Tag Archives: yoga

Music Monday flows with @The_xx

Happy New Year! Thanks so much for joining me for my first post of 2017.

If you don’t know by now, Mondays on my blog are reserved for music because music inspires so much of what I do. I’ve been featuring both old and new songs here since 2010, and it all started with this little post. I laughed when I read it again; it was long ago when I first started my blog. At the time, a regular music post seemed the perfect way to kick off the week. It still does.

Music has always been a constant in my life, so I hope you will continue to join me every Monday.

For 2017, I’m starting with an English band I first heard last summer.

The xx is a trio who’ve been around since 2005. They are releasing their third studio album in a couple of weeks, but this track, aptly called “Intro” came off their debut album.

I first heard “Intro” while in a hot yoga class with one of my favourite teachers, Erick.

I recall sweat dripping off my forehead as I held a painful plank pose. More than likely, I was cursing Erick under my breath too.

Then this song came on, and herein lies the power of music for me.

Suddenly, my energy changed. I forgot the pressure on my wrists and the trembling in my core. The first notes of this tune injected power into my arms and I lifted my sagging middle just a little bit higher.

Instead of being in agony, I was now Superwoman, (well, not really), but I knew I could hold that pose much longer than I had initially thought.

Have a listen to The xx, and let me know if you don’t feel a spring in your step afterward. 🙂 Crank it up!

Enjoy, and hope you have an energetic, super-charged, and powerful week,

~eden

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 2) #Bali #Ubud

Welcome to the fourth instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first three, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite mind, body, and spirit to inspire my writing.

I started writing this blog while in Indonesia. I have since returned home. What an amazing trip!

Here are some final thoughts on my time in Ubud, which encompasses changes I encountered in Bali from the last time I was there in 1988.

Postcards—The Internet of the Past

The Internet was in its infancy when I was traveling around Asia almost thirty years ago. For all intents and purposes, it didn’t exist. To stay in touch, one of the first things I did when I arrived at a new destination was pick up a stack of postcards and spend a couple of hours writing them. The process helped me acclimatize to my surroundings and lay down thoughts on my travels while planning next steps. I had a list of about twenty people to write, including family, friends, and acquaintances I had met along the way.

Writing postcards was not just a responsible travel ritual.

I did not pen: “Hi, I’m here in XYZ city. Alive and well!” on all my cards. No, each one was personalized.

Even though it was one-way communication, postcards helped me maintain friendships and forge new ones.

bali postcard

In my two years away, I must have sent close to 200 postcards. My only regret was that I didn’t send one to myself each time I posted them. Along with my photographs, they would’ve added another dimension to my scrapbook.

Fast forward to this trip and I can hardly remember when the Internet did not exist.

En route to Ubud, I connected with loved ones at each juncture—each time I landed at a different airport until arrival at my final destination. Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter made it easy. I no longer had to write a note to each person. I could provide an update of my whereabouts and what I was doing en masse.

It was quick and easy, but it did not have the personal investment of postcards. As much as I love the Internet and its ability for near instant communication, it lacks for something. Perhaps I’m a romantic. I still like writing letters and cards on occasion.

Even now, postcards are available if I want to buy and send them, but the process seems like more effort than it’s worth. For a short trip, coupled with slow postal service, postcards probably won’t make it to the addressee until I’m already home.

For most people (and me included) *sigh*, the Internet has replaced postcards as the touchpoint along one’s journey.

Hostels and Hotels

Hostels were a great place to meet other travelers especially when backpacking on my own. I never felt like I was alone and the normally small facilities meant I would make friends, usually over breakfast or while using shared facilities.

This type of accommodation was perfect for a twenty-something on a budget. I don’t remember exactly where I stayed in Ubud so long ago, but it couldn’t have been more than $4 a night.

This go-round, I didn’t exactly stay at the Ritz, but it was luxury by comparison. I had a large room, king-sized bed, and a washroom I didn’t have to share with anyone! Breakfast was included as was a pool, and housekeeping was excellent. Space and privacy was what I valued during my stay at Gana Restaurant and Villa.

If you’re thinking of going to Ubud, consider booking Gana, located centrally and within walking distance to many attractions. The best way to book is via Anita’s Airbnb Listings. She has multiple places listed with different price points.

gana staff 2

The friendly and helpful staff at Gana!

Monkeys—Then and Now

Below are pictures of me in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary back in ’88.

bali me and monkey 1 I was feeding peanuts to the Balinese long-tailed macaques and recall them being quite timid. They didn’t mind sitting with me for a while before scampering off.
bali_monkey-2

For this trip, I brought with me a a bag of unshelled peanuts again. Unfortunately, visitors to the forest can no longer feed the monkeys certain foods—peanuts being one of them. The caretakers maintain a strict diet with the monkeys, which consists of sweet potato, bananas, coconut and other fruit. It’s understandable for the continued health of the monkeys.

monkey forest sign

Instead of feeding them nuts, I gave them bananas purchased inside the Forest. Several monkeys approached and snatched the fruit immediately. They were no longer willing to sit and have a chat. 😉

monkey forest 3

There are now more than 600 monkeys living in the area. This has more than doubled since I was last there. Along with the population growth, the monkeys now seem more brazen. I can’t help but think it’s due to the continued interaction with tourists.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-47-37-pm

One of the guidelines states: Do not make eye contact with the monkeys. They see this as a sign of aggression.

