Thursday, December 30, 2010

Real Travelers

Up here in Northern California, Brian's relatives are real travelers. Many of them have spent years living and working abroad in remote and foreign locations. I have so enjoyed hearing their amazing stories about Sumatra, Madagascar, Malaysia, Japan, etc. Talking to these folks makes our trip seem very status quo. Of course we are dropping everything and traveling for a year, that's what one should do! It is a very different experience to talk about this trip with folks who have lived what we have done and more.

One comment I have been hearing from a number of these travelers is that once they returned from their long journey, hardly no one wanted to hear about their trip. I found this hard to believe? I can't get enough of the stories these folks have to tell. And how their travels changed them.. Like their difficulties in comprehending and viewing the choices we have in our supermarkets compared to the limited resources in most of the world... Their difficulty once back in the Western world readjusting to the first question asked of them always being "what do you do" instead of anything else.... The strangeness of the materialism we embody in our nation, when all one really needs to live a happy good life can be carried on one's back.... And that the worst culture shock of all was always returning to America, not leaving it....

One tradition in the family up here is to draw "angel cards" on New Years Eve to suggest to the individual a focus for the upcoming year. I drew "expansiveness"and Brian drew "depth". :) Sounds good to me...

I am realizing that I am struggling a bit with the documentation of this trip. My goal is to stay present as much as possible and I don't want this blog to get in the way of that goal. I catch myself thinking about how best to capture what I am experiencing, slight frustration if I can't blog for days at a time, and that will just not do. I think I need to let go of the idea of being able to share most of what I am seeing, experiencing and feeling with my friends and family with this thing. I need to come to it when it is time, and put it aside when it is not. I hope that is acceptable to all of you....

Already I feel like I have missed the window of opportunity to talk about the beauty and expansiveness of Golden Gate Park, the brilliant youth play of Siddhartha we saw last night, the amazing ethnic cuisine I have been consuming, and the nasty cold I have. The strange new rhythms of travel, the enormity and mystical nature of redwoods, the complex and sometimes overwhelming experience of family, the sensation and joy that comes from the presence and reciprocation of unconditional love, and the smiles and acceptance that seem to emanate from Californians.... There is so much here, there is always so much in every moment. A distillation of all I am thinking and feeling is necessary to keep these entries manageable :)

I wish to all of you a new year full of presence and awareness, joy, warmth, love and beauty. Happy 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010


In the last year or two I have been interested in the concept of astrocartography. Simply put, it is a merging of astrology and geography such that certain regions of the world are better suited to each individual's body/mind/soul depending on how planets were aligned at the exact time of someone's birth, etc.... That energetically some locales "jive" better with folks creatively, spiritually, etc.

I feel like I often sense this when I visit different places. That some spots really jive with me energetically and some I feel indifferent or averse to. As we arrived in Berkeley today I felt this surge of affinity and I really liked how I felt. Lighter, more energized, inspired..... I feel this way when I visit Los Angeles too. I really believe place does affect each of us individually in a powerful way. As Brian and I move forward in our life together, we will need to choose a location to settle and work in after our trip. I am hoping we can choose a city where we both feel this affinity.

In other news, we side-skirted an enormous snowstorm in New York this week. Is it ok I am thrilled that we did? I am so looking forward to the shorts and tank tops we'll don in New Zealand.... I'm sorry if I'm gloating East Coasters, I can't help it!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Chanecka Family Christmas

Well this Christmas holiday with the Chanecka family was a whirlwind of cooking, family, music, presents, children and Slovak tradition. A memorable and very special few days with some warm wonderful people.

We went for many walks....

And made homemade kolache cookies and pirohi! So delicious! I was in shock and awe at the number of butter sticks we used, but all in the name of tradition :)

Two huge dinners in two nights, it was the Christmas of a thousand dishes...

And playing music together Christmas night with everyone joining in on percussion, singing and other instruments was the perfect way to end the holiday...

Brian and I have one more night in Davis and then it is off to Berkeley and San Francisco for some exploration. We will be seeing a play version of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (one of the 3 books I am carrying in my bag!), visiting friends, hiking through Muir woods, enjoying the New Orleans Rebirth Brass Band on New Years Eve, taking a trip up to Napa Valley wineries with some friends, and then heading out to New Zealand on the 5th. We are so lucky lucky lucky to be having all of these experiences. I will be feeling that over and over again in the next year I believe.

