Throwback Thursday Hare Krishna

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Hare Krishna

On New Year’s Eve 2014 I took my step daughter back to her mum in London and then I had several hours until my return train.  I had no desire to go shopping.  I went to the Hare Krishna Temple near Tottenham Court Road.  It seemed to me like an appropriate thing to do on New Year’s Eve.

I’ve felt like that a lot since.  When asked what would I like most of all, or what would my dream experience be, and when trying to guess what a surprise day experience present was*, I’ve refined it down to this:  To go into a room, like a church but not a church, all alone, with perhaps maybe some kind of a priest or a monk on hand to answer any questions I might have.  That’s it, that’s my dream experience.

The Hare Krishna Temple Room was as beautiful as I had hoped.  A radiant young woman sat next to me, befriended me and gave me books to take away.  There were musicians.  We chanted the Hare Krishna mantra for a long time.  On the way out I picked up a leaflet that said:

Every now and again it’s good to pause in your pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

And so 2015 began with me chanting (in my head) the Hare Krishna Mantra every morning before work, using the beads of a choker my mum had given me for Christmas.  This exemplifies my do-it-yourself, just-do-it-now, no-need-to-shop-for-all-the special-equipment approach I take to spiritual seeking (and to exercise, I will do a yoga class in my work clothes if I haven’t had time to change, and I go to the gym in ancient trainers and any old clothes); as well as my practical approach:  I didn’t have time to do a whole circuit on Japa Mala meditation beads (those long strings of beads that are traditionally used to meditate with) but I did have time to do one or two lengths of the choker.  You do one full recitation of the mantra on each bead, rolling each bead between your fingers and gradually inching your way along the whole string.  The beads help you keep your place as to how many you have done and help keep concentration and focus as well.  (And enable you to time your practice so you aren’t late for work).  The radiant woman at the temple had given me a little card with the Hare Krishna Mantra printed on:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare /       Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Chanting a mantra: the idea that you are meditating and praying without actually having to think or do anything other than just say those words over and over, was very attractive and very easy to do and yet it was so purifying, the effects were so strong:

Feeling my lungs expanding and the whole mantra like a wave rising and falling, heading towards the light: We are always heading towards the light; it’s just that dying concentrates the mind so that we notice it.  Dying is the same as living, just keep on heading towards the light.

Noticing the little stillness that lives underneath everything but that is normally buried in my chest under my breathing and in my mind under the chatter of thoughts.  I breathe and I notice it.  It feels good.

Thinking in meditation one morning about how maybe God is an abstract concept like time, something we make up to conceptualise the impossible to conceptualise, something to hang our thoughts on.

I turn over hard decisions or stuff I am stuck with or unsure of to God and/or The Universe, or to Time (maybe they all the same thing) and then later I come up with the answer.  So that in time, inspiration strikes or the way becomes clear.  Could be due to Time, or could be God or The Universe but could equally just be our future selves like in the film Interstellar, or even The Future Itself, presenting the answers as it and them arrive and arise.

How much personal responsibility are we able or willing to take on and credit ourselves with?  Like when we ask God:  ‘Why don’t you do something, why don’t you send someone?’ and God says:  ‘I did send someone, I sent you.’

What did for me with the Hare Krishnas was that to get right into it you start at the bottom as a book distributor, giving out books on the street.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to do that.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t thus far ever fully signed up to any one particular religion, because I baulk at doing anything that I don’t actually want to do….

Anthony’s sister wants to talk to me about spirituality- strange stuff is happening for her, she has just started meditating.  I reconnected with my friend  from years ago; she said ‘I want to talk to you about spirituality’.   Anthony said, ‘See, you always wanted someone to talk to about that stuff, now you are the person people talk to.’

*it was a flotation tank session, the photo was taken during the trip to London for it

Thank you very much for reading

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Inspiration and support

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The working title of my travel memoir is ‘I fell in love with you and I cried,’ from Chennai. After the drafting, now comes the editing. I hope I will just fly through it, after all, surely writing the first draft is the hardest. Some bits are near as dammit perfect such as my favourite chapter so far Chennai Part Two. For photos of Chennai see here. Some chapters need a bit of reworking, such as Pushkar, home to Babasgorgeous looking cows, and fun monkeys. Onwards and upwards, wish me luck!

Charles Bukowski
“there is always that space there
just before they get to us
that space
that fine relaxer
the breather
while say
flopping on a bed
thinking of nothing
or say
pouring a glass of water from the
spigot
while entranced by
nothing

that
gentle pure
space

it's worth

centuries of
existence

say

just to scratch your neck
while looking out the window at
a bare branch

that space
there
before they get to us
ensures
that
when they do
they won't
get it all

ever.
--It's Ours”

― Charles Bukowski, You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense

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About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Currently in the UK, living on a narrowboat and finishing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appeared regularly on this blog, and I am returning to India 31/12/19!