And yes, there are stories of how monkeys bite, scratch, and jump on tourists.

The amount of interaction between humans and monkeys did seem too intimate at times. I saw tourists posing with monkeys using their selfie sticks, the monkeys on their heads and shoulders. I was only too happy to observe from afar.

monkey-forest-roots

A photo opportunity with a monkey did not interest me, as I wanted my presence to be as non intrusive as possible.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-43-15-pm

Along with monkeys, there are 115 separate species of trees and three temples inside the Forest. With its moss-covered statues and hanging tree roots, the Forest is an amazing place to walk through.

monkey forest temple

Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or the “Main Temple,” built around 1350

Toilets, Toilet Paper and Why the Hose? 

When I was first in Indonesia, I was terribly naive about many things. The first time I walked into a public toilet, I was shocked to find nothing more than a hole in the ground. No toilet paper.

Luckily for me, I always traveled with a small packet of tissues, so I was able to take care of myself that time. Later, I learned the lay of the land as far as toilets were concerned.

If you’re squeamish about bodily functions, this is a warning not to read further.

In Asia, travelers spoke incessantly of their bowel movements. Whether you were constipated or had diarrhea was a topic of conversation at breakfast. I quickly got over my shyness around the subject, and to this day, I have no issue talking about poo to anyone at anytime. (Not that too many of my friends want to talk about this anyway!).

There are several iterations of the Indonesian toilet. In the one I first experienced, a ceramic basin filled with water and a bucket stood next to the toilet. The idea was to use the bucket to scoop water from the basin and clean yourself—with your left hand only. (I’ll talk about this distinction of hands shortly). You would also use the water to flush contents down the bowl.

Below is a pretty fancy version of these toilets. The one I remember was simply a hole with no decorative ceramic tile. I’m not sure why the water is brown in this picture, but it should be clean water from the spigot.

squat toilet

With regards to cleaning yourself with your left hand only, I learned this when I was introduced to an Indonesian man and extended my left hand in greeting. He was polite but did not shake my hand.

As the left hand is used for cleaning yourself, you would never touch a stranger with it. Also, Indonesians eat traditional meals with their hands, and only the right hand is used to pick up food.

On this trip, my hotel had a Western-style toilet along with a handheld hose—a bidet, if you will. I saw more and more of these bidet hoses in public restrooms.

toilet with hose The hose is attached to the seat and activated by a button or knob, or in some toilets, it is mounted to the wall. In any case, it’s a step up from using the bucket. The idea is simple: After you finish your business, you would hose yourself while sitting on the toilet. Because I had good water pressure at my hotel, I didn’t need to clean myself with my hand.

The hotel also provided toilet paper, which I used sparingly to dab myself dry after applying the hose. A full roll of paper is only about a quarter of what you would get in the West.

Toilet paper is expensive, and the sewer system is not equipped for flushing copious amounts of it.

It takes some adjustment and coordination, but I like the idea of cleaning with water. It’s much more hygienic than just using toilet paper.

Food and Drink

I LOVE Indonesian food.

I had opportunity to eat at some fantastic warungs this trip. These small, family-owned businesses serve traditional food, and are usually housed in modest dwellings, though some can be quite large.

trad-food The food is normally a simple combination of rice, meat or fish, and a vegetable. Along with a drink and shrimp chips, you can have a filling meal for less than $3.00.

trad-food-2

What makes the meals delicious are the spices, usually a combination of chilli, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Curries are also a big part of Indonesian cuisine.

curry

On one of my last days in Ubud, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party with many other women. It was a veritable feast that lasted over three hours. Thank you Ednawati!

I tried a shaved ice dessert made with fruit, grass jelly, and sweet and condensed milk called Es Campur.

me holding es campur

I never thought I would be able to eat the entire bowl, but I did. It was so delicious! I couldn’t finish the birthday cake though, but it was also very good.

dessert-and-drinkYoung coconuts were abundant, and since it’s a super food, I could not get enough of them. The juice from one coconut filled me for hours.

coconuts

Wine is expensive in Indonesia, given it is imported and there isn’t much variety. I’m also not much of a beer drinker. As such, I drank hot tea most days, particularly green tea, which I am addicted to! I found an amazing brand of it at Kakiang Bakery near my hotel and bought three bags to take home.

Now I have to find out how to replenish my supply once it’s finished! green-tea

On this trip, I tried something I’ve never had before—Kopi Luwak coffee. If you are unfamiliar with this coffee, it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

Why? The unusual production process.

The coffee beans (which are actually seeds) are digested by the Indonesian cat-like animal called the civet cat (known as luwaks in Indonesia). The feces of the cat/luwak are collected by farmers, processed, and then sold as Kopi Luwak.

Cat poo coffee.

civet-coffee

I told you I had no qualms talking about poo. Heh.

So, did I like it?

To frame my response, remember I’m a lover of green tea. I’ve also been off coffee for several months, so my taste for it is not discerning, by any stretch.

I drank the Kopi Luwak black, which is what you’re supposed to do in order to experience the unique flavour.

Truth is … I didn’t hate it, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement!

kopi luwak

Kopi Luwak is very rich, as you can see from the residue around the cup.

I tried not to disturb the coffee as I drank it, but once I got near the bottom, it became too thick to continue.

My best analysis of the flavour is it’s a blend of dark chocolate and dark coffee with a smooth, nutty aftertaste. Given I usually take my coffee with a bit of cream, I expected it to be bitter. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bitter at all.

