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What is Home?

Home is Where You Make It

This question has come up a lot while I’ve been travelling over the past few years.

I got asked, “So… where is home for you?” almost on a daily basis. I encountered countless individuals who left their place of birth and now call a new country ‘home’. I read a lot of esoteric books and had conversations conceptualizing that home is on the inside or wherever you are. Many people associate home with that little coloured passport book or even language.  I came across many a traveller who escaped former lives and are doing everything in their power to run away from home. I met people who wished they could go back home, but needed to immigrate due to financial or other circumstances. Then there’s crossing paths with all those transient travellers who proudly adopt the homeless title and never want to call anywhere home.

Evidently, I think home can mean a lot of different things.

The foundations of home are often formulated before we can even spell the word ‘home’; it’s simply where we’re born. For others, it takes a lifetime of searching to find somewhere to call home.

We usually consider home as the place where we grew up. This is the critical period when novel experiences, child rearing, and education establish our concept of reality. It is the time when we learn social norms and how we relate to/interact with the people around us.  It’s the point when we first experience culture and traditions and when we receive education on our nation’s history and where our ancestors came from.

Home is both a permanent and dynamic concept. One’s home is a constant, such as a country, city, or the very first house.  Home can also be a perception in flux, changing with time and as families evolve, people move, children enter the picture, and as lives progress.

I also believe a significant part of feeling ‘at home’ involves understanding. There is a shared knowledge or understanding based on history, culture, values/beliefs, and environment (this also includes political environment and collective understanding). While home usually represents safety and comfort, it does not imply a utopia. It is where we are surrounded by individuals who understand and can relate to us. Home is a place that fits our concept of the world and melds with our beliefs and values.

Over the past 3 years, I have called a number of places “home”. Everything from an ashram to a hostel, my backpack to a housesit, a tent in a log cabin to the back of my car.  I slept, rested, and returned to a safe haven that felt like home.  It is a place where you feel secure and grounded.

Throughout the travels, there were many places I visited and thought to myself, “Hey – I could live here!”  But when I looked deep within, I knew where my real home was.  When it came time to settle down and stop travelling for a while, the only place my mind would travel to is that big ‘ol country up north!

For me, home is Canada.

Home is where my mother, father, and brother live. Home is where my friends from high school, art college, university, and soccer reside. Home is where people get my humour and terrible hilarious jokes. It is a place where I have significant freedom and rights, free healthcare, feel safe walking at night, and where you’ll hear a “hi” when you pass someone on the street. It’s where people are laid back, progressive, polite, multicultural, liberal, and maintain a collective appreciation for the vast beauty of the far North. To me, home has clean air, four seasons, mountains, snow, pine trees, rivers, lakes, and wild animals.  Although…this doesn’t mean that my home can’t change one day 😉

Welp… this particular lag of my travel journey has come to an end.

I have learned SO much over the past 3 years and I know this is only the beginning. Travelling will not stop and this does not mean that exploration, learning, life, and living will suddenly cease.

I left Canada in 2012 as an ambitious and curious girl. I was full of anxiety, preconceptions, stereotypes, and ideas on how I thought things were or ‘should’ be. Being abroad challenged every last thought, value, and belief I had of the world. My entire understanding and perception on many topics were completely shook, turned upside-down, and revolutionized. I now see life, death, love, relationships, work, family, tradition, travelling, people, material things, and home in a completely new way.  This has been an incredible, eye-opening, and powerful journey. Major questions have peaked and I know I have only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

Of course it’s bittersweet to have any chapter come to a close, but I suppose that only means that the next one is ready to unfold!

Someone gave me the most superb advice just before getting on a plane – “You are not going back, you are simply returning home”.

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Meg’s Walking Booty Boots

I walked a lot of miles in these bad boys.  At times, these were the only constant in my life.  Interestingly, looking back on these photos I can remember the EXACT location, temperature, time of day, and emotion I was feeling in every. single. photo.  A “selfie” alternative when travelling solo!

Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.  ~Rumi

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Tuk Tuk, Train, Bus and a Boat Oh My!

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BANGKOK BABY!

I made it to the land of Thailand!!!

After a hella long flight in a middle seat sitting next to ‘Edward Elbows’ I officially make it to BKK! I get off the plane and am instantly hit by a wave of heat and humidity and the airport smells of orchids!

I have an interesting ‘conversation’ with the taxi driver regarding my immediate destination. He just giggles, nods his head, and ushers me to get into his vehicle. Welp… here we go I guess! I manage to successfully (although not entirely smoothly) guide us to my guesthouse. What in the world did people do before pre-researching on Google Earth or iPhone GPS?

After an epic jet lag induced sleep coma, I was up and off! I had to walk only a few meters from the apartment before I stumble on a fruit market and get to enjoy my first taste of Thailand fruit! The mangos. Sweet baby Jesus.

I stroll to the nearest train station, hop on, and take it to the main Hua Lamphong. My primary goal of the day is to lay my eyes on Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha) and simply experience what the streets of Bangkok have to offer. I start walking towards Chinatown and stumble upon a large crowd which turns out to be a FREE food market! Score! These tender older Thai women see me observing the activities and gesture towards the food. “Eat eat! Free free!” I bashfully nod and reach for a tiny styrofoam bowl of spicy looking vegetables.  It’s a blow-your-face-off-spicy green papaya salad! The women watch me eat just laughing and smiling. I love this place already! I also try some salty/spicy green apples and an orange coconut drink.

After the market, I walk along the street and find myself at the most glorious temple.  I absolutely ADORE the Thai architecture.  Intricate, ornate, sparkly, and the COLOURS!  Bright red, turquoise, and gold everywhere!  I enjoy watching the Thai people in their element offering gifts and popping in for their daily prayer.

I then make it to Chinatown. The street is fucking PACKED! People squashing past each other in every direction, rainbow umbrella covered carts on wheels, motorcycles, hot steam from lil’ stalls, yelling, bells dinging, green awnings, smells of cooking meat and incense… it’s mayhem and I am loving it!!

I make it to Wat Pho. YES!  I recall looking at images age ago and thought this would be such an incredible thing to see.  And here I am; solo in Thailand and officially standing before this magnificent statue! That being said, the amount of tourists taking photos in front of it does kind of kill the vibe.  It’s also sort of odd that such a huge thing is enclosed in a room that barely fits it.  While I’m here, I check out the Grand Palace as well. Touristy? Absolutely. But it was certainly one of the most impressive sites I have ever seen.

