In Eckhart Tolle’s book, A NEW EARTH, on pages 199 and 200 under the heading “IS THAT SO?” he relates a story which explains beautifully and succinctly what living in the present moment is all about. The next time you’re in a bookstore, walk over to the section where A NEW EARTH is and pick it up. Choose a quiet corner and turn to page 199 and begin reading. How I wish I could be with you when you do – if you do. www.eckharttolle.com
In the movie Last Holiday, Queen Latifah www.queenlatifah.com is getting ready to bungy jump. She’s right there on the edge. That scene caught my attention because in the back of my mind I assumed it was something I could do. When I saw that scene the trip down looked mighty steep. So I asked myself, “Would you ever try bungy jumping?” Ah, a hesitation. “Why the pause?” I asked. “Hmm! Just the thought of it is a bit scary. It’s a long way down attached only to a thin cord.” I answered. Those words came rushing out. No doubt about it. Scared was the answer. That surprised me. I thought about it a little longer, and asked myself, “Would you do it even though you’re afraid?” Could I? Would I? “I suppose.” I answered, noticing a lack of enthusiasm, and continued, “I would be scared until it was over.” But I want to know, “Is that a yes?” This is getting tricky. “Okay. Yes, I could do it because after it was over, the feeling of exhileration would be absolutely wonderful.” I wasn’t so sure about this response. I kept asking, “Is that the truth?” “All right. All right. This is the final answer, no more questions, please. I”m not sure until I’m actually there.” Amen
Well! Good to know. I guess.
A feeling of sadness came over me this week as I watched a TV program. The show was about a few women in their twenties and their passion for plastic surgery. The stories they told about why they needed plastic surgery to enhance their lives was not entertaining. They desperately want to be as beautiful as the beautiful women they see wherever they go. It’s difficult to understand why they choose to accumulate debt for themselves and their families. Why they freely and frequently put themselves under a knife. Why they can’t see themselves as already beautiful. They really were! It’s true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. But maybe in our society we need to redefine what beauty is. Because somewhere along the line we’ve gotten terribly confused.
Do you ever go to bed at night completely exhausted and wanting seven or eight hours of sleep, and three hours later you’re still wide awake? Or do you sometimes fall asleep only to wake up refreshed 30 minutes later? You want to have your wits about you when the day begins; however, you think the way things are going, that might not happen.
A book I purchased in Galway, Ireland gave me a new way of thinking about sleepless nights. Although I don’t have the book with me, I remember a few of the author’s words. She said not to be concerned about losing a night’s sleep, just relax and enjoy the quietness of the night. It’s a soothing way to think. When we can’t sleep we can be still and relaxed, tomorrow will take care of itself. We’ll be fine.
When I don’t fall asleep, I usually do one of two things. I listen to my discs on the POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle www.eckhardttolle.com , or I stay in bed and repeat a beautiful prayer. And when I repeat the words and concentrate on them, a calmness takes over. I give up the noise of the outside world and the thoughts in my head, and get into my own inner world. I read these beautiful words many years ago from a book written by Catherine Ponder, and have since read them in many other books. The prayer:
Be still, and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am God at work in this situation
Be still, and know that I am Supreme Good at work in this situation now
Relax, let go and let God
Relax, feel the peace of God
Feel the peace of God’s loving presence
Relax, let go and let God.
“When the mind is very quiet, completely still, when there is not a movement of thought and therefore no experience, no observer, then that very stillness has its own creative understanding. In that stillness the mind is transformed into something else.” -J. Krishnamurti, Indian Philosopher
On Thanksgiving Day my daughter, Emi, and I boarded an Apex bus scheduled to leave at 1:30 pm at East Broadway – at 2:15 we still hadn’t left, and none of us knew the reason, including the driver. Finally a Chinese employee entered the bus, and when someone asked what happened to our 1:30 departure, she said, “1:30? No problem. We leave 2:30.” And off she went.
At 2:30 we were told to change buses; a more patient group you haven’t met. Bags came down from the racks, coats, and reading materials were collected and we all walked across Division Street to another bus. The reason for the delay seemed to be . . . a secret, no answers to questions were forthcoming. At 3pm we departed; it was a smooth ride to Baltimore. The Baltimore Travel Plaza was the destination for a few of us. When we arrived there the bus stopped by the roadside to let us off and quickly left. It was cold and windy and no shelter was in sight
I tried to confirm our return by phone, but couldn’t get any information, so we went with the time given when I bought the tickets in New York. We stopped by the same cold, windy, isolated roadside and waited for the bus. A bus was waiting but it wasn’t Apex. The driver motioned for us to get on. We did, presented our tickets, and were told Apex bus had left and we needed to pay an extra $20 each. A nearby passenger chimed in to say that he had the same ticket and paid the $20. We said, No thank you, we would wait for the Apex bus, and that it couldn’t have left, we still had time. The passenger who paid asked for the return of his $20 and got off the bus with us. Three Chinese bus employees followed us off the bus. There was a mini conference. My daughter’s ticket and the other passenger’s ticket were reexamined and they asked to see mine. I don’t know what new information was extracted in those few seconds, but we were told to get back on the bus at no additional price. We three looked at each other and boarded the bus again.
In the town of Delaware the driver stopped for more passengers, and as we started to drive away we all heard a banging noise underneath the bus. We left and could hear the driver speaking Chinese on the phone. He stopped the bus three times and went outside to try to repair the problem. All to no avail. Very slowly we inched our way along the highway keeping closely to the right. When we got to NJ we were told another bus would be coming. We waited 45 minutes for the bus. Again we were an unusually patient group. The bus came. We collected our possessions and boarded another bus. The rest of the trip went smoothly. And I suppose that was all to be expected because when you pay $35.00 for a round trip bus ride from Manhattan to Baltimore you take your chances. But, then again, if Fung Wah can do it right, why not the others?
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“The man who is truly good and wise will bear with dignity whatever fortune sends and will always make the best of his circumstances.” -Aristotle
“. . . The trick to being a good adventurer, of course, is to take all such surprises in stride. Good people keep walking whatever happens, taught the Buddha. “They do not speak vain words and are the same in good fortune and bad.” – Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Someone I saw only briefly continues to bring a sense of wonder to me when I think about him. I saw him in Vilcabamba, Ecuador as I sat on a mini bus waiting to go to Loja, a drive of an hour or so, depending on who’s driving. That morning I was an early passenger waiting for others to come aboard so that we could begin the ride from the valley. The bus would stop often to pick up more passengers, passing small old villages along the way. The ride from the valley around the mountains and its many sharp curves was a perfect way to start the day because there’s so much beauty everywhere.
The last person to board before leaving the Vilcabamba bus station was a ninety-five year old man. This I heard from another passenger. He had a full head of the blackest of black hair and as he stepped up he looked at the bus driver and shook his hand. As he came to the first passenger he continued the hand shake, and, while looking into the eyes of the one whose hand he was shaking, he said a few words in Spanish. I wish that I’d understood what he said. When he got to me, I noticed the most innocent of eyes as he stood before me. They were radiating kindness. Such kindness I’d never seen in eyes before. He sat quietly after the handshakes with a serene expression on his face, and when it was time for him to get off the bus he began again the handshakes.
I think I was in the presence of an angel. No one uttered a sound or complained about the time it took for two round-trip hand shakes. That day I knew I would always remember this special person. I cannot forget his radiant eyes and the way he looked at people as he approached each one, or the honesty in his handshake. Sometimes it’s the simple things at the most unexpected moments, that can make a day extraordinary. Someone unexpectedly enters your life for a brief time, and brings you to another kind of understanding about life and how it can be lived.
“The deeper the self-realization of a man, the more he influences the whole universe by his subtle spiritual vibrations, and the less he himself is affected by the phenomenal flux.” -Swami Sri Yukteswar
“Our ability to relax into life reflects our willingness to trust.” -anonymous
“Don’t play for safety – it’s the most dangerous game in the world. ”
For many reasons I love this quote. I have it written in a notebook and whenever I read it an incredible feeling comes over me. Because I really do believe this world belongs to everyone and we have to trust it and welcome it into our lives, confident that we’re more than capable of living life lovingly, wisely, grandly, happily, peacefully. It’s a delightful quote; it reminds us to be free, to abandon stress, and to imagine the things we’ve yet to do.
One evening I caught the tail end of a lecture given by Christiane Northrup, www.drnorthrup.com on PBS. Listening to her was fun; she had a radiant smile, and although the topic seemed heavy (The Mother/Daughter Relationship), she played with this subject and everyone in the audience enjoyed listening. Then she ended the evening saying there’s no reason to be sick when we start getting old. “Happy, healthy, dead” is the way she phrased it. I can’t remember how it tied into the subject, but it did. Those words, happy, healthy, dead seemed magical to me. When I think about them I say them because I want to plant the seed for this at a future date. It just dawned on me as I’m writing that I should start adding the part about a future date, or it will seem that I’m ready to say goodbye to this life. We need to feel the world is a friendly place, even though it doesn’t always appear that way.
“Everytime we choose safety, we reinforce fear . . . our world grows smaller and smaller.”
I’d read in an eletter I’d gotten, perhaps 4 years ago, high praise for a book titled, The Sunfood Diet Success System. The next time I was in a bookstore I looked, but the book wasn’t there. I tried other stores. Couldn’t find it. Finally I went to the stores that were not considered mainstream, and there it was. I reluctantly picked it up. Reluctantly because it looked to me like information overload on a subject I wasn’t sure I wanted to know that much about. There were a lot of words in that book. However, the writer, David Wolfe, had put together a beautiful book.
It turned out that The Sunfood Diet Success System and I became fast friends. I read it from cover to cover a few times, highlighting the information I would need to become a “raw foodist.” I savored the words. They must have reached a part of me that was ready, because I felt, “Yes. I can do this. ” I was really excited. It wouldn’t be easy being in Manhattan and passing block after block of restaurants, bakeries, and take-out places having the most delicious foods. But . . .
