Friday, 20 November 2015

The Air we Breathe, Bistaari Bistaari..... Muktinath, earth, fire, air, water and spirit.

So much anticipation and excitement I felt in the wait for my cousin and her family to arrive from Australia.  After 9 months in Nepal, I was ready to be a tourist with them.   Govin and I had arranged to take them to Jomsom and Muktinath trekking. A first for us all.

Feeling reasonably fit and healthy after much walking due to the petrol crisis and life in Nepal requires walking for many reasons, I was eager to get out in to nature again and walk in the mountains.

Driving up to Jomsom in the Jeep took us around 10 hours, after the the occasional seat exchange, to prevent car sickness and the flat tyre about 7 kms out of Jomsom. Which we danced and chatted excitedly to keep warm in the zero temperatures in the early evening.

The next morning we woke early and managed to find cappucinos (wow! a real treat in these parts) and after breakfast walked out of Jomsom.  To try and describe the terrain and environment here is almost impossible.... A winding valley between some of the highest white peaks in the world, looking like they were so close that you could reach out and touch them, yet they were definately out of reach for amateur hikers like us. The Valley was actually the amazing Kali Gandaki river bed that in the Monsoon flows fast brings the water down the mountains.  Now it is the dry Winter season, so it was huge expanse of black pebbles and rocks that in parts was easily 3 kms wide. The lower terrain reminded me films I'd seen showing the landscape of the moon or Mars.  A desert or barron land with the occasional shrub, not much can grow out here. The weather is a series of extremes. Anything living out here is resilient, tolerant, patient and extremely hardy.  As we walked further into the Mustang region, the animals, plants and people seemed to get smaller.  Houses changed and looked more Tibetan in their appearance than Nepali and the people also looked more Tibetan.  The language according to Govin was slower and drawn out Nepali... he giggled often at the way they spoke to him. Being here was like being in another country only about 250kms from Pokhara.

The first day we walked 15kms mostly on  the flats and river bed, until we reached Kagbeni a cute little village just at the bottom of the accent to Muktinath.  Feeling optimistic and a ravenously hungry we had a great lunch and prepared ourselves for the 2nd half of the day.  As soon as we left Kagbeni with our Momo and Dhal Bhat filled bellies, I noticed the air getting thinner. The way out of the village was a steep accent and it slowed our pace considerably, having no choice,  we adjusted to the lack of oxygen available at this altitude.  As we slowly walked the winding uphill trail we seemed to venture more into barren land, thinking we only had 2 hours left of walking, we stayed optimistic, resting regularly to regain our breath.

Five hours later we were still walking, omg, at this altitude we were stopping every 10 steps and breathing so heavily, starting to feel dizzy and our legs were exhausted, it seemed the lack of oxygen had started to fatigue the whole body... It was now dark and using the moonlight we slowly walked the last 400 metres, taking us about 40 mins instead of 15mins... haha, we were exhausted flopping ourselves through the doorway of the first Guest house in Muktinath and regaining our breath.
Its funny how the altitude can affect so many things, my appetite was non existent, my head felt dizzy and I felt slightly nauseated.  Forcing some food down, I then went to sleep with thought that maybe I wont wake up.... apparently that can happen here to some people, however I was so tired at this point I wasn't fazed by the thought and it seems nobody else was either.

In the morning we woke early to the most spectacular view... Honestly its something pictures can not capture. The feeling of being surrounded by snow capped peaks that seemed to touch the sky, with air so fresh and crisp, dressed in layers of yak woolies and sipping warm tea, it was like being in heaven.  The temple was still another 20 min walk up the hill and Govin got up early to go and pray like a good Hindu and then we ascended upon his return, him guiding us up the many steps past the bells and prayer wheels, following the winding stream that rushed past us down the mountain, no doubt to meet up with Kali Gandaki somewhere down below.

The Muktinath Shiva temple is a significant temple in Nepal with millions of Hindu's and Buddhist's making the sacred pilgrimage to the temple every year to cleanse themselves in the purest water in the Himalayas and witness the never ending fire, that has been continuously burning for thousands of years due to the natural gas that runs underground in this area, whilst receiving blessings from their beloved Shiva. Hindus call the temple Mukti Kshetra, which literally means the "place of salvation".  It sits at an altitude of 3710 meters above sea level at the foot of the Thorong La Mountain pass, Mustang, Nepal.  .The temple is not that different to any other in Nepal, but the position it commands is nothing short of breathtaking... pardon the pun... But honestly it is awe inspiring to stand and look out from the temple at the landscape falling away from you and the white mountain peaks in all directions.  The Hindus come here and pray, then, removing their clothes they run through the coldest water fountains, all 108 of them to cleanse themselves and remove impurities under the watchful eye, of Shiva the mountain God.  The number 108 carries great
significance in Eastern philosophy. In Hindu astrology, there are 12 zodiac or Rashi and 9 planets or Graha, giving a total of 108 combinations. Also there are 27 Lunar mansions or Nakshatras, which are divided in 4 quarters, or Padas each giving a combination of 108 Padas in total.

Watching a group of young men doing exactly this was so exhilarating that I wanted to join them, however I was mindful and confused about whether Id be being disrespectful, so decided to watch instead and then after they were finished I ran my hand under every fountain, splashing the icy water all over my head, arms and chest.... So refreshing and revitalising, it reminded me of swimming in the Bass Coast in Australia near my home Phillip Island, the feeling of immersing yourself in cold water really does have a cleansing and revitalising affect and it made me think of home and how much I miss my island.

One of the things that I felt as I reached the temple was silence, except the sounds of nature and rushing water.  It was a strange silence, it was like their was a presence watching over us, an energy holding us, like you could just be.... Im not sure if it was the running water or the amazing views but a deep emotion came over me of connection and realisation of oneness, it took me by surprise as I stood on the step and just breathed it in and allowed myself to shed a tear.  Maybe it was the altitude, but I felt like no matter what is ahead of me in my life, that I am being held and guided... I felt gratitude for the breath of life.

