Good things happen when you stay still

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The cafe where we often eat breakfast is beside a little beach a twenty-minute walk away.  Sometimes we walk past and have a longer walk before going back to eat.

One morning on our walk before breakfast people were making a film and, after joking about being in it, we were talking about celebrities who just got discovered without having to do anything e.g. just walking down the street or sitting in a launderette.

My husband said, ‘I’d have liked to have been discovered.  It would have been nice if someone had just come up to me and discovered me without me having to do anything.’  By this time we had arrived back at the little beach near the cafe.

‘Do you mind if I have a quick paddle before breakfast?’  I went down to the sea.  My husband stayed back and waited for me.  A man was walking past and stopped to talk to my husband.

‘You’ll never guess what,’ my husband said afterwards, ‘I just got asked to be in a film.’  Apparently they wanted someone to walk past; they took my husband’s number but they didn’t call.  He didn’t mind, he said it was enough to have been asked after what he’d said just beforehand.

About a week later (this week) we were at the cafe, this time the film crew were setting up right inside the cafe as we ate breakfast.  We thought it was funny; in England the whole place would be closed but here everyone was just eating breakfast around them.  We ate up and got the bill quickly to get out of their way, but as we stood up to leave a man asked us if we’d stay and be in the film.

Now, this might have been my husband’s dream, but it definitely wasn’t mine, however I managed to just go along with it.  A young, good-looking, well turned out Indian couple had been seated opposite the ‘action’ table and were promptly moved out and sweaty, scruffy old us were seated in their place.  We felt sorry for them.  A man came round and put out glasses of juice of varying fullness on the tables as props.  Another man came round with a tin of biscuits, I watched what everyone else was doing before eating it, it was actually to eat right then, presumably some people had been there for ages and were hungry.

We thought up a topic of conversation and stuck to it and I tried not to think about what was happening (I could feel panicky anxiety just at the edge).  They did a take during which we just behaved normally i.e. talked together, then the director said to us, ‘It is a funny scene, it is a young couple, he is trying to impress her, can you look over to them and smile.’

Luckily I had no time to panic.  As soon as the man actor came over and started chatting the woman actor up, my husband looked over at them, I followed suit, my husband and I turned back to each other and smiled a ‘Young love!’ type of smile, the director gave my husband the thumbs up (I was too terrified to look over in case we’d messed it up) and we were free to go.

Although this was all very exciting for us, not least because of the Law of Attraction/Cosmic Ordering aspect, when I told my German-American and my English friend about this they were underwhelmed, saying it happens all the time that filmmakers want Westerners in the background, that sometimes they make you look silly, and that often the films don’t get completed as funding isn’t necessarily always secured before they start, meaning actors and crew don’t get paid.

In other news…  I saw a mongoose.  (Okay I didn’t know it was a mongoose until an Indian man told me, I thought it was some kind of miniature sea otter.)  We had a balcony crow invasion after my husband accidentally left a bag of nuts out.  It really looked like something out of The Birds.  They had picked up the bag from the table and nuts were everywhere.  We threw all the nuts onto the ground for them and they ate them.  ‘Those nuts were quite spicy, I don’t know how they’ll get on with them,’ my husband said, ‘but I suppose they are Indian crows.’

Travel update

Still here, in Varkala in the South of the state of Kerala in the South of India, still happy.  Every time we think about moving North within Kerala as per the original plan, something puts us off going there.  An outbreak of Nipah virus claimed the lives of sixteen people in Kerala nine hours North of here.  The monsoon caused landslips and water shortages in the hill stations.  Someone told us that one of the places we were thinking of going is full of mosquitos during the monsoon and someone else told us it has elephantiasis.

I am going with the flow.  Even if we stay here where it is nice and quiet, where not too much new stuff is happening and I have time to write, until the end of July when we are booked to go to Chennai, it would still be touch and go if I could get up to date with drafting and complete the Hay House Proposal which is my ideal.

Food

The food that wasn’t: a restaurant that was closed, looked as if it were opening again.  We stopped and chatted to the people working on it and they said they did lots of vegan cakes.  They specifically mentioned vegan chocolate cake and we got hopelessly over excited about this.

Even with turning a blind eye to the fact that the banana balls we buy from the bakery near the temple almost daily might not be totally vegan, even with following the while in India 1% and under rule about milk products which allows us to eat Dark Fantasy (individually wrapped melt in the mouth chocolate biscuits), sweet snacks are in short supply.

So when a couple of nights ago we walked past and all the lights were on and there was a board written up saying Vegan Cheesecake, and below it a list of flavours including chocolate…  I thought all my dreams had come true.  I bounded up to them very excited, only to be told that, no, we are just planning out the menu, maybe in August we will open, I was gutted.  August!  We will be in Tamil Nadu by then!

Writing update

I finished a draft of Hampi and gave it to my husband to read.  He gave me some very useful feedback: improve the reader experience by orientating them to Hampi and how it is laid out at the start; make more of the monkey stealing my tablet incident which is probably our best travel story so far; make more of me finding and being able to thank the family who got it back for me.  ‘I remember that was really important to you,’ my husband said, ‘Make sure you show it.’

I noted down all his comments in my exercise book, and then MOVED ON to Goa Part Two.  I will be going back to all the drafts and adding in the changes, but NOT UNTIL I HAVE COMPLETED THE FIRST DRAFTS OF ALL THE CHAPTERS.  I do not want to get stuck rewriting the first sentence of a novel over and over and not getting any further.  My fear of failure* is so strong that it is really important to plough on and STICK WITH THE PLAN.  All the feedback will still be waiting for me in my exercise book.

As I write and as we talk, I remember new things that I had forgotten, as well as bits for other sections and things that link across sections.  I write them down and keep on going.  I have completed the Anjuna part of Goa Part Two, next up Arambol then Panaji.  Collectively it is quite a big section, but I hope to have finished the draft of it next week.

*although actually right now I’m feeling like I could actually do this

Thank you very much for reading

See you next week

 

 

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The Healing Project

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Sometimes working on my thoughts and thinking brain can feel like trying to untangle a ball of wool that a kitten has played with.  Difficult, frustrating and maybe even impossible, or at least that’s what it feels like.  But what if I just decide to go and buy a fresh ball of wool or give up knitting altogether?

What if I just move my focus onto my feelings and especially my body and just use my thinking brain for reading, writing and arithmetic?

This week I have been doing some healing again, mainly just on myself, letting energy flow out of my hand into any sore areas, and letting the sore areas relax and accept the healing.  This is what a powerful imagination can be used for!

This self healing also involves taking breaks and having days off from typing and even yoga if things hurt.

I am even wondering if the subconscious mind actually lives in the body and learning to have a kinder and more aware relationship with my body might help me untangle subconscious issues without having to do any actual untangling…

There’s a great book called ‘Touching Enlightenment: finding realisation through the body’ if you are interested in this idea.  And if you are interested in tuning in for some distant healing let me know!

