Tag Archives: Travel

Reflections

29 Apr

It’s a quiet Saturday morning in Asheville.  I am enjoying a morning of just feeling more at ease and good in my bones and can’t help but think of the long journey that brought me here.

I have to say, it is good to be in the United States for now and in some ways I am starting to feel at home and appreciating the many fortunate simple things I presently have in my life.  But I am also aware that it was my epic journey around the globe that brought me to this point.

I have always loved travel and been drawn to it.  A child of the midwest in a community with little interest in international exploration, looking beyond our borders and having an adventure were always things that excited me.  If you’ve followed my blog you may know that my 20s brought some unexpected challenges my way and I ended up on the anti-depressant Paxil for over ten years.  When I went off of it the withdrawal/discontinuation symptoms nearly flattened me and it took me years to get some small semblance of “I’m alright.”

A few years after this when I began my international journey,  I was thrilled to consider something that brought excitement back into my life and truly lit me up and inspired me.  At the same time, I was still just a shell of myself and experienced many persistent issues that made daily living and “normal life” hard for me.

So here comes the benefit of my journey.  While traveling – my unexpected epic five-year adventure to Germany, France South Korea, Austria & Thailand – lit me up and brought me to life in ways I can hardly express, it was also extremely challenging for me.  Daily I was pushed in small and large ways.  The beauty of this journey and experience is it forced me to grow and develop in ways that I NEEDED to do to begin to get my life back after the impact of Paxil and also the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The scared, limited, wounded shadow person that I was after the impact of Paxil withdrawal and other life challenges slowly began to chisel away, shift, develop and take new shape.

And so with my gratitude for a bit of ease and restoration on “home” territory also comes my appreciation for all the excitement, struggles and challenges along the way that brought me to where I am now.  A new plateau.  I am aware that while I still have my challenges, my abilities and capacities that are serving me now are the fruit of my journey.  This growth could have only happened in foreign territory.  A life abroad helped me to drop my “regular” paradigm and demanded that I adapt and grow to new ways of being. This ultimately brought me some freedom and allowed me to drop some of the limiting patterns and behaviors locked into and stuck in my more familiar environment.

So if you are someone who wants to travel, should travel, needs to travel but hasn’t for a whole assortment of reasons… just know that it’s possible to travel, no matter what your circumstances.  Surround yourself with good grounded people who will support you in this idea.  And know that challenges don’t mean travel (or whatever it is you want) is not for you, it just means that overcoming those challenges will be part of the equation.  And that’s okay.

Not long before I left on my epic journey I had just begun chanting with the Buddhist organization SGI.  I was chanting for true change and growth in my life and that is exactly what I got. Through the excitement and inspiration of my travels as well as facing and working through the MANY challenges I experienced daily, I grew.

Admittedly, I am still under development and my life is still a work in progress.  But I am aware that I am in a better place today as a result of my journey.

I appreciate my current location and being back in the US, but I also look forward to cultivating a life where adventure and international life are again a part of the landscape… in my own time, in my own way.

So for today, I am just feeling grateful for and acknowledging the ride, the challenges and journey that brought me to where I am now.

Christmas Enchantment

26 Dec

It was Christmas day.  I was needing a little jaunt about.  So I walked out the door to see where my feet would take me.  I didn’t expect much other than quiet streets and fresh air.

As I wandered not far down the road I was soon in the familiar museum quarter.  I started to see pockets of people and soon realized that the Christmas market by the museums seemed to be in action… and so I partook!  Despite my full serving of Christmas markets this holiday season, I found I still had room for a little pleasure from one last market.  Just one more glimpse at the hand-made goods.  And, of course, just one more serving of roasted chestnuts, maroni in German… my favorite.

My last Christmas Market of the year located between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art in Vienna.

My last Christmas Market of the year located between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art in Vienna.

Maroni, or roasted chestnuts.  A holiday favorite and my last sampling of the season.

Maroni, or roasted chestnuts. A holiday favorite and my last sampling of the season.

A few things caught my eye and soon I made my first purchase.  It was a beautiful spatula made from olive wood.  I have come to love my host’s wooden spatulas for cooking, and this was a dreamy version of them with swirls and patterns in the wood. Soon after I stopped, mesmerized….but not making a purchase…at was has become my favorite book maker this holiday season, Bomo Art from Budapest.  With their traditional handmade books and rich designs, I am a new fan.  Check them out if you like at their website.

My feet then led me just a little further into the inner city.  I was in good company with a gathering of international visitors and tourists.  Soon I was in the heart of the city and once again, simply enchanted by Vienna.  All decked out in her fancy Christmas decorations, I discovered visual delight around every corner.  It was raining that day which cast a slight gloss on the city, merely adding to her beauty.