After spending some time at the temple we descended and I immediately felt invigorated and ready for the day ahead. We now had to head back down the mountain to Jomsom and continue walking back along the Kali Gandaki River towards Beni.  This would take us the next 4 days.
So with each step I felt a bounce and found myself almost dancing down the mountain toward Jomsom, I felt assured and my feet just seemed to find the path. We walked through mountain villages and so much of our walking was done in deep thought and meditation as the landscape slowly changed and the views continuously inspired us as we walked over and through and around the trails following Kali down to the village Ghasa.  By the time we reached Ghasa on our 5th day of trekking after many freezing nights and fresh days, I was ready to board the bus, my knees starting to become aware of their lack of cartilidge. The local bus was packed to the roof literally, with bags and people. Nepali take advantage of every available space and for the next 3 hours to Beni, we bounced around on the 4WD track down along the edge of cliffs not more than 3 metres wide in bits in a bus with babies and old people all hanging on to whatever they could reach.  At least 10 or so sitting on the bags in the isles and leaning on each other to support themselves.

Arriving back in Pokhara later that evening I felt a soft sadness, as the realisation that I only had 12 days left in this country of temples, gods and crazy bus rides and most of all I would be leaving the most amazing young man that I have ever met.  Australian Immigration don't appreciate human smuggling so we have to be patient and do all the paperwork necessary for Govin to join me in Australia.  At this time Im full of mixed emotions, the excitement of coming home to my family friends and my island to the grief of leaving a place that has literally changed my life and perceptions about my life... So much has happened in such a short time and Ive learnt so much.  Another chapter of life written and all I can do now is reflect on the past and focus on the future and writing the next ones.  Im excited to come home and share many things and look forward to reconnecting to my work, supporting and inspiring people to follow their dreams, to not be afraid, to have courage and that sometimes following your heart can bring challenges, however the challenges, far out way the suffering of feeling powerless and stuck in a life that does not fit who you are. Challenges are just opportunities to shift your perceptions.... Sometimes we think we know and as soon as we think this, you can be assured the universe will remind you that you don't know anything at all... haha.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Teej festival, Baglung 2072.

Traditionally Teej is a festival to honour the Goddess Parvati and her marriage to Lord Shiva. After marriage, Shiva realised that Parvati missed her family and so he decided to create an opportunity for the goddess to visit her home and family every year in Badhau (Sept/Oct).  Hindus have since continued this tradition. The women travel home to their families and spend time there resting and sharing their married lives with family.  They sing songs and share the hardships of living away from their families and enjoy the dancing and festivities.  IN Nepal when women marry it is their duty to move to the husbands village and ultimately become the new head of house. The womens role is to look after all the duties around and in the home and take care of the children and aging parents. So often in the beginning it is a hard transition for them resulting in many tears and conflicts between the mother and daughter in law.  So every year the Teej festival is welcomed by women as an opportunity to sit together with their families and share their lives.

The festival lasts for 3 days and involves fasting for a day, lots of dancing, feasting
(the men usually preparing the food and celebrations) and dressing up in their finest Sari's, usually red and green as these are the colours that represent the marriage and union with Shiva.  The fasting is seen as not only as a respectful action towards the Lord Shiva but also a cleansing act that is good for health also.  A big part of Hindu culture is based on purity/impurity, so it is relative to this that they fast to cleanse themselves in honour of the Lord Shiva and their husbannds.
These days many younger women are embracing the idea, that Teej is an opportunity to celebrate being a woman and they are certainly doing this, with Teej parties happening everywhere.  Women spend many rupees, dressing up in their finest saris and luga.  The beautiful colours and jewels are flowing and swirling at parties, on the streets and the back of motorbikes as they enjoy and celebrate
their inner goddesses. A mixture of young and old, no men allowed in these sacred parties as they are a woman only affair... Its interesting, that they go to so much trouble to look so beautiful and amazing for each other and not men on this day.  Dancing to a mixture of traditional songs and pop songs, sharing food together chatting and celebrating the goddess.

At this time they also walk together to the nearest Lord Shiva temple taking offerings of rice, coconut, fruit and flowers and offer prayer for their husbands or significant men in their life, for long life and good health.  It is lovely to watch them in all their beautiful colours walking to the temple, a smiling and chatting rainbow of colour.

Spending time in Baglung at this time is so colourful and full of new experiences. Govin and I visited his family at this time because obviously mine is too far away in Australia. When we arrived he was immediately busy, as he is involved with a community group in his village that is active in creating events. It was nice to watch him busy and involved in his community in this way.  So respected by his peers.  I enjoyed meeting many of the locals and slowly practiced my Nepali.

ON the 2nd day I was invited on the stage of the Teej Event as a special guest, so nerve racking and such a strange experience, you see in Nepal they honour guests in a big way, they really revere them. I was so uncomfortable dressed in my sari and on this rickety stage with about 30 other special guests and significant people in the community. After my initial uncomfortableness about being raised above the people, I decided to accept and embrace the Nepali way of doing these things and soon became mesmerised by the process and the work the community group had put in to create this event for their community.
Their were performances from dancers, singers and comedians and despite the lengthy talks by wanna be politicians and significant community members and the heat it was enjoyable. Towards the end we were invited to dance on the stage and all of us danced so much that sweat was dripping everywhere, however it was so much fun.  The one thing I noticed, was that boys don't really dance with girls here. Such a new experience for me, growing up in Australia predominantly dancing as a young person at the local football functions or pubs. The Nepali danced in circles around each other and often their were actions that matched the songs, although I certainly could not figure out what they were about... almost probably all about Love, that much was obvious.  Again the rainbows of beautiful colours and all the people in the crowd too, were swirling, twirling, dancing and singing along.

During the day the community group ran some events such as shotput, slow race motorbike and the locals all got involved. Govin was so busy during these few days organising and helping his community with this event, that I really was in awe of him and his mates for the brilliant effort they went to to provide their community with this entertainment.