My recommendation is you try it once and make up your own mind. Indonesia is certainly the place to do it.

Travel with Purpose

When I traveled to Bali and Asia in the late eighties, the purpose was to explore the world. With an open ticket and no set timeline, I started in Hong Kong and meandered from there. I had a simple formula—when my funds ran out, I would return home.

Indonesia was not on my radar when I started my journey, but it manifested as I met other travelers along the way.

bali_Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, 1988

The only purpose of that trip was to expand my realm of experience and my mind. The power of travel helped mould me into the person I am today.

festival banner

On this trip, I planned my stay around the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The festival saw numerous speakers come together for a five-day event to discuss writing, books, and issues affecting the world today.

open-dance-for-fest

The festival began with a traditional Balinese welcome dance.

The theme – Tat Tvam Asi: ‘I am you, you are me’ – created a strong focus for the conversations.

eden at the festival

One of the most entertaining speakers I met was Delhi-based author, Mayank Austen Soofi. (You have to love a man who chooses his middle name after his favorite author!).

He writes a popular blog called The Delhi Walla. I attended a couple of his panels, one in which he shared the stage with three other authors.

His approach was decidedly different from the others.

How so?

He didn’t try to sell his books by obnoxiously mentioning them while answering questions from the moderator.

Indie authors like myself who do it all, including promote our work will understand why this is so important. Nobody wants to listen to someone who screams: “Buy my book!” at every turn. In the age of social media, over-selling is easy to do, but it won’t work. Seasoned authors know that selling a book does not mean flogging it to death.

Mr. Soofi’s responses, infused with enthusiasm, warmth, and wit sold his book.

nobody can love you moreFor this reason, I feel fortunate to have received a copy of Mr. Soofi’s book, Nobody Can Love You More. It is an account in words and photographs of life in Delhi’s red light district. He was gracious enough to sign the book for me, and I look forward to reading it.

mayank sign book

Writing, yoga, and sightseeing made up the other days of my stay in Ubud. Instead of telling you about it, I’ve attached a slideshow. You will see for yourself why Ubud, Bali is one of the most magical places on earth.

Thank you for reading. Now that I’ve returned from Bali, my Mind Body Series will tackle other areas of my life. I hope you continue to join me as I explore this curious time in my life.

~eden

Approximately 30 pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

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Pieces of You in Ubud #poem #Bali

A poem for my husband on the occasion of his birthday.

* * *

John,

Thank you for being who you are, for granting me precious time and space … for Ubud.

In return, this is my gift to you,

eden
xox

* * *

Pieces of You in Ubud

 

I walk the streets of Ubud and discover pieces of you
In the cracks of broken tile pavements
Across ill-fitting, metal sewer grates
Your spirit rises to greet me like incense to the gods

Faded signs of cafés and hotels line a main road
Veering toward alleyways filled with unknown treasures
You pull me close for a moment or two
To breathe in the wonder of a new day

Appeasing and pleasing gods and demons
Begins a daily ritual in Bali
Devotional gifts of flower petals and frangipani
Adorn sidewalks, shrines, and statues

You walk with me in harmony
Careful not to step on the canangs
The day is young and the hustle has just begun
You hypnotize at every turn

 

I meander the streets of Ubud and find traces of you
In statues wrapped with black and white checkered cloth
In the sweet fragrance of incense permeating the air
You guide me through narrow walkways hand in hand

I sidestep a dog that is too hot or too tired to move
Or maybe he is just claiming his space
You escort me to the edge of shattered crossroads
Where I look right, then left, then right again

A rumble quickly escalates to a roar
In the tangle of vehicles that defines Ubud traffic
A chaotic racetrack unfurls from around the bend
Unleashing a blur of motorbikes and vans

“Wait …” you whisper in a cautionary voice
I feel the squeeze of your hand as you inch me forward
The dust and noise settle down, a fleeting calm
Just the break needed to run to the opposite side

 

I weave through the streets of Ubud and remember pieces of you
In the voices of young women offering a massage
In a bakery window filled with chocolates and sweets
Your essence surrounds me like a favorite sarong

A gentle rain falls in the early evening
Merchants pull in their wares and clapboard signs
Backpackers scurry to find shelter
I seek refuge under my latest possession

A monsoon hits, third one in a less than a week
The downpour floods the streets within seconds
I skip over puddles with unsteady footing
My flip-flops are soaked, yet again

You navigate me around a minefield of gaping holes
Loose rocks and debris float toward overflowing gutters
I squelch my way toward my hotel
And silently thank you for my umbrella

 

I travel the town of Ubud and conjure up images of you
In the faces of men who call out “Taxi?” as I walk by
In swathes of brilliant green rice fields as far as the eye can see
You tug at my heart until I choke with tears

Ubud …

You cast your spell on mortals and spiritual beings
Lay bare the knowledge of your ancient wisdom
You tempt
Like the graceful sway of a Balinese woman
You inspire
With the mystery of the Sacred Monkey Forest
You arouse passions and fulfillment of passions
Pieces of you live inside of me
And they always will

* * *


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Music Monday flows with Pink Floyd #Bali

Hello from Ubud, Bali.

The past week has been incredible in so many ways. To find inspiration for my writing is one of the reasons I took this trip, and I am so happy I did.

If for no other reason, I’ve confirmed that the sights, sounds, and smells of Bali have to be experienced. There is no possible way I could have breathed the magic of Ubud without being here.

