Monday, June 7, 2010

Peaceful Mind

So, this is my last blog I'll be writing from overseas. I'm leaving in about 7 hours from Auckland to head to the good 'ol USA. I'll fly for 12 hours straight into LA and head to San Diego.

I went for a run this morning and enjoyed the last morning of the beautiful New Zealand skies and had time just to reflect on my journey the past ten months. At this point I don't know how to even sum it all has been so many different things but mostly it has been an amazing adventure that I have absolutely no regrets about and would do it again if and when the chance arises.

You learn so much about yourself as well as other people and cultures when you do something like this and it changes you in many ways. To say what that is I'm not even sure yet but I trust that I'll know more once I get back home, re-adjust and start building a life there again. So you'll have to wait for the insights once I return and touch into them all first.

To sum up New Zealand and the feeling I have here is "Peaceful Mind". I can not say enough wonderful things about this country; the landscape, the people and the overall feel of being here.

My last couple weeks in the north island was a fun adventure. As I said before Inbal and I rented a car and I quickly got used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road and maneuvering roundabouts. We visited some great places like Rotorua and the thermal pools and geysers, Lake Taupo and the Huka falls and the highlight-Tongariro national park. We did a one day hike which was 18km and took about 6 1/2 hours. This time of year it's weather permitting so we had to check in the day before to find out that it was a go. We took a morning shuttle to the start, climbed beautiful trails surrounded by even higher pikes like Ngauruhoe Summit which was used in the filming of "The Lord of the Rings" and were blessed with amazing weather!

Since I need to leave here shortly I'll get this off with my photos for you to enjoy and will be in touch. My journey has not ended quite yet since I'm planning to travel a bit around the Northwest and then back to Colorado to visit friends and see a bit of my own country.

I just want to thank you all for tuning in; to read my blog, view photos of my journey and all you wonderful comments and emails. Much love to you all!
Toni...........or Antoinette

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Zealand Skies

New Zealand Skies

Today my friend Inbal and I were driving in our rental car to a little surf town on the west coast of the north island of New Zealand called Raglan and saw the most spectacular rainbow. I think the most fabulous one I have ever seen…no kidding. Oh course a photo could not capture the brilliance of it but I’ll include it in my photos anyway. Truly I have found the skies here to be some of the most amazing of any of the places I’ve visited.

I should really fill you in first on the south island. After leaving the ashram, I spent two nights in Nelson to re-group; do laundry, catch up on emails. I did a couple of runs as well as explore the small city of Nelson. I also managed to get to a yoga class which I enjoyed. I met some friends of my friend Pam and had a wonderful dinner with them. When leaving Nelson I connected up with two of the girls from the yoga retreat, Jess and Inbal, and drove down the west coast of the south island. The weather Gods were smiling upon us and gave us some incredible days of sunshine to enjoy the many sights along our route. We walked along a seal colony in Westport, saw the pancake rocks and blowholes, Franz Joesph glacier and Fox glacier as well as Lake Matheson which is know for its reflective lake views.

One of my favorite places was Wanaka and the backpackers we stayed at was great. It overlooked the lake and was nice and clean. We went to this great cinema where they have mostly couches to sit on and you can get glasses of wine and fresh cookies right out of the oven during the intermission. Yum!

Next we went to Queenstown which is known to have just about anything that an adrenaline junkie might want….for bungi jumping to sky diving to glacier flights. Needless to say I did none of these since the cost is high and the weather was cold and fairly wet. It was nice to see the town again since I had been there 20 years ago. Queenstown seems much more touristy but still beautiful. The rest of NZ seems pretty much the same; very relaxed lifestyle here.

From the south island Inbal and I flew from Queenstown to Auckland, rented a car and headed south on the north island. Raglan is a great coastal town on the west and known for its surfing. We stayed at a youth hostel in little cabooses on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Today we are moving on to Rotorua.