I got my period, which is what I was worried about last week, eleven days late.  I am 48 years old so my periods are a bit random and cause quite a bit of stress every month.  I am very unlikely to get pregnant I know but you do hear of people my age getting accidentally pregnant and thinking it’s the menopause.

Travel update

The monsoon is hitting the North of Kerala very hard at the moment with lives lost and crops and homes destroyed.

We are definitely going to Chennai in Tamil Nadu at the end of July.  We may visit somewhere else in Kerala before then depending on conditions.

Where we are we have seen broken tiles and damage to some of the shops and restaurants on top of the cliff.  One night I was woken by the biggest wind so far.  I saw a firefly come onto the balcony, flit about for a bit, looking almost like an ember, before it settled in the corner of the window sill and went to sleep (or so I assumed, its light went out).

On Monday and Tuesday we had two very hot and sunny days, 41°C!  It gets humid but then before long the rain comes again and cools it down.

We have been having fun planning our itinerary and booking places for later on: August- Chennai and other places in Tamil Nadu then Thailand.  September- Thailand then Japan.  October- India- Kolkata, Varanassi, Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan.  November- Rajasthan then to be arranged.  We will also build in another month or two in one place, somewhere comfortable that we’ve already been, for me to catch up with writing the book, maybe Hampi or back to Kerala.

Food wise, I have tried a couple of new things, Upma (a breakfast dish) and Momo which I think is a Tibetan dish.  Both very yummy.  We went into town one day and had vegetable biryani at a local cafe which we ate with our fingers (more practice needed).  We sat and watched as the heaviest downpour so far rained down outside before making a dash for the rickshaw stand.  We’ve got a local cafe nearby where we eat vegetable masala and dal fry; one night they cooked by candlelight as the electricity had gone out.  Some days we’ve eaten only snacks during the day- banana balls mainly- and treated ourselves to a meal at the Italian restaurant at night, delicious mushroom pasta and beautifully presented slices of wonderfully sweet fruit with maple syrup.

I have put some pictures on Instagram followingthebrownrabbit of the temple area that I love so much.

Writing update

I finished the draft of Goa Part One.  I have almost finished a draft of Hampi, just another hour or so needed then I can give it to my husband to read.  Then I will be onto Goa Part Two.  I am excited about getting that done because after that is Kerala, where we are now.  I hope to get up to date before we leave here at the end of July.

Thank you VERY MUCH for reading

See you next week

Happiness is…

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‘If you have a heartfelt wish, the universe will grant it.’

(Renata, a German-American woman who fell in love with India whilst here on holiday many years ago and subsequently moved here after the universe granted her wish)

The monsoon is here.  I woke up at 4am Saturday morning to the sound of rain and stayed up reading blogs because it was too loud to sleep.  This rain sounded different, as if there were layer upon layer of rain falling so fast; as if each raindrop is falling faster than rain usually falls.  The sound was like listening to movie rain in a surround sound cinema, wrong as it feels to use something artificial to describe something real.

Lying in bed at 4am, I realised we needed to move.  Our previous guesthouse, lovely as it was, was surrounded by trees, a small river and a kind of swampy area which got wetter as the rains went on and the river overflowed.  The communal area became unusable due to the increase in mosquitos and our room, although safe with mesh at the windows, was dark and had begun to smell damp.  In the monsoon there are cases of fever and I just suddenly thought, let’s move somewhere healthier.

We checked out some places online and went off to look, on our way looking at other places we passed.  We were on our way to look at the last place when a man called to us from the very nice guesthouse next door.  We wouldn’t have looked otherwise as it looked way out of our price range, but he ended up giving it to us for our budget price as we are staying for a month and it is off season.

We have a big, light and airy room, complete with a desk for me to write at, a spacious private balcony and a bathtub.  The other day there was some hot water and I had a small bath for the first time since March!

We are up high and near the sea and are able to sit out on the balcony even in the evening as the mosquitos are far fewer here.  The view from our balcony is palm trees, a few buildings and the sea.  At night we can see the little lights of the many fishing boats out on the horizon, which intermingle with stars and planets and, dancing amongst the palm trees, many fireflies!

When we arrived here we sent almost all our clothes out to a laundry service to start afresh, including my backpack which had gone mouldy, and are waiting anxiously for their return as we have not got many clothes left!

We have a slightly new stretch of beach to explore, and went walking in bright sunshine, past two mosques and a Muslim graveyard, past many guesthouses and half finished developments, and all along the top of the cliff with the grey sea crashing against the black rocks with huge white spray.  Then the sky went grey and we got caught in the rain and arrived home completely soaked but utterly exhilarated.

We are a medium walk or a short rickshaw ride away from the temple area with the local shops and cafes.  This week we ate in a new local cafe.  There was no menu and the one person who spoke English just told us what they had.  We ate vegetable biryani, vegetable masala and roti, everything freshly cooked and delicious.  We have been back there twice for breakfast, masala dosas, theirs are spicier than usual- everywhere does them slightly differently.  We also went to a new little tea shop and had masala chai (my occasional exception to veganism) and delicious deep fried balls of banana bread, satisfying, sweet and delicious.

Today we got a rickshaw to the temple area and actually went to the temple.  We don’t tend to do much touristy stuff but after reading somewhere that the temple and beach area are the ‘Benares of the South,’ I thought we’d better go at least once.  Non Hindus are not allowed inside but we walked around the outside and admired the beautiful colourful carvings.

Afterwards we met Renata at a cafe and I had a real espresso and one cigarette.  Here you can buy one cigarette to have with your coffee; I love this country!

I don’t know if it shows but I am happy.  There is so much fun to be had.  Even though it’s raining a lot, there are still sunny spells.  There is a restaurant very nearby and the guesthouse has a kitchen we can make porridge in if it’s really raining hard.  We have all the little cafes in the temple area to visit and Varkala town by local bus to look forward to, which we haven’t done yet; the bus stop is outside the tea shop that sells the banana balls, conveniently!

I have only got one thing to worry about, but I hope by this time next week I will be able to report that that is okay too.

Writing update

I have just about completed a draft of Goa Part One which covers our time in Colva and Agonda.  I just need to spend another hour or so on it then I shall give it to my husband to read.  Next up, Hampi, which I am looking forward to.  Hampi is such an amazing place; so beautiful, so spiritual.  I really fell in love with India there.

Instagram followingthebrownrabbit for pics of our new accommodation!

Thank you for reading

See you next week

The rains

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‘Even a plant that has died can come back to life during the rains.’ (Umesh, restaurant owner)

What’s on top

The monsoon is imminent.  One evening we actually felt cold and rued abandoning our fleeces, jumpers and warm socks in Delhi.  It has an effect on wildlife.  In the guesthouse we saw a biggish snake about to eat a very big frog, before being chased out.  There was another smaller snake in the guesthouse a couple of days ago, as it was being chased out it ran under another guest’s door and he had to be woken up to alert him.