Lord give me a song that I can sing: Part Two

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Draft extract from the final chapter of my travel memoir

Lord give me a song that I can sing* Ho Chi Minh City

It can be hard to get a dentist in the UK, an NHS one anyway plus we’d have other things to do and might not get around to it for a while, so we’d decided to get check ups before we left. Anthony had booked the dentist when we were in DaLat. It was a private practice, very smart; the decor was leaf green, with green lockers where we put our outdoor shoes and green Crocs to wear. When it was our turn a member of staff took us up in the lift to the dentists. We were seen at the same time in separate rooms. We were struck by how many staff there were and how much attention we got, at one point I had three members of staff with me. Apparently lots of Australians come to Vietnam for dental treatment, even with insurance it is cheaper to fly to Vietnam.

We went to the army surplus market, it wasn’t as cheap as we’d hoped, the stall holders were good at the hard sell and it wasn’t at all easy to bargain. I bought army boots; Anthony bought army trousers and a long green coat. I liked the enamelled rice bowls supposedly used by the Vietnamese soldiers and considered getting them for presents. It was an indoor market and so incredibly hot we had to leave for a break.

We found a cafe where we drank freezing iced water, Red Bull and coffee. There was a waving cat on the counter, the man in the cafe told us about waving cats, businesses have them, he said, rather than waving, they are beckoning customers in. We asked him about whether the stuff in the market was real, given all the years which had passed. He said that some may be fake, but you’d ‘have to be expert to know.’ In the end we bought engraved US Army lighters for presents. Unfortunately these were confiscated at Air China check in. Every other airline we went on let us carry one lighter in hand luggage, Air China, none at all. At the counter there was a huge plastic sweetie jar half filled with cheap lighters, and our special ones were added in, sadly.

We went to the area popular with tourists, where there were narrow alleyways, lots of massage places, street food stalls, packed little shops selling everything and nice little bars and restaurants. We stopped at one and I ordered a mojito…

(We met *Geography of the Moon who we met here and went to see play, you can read about that here)

…I had only had only two cocktails, one mojito, and one cinnamon one called ‘The Struggle,’ invented by a previous bar tender, ‘She was going through something,’ the bar tender said, and one beer, with lots of space in between. But I got a contact high. Such a high of happiness. Later I lay there loved up, him asleep or resting, me thinking, appreciating him, thinking he may die, what would I be like. The next day I said, ‘I thought Oh my God what if you die, I’ll scream and I won’t be able to stop.’ I’d had a dream like that, like being out of body, trying to get a hold of myself and stop screaming. Anthony’s face was a mixture of horrified and sad. ‘No you won’t,’ he said, ‘you’ll say to yourself, ‘we had a great time together, and now it’s time to get on with the next phase of your life.’’

With two days left, I did my ‘Words are spells’ action plan/wish list. Interesting that post success life looks the same as what we are/have been doing… I imagined what I’d want, how it could start, someone could approach me about the blog… And they did. What next?

Jim Carey, ‘You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.’ The alternative is what we’d do anyway, get ordinary jobs, not suicide.

What is being a failure anyway? Leaving with nothing? You can’t take anything with you anyway.

In the coffee shop we had a conversation about The Future; Anthony saying I must finish the book and that he would support me, over coffee and iced peach tea and more free iced tea, so much liquid. Anthony said, ‘It’s funny how you get a free drink when you order a drink.’ And that at least in the case of coffee the free drink is often much bigger than the ordered and paid for one (a last metaphor!)

Just before we left we went back to the mojito place where we’d met Geography of the Moon. We ordered Anthony breakfast, me, Americano, a great big coffee. We had one last thing to buy, incense, we thought we’d have to go to China town but we were fed up with shopping. Like everywhere the restaurant-bar had a shrine with incense burning. We asked the woman where we could buy some. ‘Are you Buddhist?’ she asked. ‘Well we meditate, we use incense,’ we said. ‘Easy,’ she said, and told us to just go out of the restaurant down the alleyway and to ask at any shop, and wrote us down the Vietnamese word for incense on a piece of paper. Sure enough, at the first shop we came to, we were shown a big box full of packs and tubes of incense, perfect for presents and for us.

Lord give me a song that I can sing/Sing for me my lord, a song that I can sing (GOTM). Much as the mournful request is hardwired into me to love, I know really you can sing the song yourself. You can write the song yourself. You can write yourself the song you want to sing

‘Your life is your life, go all the way’ Bukowski

Thank you very much for reading

For more photographs of HCMC see previous blog

Thank you very much for reading!

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About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Currently in the UK, living on a narrowboat and finishing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appeared regularly on this blog, and I am returning to India 31/12/19!