I just wanted to get a blog out and some photos since I was able to borrow a computer charger. I left mine in Wanaka at the backpackers…oh well! I must be ready to get home if I’m starting to forget things. I’ll be back in the US on the 8th of June so just about a week to go! I plan to enjoy every moment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ashram Life

The first week I was in New Zealand I spent at an ashram called Anahata in the area called the Golden Bay in the northeast of the south island. It was beautiful there and I really enjoyed my time there. I was living the yogic lifestyle for sure. The style of yoga is called Satyananda yoga and comes from a long lineage from India with many Swamis(teachers or gurus). Swami Muktidharma was there and we got to listen to him talk at a satsong-a talk about life and different aspects of yoga and incorporating that into everyday life. Easy for the residents since they are living that life style day in and day out. It’s a communal living environment….or just one big happy family….where they are very organized about the everyday chores that a household requires. As “guests” we also had a choice to participate. This meant that we had a schedule 6 days out of the week. A typical day was to get up at 6:00 and begin with a yoga class and/or meditation then have a breakfast of porridge(oatmeal) to help sustain us for the next three hours of karma yoga-the yoga of action. So basically we all had jobs cleaning, cooking or tending to the garden. After which, there was a session of yoga nidra-deep relaxation yoga-followed by a wonderfully tasty vegetarian lunch. After lunch the afternoon was typically ours to do as we wished. On a nice day, there were lots of trails to explore. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t lend too much of exploration but reading by the fire was always a good option. In the evening there was often some sort of activity like kirtan-music and chanting or a fire ceremony which was very interesting to see.

I have to say that although it was a wonderful, powerful and relaxing week, the yoga ashram life would not be for me. Too regimented and limited but I’m so glad that I had the experience. The yoga teacher at in Thailand made many reference to “living a yoga life” and this is certainly one way to do that. Another is to do your own practices and incorporate it into “normal” life.

I also had the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people while there and am currently on the road traveling with two of the girls that I roomed with at the ashram. Jess is from Canada and Inbal from Israel. We are traveling in Jess’s car south on the south island and have wonderful weather the past three days. We have been taking the western route along the coastline and there has been spectacular scenery. We are staying in backpackers accommodations along the way which is really nice since you have a place to cook your meals and even do laundry if need be. It has been wonderful to not have a schedule and to just stop wherever you want and explore along the way. Today we will head to Franz Joseph where there is a glacier to hike and from what I can remember from 20 years ago, some equally breathtaking sights.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Toto, we're not in Asia anymore!"

After 5 months in Asia even New Zealand feels like a different world. I left Thailand for a one day stopover back in Bali before catching my original flight to NZ. I stayed in Seminak which is near the beach(and closer to the airport) and is a busy place especially at night. What was nice was being able to get up the morning of my departure and go for my last run on the long stretch of beach along the Bali shore. The beaches in Bali are no where as scenic or nice as southern Thailand beaches but still great. As I was sweating and enjoying my morning on the beach I was thinking to myself “you’re going to miss the Asian lifestyle”.

After about a 24 hours travel day from start to finish I arrived to Wellington, NZ which is in the very south of the north island. I was exhausted and it truly hit me that I was no longer in Asia……I was cold! Imagine having to wear a jacket! The other thing that hit me is that I could ask someone a question in English and mostly could understand the answer-the English language is not created equal as I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs. Some of the things I had to remind myself was that I didn’t have to take off my shoes upon entering a building/house and I could actually flush TP down the toilet and didn’t have to squat to pee. I know it’s the little things but it’s a bit hard to get used to. I laughed at myself that out of all the places I could choose to eat, I went to an Asian restaurant/take away run by a Malaysian woman and the price was about 5 times what I would have paid in Asia-still very good but expensive. You would think I’d be tired of Thai and Balinese food but obviously not.

My time in Asia was amazing, I would never have imagined that I would have resonated with the Asian lifestyle so easily but I did. If NZ feels so different, imagine what I’m going to feel like once I get back to the US!

