In Transit

Waiting to check out, then we will be waiting to check in, then to board, then to get home. This is my least enjoyed aspect of travel. I am not a happy flyer. I tolerate it. I understand it is a vital part of the journey, but it is my least favourite.

Being in transit though provides time and space for reflection.

In two days this time last year, I would be boarding a plane to join others for a retreat in Varanasi, India. This time last year I had no real idea of how dramatically my life would change after that trip; no idea how much more and how fast I would move into myself with ease and comfort.

Twelve months have almost passed. My life is not what it was. I am grateful. I am blessed.

It hasn’t all been easy, and it hasn’t been without drama or pain. I set the intention to heal and healing is never easy. Having said that, healing hasn’t been as difficult as it could have been either.

I made myself a deal that anything I felt called to do, I would do. As a result, I have been drawn out of my comfort zone many times this year. Each time, I acknowledged the fear and then ignored it. And, as a result, I think I have had the happiest and most productive year of my life.

I am financially poor, but emotionally and experience rich. I know which I prefer. Bank accounts that were full no longer resemble that. I have met so many incredible people this year and have consolidated, in my heart, my existing people. I have no idea what my future holds and where I am headed, and I am at peace with that; content to be present and holding complete trust in the universe.

I am not healed; I am healing. I have not experienced anxiety in ten months and have not experienced any depression this year. I am in control of my life as much as any of us can be; it is fluid control and not dictatorial in nature.

I no longer feel shackled. I am liberated. A series of decisions and choices, mixed with naïveté as much as courage, pulled me from the mire I had been drowning in. It is an amazing gift to give to yourself. A gift that will keep giving.

I am excited to be coming home, to hug my kids, to start work again, and to continue healing and growing and moving more into the life I chose prior to this incarnation. I am happy.

The Beauty of Aging

I woke up this morning, after some yucky dreams, reflecting on aging and getting old. I have had the very real pleasure of spending almost two weeks with some people who are fifteen years and older than me, people of my parent’s generation. Collective wisdom in bucket loads. Completely inspiring.

Here, in Asia, generally, older family members are celebrated and nurtured. A very real understanding exists regarding the use and relevance of the wisdom of an aging generation. Something that I do not believe is valued in western culture. Definitely not to the extent that I believe it should be.

Val and I had lunch at a local restaurant here. It is across from the hotel (Sunrise Resort) here in Hoi An, and it is simply called Simple. It is owned by a young woman, just starting, who cooks beautiful food. We ate as a group there last night and rebooked for tonight.

Anyway, the young girl who manages or owns the spa next door and helps out the owner of the restaurant, was ducking off to check in on her father who is dying from cancer. She then came back to continue working. There was/is a nobility in her attitude that I don’t see as often in Australia.

Val and I then discussed death and nursing homes and retirement villages. My dad and I had discussed the importance of purpose and feeling useful before I left for Kampuchea. How easy it becomes to feel overlooked and uninspired when we feel we serve no purpose to anyone, and are just waiting to die. Val recently lost her husband, misses him, but feels the need to keep moving forward. Here, in Asia, we have been told repeatedly how the elderly teach the young their ways. Old wisdom and understanding works in partnership with youthful vigour, and society progresses.

In education, I don’t see this sort of reverence for older workers. As a result, older teachers become cynical about the system and vital corporate knowledge is sacrificed. Younger teachers are regarded as treasures and opportunities are piled onto them, suffocatingly, because they are not given the time to adequately hone the craft of teaching itself. They end up burnt out or not very accomplished where it counts, in the classroom.

Western culture reveres the ‘purity’ and ‘naïveté’ of youth above the wisdom of the old, to its detriment.

I have met many women who become infinitely more beautiful as they age. I am one of them.

There is magick in the lines in a wizened face; a majesty of experience, knowledge, pain and happiness, never seen in the young who have not had the time necessary to experience the rich tapestry of life.

There is truth in the words of the old; consideration, reflection, wisdom and understanding, never seen in the young. Again, because the young have not had the time to experience all that life can offer.

There is the real compassion that comes from surviving much pain, and the confidence to share stories to empower and inspire the young. To reach out a hand, to give a hug, to truly heart connect with others. The young have not survived enough yet to feel the conviction that survival brings.

There is the truth of life reflected in many different ways of choosing how to live, and honesty even in the shortness of impatience that we can all learn from.

Wisdom, real wisdom, comes from the many experiences that a long life has had access to. It comes from the time taken to experience and process life’s many realities and extremes.

Older people don’t care so much how others view them, even though they are often invisible, and with that comes freedom, a real freedom. Unseen, we can really embrace every second, uncensored. There is an honesty and rich authenticity in this. A freshness that youthful vigour does not, cannot, possess.

Aging is beautiful. It is rich. It is empowering. We need to learn from the older ones so that we do not lose their collective wisdom, and so that we can forge a better world in years and for generations to come.

Khmer Lessons

It has been a year since my trip to India kickstarted massive transformation in my life. My life and I are unrecognizable lol. It is awesome that I start and finish my travel in an Asian country.

What have I learned …

That travel is education. When we travel, we learn. I have learned so much about Cambodia: it’s history, culture, lifestyle, politics, and peoples. I love this country. I have some fears that it may not remain a ‘democracy’ much longer, but I hope that I am wrong.

That I can achieve anything I decide to achieve. Those 352 steps, one way, are staying with me. I did it. I took breaths as I needed to, I didn’t compete with anyone else, I was lacquered in my own sweat five million times over, and I did it. Fitness is an obstacle for me. I have chosen that. Since the steps, I have chosen otherwise. Every activity, every chance to walk, I have taken. Because I can if I decide to.

That people are basically the same. We all want to belong, to connect, to fit, to be valued, to be seen. Age, gender, socio-economic status, none of it matters at the core. At the core, we are one.

If you choose to give to beggars, especially children, you become part of the problem. Children who earn more money begging than going to school, will not go to school. Education is vital to break cycles, and to improve the condition of our planet and us. Find another way to assuage the guilt of privilege.

That my passion for teaching exists deeply. I have no time for the politics and admin. Enough said.

That those of us living in the first world have no idea what poverty and suffering is, evidenced by our overconsumption and misery. People here have nothing but smile broadly. We should learn from that.

And I have learned that girls from Campbelltown can become something, anything, everything. I am truly blessed.

On to Vietnam.

The Magick of Kampuchea: Pol Pot

The Khmer are a resilient people. It has been just under thirty years since Pol Pot died and his specific regime ended. Our current guide lost most of his family during this time.

It hits home how blessed we truly are in Australia to have not known long term war or totalitarianism on our shores. We have been involved in the conflicts of others, but not on our ground. No comment to make there.

It also makes me even crankier that some Australians take their freedoms and their right to vote for granted. It isn’t hard to do the research on google to make an informed vote. Enough said on that.

We haven’t been to the museum; I don’t think we needed to. We were informed by our first guide that we wouldn’t see many elderly people, especially in the cities. Very true. A whole generation of people is missing or very underrepresented.

In the rural areas, we have been privileged to see life how it is. People that have little, but are happy. Consumerism, especially overconsumption, tends to not bring very much long term happiness. I know that myself from my experiences this year. It is important to be able to live, but money does not bring happiness.

The Magick of Kampuchea: Battambang

We are achieving so much every day; I really need to be blogging more to capture it all. Thank god for photos.

I am feeling a strong connection to place here. I’ve started entertaining the thought that one day I might come here to teach English for a little while. We stopped at a temple near an English school yesterday and I became absolutely mesmerized by the children’s chanting of language. I have been feeling a strong sense of the unknown long term future; maybe a new path is being etched in other places.

We were also blessed to have been blessed by a monk in another temple a couple of days ago. It was amazing. We gathered around him and his fellow monk, closed our eyes and ritualized respect, before I was transported to another world through their chanting. My hands remained on fire for the entirety of the blessing.

And, then yesterday, proof that the mind is more powerful than the body. My unfit body managed to walk up and down 352 uneven steps because the mind wanted it to. The reward at the end of the walk was well worth it.

Opening myself to this experience wholly. Oh, and I accidentally ate some chicken yesterday at lunch – oops. I thought it was tofu. A small sliver about 1 x 2 cm. Couldn’t taste it. Felt it was going to happen. It did. I survived. Lol.

The Magick of Kampuchea: Phnom Penh

Weaving through the streets of Phnom Penh in a comfortable bus adorned with red fringe, exhausted from an early start to get to the airport and delays in arriving, and I see two kids on a scooter dancing the rhythm of Asian streets. My heart smiled as my mind flashed back to Varanasi, Thailand and Nepal, and I felt home.

My travel tiredness (I know, ungracious of me) dissipated and light filled my soul; I love these adventures, experiencing different ways of seeing the world and living in it. Blessed. Truly blessed. And, the Intercontinental is a beautiful hotel.

We woke, dressed, ate breakfast, boarded the bus, and made our way to the palace – beautiful. Gobsmackingly beautiful. Phnom Penh is similar to everywhere else – same, same but different – and not so similar too. It is greener and cleaner. A little more refined. I have no words.

As much as the political climate is and has been unsettled, the place has a stillness and peace that I would regard as spiritual – 97% Buddhist, maybe it isn’t surprising.

Anyway, the humidity is shocking. Hate sweating profusely, especially when I put makeup on. Needless to say, no more makeup during the day. My cheek was a bit bung this morning and disfigured my face so I felt the need for magic makeup lol. I was sleeping with a nasal strip.

Anyway, back to the hotel for a swim before dinner. And, I will let the photos tell the story and hopefully tomorrow, finish this post gracefully lol.