Last night, I went to the Laughing Buddha Bar to decompress after a day of writing, sightseeing, and dinner. It’s a small, live music venue located on Monkey Forest Road, one of the few main arteries in Ubud. An Indonesian band called the Cooltones played rock cover tunes.

They were very good musicians.

Along with Clapton, Hendrix, and Muddy Waters, they also played this song by Pink Floyd.

Oh …. how I wish you were here.

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 1)

Welcome to the third instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first two, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite both mind and body to inspire my writing.

I’m currently in Bali, Indonesia. Travel is a passion for me, and I haven’t been to Asia since 1988. It was time to return.

For this post, I’ll highlight a few things that have changed since my last trip.

Checking Luggage

My flights to Bali were without incident … but for one issue—I’ll get to that in a minute. I originally booked to fly to Denpasar via Beijing and Singapore. With connection times, it would’ve taken me over 33 hours. I found a better route a few days before the trip. It cut my travel time to less than 29 hours, flying Toronto—Houston—Taipei—Denpasar.

I never fly Air Canada because it’s too expensive, but I was traveling on points and it was worth making the change. Air Canada would fly me to Houston and EVA Airways (the Hello Kitty airline based in Taiwan) would take me to Taipei and my final destination.

eva airways

The AC flight was uneventful, and I slept part of the way. When I got off the plane to catch my connecting flight, I thought I heard my name over the intercom. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Houston is an enormous airport with multiple terminals. I only had 75 minutes to catch the next flight. As I waited for the airport train to take me from Terminal A to D, my name sounded over the speaker again.

I couldn’t catch the garbled message. A slight panic set in. Who was calling me and why?

At that moment, the airport train arrived. There was nothing I could do but go forward.

When I arrived at Terminal D, I immediately went to the EVA Airways counter and asked if they had paged me. The attendant confirmed she had. The reason? She wanted to give me EVA’s official boarding passes and vouchers for the lounge.

I didn’t even know I had the privilege of a lounge. Bonus … and relief!

It was past midnight, and there was a giant buffet in the lounge. People were piling food on their plates, but I couldn’t eat. I watched CNN’s ongoing recap of the last Presidential debate. An announcement for pre-boarding sounded shortly thereafter. I was anxious to board the 16-hour flight to Taipei.

Queued up for the gate, I felt pretty good until the attendant scanned my boarding pass and asked me to step aside.

Now what?

Another attendant’s worried look told me it was not good news. She asked me to sign a form absolving EVA Airways of any fault. Apparently, they could not find my one piece of checked luggage. It was supposed to be delivered to them by Air Canada, but they never received it.

luggage

I would have to fly to Bali without it.

There was no time to think, even less time to be upset. While in the air, I tried not to fret, but I did use the plane’s WIFI to send a note to a friend. Perhaps he could do some investigative work for me before I landed.

Long story short, my luggage never made it out of Toronto. I thought it was misplaced in the transfer, but Air Canada had not even loaded it on to the their own plane! Several e-mail exchanges with my friend revealed my suitcase was en route to Houston. It was leaving 24 hours after I did.

In the two years I traveled around Asia back in 1988, no airline ever lost my luggage, and I took a lot of flights back then.

Time has not improved the transport of luggage.

Indonesian Currency

I’m a millionaire here in Indonesia!

Back in 1988, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 1,665 Rupiahs.

Today, 1 USD is approximately 13,000 Rupiahs. it means $500 US equals $6,507,493 Rupiahs. That’s a lot of zeros.

The currency has devalued over the years, with the 100,000 note now worth about $8 USD or $10 Canadian dollars.

idr currency

An interesting note: I was told that Indonesia changes its money every five years. That could mean a change in denominations, removing old notes, adding new ones, or other changes.idr currencies

Recording my trip

It’s hard to believe I carried around 50 rolls of film and a camera the size of a small appliance when I was last in Bali. I still have my old 35mm Minolta with its zoom lens.

camera

Film camera vs camera i-Phone

The camera served me well and took some great pictures, but it weighed a ton. I was self-conscious of its size in countries where photography was not consistently welcome. The Balinese are a modest people and do not always want their picture snapped.

Today, convenience is key. I take pictures with both my phone and a small digital camera.

Music

Remember this?

walkman

It’s a Walkman, akin to today’s MP3 players such as iPods, except that it plays cassettes.

Today, I don’t travel with an MP3 player. I no longer consider it a necessity to be constantly plugged in. I listen to music on my laptop when I’m working (not writing).

I haven’t thrown away my Walkman. Maybe I should donate it to a museum, along with all my cassettes?

Travel Information

I love books and that goes for travel books too. One of the great pleasures for me was always in the planning of the trip. Travel books were excellent guides to help with the process. Well … no more.

travel-books

Now, with the Internet, I can book a hotel online and research anything I care to know about a destination before I get there. For instance, I’m staying at a terrific hotel called Gana Restaurant and Villa, which I found on AirBnB.

gana

Since the Internet allows for so much available information, I am able to customize my searches and create the holiday I want. No longer is it necessary to carry maps and books to locate landmarks and other places of interest, though I still keep a blank notebook for recording interesting facts.

Thank you for reading. I hope you will join me for Part 2 of this Time Travel instalment for Mind Body Series. I’ll be writing it this coming week.

 

++

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Music Monday flows with The Traveling Wilburys

Hello from Indonesia!