Often the view from developed countries is that, women are oppressed in this country, I would argue that in some cases that maybe true, however I also have witnessed and experienced a very different reality to that one lopsided view.  Women in here are strong, have opinions, and desires and needs and go about getting them. The role they play in their communities is a significant one, often the glue of the family and providing their husbands a place to rest after working and providing for the family.
Women in here respect and take pride in their roles, they want to be good at being a wife and mother. Some may also have other dreams and no doubt as education increases, then so will their desires and dreams expand, however lets not remove the womanness in our desire for equality and or development.   Lets not undervalue the role of women in the family, and the important part they play in raising our children and keeping families together and functioning.  Its a fine line we walk in liberating supposedly oppressed women and supporting and lifting up something that already exists to be respected and revered in a whole new way.... Maybe the tribal communities have that right... We need women to band together to support each other, as they say it takes a village to raise a child, lets not undervalue the amazing job women are doing all over the world.  We don't need to modernise them to stop oppression, we  need to educate people in the value of the roles they play.
Happy TEEJ!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Goddess Kali; Showing me that peaceful place where acceptance lives.

It is with mixed emotions that I contemplate the next 4 weeks I have in Nepal.  What a journey I've had. In parts it feels like a dream, especially when I think back over the past 9 months, specifically the earthquake time.  It almost feels like another lifetime completely.  Its amazing how time here is different.  I often hear Nepali people saying " life is long"... which often puzzles me, because the average life expectancy in Nepal is around 65 years old.  People here age quickly and it is still surprising to me, when I meet other women my age or men, that they seem 10-15 years older.  People here are not in a hurry, there is an acceptance almost a surrendering to work with the environment and life here. Nepali people believe they have a small window of opportunity to make money and "settle their life" as they put it.  Which is why so many of them marry young and have children so young. They believe that after 35 years old, the opportunity to make money is gone.

Which is one of the reasons so many agencies are making money, sending Nepali people overseas to study or work, tempting them with opportunities and money.  It means a life often separated from family and can create conflict within the individual for a multiple of reasons.  For young Nepali, this feels like a dream come true to go to the USA or Australia or Europe, however the reality of this, is much different. The cost of living for Nepali people in these countries puts a lot of pressure on these families and sometimes they can be abroad for over 10 years trying to get ahead, sending money home to Nepal, to the wife and children and barely saving enough to visit the family.  Its a sacrifice many of them make, thinking it is the answer to their poverty cycle.

However after spending most of my time with Nepali people and exploring Nepali life here, I now understand what they mean by "life is long"...c Everything in Nepal goes slower.  Life here is slow, everything happens at a pace that is determined by the environment, weather and logistics.  Nobody is in a hurry here.  I will miss the words "go slowly".  My husband will often remind me in the kitchen "slowly, slowly" and always, in this moment he brings me back to the present and I am aware of the habit I have, from living in a modern society of doing things so fast.  We miss so much of life at that speed, we don't feel, we don't notice the colours, the smells, the tastes and the small joys. I asked him "Why are you so serious when you are eating, you don't talk much." At first he said "Talking whilst eating is dangerous, I could choke on my food". I laughed and said "Well you can breathe between mouthfuls and chat." Then quietly he turned to me and said "Don't you want to taste every mouthful and enjoy your food? Taste the love in the food?." Needless to say I was instantly silenced and grounded in that moment....  I am learning how to "be more" and "do less"... it isn't an easy lesson and so much of my mind still struggles with it, however I am seeing and feeling the benefits of it "slowly".

One of the things Ive noticed is that if my mind is not busy, I can have a habit of thinking about the future and falling into old patterns of thinking and worrying about negative things, "what ifs" I call them. Being that life is slower here,  I am aware of the tendency to do this more, which is, may be why Modern society has fallen into the busy trap, so as to not think or feel.  However by going slowly I am able to catch the destructive thoughts before they take hold, then I channel this energy into an action that involves my body.   I have learnt that by doing this, I move the destructive energy and focus it in a creative and positive way, in a way that has intention, by feeling it. Realising quite often  that it is an irrational fear from my Ego and if the action fails, I write :)

So much of our reality is experienced in the past or future, causing us so much anxiety or depression. I feel that because modern societies are moving so fast, with so much stimulation, we are not aware of our thoughts and therefore, very easily, they escape, creating all sorts of havoc in our lives.
During this time, I have been following a fellow journeyman on facebook, George Papas.  George is creating a wave of motion through his "movement" series online.  George is advocating movement as a way of being healthy, anywhere, anytime, anyhow, I love it, it is so in sync with what I am experiencing here and I feel that we all need to embrace playful action more.  We need to recognise the power of movement, the joy in moving energy in a positive and creative way.  This is another part of the mental health puzzle.  The need for speed, needs to change.  Movement does not need to be fast or competitive, it just needs to be enjoyable, freeing, expansive, creative and playful.
In this way, we engage the mind, to connect with the physical body and physical environment. Connecting us with the planet as much as with ourselves, with intention and focus, this will ground us every time.  From this space we will naturally want to be more compassionate, forgiving to ourselves, others and the planet. It is the most natural thing, we can do to to integrate Mind Body and Soul..... and the Planet is part of that Soul.

