Monday, October 10, 2011

Transition

Hello to all of my amazing readers out there :) Thank you so much to many of you for reading consistently my thoughts, and for sharing with me your connection to this blog and your pleasure in reading it, it makes me feel good!

Since Brian and I are settled in Tucson, AZ for now (though every day is very much like an adventure!) I have decided to migrate this blog over to my website for my new business! Yes I finally did it :) I have now officially opened my doors to my life coaching business and am enjoying so much already working with my clients :)

I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to take this trip, and that it afforded me the time and energy to develop a career that feels authentic, nourishing and energizing.

So if you are interested in continuing to read my weekly blog entries, please follow me here :) I always love hearing from all of you in my comments and I look forward to continuing to write with a new focus.

Thank you again for all of your support with this writing venture, and I hope to see you at wwwkatiechanecka.com!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Now



So this is where we live right now. It is a bit dreamy. Though the days seem chock full of activity, there is a fluidity to each day that feels loose, flowy, nurturing and calming. Brian and I have been helping with projects around my parents house, catching up with long missed friends and family and I have been pretty successful at meditating, exercising, working on various to dos for my new life coaching business and cooking each day.


Below is the two of us enjoying the 4th of July fireworks in Binghamton from my parents front lawn. We had a perfect view!


I have felt uncompelled to write here. There is a lot I have been sifting through in my mind (and body too I suppose) and I wasn't ready yet. I want to describe to you how it feels to be "home". It feels different. I feel different. I can tell that I was changed by this trip and I am in a different place now then where I was when I left. In some ways that is exhilarating and in some ways it is difficult. Change is always like that, isn't it? Powerful yet painful, empowering yet grief-laced, joyous but also melancholy. It is these dichotomies that play in my mind as I try to understand who"I " am now and where I am headed. I feel like my body and mind are both telling me that they are really ready to move on to somewhere and something quite different from what I had been doing and where I was living for the last 4 years. This is exciting but also sad. I am grateful I don't feel a longing to have my previous life, but at the same time, almost feel a strange guilt for not desiring the past.

I have always relished huge changes in my life with an almost unnatural vigor. Picking up and moving to too many places in too short a time, slashing through boyfriend after boyfriend, changing passions, plans and foci on a dime. But somehow, this cluster of changes I am experiencing now does not have that frenetic and impulsive energy. It is calm, controlled and nourishing. That is new for me. Picking up and moving to the desert, starting a whole new career and business on my own, re-believing in my need to sing and dedicating time every day to do it, these are all things that are big changes, but they feel gentle. Maybe that is one big way I know that I have changed.

These cute snakes cuddle together in the sun each day in a bush outside the front door.

The other thing is, I think in the past I would be pretty freaked right now. Our bank account is dwindling and Brian and I have no income as Brian works hard to secure a full time job. We are not sure how we are going to support ourselves until something comes through. But for some reason, I have this deep knowing that everything is going to be ok. Brian is going to get a job, I will find clients and we will be fine. I can envision this abundance rolling toward us like a loving cloud, and the old fears of scarcity are dissipating more and more every day. I truly believe in a positive, thriving bountiful future for us. What? Who is this new agey super positive girl? I guess it's me! And it feels great. New and strange, but great :)

I took an amazing Anusara yoga class today in Binghamton. I didn't even know they had a yoga studio here, let alone a beautiful and very active one. It was a treasure. The teacher was back for the first time in 4 and a half months because she had a tumor in her chest somewhere and had surgery that basically created a deep cut all the way down her sternum. This woman couldn't have been much older than me. She was so grateful to be back in that class, teaching from her heart, and she was teary numerous times during the class. Anusara is all about opening the heart, and each time she would demo a heart opening pose, I could tell it stimulated the healing going on in her chest, and her gratitude for her survival. It was beautiful to witness. She said to the class that she didn't need a "wake up call" as many acquaintances suggested (which caused her much frustration), that she was the happiest, most connected and fulfilled she had ever been in her life when the health issue started. But then on further reflection, she said that she realized she could always work to feel more and more alive. That was our goal for the class today, and I think that is my goal every day. I am making choices that are getting me there. I hope you are too :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Proud to be an American