Lord give me a song that I can sing: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Draft extract from the final chapter of my travel memoir

Lord give me a song that I can sing* Ho Chi Minh City

*Geography of the Moon who you can read about here

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The man at the bus stop in Da Lat asked us if we lived in Ho Chi Minh City. We marvelled at the possibility. There are ex pats. There are digital nomads. There are retirees. There are people with all sorts of businesses. It’s not that strange but at the same time, the thought that it could be us seemed somehow hard to believe. And yet he thought it. And yet, of course, it’s possible.

In Nha Trang we’d sat in a restaurant and checked the booking for HCMC. We realised we’d booked somewhere with no WiFi- since almost everywhere has WiFi, it was easy to forget to check. It was quite hard to find cheap places in HCMC and certainly they all seemed pretty small- I wondered was it a dense population, like Tokyo, with space at a premium? Anyway after quite a while of searching we re-booked a small but nice looking room.

When we arrived in HCMC we realised we’d forgotten something again and not got our own bathroom; we hadn’t always had our own bathroom on the trip, but it is nice to have, plus we thought, it was our last place. Not only that, the place was very hostel-y; and our room was actually one of two small private rooms off the main dorm, which meant we had to go through the dorm, right to the back, and through a door on the right to enter.

A balcony ran along the back of the dorm and past our window too. Our room had looked grey in the photographs, in real life it was unfinished with bare concrete floors, albeit with a nice rug and a comfy futon bed, a clothes rail and a desk. It didn’t help that the key to our room stuck and didn’t work so that we had to go in and out via the balcony doors. So we were a bit disappointed, and thought about moving, especially as the first night was very loud outside; below the hostel was a restaurant bar with people outside late.

But it turned out okay, as always. There’s a sense of having to bed in to a new place. We got used to the room and stopped being bothered about the lock, and the staff were really friendly.

I had been anxious about the shared loos, only three toilets for all those people but there was hardly ever anyone else in the bathroom area. Sometimes there were young women in there playing music, I wondered if it was a privacy thing, like in Japan? And later we even enjoyed the noise outside or at least appreciated it.

The dorm room had eighteen beds in it, you could even stay as a couple sharing one, occasionally walking through I caught glimpses through slightly open curtains, people had made like nests with food etc, like hutches, could one live like that all the time, I wondered?

Inside we had AC as powerful as we wanted, outside on the balcony it was hot hot hot and dusty. From the fridge downstairs I bought ‘big water,’ Sprite and beer and took them upstairs and onto the balcony. Such a pleasure, those things, and looking out, smoking, and watching the people below and passing by.

Again, breakfast was included, I only went down a couple of times, huge chunks of French bread, and black coffee. Anthony said that one of the biggest differences between when he went travelling twenty years ago and now, was the phones. We had a smart phone, Anthony did the booking of accommodation, trains and buses etc, and it was very useful. But at breakfast, in the open area at reception, we looked around, no one talking to each other, everyone on their phones. So when a man walked in, looking around for somewhere to sit, it was us who made eye contact and ended up sitting and chatting with him, as we were the only ones not looking down at a phone. He was tall, which confused me at first, as I hadn’t thought of Chinese people being tall, and casually dressed in shorts and a faded pale blue t shirt, the other Chinese people I’d seen had been smartly dressed. Plus, he was on his own, and the others had been in big groups. He was the first and only Chinese person we met. He said he had made his money already and now came for several months of the year to Vietnam to eat the healthy food; he often went to the market and bought a kind of vegetable/fruit that looked like a potato, he cut me a slice of it, I wasn’t that impressed, it tasted similar to raw potato to me. He explained that the food in China is poisoned; the air is polluted. He told us about a Chinese dissident, now living in the US, who is on YouTube, who speaks the truth about China, and who he believed would be the one to change everything. You can’t say anything against the government, maybe nothing happens then, but it is noted, and one day it comes back to you. He said it used to be hard for Chinese citizens to get a passport, now it is much easier, hence the huge rise of Chinese tourists.

There was the feeling of things to do, a kind of anxiety. In Nha Trang we were low, in DaLat we were high, here, it was more balanced, about practical things, shopping for warm clothes and presents. ‘Just do what’s in front of you’ (method of dealing with anxiety). It felt still, in the eye of the storm, it (home) upon us, surreal…

We walked to the night market, past very expensive looking creatively decorated hotels, everywhere lively, busy, vibrant. On the way back we walked through a public park, there were huge fallen leaves on the ground. A crystal meth addict stumbled around near a bench. There was music in a pavilion, with formal dancing lessons going on, young people, then in the next pavilion, older people doing dancing lessons. In the streets there were people of all ages out late, eating cheap food, drinking cheap beer. It seemed easy for people to be out having fun, socialising and enjoying themselves in the evening. Of course, being somewhere where it is dry and warm late into the night helps to make this possible.  HCMC had a nice vibe, people seemed happy. ‘We could live here for two weeks a year,’ we said; ‘Phnom Penh for a month, India and the UK for the rest of the time.’