I hope everyone had a beautiful and warm holiday with your friends and family. Happy New Year to you all, I know 2011 is going to be a great year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Well the last week and a half was a whirlwind. We had an amazing party with all of our friends where we belted out song after song together and smiled and laughed so much. Thanks so much everyone for seeing Brian and I off in such a wonderful way :)

Brian and I had our last date night in Troy on Monday, martinis at
Daisy Bakers and dinner at the new Dinosaur Barbecue..

The next morning we rushed to clean and pack up everything left in the apartment. Brian got his last shots and my mom took us to the airport.

Everything was in a little bit of a rush and we said our goodbyes with hugs and smiles and it felt good and not too sad...

Our plane was on time and we landed in Chicago O'Hare. A strange landing, it was so foggy and snowy I didn't even see the ground until we were on it. I had never experienced that before. I thought there must be no way we would be leaving for Sacramento that night. The airport was jam packed with people and dozens of flights had been cancelled. When we looked at the board we discovered our flight was one of few still non-cancelled flights and amazingly it said "on time". What? We didn't know why we were so lucky but relished in the good fortune and got to California safely.

I have been enjoying so much spending time with Brian's family here, especially the children. The holidays are so magical with young ones around I think.

We were watching this special little Christmas film tonight based on this book. The music was beautiful in this haunting way and the scene with the child floating and flying with the snowman made me teary.... Please watch it...

I have been working on really experiencing and enjoying one thing at a time lately, and it has made me so appreciate the little moments of joy, beauty and wonder. The moments we experience every day that children seem so adept at recognizing as they are experiencing them. I am grateful for all of life, and for this chance at life - the opportunity to experience all that there is right now in this moment - every moment.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let it go

We were getting rid of everything else so I thought, why not?.........

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Thing at a Time

On Wednesday I attended an Eckhart Tolle meditation and discussion group with my parents at this center. I loved it. There were 6 of us sitting by a fire meditating together, listening to some of Eckhart's teachings and discussing how they resonated with us. The first question the leader asked was how I got interested in his teachings. The answer was that I was reading an Oprah magazine on an airplane and read this one page article about Tolle in the back. In it he talked about how you are not your thoughts. That you are the awareness of your thoughts, and not the thoughts themselves. This simple mental shift astounded me. I am not my thoughts? These thoughts that have consumed me and defined me since I was born? I can step away from the thoughts that emerge in me and observe them as their own entity and not identify with them whatsoever? I can't explain how powerful that was for me. I went on to explain in the group that I have read many spiritual texts that talk about this concept, but it never rang true as clearly and as loudly as the language that Tolle used. There is a simplicity and directness in his teachings that really work for me and continue to help me as I revisit and reread his work over and over again.

One of the statements that resonated with me when we listened to him speak at this group was this : "Zen is doing only one thing at a time." Yes. I agree with this. In those moments that I am truly present, truly alive and aware, I am doing but one thing. One beautiful precious thing. But those moments are rare. Multi-tasking is an innate behavior in me that I am working to battle daily. It is celebrated and rewarded in our culture. But I don't like it. I want to just talk to someone on the phone, just drive my car, just eat my meal. But boiling our lives down to individual experiences seems impossible to me sometimes. Should I not listen to music while I am in the car, or talk to others while I eat my meal, etc...? But then I think about it and realize its something you work towards- not submit entirely to - like just slicing a beautiful tomato, or just looking someone in the eye and talking to them intently. The more you can create those moments of just doing absolutely one thing, I think the more aware, alive and conscious you are. And the more conscious we are, the more conscious the world is. I want to work on this on my trip. To not be thinking in the future about the next location, not thinking in the future about where we will eat, sleep etc. all of the time. Be present in the moment experiencing and enjoying where we are, what we are doing and how it feels, smells, sounds, and tastes. Cherishing each second with the understanding that that is all that we ever have. As Tolle said with a laugh, The future doesn't exist, you never get there. There is only always the now....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


So it is 6 days and counting until we take our leave. Wow, time really does fly. Biscuit is at his new home and adjusting pretty well, though I miss him terribly. Our apartment is devoid of all furniture and strewn with boxes. I am saying many goodbyes and they are tough for me. A friend of mine informed me that we are leaving on the winter solstice with a full moon AND a lunar eclipse (12/21)! She said our departure is cosmic :) I like that.

I have been thinking lately about why I wanted to do this. What I am hoping to accomplish in the next year. If any of you know me, you understand this trip is not a "vacation". It has a purpose and there is much I desire to accomplish with this gift of free time (away from a full time job). These are the goals I am thinking about:

1) To learn more about sustainable living practices through wwoofing and education

2) To gain clarity about what type of “work” I should do to make the best contribution to the world I can

3) To open myself up musically and sing often

4) To write regularly in order to process the experience of our year abroad

5) To develop a regular meditation and yoga practice and continue my studies in philosophy and religion

6) To connect with all sorts of people around the world and learn from them

7) To understand how American policy affects other countries around the world first hand, and try to understand what America really means to everyone who is not American. To try and understand what it is like to not be American

8) To learn to live with very little. To eat less, consume less, want less, worry less, and do less. To “be” more

9) To be more physically active on a daily basis. Four years in a full time job in front of the computer has been harmful to my health

10) To see this amazing, big, wide, diverse, beautiful, and crazy world up close

11) To develop a richer and deeper connection to my husband by experiencing and striving for all of the above together

A tall order for one year? We'll see. Number 5 and 8 are really most important to me now and I hope they will help me feel ok about not being constantly productive.

This is really happening.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living in Public

Last night I saw this compelling documentary called We Live in Public and it touched on certain feelings I have about internet life that have been bothering me for the last few years. I have done research and explored extensively the phenomenon of internet addiction, and even did a presentation at my agency to try and encourage my superiors to take seriously this burgeoning problem. My research unveiled that internet addiction is indeed very real and very debilitating, and can destroy lives in the very same way drugs and alcohol do. Aboujaoude (2006) found that 3-13% of Americans are “internet addicted” and experience negative consequences. I won’t go into detail now, but the experience of learning about the destructive nature of the internet across the world was sobering.

Do you feel like the internet has become one big advertisement that you cannot escape? It bothers me that every email we send, every website we go to is tracked and logged and our preferences are churned and calculated so advertisements come to us that will be most alluring. M.T. Anderson wrote an incredible novel called FEED that predicts a future I believe is entirely possible and horrifying. Having a chip placed in our brains with a constant internet “feed” is not too far off from behaviors many are engaging in now. I feel that the internet can definitely fuel a drive to consume consume consume.

These issues spread too to cell phones… No one wants to leave their internet at home! How often do you walk down the street and see people with their eyes looking up at you with a smile to say hello? No, more often heads are down furiously texting or viewing content on smart phones. When I go to the movies at the mall, I see large clumps of teenagers slumped over couches gazing at their phones and completely ignoring each other. Or they are walking in groups talking on phones and texting, not communicating at all directly with one another. When I went to the Apple store recently a young kid that worked there came up to me and said “Wazzup” as his greeting to ask what I needed. I talked with him and tried to engage him but felt and saw this vacancy in his eyes. The ennui of youth? The desensitization of our youth from internet overstimulation? I know I am making sweeping generalizations here, but I feel like something powerful is happening that needs to be discussed. As I think about having children, our technological age concerns me. I want my children to beg to be outside gallivanting around in nature with other children, not begging to have their own cell phone or laptop. Not fighting with them to get off of the computer. I want them to be connected in person to others, to be connected to the natural world. I realize this will have to be balanced with technology, but I think about it.

As for me, I don’t have a Facebook page. I had one for a little while but I realized it was making me deeply uncomfortable and gave me an “icky” feeling so I cancelled it. I have a MySpace page for my music promotion alone, but even that makes me uncomfortable. And now that I have started this blog, I have a number of these “icky” moments, but I am trying to explore where they emanate from and why they occur. I think my body/soul is not comfortable with the over-documentation and over-exposure of our lives. I think that constantly documenting and proclamating what we think and do (increasingly every moment) takes us out of and not into the present moment. I believe it also may be becoming an unhealthy way to define our own self-worth. How many online friends do I have? How many comments are on my blog? How many people looked at my pictures? How many people follow my tweets? I feel like these behaviors/desires hearken back to high school and junior high when we all just wanted to be accepted and loved and noticed. The desire to be shown we are special and important I have always believed is very dangerous to the spirit and the soul. It is blinding. But it is so strong, that ego is so strong.