I stroll through a pleasant park that reminds me of Paris.  I am a fucking hot, sweaty mess at this point.  I’m not talking a bit of perspiration on my forehead here.  My thin cotton pants literally feel like they are soaking wet and sticking to parts of my body that I wish they were not sticking to.  I grab a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from a nearby stall and have a lil’ rest on a bench. Ahhh… it’s nice to sit and be still for a moment.

I cross a massive intersection, walk down a vine-covered ally, and emerge onto the infamous Koh San Road. Grungy, crawling with young white dudes in reflector sunglasses, run down bars, cheap shit for sale, neon everything.  Ah yes… THIS side of Thailand that I have heard so much about!

I find the nearest travel shop and book my train/bus/ferry ticket to Koh Phangan.  I spot a lil’ restaurant higher up on the second story and decide that would be the perfect perch for people watching.  I order my first “Sangha” and some spicy rice dish with mint, lemongrass, and chili – FUCK YES!  So good!

It’s starting to become dusk and I still have an hour’s walk back to the main train station.  I’m not 100% sure where I am – I just know the general direction to go and I’m not sure how those streets are at nighttime. Just as I’m mentally considering hailing down a taxi, a tuk tuk driver scoots around the corner and yells ‘Where you going?!” The next thing I know I’m in the back of my first tuk tuk! Hahaha! This is awesome! Even though the streets are packed, this driver believes that by honking and moving from side to side he will in some way get ahead of the jam. I am smiling in sheer delight at the madness! After about a 10 minute ride, he drops me in front of the station, points to a $1,000 BAHT note in his hand, and starts demanding I pay him that amount! Are you kidding me!!? I’ve only been in Thailand for less than 24 hours and I KNOW that is complete bullshit!  I laugh and shake my head and try to explain the price I paid for a taxi ride from the airport. After some heated in-street confrontation… I decide that I don’t want to die on my first night in Asia so I cough up half his asking price. I STILL get totally ripped off… but hey? How can you visit Thailand and NOT get scammed by a tuk tuk driver? C’est la vie!

I make it back to my lil’ neighbourhood, buy some fun labeled juices from 7-11, have an incredible cold shower, and just sit back and chill in my air con room. What an exciting first day!

The remaining time in Bangkok included a visit to Jim Thompson’s house (with a to-die-for veggie green curry at the restaurant), a bit of shopping, a stop into the Bangkok Art & Cultural centre, and a traditional Thai massage (the first time a woman’s foot has been that close to my vagina)!  After the massage, the women offer me tea and that was probably the highlight of the entire day… just sitting around and chatting in broken-English with the cute spa ladies.  I also had a fun time cruising around a giant Tesco grocery shop and little pop up markets – so much hilarious variety and food is EVERYWHERE!

But I really, really like Bangkok. I think having three days there was the perfect amount of time to explore and not become too overwhelmed by the craze!

The Internet is too slow at the moment for uploading pics… but lots to come!

Now for some beach time!

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Farewell Beloved New Zealand!

Welp… I’ve been in New Zealand for almost one year now and my time has finally come to an imminent end.

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The most beautiful landscape I have ever feasted my eyes upon

Ever since I was a little girl, it was my dream to come to this country. It wasn’t based on anything but a gut feeling that told me I needed to get here one day.

The experience over the past few months exceeded even my wildest dreams and this was BY FAR the biggest chapter in my entire existence.

Everyday I was left in sheer awe by the neverending green hills, turquoise sea, diverse landscape, and breath-taking nature. The forests were like something out of a fairytale. I met THE most generous, hospitable, and friendly people in the world. I found my soul sister.  A sucky relationship ended. I opted for more travel over grad school. I came closer to death than I have in my entire life. I chose to endure a deep journey into my inner world and experienced a complete self-transformation. My entire reality, spirituality, and perception of myself, people, and the universe has been completely shifted.

Also… for the first time ever, I travelled alone.

If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would ever consider travelling alone, my answer would have been a definitive, “Hell no!” But I finally did it. I really, really travelled and achieved it all by myself. It certainly took baby steps to get to this point and I wasn’t exactly traversing anywhere particularly dangerous or foreign… but I don’t think I have ever been more proud of myself than I am today.

Every person has his/her definition of what it means to “challenge oneself.” For me, travelling was it. Travelling meant that I would need to leave everything that was safe and comfortable behind. I needed to give up a secure job, be separate from friends and family, and confront every ounce of “normalcy” that society had begun to out for me. Leaving it all behind was the greatest risk I have ever taken. But I knew that if I could handle this… I could survive ANYTHING.”

I don’t think I could have found a better education than I received by travelling. I don’t believe there is anything more confident-boosting for a woman than being required to take care of every single situation, obstacle, and component of her life.

I feel so blessed for this opportunity and for all the support I’ve had along the way. I know I have been given an invaluable gift.

I suppose I want to send out a unanimous farewell and to express my gratitude to all the incredible and inspiring people that I met along the way. I cannot thank you enough for all of your thoughts, stories, advice, wisdom, memories, open-mindedness, long hugs, laughs, crazy ideas, cool accents, and for exposing me all things new and amazing. And to thank all the people who offered never-ending encouragement and love from back home – especially to my amazing parents.

One of my fav quotes continues to be – “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” – Proust

THANK YOU! A piece of my heart will always remain in beautiful New Zealand!!!

Up next?  Thailand!

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A Lil’ Time in Tonga Nuku’alofa

For my friend’s birthday, we wanted to do something fun and different.

After a bit of research, we decided that a lil’ trip over to Tonga Nufo’Alofa would be a PERFECT destination! It’s only a 2.5 hour flight from Auckland, it’s cheaper and less touristy than Fiji, and it has a COMPLETELY different culture to that of NZ. Plus, we likely wouldn’t be back in this neck of the woods anytime soon – so what the hell?!

Unfortunately, my friend was unable to go… but I still went to celebrate for her!

Tonga is SO different than anything I have ever seen before. I was reminded of Mexico and Dominican Republic.  The markets were full of root vegetables and looked almost Peruvian.  There were hints of Maori culture and people, but everything seemed so unique and individual to the small Kingdom of islands. It was rustic, friendly, untouched, and spattered with turquoise coastal gems lining acres and acres of decrepit looking farmland and coconut tree fields.  I have never seen so many Mormon churches in such a small radius or so many children stacked on the back of a truck before!