I got a rickshaw into town one day, we later met the man and found he has a restaurant, a small local place at the other end of our road, near tiny shops and stalls where we bought bananas.  We promised to go and get breakfast there next week.  Exploring, trying out this new area was quite exciting and made us feel strangely enlivened, even though it isn’t at all far away.  My husband said that maybe it’s because we aren’t doing much, that a little bit of change has an effect.  A few days earlier, we had felt restless, and even went to look at some other guesthouses, before realising that where we are is still the best (for now anyway).

We’ve been in Kerala for a month but it was only a couple of days ago that I had a beer, for the first time since Goa and realised that alcohol is restricted in this state.  It is legal in bars and Government liquor stores but not in all restaurants.  My beer was served in a large mug and the can put discreetly under the table because of the police.  Sometimes groups of men come to the guesthouse and rent a room just for the evening to socialise and drink.

Rahul, who works at the guesthouse nine months out of twelve has gone back to his family in Assam, over 3,500 miles and a three day train journey away.  We used to chat to him every day, swapping language tips and photos of home and he and my husband played carrom together.  R, a guest from Switzerland who we had some interesting talks with has also left.  We and a permanent resident who works at the temple are the only guests now.

After two months of eating out for every meal, we’ve been enjoying making porridge in the guesthouse kitchen.  Oats and bananas are easily available with dried fruit and soya milk sold in some places. Cooking, even something so simple as porridge, has been very nice, and the porridge has tasted especially good, maybe because it’s a taste of home.

My favourite food to eat out at the moment is Gobi Manchurian,  cauliflower but not as you know it.  Battered and either ‘dry’ (deep fried with caramelised onions) or ‘with gravy’ (softer in a delicious rich sauce).  I wince at the thought of school dinner cauliflower and what the chefs here would think of that!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of yoga and experiencing little moments of ease and awareness; of being able to be kind to myself and flexible re my routine as well as get things done (something I really struggle with).  Also a sense of arriving in my own body, being happy with what I see and not comparing myself to others (another thing I struggle with).

Rain has meant a lovely Sunday afternoon type feeling, watching a film in the daytime as rain poured down outside.  When the film finished it had stopped raining, it was still light outside and we went out to eat.  As well as the sound of rain there’s the sound of hard green fruits hitting the tin roof at regular intervals and the almost incessant barking and/or howling of dogs.

What I’ve been watching

Partition (film)
Her (film)
Battlestar Galactica
Thirteen reasons why (Season one, I’m a late convert)

What I’ve been reading

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (about Partition)

(So basically Partition and the nature of consciousness, with a bit of High School misery thrown in.)

Writing update

I’ve worked really hard this week and completed a draft of Chapter One (actually more like chapters 1, 2, and 3).  This covers the period of how we got here:  Nothing to lose but our dignity (the idea); No half measures (the decluttering and giving up everything); The Matrix fights back (obstacles and temptations).  There’s still polishing and editing and probably some moving about to be done, but I am leaving it alone for now.

Yesterday I started work on Goa, which is where we went after Delhi.  It was really interesting reading my notes and blogs from that time.  I think I feel a lot stronger and more confident than I did then.

Today I just worked on this blog post.  Last week and this week I have ring fenced Friday only as the blog day and the rest of  the week for the book.  The good thing about this is that it separates the two nicely, especially as at the moment the book work is about previous months not where we are now.

It also ensures the book work gets done; writing the book is hard work and the blog is more fun.  It’s also written in the present tense and so seems more lively than the book.  Plus it allows me to change my opinions week by week.  I intend to complete the book, but I think in an ideal world I’d be a blogger rather than a book writer.  But maybe that’s just what I think this week.

The disadvantage of not starting the blog post until Friday is if like today I get distracted by talking and don’t start the blog until later then it’s a bit more pressure but hey, it’s not like I’ve got anything else to do.

Thank you for reading

See you next week

Crazy Wisdom

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What’s on top?

This week I read The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga.  Published in 2008, it won the Booker Prize.  I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much.  Written in epistolary style, in this case as a letter (epistolary can also mean using other documents such as newspaper clippings, diary entries etc to tell a story); powerful, so completely readable, spiritually challenging and inspiring and with violence present but not described in explicit detail- I don’t like reading or watching violence.

I also watched the film Lion which was great, so good to see a film about India in India, and the film The Art of Loving about Michalina Wislocka, a ground breaking Polish gynaecologist who fought to educate women about their bodies, sex and contraception which was also very good.

I also came across this great blog post, which this post is named after, about one’s individual journey and individual wisdom, which was inspiring and reassuring.
I also- at last- finished reading Kim Gordon’s autobiography.  This quote explains everything about how in the UK I managed to survive and enjoy moving to the country:

‘Small town silence almost obliges you to have inner resources, which the racket of New York doesn’t.  New York is all about distraction and what’s next.’

In fact, even now, with so much writing to do about what has happened so far, I often say, I need it to be boring, just so I can catch up.  Otherwise it’s like those cartoons of the rail track being laid as the train is coming, as fast as I get stuff typed, more stuff happens.  (Which is churlish of a writer to complain about really- too much material- rather than writer’s block.

But even with writing the book and this blog, even with reading two books at once, watching films and having in depth conversations with my husband, I do still have moments of restlessness.  My life used to be so pressured, my work was so pressured that I burned out in the end; so that this quiet, delightful peacefulness is still an adjustment.  Rather than rush to fill it with, let’s say, going out or drinking, instead I am sitting with it, using it to reconnect with and build upon my awareness: seeing beauty everywhere, feeling love for my husband, which is after all where and how my awakening began nine years ago.

Travel update

We are still here in Varkala so not much to report.  It has been raining most days although these are pre monsoon rains, the actual monsoon is due on 29th May.  We have bought an umbrella, plus porridge, raisins and long life soya milk so that we can cook porridge at the guesthouse if it is too wet to get out at mealtimes.  We have been eating lots of lovely masala dosas from the cheap local cafe, plus vegetable curries, delicious Indian breads, and fresh juices.  (But yesterday I went to the tourist area and treated myself to good strong coffee and Marmite on toast for breakfast, heaven!)

Writing update

I have maintained my confidence in myself and my writing this week, and worked hard for four days, two sessions a day, on Chapter One, which is all about getting the idea, finding the strength to follow it through, decluttering and letting go of possessions, and escaping the matrix.  In a few days I hope to have a 9,000 word draft that I can show my husband.  Added to Chapter Two, about arriving and Delhi, 4,000 word draft already done, that’s not bad going.  Next up, Goa, then Hampi, and then Varkala (bringing us up to date).

Thank you very much for reading

See you next week

  I know what to do

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What’s on top?

During random blog reading I came across a beautiful piece of writing, my favourite quote from it and a link to the original piece below:

Stand exactly in a doorway like a cat and try to feel the religious feeling that a cat clearly feels when it stands in a doorway.  Patricia Lockwood

I am reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein.  (The reading of this has to be prioritised as it is our biggest and heaviest book and my husband is sick of carrying it.)  Written in 1961, if you can ignore the awful sexism, the intellectual, metaphysical and spiritual ideas in it are very interesting.