I am proud to be an American. And I love Los Angeles, my heart feels alive here. And I seem to only notice the good things about this place when I visit here. I love being in a honky tonk bar with swing bands playing and the dance floor jammed with people of all walks of life and all ages dancing madly and joyously. I love hiking in the middle of a bustling city and being able to escape into the quiet sanctuary of nature so effortlessly. I love the elegant and extremely tall palm trees that lean this way and that, and I love the sea winds tickling my skin. I love the smiles of people passing me on the street, the buzzing creative energy and excitement, and the striving of so many to be better, do better, give more and take less. It is out there, I see it.

I also love how we speak our minds, and challenge each other, and how American women can be so powerful, influential and inspiring. I love love love the music we make and have made. And I love our diversity of thought, looks, and beliefs.

I am now on a train to Tucson from LA, and the landscape is stunning. Rolling golden hills with verdant orange and willow trees dotting the lower landscape of a rolling river valley. We press on and are surrounded by purple and shadowy jutting mountain ranges with whispering sagebrush, juniper trees and spinning wind turbines stretching for miles.

Only now being back here, back to my home, do I understand the breadth of the change that has occurred within me. My mind focuses on beauty, opportunity and what is good so much more, and my heart feels hopeful, light and free. I didn’t much feel this way, or experience the world so much in this positive way when I left 6 months ago. I realize now that I had for many reasons gotten off track, gotten off of the path my soul was meant to travel in this lifetime. It is so easy to do.

I believe we all know deep inside of us exactly what we are meant to do and what makes us feel most connected to the divine. I believe this. The trick is, after so many years of programming to cover, hide, and ignore our true selves to appease our family, lovers, and society, our minds have created layer upon layer of insulation on top of that knowing. I had six months to chip away at it. And I must say, I see a hole now with light streaming though. And it is warm and beautiful. And it is real. And if you are feeling the way I was feeling, please trust me, it can be different. But it takes work, and commitment. And often a leap into the unknown. I am so grateful I didn’t let fear prevent me from taking that leap.

I am so excited to start anew. To embark on a new career helping others come into alignment with their own personal purpose. It feels right. I coached my first client this weekend, and as we were working together I felt like time stopped, I was fully alive, and where I was supposed to be.

Thank you to all of the forces out there that helped me to get to the place I am now. I only hope I can give back to others in the same way as I move forward. Thank you to all of you who shared this journey with me. I will continue to write in this space until I have developed my new website if you are interested in staying connected to the next steps in my life :)

Life is good. Life is great. We are all good. We are all great exactly as we are, as we were, and as we will be.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Traveler Profile - Sylvie


Traveler Profile: Sylvie

I met Sylvie in my cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam. French is her first language but she spoke English quite well. Brian deemed Sylvie and I “soul sisters” because we had many things in common and got along swimmingly from the get go. We hope to visit her soon in Montreal when we return to the states :)

Name, Age and Country of origin

My name is Sylvie and I am 40 something and I’m from MontrĂ©al, Quebec.

Can you tell me how long you’ve been traveling?

For a month now in Vietnam.

Why did you decide to come to Vietnam?

That’s a good question, for sure I wanted to visit a place in Asia, this was the first time. I was thinking of India but a friend of mine recommended me to visit this country later with someone else, not by myself, so I was thinking of another destination. For me, Vietnam went through my head because I had a good impression of the country, maybe even more close to my mind or my way of living as a more calm, not too stress, very calm and spirit way of living.

Did you have any goals for yourself for this trip that you were hoping to achieve, or things you were hoping to focus on or experience with the time you had on this trip?