While daydreaming about the upcoming trip, I was envisioning being bathed in a cornucopia of exotic fruit. While they do produce bananas and coconuts and other fruit like pineapple and watermelon, the quality leaves a bit to be desired. Our guesthouse manager told us that the Tongans feed the papayas to the pigs – I couldn’t believe this!  Apparently, native Tongans don’t really include much fruit in their diets. So I must admit, the food in Tonga was quite bland and more simple than I had imagined. I learned that it is a cultural norm to ‘fill up’ on foods like taro and starchy potatoes vs. savouring delicate flavours.  Thus, the Tongans are quite a robust group of people.  In fact, the last and most popular king was revered for being the heaviest king in history!

Some of the highlights of the quick nip over included:

  • Renting an old car with a few foreigners and getting hopelessly and hilariously lost on the back country dirt roads.
  • Meeting a couple of young local dudes who (for a small fee) took us on their boat to one of the tiny, more remote islands.
  • Snorkeling through sharp coral reefs and among cyclone-ruined shipwrecks.
  • Swimming with humpback whales.
  • Let me repeat. SWIMMING with mutha. fucking. HUMPBACK whales!!! GAH! Tonga is one of the few places in the world that intersects the humpback whale migration path as they make their way down towards Antarctica. The whales arrive between July-Oct to breed before heading south. I was there just at the tail end of the season and feel SO fortunate to have caught a rare glimpse. A dude on a small fishing boat drove us out to a spot in the middle of the ocean, turned off the engine, and simply told us to wait. It seemed as if only a few moments had passed before we started seeing movement and spitting water from blowholes. “THE WHALES”!  In the distance I could see a group of about 8 humpback whales breaching and flashing their magnificent tails. They were moving in our direction and getting closer – we were told it was time to jump in the water.  And then the most terrifying moment of my life happened:  There I am with my bathing suit, floating in an extra old life jacket, snorkel mask, doggy paddling in the middle of the ocean.  Suddenly A HUGE mother whale and baby swim RIGHT underneath me!  I was probably about 3 or 4 meters above them.  That had to be the most incredibly beautiful and hands down petrifying experience of my complete existence.
  • Trying the local plant-based beverage called ‘Kava’. A muddy water, mild hallucinogenic concoction that is supposed to induced relaxed and euphoric sensations. It just made my lips tiggly and numb and gave me a awkward stomach ache.
  • Watching authentic Tongan dancing rituals and a fire dancer in a cave!

This was a side trip that wasn’t planned and I am so happy I was able to go. I flew there with ZERO expectation, did limited research, and left with a mind-blowing memory. Thank you beautiful Tonga!

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Tonga

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Let Go

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“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi

 

 

A New Zealand 911 Emergency!

Well actually it’s “111” for emergencies in NZ!

Lea and I drove back into Auckland on a Wednesday morning and I said farewell to her at the airport. As soon as I dropped her off, I started to feel pretty yucky. I felt dehydrated, tired, and just completely drained. I drove to my friend Scott’s place of work, picked up his house keys, and was on a one-way mission to spend the day napping in his bed.

Throughout the course of the day, I proceeded to feel worse and worse. My joints were aching and I had a persistent headache that just wouldn’t go away. Scott got home from work and dragged me out of bed. “Come on. A nice hot meal will make you feel better!” He selected an Indian joint just around the corner and I was the worse dinner date in the world. I tried to nibble at some rice, but even the sight of food was making me nauseous. We ordered a glass of red wine and on my first sip I could hardly manage. Saying no to wine? Ok.  There MUST be something seriously wrong with me!

That evening I was sore, nauseous, and could hardly sleep because of the constant pounding in the front of my head. Scott had already left for work when I woke up the next day at about 9:00am. I shuffled into the bathroom and noticed I developed a spotty rash over my entire body. Plus these little blood blisters on my limbs. Oh. That isn’t a good sign.

I lay in bed for another couple of hours before I forced myself up, into the car, and towards the nearest medical clinic. The doc noted my symptoms, checked out my dotted skin, and suspected I was coming down with flu. He gave me a prescription for a painkiller and an optional blood test. “You probably don’t need to – but you may if you feel more comfortable if you get one.” Luckily, my intuition and my body told me to get to the lab.

A few hours later, as I was laying in agony with a cold cloth over my forehead, I get a call from the clinic.  They would like me to come in as soon as possible as I have a really high CRP (C-Reactive Protein) of 280. I can hardly see or walk at this point and then I vomit.  I wait for Scott to get home from cricket practice and he gently coaxes me into the car and takes me to the clinic.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance and consider myself to be kind of a ‘tough cookie’… but at this point I feel like I’m dying! Haha!

A second doctor assess my symptoms and even though I can’t see much at this point, I can tell by his eyes he looks pretty worried. He starts yelling to the nurse to get something in medical terminology and I hear him tell another one to call an ambulance. He sticks a needle full of antibiotics into my arm.

Crazy. I can’t really believe I was happily goofing around and on a hike yesterday and now I’m in the back of an ambulance. I have a cold pack over my eyes because the lights are burning and I’m trying my best to answer all of the questions the paramedics are throwing my way.

We get into the hospital and the first thing I have to do is take off all of my clothes. The nurse asks if it’s ok if Scott is there and I remember him laughing and saying something like, “It’s cool. I’ve seen it before!” The nurse then sticks all of these alien circles around my chest and plugs wires into them. I don’t exactly remember happens next, but I just remember a doctor telling me they would like to do an epidural or lumbar puncture and proceeds to explain the risks. “Oh… you may have permanent damage to the feeling in your spin or lose all sensation in your legs. Please sign this waiver.” Jesus! I scribble down my name and then lay on my side in a fetal position.

Epidural ensues. How the FUCK do pregnant woman deal?! I always had this positive view of epidurals as they reduce the severe pain of childbirth! But they bloody hurt! It was nice to have Scott there holding my hand. Apparently I have a curved spin, so in a ‘feel and guess’ procedure, I wasn’t exactly an easy patient. After about 26 pokes to my bone and 2 separate doctors attempting to reach the soft spinal tissue, they finally find it. They begin draining my spinal fluid and discover it’s murky. A telltale sign that I have meningitis.

So there’s my hospital tale!