The other day Govin and I went for a ride on the motorbike around Fewa taal, (OMG I LOVE RIDING THAT BIKE!!!) and found ourselves stopping to watch the paragliders, and this got me thinking. Max my eldest son, is choosing to do this paragliding course right now and make this his way of earning a living, I'm sure many people could not comprehend that as a job... I think we are too busy thinking about what career we want, instead of learning about what lifestyle we want.  After experiencing a large home v's a small home, Id choose a small home, after having a large car v's small car, Id choose a small car, for many reasons...One reason for not wanting a large home, is it allows me more time to do other things I enjoy, I hate cleaning...  How do you know what you really like or enjoy if you do not experience it???  BY focusing on our passions, we find our purpose... Not the other way around...
So much of what we choose is more about fitting in with the Jones or pleasing others, than actually what we really enjoy or want. I am a huge advocate for experiences over things, as you have probably noticed by now from reading my previous posts.  We push so much to have careers, chasing financial freedom etc.. but we don't often stop to look at what really motivates or inspires us.  Paragliders choose a way of life that allows them freedom, travel and enough money to do what they love.  Maybe its not forever, but its a chapter that allows them to see the world and meet many people, whilst experiencing their passion for flying like a bird.  Whilst watching the paragliders, which is, in itself mesmerising and almost meditative, I noticed a Nepali man fishing in the lake.  It was so quiet and so peaceful that I realised that we take so much from the world, quite often more than we need.  The little fishing boat was made of timber and he was just catching his meal for the day, not taking more than he would eat, with a minimal impact on his environment.  It was so peaceful watching him go about this task, that I realised how much we have lost respect for so many things in this world.  WE are so separate from our environment that we buy packaged food and forget that one time it was breathing the same oxygen as us.  We don't see the trauma or brutality of mass farming and go about our BBQ's without blinking an eyelid for the beasts that sacrificed themselves, so that we can feast. I'm not judging meat eaters, I am saying that we need to become more conscious, about how we go about this process.  So that I personally, prefer local organic free range farming and choose to support that instead as much as possible, or eat vegetarian.

One of the things Govin has taught me, is respect.  In Australian culture we think we are owed respect, we expect it or demand it from each other...
In Nepal the focus here is the opposite, give first, the word "Namaste" is exactly that. To see in another the divine source which is also in you. This is the first word out of Nepali mouths when they meet anybody. So from books, to guitars, to animals, to people, I am learning to see more than just a material or physical thing, but an energy that exists within the objects. Somebody or something has put time, energy and potentially love into this object.... We are all coming from the same source... This source is to be respected and also the physical thing that has been created. So that we don't take more than we need and that which we take we respect and revere with gratitude.
The red Tikka you see on many Nepali's foreheads is about that "respect".... Respect is given first. Reverence is real here.

Being in Nepal has grounded me. It has showed me a reality that has allowed me to be ok with me, to be ok with many things. In particular I'm so grateful for the lack of illusions.  In Nepal, you see rubbish, you see goats get slaughtered, you see women and men working hard in the rice farms, in here you see people being raw, you see homeless, the disabled, the sick and frail and elderly.  These things are not hidden from you, you see life in all its imperfections/perfections.
Of course many of us do not like seeing these things because it is the ugly side of humanity, so the developed world works on hiding these things... Old people are put out of sight, disabled people are put into disabled schools and homes, the rubbish is collected so we are in the illusion there is less, but in reality we probably make more rubbish, it is just hidden from our eyes, so we can conveniently go about our day without the ugliness of our consumerism... However if you allow yourself to see, beyond the surface, if you allow yourself, you can see that there is an opportunity for compassion and healing through seeing reality and not having it hidden from you.

By hiding the dark side of life out there... you are hiding the dark parts of yourself in here.......

For me, seeing reality is making peace with it.

One of the big issues I feel in modern society is that we are so sheltered from the truth that we forget and live in a bubble thats doesn't allow us to feel.  BY avoiding pain we avoid half ourselves and half of life.  So that when we are confronted with a strong feeling or a harsh reality we are so overwhelmed by this, sometimes not able to even label what the feeling is and drop our bundles, we start thinking there is something wrong with us or we are weak.  We start looking for answers and seek counsel from everywhere but inside ourselves. We don't want to see the ugly side of life, we avoid it at all costs.  It is funny because I have observed the resilience of Nepali people, their strength, but let me tell you in equal measure they are vulnerable and fragile too.  It is the beauty of living in this part of the world, by accepting the imperfect stuff, we allow ourselves to be imperfect too.  We allow ourselves to be vulnerable and ultimately allow ourselves to feel.  To expand and grow, we have to feel, we have to allow both positive and negatives in equal measure.  The universe is perfect that way. This is Goddess Kali and the lessons she has for us...

I am very excited to be returning to Australia for a while to be with my family and to continue living my life in a more authentic way, to live slowly, to live in a way that is aligned with my heart and soul, allowing space for me to expand and grow.  To not be afraid of failure or success, to be able to channel my energy in a creative and positive way that supports myself and others. I am excited to be able to share my part of the world with Govin in the near future as well and this will also enhance our relationship I am sure, as we get to explore from different perspectives each others worlds and polarities... Life... such an interesting and amazing journey.  I am no longer the scared little girl who used to be so scared of the ugly side of life... Making peace with the ugliness is making peace with myself.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Goddess Kali showing me, in the chaos, there is always some gold.

Trying to make sense of life when you are in the middle of it, is like trying to read a book whilst swimming. Plain crazy to think one can experience life and understand what the experience is about or what it is teaching us at the same time.  I guess this is why “life” is a series of events and experiences that shape us and create who we are.  Always ebbing and flowing, oscillating between positive and negative, two forces pushing and pulling us to move and take form. The part I dislike about this sometimes is I have brief moments, where I forget temporarily that my reaction to something is from my past.  Awareness is a funny thing and even though I might realise it midway through the experience, like being in a lucid dream that you suddenly become aware that you can manifest a sword and slay the dragon instead of running from it.  However even though the awareness comes it is still very hard to shake yourself free of the destructive thought patterns… After expressing these thoughts they seem to abate. Im always afraid of tainting somebody else’s field with my negativity… like projecting my fears on them… why do I always feel like I am not worthy of expressing my fears and worries to others because I want to protect them from my destructive patterns? Yet for some reason I always have room for others to share  and allow them the space to do so… As an empath it’s a hard habit to break… Making it ok for everyone, yet I’m always the hardest on myself.  Holding myself in, always controlling so much of myself. 