Discussions continue about the nature of reality (too in depth to explore here, also whatever theories I believe this week will probably change again by next week); whilst at the same time feeling lively and vibrant within this current reality.

Travel update 

We went to Kovalam beach for two nights, an hour’s train journey away.  There were lots of Indian tourists, it is vacation time here, and a very few foreign tourists.  We got lots of pressure from stall holders and street sellers:  tailors services, clothes, scarves, drums, ornaments and fruit.  We even got followed down the road by a man who looked well into his seventies trying to sell us marijuana.

The beach was nice:  black sand, the sea shiny, glassy looking with the reflected light of the setting sun, with big frothy white waves.  Our room was white, clean, with white bed linen, towels* and a top sheet** and was probably the nicest room we’ve stayed in so far.

In the evening we walked out of the tourist area, past chai stalls and tiny little shops which are absolutely packed with everything you could need compressed into the smallest of spaces, some not much bigger than a cupboard.

The train was easy, we bought tickets on the day and travelled in normal non ac carriages.  On the way we had to stand but it wasn’t a long journey.  We had breakfast (masala dosas) in a canteen style restaurant on the station.  We were unsure of what to do but an Indian man came and explained how it worked and even came to check we had got our food okay.

It was very nice to return to Varkala.  We were welcomed warmly and came back to the same room, where we had been able to leave the big backpack and lighten our load.  As much as possible we intend to stay here and just go off to other places in Kerala for a few days at a time.

Photo:  Crow at the edge of the Osho guesthouse’s rooftop yoga space. She/he appeared after my yoga session, stayed quite close and waited patiently whilst I took their photo.  The caw caw of crows is a constant background noise.  On Papanasam beach there are usually lots of crows; they eat rice off banana leaves left from pujas.  However, returning ‘home’ after two days away, there were very few crows but lots of dark grey pigeons.  ‘Look, the crows have been replaced by pigeons,’ I said.  ‘Perhaps there’s been some kind of coo’, my husband said.

A few days ago, on Papanasam beach, during a little walk and a look at the sea after dinner, a man came up to us, ordinary, well dressed, with friends.  He said hello then said: ‘Look, look at the sea, close your eyes, breathe into your chest, hold…  Hear only the sea…  my voice.  There, do you feel comfort?’ I love that this kind of thing happens here.

This week has been about setting and sticking to a strict budget, which  is easy to do whilst we’re based in Varkala as the guesthouse and the local cafe are both cheap.  We’ve been eating masala dosas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, interspersed with channa masala (chickpea curry, good for vegans), beans on toast** (likewise), porridge and banana and fresh fruit and vegetable juices.  We both feel much better for not overeating (and not overspending).

Writing update

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Saturday, session one typing up new ‘meaning of life’ type ideas, session two, typing up Varkala notes from notebook; Sunday, two sessions on Delhi section.  By the second session I saw how to do it, the need to remake it more personal, with emotion, not just like a travel diary.  Monday, two sessions on Delhi; I ended up with a 4,000 word draft which although needs polishing and editing was ready enough to show to my husband.  I was very pleased with myself as I had been scared of that chapter.  Scared of some notes I have written myself, for a book that I am writing for no other reason than my own pleasure?  Crazy but true.  Tuesday, day off.  Wednesday, I tackled Chapter One (how we got here, the background).  I had been even more scared of that chapter than of Delhi, but I sat down and approached it with a (new) calm confidence.

Maybe because I had done Delhi, maybe because of my general confidence and self belief improving?  I took my own advice and reordered it chronologically, breaking it into three sections:  Nothing to Lose But Our Dignity (the original ‘sell up and go travelling’ idea, and some background); No Half Measures (about decluttering and its effects); and The Matrix Fights Back (about all the obstacles we had to deal with in our quest to escape).  It is currently 9,000 words, so I am being kind to myself and acknowledging that no wonder it was difficult to sort out.  But I know what to do, I can see where it is flabby, where it goes off track, where it needs work.  I know what to do, and that makes me very happy indeed.  Thursday, two sessions on this blog post.  Friday, one session on Chapter One, one to finish this post.

*Only a few of the places we’ve stayed have had towels.  Standing on the train, feeling the sweat trickling down my legs, I said to myself, please let there be towels.  I was dreaming of a shower, clean white towels.  Any colour for that matter.  We sat on the veranda while the man made up our bed. When he had finished, he brought…  towels!

**Most places don’t give a top sheet as standard.  Although it’s hot it feels weird to lie with nothing at all, and sometimes in the middle of the night it can feel almost chilly.  We were so excited about the towels that we forgot to ask for one, and when we returned after dinner there was no one around.  Later, at 9.15 at night there was a knock at the door…  it was the man, bringing us a crisp white sheet!  And we hadn’t even asked him!

**Sometimes it’s nice to have something plain and also beans are lacking elsewhere, so I often have beans on toast.  It was lunchtime and they are only on the breakfast menu, but I really wanted them.  ‘I’m going to beg, watch me get them,’ I said to my husband.  And I did (I didn’t need to beg though, just ask nicely).

Thank you for reading

See you next week

I stand by myself and I am not afraid

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Travel update

We are staying in Osho’s guesthouse at Papanasam beach, near the temple.  The beach is a Hindu pilgrimage site and there are little stalls set up and holy men offering puja.  Rectangular mounds of sand form the stall bases and remain there all the time; brightly coloured umbrellas are set up in the day.  On Sunday morning the beach was busy even at 8am with local people on their day off.  We have already seen two pujas for people who have died; people put things belonging to the person, as well as garlands of flowers, rice and other items, into the sea.  This goes on alongside the rest of the life of the beach, no one stares or takes any notice.  The area is very busy with Indian tourists.  There’s only a handful of foreigners in this area, the rest stay on the tourist strip on the top of the cliff a ten minute walk away.  Often the Indian tourists are interested in us, saying hello and asking to take photographs with us.

Our room is inside a stone indoor area and maintains a very comfortable temperature.  Our last room was very hot, almost unbearable to be in during the afternoons.  It was a bit of a shock after the ac in Panaji, which is why we have a no ac rule:  once we go there we might not be able to go back, but here is cool.

It rained for the first time on Friday afternoon.  I stood out in it and thoroughly enjoyed getting soaked to the skin in the thick, warm rain.  The next morning the smell was delicious; fresh and peaty and the rain had made new and different flowers come out.  It has rained most nights since with big storms in the evenings and we’ve watched the sky light up pink and white with huge forks of lightning.