Lab results confirmed that I developed Meningococcal Meningitis. A pretty nasty bacterial infection of the casing around the brain and spinal cord. Not sure how I got it – it can be transmitted as easily as the common cold by a cough or a sneeze. But it’s certainly an illness that a mother would not enjoy reading about on WebMD. I spent 6 days total in the hospital getting IV injected antibiotics every 4 hours. I was in respiratory isolation which did mean everyone needed to wear a mask in my presence making me feel as if I had Ebola… BUT I got a private room with ensuite bathroom! It was actually nicer than some of the hostels I’ve stayed in! But the hospital food was by far the worse experience!  And why do they give you the tiniest juice boxes on the planet!?

It was certainly an interesting week. I feel in complete and utter awe of how lucky I was. I was back in Auckland, staying with a friend, and could not have asked for better medical care. I try not to think too much about it, but I am very aware that the consequences could have been extremely serious, even fatal, if I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had originally booked a flight to Thailand that was leaving early September that I chose to push back to see more of beautiful New Zealand. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I experienced the same symptoms in the middle of a Thai island.

I am feeling extremely humbled and overflowing with gratitude. I also feel very blessed for this experience.  I am immensely grateful for caring people, for the power of the universe, and for LIFE!

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P.S. Two words: Travel insurance!

I recently purchased travel insurance after being without it for almost 6 months and I am SO happy I did.  It’s so worth it because you truly never know what can happen when you’re away.  Being slammed with a bill of over $7,000 (which I was) is not exactly something you want to deal with when you away!

 

Coromandel… Again!

I met an awesome German girl named Lea at the place I was staying in Paihia.  She was only in New Zealand for a couple of weeks and we decided to road trip to the Coromandel together.  I had an AWESOME time with her!  I think it’s rare to find someone who really meshes with your travel style and she was perfect!  While I certainly dig solo travel, it’s really nice to travel with a chum sometimes!

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Keri Keri & Paihia

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The Give & Take of Travelling

Give

“We Rise by Lifting Others” – Robert Ingersoll

Travelling is a journey for the SELF.

It is exploring new lands, experiencing novel things, and meeting diverse people as a means for enriching our own lives. We usually refer to this journey as “MY” trip. Travelling is a selfish act – how can I maximize this experience to obtain the utmost pleasure from it? How will travelling benefit me in the long run? What can I take away from being away?

I was organizing my stuff the other day and as I was rifling through old cards, letters, and notes people have written to me over the past few months, something dawned.

In a state of nostalgia, I began to remember the moments, conversations, experiences, laughs, and hugs shared with these individuals. I was reminded of what it was like to say goodbye and the look in their eyes – we both knew it would be the last time we would ever see each other.

It was in this reminiscing that I recognized not only had these individuals left significant impressions on me, but I too had left an imprint on THEIR lives. Whether we met at a hostel or spent months volunteering together, I was leaving a mark on their heart as well.

I suppose I was sort of viewing my travels from a first person perspective and forgetting that I have a the ability to make a difference in other people’s lives as well.

I helped others. I changed their perspectives. I was an ear that listened and offered advice. I shared my ideas, stories, and dreams. I let them into my world and they allowed me to enter into theirs.

It is an incredible feeling to know that your presence – whether brief or long term – can be incredibly powerful. I truly believe individuals come into our lives at specific points to teach us lessons. This means that we are also the teachers for others.

So yes… travelling is for you.

BUT don’t forget that your presence, smile, crazy laugh, hug, storytelling style, conversation, perspective, thoughtfulness, or whatever, has the ability to change someone else’s life forever!

Cape Reinga & Spirit’s Bay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy cousin Marit passed away tragically in 2013 due to blot clot complications caused by her birth control.  As someone who always wanted to travel the world, Marit’s mother requested that friends and family honour Marit on their travels.

As I’m in New Zealand, I wanted to do something that would pay respects to Marit, her family, and connect with traditional NZ culture.

There is an extremely special place on the very tip of the North Island called, Cape Reinga or “Te Rerenga Wairua”. It’s the most northerly part of the country and where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. In Maori, the name means the ‘leaping-off place of spirits.”

According to mythology, the spirits of those who have passed away travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife. They are said to descend the roots of an ancient Pohutukawa tree on the cliff’s edge to return to their traditional homeland.

I went here and had a very special experience. I wanted to do something that was personal and a way for me to remember and connect with Marit. But I also wanted to share with her closest friends and family that she was honoured in traditional Maori fashion and her memory and spirit continues to travel.

Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane (The totara has fallen in the forest of Tane)

This proverb is said when someone of importance passes away. A totara is a giant native tree that grows for hundreds of years. For one of them to fall is a great tragedy.

Thinking of Marit and always of her family. Miss and love you so much!

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Opononi & Ahipara

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Baylys Beach & Kai Iwi Lakes

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North North Island Road Trip!

Meg’s North North Island Road Trip Route

I finished up the house sit in Waipu mid-August. I can’t tell you how utterly depressed I felt leaving those pups! I really, really loved them! Hahaha!

Time for the next chapter though! I love that familiar feeling I get when I start packing up the car and getting organized for the next road trip. This rush of excitement and nervous anticipation… where to next!? Two-three weeks, no plan, and I just wanted to make sure I find myself at the very, very tip of the North Island at some point!


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Stop Seeking Happiness!

Be Happy“I just want to be happy!”

We’ve all heard it. We’ve said it. We’ve searched for it.

We’ve all thought our lives will instantly approve once we’re happy. We’ve all imagined ourselves completely content at some distant point in the future.  We’ve all desperately longed to be one of those people who is in a perpetual state of ecstasy, bouncing off the walls, and smiling ear to ear because we are so freak’in HAPPY!

I’ve learned something very important recently… you are NEVER going to be happy.

Happiness is not a permanent, finite, or fixed state.  Sure one may argue that happiness is a matter of choice – anyone can decide to see a situation as either a half full or a half empty cup.

But striving for a STATE of happiness is different from seeking happy FEELINGS.  

Happiness is an emotion and it is as dynamic and transient as the waves of an ocean. Just as the tides come in and out, the feeling of happiness enter and leave.  While we can say a person is happy, in actuality, they simply have happiness at that moment.  Or they exude positivity based on multiple happy feelings across a number of moments (hours, days, years).

While there is nothing wrong with striving to feel ‘happy’ – this quest comes with a double-edge sword.