For more photographs of HCMC see previous blog

Thank you very much for reading!

About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Currently in the UK, living on a narrowboat and finishing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appeared regularly on this blog.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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I am still working on the HCMC chapter, so in the meantime here is another photo blog post!

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(Above) The tourist area where I drank mojitos and where we met Geography of the Moon

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(Above) Dusk near the night market

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(Above) Our hostel was above this bar

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(Above) The amazing all vegan design your own hotpot place complete with fake eggs!

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(Above x2) A very cool cafe we went to after visiting the dentist!

All photographs by my husband Anthony John Hill

Thank you for visiting!

About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Currently in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.

Da Lat Vietnam Part Two

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For more photographs of Da Lat see a previous blog here

There were little dogs everywhere. One of the guesthouse dogs, a small whitish pug like dog, was, ‘Not friendly, she will bite you, she already lost one owner and is scared she will be taken away again,’ the hotel woman told me. The other dog was like a small brown poodle with curly chocolate fur, it looked like a cuddly toy and was very friendly. It was young and too bouncy for the other dog, always wanting to play; the woman told me that each day for a few hours it went to her friend at another hotel to give the older dog a break.

During our stay it had a haircut, we thought at first it was a different dog, not only was all its curly fur gone but it was huddled in its bed not greeting anyone. Apparently it was traumatised as she hates having a haircut. ‘She won’t speak to me, tomorrow she’ll be okay.’ The woman said. By the time we left she had began getting back to normal.

Again we had an An Chay restaurant right opposite our guesthouse, the woman who ran it was friendly with a tiny bit of English, and there was a woman assistant who had no English. We were confused by the menu, she showed us a small piece of paper which someone had hand written a translation on. It turned out it was all fake meat but we didn’t realise that at first. I ate rice, tofu and veg, it was very cheap, and beer. Once there was a big ginger cat, like a big cat from home, the size of a small dog, who let me stroke it. Another time I went in by myself to eat and to do my blog, there was a chatty American man there, he told me he had a Vietnamese girlfriend and planned to retire here, apparently there were lots of ex pats in Da Lat.

In Vietnam there are people who are totally vegan or vegetarian all the time and many other people have one day each month where they don’t eat meat. Although generally Vietnam is very meaty, where there are all vegan restaurants, they are superb. In DaLat we found an incredible place, again thanks to Happy Cow. It had signs up saying no meat, no eggs, no fish. At the front it had a Banh Mi stall, these were wetter with different flavours and sauces to the ones in Nha Trang, and inside was a big restaurant. There were lots of tables, and often big family parties would eat there. There were poster menus on the wall and big laminated book menus on the tables. They did a lot of fake meat; it’s not something I’m into per se, having never missed meat but it was nice to have a variety of food and plenty of protein. Everything was vegan. We ate lovely sausages, fake chicken wings, fake shrimp, tofu fake meat, fresh stir fried veg, and my favourite, the most lovely dumplings, dense like pie crust or short crust pastry. And glasses of warm soya milk, delicious and healthy, which I missed so much when I couldn’t get it.

I went to the hairdresser to get my unfortunate orange henna from Kerala dyed over (dying over henna isn’t usually possible which I knew but I tried anyway.) I was very excited about going to the hairdressers. ‘Make brown,’ I said. The hairdresser tried hard and looked far more disappointed than me when it didn’t work. She called a man over who spoke some English to ask if I was happy with my hair which was possibly ever so slightly less orange but I might have been kidding myself. Anthony had made me take his phone for the translation app, ‘Just in case.’ I used it to try to explain that it was henna, it wasn’t her fault, but they didn’t understand.

In a reverse to the waving cats aromatherapy thing, which I’d seen first on Atypical on Netflix and then seen in real life; we saw a cockroach in the room, and then cockroaches were mentioned on Atypical. We couldn’t catch it and so ended up living with it in the room which I was very proud of myself about. We never saw it again; they stay on the floor, they like the dark, they avoid humans. That’s what I said to myself anyway.

We found our way back to the area we’d seen from the taxi; a street full of small vintage and original fashion shops. We bought little cakes at a small bakery which also sold small waving cats, white or gold, in plastic boxes. Near the second hand/fashion street was a yellow wall where we watched countless tourists take photographs of themselves against its backdrop.

On a main road with lots of shops with big signs and hoardings, a little like Triplicane High Street in Chennai where Broadlands was, we were suddenly caught up in two schools pouring out, a crazy log jam of bikes. The uniform of one school was traditional trousers with long skirt overlay with a side split all in white silk, the other was sporty navy blue. Opposite a temple we stopped at a shop to buy water, the man in the shop encouraged two school girls who were in there to speak to us to practice or show off their English. We had a short chat and the shop man looked pleased.

Near the indoor clothes market area, big wide flights of stone steps led down to an outdoor market area with fruit, including tall perfect piles of strawberries in baskets, built one by one in an expanding wall, fascinating to watch, beyond the fruit endless cheap clothes. We bought grapes and satsumas.

We sat on the steps with our thin blue carrier bag of satsumas with the leaves on, and relaxed. It was good to just look. Behind us was yet another hotel called Dream something. Nice Dream, maybe. It’s like we’re being told, ‘It’s a dream!’ And just like that, everything felt trippy and shiny again; the two of us feeling high, feeling like it’s a matrix or an illusion.

Thank you very much for reading!

About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.

Waving Cats and Dream Hotels: Da Lat, Vietnam

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For more photographs of Da Lat see a previous blog here

Straightaway we loved DaLat. All of a sudden there were old buildings, full of character, old shops and old flats above shops. Apparently there was a tacit agreement from both sides not to bomb Da Lat during the American/Vietnam War hence all the old buildings. It made us realise the contrast with where we’d been before, that all the new, boxy, functional buildings were new buildings built after the war.

There were street food stalls with great big pans of eggs, some looked like chicken eggs, some were small like quail eggs, and big pans of stew or noodle soup. There were grills with tortillas on, with egg poured on to cook omelettes on top of the tortillas. In the street were stalls with piles of scarves, and furry hats with ears on and ear flaps with long furry scarves attached, like kids hats. It was a big change of temperature, again.

From the window of the taxi we saw lots of hair dressers and shops selling cool looking vintage clothes, and tried to remember where we were relative to our guesthouse. It was such a relief to be in DaLat, it was as if we’d left the bad behind in Nha Trang, immediately we both felt better even just driving through.

Ours was a family run hotel, we tried the wrong one at first, we knew it was wrong as it looked too posh, but both had similar names something like My Dream and Dream Hotel both with dream in the name anyway. Ours was a small homely guesthouse run by a well dressed woman with nice waved hair. In the reception were two little dogs.

 

Our room was in some ways old fashioned with a big wooden wardrobe and a sideboard, and in some ways modern with black and silver flock wallpaper. In the room we were aware of the change in climate; the room smelled very slightly damp, and a bit of mildew when we opened the wardrobe. In the wardrobe, and in a neat folded pile at the bottom of the stairs, were the thick synthetic blankets that were so popular in Nepal and which we’d seen elsewhere too, in Pushkar. I always like to know there’s another blanket, just in case.

Again we were reminded of the difference in tolerance for noise between us from the UK and people in South East Asia generally. Across the road from our guesthouse was a van parked outside which beeped all day, apparently no one complained.

I continued watching Atypical on Netflix which I’d started on the train to Nha Trang. The show is about a teen with autism, in one of the episodes I saw in DaLat he goes to stay at a friend’s house for the first time. His friend has done his best but we see the unfamiliar environment through the main character’s eyes; there’s a waving cat, (the gold cats originally from Japan and China with beckoning paws), an aromatherapy diffuser glowing a colour and puffing out visible scent, and a gold and noisy halogen heater. All these things loom large and become too much for him to cope with.

The next day I saw a waving cat just like the one in Atypical. And on the stairs of our guesthouse was the very same aromatherapy diffuser, the same style but in a different colour…

Mind you, as it turned out, there were waving cats everywhere. One day we sat at an Italian vegetarian cafe, we had vegan cookies and tea. On the sofa next to me sat a real small orange cat, who let me stroke them and purred. In the window of a shop across the road was a waving cat positioned at such an angle that we were facing each other both at matching angles, me turned slightly towards the real cat, the waving cat turned slightly towards me, so that it seemed to be waving directly at me.

I can’t remember if we meditated in Nha Trang or not but we did in Hue and we did in DaLat. In DaLat I found that meditation was helpful for my anxiety. In meditation I felt my anxiety change to excitement, or maybe I was able to reinterpret the anxiety as excitement and to change fear into possibility or excitement; rather than fear of the future, excitement about life’s unknown possibilities. In meditation I was distracted by wanting to think about to my do list. With great effort I dragged myself away from that and asked myself, Why do I want to do this? The answer: because I’m anxious. But beyond anxiety, there was calm, and in meditation I was able to access that, the calm that is always with us.

For every meditation in DaLat I sat on the end of the bed facing the window with my eyes open. There was a pair of silvery white curtains, a net curtain, and a slight gap where I could see out unhindered. Outside the window wasn’t much of a view. I could see two electricity wires. In meditation these represented free will and fate, or free will and possibilities, or ‘you’ and ‘environment.’ I thought about how molecules bond. About how if you raise your frequency you attract ‘better’ things or at least you attract a match.