Yeah, you know it’s funny, before I come I was talking to my boss and she was curious and she asked “Why Vietnam” and I said, (and its funny that I met you) if I would be able to combine either yoga and meditation, I am more and more curious about meditation so I would like to know more and I think it is a country that can bring me some answer. I wouldn’t be surprised to find people who could guide me to have inspiration about that. A good way of living that respects the rhythm of the person because I think our society is very very fast, and I know it is very fast according to what I know about me, my natural rhythm, I know now that if I can slow down. Even yesterday I was in a place for a drink and they were talking about slow food, those kinds of things I like to hear.

And what have you enjoyed so far about Vietnam that you have experienced so far that really resonates with you?

Every time I see children, I love children, and I know they have a very special place here, so I like seeing people take care of their children. When they’re babies, there is something really nice, that I see the smiles on the faces of the parents and the people around the kids, even the kids are very spontaneous and I love that. I like laughing and I know every time I laugh with the kids and try to play with the kids, they were so respectful and happy and proud.

So what has been your favorite moment in Vietnam?

I think it was when I was with the French couple that we visit the waterfalls. But we had to climb, it took an hour to get there by climbing the rocks, there were no tourists at all, but it was so beautiful in the middle of nowhere, because it was not the jungle but the forest. We had to go a long way by taxi, and it was for me the beauty of nature and lots of people like me are very afraid of what is going on with the planet you know.

Yes definitely. So, can you summarize your philosophy of life in one sentence?

I like talking about harmony. For me harmony is a very good word that I’m looking for. Even in a couple if there is harmony you can go through so many things with the respect and balance that brings… I think that a lot of civilization, we’re talking about symbolic you know earth, water, sky so I think that maybe at that time they knew that there was a balance between different things and we need all to be one, the perfect um, excuse me my English is not so good!

Katie and Brian: No it sounds good!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blissed out in Kyoto


What can I say? We love Kyoto. We feel very at home here, at peace and happy. There is something about this place that is soothing, inspiring, magical yet familiar.


There are little places of beauty and wonder all around.


We visited this special temple and shrine in on the top of a mountain in Kurama, about 15 minutes outside of Kyoto by train.


In front of the temple there is a little triangle that is supposed to be the spot where the first human beings were beamed to earth, according to a friend of Brian's :) They also hold a huge fire festival up here every year that is quite lively!





This stone wall is ages and ages old. There are stone walls like this all around Kyoto, giving us a glimpse into an ancient past.


At the temple you can purchase a "fortune". If you do not like your fortune and do not want it to come true, you can tie it to this little tree here!


These are some OLD gorgeous trees!

I had the good fortune of going to the Onsen (hot spring bath) in Kurama as well with no one there. I took some pictures so I could show you what it looks like!


It is in a beautiful setting outdoors in the mountains.


Here is where you bathe and clean yourself before you enter the hot bath. It is rude not to scrub yourself religiously before entering, since all are sharing the same hot water. It is also rude to stand while showering, that's why there are little stools there to put your naked hiney.



The other day we also did some other good sightseeing. We visited the Kinkakuji Temple (see a video of us) as well as a very famous Ryoan-ji zen rock garden where you can only see 14 out of 15 rocks at any one time. Here is a video of us there as well...

We have so enjoyed riding bikes all around the city, eating amazing food, visiting with old friends of Brian's, and taking long walks and hikes around nearby parks, temples and mountains.

Tomorrow we are helping out with a festival at Brian's niece's international school. We are working the "American" tent and serving up chili dogs and homemade macaroni salad :) Brian and I are playing a few tunes too for part of the entertainment of the day. It should be fun!

I can't believe we will be in LA and back in the states in 4 days. We will have been gone for almost 6 months. What a thing...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Enjoying Japan


So we have been thoroughly enjoying our time here in Japan. One weekend Brian and his brother played in a local softball game.


These boys are in their wheelhouse when playing sports I must say. Tim was catcher, Brian pitcher.. They both just really shine when doing any sort of athletics, it was fun to watch them kick butt..


