Archives for category: Travel

2018-08_ignorance

I pick up the phone. It’s my mum.
“What was the animal we saw at Yosemite?” she asks me.
“A bobcat.”
“Oh! I’ve been telling people it was a mountain lion.”
“Mum! A mountain lion is your size. The bobcat is a little bigger than Sophie.” (Sophie is my cat-sized Boston Terrier.)
Mum laughs and goes on to tell me that there was a fire at Yosemite and that the south entrance is closed indefinitely. I worry about the bobcats, the deer and the squirrels. I hope they made it somewhere safe.

For two weeks at the end of June into the first week of July, we had an adventure. This wasn’t a small thing because my mum lives in Adelaide in the appropriately named state of South Australia and I live in New Jersey on the East Coast of the United States. Mum plays table tennis. She’s been playing my whole life at least. Now in her early 70s she plays “Veteran’s Table Tennis”. She even has a gold medal for women’s doubles. This year the World Veteran’s Table Tennis Tournament was in Las Vegas. Her plan was to rent an RV (How did I feel about driving it?) to see The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Yosemite. When mum told me about the tournament and her idea for the trip, I said, “yes” because 1) in the grand scheme of life we don’t spend that much time together, and 2) it would be a rare thing for me to say, “no” to a trip. That said, aside from helping book a campsite here and there, I neither physically nor mentally prepared for the trip.

Leading up to the trip, when I told people about it, they either projected their own mother-daughter relationship onto mine by saying, “Wow! How do you feel about spending that much time with your mother?” Or, “Wow! Have you ever driven an RV before?” As for #1, not to say my inner ratbag (brat) didn’t come out on occasion, but for the most part, the spending-time-with-mum part was easy. Over the years, we have moved through the apparently necessary mother-daughter angst to arrive at a loving relationship of appreciation and admiration. Mum is a good travel companion. Patient, funny and easy going. As for #2, the reality of living in and driving an RV through Nevada, Arizona and California didn’t reveal itself until I was actually driving the thing. (Mum forgot her passport at pick-up so I was the allocated driver) It was a 22 footer. It was an unwieldy creature and even with the power steering, it felt like I was at the helm of a horse-drawn carriage on a cobbled-stone road. It took a little while to get used to its dimensions. As soon as I started to get comfortable, I scraped the driver’s rear side at the gas station on one of the barriers that protects the pumps from a run-away car. Part of the corner frame bent out at an angle and off popped the reflector. Whoops!*

Still.

America is a stunning country and it is a very special thing to be able to drive through it with a quiet confidence because you can stop wherever you want knowing you are carrying a toilet on your back. We exhaled into the immensity of the Grand Canyon, we inhaled into the depth of Glen Canyon, saw the spectacular feat of Hoover Dam in 120F (48C) that wicked the moisture right out of your eyes, we bathed in the surprise oasis of Lake Mohave, we gaped at the intrigue of extra-terrestrial-esque solar panels standing like sentry over a tiny town called Nipton right at the edge of the Mojave Desert, and we remained captivated by the constant change of the rock, hills and valleys that let us drive through them mile after mile, minute by minute.

It took us a while to get the hang of the RV -to get the fridge working, the water pump going, hot water, the air-conditioner working and even sometimes the heater. We never figured out the shower, but luckily for us, for the first half of the trip, my friend Dawn from my San Francisco days along with her husband joined us and we were able to take cheeky evening showers in their lodgings.

2018-08_GlenCanyon

We spent the last (stinking hot) day (115F/46C) together floating down the Colorado River in the gorge of Glen Canyon. It was so hot our clothes dried in minutes after wading into the comparatively freezing water (44F/7C). I had the thought, “had someone said, ‘hey, let’s spend a stinking hot 46C day in the blazing sun on water too cold to comfortably swim in, what say you?’ I would have said, “erm, no, thanks!” Luckily, I had no such someone. It was spectacular. In addition to being in the belly of a canyon and seeing history in the rock -the earth dating back to 280 to 70 million years, we got to see wild horses, a bighorn sheep and petroglyphs estimated to be 1000 to 8000 years old.

The next day, we left the canyon and entered a world of plains dotted with movie-set oases on straight roads that made it impossible to guess the distance.
“How far do you guess it is, mum, from here to there?” “There” being as far as the eye could see along an impressively straight road.
“Fifteen kilometers” Mum ventured. “Eight or ten miles” I’d say. We tried our best to translate miles into kilometers and kilometers into miles. We’d watch the odometer. Twenty five miles!

Depleted salt lake beds lay at the foot of the ever-steepening and winding road that coaxed us into the Sierra Nevada mountains and then into Yosemite National Park proper. Thankfully, nothing had prepared us for the narrow, shoulderless road, the hairpin bends, and the sheer slab of rock to the left, ravine to the right.

Ratbag Moment on Rte 120 from the Tioga Pass Entrance to Crane Flat Campsite:
“Mum! Take a photo!”
“I can’t right now, dear.”
“Shall we pull over at the next pull out so we can stop and take one?”
“No, let’s just keep going.”
“Mum! Please! Get your tablet and take a photo. It’s so beautiful.”
“Darling! I can’t!”

Repeat.

The road was too hairpin, the lanes too narrow, the hair too raised on the back of the neck and the belly too queasy to think about taking a photo. My poor mum. I felt myself getting exasperated, but I had to admit it was hairy. Going only 25 miles an hour felt like I was going 45.

After being shut down from yet another willful effort to get my mum to take a photo of the awesomeness around us, in response to mum’s nervousness, I checked that I was within the yellow line and reaffirmed my grip on the steering wheel. Large vehicles, bigger and bulkier even than us, seemed inappropriate on this road. Tioga Pass belonged to hatchbacks and compact sedans, maybe a CRV, but not a regular-sized garbage truck, granddaddy Winnebago’s, nor even our 22 footer. And then, WHAM! The reaching arm of a granddaddy Winnebago’s side mirror loudly and unceremoniously clipped ours smashing it against the driver’s side window. I had seen that Winnebago coming and even had time to think the thought, “that vehicle has no business being on this road!”

“Are you ok, mum?” Knowing that she was, but concerned for her nerves.
“Yes, I’m ok. It was just a shock.”
“The Winnebago was too close to the yellow line!”
I wound down the driver’s window and pushed the side mirror back out. It was completely shattered. There was nothing to do but keep going. Nowhere to pullover.

Driving without a functioning side mirror is hard when you don’t have a rearview mirror to begin with. Luckily, there was a rearview camera that we could turn on to see what was driving behind us. There was no more discussion about taking photos after that. Our sole mission was to get to Crane Flat campsite, which we did to our shared sigh of relief.

2018-08_RV

That evening we saw on the map that there was a garage in Yosemite Village in the valley. Even though it was Sunday, when we called the next morning, we were grateful to learn they were open. Later, to spare mum the 16 miles back up to Crane Flat, I  tentatively suggested that instead of staying a second night at Yosemite, we head to Dawn’s place in Petaluma instead. Dawn and her husband’s parting words to us at the Grand Canyon were, “If you want to tap out, you can always come to our place.” So after a morning visiting Yosemite Falls where we had the luck of the aforementioned bobcat siting as it slinked across our path, then a visit to the garage to get the mirror haphazardly fixed, we made our way out of Yosemite, out of Sierra Nevada to the rolling hills of Californian wine country.

“The funny thing is”, I ventured as hairpin eventually became a gentle winding, “had someone said, “This is what it’s like to live in an RV for a week, and this is what the roads would be like and this is how hot it will be and cold sometimes”, there is no way I would have said, “yes” to something like this.”
Mum admitted she would have made different choices.
But we didn’t know.
We were the effect of a bigger idea. An idea ignorant and indifferent to our human worries and fears. The bigger idea wanted us to experience the bigness of nature, its extremes, its unapologetic magnificence and diversity. For this I was so grateful.
“I’m so thankful, mum, that I didn’t know because I would have stopped myself from having this amazing experience with you.”

Ignorance is a gift.

How often do we try to protect ourselves from the unknown by preparing, researching, and investigating so that we can decide what we want to do, what would be “good” for us? But what if what we want to do, what we think is “good” for us, keeps us safe and small? What if ignorance is the gift that propels us into the unknown, into expansion and the kind of good stress that has us thriving instead of just getting by?

Studies show that we are happiest when we are slightly challenged and when the challenges draw out our strengths. Judith LeFevere found in her 1988 study that when she surveyed people at work doing interesting, challenging jobs where their skills were a good fit, they were happier working than when surveyed at low-challenge leisure when they reported feeling bored and apathetic. This is interesting because generally, we think we are happier when at leisure. Consistently, studies show that unless the leisure is challenging and utilizing our skills, this is just not true.

Author of the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says;

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

The RV trip was mum’s idea. Not mine. I would not have thought of such a trip and had I thought of it, I would have dismissed it. Mainly because I don’t like camping. I said “yes” because I wanted to spend time with my mum and I am curious to explore new places. I said yes, because I had no idea what to expect. Ignorance is the gift that gently nudges us into new situations, places and people giving us not only opportunities to use our gifts, gifts that may have been dormant in our dogged attempt to keep ourselves safe by staying the same, but also for Life to offer its gifts to us; the best burger you have ever eaten,  unsuspecting connections and conversations with fellow travelers, a bobcat sighting, the jaw-dropping magnificence of this Earth in its natural state of grace, and so much more.

The good thing about ignorance is that it is inherently expectation free. Spiritual texts remind us that expectations are only ever a recipe for suffering. Isn’t it more true that life rarely goes the way we plan, want or expect? What happens when it doesn’t? Do we get excited at the opportunity, or do we get disappointed and upset? But notice how Life in all its happening includes the wanted and the unwanted equally. It doesn’t care what you think about it. It just gives you what it gives you, which in that moment is what you need apparently. It may not be what you personally want, but somehow, if the experience is here, it’s needed and it’s an opportunity to expand, grow, learn, adapt, love, play, laugh.

ignorant (adj.)

in – “not, opposite of”
gnarus – Old Latin “aware, acquainted with” / gno-ro – Proto-Latin “to know”
Meaning: Not knowing

 

If ignorance means “not knowing”, then its opposite is “to know”. If we look closely, we’ll discover that our ignorance invites knowledge. The basis of many eastern healing and martial arts is to “Know Thyself”. Paradoxically, the only way to “know thyself” is with the no mind (not knowing). Ignorance can act like the no mind because it is unaware, innocent even. Ignorant to the treachery of a journey, the challenges of the new job, the quirks of the personality in a new relationship, the “best” way to a new destination, can keep us present to the flow of life.  When we are in the flow, we are aware. When we are aware we gain knowledge and new experience. We expand and grow, which is our purpose here.

So let’s reframe the word, “ignorance” as an opportunity to become that which we were destined to be, where Knowledge, self-knowledge is the path to happiness.

Love as Life is a miracle that teaches wisdom, grace, generosity and peace.

 

To Your Freedom, With Love,

💕

Andrea

*Both were fixed by the end of the trip. A helpful fellow RVer banged the corner back into place, and when we got to Petaluma, Dawn’s husband super-glued the reflector back on.


 

Join me for my 4-session Know Thyself 2018 Summer Series held at the Elila Center for Natural Healing in Berkeley Heights.

Or, to identify and shift limiting beliefs, consider a one-on-one session. Sessions can be in-person if you are local to New Jersey, USA, or via Skype if you are elsewhere. You may also wish to consider learning a natural healing art such as Reiki as a method of self-care. In the second level (degree) of Reiki, breakthrough limiting beliefs to clear the environment for creation and manifestation.

Email Andrea at info@andreagrace.com, or call: 908-271-6670 x 1. You may need to leave a message. I will return your call within 48 hours unless I am traveling.

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2015-09_biologyofbelief
Did you know that your decisions are made 7 seconds before you become aware of them? That is, your unconscious mind makes a decision that your brain reacts to and 7 seconds later “you” make a conscious decision. Read more.

What else is happening at the unconscious level before it hits the conscious one?

For the first time in 30 years I have found myself once more on the other end of a nebulizer. It started after I began working in earnest on my Journey Through the Chakras project, a self-guided workshop through the human energetic anatomy to help nurture a balanced, empowered, spiritually aware life.

I’d been been starting this project for about a year. Not getting far. Little bursts without much continuity despite the recent attempts my friend Maria had made to give me deadlines at my request. So when our impressively creative and motivated friends Scott & Julie came to visit NJ from Vancouver in July and Julie asked me about my meditations and how was I doing recording them, I responded with red-wine infused enthusiasm, “You know what I would love? I would love to just spend two weeks with you guys and just produce.” To which, with equal enthusiasm, Julie responded, “When?!”

I arrived in Vancouver Friday, August 14th.

On the first days of writing, Monday and Tuesday, I completed the outline and started writing the section on the root chakra. That evening, my breathing was a little labored. This was strange and funny. Strange, because I had not had asthma in a very, very long time. Funny, because I was writing about the root chakra which governs physical health and vitality.

Have you ever heard of the Global Consciousness Project? I first became aware of it when I watched the 2010 documentary, Wake Up. The project measures how human consciousness interacts with its environment, specifically the effects global events have on human “hive” consciousness. What was amazing about this was that the EGG network (the system used to gather the data), showed that human consciousness was aware of the September 11 attacks up to four hours before the first plane hit the first tower.

Let me repeat:
The data showed that human global consciousness was aware something big was happening around 4 hours before it actually happened.

So! I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seemed like my body was predicting my next “decision”…

Writing about my past brought asthma back into my world.

On Wednesday, happily writing alongside Julie & Scott as they brainstormed story ideas for Kate & Mim-Mim, I  bounced back to write the Journey Through the Chakras introduction. In it, I share a time when I was camping and had an asthma attack and no medication to help me. After the initial panic, I was able to stop the symptoms using visualization and Reiki. On Thursday, I went further into my history remembering what happened the last time I had an attack and didn’t have medicine at hand, which was when I was 13 and at a school sports event -not having medicine had landed me in hospital. Friday, the asthma symptoms were worse and I had a raspy throat and a sharp cough, by Saturday, it felt like someone had a fist in my chest, asthma had squarely announced it wasn’t leaving and the sore throat meant my lymph nodes hurt and I found myself sucking on the slightly salty nebulizer air.

Your physical expression is a reflection of your environment.
~Bruce Lipton

The asthma symptoms started before I started writing, but there was already a subconscious intention to write about my asthma-soaked past. It was in my outline. I just didn’t know when I was going to get to it.  Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, I made my way back into asthma world through memory bringing it out on paper, so by Saturday I had what conventional medicine would likely label a chest infection. I was sick. I stopped writing. My throat was sore and my voice thick. I stopped recording meditations. It was not lost on me that according to the wisdom of the Chakra system, the throat is governed by communication and will. The whole purpose of my trip here is communication and expression.
Fascinating, isn’t it?

It is now Wednesday. It’s over. The asthma is back in the past where it belongs.
Perfect timing! Why? Because I read a tiny article yesterday that said that today, August 26th, 2015, is astrologically the best day to “spend tomorrow making a “passionate effort toward a great goal.” So! My chest is clear, my throat is open and I am setting my computer aside to record some meditations.

What is your body telling you about your beliefs?

What passionate effort toward a great goal are you going to make today?

Tomorrow, I leave Vancouver with so much love and gratitude to my friends, Julie & Scott and the whole family, for so graciously supporting the toddler stage of my project and nurturing me well again with so much loving kindness, and for asthma for reminding me how good it feels to be oh-so well!

I wish this kind of love and support and gratitude to you also. If it’s not yet reflected outside, your work is to nurture it inside.

Peace & Joy!

Andrea


To identify and shift limiting beliefs, consider a one-on-one session. Sessions can be in-person if you are local to New Jersey, or via Skype if you are elsewhere. You may also wish to consider learning a natural healing art such as Reiki as a method of self-care. In the second level (degree) of Reiki, breakthrough limiting beliefs to clear the environment for creation and manifestation.
Email Andrea at info@andreagrace.com, or call: 908-271-6670 x 1. You may need to leave a message. I will return your call within 48 hours unless I am traveling.

Turkish Tea

Being Australian and having lived in Tokyo and Dublin where drinking is more like a vocation than a social past-time, comparatively, Turkey is like a teetotaling uncle who only on special occasions is seen partaking in a harder beverage.

Instead of happy hour and after dinner “meet-for-drinks”, Turkish people meet after work and fairly late into the night for çay (pronounced, “chai”). Cay is Turkish tea taken black and served with a cube or two of beet sugar. It’s made using a two-tiered kettle. The bottom half boils fresh water while the top half holds the steeping tea. Because the tea is so strong (today, I noticed the pot had 8 teabags in it) and the cups it is typically served in are Hobbit-sized, half a cup of tea is poured from the top half and then the rest of the cup is filled with the boiling water from the bottom half.

Turkish tea is drunk at all times throughout the day and served everywhere. Yesterday, I was waiting at the bookstore for the store attendant to finish helping me copy the abridged manual for the Reiki I class we had today, and the shop girl offered me tea. In a bookstore!  There I sat next to a shelf of English-Turkish and Turkish-English dictionaries sipping my tea as the after-school kids milled around shopping for pens and test kits and me watching the girl unjam the copier for the upteenth time. Outside, it’s not uncommon to see young boys weaving through the crowd and cars with tea-laden copper trays delivering çay to a local shop or business.

Tea is served at every meal. And if it’s served outside of mealtime, it’s common to nibble on some kind of sweet treat; Turkish delight, halva, a cookie, or a piece of baklava.

The other day I wondered why every night I’m still wide awake until 2am. I think the answer might be in the çay.

New Year 2013, Turkey

When I lived in Japan, come New Year, my Japanese friends would tell me that how you spend the first day of the new year is indicative of how you will spend the rest of the year. Turkish people, I learned, share the same belief. If you just spent your New Year’s day hungover and lying on the couch watching VH1 or a marathon of Hallmark movies, you probably want to reserve taking on this belief until next year ;). Somehow I adopted it and haven’t taken the time to undo it, so New Year’s day I like to do something fun and active with people I love. Last year, I went hiking in South Mountain Reservation with my Turkish friends Burçin and Hatice and Hatice’s family. It wasn’t lost on Hatice, her family, nor myself that we were together again this New Year’s day…In Turkey!
Beliefs are powerful!
So despite our late night revelries and 4am bedtime, this is what we did with the intention to carry it through the year:

  • Took a wooded walk (in a beautiful area called Sapanca)
  • Ate delicious, fresh food and drank tea and coffee
  • Spent time with people we love
  • Gave and received Reiki (we hosted a Reiki circle last night (January 1) for the local neighborhood women)

Turkey_NYsEve2013
Now, here are some things I learned about spending New Year’s Eve in Turkey:

  • Spend the evening with your family or friends
  • Give small gifts (books, CDs, clothes or cute accessories are typical)
  • Dine on roast turkey, pickled tomatoes and dolma‘s
  • Wear red knickers (that were given to you by someone else)
  • Carry a passport in your pocket (if you wish to travel in the new year)

Hatice’s mom (I love her!) blessed me with the gift of red knickers, but between all the dolma-eating, Rakı sipping and gift sharing, I didn’t get around to putting them on, so I tucked them in next to my passport and carried them with me in my little shoulder bag.

We greeted 12am coming up the escalators to Nişantaşı, a quarter of Istanbul famous for its shops and cafes. People kissed and shouted, “Happy New Year” in Turkish –I still haven’t learned it, sorry! We joined the throng and squeezed ourselves into the crowd following the music towards the heart of a street party (a DJ was playing music on an outdoor stage). A little while later, with some effort, we popped ourselves back out to walk along Abdi İpekçi Street, Turkey’s most expensive shopping street. We finished the night with Starbucks and the drive back to Izmit for our 4am bedtime.

Noted moment New Year’s Eve 2013?  Pre-dinner belly dancing lesson in the kitchen. Dear Belly Dancing, you are elusive, but I am determined to get you!
Once is enough moment New Year’s Eve 2013? Being sandwiched between revelers doing the fake-horseriding move to Gangnam Style. Why can’t I escape this song? Why?!
Noted moment New Year’s Day 2013?  The flock of starlings dancing in the sky.

Turkey_food

Food in Turkey!

Two words: Fresh and delicious.

My first meal (after a grilled spicy tuna salad sandwich at Starbucks, yes, Starbucks, while waiting for my checked suitcases that took the next flight out of my stopover destination, Zurich), was dinner at a mom-and-pop fish restaurant in Izmit. My plate was served to me with three fish complete with heads and tails, a grilled green pepper and a thick onion slice. After my initial shock from the milky eyeballs and Sophie-sized teeth gaping at me, I concentrated on peeling the meat of the fish away from the bones and was eventually adequately distracted by how good it tasted.

Breakfast is cheese (feta and a light solid cheese), olives, toast, tomato in olive oil and oregano, honey on the comb, and a yummy spread made from tahini and a thick sweet grape syrup called, tahin pekmez.

Fruit is so fresh and juicy. You can eat a lemon like an orange.

Turkey_food2

For my first dinner in Istanbul, we went to Balikci Sabahattin. We had cheese, salad, fruit, steamed eggplant, a hot pepper spread, fish and a melon that had a skin that looked like a watermelon but tasted a bit like rock melon (cantaloupe). It paired perfectly with the creamy feta cheese from the cheese plate. Fresh, light and fulfilling.

Back in Izmit…Wednesday nights are Happy Hour at the Business Complex for Tüpraş, a petroleum company and apparently the largest company in Turkey. My friend and gorgeous host, Hatice, is teaching yoga there. After yoga we went to the company’s “social building” for dinner and afterwards drinks. There I had a traditional soup called, tarhana. You can tell that eons of history has contributed to the perfection in the hearty, tangy flavour. When I finished, I felt like I had just been fed by my Turkish buiuk anne (grandmother).

My favorite thing so far?  Hatice’s homemade lentil soup.
My good-to-have-once-but-let’s-not-do-that-again? Street-vendor grilled corn on the cob.

Turkey_Xmas

I didn’t expect to find Christmas trees and Santa Claus in Turkey.

Apparently, over 95% of Turkish people are Muslim, so even though I was visiting over Christmas I didn’t expect to find Christmas here. But reality never goes in the way you expect. I found it. While there are no nativity scenes, twinkling christmas trees decorate windows, snow flakes hang from rafters and red and white reindeer look over presents. Santa Claus also can be found standing at attention in doorways and dangling perilously from balconies.

Christmas in Turkey?

Not really. It turns out that Christmas Trees, carefully wrapped presents and Santa Claus are symbols of New Year. Christmas trees are called, “New Year trees” and the gifts it nurtures are called, “New Year presents.” The red suited Santa Claus is a symbol for St Nicholas, a celebrated gift-giving saint of children born in Demre, Turkey in 270. The word Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas and is a colloquialism for St Nicholas…

Turkey_Xmas2

So despite the Christmas-y decorations, Christmas is a total non-event in Turkey. Having been brought up under Christian tradition, Christmas has meaning for me. So I loved how my friends created a gathering Christmas eve at home by the fire to help me feel welcome and warm and to distract me from being away from my own family in Australia and my Boston Terrier Sophie in New Jersey. Musician friends played traditional Turkish music and old Turkish pop songs. The “band” featured a flute called a ney, a small drum called a goblet drum, a guitar player and the most mesmerizing singer. After trusting me too generously to play a rhythm with the pre-school-sized maraccas, I continued to prove my rhythmlessness with a belly dancing lesson I’d been asking for! We drank wine and Rakı and nibbled cheese, nuts, dates, fruit and cake.

Christmas day coincided with my friend’s son’s 14th birthday. His wish was to have Doner for dinner and to go bowling. So my 2012 Christmas Day night was spent in a Turkish arcade in Izmit bowling to Gangnam Style, and playing foosball.
Surreal but perfect.

Andrea with Hatice Bese

Wherever I go, there I am.

After 12-hours of sitting in a seat, hurtling at however many miles an hour above the clouds through the sky, here I am. As if I never left. Nothing is really different, is it? A floor to stand on, a chair to sit in, a ceiling above my head, people around me, conversation, food and sleep.

The plane lands. My body goes from sitting to standing. And still there is the ground beneath my feet, a ceiling above my head, people around me, friends to greet me, conversation and food, and a Starbucks chair to sit in.

I am here in Turkey.