Tag Archives: Travel

..and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart

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Time is rather fascinating, from hours, to months and years – one can’t help but wonder what life would be like without any concept of time? Without any regard of time there will be no such thing as New Years no? But the concept of time, amongst its many other function serves as a tool of reflection, consolidation and integration of experiences into something meaningful. Because man is always out to find and attach meaning to everything that happens to them, Viktor E. Frankl certainly got famous from it, and I am not far behind in agreement.

This year has been nothing short of magical. Cliche I know, but it is one word that I can use with all honesty and still feel that it falls short of encapsulating the essence of 2014. Since it is also the end of my twenties, that “defining decade”, it feels really good to be exactly where I am today, to look back on all the big life decisions I have made to bring me here, and to feel a sense of excitement entering into my thirties.

If there was a word I could use to sum up my entire year it would be blessings. I am infinitely blessed and for this I am endlessly grateful to the Universe and the Higher power that governs it. From the opportunities that came in a steady stream and watching Mind Body Breath grow from strength to strength (with the 2 coolest thing to happen to it was the appearance on TV3 Berita Utama and coverage in Her World magazine), the kindness of strangers, the meeting of beautiful souls and mind blowing connections that transcends all my understanding of what it means to really and truly connect with another person, and ultimately the expansion of a group of people I hold close and dear in my heart.

Delivering a report and having a Vietnamese translator by my side (and discovering that having your presentation translated actually gives you plenty of time to calm that public speaking nerves – woohoo!), appearing on their national news, embarking on this teaching thing full time, sharing my written thoughts with others and seeing on it print, sharing what I love and what I know to others and watching them experience similar benefits and positivity, that maiden trip to India, falling in love with Saraswathi and her energy, discovering the value of parampara, falling head over heels with the entire practice and discovering an entirely new world around it, kick starting a business partnership with a person who is so similar to me in values yet so utterly different in certain worldviews and looking forward to the kind of boundless beauty that will result from this communion.

There were a couple of lessons that became really clear to me which affirms some of my understanding of the world or whatever it was that I may have read from before. I understood the concept of making space by first releasing the things that doesn’t serve you anymore. Magic happens in those spaces. They really do 🙂 I understood every quality that which we love, admire, hate or detest in other people are merely the reflection of the exact same qualities within ourselves, shedding an entirely different light and meaning on my understanding of ‘one-ness’ and the self. And I have also come to understand that the Universe awards you with many, many gifts in different forms and that you would only have to be present and aware when it happens to fully appreciate it. Of the biggest lesson in this though, I have learned that sometimes this gifts are not meant to be kept, sometimes to be let go as immediately as they came, sometimes to not be owned but appreciated as they are, and on other times, to be experienced and then to allow distance from it and to admire it from afar. The challenge that remains for me at least is to learn not to grow attached to any of these wonderful gifts.

Equally as the affirmation occurs, so too did the disintegration of certain beliefs that was accompanied with a lot of questions that was really uncomfortable leading to days of unease and sleeps underlined with meaningless nightmares. I am still questioning a lot of things but I have managed to find comfort in this very uncomfortable process, to make peace with certain things that remains unknown and to embrace fully my ability to question the very foundation of my faith and trusting this entire process in and of itself. Certainly these questions arise from within for the mere purpose of drawing one closer to the self.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
E.E Cummings
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Balispirit in all its glory

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This year’s Balispirit happened to be the first yoga related festival I had ever attended and wow, what an experience it was! I was excited for a very long time, both for the prospect of visiting Bali for the first time AND attending such a huge event consisting of all things commercially yoga. As I am making my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I found myself reflecting on this trip. What have I learned from the cornucopia of different classes, workshops and sessions I had attended?