We've enjoyed many amazing meals at Tim's in-laws with all of the extended family :) I love the amount of time they all spend together, there is not much of this extended family connectedness in the states I feel like..


We also went to a traditional tea ceremony which I loved! At first we had to purify ourselves before entering the tea house.


Then we each had to enter through a little door by opening it half-way with the right hand, the other half with the left hand. Brian struggled a little to get through the opening! Brian has had to do a lot of ducking and wriggling in smaller spaces here in Kyoto as a matter of fact :)



This woman was our lovely guide and teacher. She was so warm and friendly and passionate about sharing all she knew about traditional tea ceremonies with us. She at first made us tea and showed us the process of drinking it. At the end of your cup you are supposed to slurp loudly to let the host know you are done!


Then we each got to try making our own tea and sharing it with each other. Brian did a great job...


I've noticed here in Japan that it seems like everyone you come in contact with is enjoying their job, and doing their job with purpose, presence and joy. At first I found this as possibly a put on, a show, but after talking to many locals here, it seems this is genuine. Yes the taxi driver, the waitress, the grocery store clerk, the toll booth collector, they all are genuinely happy and grateful to serve you, and do so with joy and deference. Is this possible? I feel like back home I know next to no one who loves their job and does it with joy and gratitude each day. It is a really interesting thing to witness. Our friend here said that it may be from a long ingrained cultural norm of accepting "your lot in life" here. Not always craving to be richer, more influential, higher in the ranks of society. This is not a cultural element I expected of Japan, I always envisioned it as highly capitalistic, individualistic, etc. It is interesting to see this phenomena. And I love how it feels. To receive the warmth and hospitality of so many people each day as you move through this culture is just a treat. And you also see it physically around you. The stunning beauty of this city is due to the love and care of those that design and maintain the outdoor spaces including parks, gardens, etc. but also in the absolute cleanliness of every space you encounter. You can feel the pride and care of this city's inhabitants for their home all around.


The Japanese pickle EVERYTHING. And the fruits of their labor are just scrumptious. I have committed to furthering my own pickling skills once we get settled back at home...


Look at those little octopi snacks! Ha!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Awareness and Equanimity


I am back from my meditation retreat and finally feel like I am reintegrating into the real world. I feel wonderful. And new. And I think I have never worked so hard in my life. The challenge of this retreat was something that I had been desiring. An opportunity to work at something diligently, to push myself to go beyond what is normal and comfortable for me in order to grow and develop in new ways.

I loved the lack of stimulation. No talking, no sounds except those of nature, no looking anyone in the eye, no touching. Only healthy light vegetarian food in my body, no caffeine, no unhealthy inputs whatsoever. I loved all of this. I have realized in recent years that I am most comfortable in situations where I am not overstimulated. Where dozens of sensations are not interacting with my body all at once. The lack of sleep and early rising was also not a problem, which I found delightful and interesting. I had trouble falling asleep most nights, my mind and body seemed to be abuzz in a pleasant way, so usually I would get about 5 hours of sleep with the gong waking me up at 4 AM. But I would feel refreshed and aware. I have always been a firm believer that I need 8 hours of sleep to be productive and healthy, so this dissolution of that truth was a curiosity to me.

So all of this was very very nice. But the meditation was HARD. I can't believe I meditated for 10 hours a day for 10 days. I had heard from others that have done these retreats in other parts of the world (the U.S., India, Thailand) that a majority of people leave by the third or 4th day and that the rules are not always adhered to. Not so in Japan! Everyone stayed (except for one person) and did the whole thing, and NO ONE broke any rules. The Japanese are some diligent folks and their commitment and discipline inspired me and encouraged me. I feel so empowered and happy that I pushed myself to complete the whole thing, and I feel like I received enormous benefit from it. Let me try to explain why.