Here’s my view of coconut trees and rice fields as I write this blog.

rice fields

This is a departure from my previous music series that highlighted songs from my yoga classes.

I’m in Bali for a writers’ festival, yoga, and research for my next book—A Fragile Truce.

While on my recent flight from Toronto to Houston, I scanned the albums available to help me sleep  for the 3 1/2 hour flight. It was night time and the first leg of what was to be a thirty-plus hour journey to Bali.

The only album of interest to me was The Traveling Wilburys, a band which included Bob Dylan. He recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in case you didn’t know). I’ll be featuring the music of Mr. Dylan in a future month.

As I sat on that plane leaving the country, these three verses of “End of the Line” spoke to me , even above the roar of the airplane’s engines.

” …Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive (End of the Line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive (End of the Line)
It don’t matter if you’re by my side (End of the Line)
I’m satisfied

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive …”

I hope you find your own meaning in these lyrics. My next blog will be Toning my Mind, Body and Time Travel, which continues my Mind Body series.

Have a wonderful week. I know I will.

~eden

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Music Monday flows with @LadyGaga #yoga

As I continue to highlight music from my classes at Union Yoga studio, here is a great song from my Body Tone class.

When it’s playing, we are usually on our backs doing sit-ups, crunches, and working on abdominals.

It’s a motivating tune, and so long as I keep breathing, I really feel like I’m on the edge of glory.

Enjoy the inimitable Lady Gaga.

I’m traveling shortly, and I’ll be in transit to Bali the next time I blog.

Have a super week!

~eden

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Toning my Mind, Body, and a Trip to Bali

Welcome to the second instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first one, Toning my Mind, Body and Breasts, you can read it here. It provides a basis for the series.

For this post, I’m tackling a few topics: My upcoming trip to Indonesia (specifically Bali); writer’s block; and travel as inspiration.

But first, a few facts about Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation.

map of indonesia

Indonesia is home to more than 17,000 islands in each of its 34 provinces. With a population of 260 million (dated: July 2016), it is the world’s fourth most populous country after China, India, and the United States. My flight to Bali by way of Beijing and Singapore will take about 22 hours from Toronto.

With wait times for connections added in, it will be 33 hours before I land in Denpasar, the capital city of Bali.

I traveled around Indonesia in 1988 as part of a trip I took across Southeast Asia. Here I was on the most exquisite white-sand beach in Lombok.

lombok beach

That was nearly thirty years ago, but I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the country and the people I met there.

I knew I would return to this part of the world someday, but what would call me back?

As it turns out, several things did. In my first post, I talked about health concerns which forced me to make some changes. I started a regimen of Chinese herbs, continued to meditate, and took up yoga. I’m in better shape now than I was twenty years ago; I lost ten pounds without even trying, and I feel terrific.

It was all good, except … my writing was stuck.

Stranger at Sunset released in 2014. It was the first of a 3-book trilogy, but books 2 and 3 are not finished. A bit of introspection uncovered the following thoughts, which of all things, involved the concept of input and output.

My mind is a mystery, even to me.

input output

My thinking went something like this. As with all things that require an ‘output’— correct and adequate ‘input’ must first feed the brain. A series of steps known collectively as a ‘process’ then creates an output. If the output is not as expected, it only makes sense to go back to the source and ask: Is something missing from or wrong with the input?

For example, if my pipes leak, I engage the services of a plumber. If the leak persists, it’s due to bad input. Either the plumber used incorrect or faulty parts, or the problem was misdiagnosed, resulting in a flawed process to fix it. Whatever it is, the desired result is not achieved.

Why am I using this odd plumber analogy?

Because once upon a time, in an over-simplified attempt to dismiss writer’s block, I wrote: “Plumbers don’t have plumber’s block, so why do writers have writer’s block?”

Unlike plumbing though, writing is deeply entangled with an author’s personal identity. The inability to produce undoubtedly creates angst. This in turn, can paralyze the process of writing altogether.

So … as much as I hate to admit it, writer’s block is real. I had to eat my words.

eat your words

I initially treated my block as emotional noise, something I could banish by continuing to write. I produced novellas and short stories, but I could not move forward with my series, no matter how hard I tried.

My block was specific. I couldn’t defeat it with enthusiasm and discipline.

I beat myself up mentally until I realized I had to change my input if I wanted a different outcome.

When I purposely shifted away from negative thoughts, I created space for opportunity. That’s when I came upon a festival—in Ubud, Bali.

ubud writers fest

I was familiar with the festival but had always dismissed it. The cost of airfare and distance to get there made the trip prohibitive. I never gave it a second thought. This time, I thought twice, so I decided to explore the pros and cons of making the journey.

Pros:

(1) Travel lifts my spirit and imagination to a new high.

(2) Parts of my next two books are set in Asia. Firsthand research is the best, whenever possible.

(3) Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali filled with temples, galleries, and local markets—an inspiring place like no other.

(4) Numerous yoga studios are located in Ubud, so I can keep up my practice while there.

(5) The aforementioned Writers and Readers Festival.

Cons:

Hmm …

Aside from the cost and distance, I really had no cons.

I chose to make the trip because ultimately, it was an investment in me and my writing. And the two are inextricably linked.

