Enjoy The Ride!

My new home is such a wonderfully quirky place.  If you come here with preconceived notions of how things “should” be, you will be highly frustrated and disappointed.  However, if you come here with the Caribbean vibe of “It’s All Good Mon” (pronounced like a soft ‘on’) you will be delighted by all the fun and interesting surprises that can show up—even in the midst of the more frustrating experiences.

I took a water taxi to Caye Caulker and San Pedro/Ambergris Caye.  The boat is packed to overflowing with people, and the driver of the boat sits on top of 4 plastic chairs stacked on top of one another so that he can be up high enough to see.  On the way to Caye Caulker, I am at the very back of the boat and proceed to get completely drenched by the sea spray flying up from the boat.  I am laughing at the situation and myself.  Luckily, it is the tropics, so getting wet is actually not so bad.  Thankfully I was not wearing anything see-through-ish!

On a plane the other day, I am the last passenger to squeeze onto the very tiny single-prop plane, and am told by the pilot to go sit in the last seat in the front—it is the co-pilot’s seat!  I have to squeeze my way through an almost non-existent aisle, to the front of the plane doing my best not to step on anyone’s toes and apologizing for having to stick my butt right into people’s faces as I try to squeeze through.  Oh my—there is no dignity in these moments—only laughter and humility.

The pilot of the plane begins to chat with me after we are well on our way, and I tell him I am going to Caye Caulker.  He told me if I was going to Caye Caulker then I should go to Ambergris Caye because that is where he is from and he said I should check it out too.  I told him that I don’t like San Pedro, which is the main part of the island.  He tells me there is a lot more to the island and gives me his number and told me to call him if I wanted a guide around Ambergris.

On Caye Caulker, I met some wonderful people—some islanders, some tourists.  I went to a lovely spot called Coco Plum Spa and Restaurant and had an incredibly delicious lunch of hummus, greens, tomatoes, olives, and wheat toast.  Maybe that sounds like nothing to you, but trust me… in Belize, real greens are RARE and I almost passed out at the incredibly delicious meal!  I chatted with the owner for a couple hours over lunch and then coffee—Belizian, Organic of course!

I stayed in a wonderful place right next to the sea.  I rented it in part because it had a kitchenette, so I could make my own food because being vegan in Belize can be challenging.  First time that I go to use the electric hot plate, I get electrocuted!  Then, a little later, I go to plug in my computer and get electrocuted again!  Ah… the joys of island life!

I share the building with a couple from England, a man from Georgia, and a wonderful couple from Kansas.  The husband has just returned from a six-month stint in Afghanistan.  He is so ready to play, enjoy life, and see friends and family.  His wife is wild, funny, and larger than life in the best possible way.  The two together are fabulous, and on my second day, as the husband is coming down the stairs, he sees me inside my place with the door open to the delicious breeze, and he says, “We are going on a night snorkel in about thirty minutes and you need to come with us!”  I thought to myself, “That sounds like a fun idea.  Why not?”  So I go with them and we proceed to have such a fun and wonderful experience.  The crew consisted of the husband and wife power-duo team, the young woman who manages and cleans the place who they have paid to come with us as she has never even snorkeled in all her years of living there, their friend Mike whom they met who is a neighbor to us hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, a young guy from France and another from Argentina, as well as the guy who is our guide and boat driver.

We were behaving like a bunch of unruly rabbits free from a cage as he was trying to give us our safety instructions.  I finally clapped my hands together and said, “Hey Team!  This gentleman is trying to give us the information we need to have a safe and fun experience.  Can we please get quiet and give him our attention please?  Thank You!”  And as the group quieted down, I turned to our guide and said, “Please Sir, go ahead.  Thank you so much for taking such good care of us!”  He beamed a beautiful smile and proceeded to give us the information we needed both for safety as well as for what we could expect to see at night time in the sea.

Then we all jumped into the water and had the most magical of journeys.  There is something so beautiful and magical swimming in the great big sea at night!  We saw squid, octopus, sting rays, electric rays, lobster, HUGE sea urchins, various fish, the largest crab I have ever seen in my life, and nurse shark.  Being such visually oriented people, there is something otherworldly and wonderful about swimming in the sea at night.  Hearing takes over, compensating for the lack of visibility and the sounds become so much more pure and acute. And to top it off, away from the lights, the stars were unbelievably beautiful.

When we got back onto the boat, I opened the cooler and got out the cups and rum punch and proceeded to serve everyone.  Everyone started laughing at how I became bar tender.  I told them serving—especially food and drinks—is in my blood; I can’t help myself.  Even on a boat at sea!  We hung out on the boat for close to an hour laughing, swapping stories and drinking spiked punch.  We were so nutty, we had the guide laughing so hard that he had to wipe tears out of his eyes more than once.  I asked him if he has many groups as crazy as ours, and laughing, he told us that never, in all his years of guiding trips had he ever had a group like ours.  We all started laughing and took his comment as a badge of honor for our wild and eclectic group.