The Vipassana meditation technique is very teachable, pragmatic, scientific and non-sectarian. It is a technique that was discovered by Buddha himself over 2,500 years ago to help others be "liberated" from their miseries in order to start walking on the path towards enlightenment. It revolves around 2 things. Being very aware of the sensations you experience physically on and in your body, and being equanimous when you feel them in order to avoid experiencing aversion or craving for any sensation. This means that while you are meditating, and are not supposed to move your body at all, you may experience pain for example (severe pain!) but that the goal is to not attach aversion to that pain. To observe it objectively as it arises and understand that it is temporary, just as everything in this life is temporary. That attaching emotional frustration or anxiety to that pain exacerbates the pain (I found this to be very true) but that neutral observation allows for acceptance of what is, instead of craving for another reality that is not. The same goes for a pleasant sensation. Observing it objectively as it arises instead of craving for it to last. And in this way, there is a practical approach to staying "in the now", something that I have been working on for the last 2 years, but have not been successful in maintaining or sustaining for even a short period of time.

I loved this direct translation of the physical meditation to mental processes that we experience all of the time in our every day lives. If you can stay aware and equanimous, you experience much less misery in your life, it is true! Let me give you an example.

On the 10th day of the retreat, the noble silence was lifted after the morning meditation. This meant that all of the meditators can chat and finally find out who each other is, talk about their experiences with the retreat, etc. Almost all of the women at the retreat (men and women were separated) were Japanese and did not speak English. There was one Bulgarian woman there who did, and I was looking forward to seeking her out to have a conversation. All around me were these Japanese woman laughing and talking animatedly and I started to feel left out. I found the Bulgarian lady, and she was speaking Japanese with a few other women. I hovered for a moment hoping to get her attention, but she didn't notice me or was not interested in talking to me. So I then walked away around the garden in back in circles trying to process the pain sensation in my belly and the negative emotions that had arisen. So quickly had my equanimity been shaken after the silence was lifted! But it was incredible to find that as I observed what was happening in my body, and then chose to be objective and not emotional about what I was experiencing, the sensation and emotion passed easily after that and I was back to a state of peace and harmony with what was. Soon after I had a lovely talk with the lady as well as other Japanese women that tried very hard to communicate with me :)



Another experience I had during this time was a release of a lot of painful experiences and memories from my past. The meditation technique is supposed to work such that after a time, you stop generating new Sankaras (cravings or aversions) so that old, very established Sankaras arise within you and can be observed and then released. I didn't know if I believed in this possibility, but one day during a long and deep meditation I had this moment where all of these painful memories seemed to arise from my toes and out my head, one after the other. Memories I didn't even think I cared about anymore, painful things I thought I had really let go. But they were all there, heavy and sharp and ready to be released. And I was able to observe them and then let them go. And as I walked in the garden outside after that session, I had never felt so light, so peaceful, so joyful.

What I want to impart to all of you after having this experience, is that I really believe we have the power within ourselves to change our negative mind patterns and habits. We do! It takes work, but it is possible to increase the amount of peace, love and harmony we experience in our lives. I think we have to be willing to observe ourselves in a way that we are not used to, but the benefits are so wonderful, so powerful.


This Japanese maple was a comfort to me when I was struggling...

My belief in our ability as human beings to create a more peaceful, loving and joyful world has strengthened with this experience. We have the tools and faculties to change the way we interact with each other, with the earth and with ourselves. And I am not saying that Vipassana mediation is the answer for everyone to begin developing these faculties. But that it seems to be helping me, encourages the belief that we are all not f**ed here. I now truly believe there is a real possibility that a life can be lived full of joy, love, peace and harmony, and that that possibility rests on the shoulders of each of us - not on forces outside of us that frustrate us, frighten us, etc. And I think it all rests on understanding how the body and mind interrelate and operate, and how best to use that understanding to change behavior.

I am grateful I had 10 days to experience this. I am going to do my best to keep up the 2 hours of meditation recommended by the center (1 hour in the morning and one hour at night) to continue to develop the skills I learned. Please let me know if you would like to know anything more about this, it is hard to summarize the experience well here in one blog post!