obviously didn’t care how ridiculous it was to hand someone toilet paper. The only thing she cared about was getting paid for the service, which was common in India. People would walk right up to you and help you cross the street or bless your forehead with a bindi or take your bags to or from a taxi. They were not doing it from the kindness of their hearts. They wanted money…plain and simple.

We got in to Agra late and I was exhausted, but thankfully we pulled in to a nice hotel with a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal and it didn’t smell like moth balls. The bed was comfortable and the shower lovely. It felt so good to wash the day away. We all met downstairs for dinner and then it was time for bed, as we had to get up before sunrise to see the Taj. None of us wanted to get up that early, but we also knew it would be much hotter and more crowded if we waited so we all agreed sunrise was best.

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New Delhi October 7, 2008

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I’m usually never at a loss for words yet every time I try and write about my trip to India, my mind shuts down and nothing wants to come out. I still feel a heaviness in my body and it’s unsettling. I’m usually pretty good with processing things that happen to me, but this trip seems to loom over me like a dark cloud. 

I wanted more than anything in this world to go to India and absolutely love it, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t and I’m having a hard time admitting it. People are so excited when they ask me about my trip and they have the same light of curiosity and wonderment in their eye, as I had before I left, but I can’t lie nor deny my feelings. The trip was really hard and the truth be told…it wasn’t blissful and it wasn’t nirvana.  

I’ve traveled around the world and visited developing countries so I thought I was prepared to see all the suffering, but nothing could ever prepare someone for the level of poverty that exists in New Delhi. Next to Tokyo, India’s State Capital is the world’s most populous city at 17 million and an approximately 8% of the population live below the poverty line.  There are very few places in the world where poverty is so pervasive and the city so dingy and untidy.  The houses were crowded together side by side and all of them seemed ordinary and drab without a lot of color or creative architecture.

The airport was filthy and the bathrooms nauseating. There weren’t many Western style bathrooms available and if there were, they were usually worse than the Indian style where you literally squatted over a hole and then washed yourself with a hose and not the kind of hose you would find attached to bidet, but a garden hose attached to an old rusty spicket with a bucket beside it. Rarely would you find toilet tissue and the smell of human waste seemed to fill the entire city.

My senses were overloaded and my nervous system stimulated beyond repair. The air pollution was oppressive and the honking horns grating. I can still hear the horns of every car, bus, taxi and rickshaw. Everyone drove a million miles an hour and not necessarily in a straight line. Drivers blew their horns every time they passed another vehicle and there were hundreds of vehicles on the road at any given time so all you ever heard the moment you walked out of the hotel was the sound of horns blowing throughout the city.

There was never a moment of stillness. The hunger, poverty, and suffering were so overwhelming to see, as I’ve never witnessed so many kids living on the street begging for money. There was actually a tiny naked baby laying on the sidewalk beside her frail mother who was barely alive. People defecated on the street, live stock wondered freely, and stray malnutrition dogs ate out of vile dumpsters.

There was no fresh air to breathe and although we stayed at one of the nicest hotels in Delhi, the rooms smelled like moth balls and bed bugs were still looming in the mattresses. I slept with socks, long pants, long sleeves, ear plugs, and an eye pillow because I was afraid something would crawl across me in the middle of the night. I said a prayer every night before I went to bed and tried not to think about anything but falling asleep and as fast as I could.

The shopping bazaars were nothing like Western Style Shopping Malls. The streets were lined with vendors selling anything you could possibly imagine. Jewelry, saris, fabric, pillow coverings, prayer beads, incense, wall hangings, statues…you name it. The vendors would accost you and follow you down the street. They yelled out prices and haggled over everything and nothing was ever final. It was exhausting and completely overwhelming.

Some of the people in the group loved the energy and found it exciting to bargain with the natives, but I hated it. I had to be patient and not have a complete meltdown, but at one point there were probably 20 women surrounding us trying to sell us cashmere wraps. They were not only in my space, but breathing down my neck. Their voices kept escalating, as they pulled on our clothes and I wanted to respect the culture, but I had enough. I had to physically walk away and get some water because my heart was racing and I was about the have a full blown anxiety attack. 