The mind tries everything- the past, the future, guilt, ‘shoulds,’ things to do, but if you step back from that and let it go you realise that in order to have peace that’s all you have to do: Not do anything the mind is telling you to, or not then anyway. Most of it is not practical or possible, you can’t go into past, for example, so just experience peace, without thoughts. Choose not to think about it. Even if it is practical or possible you can’t do when sitting. Deal with stuff in its present moment when the time arises. Or not…

I thought of what someone (Peter Klopp) had said on WordPress, about light and shadow. He had said, ‘The brighter the light the darker the shadow.’ This was different; people say, the darkness lets the light in, know suffering to know happiness etc. But this seemed to be saying that if you have a bright light, you have a dark shadow as well, as a kind of balance or side effect, something that has to be managed, or accepted maybe. It resonated strongly with me and was strangely comforting even though I felt like I didn’t understand it fully.

In meditation I often thought about Atypical, that’s okay I thought, at least I’m not thinking about stuff I’m anxious about. I felt a pain in one arm and the centre of my chest. I thought about heart attacks, and the tarot man in Thailand telling me I needed to look after my heart. Both my granddads died of heart attacks, I hoped that’d be how I went, easy, one in his arm chair, one at the pool side at the swimming pool.

We are animals that have become conscious. We know we’re alive and that we’re going to die. It’s not ‘spiritual’ or new age or complicated. It’s just if you realise, really realise, I’m a being, I’ve got a life, I’m here, wow, it’s going to end, I don’t know when; then that’s so exciting! Is that waking up/enlightenment? And maybe that’s why people in the East seem to enjoy themselves more, because they are okay with death, whereas we in the West tend to push it away. Oasis in Nepal saying matter of factly, ‘So I die, I die, they be sad for a couple of weeks.’ People of all ages in Vietnam and Cambodia dancing and exercising and socialising simply and cheaply, our Thai friend always laughing and joking…

I began to see the benefits of yoga and meditation, after the low period in Nha Trang. Even my arms felt a little different. I used to do loads of yoga and arm exercises at Sea Win in Kerala relative to now or before now although at the time I didn’t think it was that much/very good.

Just like hitting x number of followers, I look forward to it but when it comes it doesn’t actually do anything.  Or when I was one stone lighter, yes I was pleased but I don’t think I ever felt I was there, I always wanted to be thinner, I never felt my body was perfect. Although, I didn’t have a sense of it being wrong, even before that, just kind of neutral. I could wear all these clothes, buy stuff on eBay, anything fitted and felt good, but it didn’t really do anything, I knew it was just a surface thing.

Thank you very much for reading!

About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.

Photographs of Da Lat, Vietnam

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I’m still working on the Da Lat chapter, in the meantime here is another pictures only post.

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All photographs by my husband Anthony John Hill

Thank you for visiting!

About me

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.

September Update

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We are over halfway through September so here is a quick and dirty update on our No Sex, No Drugs, No (Greggs Vegan) Sausage Rolls September programme

Meditation

As of the time of writing we have meditated every day. I met someone at a family do recently who asked me how to get started. Maybe you’d like to meditate but are finding it hard to start? We were out of the habit of meditating regularly so we started at just five minutes and increased it by one minute every day. We take it in turns to ‘lead.’ Also, if it helps/is of interest, here are all the things we have meditated on so far this month:

  1. Take stock of yourself, where you are physically, emotionally, spiritually, how you feel going into this programme etc.
  2. Do your own thing
  3. The Twelve Lessons (above)
  4. Meditate on your energy
  5. Meditate on The Nature of Existence
  6. Meditate on Identity
  7. Meditating on energy which no longer serves us being sloughed off. This was post a little pagan ritual, we did one the last night of August- the night before we started- and one on Day 7 at the end of week one.
  8. Meditate on your Identity within your Family
  9. Meditate on The Nature of Love
  10. Meditate on ‘The answers lie within’ from the 12 lessons (above)
  11. Meditate on The Nature of Eternity (not in a religious sense, description here)
  12. Meditate on golden healing light, imagine pulling energy in through the top of your head and sending it/allowing it to flow all through your body especially onto any aches and pains
  13. Do own thing: Relaxing and recharging
  14. Post ritual the end of week two which was also a full moon, we meditated on the full moon, what this means, and on renewal, etc
  15. Meditate on the four elements Air, Fire, Water, Earth- their practical manifestations, your relationship with them, what they mean to you, or on their associated qualities.
  16. Do own thing/Things you are grateful for (this was John’s turn, I was in a bad mood, he wisely added the second part, and by the end I was in a much better mood, even if I started off saying ‘Nothing’ petulantly to myself…

For more here is a link to a previous post Meditation Methods

Food

This has been very successful. Like stepping through a portal, suddenly I am no longer a person who eats GVSRs all the time, I now happily snack on walnut halves and dried apricots and effortlessly and joyfully prepare and eat things like the dishes above.* Even some processed foods like Linda McCartney pies and baked beans have begun to taste less appealing. My diet was overall pretty good and I was brought up on whole foods, so it hasn’t been a huge adjustment. *basically a thick smoothie made of soya milk, a banana, an apple, a pear, oats, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, cacao, maca,  linseed, peanut butter, topped with muesli, dates, nuts and seeds, all bought cheaply either in bulk from Grapetree or just cheap at Aldi

Walking, Yoga,

Fine, plenty, photo above of us and sheep on our regular walk, just got up and went and not at all media ready!

