Let’s Chill Like the Buddha – My Day Off in Paris

 

Chill out! said the Buddha

Chill out! said the Buddha

“Why can’t you just chill out?” said the Buddha, his face calm and steady before me.  It was my day off in Paris today after a long week of work, and I had big plans.  Big plans, I tell you!  I wanted to cram way too much Parisian activity into a weekend, starting with visiting the Guimet Asian Art Museum.

By the time I arrived there, I was a sweaty mess.  I had walked way too fast because of the limited time to see the Buddhist sculptures exhibit before seeing a friend.  I huffed up the stairs, bought my ticket and then ran into a slow-moving tour group.  Move out of my way, I have to see some Buddhas!

Of course, the Buddha’s peaceful face mocked me.  How can I possibly enjoy the gorgeous Angkor-era Buddhist statues and bas reliefs in this gorgeous museum when I’m rushing around?  I couldn’t possibly enjoy the moment.  Traveling isn’t about ticking the boxes and cramming a gajillion activities into a weekend. It’s about exploring the moment and soaking up the culture and everyday life around me.

So for the rest of the day, I abandoned my to-do list..  After drinking tea and eating yummy macarons with an old friend, I explored the Marais, the hip shopping area with small windy roads, and I got lost.  Gladly.  I did manage to find Place des Vosges, a bustling park, and I read a book and watched a group of teenage girls munch on cheese and crackers as they gawked at boys nearby doing the same.

 

Place des Vosges, Marais

Place des Vosges, Marais

I’m reminded again of how I can get so caught up with doing it all, seeing it all. that I miss out on the main reason why I enjoy traveling:  to explore a new place and to live in the moment.

Well, tomorrow’s a new day!  Off to bed…will keep the Buddha’s calm face in mind.

 

 

 

 

What First Intrigued Me about Tibet

Potala_Palace_01

Potala Palace

My curiosity about Tibet went way back.  As a kid, I was an avid stamp collector, and I remember scouring the globe for this obscure place, Tibet, that didn’t have its own stamps.  Every other country had its own.

“Because they’re part of China,” my dad shrugged and went back to mowing the lawn, the air thick with the smell of grass and new spring.  As I pulled out weeds with my small fists, I was determined to get to the bottom of it.  How strange.  Even odder that their leader, the Dalai Lama, with his big thick dark glasses and his kind warming face that reminded me of hot soup on a rainy day, wouldn’t go back to Tibet.  He seemed to travel a lot but just never went home.

I learned years later that the Dalai Lama’s life had been threatened, and he had fled his homeland to escape the Chinese occupation.  I couldn’t imagine another country invading Canada and our Prime Minister having to escape or be killed.

Then I hit my teenage years and forgot about faraway countries that had no stamps and a homeless leader, and I concentrated on school, boys and why my body was changing so much.  It wasn’t until after my university days that a BBC documentary about Tibet awakened my desire to travel there again.  As my eyes followed the procession of Tibetan monks trailing the prayer wheels circuit, I thought:  I have to go there one day.  Everything seemed so peaceful. The way the colorful prayer flags decorated the exterior of temples and mountain passes, like ribbons on presents.  The way the saffron robes graced the creaking floors of wooden temples, while the low, soothing sounds of Tibetan trumpets echoed in hallways.

This isolated place, tucked away in the Himalayan Mountains, where McDonalds and Coca Cola hadn’t penetrated, fascinated me. There would be no Starbucks on every corner, no ads constantly flashing in my face, or at least I didn’t think so.  I wanted to experience that seclusion, to let my fingers run down the walls of temples where only my footsteps could be heard padding up and down the stairs.

My curiosity for Tibet never left me, but it would be many years before I would travel near that region.  Not only was it difficult to get there, but Tibet had been closed to tourists for many years.  Instead, shortly after university, I traveled to other places in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.  But now that I was at Tibet’s doorstep, it was time.

And then there was the lure of Mount Everest, its first base camp by the border between Tibet and Nepal.  Imagine standing at the foot of the highest mountain on earth!  Throughout high school, I had read fascinating stories of those who succeeded and many who perished climbing to the formidable peak, the ground littered over the years with their frozen corpses.

I could go anywhere after that.  Thailand, with its beautiful beaches.  Burma, with its hundreds of abandoned Buddhist temples dotting the landscape.  Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples.