After the trip, we went home, cleaned up, went out for a few drinks and dancing.  By the end of the night, I felt like I had new best friends for life.  I love it when I meet people whom I would not normally meet in my work life, who live such completely different lives than mine, and yet we instantly bond and have such a great time together.   That has happened a lot to me already in my time in Belize, and it is one of the many, many reasons I love this place.

After 3 days on Caye Caulker I had enough and was ready to go, but I was sad to leave my new friends.  I decided to follow my new pilot friend’s invitation and go to Ambergris since I was in the area after all.

I called a yoga retreat hotel on the island that has cheap dorm-style rooms and good veggie food options on the island to see if they had availability in the rooms.  The owner said they did, and I told him I would be there the next day.   I arrive via boat to the retreat space because it is on the north side of the island and the boat is the cheapest and fastest way to get to that part of the island.  I walk up to the hotel bar and ask where I check in.  The owner, sitting at the bar said, “Here.  But do you have a reservation?”  I told him I was the girl who called him the day before about the dorm rooms.  He said, “Oh, well, I don’t have anyone else in those rooms, so I am trying to get people to stay in the cabanas so I don’t have to turn on the whole building for one person.”  I told him I was not going to pay those prices, and that I had specifically talked to him the day before about the dorm rooms and he told me they were available, and that is why I had come to his establishment.  We haggled back and forth, and I ended up staying in one of the cabanas, even though it was nearly double what the dorm room would have cost, it was still a lot cheaper then they are normally rented for.  I was a little frustrated at first, but then I just laughed inside because this is just the way it is in Belize.  Even in an establishment owned and run by Americans, the Belizian Way is everywhere.  So I stayed for the evening and enjoyed being in an incredible piece of Paradise!  Absolutely exquisite sea and lush, cooling breeze along with delicious smoothies and veggie food.

I called my new pilot friend who showed up on a motorcycle, and we ended up spending the next 8 hours together.  We had such a great time that time flew by and before I knew it the evening was late.  I wasn’t ready for the evening to end, but I behaved myself and went to my cabana to get some sleep.

I awoke at six in the morning and enjoyed the breeze, smells, and sounds all around me as I lay luxuriously taking my time in greeting the day.  I eventually got up, went for breakfast, chatting for a while with the owner and the super cute boy behind the bar who got me my coffee and food.  I went for a swim in the incredibly beautiful and cooling sea and again thought how incredibly blessed I am to have finally found such a beautiful place to call home.  I wished I had the money to buy land in the north of Ambergris Caye and could build solar run and water-catchment home.  That would be a dream beyond a dream.   One can always dream.

The owner of the establishment promised to get me to the water taxi in time for 1pm taxi and then promptly lost track of time.  Luckily, I spoke up at the last minute saying I was concerned about missing the boat, and everyone shot up and hustled to get me to the boat in time.  And I got to have the cute guy behind the bar to be the driver of the boat to get me from the hotel to the water taxi, which was another bonus!  I made it just in the nick of time, laughing at the Belize of it all.  I called my pilot friend thanking him for a wonderful evening and sketching out plans for the next time we would hang out.  The water taxi was the slower boat and took so long getting back to Belize City, that I missed the flight I had hoped to catch.  I texted my pilot friend, letting him know the situation.  He texted me back a few minutes later saying he had called the airline and had me booked on the next (and last) flight out, and that all I needed to do was go to the airport and give them my name and everything was ready to go.  Now THAT is some customer service!!!!!  I had an hour and a half to spend in Belize City (not an exciting prospect) but one of the guys at the water taxi when he found out, took my bag, stored it in a safe place and said, “When you get back, let me know, and I will make sure you and your luggage get safely to the airport.  And that is exactly what happened.

And now I sit here next to the sea in a bar in my town where I live now, drinking a cold Belikin beer, listening to a fun and eclectic music list as the Garifuna drummers and dancers prepare for their Wednesday evening ritual here, laughing and musing at the wild ride of it all.  Not always perfect, organized, or smooth.  But fun and unexpected delights and surprises because I remain open to the journey and not so worried about the destination.  I know that can sound cliché, but my experiences in my life continue to reinforce the beauty of enjoying the gift of the present moment, going where the wind blows, and laughing when things go “wrong.”  So much of it really is about the state of mind.  And for me, Belize is more than just a country; it is a state of mind.

Enjoy the ride!

julia

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 12:33 am  Comments (11)  

Upcoming Event I Am Very Excited About!

Hi Friends,
i am co-leading this SUPER FUN, creative, and transformational workshop with Helema Kadir at Omega Retreat Center in New York beginning July 10th. Come join us in the beautiful setting of Rhinebeck, NY for the first ever Creating Change Work/Play Shop! i am SO excited about this one!

i hope to see some of you there!

http://eomega.org/omega/workshops/4878cd2fb3a1f1d272189427c9170d66/

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm  Comments (3)  

Beautiful Photos of Luna and Surrounding Grove

Hi Friends,

BEAUTIFUL photos of Luna and surrounding grove in recycled wood frames on sale with portion of proceeds going to support all the pro-bono work i do. Check out the link to see photos and purchase if you are so moved and inspired! Thanks!

http://bit.ly/hyfFS6

Love,

julia

Published in: on May 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm  