Breaking Silence

 

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At the peak of Mount Batur (pictured above), an active volcano in the heart of Bali, I watched the sun rise over the distant mountains of Lombok.  After a grueling hike in the darkest of nights, with only the stars and tiny little flashlights to guide our way, the burst of golden red on the horizon was like a gift from the angels.  The volcano, in all of her glory, ignited in me a fire that doesn't seem to be going out any time soon. <3

So for the past month, I have been living (and I mean L I V I N G) in the mountainous jungles of Bali, near a tiny village called Lawak.  Alongside 13 of my Shakti sisters, I delved deep... deep into the jungle, deep into the ocean, deep into my heart, and deep into the divine.  Sitting here now, trying to put my experience into words, feels like a futile endeavor.  So I'll press pause on the wordiness and simply say HOLY SHIT WHAT A MONTH!  :)  

~

The past few days, I've been debating whether I wanted to start up the blog again...  I went back and forth quite a bit, but in the end, the decision was surprisingly easy to make.  Sunday morning rolled around, I woke up and immediately felt ready to open the blessings back up again and finish what I started.   

So here I am, sitting in a magical cafe in Ubud called Soma, writing my first post in a month.  

Its hot.  SO HOT.  The air is heavy and close.  I have sweat pouring down my legs just sitting still.  I just finished a magnificent lunch of a banana, raw cacao and spirulina smoothie and a plateful of greens, steamed pumpkin with sesame, tempe and peanut sauce.  My insides are perfectly primed to fuel my return to the bloggy train!

 

The Goddess Durga ~ The Source of the Starlight

The Goddess Durga ~ The Source of the Starlight

An exploration of mudras

An exploration of mudras

I re-read the blessing just a moment ago, and yet again I am in awe of the synchronicity of it all... A Meditation on Endings... I am certainly at an ending.   

"Often what alarms us as an ending, can in fact be the opening of a new journey"

I am certainly at the opening of a new journey. 

But it also feels like the same journey... I'm walking the same path I've always walked: my path.  So I wonder, can an ending be an ending and a beginning and nothing all at the same time?  In my present moment, the answer is yes. 

 ~

One of the many and major blessings from this past month was the gift of alternative education.  I was given free reign to learn, grow, integrate and express myself with true authenticity.  I didn't have to scour textbooks if I didn't want to, or cram for tests, or stress about a presentation.  Instead I got to celebrate ME and the unique way that I learn.  

Vishudha

Vishudha

So basically, that just means that I got to draw, and sing and dance. I got to talk, and cry and be perfectly still.  I got to be sleepy, and grumpy and ferociously sexy.  I read and didn't read.  I wrote and didn't write.  I philosophized and made dirty jokes.  I snuggled and sought out complete solitude.  But above all I learned, and I grew, I integrated and I expressed.  

The photos smattered across this post are some of the (photographable) pieces of art that came out of me during the training. 

 ~

Ajna

Ajna

Golly, I'm really struggling with what to write here.  I've written probably three completely different paragraphs and then promptly deleted all of them, haha.  I'm totally out of practice!  Part of me wants to write about every incredible little detail of the training: what we studied, how we experienced it, the projects we did, the gifts we shared... but that task is far too daunting.  Plus, my words would definitely not do any of it justice.  

Then there's part of me that wants to write all about the adventures we went on: the water palace, the ceremonies, the blessings, the scuba diving, the volcano, the dolphins, the burning... but again, that task is way too huge to take on.  And let me tell you, this heat makes my brain lazy :)

Sahashrara

Sahashrara

So here's the deal... if you want to know about the month I've had, send me an email, join me for a meal or a drink, come have a cup of tea in my apartment... we'll talk :) It'll be way more fun that way. I'll not only have my words, but I'll also be able to gesticulate, move my face around, play with the volume of my voice and the length of my vowels... way more options than what I have beneath my fingertips here! 

The Symphony of my Chakras

The Symphony of my Chakras

~

I kept up with my daily doodles all the way up until we had a 3-day silent meditation retreat - no talking, writing, reading, singing... We gave up all of our habitual forms of self-expression and processing to see what emerged out of the stillness. 

In keeping with the synchronicity of everything, I completed my doodle journal the night before our silent retreat began.  It felt so right to put the finished journal aside for three days, come to my meditation stripped down and simple - just me.  No doodles, no words, no art to get tangled up in the purity of my Self.  And then to start a fresh, new, clean journal after we broke silence was just perfect. 

"...a new beginning that we could never have anticipated and one that engages forgotten parts of the heart." 

So here's the finished product... 51 days worth of words and doodles... a strange, swoopy memoir of the first half of my 2014 adventure in Southeast Asia...  

 

 

Front Cover

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Back Cover

Back Cover

Inside Back Cover

Inside Back Cover

So there you have it!  The doodle journal in its entirety.  Wow.  <3  

I'm planning to continue posting normally from here on out.  I will be in Indonesia for a bit longer though, so it all depends on wifi and such!  But I'll do my best to stay consistent :) Thanks for coming back and reading after a long hiatus <3  

Stay tuned for a new blessing tomorrow! 

Blessing #43: Meditation on Ending

"Experience has its own secret structuring.  Endings are natural.  Often what alarms us as an ending, can in fact be the opening of a new journey - a new beginning that we could never have anticipated and one that engates forgotten parts of the heart.  Due to the current overlay of therapy terminology in our language, everyone now seems to wish for "closure."  This word is unfortunate; it is not faithful to the open-ended rhythm of experience.  Creatures made of clay with porous skin and porous minds are quite incapable of the hermetic sealing that the strategy of "closure" seems to imply.  The word completion is a truer word.

Each experience has within it a dynamic of unfolding and a narrative of emergence.  Oscar Wilde once said, "The supreme vice is shallowness.  Whatever is realized is right."  When a person manages to trust experience and be open to it, the experience finds its own way to realization.  Though such an ending may be awkward and painful, there is a sense of wholesomeness and authenticity about it.  Then the heart will gradually find that this stage has run its course and the ending is substantial and true.  Eventually the person emerges with a deeper sense of freedom, certainty, and integration." 

COLORS WORDS AND WORLDS

So I have got to be honest here... I read the blessing for this week... posted it... and did not internalize one single word of it.  In fact, as I read the post, the words went in my right ear, did a very frantic dance in my brain, and then happily retreated out through my left ear.  

A few days later, thinking my brain would be unfuzzled enough to handle it, I re-read the blessing.  And again it was all just a jumble of words to me.  Blah blah blah blah blah.  I just had zero interest in it.   

And I haven't gone back to it since.  

And ya know what?  I don't feel bad about it, haha.

 ~

The colors of nature

My week in Singapore has been absolutely amazing.  Meg and Mike are the most incredible hosts pretty much ever.  We've been spending lots of time eating, drinking, biking, chatting, bumboat riding (yup, there's a thing called a bumboat), scheming, hookah-ing, meandering, watching movies, laughing, and we even got some work done in between all that!   

Meg and Mike are the owners of an incredible documentary film company that they founded together, called Persistent Productions.  Their work takes them on fascinating shoots all over the world, from Vancouver to Bhutan - and everywhere in between and beyond and above and below.  It has been a real joy to watch them work this week.  They have been on fire... preparing for upcoming projects, planning, hashing out website design, negotiating different time zones, jet-setting clients, and meeting after meeting after meeting.  And somehow, through all of the insanity, they still love each other!!  From their perspective, they probably think I'm a bit crazy for enjoying being a fly on the wall of their world this week... but for me, it has been nothing short of amazing!  

These two are pretty remarkable human beings - I'm so glad to have been able to reconnect with them! <3

But back to the blessing... the one teensy element of the blessing that stuck with me this week was the word "intention."   

Intention is a word I like to throw around quite a bit.  The word feels good in my mouth.  It sounds good when said articulately.  Its just an all-around, pretty great word, and I enjoy  having in my vocabulary.   

The colors of nature and man

Over the past month and a half of traveling, I have created a whole slew of intentions... intentions for the rest of my trip, intentions for when I get back to the states, intentions for 2014, intentions for LIFE!  Haha, well maybe not that epic.  But you get the idea.  For me, these intentions are more like mindsets... sure many of them are rooted in some kind of concrete thing or action... but I guess I think of them more as layers of goodness that I would like to include in my life... layers of goodness that would make me even more ME.   

I suppose they're a little bit like resolutions.  But for some reason, they feel more important, more real than a New Years resolution.  Whatever they are, I like them.  They invigorate me and get me excited about life - whether its my intention to get up on a surf board in Bali (preferably with a devastatingly sexy surf instructor close by), or my intention to use coconut oil in my cooking more often once I'm back home - these intentions really pump me up.  

The Smith family?

I started writing this blog last spring with the intention of reawakening my awareness of blessings... I wanted to open my eyes and remind myself that life really is amazing, even when the skies are murky and grey.  In addition, I wanted to see what crazy art projects my body, heart and spirit could come up with when my eyes were so wide open.  

Okay, so I just went back to the blessing mid blog-writing session.  I didn't re-read it per se... but I did skim it... and out popped the following words...   

"...the intention of blessing corresponds with the deepest desire of reality for creativity, healing, and wholesomeness."

I don't know if my real intention with this blog was to heal... I certainly hoped that it would help the process along... Does hope count as an intention?  I'm not sure.  But I can remember feeling a deep desire (to use O'Donahue's words) for creative expression... it was a desire that didn't even feel like my own.  It felt like it was born somewhere else and then set fire in my chest.  I mean, clearly it was *my* desire... but maybe just because it was so foreign to me, thats what why it didn't feel like it belonged to me.  But whatever it was, wherever it came from, there was no denying its strength.  So this blog definitely is rooted in an intention for creativity.

On that note, the daily doodles are still going strong...  

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This week, I also did a fun project in preparation for my yoga teacher training program that starts this Thursday.  The assignment was to make four Valentines: one to my childhood self, one to the formative moments of my life, one to my future self, and finally one to the entire world.  I had such a blast putting the Valentines together - it felt so good to dive into an art project again!  For one whole day, I plopped myself in a spare room in Meg and Mike's office and just went for it... full on crazy creative Mally-mode!! Glue all over my hands, and of course all over my hair (somehow I always end up with something in my hair!), little pieces of paper all over the place, destroyed magazines strewn around my little work space.  It was really fun :)

I think I'll keep the first three Valentines for my eyes only - but here is my Valentine for world...

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On Thursday I'm off to Bali for one month of yoga with my Shakti sisters!  I am beyond excited.  And beyond ready.  

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the blog during this next month... I am sort of feeling the need to completely unplug for the month.  But I also may end up feeling super creative and ready to share.  I'm just not sure yet.   

So my plan is not to plan :) but to just let it happen as it happens!  So you may hear from me next Sunday, or you may have to wait until mid-March!  <3

Blessing #42: Meditation on Intention

"The power of intention to bless is not some utopian fantasy; it can be shown factually to effect concrete and transformative action.  There is a famous experiment in mediation - for a certain number of days, some years ago, a group of people made a circle around the city of Washington DC, and meditated continually.  Gathered unknown to itself within this circle of loving kindness, Washington changed.  The statistics for that period in the city showed a remarkable and unprecedented decrease in violence and crime. 

We have no idea the effect we actually have on one another.  This is where blessing can acheive so much.  Blessing as powerful and positive intention can transform situations and people.  The force of blessing must be even more powerful when we consider how the intention of blessing corresponds with the deepest desire of reality for creativity, healing, and wholesomeness.  Blessing has pure agency because it animates on the deepest threshold between being and becoming; it mines the territories of memory to awaken and draw forth possibilities we cannot even begin to imagine!" 

Blushed with Beginning

Well, I reluctantly said goodbye to Thailand yesterday, and now I am shacked up in Singapore!  The city is incredible - a huge shift from where I've been the past month, but also a welcome change.  I'll be here for nearly two weeks, so I'll be sure to post some pictures of my wanderings around here over the next few posts!

My amazing friend Meg, who lives and works here with her fiancé, is graciously allowing me to stay in their apartment!  In fact, they're actually traveling right now and wont be home until tomorrow - but they finagled this amazing plan to get me a key so that I could settle in to their place even though they aren't even back yet! 

So yesterday, I got to take a *real* shower!  I also bought a few little groceries so that I could make breakfast for myself in a proper kitchen!  And today, I did my laundry!  **grateful for the luxuries**

~

So I've been trying really hard since I started this blog last spring to not peak ahead at the next blessing coming up.  Sometimes it happens inadvertently though... I just accidentally see the title. Or maybe its not really an accident, haha.  Maybe my subconscious takes over or something. 

Breakfast in paradise

Breakfast in paradise

Anyways, that is precisely what happened with this past week's blessing.  I saw the title a few days before I was supposed to, and I have to admit... it scared me a bit.  A Blessing for the Breakup of a Relationship.  Sigh.  There it was, staring me in the face.  

Sunset fishing

Sunset fishing

So after my last blog post, instead of reading and posting the next blessing as I usually do, I completely avoided it.  I was on an island paradise!  I had absolutely no desire to read something that was going to bring me back to reality.  So I spent the first half of my week basking in the warm light of denial :) trying to simply forget the fact that the blessing coming up was probably going to be a bit of a doozy for me. 

My new friend Mei Mei

My new friend Mei Mei

And let me tell ya, it wasn't too hard to distract myself!  I had an amazing week exploring the magical island of Koh Lanta.  I kept going back and forth between imagining that I was in the show Lost or the movie Jurassic Park.  At one point, when a big group of ginormous lizards crept up on me, I was pretty sure I was in Jurassic Park.  But then, I peeled a mango with a knife and ate it while sitting on a deserted beach... which is so totally Lost.

Koh Lanta National Park (I finally found the beach!)

Koh Lanta National Park (I finally found the beach!)

I woke up early every morning to meditate and do yoga on the beach, followed by a giant coconut mango fruit shake and a heaping plate full of fresh local fruit.  And then it was on to the beach, or the jungle, or snorkeling, or reading in the hammock, or a massage by the water.  And then I would end the day by watching the sunset, taking one last swim in the turquoise sea, and then before heading to bed, I would watch the stars come out while eating a tasty local dish, drinking a tantalizing cocktail, and perhaps chatting with a new friend or two.

I mean come on... how amazing is that?

There were a few moments, though, when I was faced with the harsh (and also slightly humorous... at least in hindsight) reality of traveling alone.  Like when a fist-sized spider climbed on to my bed the first night.  Yup, fist-sized.  Or when I got lost in the jungle of the National Park.  It was clearly not a good choice to wander off the path, haha.  I watched a gecko scale the walls of my room and then disappear behind a curtain as I was trying to fall asleep, and of course my imagination flies to an image of me, fast asleep the middle of the night, with a gecko crawling into my ear.  *shudder*  And then, to top it all off, there was the time I was chased down a dirt road by a very *very* angry monkey.  I'm not sure what I did to offend him, but he was definitely not happy with me.  

My coral sculpture on the tiny island of Koh Rok

My coral sculpture on the tiny island of Koh Rok

But I have to say, all those incidents that, in the moment, were actually quite scary, now, looking back, are pretty hilarious.  I wish I had a video of my facial expressions as I ran from the screaming monkey.  

~

I have always dreamed about buying a little motorbike and scootering my way around Camberville.  Gah, that just sounds like heaven!  And this past week, one thing that I was determined to do was learn how to drive a motorbike.  Like I said, its something I've always fantasized about, and I figured there's no better (or more romantic!) place to learn than on a tropical Island.  So earlier this week, a new friend of mine offered to teach me.  The only trouble was, he didn't speak the best english.  Plus, I think maybe my confidence level was at a bit of a inappropriate high... Bad combination.  

First moment on the bike, I gunned the engine, lurched forward and nearly hit another biker, yelped, freaked out, and jumped off.  Thankfully no animals, humans or motorbikes were hurt during this whole ordeal, haha.  The poor guy who owned the bike clearly realized that I had no idea what I was doing, and swooped in, grabbed the bike, and drove a defeated me back to the guesthouse... where I retreated to my bungalow and promptly burst into tears.  

I don't think it was actually the motorbike incident that brought the onslaught of tears, but rather just simple reality catching up to me.  

~

One of the tricky things about being alone in paradise is, that for the most part, you're surrounded by people in love.  Honeymooners, folks soon-to-be-married, retired couples who've been together 40+ years who are now exploring the world together, families taking their first big trip together... In many ways, I loved watching these people this week. So much love, so much trust, so much respect, and above all so much tenderness and heart.  It was a beautiful thing to witness.  

But there was also something quite lonely about being the witness.  And I think my tears after the motorbike catastrophe were actually about that - they were about being lonely.  

"Unknown to themselves, certain small things touch nerve-lines to the heart and bring back with color and force all that is utterly lost."

So after I had a good cry, it was time to face reality.  I took out the new blessing and read it a few times.

Wowee.  Yup, it was a doozy.  But also beautiful.  And so right on.  As he's done a number of times, O'Donahue was able to put words to the confusing and powerful emotional rollercoaster I was (am) on.  

The words were hard to read, but I think they were important for me to take in at that moment... I have to accept the fact that this is still an ongoing process.  I am still healing.  And in many ways, I am still grieving... though its a different kind of grief now, I think.  This whole experience is - and always will be - a part of who I am now.  Of course, that part of me will change and grow and morph as I do.  But the truth is that there is no fantasy cure - I can't simply erase the hurt by traveling halfway around the world.  But what traveling has given me is a chance to step outside of my normal life, my normal routine, and look at things from a different perspective.

I don't know what all these different perspectives will teach me... Ya know, I may not be able to articulate that until after I return... or maybe I'll never be able to.  But I don't think that really even matters, in the end.  It just matters that I experience it - experience life. 

"If you remain generous... you will find your feet again on fresh pastures of promise, where the air will be kind and blushed with beginning." 

Daily doodles...&nbsp;

Daily doodles... 

The doodles have started to occupy the inside cover as well...&nbsp;

The doodles have started to occupy the inside cover as well... 

I remember back in the late spring... or maybe it was summertime... I was hanging out with my dear friend Alle, and I was feeling very sad.  I was also feeling very sorry - she was my rock during those first few months when I was such a mess.  She was the one who saw me at my lowest low.  And I was feeling sad that thats all she was seeing of me.  I remember saying to her "Yesterday I was feeling stronger and I was excited to show you that I was getting better, but today I'm feeling sad again and you have to be the witness for that."  

Here's what she said to me..  

"Just because you're feeling sad today, doesn't negate the strength you felt yesterday.  Every day is another day forward, whatever that means, no matter what." 

Thanks Alle <3 Your words have been with me a lot this week :) 

Happy Chinese New Year everyone -- its the year of the wood horse. 

Giddyap, bitches. 

 

 

Blessing #41: A Blessing for the Breakup of a Relationship

"Now you endeavor
To gather yourself
And withdraw in slow
Animal woundedness
From love turned sour and ungentle.

When we love, the depth in us
Trusts itself forward until
The empty space between
Becomes gradually woven
Into an embrace where longing
Can close its weary eyes. 

Love can seldom end clean; 
For all the tissue is torn
And each lover turned stranger
Is dropped into a ruin of distance
Where emptiness is young and fierce.

Time becomes strange and slipshod;
It mixes memories that felt
The kiss of the eternal
WIth the blistering hurt of now. 

Unknown to themselves,
Certain small things
Touch nerve-lines to the heart
And bring back with color and force
All that is utterly lost. 
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not ot let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesistant light. 

If you remain generous,
Time will come good: 
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning."

Solitude

Rooftop view of Chiangmai and Doi Suthep&nbsp;

Rooftop view of Chiangmai and Doi Suthep 

I am sitting on a little bamboo deck overlooking the Andaman Sea.  The sun went down just about an hour ago, and now the stars are coming out.  There is a warm breeze blowing my hair all around and sound of the gentle push and pull of the waves just below me is like a gift from heaven. 

This is one of the most incredible places I have ever been in my life.  

And here I sit, alone.  Its a strange thing being in this magical, tropical world without a companion.  To think, it was just a few weeks ago that I was waxing eloquent about solitude and how I couldn't wait to be alone.  

Hahaha!

In the few short hours since I've been here, I've gone fromone extreme to the next... desperately lonely... profoundly peaceful... excited... terrified... intrigued...  overwhelmingly awed... and soul shakingly sad.  

Yea, I'm all over the map, haha.  

The streets of Chiangmai

The streets of Chiangmai

Here are some photos from my last week in Chiangmai... I spent the week recovering from the epic food poisoning incident.  I wandered the streets... I danced my brains out Sweet Release style (love you Marinda!)... I drove to the top of Doi Suthep and meditated in the temple up there... I spent some more time with the amazing elephants at the Elephant Nature Park... I drank lots of delicious tea... I played music with new friends... I played with an adorable Dutch baby named Fritz... I discovered the most delicious homemade bagel ever at a little cafe called The Birds Nest... I got completely lost... I had my palms read by an incredible man named Dennis... Another magnificent week in Northern Thailand. 

I love the art here

I love the art here

So back to the real deal here... the blessing this week of course had me thinking about my breakup this year.  Its been almost 11 months (wow nearly an entire year)... Though I can really see and feel how I have healed and grown since March, particularly since starting on this crazy journey, I have to admit that there are days when I feel a bit lost.  Its a different sensation than what I have been feeling - its not sadness, fear, desperation, or anger - instead, there is this profound nothingness.  I miss him, yes.  I feel his absence.  But there is a nothingness that comes along with those feelings.  I suppose they're more of sensations, rather than emotions.  My body is aware of the sensation of missing him... my heart notices the space he used to occupy... At least I think thats whats going on.  I don't really know.  

The Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park

To be honest, its quite confusing.  While sometimes the nothingness is a real relief, its is quite often rather frightening.  I am someone who feels things pretty hugely.  My emotions tend to be big.  So to feel nothing is unknown territory for me.  Though I am certainly not miserable (not even close!), I am also aware that the happiness and joy I am experiencing on this trip is very different to the joy of being in love.  

I feel so blessed to be on the journey that I am on - the places I've seen, things I've done and people I've met in just the 3 short weeks of my traveling have been truly incredible.  For the vast majority of those 21 days, I have felt whole in my solitude.  But this week, I think because of the blessing, I've found my ex showing up in my mind more often.  

But again, I can't stress enouogh the nothingness of that... he just shows up.  He's just there, in my head or in my body or wherever.

I read something this week about a couple that re-learned how to ask each other questions.  Rather than asking "how are you?" or "how was your day?" they asked "was there a time when you felt confident today?" or "how have I made you feel loved today?" or "how does your body feel?"   ---  I love this.   And I think it ties in beautifully with the blessing. 

Once, while we were sitting in our kitchen eating dinner, my ex asked me to stop asking him the generic "how was your day?" question.  I remember feeling a little hurt by this request - I asked the question because I genuinely wanted to know the answer.  Though the words were generic, the sentiment was true.  But for him, it felt like a forced routine and I think it just really bothered him.  

So I stopped.  For a few days I didn't ask him anything for fear of falling back into that routine and seeming disingenuine.  But because my desire to know about his days didn't go anywhere, I figured out how to ask the right questions - ones with substance, where the truth of my love for him and his experiences was evident.  

That memory came to me a few times this week.

The daily doodle continues...&nbsp;

The daily doodle continues... 

In my journal today, I wrote the following:  

"I look forward to the day when I fall in love again.  I hope its big love.  The kind that makes my soul vibrate."

 

Blessing #40: A Blessing for Love in a Time of Conflict

 "When the gentleness 
between you hardens
And you fall out of your
belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached
hold you still.

When no true word
can be said, or heard, 
And you mirror each other
in the script of hurt,
When even the silence
has become raw and torn,
May you hear again
an echo of your first music. 

When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root, 
May your souls come to kiss.

Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take teh chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Toward the gateway to spring." 

 

May This Change You

Well, there's nothing like an epic bout of food poisoning to cut you down to size.  There I was, romping around Northern Thailand like I owned it.  No cares, no worries, no troubles in sight.  Then BAM.  

Okay universe, I get it - I don't have it all figured out. 

A quiet cup of crysanthemum tea at Aum

A quiet cup of crysanthemum tea at Aum

But let's not get caught up in the brutal reality that has been the past 36hrs of my life, because, really, this week has been amazing.  I love Chiang Mai.  I love Northern Thailand.  This week, I fell in love with color over and over and over again.  I made friends with the most magnificent creature I have ever known.  I trekked through the jungle with a hilarious bunch of Thai gentlemen.  I rode along the Ping river on the back of a motorbike.  I spent a day with Embee, a beautiful Thai farmer and cook who taught me how to make some of her favorite dishes and also happened to have the most amazing laugh ever.  

I ate.  I drank.  I sang.  I meditated.  I walked and walked and walked and walked.  I found a lovely little whole in the wall restaurant called 'Aum' where they had an old guitar lying around... oh man did it feel good to get my fingers on those strings again.  

It's been a good week :) 

Playing in the river with my new best friend, Tong Jai

Playing in the river with my new best friend, Tong Jai

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The highlight of the week for me was undoubtedly getting to frolick with Tong Jai, a rescue elephant living in a sanctuary near Chiang Mai.  The sheer size of her was mindblowing.  At first it was quite frightening being near her - her trunk was so strong... it was clear to me that she could've easily crushed me.  In fact, it probably wouldn't have taken much effort on her part at all.  But as we got to know each other, and I proved I was a friend by feeding her plenty of bananas and sugar cane, we both warmed up to each other.  I even got a little kiss on the cheek!  It was an elephant bloo-bah!! (For those of you who don't know what a bloo-bah is, just ask my siblings!)

I'm planning another trip back to the sanctuary this week to visit more with Tong Jai and the other elephants there.  I can't wait... there's something about those creatures... I don't know if I've ever been  more blissed out than when I was playing in the water with her... sigh <3

And then there's the blessing... Sheesh, talk about hitting the spot.  

"... Learn to be a good friend to yourself, journeying to that place in your soul where there is love, warmth, and feeling."

Embee got very excited about curry paste :)

Embee got very excited about curry paste :)

I did that this week - I was my own best friend.  I held my own hand and journeyed into the depths of my own soul... and in doing so, I felt more connected than ever to the world around me, to my new surroundings, and all the new faces in my life on this adventure.  

But for the first time, I felt completely disconnected from my life back in the states.  Logically I knew that my life there was a good one, full of friendship and love and family and music... but physically, emotionally, subconsciously... I couldn't feel it anymore.  It was so strange.  It was as if someone had just flipped a switch and turned that part of my life off.  The few times I connected with friends back home over the internet, I would say "I miss you" and though I knew the words to be true, I couldn't find the real meaning behind them.  It was honestly so bizarre.  I started to wonder if maybe I should move to Chiang Mai - maybe I was living my life in the wrong place.  Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. 

And then I puked for 36hrs straight (ha!) and my heart immediately sought comfort in the hearts of friends back home. 

A post meditation drawing

A post meditation drawing

At the end of the blessing this week, O'Donahue writes... "May you never be isolated, but know the embrace of your Anam Cara."  The words Anam Cara are Celtic for "friend of my soul" and represent rare friendships that transcend time and distance. <3

Maybe the universe does want me to live in Chiang Mai... I don't know yet.  But what I *do* know is that I am blessed with true Anam Cara in my life.  

Blessed.  Blessed.  Blessed.   

Week two of journal drawing

Week two of journal drawing

I have one question before I sign off... for those of you who made it to the end... if you met someone who could see into your future, and they told you that you could ask them three questions... what would you ask? 

Blessing #39: A Blessing for Friendship

"May you be blessed with good friends
And learn to be a good friend
to yourself,
Journeying to that place
in your soul where
There is love, warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.

May it trasfigure
what is negative, distant, 
Or cold within your heart.

May you be brought
to real passion, kindness,
And belonging. 

May you treasure your friends,
May you be good to them,
be there for them,
And receiving all the challenges,
truth, and light you need. 

May you never be isolated
but know the embrace
Of your Anam Cara."

Love and Doodles

The three singing sheep (ram?) chillin' next to me right now :) 

The three singing sheep (ram?) chillin' next to me right now :) 

I'm sitting in the beautiful lobby of my hotel in Chiangmai, Thailand.  I'm staying at this magical place called The 3 Sis (www.3sisbedandbreakfast.com).  I've already made friends with the staff!  Boom (thats how you pronounce it, but I'm sure I'm butchering the spelling... sorry!), one of the front desk folks, is so kind and helpful.  He speaks perfect english and is quick to smile.  My room is simple and serene.  There's a little balcony looking out over the street.

Bangkok at night. 

Bangkok at night. 

I've gotten a lot of requests for photos... I'm using my new camera mostly, so I don't have tons of pictures available to post (I don't have the means to get the pictures from my camera on to my ipad).  On top of that, I can't figure out how to plug in a gallery of pictures here, so you're only going to get a couple of highlights!

Delicious fried coconut goodness. 

Delicious fried coconut goodness. 

Chiangmai is pretty incredible.  I just arrived here last night - after a jaunt through one of the markets outside of the main part of the city, where I ate some *ridiculously* amazing food - I retired to my room for an early night.  

Today, I wandered around the old city (which I suppose could be called downtown... though that word feels far too metropolitan for how the energy of this place).  I meandered aimlessly for a while, without any plan or agenda.  Bright, colorful graffiti jumps off the walls every once and a while - tropical plants pop out of gates and fences - fat stray dogs lie lazily on many corners - and you can't go far without finding a little shop filled with handmade crafts.

I am completely in love with this place. 

~

Love.  I just said that I am in love with a city.  *In* love.  Being in love with a city is just not the same as being in love with a person, haha.  My mind is wandering to that Sex & The City episode where Carrie talks about dating New York.  I don't think I want to date a city, haha.  Not exactly sexually satisfying.  (Sorry, Dad!)

I am really into this guy's work - the color and texture rock my world. &nbsp;He's pretty awesome too :)

I am really into this guy's work - the color and texture rock my world.  He's pretty awesome too :)

In less than a week I have already met some truly incredible people with whom I've had heart-opening conversations, laughed a lot, and tried new things.  Though with many of these people, I feel as though I have known them for a long time, I am not in love with them in the soul-shaking kind of way that O'Donahue is describing.  I love them, certainly.  But I think its different.  Actually, let me rephrase... I *know* it's different.  At least I know its different for me.  There is a certain kind of trust and a special corner of my soul that is reserved for the kind of person who opens me in a way that I can't even understand... the kind of person who finds parts of me that I don't even know are there.  

6 or 7 years ago, I'm no sure I would've had this same perspective, probably because at that time in my life, I had never experienced the kind of love that O'Donahue is writing about here.  But I am fortunate enough to have known big love, and for me, that love was so different than any other kind of love I had ever felt before.  I keep using the phrase "big love" but that feels like the best way to describe it.  

I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it, the big love.  I do - I miss it a lot.  I miss caring so deeply for someone, I miss wanting nothing more than to see them smile, or feel the warmth of their skin.  I miss being in love.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how much I miss it.  But at the same time, I know that I am in no way ready to feel it again.  I'm not ready to be the kind of partner to someone that big love deserves.  

Then again... If Pharrell Williams were to come a knockin, I don't think I'd have any problems being ready to rock, hehe.  But what Pharrell and I have transcends pretty much everything.  So, I suppose thats just a whole different can of worms. :)

~

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So I've decided that, unless inspiration comes in a lightning strike kind of a way, my art projects during this adventure are going to be all along the same vein.  

The journal I am using during my trip is a simple moleskin with a blank cardboard cover... or at least it used to be blank.  My plan over the next few months is to not only write daily journal entries, but to also add - bit by bit - to the artwork on the cover.  So every day, I will draw something new and write a few little words summarizing my day, or my thoughts, or my heart.  And then at the end of each week (internet connection willing), I will post a picture on here of the work in progress.

Thanks for reading, folks! <3 

P.S. Happy birthday Mom & Aunt Susan!

 

Blessing #38: A Blessing for Love

 "When you love,
May you feel the joy 
Of your heart coming alive
As your lover's gaze
Lands on your eyes,
Holding them,
Like the weight of a kiss,
Deepening.

May the words of love
Reach you and fluster
Your held self,
The way a silhouette of breeze
Excites a meadow. 

When you are touched,
May it be the gentleness you desire,
Your lover's hands sending
Each caress deep into your skin
Like a discovering glance. 

May slow sequences
Of kisses discover
Your secret echoes. 

May your desire flow free
And never be fettered
By the thorn-chains
Of old guilt or crippled touch. 

May you feel
How your soul loves
When your skin glows,
And your eyes darken
When promise ripens

May you be able to listen
To your lover's heartbeat
And think only of the joy
You can awaken. 

May you be able
To let yourself fall
Into the ocean rhythm,
Unfolding ever more
Until you become
One crest of wave,
Rising into wild form
Whose beauty will show
In the graceful sweep
Of its home-breaking."

Leaving On A jet Plane

Well its a new year and I'm off to Thailand in a few hours.  My flight leaves at 7am from Logan and I'll be traveling for 24+ hours.  Yeesh.  But then I'll be in Thailand!! The pre-trip anticipation has been pretty epic... and exhausting... and emotional.  But hopefully that means I'll sleep like a wee little babe on my flights :)  

Thank you to all my friends and family for being so supporting and amazing this year.  2013 was a hard one, but I'm riding the wave into a new year that promises to be full of adventure.  

~

So on to the blessing... what a beautiful one this week.  Relationships... love... partnership... sharing... all things I value very highly in my life... things I want, things I've had.  Initially, I jumped to this being about a relationship with a life partner - the kind where romance is involved.  But as I re-read the words, and spent time with loved ones, and celebrated the arrival of a new year, I decided to choose to read it with a more open definition of relationship.  Friends.  Family.  Soulmates.  Partners.  Boyfriends.  Girlfriends.  Spouses.  They're all in there. 

I don't have a 'real' art project this week - my body, brain, and heart have been occupied by other things.  But, thanks to Jamie, I do have some photographs of people I have relationships with.  People I love, and people who love me.  Jamie, being the amazing friend that she is, bought me a beautiful scarf for my travels and then had a whole people in the community put their love and energy into the material.  

I'm wearing the scarf right now.  It feels like a big hug. <3 

My plan is to continue with the blog as best I can while I'm gone, it will all depend on internet connection and such -- I make no promises, but I'll do my best!  Thank you all for reading and being a part of this project with me -- I can't wait to see how this whole thing evolves while I'm adventuring. 

"There are certain things that can happen to us only in solitude; and every life needs a rhythm of solitude in order to experience this. However, the experience of self-discovery, psychological integration, and spiritual growth can only happen to us when our desire draws us out of our shells and toward the precarious and life-giving sanctuary of another heart."

I'm off to the world of solitude, to explore my own heart ... but its a beautiful thing to know that I will have bits and pieces of so many other loving hearts with me every step of the way.  <3

Blessing #37: Meditation on Relationships

"There is great beauty in the notion of desire.  Each of us is a child of the desire of our parents for each other.  We are creatures of desire because we are creations of desire.  The human heart discovers its most touching music when desire and love inform each other.  When we love, we leave our separate solitudes and come toward union, where we complement each other.  It is this ancient desire in every heart to discover and come how to its lost other half that awakens and activates its capacity for love and belonging. 

There are certain things that can happen to us only in solitude; and every life needs a rhythm of solitude in order to experience this.  However, the experience of self-discovery, psychological integration, and spiritual growth can only happen to us when our desire draws us out of our shells and toward the precarious and life-giving sanctuary of another heart."

Learn To See Your Self

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Earlier this year, I had a strange, and very strong, desire for everyone in the world to disappear.  I didn't want the apocalypse or anything like that - I wasn't craving nuclear war, or some massive natural disaster, or a zombie infestation... nothing violent or crazy... I just imagined that all the people in the world would just *poof* disappear.  Simple. 

And then there would be me.  Alone.  Meandering the streets of Cambridge, Somerville, Boston... sitting in empty bars, walking through apartments, taking in the quiet simplicity of a world without humans.  No work, no responsibilities - nowhere to be, nothing to do, no one looking at me.  Like I said... simple.

That image may seem super dark and depressing to some people.  And maybe it is.  But to me it sounded (sounds) beautiful.  Life can be exhausting - wouldn't it be amazing to just push pause for a moment and simply walk through a quiet world?  

"Well, Mally, why don't you just go out and spend some time in nature away from the city?"

Yea, I could do that.  I do do that.  I love doing that.  

But thats not what my fantasy is.  

My fantasy is an empty city.  A city so still - the only sound is made by my solitary footsteps and the wind rustling old newspapers.  A city so quiet - there's no buzzing of computers, no clicking of keyboards, no thumbs whirring on phones.  Wouldn't that just be incredible?

~

I sat down to write this blog a little before midnight.  I had zero plans for an art project.  I read the blessing last Monday and fell in love with it... given the fact that I'm about to spend the better part of the next 3+ months traveling alone, solitude has definitely been on my mind lately.  But despite my love for O'Donahue's words this week, I hadn't felt even a hint of a creative spark.  I think this was the least prepared I've been for a blog post yet.  It wasn't just that I was running late - I was late and completely out of gas!

Jamiestar

But I think maybe the problem was that I just hadn't given myself enough time or space to allow a spark to happen, because almost instantly after I read the blessing again and placed my hands on the keyboard, I remembered my fantasy of an empty city... and the spark sparked.  

I somehow had to make that fantasy real.  Or at least make it feel real.  

There was no way I was going be able to do it alone.  So I called in back up.  A project like this calls for the impromptu, spontaneous aweomeness of one person, and one person only... Jamiestar to the rescue! 

I explained my fantasy to her... Jamie listened intently.  We traded ideas.  Jamie picked out my wardrobe.  We giggled a bunch.  We drove aimlessly for a bit.  I contemplated jumping around barefoot in a giant (freezing cold) puddle in the street... then thought better of it.  

Eventually we found ourselves on the bike path near Alewife, and here's what we ended up with... 

Jamie took a whole bunch of photographs, but these two were our favorites.

Thanks for being up for a strange and rather frigid photographic adventure in the middle of the night, Jamie <3

~

I could probably talk a whole lot more about my choices regarding solitude... things have been a bit confusing in that regard lately.  But instead, for now, I'm just going to live out the rest of my night in my fantasy world that Jamie helped make a reality tonight. .... "May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe." 

 

Blessing #36: A Blessing for Solitude

"May you recognize
in your life the presence, 
Power, and light of your soul.

May you realize
that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness
and belonging
Connects you intimately
with the rhythm of the universe.

May you have respect for your
individuality and difference.

May you realize
that the shape of your soul is unique,
That you have a special destiny here,
That behind the facade of your life
there is something beautiful
and eternal happening.

May you learn to see your self
With the same delight,
Pride, and expectation
With which God sees you in every moment."

 

Like A Room Without a Roof

Sometimes I'm amazed at the synchronicity of the blessings... I was just writing last week about loneliness, and then what comes up next?  A blessing for loneliness.  Bam.  I like to imagine John O'Donahue's up in heaven somewhere hanging out with Pop-Pop, Ga-Ga, Grandpa and maybe even my family dogs Oscar and Mia, talking about how he's making it all happen for me down here.  Thanks, Johnny. 

~

When I think about loneliness in my life right now, I think about the feeling of being alone in a crowd.  I think about feeling alone in your own head.  I think about choosing loneliness over love.  I think about what loneliness sounds like.  And I think about fear.

~

So, for those of you who don't know, I'm just a few short weeks away from leaving on an epic trip to southeast Asia.  I'm traveling mostly on my own for 3+ months (yikes)... first to Thailand, then to Singapore, and Indonesia, and finally Japan.

Some days you could talk to me about all of it, and I'll seem super confident, ready to jump on the plane and head into the unknown.  Other days, I am much more anxious; I preemptively miss my friends and family here, I fret about all the things that could potentially go wrong while I'm off on my own in some foreign country.  

I go back and forth from one extreme to the other pretty quickly.  Its rather exhausting actually, haha. 

In the past few weeks I've thought a lot about my choice to go to Thailand first - a country where I quite literally know no one.  On top of that, I chose to stay there for an entire month.  Yeesh.  Talk about diving in head first, eh!?  And like I said, some days my excitement for solitude is overflowing.  Other days, I'm scared shitless. 

This week, in preparation for those days in Thailand when I'm feeling lonely, I enlisted the help of some of my magnificent friends to create a short film to keep me company on my travels.  Inspired by my Pharrell Williams' (aka my future husband's) music video, this happy little diddy was such a blast to put together.

I hope it makes you smile :)

Thanks to the amazing ladies who broke it down like PROS!  Thanks to Ryan and Jamie for their UNREAL technical skillzzz!  Thanks to our new friend Greg for joining in the PARTAAY!  And thanks to Pharrell Williams for writing pretty much the greatest song ever and then making an even more amazing video to go along with it.  

Pharrell, baby, if you're reading this... call me! *wink*

Blessing #35: A Blessing for Lonliness

"When the light lessens,
Causing colors to lose their courage,
And your eyes fix on the empty distance
That can open on either side
Of the surest line
To make all that is
Familiar and near
Seem suddenly foreign,

When the music of talk
Breaks apart into noise
And you hear your heart louden
While the voices around you
Slow down to leaden echoes
Turning the silence into something stony and cold,

When the old ghosts come back
To feed on everywhere you felt sure,
Do not strengthen their hunger
By choosing to fear;
Rather, decide to call on your heart
That it may grow clear and free
To welcome home your emptiness
That it may cleanse you
Like the clearest air
You could ever breathe.

Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears;
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know

That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you
The glimmer of springtime."

The Invisible Form

I haven't been very chatty lately on this puppy... so get ready, I'm about to puke up a whole backlog of thoughts!  (Ew, sorry, that was gross)

~

Putting out an album is like birthing a child... then raising the child... and then sending that child off to college.  Except the child is sort of eleven (in my case) little children smooshed into one.  Eleven tracks, eleven little pieces of my soul - eleven *big* pieces of my soul... Eleven children out there in the world, being heard, judged, loved, hated, ignored, talked over, cried over, feared, buried, revered.  Its scary and exciting and completely overwhelming.

Although, lets be honest here, I've never birthed a child, let alone raised one and sent 'em off to college.  So you should probably just put a big MAYBE in front of that first paragraph.  Or I could just check with my dad and see what he has to say about the matter.  :)

My former bandmate wrote this when we released our studio album, Look Up nearly three years ago:

"I've always felt that music is a record of time; an audible representation of a period in someone's life that required notes for emotional expression."

Yup.  Truth.  

I received a big box full of my CDs a couple weeks ago - they arrived earlier than expected, so it was a fun surprise for me.  A very nice UPS man handed them over to me, and I would've run upstairs, but the box was rather heavy, so instead I walked carefully.  I was so excited - I couldn't wait to see, to feel, to hold the final product.  As soon as I made it up to my room, I speedily cut the tape with my keys and threw open the box.  I pulled one album out, looked at it for a moment, put it quietly back in the box and walked out of the apartment.  

Don't get me wrong, nothing was wrong with it - in fact, it was perfect... exactly what I had planned for.  

And yet for some reason, I hated it.  I absolutely hated it. 

I walked immediately to my favorite local coffee shop, got myself giant cookie, and tried hard not to think about how much I hated it.  

My amazing friend Caity showed up not too long after.  I told her what had happened and how I was feeling, and she didn't seem surprised.  She looked at me and softly said... "Well of course you hate it, Mally.  Its a physical representation of the pain you've felt this year.  You poured all that abstract grief and darkness into this project, and now its something concrete, something you can touch and hold.  It would be weird if you didn't hate it a bit."

You so smaaaht, Caity! 

When I heard her words, something softened.  As soon as I was given permission to hate it, I didn't hate it quite as much.

~

The CD release party last Sunday night was pretty breathtaking.  I'm still processing all the love and support I received that night.  Having that many people I love in one room... Wow.  Looking out at all of the faces in that room is something I will never forget.  

And yet, even with all of that love coming my way - all of the good vibes, all of the support and encouragement - there were two pretty big puzzle pieces missing.  My bandmates - The And Company.  One bandmate was stuck at the airport in Philadelphia waiting for the snow storm to end, and the other was with his family in Asheville, North Carolina.  One would've been there if she could've - stupid weather.  The other maybe wanted to be there, but he wouldn't have come even if he could've - he knows heart wouldn't have been able to handle it.

I felt their absence on Sunday.

Now don't get me wrong - I love my songs.  I love the musicians and artists who collaborated with me and I am extremely grateful for them.  Words could never ever come close to expressing my gratitude.  And I am very proud of how the project came out - it truly is a physical representation of this time in my life, and I consider that a really beautiful thing.

But I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am still learning "acquaintance with the invisible form of (my) departed."

~

I am really lucky to be have the friends I have.  REALLY F*CKING LUCKY.  

One friend of mine in particular, who suffered a great loss this year, is a real inspiration to me.  She is living her loss and her grief with true beauty, honesty and grace.  She is not afraid to be open to the world about where her heart is sitting.  In my eyes, she's fearless.  Earlier this week, she posted these words:

"Feeling alone under this blanket of love... interesting feeling... but thankful for the warmth."

I love that she admits to feeling alone even though she knows that she is surrounded by loving friends.  That takes courage.  I love that she doesn't immediately jump to feeling guilty for feeling alone, nor does she label it as negative.  Instead she offers it up as something "interesting," something new to investigate.  That takes strength.  And I love that she speaks her gratitude amidst all the confusion.  That takes heart.

<3

~

So this week, I'm trying to emulate my friend.

I want to admit to the loneliness, yet peer through these new windows with curiosity and maybe even excitement.  And I want to say thank you. 

Blessing #34: A Blessing for Grief

"When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss

~

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hills of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time."