Christmas beauty in the inner city of Vienna

Christmas beauty in the inner city of Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

Wet winter streets in Vienna

Wet winter streets in Vienna

I took a peek inside the St. Peter’s cathedral and was simply blown away by the feeling of reverence and visual beauty.  I took in a few extended moments of silence, awe and prayer.  Not long after I wandered again by St. Stephens Cathedral.  I had visited this cathedral before, but had heard there was a great view from the top that I had not yet checked out.  I snooped around trying to find the way to get there and soon found a place to buy lift tickets for just 5 Euro.  Okay, I thought… and bought a ticket.

The astounding beauty and reverence of St Peter's Cathedral.

The astounding beauty and reverence of St Peter’s Cathedral.

As I boarded the tiny elevator with five other guests, I said a silent prayer that I didn’t have a panic attack from feeling claustrophobic.  This, as it turns out was the wrong prayer… because when we exited the elevator I was shocked by another tiny area – but this one was at the top of the cathedral giving way to the outdoors and the city.  There were no solid floors, but grated floors and walls leaving me feeling completely vulnerable and triggering my fear of heights.  “Oh… I should have thought about this before hand…” I said aloud to myself and no one else in particular.  After exiting the elevator, I stayed glued to a small patch of wall and solid floor, as panic flashed through my eyes.  I did my best to breath and relax for a few minutes until gratefully the elevator returned and I quickly made my exit.  Phew.

It was still a beautiful outing nonetheless.  And another of those simple but powerful moments that remind you what travel has to offer… unexpected moments of beauty and enchantment in a way the feels fresh, new and alive.

With that, I wish you much peace, comfort, rest and delight with the remaining time on your holiday season, wherever you are in the world.  And rich blessings for the New Year!

The Three Days of Christmas

21 Dec

It’s a cool evening on the solstice in Vienna.  I am tucked away in my room in the midst of a bustling city preparing for the holidays. Christmas trees are being sold on every corner and the Christkindl markets are still in full swing.

Today I returned from a one-night get-away with my generous hosts here in Vienna.  We snuck away to a neighboring town, met with friends, and attended a holiday concert featuring… Irish Music.  This event has become an annual tradition in my hosts’ household, each year showcasing a new selection of traditional and more contemporary Celtic music.  This year three groups were featured, my favorite being the vibrant sounds of Beoga.  They were the last act of the evening and when their music burst into the room the feeling was… Yes!  Their sound was fresh, fun and alive…in a traditional Irish sort of way.

There was some strange weather in the air this solstice weekend.  It began with the explosion of color in the sky at sunset that looked like lava flooding the clouds.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  I was told it came from warm air that is somehow distinct because of the surrounding mountains.  This picture below doesn’t do it justice, but gives you an idea of what it was like.

Fire Clouds

Fire Clouds

Earlier this week I took a little departure to the Christkindel market at the Schonbrunn Palace. It was an impressive welcome with the Palace and grand traditional Christmas tree.  I took in what has now become the familiar elements of an Austrian Christmas Market…  the holiday Punch, a spicy wine concoction; holiday favorites like goulash soup and, my favorite, roasted chestnuts. The goods at the market reflected Austria’s serious approach to the holidays with its traditional Christmas gems and crafts.  It’s quite a treat to just hop on the underground and be able take in events such as this.

Christkindel Market Schonbrunn Palace

Christkindl Market Schonbrunn Palace

Today has been a quieter day for me with a simple stroll around my Vienna neighborhood and lunch at a local eatery.  I still appreciate just the simple beauty of Vienna and my neighborhood.  It’s great to have a quiet day simply to just take it in.  Here are a few photos.

My neighborhood in Vienna My neighborhood in Vienna

Today at lunch, as I was preparing to leave the restaurant, the owner handed me my left-overs bundled up and ready to go.  He was so kind and I wanted to show my appreciation. I had to laugh as my natural inclination after nearly two years in South Korea is still to… bow… and I did, without even thinking about it.  In truth I am still a big fan of the bow… as well as the two-handed Korean wave good-bye.  I suppose new habits die-hard.

Bye the time I leave Austria, I imagine my greeting and leaving habits will be all twisted up.  In both Korea and Austria the familiar American hug is often met with suspicion and confusion.  I can still remember the time I innocently reached out to hug a young Korean friend after sharing a personal moment.  As I went for the hug I saw the look of horror in her eyes. I quickly pulled back recalling, that’s right… in Korea you don’t hug.  In Austria one says hello and good-bye with a handshake or a kiss on each cheek.  It is still a bit odd for me negotiating with new friends and acquaintances what is appropriate.  I am sure wherever I am next, I will carry over these Austrian traditions and be some sort of a multi-cultural hugging, bowing, kissing American.

Christmas now is just a few days away.  I am grateful to be spending the holidays in Vienna in the comforts of my new “home” and host family.  Christmas is a little different here.  In total, there are sort of three days of Christmas in Austsria. Typically, the 24th is the big family celebration and that is the day presents are exchanged.  The presents are not delivered by Santa Claus but instead by the Christkindl, a symbolic figure who I am told looks like an angel sort of person with blond hair.  Here is an image I found of the Christkindle.  The following days, Dec. 25 and 26th, are also official holidays and typically spent more relaxed in the company of family and holiday food.

Christkindl

Christkindl

Ah, so now a bit more time relaxing into my evening.  What about you, what will you do for this holiday?  Any new traditions?  It’s always great to hear from you!

Tis the Season!

12 Dec

I am feeling a little lighter today.  It is Friday and I completed my verbal final exam for my very beginners German course.  It was easy.  What a relief.  I am not saying that I spoke eloquent German during my exam, but I understood most of what she said and I had a response… in German.   I also received the results of my written final exam taken earlier this week and I did well!  So… A-2 German, here I come!

I won’t say that I am loving German.  But I won’t say I hate it either.  I find I appreciate having a sliver of life dedicated to beginning to speak and understand a new language.  But it is still a challenge.  At dinners with groups of German speakers, or even one on one, what I don’t know far outweighs what I do.  And that’s okay.  As my German teacher says… completing A1 German I can’t yet expect to be conversational.  I have learned to introduce myself, say a few things I like, tell the time, read numbers.  And so it goes.

I recently began a language exchange with a new friend from the local Vienna SGI Buddhist group.  We speak German for a half hour… then English for a half hour.  After our first meeting I am … encouraged.  It is nice to have an opportunity to connect with someone local and to share language.  Of course when we speak German it is the simplest of words, questions and terms. And when we speak English it is a bit more… conversational.

The holidays are creeping closer.  You can’t mistake that it is the Christmas season if you live in Vienna, with holiday decorations and Christkindl Markets on every corner.  This past weekend a Christmas tree market opened up practically outside our door.  I am told on the weekends now the streets of the popular Christmas markets will be flooded with tourists. Tis the season!

This afternoon I took a shopping break and then met with my lovely host for a little outdoor harp concert.  The concert was at a Christmas market in an area called Karlsplatz.  You couldn’t ask for a better scene – historic buildings, twinkling christmas lights, quality hand-made items at the market.

Holiday shopping streets in Vienna

Holiday shopping streets in Vienna

Children in Vienna up close and personal with the music.

Children in Vienna up close and personal with the music.

Christmas market in Karlsplatz

Christmas market in Karlsplatz

How about you?  Anything new bustling in your neck of the woods around the holidays?  It’s always good to hear from you!

Featured photo (at top) a little Christmas fun at the Christkindl market.

Rainy Days in Graz

8 Dec

I recently returned home to Vienna after a weekend in Graz, Austria.  It was a gentle 2 1/2 hour drive, picking up radio stations from Slovakia and Croatia along the way.  After a soggy weekend, we enjoyed periodic flashes of sunny skies on the way home, catching my first glimpse of the eastern edge of the Alps.

Where the heck is Graz?Graz, Austria

For those of you who may not know, Graz is the second largest city in Austria (to Vienna of course) with a population of about 250,000 people.  A modest echo to the stature and presence of Vienna, it is beautiful and gracious in its own right with is mediterranean-esque colors and secret corridors opening up to festive courtyards. About 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Vienna, it is the largest city in the state or county of Styria.  The county is known for its coat of arms, distinct culture, and all things pumkin – pumkin lasagna, pumkin soup, pumkin oil, pumpkin streudel.  Traveling to Graz is a good reminder that eastern Europe is there just on the edge waiting to be discovered with Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary kilometers away.

I was fortunate to travel to Graz with my Vienna friends and hosts, who graciously invited me to join them as they traveled there for their mom’s 75th birthday celebration.  The intensions of the weekend for family fun and sightseeing where a bit dampened by the persistant rain and cold weather.  But even in the rain and cold, a wet glimpse of Graz was worth the trip.

View from the Top

One of the highlights of the weekend was a quick walk up a daunting series of steps on the side of a mountain-like hill in the center of town.  Despite a few flashes of anxiety and heart racing on my part (I don’t like heights…), the view of the city and looking out over the rooftops made the modest effort worthwhile.

A sea of stairs going up the hill in town center, Graz

A sea of stairs going up the hill in town center, Graz

View from the hill in Graz City Center

View from the hill in Graz City Center

Charming rooftops viewed from the hill in the center Graz

Charming rooftops viewed from the hill in the center Graz

We stayed in a welcoming hotel in the outskirts of town.  Ever the tourist in Austria, I was grateful for the burst of hills I viewed from my hotel window.  The weekend was filled with wet taxi skirmishes, warm food and family gatherings.  We even went on an enchanted fairy tale train ride inside the mountain for the benefit of our youngest companion.

View of the damp hills in the distance from our hotel in Graz.

A cool peek inside the hill in center Graz, featuring a fairy tale trainride

A cool peek inside the hill in center Graz, featuring a fairy tale trainride

I was reminded that Austria is a Catholic country with the ever present Christkindel holiday markets and the annual ice sculpture of the nativity scene.

The annual nativity scene ice sculpture in Graz

The annual nativity scene ice sculpture in Graz

And now we have returned home.  Today, Monday, December 8, is a bank holiday in Austria so we’re enjoying the benefits of no work, no classes. While the busy family life of my hosts continues this afternoon with holiday party obligations, I am grateful to be at my Vienna home noodling around with some things in my life.  My companion for now is a cup of tea as I am busily engaged with my computer, donned in a wool sweater and scarf to ward off the cold.

Ah, and so some time unwind…. and feeling grateful…for Graz.

An Eternity to Learn German

22 Nov

The cool nearly winter air is slowly finding its way into Vienna.  It’s funny, last week it was warmer in Vienna than it was in New Orleans, my former home and current location of my Austrian hostess.  The word here is that the fall in Vienna has been much warmer than typical, and that is just fine with me.

The past few cooler weeks have brought a settling in of sorts to current life and rhythms in Vienna.  With “mom,” my Austrian hostess, still on her New Orleans adventure, most weeks for me have included a fairly regular syncopation of German class, studying, meal preparation and child care.  My young German-speaking friend and I continue to find our way with one another. Often there is a comfortable silence, or singing or playing.  I do my best to use my limited German knowledge to communicate the simplest of ideas.  My young Austrian friend (she is 6), the daughter of a linguist, is a discerning audience. I have to try my very best when pronouncing words or else meet with her disapproval.  I did have a recent success with her.  I read her a children’s book….in German.  It turns out it is possible to read fairly well in German without understanding what you are saying. I went along and read the words and she chuckled and laughed along the way.  Her dad asked if I did a good job reading and she nodded an enthusiastic yes… so while my German is slow in coming, apparently I have gained something.

I am feeling easier with my German class although my hesitation to try speaking and using German remains.  Last week I tried a few words with some new Austrian friends.  Apparently, instead of not I said naked… ah, and so it goes…  I am mostly enjoying my regular German class with my bundle of classmates sharing the journey through its thick woods. Our class is taught all in German and at times I can keep up and understand what she is saying.  At other times I am lost and have this glazed look upon my face.  I sit wondering if she will call on me next, and when she does I feel like a deer caught in the headlights.

I am often surprised at little things I discover in the German language…  the many rules that make no sense and our teacher just laughs and sighs encouraging us to just memorize it… and reinforcing that yes, German is an interesting language…  I often think of Mark Twain’s famous quotes about German including, “I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”

We were practicing numbers in class the other day.  At first as they were written I thought they were presented as a puzzle or a trick… but in fact they are actually written that way… in one long stream of words.  For example, 6744 is written as sechstausendsiebenhundertvierundvierzig.  Got it?…

As I continue to find my way in Vienna, I am glad to have connected with the local chapter of SGI (Soka Gakkai International), an international Buddhist organization.  It brings some ease to my life here to have local friends to connect with.  I still enjoy the beauty of the city, but somehow it is even better as the backdrop for participating in ordinary life and events. The Vienna SGI chapter is quite relaxed and they make it simple and fun even though I don’t speak German.  Most members I have met so far speak some English and they are at ease and helpful at translating for me.

I appreciated when attending my first meeting, at the end of the meeting a long-time member from Japan read something in Japanese.  As she read the quote, another member translated that into German.  And then another member translated it from German into English.  All with ease and grace.

I had a birthday this week.  A new age has slipped into my life.  In many ways as the years continue to add-on…. it gets easier and easier.  I feel less burdened with a new age than I did when say I was in my 30s.  It feels like the previous year was spent laying a stronger foundation, and so this year has new strength to stand on.

For my birthday I celebrated by taking a little break in the afternoon to get a massage.  In the evening my host was kind enough to take me out for a birthday dinner.  He said that he was used to having a date on that evening as his wife has the same birthday as me.  Before departing for dinner she and I had a quick birthday Skype from New Orleans. That night she celebrated in New Orleans and her husband, daughter and I celebrated with dinner at a local Vienna eatery, Restaurant Witwe Bolte.  A quiet little nook down a narrow road not far from their house, it was a great birthday meal.

And now the weekend continues.  Enjoying some of the comforts of home.  Preparing to spend Sunday at a workshop with the Art of Living in Vienna.  Good night for now from my Vienna home.

Photo enjoying the beauty of ordinary life in Vienna.

Life Without Sugar

14 Nov

It’s a gray Thursday afternoon in Vienna.  Today I have few plans or responsibilities and I have treated myself to a day of leisure spending most of the day in my pajamas. I appreciate having a day to myself to tend to the quieter indoor things that I truly love and need from time to time.

As many of you know, a big part of my life, traveling and living in foreign lands, includes negotiating a way to eat healthy.  For me this means eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, healthy protein and carbs, as much as possible no glutten, and absolutely… no sugar.  This is not always an easy pursuit within the larger adventure of living in new places around the globe.  But the benefit for me far outweighs the complications.

Considering the health benefits that life with no sugar has brought to my life, it seems worth mentioning here from time to time.

The truth is, life without sugar and eating healthy has become sort of my… hobby. When traveling, I actually enjoy diving in to new “bio” or organic shops, finding new and healthy foods to eat.  I have become a bit of a health food nerd.  In Vienna there are plenty of options which is a big change from the more limited selections in South Korea.  But still, it is an adventure…  Learning to read labels in German.  Asking strangers for help translating when I don’t understand something. Over the years I have learned, paying attention to what is in my food is of the utmost importance for myself and my well-being. So, regardless of the discomfort or inconvenience, I take the time to find out what is in my food.

Ten Years of No Sugar

I first quit sugar about ten years ago.  I was going through a terrible health crisis and was willing to do simply anything to feel better.  A friend at the time had read the book Sugar Blues and was trying out life with no sugar.  “What the heck!” I thought and bought the book too.  Bottom line, the message of this book is sugar is poison… and we shouldn’t eat it.  End of Story.

After reading the book, I went “cold turkey” and stopped eating sugar.  I immediately noticed some difference in my health and well-being.  What was most interesting, however, was how I felt, after quitting sugar, when I accidentally (or on purpose!) ate some sugar.  It was off the charts.  I was 100% clear that sugar made me feel terrible, emotionally and physically.  I had eaten sugar all my life and until I quit it, I had no idea what it actually did to my body.

My body has a negative physiological reaction to sugar, but the most notable reaction for me is my mood.  When I eat sugar my moods are dramatically more erratic.  My anger is easily lit like a fuse. So after years of experience, I do my best to stay away.

Traveling

It is not always easy to live in other countries, be with new people and maintain this diet that is healthy for me.  When I lived in Korea I had a friend write a note in Korean saying that I did not eat sugar and please recommend something on the menu without it.  I took a picture of it with my phone and had it available for when needed.  My experience is often in other countries they just don’t GET why someone would not want to eat sugar… when it is such a wonderful treat. When I was in Germany I was told that people actually think that sugar is good for their kids and give them a spoonful of sugar for their health. In Korea, sugar is added to MOST of their foods. In restaurants it is often considered rude to ask for food a special way or ask what is in it.

In the United States, more and more people are considering that sugar is worth taking out of their diet.  When I was back in the States recently, it was  a relief to discover a restaurant or two that didn’t scowl at me when I asked what the ingredients were and even happily provided a meal for me with no sugar, guaranteed.

The tricky thing about not eating sugar is that is is everywhere.  In the States (and other countries as well) it is hidden in the spaghetti sauce, kidney beans, corn, salsa, turkey… just to name a few.  I feel like I have to be a super-food-detective because if not, likely some sugar (or other terrible things!) will sneak in to what I eat.  The other challenge here is there are foods that can react in your body like sugar. Some of these are obvious, such as alcohol.  Additionally, simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread and pasta break down in our bodies more rapidly and turn to sugar quickly.  Other foods for me that trigger my body like sugar are potatoes and corn.

Is Quitting Sugar for You?

I can really get that people don’t want to give up their sweets!  But if you are struggling with physical or emotional challenges, it is worth taking a look at quitting sugar.  The truth is, you don’t really know what it is doing to your body until you stop eating it. If you would like to explore a bit more, here are a couple of good resources:

Hungry for Change
This popular video on health and nutrition is a good introduction to changing our eating habits.  Their discussion includes the topic of sugar.

Sugar Blues by William Dufty
This is the book that I read ten years ago that first opened my eyes to the hazards of sugar.

Radiant Recovery
This program is based on the research of Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. who introduces a concept called sugar sensitivity.  She offers a simple and balanced approach to eating a healthy diet that supports emotional health and well-being without the need for refined sugars and other overly sweet foods.  The foundation of this diet is, every meal, eat healthy carbs and protein.  Her approach is simple and clean and when taken one step at a time, a great way to easily get sugar out of your life.  She also features a child-friendly site called Little Sugar Addicts.

Sugar Free Recipes

I am a steadfast collector of no sugar added recipes on Pinterest.  Most recipes featured include simple, healthy ingredients and no sugar added.  When cooking sugar-free I never add artificial sweeteners and also do my best to stay away from or minimize even natural sweeteners like agave nectar and honey.  Here are some links below if you’d like to check them out:

Healthy Soups and Sides

Crockpot Recipes

Rice Cooker Recipes

Breakfast and Desserts
(I have learned it is best for me to mostly stay away from sweet things of any type.  It just feeds the need for sweets.  But still, here are some healthier sweet recipes options…)

The bottom line when exploring a no sugar and healthier diet is to pay attention to your body and see what does… and doesn’t work for you!

Here is wishing you happy eating adventures!  If you have any no-sugar or healthy eating adventures to share, wherever you are in the world, I would love to hear from you!  And feel free to ask any questions you may have.  I am happy to respond.

Good night for now after a quiet day in Vienna!

Featured photo, a sweet day in Vienna at Stadtpark with my Austrian hosts.

Life in Vienna

7 Nov

It is a coolish Friday (Freitag… learning the days of the week…) in Vienna.  I am enjoying my lunch break after a morning of my still very basic German lessons.  I am satisfied with seeing some growth in the German department.  Our instructor speaks only German, unless it’s absolutely necessary to speak English to help us understand something.  At first I was intimidated by this, but now I am beginning to appreciate it more and more as my comprehension is expanding in tiny increments.  It is satisfying to understand SOME THINGS in German when just a few weeks ago this was not the case.

My German class often has me thinking about my time teaching English in Korea and now empathizing with my students! There are many things I did and demanded as a teacher, that I now get can be challenging for students. For example…. sneaking a peek in the dictionary to figure out a word I don’t know without calling big attention to myself.  This was something typically not allowed in our classrooms in Korea, and not encouraged in my class here in Germany.  In Korea as teachers we would always say, “Just ask!  It is better to ask and practice your English!”  I now understand, sometimes you just want to just silently take a quick look and get the information unnoticed.  Today in class I found myself trying to hide my dictionary while looking up a word so my teacher would not “catch me” and make a big deal out of it… As a student you think that if you are careful, the teacher can’t see what you’re doing… but as  a teacher I know that we see ALL THINGS!

Earlier this week we had a mid-fall burst of warm weather.  It was the perfect balance of warmth with a hint of crispness in the air.  The skies were crystal blue.  The golden fall leaves were blowing in the air. And my surroundings, well, they just couldn’t be beat.  I took a long and leisurely walk feeling like a kid in a candy store with a true visual delight around every corner.  It was perhaps my best afternoon walk ever.  Here are a few highlights…

schmetterlinghaus

Beautiful Art Nouveu building home to the Schmetterling Haus, or the butterfly house.

viennawalk2

A slice of Hofburg Palace viewed from the “people’s garden.”

viennawalk

The back view of the Weltmuseum, part of the Hofburg, as seen from the Burggarten.

Not long ago, I made my way for the afternoon to Austria’s Fine Art’s Museum, called the Kunsthistorisches Museum.  It is still such a pleasure to simply walk down the street to this and other historic buildings and attractions.  While waiting in line to get my ticket, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and let me know that if you had a lottery ticket, entrance to the museum was free on that day. Then she handed me a lottery ticket and gave me free entrance.  Hooray!  A nice treat!

lotteryticket

When I first entered the museum, I was blasted by its beauty and history.  I took a moment to just be there and heard the words of my high school art history teacher, who always reminded us when entering a building, “Class, always remember to look up… and down!…”  I looked up… and this is what I saw!…

ceilingFineArt

I spent the rest of the afternoon lost in not only the art in the exhibits, but the beauty of the building itself.

Kunsthistorisches


Kunsthistorisches2Kunsthistorisches3When I am not in German class or exploring Vienna,  I am finding my way tending to regular life in the household of my Austrian hosts.  Especially while mom is away, I am here to help and there are things to be done.  Meals to be prepared, a child to help care for, basic errands to run. Much of this is a bit foreign to me after years of independence.  But it can be unexpectedly fun and sometimes even touching… to fetch a little one from a playdate or take her to school for the first time.

Speaking of which, my free time is ticking away and my mind is filling with ideas of what I need to do next…  before I pick up my little friend this afternoon.  With that thought I must say… for now…. Auf Wiedersehen!

6 Tips for Surfing Through Uncertainty

27 Oct

It’s a cool grey day in Vienna.  Since I last wrote the temperature has dropped about 10 degrees celsius and no sign of sunny skies.  With the change in temperature came the departure of one of my hosts as she left on an adventure of her own in the States. While she is overseas, her husband, daughter and I remain in Vienna. With some timidity and adjustment on all parties, so far we are faring well.

This week I connected with the Vienna Art of Living group, an international spiritual and humanitarian organization led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  I first encountered the Art of Living about 8 years ago in New Orleans where I took their introduction course called The Art of Breathing.  In this course I learned their signature breathing technique called the Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful technique for health and relaxation that I still use regularly today. As I travel internationally, I rely on connections through groups like Art of Living to be connected to community, meet new people and receive support.

I was delighted to discover the local Art of Living group meets just down the street from where I am stay in Vienna. This past week I attended an introduction to Ayurvedic medicine hosted by the Art of Living.  Sri Sri and the Art of Living support a complete healthy lifestyle including the use of Ayurvedic medicine.  New to this topic, I loved the talk and scheduled an appointment with the visiting Ayurvedic doctor.  A native of India, he now lives in the Netherlands and has just begun regular visits throughout Europe including Vienna.  I am excited to explore this approach and how it can support my health and well-being!