One of the beautiful things about being in Nepal is the simplicity here, also for me, the language barrier which allows me to be a little ignorant, and even in the moments where I do find myself in a destructive pattern, its easy to see and I can move out of it and go back to being and accepting… I have realised that is one of the amazing gifts I am being given every moment here… yet as soon as I let somebody from my past in or connect with me and question what I am doing here, the guilt immediately arises, its like I’m instantly dragged back in to the land of doing, succeeding and shoulds.  IN here, it seems people are ok with
being… people are ok with spending the day chatting, connecting, feeling, sharing and working around the house.   People don’t seem to be in such a hurry to get somewhere or be somebody.  In here they just want acceptance from their peers and community and most of all their families.  Isn’t it all any of us really want, beneath the consumerism and crazy busy lifestyles in the developed countries?  In here of course people desire, like any human desires, however there is a quiet acceptance that exists that life can be in equal measure negative and positive, creative and destructive and with this acceptance there is more inner peace perhaps, or an understanding that despite suffering there is also joy.  Pain here is not suppressed, oppressed or medicated. It seems to be more acceptable to “feel”.  Its like there is a deep understanding of something universal that connects everyone and therefore people here are community orientated instead of individualistic and this creates connection, this seems to minimise feelings of isolation, separation and disconnection which ultimately leads to depression.  I’m not saying that people here don’t have depression, of course there are still people here that would experience those things, I’m merely saying there seems to be less of it or more natural ways of dealing with it, due to the communal way of life instead of medicating and suppression.

Somewhere out there when I left the crystal castle of my childhood, I got lost.  I forgot how to be… Children are free, exploring their world unhibited and full of acceptance and love. A child can play with another child and be so full of joy and love and not even know, the child’s name and or worry about if they will ever see that child again. Whilst they are playing, time is eternal and there are no thoughts of the future or past, complete presence….. Pure bliss…. I feel that being here. It is like coming home somehow, coming back to that place… Coming home to myself, slowing the pace down, learning what is important and who is important to me… It is simplifying my perception and allowing me to accept my past and not worry so much about my future.

"Every child has known god, Not the god of names, Not the god of don'ts, Not the god who never does anything weird, But the god who knows only 4 words And keeps repeating them, saying: "Come Dance with Me."
- Hafiz

Intention is a funny thing, often misinterpreted and I feel that for many, they are not even aware of their intentions.  Which can be interesting for someone like me, who is often so aware of others intentions that I can allow and forgive people because even though the results of their actions may have been negative their intentions were good.  But then again who am I to judge if their intentions are good or bad, and if this is the case, that I am aware of people’s agendas and intentions why have I been given this gift, if not to do something with it??  I often ponder this.  It might be why living in a foreign country and falling in love with a foreign man works for me, the culture and peoples are so different that I am not so aware of agendas and intentions and therefore I can have relationships that are deeper as I can not see so much??? Or be consumed by such thoughts, that really don’t serve me very well.

As an energetic being I can easily move from the past to the future and back again, its as easy as flipping a coin.  I’ve had to learn to know where I am in every moment and feel that this has certainly helped with my depression and anxiety.  I can now flip it and move myself back to the present allowing expansion and opportunity, instead of narrowing and stretching the view so far ahead as to leave no room for any other manifestation other than the point of fixation… eg: Looking at a long road ahead it narrows into a small point in either direction, the largest part of the road with the biggest vision is right here in front of you where the car is….all the possibilities exist right there in the present.This is one of the reasons dance is so meditative for me… It allows me to move energy and all that pent up frustration, blocks and anxieties out and bring me to the present, into my body, into the space I occupy as I move my body and allow my soul to follow and flow with the music.  Music allows the soul to journey without fixation… this why its so healing and so primal.. It allows expansion and contraction to flow in equal measure, because the music exists in the spaces between the sounds.  Which I believe is why in every culture, dance and music is such a major part of their life and traditions, and is equally connected to the spirituality of every race.  Something my Meditation teacher in Pokhara Nepal confirmed to me when in the middle of meditation he turned the music up so loud and told us all to get up and dance!!! Such amazing energy followed, and then laughter…. Also the best medicine.

Sometimes we can have the best of intentions, I came back here to do more relief work and give my heart and soul to Nepal, God knows they needed it at this time, so I thought… a judgement perhaps? I mean how arrogant of me to think that “I” could come here and help these people… Did they need it? Do they want it?  It is interesting that we feel so much guilt as citizens from developed countries when we visit places like Nepal that all we think to do is help or give money.  Never stopping to ask or think,  maybe we need the help?  Maybe there is something we need to learn from them?  I mean have you ever stopped and wondered how you would survive in Australia if there was an earthquake and it destroyed our power, deprived us of our petrol and our homes and buildings were destroyed….?? Hmmmm, it is something we don’t often think about, but I guarantee you, that we would seriously be in a predicament. 
Many of us without even the basic knowledge of how to cook from scratch, how to grow food, how to kill a beast, how to build shelter, how to be resourceful and without fuel and power, then what??  What I’ve learnt from Nepal and the people here is that I need them, more than they need me…

There is so much to learn from these people, the way they think, the way they live and function as a society that supports one another and copes in the midst of negligent governments and natural disasters.  Every day here, I feel more like a child on this planet, who knows absolutely nothing. Every day I am surrounded by the most resilient and loving people that I’ve ever met, that despite adversity and the difficulties they face living each day in an under developed country, the communities band together and try their best to keep going and support one another.  I’m not saying that people here don’t suffer and don’t have many problems that could be transformed with more support, I am just saying that we need to appreciate the equality among men to learn from each other and recognise the perfection in the imperfection. 

We can learn from each other swapping knowledge and sharing cultures and ways to help build better communities… There is so much more to assisting people than to volunteer or build a school or offer money or wait for big organisations and governments to take action. There is so much more to learn about our world from each other, from other cultures, we need to start to see the gifts.  We can do so much more as individuals supporting each other with compassion and kindness in every day actions.  So much of the volunteer experience is intentionally good, but we have expectations that come from our egos, which can cloud the experience and prevent us from really growing and learning on both sides.  There needs to be more of a focus on sharing. Sometimes the quartz rock is so big that it is difficult to spot the gold, but the specks are there and then if you follow it and dig deeper, you will find the big piece, the golden nugget, often elusively hidden in the recesses, needing destruction and dynamite to get to it.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Coming home.... Home is not always a place, its a feeling.

The space between love and fear is so small that it is easily overlooked. I mean how often do we sit in fear, broken, depressed or overwhelmed not realising that if we just look over our shoulder that love is there, waiting patiently, just sitting, wondering when we will see its endless support.  I know this may be hard for some of you to accept, especially if you feel love has left you, however I too can relate to that feeling.
For a long time after my divorce, I started to think that maybe the reason I was not settled or could not feel connected to another person, was because maybe I was different, maybe I was broken or something was not right with me. I decided I needed to change my view, my perception of love and decided that marriage was just a piece of paper that did not mean anything. I convinced myself I did not want it again or believed in it. It was an outdated notion that made people feel stuck and lifeless, is what I told myself.  Funny enough I often watched other married couples in judgement thinking how boring and disconnected they were and miserable, I convinced myself, that is what marriage was in my society. I decided to focus on Self Love and participated in many activities that made me feel good and distracted me from what was deep within, the need to be loved by another.
I experienced many firsts and explored things that were amazing, there was a nice freedom about being alone that I slowly got used to and started to find that I often chose solitude in lieu of company. Slowly withdrawing and feeling disconnected from others it further fueled my intention to not want or need anyone, making me believe that I was happy alone... but really I was just convince myself as I was scared that may be I would never find anyone that I felt at home with.

There were was one or two couples in my life, that stirred something within me. No matter how I tried to see the negativity of their relationship, I also saw equally a positive and there was something that I envied about the connection they had... To find a word to describe this is difficult, but I think it is a mutual respect and that they equally complimented each other.  Both of them had equal power and energy in the relationship that was delicately balanced by the respect they had for each others roles in the relationship.

Coming to Nepal in March opened my eyes to so many things, that it is difficult to put into words, how much this country has impacted me and allowed me to see my self.  IN the past 6 months, I have realised how much I value family, how much I miss and want that connected feeling of belonging to my tribe. I realised, how broken I was from my divorce and how much I'd suffered from the pain and loss of my expectations of what I'd hoped for my family... I'd been wrestling with guilt and self love for a long time. Strange thing is, the only reason I was able to realise this, was through the love of another. It seems the fastest way to Self Love is to allow another to Love you, broken, warts and all... To accept that another can love you like that, takes self love to a new level... It made me see that I was loveable. It has taken so much courage to allow myself to be loved by another and love back that I can see now, that the line, between fear and love is almost invisible...they are so close.
The culture here is so ingrained in the way of life that people here, communicate their feelings, they are open, they share, they respect each other in a way, I have not often witnessed. It is difficult to explain, its something that has to be experienced.  People here understand reverence.  Maybe its language, as the English language is so complex we have so many words, we can talk around everything and in doing so, we can avoid feeling.  We have become experts at it... Maybe that is why so much Mental illness exists in our culture? Too much language not enough feeling?

I can openly admit now, that I really did want to feel like I belonged to someone,  to create a life with someone, that I did desire to walk this life journey with a witness and also witness their journey with love and support.  A life not shared is only half, it is not whole.  How can it be? SO much of life is designed to share with another, to go against this is almost unnatural.  Now I can see I was denying half of myself  by not having a mirror or being brave enough to look in the mirror. I have found my mirror.

Timing is strange, the universe has no time, time is not real, a man made illusion, so I guess that is why if we think in terms of time, then perhaps we get caught up in logic and practical ideas.
All I can say is that somewhere within my being I was guided to come to Nepal, 2 years ago, it was a force I cannot describe and it came suddenly from no where and I found myself here,  trekking in the Himalayas. This is when I met him, my mirror.  At the time I knew he was special, something within me woke up and took notice and when I left Nepal 2 weeks later I missed him, however whilst I was there we only spent 5 days together and barely spoke.  He was so young and I was still grieving many things. I could not understand the feelings I was feeling, they were so foreign to me at the time.  It did not make sense, I did not even know him. It was not time......
Fast forward to 2015, my son decided out of the blue to go to Nepal to go trekking, so  I said to him I'd link him with my friend in Nepal.  One week out from my son flying, I decided on a whim to follow. At this time, my intention was to go and heal after 6 years of an unsettling emotional roller coaster ride post divorce. So we both came to Nepal and met up with my friend in Pokhara. At this time there were so many synchronicities aligning for me, that looking back I can see now that once again there were other forces at play.

As soon as I saw him, that feeling came back so strong, I almost cried when I saw him.. Within a few days my son went trekking with him and I decided to focus on healing activities. I got sick, so sick that I ended up doing nothing, just some meditation, yoga and decided to immerse myself in the Nepali culture. While they were away trekking I missed him so much, I could not understand the feeling, it was so strange, as I still did not really know him... although something in me felt like I knew him better than anyone... weird.

The next 4 weeks were spent doing various activities, but the most memorable moments were sharing with him, his family, his village, the music and many conversations that were challenging due to our language barriers.
My son was returning home to Australia and so we decided that we wanted to help our friend come to Australia so we helped him get a passport and promised him that we would help him. For me at this time I was thinking maybe that was my purpose here... Then the earthquake happened.  The earth moved under our feet...hahaha.  For real.

We got so busy doing the aid work and at this time we were all focused on helping people in villages and making a difference. During this time we spent nearly everyday together and experienced so many things and slowly we became close.  At this time I consciously made the decision to open my heart, not judge, not question, and to have no expectations ( how I could I expect anything from a young Nepali man?? So many cultural differences there was no framework here) and to face my fears, through love... I decided that if I did not open my heart prepared to have it broken then I could never experience love again.  It was the perfect way for me to deal with my fears around expectations. Love is a whole thing, you can not have it half, you can not decide to just dip your toe in, you have to either get all in, or you are living in fear and that is not love.  So for the first time in my life I did not think about practical things, responsibilities, or being rejected, I just jumped into the deep end of the pool, knowing I can swim.