Most mornings I go for a walk along the cliff top above the blue-green sea that gets greener as the day goes on, watching white headed eagles and making sure I don’t trip on the uneven path or worse, fall down the sheer cliff.  At the end of my walk there’s a little bay.  The sand at the water’s edge is sprinkled with a layer of shell, like rough crushed mother-of-pearl or multi-coloured pebble dash.  It reminded me of the flooring in hotel bathrooms, beige with tiny coloured pearly bits, plain at first glance but beautiful if examined more closely.  This is a louder, more beautiful version of course, but still…

Food: Idli and dosas at a local cafe for breakfast; coconuts and roasted chickpeas for snacks; beans on toast, tofu wraps and vegeburgers for lunch; eggplant masala and roti for dinner; plus delicious (soya)milky smoothies and fresh juices; no wonder it’s seemingly impossible to stay on budget or to lose weight…

The internet in theory makes things super easy, to look at maps and research information, but it can’t tell you what to do.  India is really big, trains get booked up way in advance, the monsoon is coming, some places are very hot (okay everywhere’s hot, but some places are even hotter than others).  We need to avoid the heat, enjoy the monsoon, safely travel and get to Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu (North and on the opposite side of the country from here) for our flight to Thailand on 12th August to meet my stepdaughter.

We had broadly decided to spend May, June and most of July in the state of Kerala (bearable temperatures, good place to be during monsoon) and then slowly travel to Chennai, stopping at places on the way, if that were feasible with trains and buses.  We’d looked up everywhere along the route and looked up different routes but were suffering information overload.  Plus we didn’t actually know what would be best travel-wise especially during the monsoon.  We decided just to stick with the Kerala plan and maybe ask someone, a local with good English, what to do next once we got to Kerala.  Until I wrote that sentence, I had forgotten that we had said that.

We check into Osho’s guesthouse, which we had discovered by accident and booked into spontaneously, and immediately meet Y.  Y is super friendly, Indian, speaks perfect English, comes to Kerala all the time and lives in Chennai!  Within a short period, Y had sorted out all our travel plans (Kerala plan still good, but then go straight to Chennai and use as a base to explore Tamil Nadu rather than trying to stop off along the way); advised us about trains and how to book easily the day before and told us about some good places to visit.  Y wasn’t even meant to be in Kerala, he arrived here on a whim.  He was going back to Chennai the next day, so my husband seized the moment and invited him out for dinner with us that evening.  Evening came, Y said, I’ve invited X, is that okay?  The more the merrier, we said and off the four of us went for dinner.

What’s going on?

In England sometimes, after a couple of glasses of wine, I would try to share my ideas.  Sometimes it would seem promising but then I’d say something more and everyone would go a bit quiet.
‘I’ve gone too far again haven’t I,’ I’d say to my husband, and we would all laugh.
During my ‘spiritual journey’ I tried many different things.  After six years of searching the unifying theory I had been searching for came to me in a dream.  (If you are interested those are links to the relevant blog posts)

On Saturday night the four of us spent five hours in a restaurant, no drugs, no alcohol, discussing all this stuff.  Sharing our experiences.  Recognising each other.  It didn’t feel as exciting as it was.  It didn’t feel ‘Boom!’ or strange or weird, even though it was all of those things.  It felt easy and peaceful.

The lessons and impact of that meeting are huge for me and I am realising new things each day as one day builds upon another.  (Too fresh to write about here, and too much of it, but I will write it up for the book.)

Most of the things I believe in have been theory only, not tested in real life.  I’ve noticed little things, small things appearing when I need them, low-level Law of Attraction type stuff.  But I haven’t really tested it, this stuff I believe in.

What experiments can I conduct on myself to help me realise who I am, to realise my potential, to break free of conditioning and to help me break on through to the other side in terms of my understanding re what all this is?

Writing update

Saturday, one session, typing up notes from the last couple of days; Sunday, two sessions, same; Monday, day off; Tuesday, working on this blog post; Wednesday, same.  Thursday morning, session on blog, afternoon session on Delhi.  Friday, big session on Delhi, little session finishing off this post.  And all the time more stuff keeps happening, more scribbling waiting to be typed, another notebook almost filled up…

The need to get on with editing Chapter Two- Delhi, and Chapter One- How we got here, both for the book proposal, and the proposal itself, are beginning to loom.

But I’ve been doing what I’ve felt like; furious typing of notes and thoughts, covered in red, so that the first session on Sunday was spent laboriously correcting.  Must type slower, but I probably won’t.  And I had fun starting this week’s blog post early, putting in photos, the framework, the title, some bits and pieces and ideas.  Feeling inspired and pleased with myself.  Getting a bit ahead was nice.  It’s got to be fun, at least sometimes!  Or at least, it’s okay to have fun, to do the fun bits; it is all part of the work that needs doing: this week’s blog, typing current notes…

Editing Delhi…  I have been less keen on this, not really having a good session on it until Friday, motivated by this update so I could say I had done it.

Chapter One (I don’t feel like that at the moment, but am working back up to it.  Why?  It’s long.  Break it up, if I can, like I have with the others.  Good idea, tackle next week)

Thank you very much for reading

Thank you for following this blog.  Thank you for commenting.  Thank you for ‘liking’ posts.  I’d probably write even if no one was reading but it wouldn’t be as much fun.  I really appreciate your support.

See you next week

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I want to say I love you

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Photo: Hanuman Temple, Panaji

What’s on top

I’ve really enjoyed going on the internet this week, especially when I haven’t had access to it for a few days.  In Panaji I left the coffee-shop-with-internet buzzing not only with caffeine but with the fun of going on the internet for an hour.  Reading WordPress comments, picking up birthday messages and putting a load of brown rabbit photos on Instagram.

Then yesterday, in my first solid no rush, just do what you want internet session in days, I referred to my notebook where I keep a list of things to look up: (what do Indian chipmunks eat; more Malayalam words, which I practiced later at the shop; how to spell fuchsia; download a yoga class, which I then did on the veranda (on my new bright pink yoga mat!) after we got back; menstrual leave; Indian dress and the names of different garments; which states in India allow the eating of beef; British rule; the political parties in India and who’s who; the caste system).  Along with the smoothie with soya milk, the peppermint tea, the rest and shade after a walk around town, I felt so, endorphined afterwards.

Something else I found out this week, when finding out what to give cows to eat (they often have to eat garbage and sometimes look very thin, I gave the one in Panaji some bananas).  If you are in India, the advice is to put food waste on the ground not in a plastic bag, or if you do put it in a plastic bag, leave the bag open, don’t tie it.  Otherwise cows will eat the plastic bag as well, potentially causing illness and death.

Travel update:

Panaji, Goa:

In the taxi from Arambol to Panaji (both in Goa), I’m trying to write down the colours of the houses we pass but before I can think of the word for the colours of one house we’re onto another and another.  My notebook looks like a list of paint chart colours.  Feeling totally blissed out from the sweet visual sensory overload and my thoughts…  Realisations re writing, use the senses, use the emotions, document scenes, capture in notebook, scribble, take photos, look at my husband and step-son’s films and photos, draw on every book I’ve read, every writing class I’ve ever been to…  Not only that, my spiritual journey before I left, all that meditation, chanting, different religions and philosophies, reading, thinking, discussing, all that, got me here.  Here, in India!