David Wolfe came to town and gave a lecture. He taught us about coconuts and how to select the best ones. He opened a coconut and spooned out the milky white meat. It was similar to eating pudding. And the taste? Wonderful. He talked about many things; I was definitely hooked. At the time I was cooking for family, and knew no one would join me this time around in this particular endeavor. My main purpose was to have loads of energy and a clear head. And for one year I enjoyed every mouthful of my raw food meals.
Then there was a summer holiday and two couples came to visit. These four friends spend many weekends grilling steaks in their backyards. We had walked and walked in the East Village and were hungry. There we were in front of the Second Avenue Deli. We went in. It was merry and crowded and the smells came from everywhere. We sat comfortably at a big table- enough for lots of food- and began glancing at the many menu selections. And I noticed the very familiar pastrami on rye. The discussion was leaning towards sandwiches. And everyone knows that sandwiches in a Jewish deli at the right time is a taste worth persuing.
So, I didn’t blink an eye when the waitress pointed pen and paper my way and said, “And you?” It didn’t take but a few seconds to say, “Me. Well, I’ll have a pastrami on rye and a cup of coffee, please.” And my friends looked in my direction and smiled. That’s all they did was smile. Were they thinking, “Thank God. Now we don’t have to sneak out for a pizza anymore.” Or maybe they were thinking about the chocolate chip cookies that used to be in containers in my freezer.
Indeed. It was that way. You try things and sometimes they become a permanent part of your life. Sometimes they don’t. In both instances, you never do things in quite the same way ever again.
I met many savvy travelers of all ages, professions, and personalities last year in Ecuador. It’s a little country where there’s so much exploring to do. I don’t know why people say, “Ecuador? You went to Ecuador? Why?” I want to say, “Go and you will find out. ” However, I don’t know why Ecuador. Why any country?
Quito, the capital, has what every big, wonderful, high-energy city has – museums, fine restaurants, a good transportation system, many clean hostals run by friendly people, hotels with all the amenities, excellent shopping, beautiful parks, magnificent churches, great walking neighborhoods, galleries, etc. Neighborhoods to stay away from and neighborhoods for strolling. Don’t let the armed guards fool you. The situation is not as it looks. The guidebooks say beware of crime. They also say that about Manhattan where I am at the moment.
It was early evening when the plane landed in Quito. The airport is small and clean and uniformed employees direct everyone to the exist. Cafe Cultura was on my list of places to stay, and I needed to call to reserve a room. I experienced a few sweaty moments attempting to use the phone and then the nearby attendant came to help. Cafe Cultura had a room www.cafecultura.com . The brochure in my room said it’s owned by an Norwegian. It was charming and friendly. In Ecuador it’s easy to find places to stay for $10 and they’re really okay places, but I find staying at a really feel- good place the first few nights in a foreign country is important. The location was perfect. After three days, I reserved a room at La Casa Sol to be in a different location www.lacasasol.com . I walked, and walked to get a feel for Quito. My idea was to not stay long in a big city, but to return there before leaving for the States.
It was time to visit Cuenca, a beautiful colonial city in the southern part of Ecuador. My book said that in 1999 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site. The lovely people at La Casa Sol, realizing I had neglected to learn their language, offered to make a reservation for me at Hotel Inca Real in Cuenca. The Hotel was once a private residence. It was quaint and lovely. The rooms were surrounded by a courtyard. Courtyards play a prominent role in many structures. Most are beautiful and tranquil. The people working at the hotel had an old-fashioned reserve in their manner. They were always extremely gracious to the foreigner who only spoke English. It was almost painful for me to watch their expression every time I approached the desk.
Cuenca has its share of foreigners who have set up busineses, are studying Spanish, or simply enjoying a different culture for a few months. There are many beautiful old churches and parks, outdoor markets, small stores for shopping, and restaurants where you can get a good meal. On Sunday it’s practically a ghost town as natives and tourists alike take off to visit the surrounding areas.
I’d been in Cuenca for a few weeks when it occurred to me to do something about the daily frustration of not knowing Spanish. I enrolled at the Abraham Lincoln on Borrero 5-18. Admittedly, I was not the best student there, but learned enough words to enliven the time I’d be in Ecuador. Once you study the design of the city, Cuenca is small enough to get around easily by foot. The streets are named after historical persons or events and, at first, it was rather dizzying trying to read the map.
After six weeks, it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful big market where I bought all my fruits and vegetables negotiating prices in Spanish, the Austria Cafe, Raymipampa, Plaza Rotary, lunch at El Maiz and Moliendo Cafe, Culture Aborigenes, Musea de las Culturas, San Francisco Market for sweaters, shawls and hammocks, Museo de las Conceptas for delicious pastries made by the few nuns still remaining in the historic convent, Museo del Banco Central, so many places, so much delicious ice cream, and some very wonderful people. But, alas, I grabbed my Panama hat and took a bus to . . .
A place in a valley in southern Ecuador called Vilcabamba.