Surprisingly (and I may be a little ashamed to admit this) nothing too life changing that I would want to apply to teaching my own classes really. Thinking back on how this could be possible, because after all I was in the presence of so many respected teachers whose names are akin to what Google is to search engines and Facebook to social media. A moment of contemplation made me realize that I had been far too busy judging the teaching styles, the asanas chosen for the vinyasas, the conversation and what sometimes seems to me incessant unnecessary chattering in class. I arrived in Ubud with an open mind, excited to take part in only the biggest annual yoga event in this region. The minute my first session began, and unfortunately throughout the entire weekend, the open mind quickly switched to judging, evaluating, comparing.. and all those not so yummy habits that only resulted in me sitting here in the plane right now thinking, ‘so hrm, what new exciting things can I bring to my own classes now?’

And a resounding silence as my mind searches through every unturned corners of this experience for an answer.

What did in remember instead? I remembered the mental notes I made as a checklist of ‘things to avoid doing in my own class’. Why? Because I remembered the silent moments sending out mental messages to the instructor of the session begging him to stop talking already. Have you ever tried following a class, wanting to return to your inner self and quieten that self chatter only to have it totally replaced by the booming chattering of the instructor relating about something or other about his day through his clip on microphone?

There were 2 sessions which I appreciated though in one we were asked to attempt an udhiyana bandha and nauli (a type of Kriya which involves the individual freely contracting and relaxing the stomach muscles in a certain motion) less than 2 hours after lunch time. I hope no one had indigestion that night.

Perhaps a festival such as this really is to serve a ‘buffet’ of yoga to attract and cater to a large number of people. It allowed me to experience Kundalini yoga, Vinyasa (with rock music), Ashtanga yoga with influences of Shamanism, Hatha with precise scientific techniques borrowed from Tai Chi. And another session which involved a lot of running around in circles whilst doing Bhashtrika, an experienced which struck me both as different and close to some sort of insane version of yoga created by the western world.

Perhaps it is a gathering of like minded people celebrating the diversity within and outside of themselves. Although as a first time participant the like minded part seemed to be more about the staggering proportion of people wearing lululemons, and carrying either a Jade, Manduka or (surprise surprise) lululemon yoga mat. Admittedly, I was one of them too minus the expensive mat as my Manduka Eco mat was far too heavy for me to hand carry all the way to Ubud. Most of the time it felt like people moved in their own groups. I didn’t sense an open-ness but again, this was probably largely colored by looking through my judging lenses.

So what was my main takeaway from this entire experience? I learned that judgement closes the mind to accepting what is, to acknowledge the different things that are subtly present and most importantly it impairs your memory so that it selectively remembers all the unpleasant things and overlooks the ones that could be beneficial.

Not all was lost though as throughout the few days I was there, I come to understand the fascination that a lot of people have on Bali as I felt the pull and the need to pack up and call Ubud my new home. A walk down Hanoman Road brought me back to being right in the middle of Brunswick Road in Melbourne, minus the cold weather and plenty more sunshine 🙂 At the night music event where a lineup of talented international World Music artists, I was exposed to an awesome array of music, one of which was a song called Lullaby by OKA. Below is an excerpt of what one of the nights were like at this year’s Balispirit

“Every new beginning, comes from some other beginning’s end”

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My 6 weeks is up!!

For those who have no idea what I’m referring to, about 7 weeks ago I had gone to see an orthopedic for a pain in my wrist that has been nagging me since I started intensifying my yoga practice from a gentle once-a-week practice to an aggressive thrice-weekly mix of Ashtanga, Iyengar and Yin Yoga.

All because, it became a sudden goal for me to be able to do a forward bend, with both of my palms placed flat on the floor. There are no shortcuts to getting flexible, unlike those “cheat” slimming houses that claim to massage and melt away your fat so you will come out with a Coke bottle figure. Needless to say, my enthusiasm got me in a little bit of trouble which led to my very kind doctor drawing me a skeleton of a human hand, with all the bones included and explaining to me that although the injury is quite minor, I would still have to stay off my yoga mat for 6 whole weeks.

“6 whole weeks?!” I remembered saying to him, with an incredulous look like he just told me there is no such thing as Yoga.