The reason we should stop seeking happiness is because it is like trying to catch a slippery fish with bare hands. You may find it, catch it, and hold onto it momentarily; but that fish will eventually wriggle it’s way out of your palms and only lead to disappointment when you’ve allowed it to slip away.  When we only want to BE happy, it’s easy to feel lousy when we don’t.

I think people often feel guilt when they think they should be happy, yet feel miserable.  “I SHOULD be feeling happy right now and I don’t.” Have you ever been on an amazing vacation, out at a beautiful restaurant, or hanging with someone awesome and your head tells you that you SHOULD be happy in this moment?  For whatever reason, instead you feel sad, hurt, or angry.  Then frustration bubbles up because you recognize your non-happy state and begin to feel even more like crap.

Happiness also becomes a conceptualized and even fantasized ‘future’ state.  “One day, I’ll be happy.”  Or “All I want for their future is for them to be happy.”  Believing that a permanent state of happiness is achievable, only makes one live in a hypothetical future context and an impossible and unattainable goal is created.

So what happens when we fail to reach our goals?  We get fucking UNHAPPY!

Striving for happiness will not lead to happiness.  Instead, we should aim for ACCEPTANCE.

Acceptance is an accessible, constant state of being. It is not defined by temperamental emotions, erratic moods, or changing external factors. Acceptance is respecting and honouring EVERY single thought and feeling – positive and negative.

When you accept, you bask in the bliss of happiness, but do not become attached to it. You understand you cannot feel like this forever, nor do you strive for it.  When you accept, you honour the fact that you feel sadness or pain.  You understand that you are a complex human.  You know everything is a mere feeling that will pass.

I believe this quest for ‘happiness’ is deeply rooted and entrenched in societal beliefs.  We’ve created a universal and ultimate goal; “to be happy”.  The media, marketing strategies, and large corporations play into this desire and make us believe that once we achieve a certain lifestyle, obtain the ideal body shape, find the perfect mate, or purchase a material item – we will be happy. Of course these things may give us temporary happiness, but we usually feel disappointed when these feelings of happiness ultimately subside.

But happiness is SUPPOSED to subside!  It’s natural!  Everything is cyclical.  No human on earth can be in a continuous state of happiness. We are complex beings with intricate lives and were designed to feel a plethora of emotions.  These feelings enter the front door with a bang and quietly exit when the next emotion comes knocking.

Do not search for or cling to a single, fleeting feeling. Happiness will come and happiness will go.

When we simply learn to accept that there will be days when we feel utterly depressed, lost, confused, upset, angry and EMBRACE those times… then it’s not happiness we’re after, it’s acceptance.  You can say, “I accept that I am currently feeling on Cloud 9.”  Or you can understand that, “I feel super shitty today.  I’m cranky and sad and just want to be alone.”  In both cases, you know it’s a feeling and it will eventually change.

Acceptance is concrete and attainable.

Find a way to accept whatever experiences and emotions you go through.  Do your best not to live under the guise that “Once such and such happens… I will be FULLY happy.”  Of course there is room for ambition, goals, dreams, and self improvement… but we should never equate reaching or fulfilling those achievements with an everlasting state of happiness.  Accept everything in its present state.

Accept your current financial situation.  Accept when you feel giddy about getting a message from a love interest.  Accept your current role and job duties. Accept when you feel hurt or betrayed by your partner. Accept when you feel excited to see your friend. Accept when you are nervous or anxious.  Accept when you are fucking ecstatic!!!

When you fully accept whatever emotion or state you are going through… then you fully accept who you are.

What is particularly interesting… is that the MORE accepting you are of yourself and your current state, the more likely you are to experience feelings of HAPPINESS!  When you accept whatever you are feeling, then there is no need to wish you felt different or hope that one day in the future, you will not feel differently. It will be easier for you to break through bouts of sadness when you lovingly accept the down times. When you feel disappointed, embarrassed, grief, or shame… the BEST medicine is the gentle voice that tells you it is a momentary feeling and not who you are.

Happiness ultimately emerges through the act of acceptance.

 

I Won’t Take the Easy Road

“My Silver Lining”

I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping onI hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I won’t take the easy road
The easy road, the easy road

Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on

 

Frida

The Hardest Part Of Traveling

Here’s an excellent article that I read today.  It hit a chord and seemed particularly relevant after touching base with my world back home.  I’ve often been asked, “What are you running away from?”  It’s difficult to express or articulate that it’s not that I am running away from a particular life, it is that I am CHOOSING to walk towards something unknown.  I am simply strolling in a different direction.

The Hardest Part of Travelling No One Talks About

By Kellie Donnelly

image - Flickr / Corie Howell

You see the world, try new things, meet new people, fall in love, visit amazing places, learn about other cultures – then it’s all over. People always talk about leaving, but what about coming home?

We talk about the hard parts while we’re away – finding jobs, making real friends, staying safe, learning social norms, misreading people you think you can trust – but these are all parts you get through. All of these lows are erased by the complete highs you experience. The goodbyes are difficult but you know they are coming, especially when you take the final step of purchasing your plane ticket home. All of these sad goodbyes are bolstered by the reunion with your family and friends you have pictured in your head since leaving in the first place.

Then you return home, have your reunions, spend your first two weeks meeting with family and friends, catch up, tell stories, reminisce, etc. You’re Hollywood for the first few weeks back and it’s all new and exciting. And then it all just…goes away. Everyone gets used to you being home, you’re not the new shiny object anymore and the questions start coming: So do you have a job yet? What’s your plan? Are you dating anyone? How does your 401k look for retirement? (Ok, a little dramatic on my part.)

But the sad part is once you’ve done your obligatory visits for being away for a year; you’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and realize nothing has changed. You’re glad everyone is happy and healthy and yes, people have gotten new jobs, boyfriends, engagements, etc., but part of you is screaming don’t you understand how much I have changed? And I don’t mean hair, weight, dress or anything else that has to do with appearance. I mean what’s going on inside of your head. The way your dreams have changed, they way you perceive people differently, the habits you’re happy you lost, the new things that are important to you. You want everyone to recognize this and you want to share and discuss it, but there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves when you leave everything you know behind and force yourself to use your brain in a real capacity, not on a written test in school. You know you’re thinking differently because you experience it every second of every day inside your head, but how do you communicate that to others?

You feel angry. You feel lost. You have moments where you feel like it wasn’t worth it because nothing has changed but then you feel like it’s the only thing you’ve done that is important because it changed everything. What is the solution to this side of traveling? It’s like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to communicate to them how you really feel.