The guesthouse in Panaji was painted baby pink with a maroon trim, exactly the same colour scheme of the first house I had noted down on the journey there.  Our room was big and white and spacious with a large wet room and another little room with a sink and a mirror in, plenty big enough to get dressed in and even to do a bit of yoga in, great as the three of us were in one room.  And the shower!  The shower in Arambol looked like it was dangerous, with bare flex and a plug in the wall right near the water.  It was only a trickle anyway and the water had ran out altogether that morning as it often did and we had arrived in Panaji hot, sweaty and dirty.  It was a power shower, with hot water if we wanted; it was such a pleasure, the best shower by far we had had since arriving!

And it had ac!  We hadn’t booked this, it just did.  The manager laughed about how excited I was about this.  In Arambol we had felt fine in temperatures of 35-38°C but we were at the beach with a strong sea breeze.  In Panaji we were not on the beach and it felt considerably hotter.  The ac was heaven.  Not only that, the local taxi driver had ac, and the restaurant where we went to eat in town had ac; it was almost cold.

Panaji is the capital and administrative centre of the state of Goa.  It does have a beach but it’s not such a destination beach as Arambol or Agonda, and even though we were only an hour or so away, it was a world away.  We noticed the kitchen staff staring at us from inside the kitchen hatch and we only saw one other Westerner in the town.  The restaurant where we went (we chose it as it had good Wi-Fi and we needed to get my step-son checked in for his flights home) was a solid building, very smart, (and cold), a world away from the beach front temporary structures we’d been used to.

We felt we were visitors to an actual town that existed by itself as opposed to Arambol and Agonda, where everything is easy, people have come from all over India just to serve the tourists.  It’s easy, it’s false, it’s set up just for the tourists, everything is sanitised and safe.

In Agonda we saw policeman with sticks threatening a woman who had been asking tourists for money, and early in the morning women would sweep and clear the beach of rubbish and cow dung, as if the tourists couldn’t possibly see anything that might spoil their paradise holiday.  Even the dogs looked okay, whereas in Panaji some of them didn’t look so good.  And we’re still in Goa, when we go to different places, it will be different and more challenging.

Although it felt ever so slightly edgy, it felt really good to be in a real place with real local facilities.  We ate breakfast at a cheap local cafe and my husband got his haircut at a local hairdressers.  And we finally got to a Khadi shop, I bought a kurta (tunic shirt to wear over trousers).

As in Hampi, as in Delhi, it’s on the balcony that I really feel it, where I am, how I feel.  Here it wasn’t even that moment, it was afterwards, looking at a brown rabbit photograph I took for Instagram and noticing how unreal the explosion of green and trees looked in the middle.  On one side was a mosque, on the other some run down residential buildings, on the balcony the red and pink sunlit colours, on the ground below an emaciated white cow… and in the centre this explosion of lush green forest.  As if there’s too much packed into the scene, one thing would be enough; the mosque or the forest or the building or the cow or even the sunlit pink painted balcony.  That is how it feels a lot in India, as if there’s just too much to take in.  As if everything’s been compressed, my step-son said.

It came to the end of my step-son’s time with us.  He’d travelled out with us and been with us for almost five weeks.  We were quiet on the way to the airport.  It was dark.  I saw a house lit up, every alcove painted a different colour.  I want to say I love you.  But like at the beginning of a relationship, where all you see is the good, I’ve barely been outside of Goa, I’ve had it easy.  So it’s too early to say those words just yet.

Food:

In Panaji:  Huge plate of bel puri, biryani rice and dal at the ac WiFi restaurant in town; paratha bhaji (Indian bread and curry) and black tea with lime at the local cafe for breakfast; good strong coffee and beans on toast at WiFi coffee house in town; vegetable masala at a beach restaurant; it’s hotter so we’re back on eating crisps in the afternoon, although for the moment I’ve managed to kick the Mazza (bottled mango drink) habit; iced tea and banana and walnut cake at the beach; big chunky vegetable samosas at the airport.

Varkala, Kerala

We left the state of Goa for the state of Kerala.  In Goa the houses are European looking, villa like with balconies.  Arriving in Kerala the buildings looked very different, more rectangular looking, some with pillars, generally wealthier looking, and still painted lovely colours.
Lots of churches, big, white, clean, lit up, with statues in glass boxes and modern stained glass windows.  We passed a Christian service, lots of people, lots of music, beautiful clothes, lots of white, children in almost party dresses.  Then we saw a mosque, a group of men, on the other side of the road a group of women in white with white head scarves, again, lots of people, lots of music.  A little bit further, more sound, more music, a Hindu temple.  All in the space of a mile or two.

In Kerala it’s nice to see that the men are much more in traditional dress, in Goa the men were wearing Western clothes, here they wear lungis; short and knee-length pieces material, kind of like thick sarongs, some tied at the base, some not.

We booked on-line and are staying in by far the swankiest looking area so far, full of semi deserted ayevedic resorts, totally a tourist area, even though our accommodation is humble and the cheapest place we’ve stayed so far.  We are near the North Cliff area of Varkala, a tourist strip.  Luckily we have one nice local family run restaurant next door.  We are a rickshaw ride away from the town, which is a little way from the beach with little accommodation available.  Tomorrow we move to the temple area of Varkala beach, which is much more lively, full of Indian tourists and with simple places to eat.

Food:

In Kerala: Puttu (rice and coconut turned out from a bowl mould) with a banana and a poppadum the side; dal and chapatis; lots of masala dosas; Keralan food- potato and coconut curry, thoran (shredded vegetables fried, delicious), with rice, roti and fresh orange juice; coconuts.

Writing update:

What I have been doing: typing up all notes (I should also include, scribbling copious notes in little notebooks that I carry everywhere with me, noting down visual observations, ideas, thoughts, etc, so much so that I think sometimes I need to switch off all the excitement for a bit to let me catch up).  Anyway, I have typed up all notes from Panaji, and almost all from Varkala- more keep appearing- and I have been working on the Delhi section, i.e. the first place we went to in India, together with the bit immediately before and the travel out.

I’ve been writing most days, often for a couple of hours.  Tuesday was good, a good writing session followed by a nap, Wednesday was pretty good but I got frustrated; I did a couple of hours solid writing on the book, I had plenty of time to do more but I just couldn’t.  I felt overheated and out of sorts, it was too hot to nap in the room and when I tried to nap on the veranda flies kept landing on me.  Plus I was stuck on the Delhi section, it had turned into a big lump of notes and completed blogs and bits about the travel and before and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I tried to look at it again later, and still felt stuck.  My own fear and lack of confidence in my ability to see this through is my main enemy, but luckily I know that it is a very bad idea to keep looking at something that isn’t going well.  So I went to bed and went back to it again yesterday.

If in doubt, I adopt a back to basics approach (if things feel really bad this can be as simple as correcting spellings), in this case, write it in chronological order, which I did, and then it began to flow.  I stopped after a good session and whilst still enjoying it and feeling like it’s going well, which means that when I go back to it, I will do so with joy not a churning stomach.  Then as it was Thursday, a break, and then a session on this blog.  Today, this blog post.