Between the noise, the heat, and being exhausted, I was ready to drop. All I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and take a nap, but we got stuck waiting for one of the people in the group who went to get water and ended up negotiating with one of the vendors. My patience was gone and I was tired of being mobbed by women and children who were homeless and starving. I had to dig deep to find the ability to hold on, but somehow I managed persevere.

I never got my nap, but we did go out to a really nice dinner that evening. It was so refreshing after all the buffet meals we had been served with oils, heavy creams, and lots of sodium. The restaurant was in a beautiful hotel adorned with fresh flowers, beautiful paintings and ornate furniture. The meal was incredible and much welcomed after the long tiring day, but then we drove back through the streets of starvation and poverty where people were sleeping on the sidewalks and suddenly I felt guilty for the amazing meal I just had and for all the comforts of the West.

How does one process such devastation? How does one stop from feeling so sad and helpless? I was told the people weren’t suffering as much as I imagined because they didn’t know any different, but how is that possible? How can anyone be comfortable laying on the street starving to death?

It was absolutely heart wrenching and I had a really hard time dealing with it. The noise, the dirty air, the heavy food was all starting to get to me. I felt helpless and exhausted and physically heavy. My belly was bloated, my head ached, and my body tired. The one thing I tried to hold on to was the smiles of some of the people who didn’t have anything, but the clothes on their back. How they managed to still find some remnant of happiness was beyond me, but somehow they had something in their hearts that allowed them to show some sign of joy.  

 

 

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Dubai September 28, 2008

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Dubai

I honestly didn’t know anything about Dubai or what country it was in until a couple weeks before I left. I mean seriously…Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Iran…they’re all in the same country, right? Okay, I’m kidding. I realize they are all separate countries. I just never paid much attention to any one in particular. They all linked together in my brain as the “Middle East.” I never realized the United Arab of Emirates was actually a country and not part of Saudi Arabia, but this is one of the reasons I like to travel.

I was given an itinerary for the trip, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, as my focus was getting my business off the ground. I put all my trust in Deborah and her husband who organized the trip. She’s a good friend of mine and I knew she would take care of every last detail. Her husband lives in India and she has been there many times so I knew they had everything under control. The only thing I had to do was apply for a Visa and make sure I was at the airport the night of the flight.

On some level I didn’t really want to know any of the details because I didn’t want there to be any expectations. In my mind I was going to India to experience nirvana in one of the holiest places in the world. I didn’t need to worry about the details or stress over anything out of my control. This was a trip about trust and letting go so that’s what I did. I knew we were flying in to Dubai and I knew it wasn’t actually in India, but in my mind we were going to India so Dubai was somewhere in India, right? I didn’t even give it a second thought until I heard someone talking about the 5 hour flight from Dubai to New Delhi and then it all started to sink in.

The three days in Dubai were spent exploring my inner “self” in an attempt to purify my body of negative thoughts and/or deep rooted negative emotions. I was grateful we stayed in a 5-star hotel with a beautiful outdoor swimming pool lined with colorful flowers and lush landscaping, a state of the art workout facility, sauna, Internet service, lavish buffets, comfortable beds, and impeccable service. It was all very comfortable and pleasing to the physical body, which made it possible for me to do such deep work on my most inner self. 

We learned several powerful meditation techniques, which were designed to take us deep in to the core of our being where serious psychoenergetic work could be done. I thought I purged everything during teacher training. I was done…finished…ready to fill up with divine goodness. Right! Keep dreaming! There are apparently layers upon layers of stuff waiting to come out and there will always be more layers to work through, as spiritual work is not something that ever ends. It’s a continuous evolution. The world’s largest proverbial onion!!!