This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.

This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.

Original Article found here.

Whangarei Falls & Tutukaka Area

The weather seems to be warming up!  Yay!  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m further up north or if spring is just around the corner… regardless – I’m LOVING it!  A couple of friends of mine were in the area and after an epic night of scrabble, we decided to check out ‘Tutukaka’ (a name that gets more and more enjoyable to say after a few glasses of wine)!  I was taking the dogs out for a walk the following day and we stumbled upon a rather odd looking lump on the sand.  Jack, being the uber friendly retriever that he is, decided to check it out.  GAH!  It moved and turned out to be a giant seal!  While I’m positive Jack would have lovingly greeted the seal, by the sound of the seal’s sudden throaty bellowing, I yelled at Jack to get the hell away from it!  I’m pretty sure those teeth gave the seal the advantage.  It was, however, amazing to see this beautiful mammal so close!

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Waipu

I just started another house sit near the tiny town of Waipu – about 2 hours north of Auckland.  It’s absolutely gorgeous up here and I am IN LOVE with these two dogs – Lucy and Jack.  It’s pretty quiet around these parts… so I’ll have lots of time to read, work, write, and reflect.  I’ll be eager to immerse myself in a big crowd of people when I’m done though!  You know you’re in smalltown New Zealand when front page news involves a bowling alley closure and someone is looking to get rid of a ‘black rooster’ on the local notice board!

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Daze

Top 10 Reasons Why You SHOULD Travel to NZ in the Winter!

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“No matter how you travel, it’s still you going.” ~ Jeff Goldblum

When people travel, they tend select warm destinations and go when the weather is optimal.  I had an incredible time touring New Zealand over the summer, but now that it’s winter, I’d like to share what’s RAD about travelling in the “Off-Season”!

1. You Can Be More Spontaneous!  Over the summer, there are thousands of visitors and competing travellers.  You have to do a bit more planning and booking ahead of time to ensure you save a spot.  If you’re into tramping, you must be very diligent about reserving and booking DOC huts.  Because there are fewer tourists in the off-season, you can be more impulsive with your schedule!  If there’s somewhere new you’re keen on visiting, a hike you found out about last minute, or you just roll up to a hostel without a reservation, it’s pretty much a guarantee there will be room for you!  The “Vacancy” sign becomes your best friend!

2. Fewer Tourists!  As New Zealand is a hot spot for travellers from around the globe, the peak season months are jam-packed with Juicy vans, crowded campsites, fully booked hostels, and busy beaches.  Since May-September is summertime in the Northern Hemisphere… most people from these parts don’t think of heading towards a cooler climate.  While I certainly fall into the annoying ‘tourist’ category… I basically loathe most tourists.  Slow-driving rental campervans, obnoxious questions, wide-eyed confused map reading, and excessive picture taking.  When these types of people begin to dwindle… I’m a happy camper!

3. It’s Cheaper!  Hotels, tours, rental cars/vans, campsites, restaurants, and even thermal pool prices are markedly reduced during the winter season.  There are some campsites situated around touristy areas that charge $90/NIGHT for an un-powered tent site during the summer!  WTF!?  In winter, I often paid $25 for a 4-bed dorm that I ended up having all to myself.

4. It Doesn’t Get THAT Cold.  Winters in New Zealand are mild (Note: I’m strictly referring to the North Island and I’m Canadian)!  While it certainly cools down and tends to rain more, temperatures never drop below zero!  The grass is green and peopling are frolicking outside and swimming in the ocean.  You can usually get away with a t-shirt or light hoodie during the daytime where the average temperature rests between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.  That ain’t too shabby in my books!  The nights cool down and the temperatures drop the further inland you go… but that only really matters if you’re tenting it!  If you bring long pants and stay up north, you’ll feel as if you’re in a Mediterranean climate!

5. People Have More Time For You.  If you waltz into an Info Site in the middle of summer and ask the front desk agent a question, chances are he/she has been asked that very SAME question approx. 1 million times already that day.  It’s not surprising if you receive a half-hearted response.  In winter, however, these tourist spots are like ghost towns.  The individuals working at these centres are stoked to see you and eager to offer helpful tips, directions, and advice.  I noticed a HUGE difference in the amount of information and local ‘secret’ spots that were suggested to me during the off-season.

6. You Can Try Local ‘Winter’ Fruit & Veg.  As a lush and fertile country, New Zealand grows some AMZING fruit and vegetables.  Infamous to NZ and ready in autumn, is a guava-like fruit called a ‘Feijoa’.  Other winter fruits and veggies include sweet mandarins, Nashi pears, juicy lemons, mushrooms, tamarillos, passion fruit, avocado, and kumara.

7. More Personal.  While the summer boasts a higher traveller population, I find it can be MORE isolating when you’re stuffed into a crowded campsite, packed hostel, or busy park.  If you and one other van are the ONLY ones at a campground, it’s easy to say hi, strike up a conversation, and start sharing stories all night over a few beers.  You’ll find yourself exchanging that knowing “nod” with your fellow winter travellers.  “That’s right.  He knows what’s up.”

8. Your Shit Stays Fresh!  I fucking love camping and road trips.  I do not, however, love lukewarm beer, hot hummus, or the smell of roasting bananas in the backseat of my car.  If you’re cruising around the island on a boiling summer day, you certainly don’t want to have produce or comestibles hanging in your van for too long.  Well… this isn’t a problem in winter!  That shit stays fresh!  I leave my almond milk, lettuce, and white wine outside overnight and it always stays nice and crisp!  No fridge required!

9. The Heat Isn’t For Everyone.  Sometimes shorts and flip-flops get old.   If you’re of Irish or Scottish descent, the sun isn’t your friend.  Hiking for 9 hours can be less fun in +34 degree temperatures.  And who enjoys sweating in awkward places whilst travelling?  The winter months may be a better time to travel for those individuals who don’t dig sweltering heat.  It’s fun to layer up with fuzzy jumpers, boots, and hats.  Also, now you have a good excuse to pick up a $0.50 grandpa sweater from the nearest Op Shop!

10. Breathtaking Scenery.  The landscape in New Zealand is like nothing in the entire world.  People don’t come here to experience bump’in metropolis or ancient history… people come here for the spectacular, jaw-dropping scenery.  In the winter, you still get your electric green hills, turquoise water, and white sandy beaches.  PLUS the landscape is speckled with red trees, golden leaves, mist, and autumn berries.  Ummm… YES PLEASE!