From the moment I booked the trip, my imagination went into overdrive. I won’t make empty promises about when I will finish my books, but I do know this … I’m excited and I’m writing, and I look forward to returning to Bali to recharge my batteries.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my Mind Body Series when I’ll be writing to you while en route to Beijing. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing on a 16-hour flight. 🙂

++

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Music Monday flows with @Beyonce #yoga

I never thought I’d feature a Beyoncé song for yoga, but live and learn. This high energy dance song is part of my Body Tone class at  Union Yoga studio.

It’s about girls running the world, and I feel a bit bad for the few guys in the class (it’s 90% women), but they don’t seem to mind.

They’re huffing and puffing along with the song just like the rest of us.

Have an energetic week, and for those of us in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!

~eden

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Breasts

I hope you’re here for my mind and not my breasts. 😉

The title is a bit misleading, so allow me to elaborate.

Over the next month (possibly longer), I’ll be blogging about my mind, body, and … something else. I’m calling it the Mind Body Series. The “something else” is a by-product of the work I’ve been doing to improve myself mentally and physically.

For this post, I’ll talk about toning my mind and body and only touch on my breasts.

Hmm … that didn’t sound right. What I mean is, I won’t be offering any tips on how to make your breasts perkier or firmer, in case that’s why you stopped by.

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (USA | Canada | UK), it’s important that I highlight this worthy cause in any way I can. Since I was diagnosed in 2000, both detection and treatment have improved significantly for those with breast cancer.

It’s encouraging to read about the progress over the years and know this disease may someday be eradicated—in my lifetime.

breast cancer awareness month

The stuttered beginning of this post provides a small indication for how I’ve been feeling the past two years—hesitant and unfocused. It’s affected every area of my life, most notably my writing. I’ve pushed ahead as best as I can, but it’s been a difficult time not knowing how long the lethargy would last.

In essence, when would my mind bounce back to the way it was—to when it was sharp and clear, without the filter of cobwebs behind a thick fog, buried under a rock?

See? I need major help with my metaphors too.

empty brain

On paper, my thoughts were dysfunctional and incomprehensible to me. Others did not seem to think so, but I’ve always been my own worst critic. The words rang hollow. At times, I felt like my brain was empty of thought. This, of course, was impossible. What offered me small comfort was knowing that I can write. I had proof of it in my previous books even though my perception of my writing had changed. When I used to read my old work, I would think: “Ha! I can write better than that now!” and feel good that I had improved.

Now, I did not recognize myself in my writing. I felt like an imposter, which wasn’t all that different from how I felt when I first started writing fulltime. Call it self-doubt or a crisis of confidence, but whatever it was, it gripped me in a headlock and was not letting go.

For the better part of this year, I’ve limited my blog to music posts and author promotions. I figured I couldn’t mess those up too much. Penning an original and personal post had become increasingly difficult. I wrote the last one when I returned from my grandmother’s funeral, and that was nearly ten months ago.

If it were not for R.B. Wood’s WordCount Podcast and Toby Neal’s Lei Crime KindleWorlds series, I would not have done much creative writing at all. Both of them gave me opportunities to write—at least in the short fiction format.

Regardless of how I felt, it was important that I kept up a daily writing ritual, so I turned into a robotic vomiter of words for the sake of meeting word count.

word vomit

I tried to maintain discipline, anchoring myself in the knowledge that these words were not without merit. The problem was, none of them were in the proper order for my next book—A Fragile Truce, which was to follow Stranger at Sunset, released 2014.

I had planned to launch the second book less than a year later, followed by book three shortly after that.

The pressure to meet my deadline prompted me to withdraw from social media for a while, but that didn’t help.

What was happening to me?

Was it the dreaded writer’s block (which I had vehemently denied even existed?)

writer's block

Or was it something more sinister?

Following a couple of trips to see my doctor, he diagnosed me as severely anemic. My iron level was non-existent and my blood pressure so low he was surprised I didn’t faint. I was 50 at the time. It made sense I would be experiencing hormonal fluctuation and other symptoms of life change. Still, I never thought it would affect me with such intensity—to the point where both my mind and body felt foreign to me.

I know every woman goes through this, and some I’ve spoken to have much worse symptoms than me. I was also reminded that fifteen years ago, my oncologist told me there might be lingering effects from my chemo treatment. I guess I had chosen to ignore that little piece of information. Unfortunately, it was impossible to ignore the connection between changes in my body and how it affected my ability to communicate – both verbally and via the written word. I never used to struggle to find the right words. Now, It’s on the tip of my tongue syndrome occurred more often than I cared to admit. My vocabulary plummeted, which meant writing took longer since I needed to consult a Thesaurus more often.

Something had to change, but what?

meditator

Since my mid twenties, I’ve meditated regularly, which I owe to saving my mind from becoming even more erratic than it already was. What I didn’t realize was the process of stilling my mind (sitting for long periods in meditation) was not fully serving me at this stage in my life—not physically anyway.

I’ve never really had to exercise. Moderate physical activity was enough to keep me in good shape, but I knew I needed to do more. I felt sluggish and heavy. I couldn’t sleep.

In February, against my doctor’s wishes, I decided not to take iron supplements and instead, started a regimen of Chinese herbs. They have helped me regain much of my energy. I don’t have that lethargic feeling anymore, and best yet, my foggy brain cleared up as well.

chinese herbal concoction

Concoction of dates, goji berries, and dong quai

I also did something opposite to what my doctor recommended. He wanted me to take it easy with exercise. I understood his rationale, but I listened to my body, and my body told me it needed to move. It needed to move A LOT. I felt manic when I made the decision to join a hot yoga studio in the neighbourhood, like I had been on ice for far too long.

5-lb-dumbbell

I started going to classes two, three, then five times a week. One of the classes is a Body Tone class which is fitness inspired. We work with weights, loud music, and the pace is breakneck. I imagine it’s what “Bootcamp Yoga” would be if there was such a thing. In the beginning, I couldn’t even do half the moves of the hour-long class. I am now happy to say that after eight months, I can complete the full class—with gusto! I’ve even moved up to using 5-lb weights from my original 3-pounders. Though that might not sound like a lot, performing repetitive weight-bearing squats, lifts, and sit-ups in 35C (95F) heat is exhausting. I walk out of the class drenched but feeling happy and invigorated. The workouts have also helped me sleep much better.

I returned to my doctor recently for a follow-up appointment and told him what I had been doing. He was fine with my approach though a bit concerned I had lost 10 pounds since I started yoga. It shocked me, really. I don’t own a scale, so the only time I ever weigh myself is at my doctor’s office. It was never my intention to lose weight, but despite my thinner body, I felt stronger than I have ever felt in my life.

All good news, right?

Well, there is a small downside to the story … and that’s where my breasts enter into the picture.

Or more accurately, it’s where they make their exit.

Those 10 pounds I lost came straight off the top. I didn’t think it was possible to go down a size from a 32A bra, but it is.

The main casualty of this weight loss is now I have to get rid of many of my bras. I love beautiful lingerie, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I own several push-ups that feel like they could double as a football player’s shoulder pads. They transformed me from a 32A to a 32C—a two-cup increase. Woohoo!

bras

These babies could stop bullets!

When I fitted myself with these push-ups the other day, I laughed my ass off! I thought I was going to topple over. Suffice it to say it looks unnatural for me to have such large breasts now.

Did you ever think you would be so intimate with my intimates? Heh.

It’s been a trying and interesting time. I’m not one who complains, but I wanted to let readers know why I haven’t been able to deliver on my trilogy. At the same time, I also wanted to thank you for reading my meanderings, now and in the past.

The good news is I’m on the mend.

My mind is much improved with Chinese herbs and meditation. My body is leaner and growing stronger with yoga, and last but not least, even though there is less to them now …

love your breasts

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my Mind Body Series when I talk about travel and returning to a magical place—Bali.

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Music Monday flows with @MaxFrost #yoga

Over the next weeks, I’ll feature songs and artists who’ve helped me move in my hot yoga classes.

The songs are an eclectic mix, as are the teachers who lead the classes at the wonderful Union Yoga studio, where I’m a member.

I respond to upbeat, lyrical songs when I exercise, as well as to the slow, soothing music usually associated with yoga.

Imagine flowing to “Let Me Down Easy” by Texan songwriter, Max Frost.

Have a super-charged, great week, even if it’s not an easy one,

~eden

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Music Monday moves with Falguni

I’m in New York City this week connecting with family and friends.

This is a tune played during the end of some of my yoga classes — it’s calming and haunting at the same time, and the message is a good one given the turbulence of the past week.

“Subah” by Falguni is from the album called At Ease.

Lie down, close your eyes, and enjoy.

Here’s wishing everyone a good, safe week.

~eden

 

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Music Monday moves with Kings of Leon

I love when a teacher can pair contemporary music to a yoga class.

This remix of “Closer” from Kings of Leon is a great example of an atmospheric song that works well with intense Hot Flow movements.

There is some peculiar instrumentation that sounds like buzzards or the vuvuzela. I’m not sure what it is, but I like it.

Hope you do too, and have a great week,

~eden

 

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Music Monday moves with @Pink

May is supposed to be the month of summer, which means lots of fun in the sun.

Although … yesterday, we had frost, snow, and hail all before noon!

We’ve had ever-changing weather. Hopefully, warmer temperatures prevail.

This upbeat song by P!nk is part of my weekly Body Tone yoga regime. It makes me move and it’s sure to make you move too.

Enjoy and have a great week!

~eden

 

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Music Monday moves with @FosterthePeople

Here’s another song from my Hot Body Tone yoga class.

Sit ups, obliques, bicycles. It’s a great song to sweat to.

Enjoy “Pumped Up Kicks” and have a fun-filled, active week,

~eden

 

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Music Monday moves with Pearl Jam

One thing I’ve never been able to do well while exercising is breathe.

It’s an innate physiological process, but when I’m told to take a deep inhale, I find it difficult to do. Yoga has helped me breathe deeper and stronger.

In keeping with my current theme of Moving to music, I want to slow the pace down this week with this beautiful Pearl Jam song.

Sometimes, it’s wonderful to “Just Breathe.”

Have a great week,

~eden

 

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Music Monday moves with @NinaSimoneMusic

We just got hit with another snowfall, and this song makes me wish for that elusive sun.

Despite the cold, I’m keeping hot and in shape by attending yoga classes. Hope you’re staying warm too!

Have a great week and feel free to move along to Nina Simone’s remixed version of “Here Comes the Sun.”

~eden

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Writing and Yoga: The Two Things That Saved My Life by guest blogger @BrittSkrabanek

Today, I have the privilege of handing over my blog to author Britt Skrabanek. Britt and I have been friends since I interviewed her for my Eden’s Exchange Author series, and she included me in her Life Enthusiast Chronicles.

In sharing with one another, we discovered common passions.

Writing. Of course.

But also yoga.