No cigarettes or alcohol

Fine, none. I hadn’t smoked any cigarettes since Harlequin Fayre in early August so that was easy. I have fond memories of my last glass of red wine though and may have another one in October.

Writing productivity

I’m on DaLat, the second to last place we went to in Vietnam. The last place was Ho Chi Minh City. I may or may not completely finish that before the end of the month, but either way I am happy with the progress I’ve made this month.

No sex

We have stuck to this and probably managed better than previous times. We’ve been respectful of the fact that it is difficult, and been careful about our behaviour, avoiding talking much about it, avoiding getting undressed in front of each other, avoiding flirting etc.

Not having sex can 1. Dip one’s mood, and 2. Take away a method for cheering oneself or each other up. When I said that to Anthony, he said, ‘Can’t you think of another way to cheer me up?’ And that’s a good question, because I have found it easy for that to be my go to method, whereas cooking a meal, tidying up my piles of clothes and papers, or just being in a good mood, would also be effective but would require more work/less enjoyment on my part…

One Screen Free day each week

Yes we have done this, one was easy as I was at work for most if it, the other was harder, I didn’t even allow myself Word laptop writing time, so I felt a bit discombobulated. In the evening we listened to the radio and then to an audio book, Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. The fact that it felt hard makes it worth doing regularly I think.

Thank you very much for reading

About the author

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. With husband went travelling for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.

‘It’s broken here:’* Nha Trang, Vietnam Part Two

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WARNING This post discusses a period where I experienced suicidal urges, thoughts and feelings. It explores suicidal ‘logic’ and mentions thinking about methods.

I’m now okay now, these feelings come and go over the years, I keep myself safe and it passes.

If you are experiencing similar feelings PLEASE SEEK HELP. Here is a page I have found very useful in the past 

DRAFT extract from book chapter

The day of the beach walk, when we walked to the Incense Tower the wrong way… I wanted to stand and look. Anthony walked off, thinking I wanted to be alone. Being left behind is a trigger for me. A misunderstanding; over sensitivity, a bad atmosphere, the atmosphere between us deteriorated and my mood plummeted.

Thinking, ‘It would have been better if I hadn’t woken up.’ Thinking about the past, imagining going back and preventing things with my son turning out as they did. Thinking, ‘Better to be an asleep person, who could take pride in having had a successful family.’ Decisions, my responsibility. But what did I actually do that was so bad?

And on and on, thoughts spiralling down and down. ‘I left my children for you.’ Anthony said to me once. Oh God, and I’d painted myself as so good, getting their room ready, buying things, cooking. It wasn’t only my kid I messed up. Lots do it, women break up families, but they’d already been separated for years. But he did move to me not vice versa.

The ultimate destination of these thoughts for me is suicide. So many reasons to die: As a punishment. As a I don’t know how to live with myself. As a solution to every other worry or concern. To take responsibility. All I do is harm. I do no good. My son is doing well without me. Wow, the matrix/me really did a number on me. Such dangerous thoughts: If he’s done this well when I stepped back, and done even better when I went away for a year, then how much better would he do if I wasn’t here at all?

I remembered in Kerala, Sea Win, lying on the floor. Me: ‘Why do I feel so bad?’  The answer seemed to come from the light above me: ‘It’s your programming.’

It’s the mother of all battles undoing this. Do I want to? Or do I want to die? All this talk between us re The Future and getting older; who am I kidding? One day I’m going to kill myself and this is why. I’ve not yet got the method planned. Maybe I haven’t reached the end of my tether yet. Maybe I don’t want to enough. Maybe when I do, I will.

Walking along the beach, going into late afternoon, grey light, me thinking of methods of committing suicide, thinking about drowning myself, getting up early or coming back late.

On the sand there were big chunks of mosaic. I remembered there was mosaic on the stairs at the hotel too. (mosaic is kind of a thing for me). A grey bicycle was chained up on top of a ridge of sand so that its background was the cloudy sunset sky. Then, a shiny apple lying on the sand with only a few bites out. Then, some beautiful driftwood. Then a sparrow pecking at a discarded corn on the cob on the sand. Another sparrow, another corn on the cob. A light koru, the Maori symbol of new life. ‘It’s no good showing me all that,’ (good stuff I’d usually like, things of beauty I’d normally connect with) I said grimly, in my head. But then I realised, ‘All that stuff is always there.’