I wanted to cruise down an unknown street and try a different concoction of food every day, to get lost in a crowd, to be nameless, to relish the transience of meeting others who didn’t care about knowing my past or belonging to my future.  I wanted the here and now, the freedom to be engaged in the moment.

This was an excerpt from THE SAME SKY  For more excerpts, click here

Be Kind and Let Go

My niece Cassidy

My niece Cassidy wrote “Be kinder.”

My 11-year old niece scribbled down “Be kinder” as her #1 New Year’s resolution.  The next day, her father promised her a guinea pig and she was so excited.  “You know what that means, right?” I asked.  She paused, blinked and said, “Yeah, I better be kind.  I really want a guinea pig.”

She asked me about my #1 New Year’s resolution.  “Let go more,” I replied.  “Every day.  And be kinder.”  She giggled and said “Hey that’s mine!”  Then she got serious and asked, “Only at the beginning of the year?”  and I laughed. Should we be kinder and let go and all that stuff every day?

When my husband and I traveled to Turkey in August for our one-year anniversary, we met an American couple also celebrating their anniversary:  50th! They were a cute couple who still held hands.

“What’s your secret?  Any advice?” we asked them.  He was quiet for a few seconds and then said, “I think you have to let go and accommodate.”  She nodded and said, “Our first year was the hardest.  And we’ve had our ups and downs but I think the first year is tough because we were still trying to figure each other out.”

I agree.  Our first year has been fantastic yet hard work — lots of traveling, talking and evenings in watching movies.  We’ve been learning more and more about each other.  It’s like taking a university course on the other person and not realizing that the course doesn’t ever really end.  But the midterms can be hard.

In 2013, I asked a number of people what their best piece of advice on marriage and here’s what they said:

-don’t sweat the small stuff

-be honest:  sometimes he can cook a better omelette than you

-after a fight, no matter what, let go of the anger and hug

-you don’t have to always be right

Notice they all fall into the same categories of “be kind” and “let go”?  And I’m convinced that apart from the usual New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more, people essentially set goals that also have the same themes.  We all want to let go more, be happier and treat each other better.  Hard stuff but it’s so worth it!

One quick story before I sign off:  years ago, I came across a Tibetan monk who shared that the greatest pain we feel is when we hold onto anger, jealousy and expectation.  He reminded me of the Buddhist philosophy that we are like the water that flows around a rock in a fast moving river.  You can’t get stuck – you have to keep going, let go, move on and believe that things are meant to be as they are.

What is your New Year’s resolution?  Write it down…I’m curious to know.

The guinea pigs arrived today!

My nieces got their guinea pigs today!

Welcome! Announcing my new book THE SAME SKY

Me chilling at a cafe

Me chilling at a cafe

Welcome to my blog! If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU for taking the time to read my writing.  My book THE SAME SKY is finally published after more than a decade of writing, editing, drinking a gazillion lattes and more writing.

THE SAME SKY is about how after my relationship crumbled, I left for Asia with just a journal, camera and clothes.  Brokenhearted and needing to escape, I embarked on a three-month journey to Tibet, Laos and Cambodia. Along the way, as I navigated the difficulties of traveling alone, met new people and heard their moving stories of loss and resilience, I slowly began to recover my independence and learned to have faith in myself to overcome the hardships of life.

After many cups of teas, hours of conversations and lots of smiles, the locals shared stories of love, grief and the struggle for peace.  Their stories and small acts of love helped me heal and find the courage to believe in myself again.  THE SAME SKY is for anyone who has experienced heartbreak and betrayal, and I hope it will inspire the reader to find strength and peace even at the lowest point of one’s life.

Interesting stories are peppered throughout the book, including

  • Being rescued by a Cambodian woman after I was in a pedicab accident during a terrible storm
  • Detained by the Chinese police in Tibet for an expired visa
  • Witnessing my friend’s near-death experiencee near the Mt. Everest base camp
  • Drinking butter tea with Tibetan monks who bravely shared their courageous stories to stay alive

If you would like to read some excerpts, click here.  To buy the book, click here for the different options.

Please subscribe to my blog!  For those of you who know me well, I love storytelling…especially quirky, funny and sometimes heart-felt exchanges between strangers.  All you have to do is include your email address on the right hand side.

Thanks as always for your support!

The Same Sky Promo