The first month in India notes were all in one document, threatening to become an amorphous mass and overwhelm me, and so I have decided to divide up into places, or main places, for ease.  I have typed up the notes for Panaji and Kerala as new, separate documents and have moved Delhi into its own document.  The others I will do later (so as not to get overwhelmed/distracted).  It is easier for me to work with smaller documents as I am doing everything on my trusty Samsung Galaxy tablet and typing in a free Word app that allows me to type and save into a word document offline, very important as a lot of places we have stayed have patchy or no WiFi.  When online, it can then be saved to Google cloud, and shared via my email, which I do from my Gmail to my Hotmail email, so that it is on both emails (as well as the cloud, as well as in my documents on my tablet, and sometimes I also save it in a WordPress draft and email it to my husband!)

If you read regularly, please ‘follow’ the blog by pressing the follow button which appears on the bottom right of the screen when you go on the blog, before you scroll down.  When you scroll down to read it disappears, and reappears when you scroll back up.  Following helps me build my author profile which will help me when I submit my book proposal.  It also means you can comment and we can engage with each other which makes me super happy!

Thank you very much for reading

See you next week

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Happy Birthday

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20180427_070842Today is my birthday, I am forty-eight years old.  Here is an ‘old person’s selfie;’ no proper attention paid to angle or pose, no filters, no editing, no makeup and no shame (or at least, not enough to stop me).

I like to have some quiet reflective time on my birthday.  This morning I got up early, did some yoga and then went for a long walk on the beach and thought about writing.  Or I thought about life and picked out the bits I wanted to write about.

What’s on top

I went for a long walk on the beach yesterday morning as well, and I have done some yoga every morning for the past few days.  Yesterday (and so far today) I have had no alcohol and no cigarettes.  I had fallen into bad holidaymaker habits this past week, which I cannot do for the whole year.

I knew my last post was exactly a week ago and I had already decided to do one today.  Then I thought that maybe I should do what I have so far resisted, due either to free spiritedness or pig headedness (as with many of my habits and decisions, it could be either), and sign up to the ‘consistency is key’ advice and post on a regular day every week.

I honestly did not know what day of the week it was today, not in the I don’t know what day it is, think for a second, then you do, type of way.  I mean I really didn’t know what day it was.  I had to remember the last time I knew what day it was, what day we left Hampi, what day my step-son arrived here in Arambol, and work it out from there.  I cannot remember the last time I had so completely lost track of what day it was.  It is Friday today so I shall, for the time being at least, post every Friday.  I may work on it earlier in the week and just finish it off on a Friday or I may write the whole thing on the day, depending on travel, time and internet access.

This will help me manage the demands of writing a book and writing a blog.  Having a once a week schedule is manageable and means I don’t have to fret about when was the last one, should I be doing another one, etc etc.  I remember reading somewhere that the more you can turn over to habit, rather than your own fluctuating motivations, interests and energies, the easier it is to get things done.

I feel like the blog will turn into more of an actual blog, rather than having to carry the full weight of any and all writing I do.  This has meant that not everything has been included as blogs are by nature a bit snappier, like short short stories.  Writing the book means that I can write about things that would otherwise be forgotten, and means that the blog can become slightly more chatty and personal.

If ever I think that maybe young people and their selfies are a bit narcissistic, I can just remember that writing about oneself and putting it on the internet potentially puts me in a glass house.  The blog is where I ask myself how I am and check in with myself.

It will also include a travel update and a writing update.  I will put the writing update at the end so it’s easy to skip.  It will be mainly of interest to other writers who are working on something and to people who are cheerleading me through the process of writing the book (thank you very much for your encouragement, it really does help!).

This will help me have a routine; I’d like to exercise in the morning, write in the afternoons and relax in the evening.  I do find no routine, drinking and smoking anytime, sort of fun but it’s easy to cop-out of getting anything done.  And how lucky am I, or rather, what a gift I have given to myself, to have a whole year where I can create a routine like that?  Or, to be on the more negative side, I chucked away my career and my three bedroom house so all that better have been worth it.  (Don’t worry, it totally is!)

Of course, alcohol, smoking, and general lack of confidence and self discipline can follow you almost everywhere.  I have not come here to run away from myself but I am fully aware that whatever it was about me that got in the way of me taking my writing seriously in England, can still get in the way here.

I can just about say this first month with my step-son out with us, is a holiday but not after that.  That said, I am sure there will be phases of falling off the wagon but I prefer to be clean living and with a routine and then fall off bigger occasionally, rather than a little every day.

Travel update:

We have been in Arambol for a week.  Beautiful beach like Agonda but a bit busier, with stalls and shops and alleyways to explore, and much nicer than Anjuna.  Tomorrow we go to Panaji the capital of Goa, for two nights before my step-son flies back to England and we leave Goa to go to Kerala for the monsoon.

Writing update:

It is going well.  I am working on Chapter Two, which is broadly our first month in India.  As usual I get anxious if I don’t write and yet still don’t write for several days at a time sometimes, but yesterday I spent quite a while on it and felt really good.

As long as I don’t get scared or overwhelmed by the length.  I think it’s helped that I have separated it into chapters, in different documents.  Chapter One, how we got here and some background.  My last book, whilst small, was all in one document and became an amorphous mass that would completely overwhelm me.  I remind myself, I wrote a dissertation, I wrote a few small books, I can do this.  Even if I hadn’t, I could just say it’s like lots of blogs strung together.  I have actually put all the India blogs into the chapter and am working around and into them, adding detail, expanding, linking.

A string of blogs is a good starting point but the writing style is different.  I realise that I can slow down, drill down into things, take my time, allow themes to develop.  I have begun by putting all my blogs and notes into chronological order whilst being flexible about some things being ordered by subject instead.  Things link to each other, for example:

Yesterday I thought there should be a food bit, about the different food we ate at different places (hopefully more interesting than it sounds).  Today on my walk I thought, I could do an animal section and then I came to ‘Dog Temple,’ there a sign with a dog’s face in a star, saying, ‘We welcome you,’ (It was an animal shelter).

Things call back to each other.  The people we met in Anjuna told me afterwards that they said to each other, ‘Shall we ask them if they want something to smoke,’ and the other said, ‘No they are too old,’ which made me laugh a lot.  Today, as I walked on the beach, a man stopped me and chatted to me, then at the end of the conversation asked me if I wanted to buy anything to smoke.  I politely declined saying I am being healthy right now but I was quite pleased anyway!  Especially as it was my birthday!

Thank you so much for reading, see you next week!

 

Hampi Heaven

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image3.jpegphoto by Jude Atkinson-Hill

We stayed on the other side of the river to the temples for two nights and on our second evening we walked up the path where people go bouldering.  We walked amongst huge boulders that are somehow balanced securely on the rock slopes, looking as if they might fall but have probably been there forever, balanced on each other like strange rock snowmen.  Walls of sandy coloured boulders and rocks, almost polystyrene looking, like Planet of the Apes or Star Trek, unreal, as if this is where the world started.  Looking around it is easy to imagine that there was a big explosion and everything fell to earth as it was created, (even us, I whispered to myself.)