I am trying to define this blog in a way I am comfortable with. I want to communicate with others about my thoughts and feelings in an honest and open way framed around a specific theme so that this space does not become just an online journal. I want to keep many things about myself and my life private. But I do see the value in open communicative forums such as this to share ideas, challenge ideas, educate, inspire, and open each other up to new ways of thinking. I get that. But I need to be careful with this. Not worry about who is reading or why, what and how many comments appear, etc. I have to admit this blog is a sort of experiment for me. Can the internet and this global technology be used in a healthy, useful, maybe even spiritual way? Or is the eventual result for many too much time and energy wasted on activities that do not help us as humans to grow, evolve, find peace, or share love and compassion? I’m not sure yet. I do love reading the blogs of those I am close to, I feel like it helps me get to know them so much better. But I would so much prefer to talk to them in person about the issues they write about instead of read them in a removed way. As with everything else, I understand the use of technology and the internet is all about balance. Knowing when to step away, to turn it off, and when to use it etc…

And of course there are so many benefits to the internet that I am not addressing here. Community mobilization, education, support, etc. I truly recognize this. But I can’t ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that internet bullying and obsessive compulsive internet gamblers/porn watchers/bloggers/gamers/shoppers/facebookers etc are going to be facing some tough life realities. As a student of public health, I think on a larger scale about health issues. What are the long term effects, and how can we head it off before it is too late? Are people going to forget how to relate to each other in person down the road, or prefer not to?

So despite all of this, Brian and I are bringing our laptop with us to travel. Skyping is a cheap effective way for us to communicate with others and I want to write while we are abroad. I was hoping to abandon all technology on this trip, but we are giving in. I want to be careful with that too. I want to spend days, even weeks away from the computer to help quiet my mind, and to be released from the intense stimulation.

My research showed that in China and Korea there are already well developed treatment programs for internet addiction. And that in Korea, children are learning netiquette in preschool and many internet gaming cafes were closed. I’m curious to see around the world the impact of the internet on various cultures…

Wow, lots to say about this. I feel like there is so much more to explore….Not trying to sound doomsday here either (though it may seem like it) and Im not trying to knock the internet in general. I think what I am referring to is overuse of it. I just think it is important to question our social reality and really ask ourselves questions about our use of technology and not assume there is no harm or danger there because high usage is the norm? Other questions beg to be explored too(i.e. cellphones not giving us cancer because we don't have conclusive evidence yet?) etc etc etc. but I will stop for now :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The art of improvisation

So I have been performing improvised theater with a talented and interesting group of individuals for over 3 years now in the Capital District. The Mop and Bucket Theater Company has been my creative, collaborative home and has been one of my biggest joys living in Troy. Together we make things up and delight in leaping into the unknown together, much like I will be doing with this trip.

At rehearsal last night, we moved all of our things into a new rehearsal space on the third floor of a beautiful historic bank in Schenectady. This new space is amazing: concrete floors, marble, shelves and pipes everywhere, a loft like feel, historic and brimming with possibility. The space is at least 2-3 times larger than our previous one and has this energy to it that just feels like “us”. We are going to hold classes there, performances there, build a real community in the space that is now just “ours”. I could see after all the painting was done, the floors put in, the mural wall contributed to by all parties, that this space was just going to be magical.

And then, my heart sank a little. Sometimes it feels like when I move away from somewhere, when I make an exit, it is always at a sort of peak period. Brian and I have developed these new and amazing friendships here very recently, the improv company really feels like it is taking off, etc. and now we are saying goodbye. But maybe that is really the way it should be. Leave on a high note, just like Seinfeld, right?

And maybe I am being too overdramatic about all of this. In the realm of possibilities we could return to where we are living and in not very much time. But in my heart, I think I know that we will be moving on to something new. At least for a while.

So I have two rehearsals and three performances left with these lovely people that make me laugh uncontrollably and inspire and delight me in many ways. We are doing a show now called Spontaneous Broadway where we improvise a full length musical together. Hello, what could be more fun and crazy? I love it. Shows are the next 3 Fridays at Proctor’s in Schenectady at 8PM if you are interested in an excellent evening of entertainment.

I want to be fully present and aware and grateful for these last shared moments with my friends and collaborators at MOPCO. I am a lucky lady to have known them, to have grown with them and for all of the damn fun we have had...

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is it Serious?

Brian and I were listening to this Alan Watts talk on our way home from Binghamton today. He poses that there are 5 fundamental philosophical questions:

1) Who started it
2) Are we going to make it
3) Where are we going to put it
4) Who is going to clean up
but most importantly:
5) Is it serious....

I loved this. Is it serious? I loved trying on the thought that all of it, living, dying, it all is just not that serious, that it really is a playful thing if you can change your frame a little.... That we are here to experience not to strive, to play not to grind, and that accepting mortality and the fundamental weirdness/oddity of living instead of fighting against it can be such a liberation. And strangely enough, such a simple mental shift... Look at life as play instead of work. And like we have all heard before, that it is about the journey, and not the destination.

I like this... There is not much place for fear, disappointment, stress etc. if you could fully adopt this view. And I was talking to Brian and said, "what a wonderful thing to strive for!", but I was still framing this outlook as a goal to reach instead of an experience to have now! How set we can become in our approach to living and our understanding of change or growth. This talk makes me think of so many things, they need to unfold more in my belly. Please take a listen, I think you will find it quite profound.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Modern day myths

I can't tell you how liberating it is not to have a car anymore. I don't think I realized how isolating having your own car can be. I have had some interesting bus rides and conversations, and wonderful rides with friends that I otherwise may not have had the chance to talk with meaningfully and deeply for a half hour with. I've walked more, smiled at people on the street, noticed details you would never see by car. I've waited, not had instant gratification and enjoyed the quiet and possibility for reflection in those times. I've read books I've been wanting to read with focus and pleasure. I've spent a fraction of money on my transportation compared to owning a car with a bi-monthly car loan payment, monthly insurance payment, and weekly gas costs.

This experience has started me thinking about the myths we have developed in our modern day American culture that are not necessarily healthy for ourselves or the planet we live on and how some of them are starting to disappear for me as I prepare for our trip.

Myth 1: To live a fulfilling independent life you need your own car.
Mythbuster: Read above...

Myth 2: As a woman you need to buy all sorts of crap for your period that use precious resources and clog up landfills
Mythbuster: There are amazing and environmentally products out there that you can use over and over that work as well if not better then disposable feminine products.

Myth 3: I'm sure I'll think of another one at some point! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I am finding that preparing for this trip is affording me the opportunity to work on the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. I will be leaving many things/people/loved ones behind and I am working on recognizing that each of us have our own paths we must follow to develop as we hope to in this life, and that love is not a harness, it is something that is inside you wherever you go, both your love for others, and their love for you. Holding on too tightly to what we love may be an over-attachment to the sensation of love. I want to become more comfortable with a loose and omnipresent understanding of love, not a physical or obligatory one. In reading Remember, Be Here Now lately I am starting to see the many ways in which I limit myself and others with the ways I have “loved” them. This includes judgment of another’s choices, desire for more contact and connection, and a sense of obligation in order to avoid guilt.

To try and illustrate what I am talking about, my cat Biscuit and I have lived together for 8 years. That is longer than any romantic relationship I have ever had. Many feelings arise in me as I think about leaving him with other caring folks while I explore and travel for a long time. I worry that he will feel abandoned or not know that I love him. That he will be scared or angry. But all of this does not matter. For all I know, he could be thrilled to embark on his own new adventure. Loving him doesn’t mean that I never allow our lives to be different. That would be a disservice to us both. I guess what I am trying to say is that we all have a path to follow, and most often it differs from those around you. We are all unique and here on earth striving for different goals in our lifetimes. Maybe or maybe not these are determined at our birth based on our past lives, but either way, we need to allow each other the room to go where we need to go. And try to direct our love light out to each other and out to the world in every moment we are with or not with each other.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Experiences with the bus...