This man has showed me more courage, more love and emotional support just by showing up and being himself than I have ever experienced from a man. I am excited and also a little scared of course for the future, but I am certain that we are meant to be sharing and witnessing each others journeys. It is not that we do not have our differences, of course culturally there are many, however the willingness in which he embraces and wants to learn about me and me about him, I am assured that together we can create a solid partnership. A partnership that is forever evolving, changing and accepting.

So it seems my love affair with Nepal has become more than just with a country, but with the whole package. It will be a challenging road we take, I am sure, as we have many hurdles to jump and equally as many opportunities to grow. I know it wont always be easy, cross cultures and oceans, however we are willing and determined and we believe that together we can do it. He is young with a mature heart and I'm mature with a young heart, I feel this is complimentary enough to navigate the map of life...Next chapter we face is the VISA journey to Australia. I can not wait to show him my part of the world as he has shown me his. Life is funny, as soon as you think you know, you can be assured you know nothing...
Coming home for me is a feeling, not a place.  I have many places in the world that are home for me and always, always they are places that invoke a feeling.  Home is a feeling... Home is love... Feeling settled in Love, grounded and connected in love... this is a first for me... Feeling present.  Coming home... :)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ever changing kaleidoscope of Kali.

Which window are you looking out of? Whats the view like?  Is it the same view as yesterday? Are you inspired by it? Soothed by it? Or maybe you have no view at all..... Maybe you'd like to change that view?  One of the things I have noticed, living in Nepal amongst the Himalayas, is the ever changing landscape.  It made me start thinking fondly of Australia as well and the diversity that exists within our country in both landscape and its people.  Change and diversity is natural, it is the one constant that exists consistently throughout the whole of the universe.
Goddess Kali is constantly preparing us for change, creation and destruction. She is teaching us that to stay the same = destruction. We have to flow, we have to embrace change and allow for growth, it is nature. TO resist is to suffer.  Living in Nepal has certainly taught me that.  Especially in the aftermath of the earthquake.  Everyone here has had to accept and adjust their view and embrace change. Nothing stays the same. I feel that when your view is fixed and does not change then you have stopped growing, stopped learning, stopped expanding.  Maybe part of the problem in our societies is that we have become so caught up in survival and living that we forgot that its in our DNA to move about, to adjust, adapt, change and navigate the impacts of living...

Once upon a time humans were nomads, constantly having to adjust and adapt to new environments.  Maybe being nomadic in modern times, is the responsibility of a few people in society?  Maybe its left to these people to explore and gather and bring the new knowledge back to the tribe?  I guess what I am feeling is that, deep within my core has always been this desire to move about, to explore, uncover, seek and participate in something bigger and more expansive than day to day survival.  I know it's not for everyone. I can appreciate, that many of my friends enjoy the comforts of the familiar and their own homes, however for me this always feels so heavy.  I am lightest and at my best, when I'm exploring.  Full of wonderment like a child, open, loving and free.  This is where I learn the most about myself and others.  This is when I do my best work, my best sharing.

This realisation has become more apparent to me, as I find myself wanting to explore further, write and share more.  Its becoming more obvious to me, what my role is in this world at this time and I'm enjoying the possibilities.....  In a few days I am flying to Cambodia for a much needed break from the mountains and to re-aquaint myself with the ocean.  I'm so excited to share this with my Nepali friend who has never left his country before, and more than that, never seen the ocean... He loves to swim, so this will be an amazing experience for him and for me, the joy of sharing this experience with him.  Cambodia is another interesting place I have visited once before, although at the time, it was not long enough, so I am looking forward to going back.  It is also a deeply spiritual place, filled with hindu and buddhist temples so ancient and mystical and set deep in the jungle, in some cases the jungle is deep within the temples, another example that nature is always rearranging itself to adapt to its environment and obstacles.

I am feeling blessed at this time that I am realising my dream of being a citizen of the globe, not just a country. Learning and playing in the world (my chosen university) for some people, I know is a scary thing.  I am aware the idea of having no fixed address and wandering the planet spending money on experiences is for some seen as crazy  or not wise, but for me I feel most wisest when I am living in this way, like a detective gathering intel.  I have never valued things as much as I value experiences, people and places.. 
For as long as I can remember, I have not resonated with domestic lifestyle and seeking Assets and materialistic things, my most treasured items being transport to take me anywhere, my guitar and PC.
It has always created a conflict within me that has kept my soul restless.  The idea of working and moving about is undoubtedly my preference.  Another reason why I love my job with BOUNCE consulting in Australia, always varied, new places, new faces, new learning, new sharing.

Please don't misunderstand me, I am looking forward to returning to Australia and re-aquainting myself with my family, friends and my ocean at Phillip Island, however I think life will be lived in a very different way for me in the future... Perhaps for me it won't be about saving for retirement, but instead, living each day to the fullest and trusting, that to not know the answers, will allow more space to create the future.  A good friend once said to me each day is your life... Not tomorrow.

A Tribal view.... Connectedness.

Not many people in life can say I lived. I lived fearlessly, whole heartedly, unafraid and gave my all. For most of us living day to day is about survival.  No matter where you live in the world, whether its in Africa, USA, Australia, China or Nepal, its all relative.  Our existence and societies all function fundamentally in the same ways... Security first, food, roof, a job, taking care of daily living and our families.  If you were one of the millions born in a developed country, you also get the option to imagine, to chase your dreams unashamedly and I guess that is the big difference. I have observed this difference between being in an underdeveloped country v's a developed country.
In Australia we can dare to follow our dreams, we dare to take a risks, we have a social structure that supports independence and allows us to take risks... Doesn't mean we don't have poverty in Australia,we do,  however in the worst of situations most people still have access to Social Security, health care and services.  What I am saying to most of you would be pretty obvious, however what I want to focus on is around the psychology and structure of what happens in a society that does not have that back up or government support.  After spending 5 months in Nepal and immersing myself into their society as best as a white girl can, I've learnt some things about why so many people here do not dream dreams, why tomorrow is not planned for and why the emphasis here is so much on family and supporting the family.  Independent thoughts here are a luxury.  In a sense I observe that Nepali culture is still quite tribal in its structure.