I’m on the ferry heading to the south island now. I’m heading to and area called the Golden Bay to Takaka and staying at a yoga ashram for a week. I’m trying to maintain a sense of calm and inner peace that I felt in Asia through yoga and meditation.

I posted some additional photos from Blooming Lotus from the last post so check them out when you get a chance. I'll get some New Zealand photos posted soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sink or Swim

As I mentioned in my last blog, the yoga training has been a major challenge and not in the ways one would think; long hours, early start, hours of yoga practice, the heat, lots of homework but NOT being reprimanded nearly everyday like teenagers for things like leaving the door slightly cracked, leaving books on the floor, being one minute late…or more like one “OM” late, talking/laughing/having fun and basically for “not living yoga”. What the hell! I believe that all of us in the group are living yoga….in our own way. Sure, we are all in different places in our journey but we all have a strong desire to have yoga be a part of our lives, otherwise why would we be here? Sure, it’s a beautiful place to experience a training such as this but if we had wanted to spend precious time and money with no cockroaches, spiders, ants etc. AND even have hot water showers, we could have stayed numerous places with at least a 4 star rating and just hang out on the beach with a good book…BUT we chose to be here in Koh Phangan in the extreme heat trying to focus on what normally should be such an amazing experience.

So, we get that meditation is a big part-but only a part-of yoga but throwing one into hours of cross-legged torture to become enlightened isn’t what we signed up for. Yes, yoga is so much more then the postures and is not just another form of “aerobics or pilates” and that’s why we’re here….to learn more. To understand why yoga has pulled us in, why it normally makes one feel so blissful and opens your heart; to share this fabulous practice with others while finding that peace within. I know in my heart and soul that through the teachings of this ancient practice of yoga all this and more can be accomplished but we as individuals must do this in our own time and in our own way.

Okay, so if one teacher has so much knowledge and teachings to share with us then why would she not even speak about the meaning of “OM” and elaborate on the “limbs of yoga” like the yamas and niyamas(which is like not teaching a Christian “The Golden Rules) or the yoga sutras….one does NOT learn these teachings by just reading information plagiarized and compiled into a huge teachers training manual.

But….that all said we do have a choice. Sink or swim? Do we let the lack of one persons dis-empowerment get the best of us and sink OR take in the experience for what it does have to offer and swim with it; knowing that this is only the beginning or a stepping stone and can only get better from here. To swim the tide of life and let the currents take you to amazing places along your journey.

I wrote this about 3 weeks into the training as a bit of a vent but also wanted to find the humor in it all. I am now finished and relaxing on the shores of Koh Samui… reflecting and recovering…on the past month. I have to say that I do feel I gained a number of things from the experience even if it was to learn what not to do. Our teacher did know how to teach a good yoga class with good alignment principles and she had a strong background in meditation and pranayama(breath work) which she brought to the table but her ego, lack of teaching skills, and compassion made for a very interesting month. For me I realize it was a lot about a sense of completion and now with that all said and done…..time to move forward with it all! I continue to believe in and love yoga and my heart is open…always 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Great Expectations"

No, not the book by Charles Dickens…. but expectations in life. So, as I’ve mentioned last time I came back to Thailand to do a month long teachers training with a teacher that I had met her when I was here in Koh Phangan in January. She really sold herself the day I talk to her about the training and also all the information she sent about the course, her background etc. Oh course I had expectations coming here but sometimes those expectations are not met…unfortunately this has been one of those times. After day two I knew the next twenty six days were going to be a real struggle. I won’t go into details but basically her teaching methods and ego are most challenging for me to handle. I know I’m not the only one and we have talked to her about it and in some ways things have gotten a bit more tolerable but only just! So, what I’ve had to do is to look at the positives of all this.(let me mention that there would be no way of getting a refund and the fact that I spent time and money getting back here to do this, I’ve decided I will stick it out)