While waiting for my appointment, I met a wonderful person who herself had done some traveling.  As we briefly chatted, I shared some about my past four years of travel.  I came to realize that there is a bit of an art to travel and the level of uncertainty that often comes along with it.  After sharing with her, I took note of the many lessons I have learned from my experiences. Perhaps it would be helpful to share with you!

We all have uncertainty in our lives. The support of our growth, dreams and life often demands that we tango with uncertainty.  Whether you dream of traveling the globe, are in the midst of a career change or facing unexpected life changes, here are some tips that may assist you.

6 Tips for Surfing Through Uncertainty

1.  Seek Wise Counsel.  Four years ago, many elements of my life fell away at once.  My car broke down, my belongings were destroyed (again), living arrangements dissolved… and my cat ran away. I was in a huge sea of uncertainty.  After I panicked for a bit, one of the first things I did was seek wise counsel.  You know what I am talking about, that grounded but inspired friend, teacher, or professional.  I reached out to someone I trusted who could give me a broader and directed perspective on the situation. Seeking wise counsel gave me a fresh viewpoint, some vision and hope in the space of uncertainty, and ultimately liberation and support. This great time of uncertainty was when I first considered traveling overseas. Initially the idea was just a tiny spark, with no big plans or ideas.  Seeking wise counsel helped me to align with that dream and more confidently move into action.

2.  Have a Support System.  Negotiating the unknown is a time of great creativity when nearly anything is possible. But when I first mentioned the notion of traveling overseas, the idea was like a fragile bubble that someone could have easily and carelessly popped… never to be seen again.  With a healthy support system, the idea quickly grew, blossomed, and continues today.  Keep in mind, not everyone is suitable to serve as support through uncertainty.  Choose your grounded wise friends and supporters who have your best interest at heart but can also be playful and usher you in the direction of “yes” to you dreams.

3.  Take risks.  It is true, in the space of uncertainty, there will be no rewards without risks.  On this journey it has been essential that I leap out of my comfort zone and sometimes take daring action.  Keep in mind, this is not reckless action.  The risks I take are in the space of seeking wise counsel and having a support system.  This combination has made all the difference to assist me in more confidently leaping into the unknown.

4.  Stay in Action.  Sometimes in the space of uncertainty, we may have an idea or concept about where to go or what is next, but it still isn’t clear and we really are not sure just what to do.  At this time I find it important to stay in action.  Keep doing things daily that take us in the direction we want to go… even if that is just a vague concept.  For me, staying in action helps to keep my attitude positive and to never give up.  It also gives way to unexpected opportunities.  I look at it like scattering seeds. I try to stay unattached to what “works out” and what doesn’t and then watch what blossoms and grows.

5. Practicality.  Of course, there is a practical element in the waves of uncertainty.  Even with the opportunities that uncertainty can present, it can be daunting at best.  When living into uncertainty, I do my best to handle the practical.  Make sure the details that I know to handle are all cared for.  I also seek to provide myself with some practical comfort that may help me ease through the uneasiness.  I ask myself, what do I need to make myself feel better at that point?  Maybe it’s an outline of a plan… even if that plan doesn’t come into fruition.  Perhaps it’s a spreadsheet of options, contacts and ideas. Or maybe even a job, any job, just to bring in some income. Whatever it is, tend to the practical to help ease your mind and being.

6.  Spiritual Practice. Whether you travel the globe or not, life is uncertain.  Things change unexpectedly beyond our control. However, my experience is that through cultivating spiritual practice, we can connect to that unchanging space of spirit.  I view it as building a foundation on something far greater than the ever-changing unpredictability of any life.  As I connect daily with this space through spiritual practice, it helps to ease the discomfort of uncertainty and provides a greater stability for negotiating this space.

Spiritual practices for me include reiki, chanting, yoga, and the Sudarshan Kriya.  I spend some quiet time in these practices nearly every morning and night.

You may enjoy these practices.  But spiritual practice for you may look different.  Perhaps it is meditation, a tradition in your religious practice, or a walk in the woods.  Whatever it is, taste it daily.

How about you?  Any waves of uncertainty you are surfing through?  Any tips or experiences to share?  It’s always great to hear from you.

Now that I have arrived in Vienna, some of my huge waves of uncertainty have settled a bit to make way for some seedlings of stability.  I pick up my little Austrian friend from school today for the first time by myself and prepare to tend to the little things that will help out this family while mom is away.

Good-bye for now from the cozy flat nestled in the busy (but not too busy!) center of Vienna.

Featured photo is a treasured corridor in Vienna en route to my German course.

Inner Voice – Never Leave Home Without It

17 Sep

In the world of travel and conquering the great unknown, there is an abundance of information available to assist us on our way. Where to go, what to do, what to pack.  But one important yet seldom discussed item essential for any international escapade or other noble descent into uncertainty is… your inner voice.

You know what I am talking about.  It’s that voice… that one Kermit the frog (and Jason Mraz!) sing about in the Rainbow Connection. We have all experienced it.  That moment or moments when we KNEW that something was true but we had no logical explanation for how we knew that. Perhaps it was something simple like thinking of someone we haven’t spoken to in years just before we ran into them in a shopping mall.  Or maybe it was just a gut feeling that something wasn’t right for us… and we passed on it only to learn later it was a disaster. Whatever your inner voice moment(s) may be, it’s a handy companion to have on any journey.

In my life of uncertainty, staying tuned to my inner voice has served me well.  It has directed me towards concrete ways to immediately bring in money in times of emergency.  It has gently nudged me in new directions or connections that were of benefit to me.  It has encouraged me to take fruitful leaps that my intellect wanted to discard.

Whether you are roaming the globe or facing your own flavor of uncertainty, it is helpful to nurture and cultivate your inner voice. Here are a few tips to begin to add your inner voice to your repertoire.

Tips for Tuning into Your Inner Voice

1.  Take time to be quiet and explore stillness. It’s hard to listen to your inner voice when there is a barrage of noise and distractions around you or in your own head.  You don’t have to sell all of your personal belongings and sit on a mountain to begin to cultivate some quiet in your life.  If you don’t already, find simple ways to bring some quiet and joy into your life on a daily basis.  Maybe it’s a quiet walk in the park, or finding a serene spot outside to just sit and breath.  You could walk barefoot in your back yard or listen to a meditation CD.  Take a bath. Little steps every day to find quiet help cultivate a fertile ground where our inner voice can “show up.”

2.  Take your inner voice out for a test drive.  The best way to explore listening to your inner voice is to simply try it.  Pay attention to your inner world a bit and see what you notice.  Now don’t be confused, this isn’t the worrying voice in your head that starts shouting out distractions or going through your “to do list” for the day. It is a quieter voice.  Sometimes it’s like a whisper or a thought that enters your head, except it’s not your thought. You could start by trying something simple like asking your inner voice, what should I eat for dinner?  And see if you get a reply… a thought or idea that pops into your head.  If you get an answer and it isn’t something that sound totally awful, give it a try and see what happens.

3.  Inner Voice Discernment.  Even for experienced inner voice listeners, it is not always clear what is the wisdom of your inner voice and what is… something else.  So here is my general rule in negotiating the landscape of inner voice wisdom.  If you believe your inner voice is telling you something but you are not 100% sure, and it’s innocent with no negative impact if you try it, give it a whirl.  Perhaps it is reaching out to an old friend, pursuing a new job lead, or even simply trying a new restaurant.  Often, simply trying out innocent instincts can help to validate your inner voice. If, however, your inner voice is serving up life altering advice, seek outside guidance before proceeding.  Whether it’s your mom’s best friend who always has a good sense about things or a professional intuitive, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

Do You Want to Dig Deeper?

In my experience, the more we cultivate the quietness within the easier it is to hear and discern our inner voice. There are many spiritual practices that support this well and perhaps there are one or two that you’d like to explore. Here are a few suggestions and some of my favorites.

1.  Get a Reiki Treatment or Take a Reiki Class.  Reiki is a gentle Japanese healing art and does wonders for quieting the mind and easing the spirit.  It is also a great way to support and nurture listening to your inner voice.  After practicing reiki for over ten years, there are countless times where reiki has ushered in a strong knowing about something specific and useful, sometimes life altering, in my life.

If I am in your area, I am happy to be of service with a hands on reiki treatment.  I can also send long-distance reiki from anywhere in the world.  If you’d like to know more about reiki, visit the services section of my blog.  I am also happy to assist you in finding a qualified reiki practitioner in your area.  Simply write me through my contact page.

2.  Dive Deep Into Silence.  Vipassana is one of India’s oldest techniques of meditation.  Ten day silent Vipassana retreats are offered at no cost to participants all over the world.  These simple yet powerful retreats’ intent is simply to teach and offer practice in this style of meditation.  While not for the faint of heart, it’s a compelling journey into the silence and great support for your inner voice.  To learn more, visit their website at www.dhamma.org.

3.  Take a Yoga Class!  When I first began yoga, my mat was like a refuge.  It was a place where I could dive and surrender into something glorious and peaceful within myself.  It was also a tranquil treat for my inner voice.  Whether you are new or experienced in yoga, classes ranging from gentle to more vigorous flow await.

Do you have any tips or inner voice stories to share?  Perhaps a travel story or other time when listening to your inner voice really paid off?  Or maybe a time you were surprised by an inner voice encounter.  Feel free to write and share!  It’s always good to hear from you.

In the meantime, happy adventures into the unknown… whatever and wherever that may be for you!

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