...I was reading "Be Here Now" and a young man sitting next to me started talking about the wonder and beauty of acid and DMT. How he has been working on his spiritual development through careful and structured use of the drug. He even offered me some for free. Then said he wasn't trying to hustle me, he wanted to share the love and beauty of this really amazing batch he had... He also told me he does acid once a week and has a young daughter. I was struggling to be open minded, maybe he really is moving towards enlightenment, but I could feel the judgement welling inside of me. A wonderful conversation though about consciousness and presence that was a lovely surprise on my way to work.

....Waiting for the bus in a windy bus stop. Mom comes in with her 3 children. She has too many bags and is yelling at all of the kids with strong swearing. She screams she is going to hurt them all when they get home. She said they all make her fucking sick. She swears and threatens. The children seem unaffected. Numb to the onslaught. There was a moment when I felt like I was getting screamed at, and my stomach tied into knots, and I couldn't imagine what the stomachs of those three children felt like.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The First Time

Tonight Brian and I busked for the first time together in the DC metro. We played about 4 songs and it felt so good. During some notes of some songs my voice rang out and resonated in the tunnel in a beautiful way that surprised me. We didn't make any money, but some folks sat down on the bench where Brian was playing his drum. There were lots of other seats, so that seemed like a good sign :) I liked that we brought music into a moment where people were just waiting late at night in the quiet tunnel... I think I'm gonna like this.....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ups and Downs

As we move closer to our departure date, I am experiencing some highs and lows, the lower feeling is new and I think emerging as this all becomes more of a reality. I have moments when I start to cry out of the blue, thinking about leaving our family and friends and our cat, and trying to come to terms with the real fact that we have no idea when we will return, or even if we will return any time soon.

That makes goodbyes eerie and sort of tough for me. We may not return to the Capital District. We may have to move elsewhere for job opportunities or other revelations that occur due to our trip. We may decide to live and work abroad a while. We may die (of course this is always a possibility!). And I know that all sorts of uncertainties exist on an every day level, but getting on that plane December 21 opens this whole new can of worms for Brian and I which of course is exciting but sometimes difficult to manage emotionally.

I know too, though, that often only big risks create opportunities for big "rewards", and that only I have the power to create a life that is meaningful, challenging, fulfilling, beautiful and authentic.

I got my backpack yesterday. I must say I love it. Here is a picture of my little backpacker guitar and my backpack, what will stay constant for me in the next year...

Tangent - I am in D.C. for work and it feels fitting to visit our nation's capital before leaving the country. Brian got our Vietnam visas today, $140! Woah!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


We sold the car! We found Biscuit a home! Our possessions are flying out of our doors with excited buyers! I got an amazing backpack for our trip! We booked our first music gig in Wellington! We are finding homes for our most sacred possessions we must leave behind!

Leap and the net will appear....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"This place sucks the life out of you..."

I was at the water cooler today chatting with a colleague about my upcoming trip (I work for a state agency). He said, “Are you taking a leave of absence?” I said no, and he said “Good, just get the hell out of here.” I was surprised by his response. I had thought this person was a very dedicated employee passionate about the field we are in and his job. He also said “This place sucks the life out of you.” I can’t shake it. If a person who I thought really liked his job here feels this way, how many other people feel this way? How many other people are trudging through like him to support their families even though this is absolutely not where they want to be?

I feel like I am getting away with something. That I am escaping. That I was able to not fall into some sort of pit that is extremely difficult to get out of.

Why can working in bureaucratic offices be so grueling, numbing, uninspiring? When I was studying to get my PhD in Public Health (which I ended up not finishing) I was designing a dissertation to try and understand the effects our work environment has on our health: emotional, physical, mental. This includes the office space, restrictions of hours/schedules, endless rules, lighting, color, interactions with others, culture. This focus was largely inspired by my years at state agencies before entering the doctoral program. I felt like many of the people around me were so incredibly unhappy, unhealthy and just counting down the hours to retirement. Going through the motions each day. Looking forward only to meals or snacks that were strewn about the office. Uninterested in developing and growing professionally/personally…I still feel that way. Many people in state service I have worked with have told me I don’t belong here. That this is not a good place for my spirit. Who’s spirit is it good for?