“A broken bone takes 42 weeks to heal” he replied, with a snicker and a wag of his finger.

Mmm ok. I guess I can’t argue with that.

So finally, the 6 weeks recovery period ended last weekend and although I can’t say the ache is completely gone, it is definitely better. Coincidentally, a couple of friends invited me along for an impromptu road trip to Malacca and Port Dickson. Malacca for the food, PD for the beach and water chalet. And what an awesome weekend it was spent amongst close friends.

Of course my overly excited question of “who wants to wake up with me tomorrow morning and watch the sunrise and do sun salutations together?” was met with a long silence, and that does not take by surprise at all. I ended up sleeping through it anyway, but I was the still the first to have woken up on Sunday morning.

The view from my mat

We had a balcony that overlooks into the sea, and it served as the perfect setting for me to ease my way back into my poses. So while the rest of my friends were fast asleep, I twisted, turned, and said hello to the Sunday sun with my sun salutations.

I cannot imagine a better way to welcome back Yoga into my weekly routine 🙂

Every new beginning, comes from some other beginning's end - Semisonic

The fresh food people

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Food was one of the major highlights in Italy. There was rarely a time that I could even begin to feel hungry before our next meal, and even if it was a hunger pang that I felt, it was one that was satiated pretty quickly.

Our food and accomodation expenditure started out on the high side. Rome was more than just statues and ancient ruins, but filled with delicious meals of tortellini, ravioli, all other kind of pastas, fresh artichokes and colourful vegetables, pizzas, cheeses and endless scoops of gelato. Other people approach their travel with a trusted guide from the Lonely Planet, I moved through the city with a guide on recommended places to eat, districts known for food and areas with weekly markets. Basically, I was more keen on building my experience around seeing and tasting the local food more than visiting the historical sites *blush*.

I believe, the best way to appreciate and experience a place is through its local food.

Italy was all about fresh ingredients. I’m convinced that is the reason to why Italian food in Italy tastes distinctly different and much better than Italian dining in Kuala Lumpur. Even if the latter was cooked by an Italian chef in a 5 star Italian restaurant, it still does not compare to say a 3 Eur Margherita pizza in Naples

There is no doubt that Italians love their food. I did see some Chinese restaurants and kebab stands randomly scattered around Rome, Naples and Florence but the occurrence of this was far and few in between. What I loved was the availability of fresh vegetables, herbs, pastas, breads served straight out from the oven and of course, freshly brewed coffee. We trawled through a number of mercatos and I was spellbound by the colors and sight of it all.

Mercato Campo di Fiori, Rome

Fresh Roman Globe Artichokes at Mercato Campo di Fiori, Rome

The entire tomato family in Campo di Fiori, Rome

Farmer's Market, Testaccio, Rome

Cheeses at the Farmer's Market, Testaccio, Rome

Fresh produce
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence

Although organic did not seem like a big deal to the Italians, partly because everything they have is grown in an environment with minimal exposure to chemicals and pesticides or we were just looking in the wrong places. I stand to be corrected.

Italians were also big on their truffles, and rightfully so. This stuff is gold in the culinary arena. But whoever thought of combining sea salt with pieces of truffles must be pure genius. I got a sniff at it and the flavor that exploded out of the bottle was indescribable.

Perhaps the best smelling salt combination I've experienced
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence

Certain moments and sights remind me of the famous Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia which was my weekly sensory indulgence and also where I used to stock up on my groceries every weekend as a student. It was also the place which led me to eventually appreciate markets, fresh produce and knowing the ingredients that will eventually become my food.

Having an appreciation of amazing food is half of the equation, being aware of how individual ingredients are produced, its impact on the environment, the benefits it will bring to you and how it will ultimately nourish and heal your body completes the experience of enjoying a certain dish or meal.

It goes without saying that I am obsessed with food. I was taught from an early age, if you had to a limited amount of money to spend, always, always scrimp on the clothes and other inedible things, but splurge where you can, on the food. And splurge on food in Italy, I did.