In a country where the govt does not provide social security or the pension, and old age comes quickly because of the nutrition and hard life, it means that most Nepalis have a view that if they can not make some money in their 20's then they are destined for a life of poverty and struggle.  Growing their own food predominately is one of the ways that they manage to always feed their families, however 50 years old here is an old man.  So who looks after you when you can not work or grow your food?  Your children.  And in a country where women are still mostly uneducated or not empowered to realise their worth, it falls to the men to support their families.  Women are the backbone of most families tending to the home, and in this society where electricity is not free flowing and electrical appliances do not exist, this is a full time job.  
Health care here is not subsidised and access is limited especially in the villages, so many men die in their 60's usually of liver and kidney diseases due to alcoholism.  I can't help but compare the issues in village life here as being very similar to the indigenous people of Australia.  

Family structure, therefore is so important here and the effect this has on the individuals ability to think for themselves or follow their dreams or even imagine an abundant life is almost unthinkable.  Of course they desire to improve their financial situations, but the magnitude and overwhelm of how to do it is so big and lost in the day to day survival and living.  Even the more educated Nepalis that may seem to have a lot of time on their hands struggle with then the ideas or creating anything new because the whole system here is not based on Creating, its based on survival.  Entrepreneurial thinking here is a relatively new concept and non existent in most places in Nepal.  Many educated Nepali look around and see a country devoid of opportunity, there are no supports, grants or traineeships. Being a freethinker, or creative thinker here could change your life, but for most it is so risky especially with the caste issues that exist, "who will support me if I break from the pack..." mentality.

There is a freedom here though, that I don't think Nepali people are aware of, because many have never left the country. For me this is apparent, only because of the life I have lived.  Often struggling to pay bills and making ends meet and the conflict of wanting to chase my big dreams but stuck in the endless cycle of paying the bank to live in my house.  Having a family and subsequently losing that family unit...There is a simplicity that exists here, that is a "connectedness" to each other, a common thread uniting them in their struggle. Nepalis have beautiful friendships and bonds with family, that despite the many issues that relationships incur there is a loyalty, a level of support and care for their fellow Nepali.

I have witnessed more Nepali people here, involved in charities and community events and lending each other money, than I have ever seen in Australia.  I have seen  many Nepali people who have no job, no assets, give there last $$$ to the homeless man on the street.    In fact its so inbuilt in their psyche to give back to society and help others that it is inspiring me all the time.
Here you really do look after your mates... If your friend or family is in trouble you help first, ask questions later..  In here when a Nepali person says "thank you", they really mean it... They don't say it often, its not like in Australia, it is only said when its really felt deeply.  Like many words we take for granted like "sorry", they only say "thank you" if they really mean it and intend to take responsibility.  Here if you don't take responsibility for your life or actions you could end up hungry or out on the street .. So here relationships are very important.  They do not quit at the first sign of trouble, they are loyal and when they love, they love deeply with an acceptance that love can be messy. Here family connectedness is everything.

There is an unwritten understanding here of what your roles are in a family.  It is clear and defined, there is no question of what your job is within your family.  Everybody respects the importance of that role.  What I have noticed is that when outsiders visit here, they are projecting their modern views on to the Nepali way of life, so they do not always see the beautiful balance that exists within these families.  I'm not saying its perfect, however to understand the balance that exists, we need to have respect and openness for anothers journey and perspective.  Eg: A wife's role here is to support her husband, so that he can support the family... Now to a foreigner this seems oppressive or not equal, but please you have to look deeper.  Women here take pride in this role, they do it with love and care and I have met young women who would prefer to do this, than have a career. When an opportunity was offered they declined for this reason.  They feel there is more honour and pride in being a wife, than being independent. For women here if you are not married and have no family it is not a sign of independence and strength, but the opposite.  Their first thought may be, "Who will take care of you in your old age?" and "Are you not alone?"  Not to be mistaken for "lonely"... what they mean is, what value is your life, if not sharing with another?... Interesting to contemplate the real meaning of this statement.

So some might still say that we need to educate and encourage them to support themselves etc...and in part where there is a desire for change we have a responsibility to respond, however honestly when I observe the relationships that exist here ( not all) I can see that there is also plenty of beauty in the simplicity of role such as this. One that many foreigners, in their chase for independence and their dreams, have lost... We judge the women's role here, as not being important or oppressive or that it is not valued or worth anything.  As a mother who often struggled, due to the conflicting pressures of a transitioning  modern society to chase her dreams, I am very aware of the
impacts this may have had on my previous marriage being long... I guess what I'm saying is, marriage is a partnership...which is how it is viewed here, each having an important role to play. To be part of your tribe, your family, your people is a beautiful thing.  It is human nature to be connected to other humans. Suffering is shared and a burden shared is a burden halved.... not to mention the connectedness and understanding that arises and bonds are strengthened.  To have a witness to ones life in both the joy and suffering is the most valued gift any of us could ever hope for... To walk alone in the world chasing dreams is not a guarantee to happiness, what good is success if you can not share it with others who have walked with you or understood the sacrifices you made or the challenges you faced?  Balance is the key.. find your tribe, your people, connect and build your dreams together in common unity...Community.  Together we can create great change in not only this country but the world...Like Russell Brand says " Organised collective, collaborative, contribution and togetherness to create common unity".

So am I feeling connected? Am I feeling like I have a role to play? Am I realising the importance of all roles? Am I feeling blessed to have met this man who has opened my eyes to so much and new ways of seeing life? Who expresses himself more clearly and openly than many men, I have met who speak english fluently? Do I want to support him? Somebody who understands the importance of family and what real partnership looks like? Well YES!!.. I am feeling transformed, healed and part of something so new and expansive that I know its going to change my life forever in many ways... My perspectives flipped.  Without expectation for the future and without judgement and ideals, I remain open, to continue, to learn and be available to the experience of this new kind of love and life... I am looking forward to reconnecting with my own family in a new way, in a way that even when we are apart, we are still together all supporting one another to be the best, heart living souls we can be. Recognising the connectedness between us all.  We are all family and we are all part of a tribe...