The clarity and consciousness you receive from doing this work is divine, but it is a commitment and you have to be ready before you embark on such a journey. You have to be ready to face your fears…pain from grieving and loss…insecurities…painful memories…traumatic experiences…sexual issues…co-dependency…addictions…anger…depression…imperfections. It’s not for everyone and I would only suggest it to someone who was really ready to experience a heightened state of consciousness and had the right teachers for support and proper guidance, as its intense.

There was a part of me that felt like I was on vacation, as I was spoiled by the luxury of waking up and going for a morning swim and then relaxing in the sauna before taking a hot shower and heading down to an extravagant breakfast. I also got to spend my evenings touring the booming city of Dubai…driving by some of the most innovative real estate projects in the world. It is truly a unique city of free trade and tourism with a 37 billion dollar economy and the most spectacular skyline you’ve ever seen.

 

The other part of me felt like I was in spiritual boot camp, as my days were spent in lecture learning techniques to connect to my higher self. I had to sit through many intense meditations, which stirred up emotions and brought up judgments towards myself and others. Meditations are able to purify and help the body let go of stuff that no longer serves you so as emotions and pent up feelings are released, all kinds of things come up. Things you don’t really want to see, but need to see in order to heal and grow spiritually. It takes a lot of energy to heal at this level, which can leave you depleted and emotionally drained, but working through these types of things creates an energetic shift that brings an awareness and sense of self you can’t put in to words.

By the last day my mind refused to absorb anything else. I was frustrated and irritated and needed to disconnect from all of it so a group of us went out to have some fun, but we paid for it because we had to check out of the hotel at 2am that night and we didn’t get back until 11pm. I literally slept 2 hours, but it was worth it because we were able to get a really nice meal and a glass of wine, which I desperately needed. 

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I’m home!!! September 20, 2008

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Landing in Dubai

Hello, HELLO!!! Wow, I’m finally home. I can’t believe it. I feel like I’ve been gone forever. I arrived back to the US last Sunday, but it took me until Thursday to feel human again. I didn’t think it would be so bad considering I didn’t take very long to adjust to the flight out, but it was much worse coming home.

It will take some time for my body to recover, as I went from one extreme to the next and on many different levels…it was an intense journey through the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional world. It was an experience of contrast as we began the trip in Dubai, which is one of the wealthiest cities in the world and then proceeded to New Delhi, one of the poorest cities. From there we moved through India up to the holy mountains of the Himalayas.

The energy in the mountains was so subtle. I instantly felt present and one with life. There was such a sense of quiet and stillness and I could feel the beat of my own heart, as thoughts seemed to cease. Our trip ended going back down the mountain to New Delhi and then to Dubai and on to Atlanta. By the time I arrived home, I didn’t know what was up or down. My body was completely out of sync and my mind absolutely buzzing.

People said it would be rough coming home, but I had no idea what to expect until I got off the plane. I had so many beautiful experiences while I was there, but the one thing I kept thinking about was the poverty and suffering, which I can’t even begin to describe. It’s beyond words and nothing you could ever imagine unless if you’ve been there to experience it yourself. I felt estranged when I got home…not being able to relate to anyone…not being able to comprehend how our culture could have so much and theirs so little.

Some of the greatest sages and Avatars came from India and it was the birthplace of yoga so I thought I was going to a place of nirvana where I could charge my entire being with divine light and goodness and then come back and channel these divine energies through my teachings. Instead I came back feeling drained and heavy in the heart so it will take me some time to figure it all out.

In spite of the sadness I feel about the suffering I definitely have a more profound awareness about myself and the world in which we live. I’m more spiritually aware…more conscious of my thoughts and actions, and I came home with a clarity and vision much greater than words could ever describe.

It will take some time for all the beautiful gifts to surface and for everything to sink in, as I feel like a snow globe that was just shaken up, but each and every flake will eventually settle and when it does, I will have an even more profound awareness of my sacred trip to the Far East and all the beautiful experiences that came from traveling inward. Until then I will take each day as it comes and I’ll write about it along the way so I hope you contine to share in my spiritual journey as it unfolds in blogs to come. 

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