An old Vietnamese lady walked past selling buns, bags of tiny sponge cakes. She smiled and was friendly. I smiled at her, was friendly, and bought some. I felt bad about being so sad, as if she could catch it.

On the beach, mountains one side on a spit, partly concealed by high rise blocks of hotels ranged in front of the mountains, the juxtaposition was shocking.

In Kerala at the beach cafe, at the place where we’d been in a film, I’d read a tatty newspaper pull out/magazine. In it there’d been an article by a food/travel writer. In the wake of two recent celebrity suicides he’d written about how he’d travelled to all these amazing countries, stayed in great hotels and eaten all this wonderful food, that was his job, but at that the same time, ‘For two years I wanted to die,’ he said. I thought it would have been better if he’d written about that too. Like the social media thing of people tending to only put up the good stuff. ‘No one posts photos of themselves sobbing on Facebook.’ I often say. I know there are sites of self harm etc, but are they another extreme, all bad, would it be healthier if we all put everything, or at least a balance, out there?

The trigger to all this was another news interview raking over the past of twelve years ago when my son was a teenager and out of control, and a few cross words between me and Anthony.

Once awake, awake. ‘Enlightenment’ is accepting all of it, somehow, and somehow making peace with it.

As Anthony and I have discussed previously, being conscious doesn’t mean you’re nice. Some heads of big businesses that destroy the environment and people’s health for money to fuel their pleasure lifestyle may well be conscious. They may have decided it’s all an illusion so just do what you want it doesn’t matter. But like I’ve said before, even if it is only a game, I will still recycle, I still won’t hurt animals. And being conscious definitely doesn’t mean its fun. Sometimes you’ll wish you were still asleep.

But I made all the mistakes before. Before I woke up, whilst I was still asleep. So was that all my script? My back story like in Blade Runner to make me less likely to wake up? In Blade Runner they gave the robots memories, even a family, ‘To make them easier to control.’ Or if we don’t believe in some malignant power, that it just made it more of a challenge for me to wake up. Like George Harrison Isn’t it a pity. Or some people say the sadness triggers you waking up; the cracks let the light in, etc. And Now provides the chance to go off script and deprogramme myself, should I choose.

Back in the room, thinking about how just a short time of silence and awkward atmosphere will plummet my mood. One to two hours of it and I’m at suicide methods and my mind is dangerously out of control. ‘No,’ I said to myself, ‘I may not be in control of my thoughts but I can control my actions.’ I hugged myself and thought of the suicide prevention workbook (that I wrote!) ‘Curl up into a ball, you can’t hurt yourself then.’

In bed something in the room screamed method: the curtain pole. Compared to Dong Hoi, where I had admired the curtain pole’s glittery beauty, here, the pole was a suicide option. I was scared of it. Would I just do it, like I slapped myself the other day, involuntarily? That night, so depressed… ‘Just get through the night,’ I said to myself.

Later, talking myself out of it… You think committing suicide will wipe out (or atone for) all the bad you did; but of course it doesn’t, and actually makes it worse. It’s another bad thing. A really terrible thing. It ADDS to the sum of the harm you’ve done. If you were to ask them if that’s what they wanted, of course they wouldn’t say they wanted that. But of course even to ask would be an awful thing to do… The ‘logic’ of a suicidal mood state can be terrifyingly dangerous. In the past I’ve even thought people would WANT me to do it and agree with me that it made sense and that it was a good idea if I were to ask them. One particular time, after a particularly awful Mother’s Day, when my son had stolen something and run up a one hundred pound phone bill, I decided to go to bed, sleep on it, and if I still felt definitely that it was, I’d run it by my friend M, ask her if she thought it made sense, and if she did, I’d do it. Of course I woke up and thought there’s no way she would, and crisis averted.

That night in Nha Trang, I woke later, realised it was no threat- the method I’d been scared of, the curtain pole. And the next morning, I saw that the curtain pole had a screw loose, it wouldn’t have held, it was not dangerous, and me, feeling better, noticed glitter on my leg which reminded me to include the nice Dong Hoi curtain pole in the story.

Nha Trang abounded with patterns and metaphors, the trapped huge variety of beautiful/fascinating animals dead/alive; the non communication, we spoke to other people only twice. The longing to connect… I wished we could all speak the same language or that I knew another language but to really connect you’d need to be absolutely fluent and how long would that take and which language to choose… And how few people I can absolutely connect with even in our first language… Even Anthony and I lost each other for a while…

*One day halfway down our street, on the other side to our hotel, I passed a young Vietnamese woman wearing a red t shirt. Printed on the t shirt, over her heart area, were the words, ‘It’s broken here.’

Thank you very much for reading

I found that my mood dipped as I was writing this chapter. I found this song helped:

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings PLEASE SEEK HELP. Here is a page I have found very useful in the past 

About the author

Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else.  With husband went travelling for a year, mostly in India.   Here are my India highlights.  Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat, and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.