First off, I am back staying at an amazingly beautiful place and I can wake up and go for a swim in the ocean before class, eat wonderful Thai food everyday, meet new and interesting people not to mention do yoga everyday and learn something new…..even if I don’t always jive with it. What I have realized that even with the negatives, I’m learning a lot about myself and things I will and won’t do in teaching yoga. This has also made me look at how much I have already learned from some truly amazing teachers since I’ve been studying yoga. Even Lilly(the teacher here) has much to teach me, I just have to leave myself open to all possibilities. So that’s not to say that I’m not counting the days because I am and everyday there seems something to challenge me. Who said life wasn’t a challenge!

I think that we should all have great expectations in life but need to just show up, pay attention and not get attached to the outcome………….and hope for the best 

Just a note to add to this blog; I wrote this almost two weeks ago now and haven't had a chance to post it. So, the count down continues but today is Friday and we have a day off tomorrow!! I'm going to get through it. It has been exceptionally hot and I feel as though I'm melting half the time but it's still beautiful and the early mornings are wonderful.
Here is a few more photos from Koh Samui. Thanks to all of you for being here for me whether I've heard from you or not...your in my heart and my thoughts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I am a lucky girl!

Everyday I wake up and give thanks for everything I have, all that I have experienced on my journey(good and challenging)and just enjoy each and every moment. So, I question why is it in the "real world" that we tend to take so much for granite and forget that each day is a gift and each day should be treasured as such? My goal is to bring all of that back home with me in my heart, body and soul and to remember these times always...the feelings and the gifts.

So is it luck or my choice to be here? Oh course I made he choice to make this trip happen but I also know I have been extremely blessed in so many ways before and during my travels. I have met some amazing people on this trip and feel I've made some life long friendships as well. I've also fallen in love with some of the places I've been to and embraced the different cultures-especially in Asia...Bali in particular and am already trying to workout ways that I can get back sooner then later and to do some sort of business to pay for it. If anyone has any ideas let me know!

Currently I am staying in Koh Samui which is Thailand's second largest island(not sure what the largest is??) I made my way down south and stopped off below Phuket and just south of Krabi in a beautiful area called Railay Bay. This area as well as the neighboring bay called Ton Sai Bay is famous for their cliffs and rock climbing. Then I headed to some very small islands called Pi Pi islands where the water was so blue and picture perfect. I did a day of snorkeling among some of the even smaller islands and inlets and the fish were plentiful although much of the coral has died due to our environment and global warming. We went to Maya bay where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. I had just rented the movie while in Bali so it was fun to see the area it was filmed while it was fresh in my mind. I only spent a couple days there before heading here to Koh Samui and although this is a larger island it is still very laid back and easy to find secluded places.

Speaking of secluded places; I am staying at a place called "Big Trees Village"
and I love it here! My friend, Anna, who I met in Koh Phangan in January told me about this place and I am so happy to be here and thankful to her. It is in the trees above the town and the beaches and so peaceful and quiet that if it weren't for the heat, I'd never leave. It is the hottest time in Thailand right now so going for an ocean swim is essential to stay cool. Thanks to the owner, Steven, I also have learned to drive a motorbike/scooter which has been on my list of things to do(you might remember my "Vespa" and Italy fantasy in an earlier blog)so now I'm doing it! At first I was very nervous but after a couple of days I've got the hang of it and of course am VERY careful especially in town. I really wanted a pink one but since those were taken I opted for a turquoise one with pink on it as well. I am a happy girl! (as well as a lucky girl!)

I have another 3 1/2 days of the leisure life before heading to Koh Phangan-which is just a short ferry ride away-for my yoga training. I will be there for the month of April and have only three days off in that time period with training from 8:30am to 7:00pm. We do have an hour and a half lunch break and also a "beach" break in the afternoon. It will be intense but it'll be great too.