This trip is opening a door to conversations with others that just may have never been opened. That colleague would never have said what he said if I was staying. There are little performances we engage in with each other to try and make getting through each day just a little bit easier. How do you balance wanting to be genuine with underlying social rules for social comfort? I don’t like pretending. And I feel like I have been pretending for a while. I want to say what I really think and feel, and stop trying to contort myself into social and professional structures that make no sense to me. Saying these things aloud on this blog makes me feel like I am working on that. I’m trying.

Soul Ages

This weekend I spoke to a clairvoyant for a while. I have always been drawn to psychics, tarot and palm readers, etc. I’m not sure why, and I am not sure I believe any of what they say, but I find their interactions with me and their thoughts interesting. This woman strongly believes in past lives and the idea that souls come from and go back to a source energy. That the purpose of life is to all evolve to a higher level of consciousness. And that souls “choose” the hardships they wish to experience in their lives in order to evolve to different soul ages. There are supposedly 5 ages of souls according to the “Michael teachings” that she talked about.

I feel like this really sort of makes sense. I can see infant souls, baby souls, mature souls around me. Their characteristics seem spot on. Why does it feel so silly to admit that reincarnation could be possible? Evolution of souls could be possible? We can’t prove that this paradigm doesn’t exist, so in my mind, I can’t let go of the possibility that it does.

A friend told me about a deep meditative experience he had where he started seeing all of these faces flash before his eyes and he could feel within that the images were himself in all of his past lives. When he described the faces he saw, the ethnicities, I got the chills. I could see what a powerful vision it was for him.

When I met Brian, on our first date there was a moment when I looked at him and he felt so familiar to me. I really felt like I had known him before, that I had a strong love for him already, even though I barely knew him in this life. The psychic said that was because we have been part of this cluster of souls that move away and back to the “source energy” together. That we pick each other often to help us through our life journeys. It feels so easy with Brian every day. Maybe we have known each other for lifetimes and that’s why? Why not?

So what does this have to do with our trip? She told me that some of the specific areas we will be visiting will have strong/tough energy for me because of difficult past life experiences. That I suffered in certain regions and will feel that energy coming back to me when I am there again. I find that interesting and am curious what my reactions will be.

I used to dismiss the reincarnation idea entirely due to mathematics. If souls keep returning to earth, but the population keeps growing, aren’t then humans only fractions of the original souls? If you don’t consider earth as the only place for souls to explore, then those mathematics go out the window. I think we can often become earth-centric in the way we become America-centric. And maybe only a few souls came from “the source” at first to test the waters, and more and more then came… Wow, I sound very new-agey!!

We watched “Fierce Grace” recently, a documentary about Ram Dass post-stroke. A powerful film that moved me in many ways. I highly recommend it…We have also been listening to Alan Watts.. I love thinking/talking about these spiritual questions and letting the thoughts that develop because of these conversations, incubate inside of me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


As we work to prepare for our trip, there are many unknowns that trouble me from time to time. Are we going to be able to sell our car? Are we going to be able to find a home for our cat while we are away? Are we going to run out of money too soon? Will Brian be able to find a job when we come home? In our lives there are always unknowns, but our choice to leave what is secure adds a few more to our plate. For me this is intentional. I want to work on how to accept and embrace the unknowns of my life with grace and confidence. Celebrate them in fact. Be present and accepting of all that is now.

On the wall of my cubicle I have a little note that says “Non-Resistance, Non-Judgment, Non-Attachment” and another that says “To complain is non-acceptance of what is. Either take action, or accept the situation”. Both of these thoughts were garnered from this book. I think this book changed my life. It really did. Now Tolle didn’t necessarily share original thoughts and ideas on spirituality and presence, but he explained them in a way that resonated with me powerfully. The concept of your thoughts not being you, that the voice in your head is not your spirit, but a monotonous phonograph replaying all of the thoughts that limit you, hinder you and stunt you from growth and presence really started the transformation that has been happening inside of me for the last 2 years. I’ve re-read and re-listened to the book a number of times. Being in the now is a muscle you must continually exercise to have it be prominent for even just moments a day. It is worth it. Those moments are the best moments I have experienced in my life. Present with the world, with a loved one, with a pet, etc. and not worrying about the future or past whatsoever. Giving my full and active attention to one moment as it unfolds. What a beautiful thing. I am hoping to create a life that encourages the emanation of these moments more often. Tolle would maybe say that I don’t need to do anything, just “be” in whatever situation I am in. That may be true, but when your life is full of hectic activities that you don’t necessarily want to be doing, maybe the chances of hitting that “now” are slimmer?