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What I Have to Offer

I think this is an incredible video:

My 10-Day Vipassana Experience – Part III

Meditation

“Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” – Alan Watts

I’ve spent the past 2 years or so exploring spirituality and alternate forms of healing.  I try to be as open-minded as possible, yet maintain an initial wall of skepticism before believing or accepting anything wholeheartedly.

I went into the 10-day Vipassana no different.

I knew a little about it, but arrived with zero expectations.  I wasn’t trying to achieve anything or looking for specific results.  I simply committed to giving it a real go for 10 days and to do the best that I could.  To my surprise, the Vipassana experience had a PROFOUND and life changing impact!

I feel a bit like a crazy person trying to explain everything that occurred… but I know what I felt was real.  It was as real and tangible as this chair I’m sitting on now!

Below is a lil’ except from my journal I wrote in a café about an hour after leaving the facility:

My God.

Where to fucking START!!!?  I just completed the 10-day Vipassana course.  The most challenging, life-altering, mind-bending (BACK breaking!), physically/psychologically powerful experience of my ENTIRE life!  Honestly. 

I was so excited to start writing again as I want to try to describe every little detail that I experienced!

I get it.

I get what the technique is all about. I understand what is possible/plausible by practicing this type of meditation. I’m surprised I’ve NEVER really heard of dharma before – or at least not used in this way.  It makes PERFECT sense.  It just fits.  It parallels my understanding of reality.  Morality meets science.  Logic meets law of nature.  Practically meets love and gentleness.  Looking inside to improve your own life but also as a means to access compassion and love towards others.

The absolute CRAZIEST MOST INSANE part was the internal, physical reaction to the technique.  The lump that developed in my throat and progressively moved down and throughout my body.  A heavy weight trying to descend.  Expanding, contracting, pulsating, pushing, pulling, radiating.  Convex and concave.  Back to front, front to back.  Like a giant black hole directly behind my chest plate.  

This lump wasn’t a physical sensation nor was it an emotion.  It was like a combination of the two.  Plus far more intense… like 1000 times what a single emotion feels like.  Fear, excitement, anxiety, stress, pain, sorrow… all churning around in a dense, powerful, and ice-cold cyclone of energy.

Fuck man.  It was crazy.  Just so crazy.  SO REAL!!!  There were moments where it kinda felt like a dream.  I can’t think of a word that even comes close to describing how infinite and tranquil I feel right now.

Here are a few journal drawings I quickly sketched up to try to visual and describe this black hole sensation:

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Look I even made a long-ass video!

Ok… I’ll stop talking about Vipassana now!

There are centres across the globe and I strongly encourage you to give it a go if it’s something you have been thinking of trying.  Also, I’m reading about chakras and sankharas and such – but do let me know if you have suggestions on other areas to research surrounding the ‘release’ achieved through meditation.

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My 10-Day Vipassana Experience – Part II

Shining Meditation

The soul always knows how to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.

We all suffer.

We all experience disappointment, hurt, and pain.  It’s part of being human.  So what are the 2 sole contributors to our miseries?

  1. Craving
  2. Aversion

Vipassana is a technique that aims to eradicate (or at least mitigate) our craving and aversion.  When we yearn for something we don’t have, we suffer.  When we desire a bigger house, flashier car, thinner body, different spouse, holiday, better job, etc., we are craving that which does not exist, thus we suffer.  If we do eventually get what we so desire (move into that larger home, get promoted, etc.), the craving and clinging doesn’t stop there.  We continuously crave more and more, bigger and bigger.

The same goes for things in our lives that we don’t want.  When we dislike the rainy weather, the gap between our teeth, the city we live in… Or we just want that lower back pain or annoying next-door neighbor to move out, again we suffer.

The egoic tendency of humans is to become attached to these cravings and aversions.  We shape and form our identity and concept of who we are based on the things that we own, possess, or want.  We equally attach ourselves to disappointments, negativities, and even things we hate about ourselves or within our lives.  This is MY job.  MY boyfriend.  MY intelligence.  MY disease.

However, if one is able to circumvent this thinking and start to view an object, situation, or person objectivity (that is neither positively or negatively), then one is able to remove all attachments to this particular thing.

The other major concept taught through Vipassana surrounds the notion of “Anicca” – everything is impermanent.

Deep suffering arises because we attach to things that are dynamic, in a constant flux, always changing, and never, ever the same.

I liked one example given by Goenka.  Say you are given a watch – a beautiful, high quality watch.  It’s from a foreign country and very difficult to replace parts and get it fixed where you live.  You love this watch.  You love wearing it because it is so unique and when people see it they assume you have a lot of money and status.  Then one day, you drop the watch on the floor and it smashes to bits…  you become extremely upset!  YOUR watch is broken and can’t be fixed!   Then you come across a friend who has the exact same watch – same make/model/style.  When he drops his watch on the floor and it smashes… you feel nothing!  Well that’s not MY watch.

We suffer because we attach ourselves to things that are impermanent.

Sooner or later… every single object, experience, or living being eventually breaks, transforms, ends, wears down, changes, disappears, moves, or dies.

Vipassana does not teach to have a pessimistic view of everything.  It is a technique designed to train your mind to fight craving and aversion through the acceptance and realization of impermanence.  It is experiencing an ever-changing environment (your body) first hand.

For the first 3 days of the course, you are instructed to focus on the sensations around your nose and upper lip – that’s it.  For 11 hours or more, simply watch what is occurring and what sensations are felt on that small area on the body.  It’s drawing your attention to the outer rim of the nostrils, inside the nose, and upper lip area.  Do you feel a tingling or tickling sensation?  Is there an itch?  What is the temperature of the air moving in an out of the nose?

This may seem like a simple task, but it’s very difficult.  You try extremely hard to focus on your breath and the sensations around the nose, but somehow you catch yourself in a completely random thought or memory.  “When did I start thinking about 10th grade beer pong?  Weird. Ok… back to the breath.”

On the 4th day, after honing your mind and awareness to the small triangular area below your nose, you begin to learn the full Vipassana technique.

The practice itself is basic.  The ultimate goal, however, is nearly celestial!