We sat on huge flat rocks that were so warm that I had to put my feet on my bag to stop them burning, and watched the sun set behind the clouds.  I felt myself absorbing the sun’s energy, as well as the power and energy of those huge rocks.

I had meditated for a second time in the beach hut in Agonda, again dropping into it easily after a little yoga.  I couldn’t help remembering that when I had meditated a few days earlier, the overriding sensation had been of FEAR.  This time though, it wasn’t there and although I may have initially suggested it to myself (it’s hard in meditation to know if an idea has come from my thinking brain or from deep inside me), however it felt right and didn’t change, and this time the word was STRONG.

On the rocks was not exactly meditating, it was more reflection, mindfulness and energy absorption.  But still definitely not fear.

Even though I am in India I am still the same, of course.  I still get anxious and have a bit of OCD, but loads of stuff is okay or much better than I expected.  I coped fine with the heat in Hampi which was my biggest fear.  (The weather reports said it was 39°C but felt like 42°C, whatever that means.  Hot, anyway, hot enough that when I heard it was 32°C in Goa I thought that sounded good).  I have even come to kind of enjoy the feeling of sweat pouring off me, as if I am being detoxified, which I suppose I am.  I also like the sense of languidness that is absolutely essential in the afternoons and often includes a nap.

In the hottest weather my clothes work and I feel really comfortable:  really baggy black linen trousers, white (well, they were when I bought them) shirts, a lilac hat, with a cream scarf draped over the top.  As long as I don’t look in the mirror…  When it cools down a little I do my best to look nice:  shower, brush my hair and put it up into a neat bun, put on a fresh black vest top and black knee-length skirt, ditch the hat, drape my cream scarf over my shoulders.  I have hardly any clothes, but they are all functional and they all go together.

My tummy is fine (although I have a new standard of fine since being here).  I don’t care about products, I don’t seem to need to moisturise as much here anyway, and when I run out of Oil of Olay (which I have used every day for twenty years) I am just going to buy something else, anything.  Likewise even with my beloved Body Shop hemp handcream I only experience mild anxiety re what I am going to do when it runs out.

Maybe it was Hampi, maybe it was PMS, but I found myself feeling so raw, so emotional, so happy I almost cried (well actually I did a little bit, discreetly).  India is obviously so steeped in spirituality, and being here is such sweet sensory overload, that it would be surprising if I walked through it without feeling something.  And Hampi is such a special place.

We got the ferry over the river each day, just a short distance, the man does this back and forth all day.  We were reminded of Siddhartha.  (Later, one of my favourite bloggers SMUT. and Self-Esteem mentioned Siddhartha in a really inspiring post called Atheism and Spirituality).  In a similar vein, we met the man who takes the money at the main temple, he has worked there, caring for the temple for forty years.

At the huge Ganesh statue, carved from a single piece of stone, we arrived at the exact moment that the woman who works there cleaning and minding it arrived and opened the gates so that we could go inside and hug the huge warm belly of Ganesh and walk around him.

It was too hot to walk everywhere so we got a rickshaw to The Lion God Narasimha, stopping for coconuts when we got too hot.

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Meeting Indian people was nice.  We met people in Goa but that was largely a pop up population, there only for the season before packing up and going home to places including Kerala and Nepal.  In Hampi almost everyone we met had been born there and lived there all their lives.  Our rickshaw driver had lived amongst the ruins, before the people were moved out from there and his family moved into the town.  There were lots of Indian tourists who were very friendly and even took our photographs and took selfies with us!  A Catholic nun was concerned about us being too hot and advised me to wear a piece of onion in my hair to stop me getting heat stroke.

We fell asleep in the afternoon with the door open because of the heat, and a monkey came in and took my dearly beloved tablet (the one I do everything on, I decided not to buy a Chromebook after all).  People from the rooftop cafe opposite saw it and a little boy retrieved it for me and came to our room with his father to return it.  (The tablet was in a zip up plastic toiletry type bag, apparently they take things like that in case it is food).  Our room was on the first floor, and the monkeys jump from roof to roof, I am so lucky that they didn’t drop it from a height and break it!)  I was half asleep and bewildered at the time but later, after we had visited the main temple again, this time at dusk and seen all the families there, sitting with tea and food and seen all the monkeys again, we returned home and I bumped into the boy’s father and was able to say a heartfelt thank you and give the boy and his sister a small present.

I did this by myself and then went to join my husband and stepson in the Old Chillout restaurant downstairs (which has lovely seating and lounging areas, great food, super friendly staff, and looks out over the boulders and banana palms), and just, sat…  I didn’t know at first what the feeling was, but it was so strong that after a while I took out my tablet and went on WordPress because otherwise I might have properly started crying.  That feeling, of course, was love.

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The next morning we left at 5.30am.  It was still dark and we drove past people waking up and starting their days, past carts pulled by oxen, past all kinds of temples and shrines, and watched dawn break, feeling the cool night air through the open sides of the rickshaw.  Magical.

We got the train back to Goa, an 8.5 hour journey in 2nd class ac, booked by the man who arranged our coach from Agonda to Hampi.  So far we have been doing things the easy way, later we’ll also use local buses and book trains ourselves at the station, but it is the man’s business and it was nice to support him.  The train was not quite as smart as the one from Delhi to Goa but perfectly comfortable and with a plentiful supply of people selling meals, snacks, coffee, water and sweets.  Although we had booked sleepers people were in our seats/beds and we didn’t have the heart to evict more than one person so we shared a sleeper seat for most of it, not really a problem as it was daytime (although I did go to sleep).

We arrived at Anjuna Beach, which was a bit too holiday maker-ish for us so we decided to find somewhere to move on to.  The next morning we got up early and went to look at Little Vagator.  We didn’t really like that either and so ended up staying in Anjuna one more night whilst we decided where to go next.  Arriving in Anjuna and Little Vagator after being in Hampi was like being pulled out of heaven.  Also, we had experienced probably the best beach in Goa already and been spoilt:  Agonda, with its tasteful beach side restaurants and bars, and beach huts, all of which are situated behind or level with the treeline so as not to spoil the beach.  Whilst of course touristy, it was so perfectly done, and the beach so clean, peaceful and big I don’t suppose anywhere will compete with that.

But it is about the experience, after all, and it was fun, getting up really early to beat the heat and going off to get to Little Vagator, with nowhere open and no rickshaws around.  We met two local guys who shared their cigarettes and drinks with us and persuaded an off duty rickshaw driver to take us, and invited us out to party with them.  That evening we did what you do in Anjuna, which I found quite scary, down the backstreets in the dark, into a house with one, two, then three men appearing.  Back to the guesthouse in a taxi to get cards and go to the ATM, having declined the offer of my husband getting a lift on the back of one of their mopeds and me staying in the house with one of the men and being made tea.  We wouldn’t have done that in England, in fact I am sure that here it would have been fine, but if anything had happened we’d have looked like idiots for taking that risk.  But they were all lovely, everything was fine, and now we can have another experience…