Unlike Britt who is a yogi, I only returned to yoga recently. I attend hot yoga classes about four times a week and I’m loving it!

In reading Britt’s post, I now understand why I feel better than I have in a very long time. Britt explains it in her charming, no-nonsense style. Her words resonated loudly with me and I’m sure they will with you too.

Take it away, Britt!

* * * *

There are two things that saved my life. Writing and Yoga. They both require focus and patience, they help me understand myself and the world, and they allow me to be unapologetically free.

Nobody is ever going to come ask me for financial advice. And, that’s okay.

Besides the usual grammar question, it makes me feel very honored when people talk to me about Yoga and wellness.

Just this past week two coworkers shared their excitement with me about treating their bodies with kindness. One presented her green smoothie, her first attempt at breakfast in some time. The other told me he was wearing peppermint and eucalyptus oil to treat his allergies, so he could breathe better.

Also in the same week, Eden and I began discussing a guest post—one that was long overdue. Almost two years ago we did an author interview, but this time was going to be completely different.

And, here we are.

yoga on the beach

Yoga on the beach

Eden, a regular meditation practitioner herself, told me about her recent journey with Yoga. Her body was craving movement, and a newly found love for a regular practice helped her become more focused and inspired when she truly needed it.

When you’re a writer, your mind has to stay simultaneously relaxed and sharp. Otherwise, it’s a struggle like nothing else. It looks different for everybody, and sometimes it’s not as clear-cut as being diagnosed with writer’s block. You might still be writing—but devoid of passion, going through the motions and feeling like you’ve run into a wall.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert Yogi. I may not be the most natural speaker in front of students, or the technical teacher who knows the name of every muscle and bone. What I do know is what feels good and why it does.

I haven’t taught Yoga in a couple of years, but my training served as a guidebook to a better life. And I have made countless positive changes since I began dedicating my life to wellness.

However when I moved to Portland a couple of years ago, I started losing my practice. Uprooting your life is never easy, and the effects of those changes take a while to digest. I explored some new forms of exercise—I started running, something I loathed all my life, and I even joined a gym, something else I couldn’t stand.

Over the past six months I pushed myself to return to Yoga. And, I mean it when I say pushed.

morning meditation

Morning meditation

I started getting up a few minutes earlier each day to meditate and stretch. I got into guided meditation at night to heal my busy mind after a long day at work. I started practicing several days a week, even when I felt like I didn’t have the time.

Well, I made time for it. The demanding job excuse…so what? The novel won’t write itself excuse…so what? I knew I was doing the right thing for me and my body.

Over the past decade Yoga has exploded in the West, and there are many who claim it is a bastardization of its original form. The image of a skinny woman in expensive active wear doing impossible poses is something we started to associate with Yoga.

But, it’s so much more than that. And no matter how you come to Yoga, or which style you take, the benefits will take precedence.

A lot of people are attracted to the fitness aspect of Yoga. Then, they notice that they’re making healthier food choices and they’re handling conflicts with a sense of ease.

cat yoga

Cat yoga

That’s because the mind and body are deeply connected, more than we’ll ever know. Yoga postures are meant to prepare the body for meditation. Because if the body is functioning well, the mind has the space it needs to soar.

Think about it for a second. If something’s wrong with your body—you have the flu, you broke your toe, you experience chronic back pain—that’s all you can think about. Your mind is consumed by the unhappiness your body feels. When your body is happy, your mind can move on to other things.

I’m biased and I think everyone should and CAN do Yoga. If you’re a creative person? You absolutely should consider it for these reasons. My writing has transformed since I started a regular practice.

I’ve always been an active person, but Yoga is perfect for any body. Dance, especially when it got very serious for me, was not perfect for any body. There was an unattainable perfection staring back at me in the mirror. In Yoga it was just…come as you are.

Where else do we have that kind of permission in life? To just be.

On our Yoga mats we have a safe and beautiful space to explore. And it’s truly amazing what can happen when we take the time to listen to ourselves.

* * * *

Beautiful and true words, Britt. THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom. 

Readers, please offer Britt some <3. Comment and ask her questions about yoga, fitness, and wellness. Or anything creative for that matter! She is, after all, the author of three books and a terrific addition to your network.

* * * *

Connect To Britt

britt summer

Website/blog | Amazon Author PageTwitter @BrittSkrabanek

Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube Goodreads

Britt Skrabanek is the spirited indie novelist of Nola Fran Evie, Everything’s Not Bigger, and Beneath the Satin Gloves. Her blog is a whimsical snapshot of life, musings, and the glory of the written word. She is blissfully married, has two delightfully incorrigible cats, and loves to experience the world—all of its quirky beauty inspires her endlessly. When she’s not writing, she’s a bike-riding Yogi who loves to dance.

 

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Music Monday moves with @TheWeeknd

Welcome to March and the first of many songs that make me move. I’ve joined a hot yoga studio and attend classes at least three times a week, including a fitness-inspired Body Tone class. One student calls it “hardcore,” but I love it.

It’s a high energy routine with loud music, and it leaves me hot, sweaty, and feeling great!

Speaking of hot, “Can’t Feel My Face” by Abęl Makkonen Tesfaye, known by his professional name The Weeknd is definitely hot in this video. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean. He’s Canadian and his song has been in my head for sometime. It’s sexy, original, and I can’t stand still when I’m listening to it.

Hope you enjoy and have a super week,

~eden

 

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