Essentially, you bring your awareness to the top of your head then slowly, piece-by-piece, focus on each part of your body down to your toes.  While mentally scanning body parts, you try to become acutely aware of the sensations you feel.  Is it tickly, prickly, vibrating, pulsating, hot, cold, itchy, electric, painful, or pleasant?  Once you’ve reached your toes, you move back up through your entire body towards the top of the head.  Toes, foot, calf, thigh, butt, tummy, back, chest, fingers, arm, shoulder, neck, face, and scalp – up and down.  For the entire hour to hour and a half meditation, you are just sitting there, eyes closed, scanning and feeling every possible sensation in order from head to toe.

Oh.  And don’t move a muscle.

First, your foot begins to fall asleep and that uncomfortable sensation starts creeping up your entire leg.  That old soccer knee injury starts pulsating with hot, attentive spurts of pain.  Your perfect posture back begins twitching with aching muscles you didn’t even know existed.  Your bladder is reminding you of the 3 cups of tea you consumed after lunch.  Don’t move.

Whether you feel a pleasant tingling sensation or it feels as if there is an iron hot steel rod burning through your left labia lip (true story!), attempt to view every sensation objectively and know that it is merely temporary.

After some time, body part sensations begin to ‘merge’.  You find that your fingers, hands, arm, and shoulder feel a uniform tingling sensation.  Then your entire upper torso begins vibrating all at once.

This is when shit gets trippy.

You are cognizant that you are sitting on a pillow in a room full of people.  Your mind is fully present and aware.  Yet, after some time, you reach a stage where your entire body is tingling and vibrating all together.  You can’t feel your hands in your lap, you don’t feel the mat under your legs, your arms seem to dissolve into the surrounding air, your face feels as if it’s being pushed and pulled all at once.

It’s sort of like a pseudo body high received from taking a hallucinogenic drug, yet your mind is completely aware and present.  You feel like your body has become as light as a feather and could lift off the ground at any moment.  In my head I was saying things like, “Holy shit.  This is cool!”

When your body reaches this phase, it’s called “Dissolution” – the sensations and vibrations inside and surrounding your body melt and merge into one.  There is no inside or outside.  You feel like an egg-shaped ball of electricity radiating into the surrounding area.  You continue to scan through your body parts, but the flow becomes quicker and more seamless, as if you are sweeping through your entire body vs. stopping at each body part to analyze.

I know this sounds like crazy talk.  Hippy dippy alien encounter shit.

But it’s SO real.  It’s such an incredibly powerful experience that can be reached just by sitting and closing your eyes!  It is amazing what our bodies and minds are truly capable of!

I’ll be sharing my personal experience in Part III!

*Note: This explanation of the Vipassana technique is based on my limited knowledge and understanding, thus please take with a grain of salt!  Here’s another good description.

 

My 10-Day Vipassana Experience – Part I

Everything I Need

“Removing old conditionings from the mind and training the mind to be more equanimous with every experience is the first step toward enabling one to experience true happiness.” – S.N. Goenka

An Overview:

To cap off the North Island Road trip, I signed up for my first 10-day Vipassana course.  I felt like this was the perfect time in my life to commit to the program.

Set in a beautiful valley just north of Kaukapakapa, there is a place called Dhamma Medini Vipassana Meditation Centre.  There, you experience 10 days in silence and meditate for about 11 hours per day.  No talking, intoxicants, music, sex, exercising, writing, phones, eye contact, internet, interaction with the opposite sex, drawing, tight clothing, masterbating, killing any living creature, physical contact, or reading.  For ten days.

Ten.

So what is Vipassana?

“Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques and means, to see things as they really are.

After being lost for centuries, the technique was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2,500 years ago.  Presently, there are Vipassana centres all over the world.  This particular course was taught through recordings and discourses by S.N. Goenka.

It is a non-sectarian technique.

While having Eastern roots and a Buddhist lineage, it can be practiced by ANYONE regardless of culture, religion, beliefs, background, or race.  It aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and curing personal miseries.

Vipassana focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body.  It is a way to transform the self through self-observation.

The end goal is full liberation from the mind and ultimate happiness.

By experiencing disciplined attention to the physical sensations felt within the body, one can begin to discover the interconnection and condition the life of the mind.  It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the root of mind THROUGH the body that begins to dissolve mental impurities.  The results are a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

It’s scientific!  This is the part I dig.  Vipassana abides by scientific law – that humans and everything that surrounds us are simply comprised of vibrating subatomic particles.  No scientist would argue this.  You are observing what you actually feel.  When your nose is itchy, that’s fucking REAL!  There is no faith or need to believe in something that happened in the past.  There are no rites, rituals, or behaviours that are required to prepare oneself for the future.  You are only focused on the here and now and whatever you are experiencing in the present moment – that’s it.

After practice, the connections between one’s thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear.  Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering, or frees oneself from suffering is understood.  Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control, and peace.”

I arrived on June 4th and was greeted by warm, friendly faces and assigned a small private room in the female quarters:

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My room at Dhamma Medini and view for 10 days

After reading the detailed overview of the course and rules, I committed to stay for the full 10 days and to abide by the 5 precepts:

  1. to abstain from killing any being
  2. to abstain from stealing
  3. to abstain from all sexual activity
  4. to abstain from telling lies
  5. to abstain from all intoxicants

Here was the basic course schedule:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell (my LEAST fav time of day!)
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out

So… how did it go?

This was by far THE most powerful, life-changing, reality-altering experience I have ever had in my ENTIRE life.  I experienced something so profound and new that I am having a difficult time absorbing it all in- let alone attempting to express it through words.  It was the most physically demanding and strenuous thing I have ever put myself through (and I thought sitting around meditating would be RELAXING)!  It was a relentless mental battle and surge of emotions.  I am excited, transformed, humbled, and utterly uplifted!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Bluebirds

Karangahake Gorge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Karangahake Gorge lies between the Coromandel and Kaimai ranges at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula.  The massive canyon was formed by the Ohinemuri River over thousands of years.

The area has a long history of mining – especially gold!  I visited the lower end of the gorge where the stamping battery and some of the old structures still remain.  You can take walk through history along the old East Coast Main Trunk Railway track – including going through a 1,000 metre tunnel!  While it was sunny and pleasant outside, I found this tunnel to be the MOST frightful thing I’ve experienced on my whole trip thus far!  Hahaha!  Walking through a 1000 metre long, poorly lit, creepy old train track by yourself certainly makes you pick up your walking pace a bit!


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