I have a dream of working part time when we return to the states and spending that extra time doing activities that help our family live more sustainably. Gardening, cooking, canning, sewing, etc. Living on less so we can enjoy our family more. Using this trip as a springboard for transformation. Leaping into the unknown with no parachute and feeling the wind and air tickle our skin as we descend into something different. Waiting to see what the universe has to offer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our carbon footprint

I am aware that Brian and I's round the world trip is not very environmentally friendly. We are taking many plane rides, many of them quite long. Today I bit the bullet and looked up what our carbon footprint would be for the trips we have booked so far for the two of us. For plane rides from:

Albany, NY to San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA to Wellington, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia
Brisbane, Australia to Bali, Indonesia
Bali to Bangkok, Thailand
and Bangkok to Osaka Japan

The 2 of us will use approximately 15,000 lbs CO2. That does not include any busses, trains, etc .
This website allows you to invest money in green practices to help offset the cost of your carbon footprint. I was shocked at how low the cost was for both Brian and I for our trip so far by plane.

In many of the books and blogs I am reading now about urban homesteading and environmental responsibility, they mention over and over to consider only traveling locally or regionally to avoid making such a huge impact on the earth. I have been struggling a bit with this quandary.

1) Explore the world to help develop a more evolved/diverse worldview or
2) Stay close to home to contribute to your local communities and to protect the earth.

Paying these small fees helps to assuage the guilt I have for taking these plane rides, but there is still the philosophical question hanging in the air. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The party everyone is invited to

When I was in college I took this sociology class, and I remember one day of it particularly. For some reason we did an exercise related to death and dying. Our professor asked us to work in groups and talk to eachother about what we would do if we only had 1 year left to live. In our groups we discussed this, albeit reserved and a bit uncomfortable as each of us tried to figure the question out. Then he had us do the exercise again, if we only had 6 months left, 1 month left, 1 day left, 1 hour left, 1 minute left, and finally 10 seconds left. It was fascinating. Particularly the professor’s answer if he only had 10 seconds left. He said something like, “I would leave the classroom, go to the water cooler, get a glass of water, and really drink that water, really feel it run through my body, really appreciate the beauty and splendor of that water.” His answer surprised me, wouldn’t you try and talk to your loved ones on the phone I thought? Then he talked about how we all really die alone. Big stuff for college kids that just have not really thought about their own mortality at all.

I’ve been thinking about that exercise lately, and about the concept of life hours, and the idea of trying to insert the idea of your mortality into more of the choices you make each day. Who you spend time with, what job you do, how you treat others, how you spend your money, what you do for pleasure, etc.

When we did this exercise last night my husband said for most of the different time periods he would do all things pleasurable and do them with those he loved. For me, my answers were a little different. Since I was small I have felt this push to do something meaningful, unique and special before I die. Something that makes my life seem to have a purpose. I know this is not uncommon, but when I started dating Brian I was surprised by the lack of this need within him. I wasn’t sure about it at first. But then I started to envy it. I wished I could turn down the volume of that voice in my head that pushes me to create, seek, and “produce” continually. That’s something I am working on. Being more and doing less. Brian is a good teacher.

If I work to be more like Brian, I stop worrying about how productive I am and think about my mortality in a different way. Think about how much I love being with my family and friends, playing music, dancing, performing, cooking, loving and then do those things with no guilt attached because there isnt some sort of product that gets created to indicate my self worth. This trip is good for that, though of course I already have a list of things I want to accomplish while I am away! But I’m trying. And Im not saying that being productive and creative is a bad thing. It is a bad thing when you do those things to help hide away your eventual death. When you go go go to make you feel like your life happened for a reason, instead of living it with presence and gratitude and calm.

We learn our whole lives. It is so interesting how the amount you need/want to learn seems to increase as you get older. I remember clearly some point in my college career when I just thought, gosh is there anything else interesting to learn about or know about? I feel like I know everything already! Ahhhhh the blissful ingnorance of youth.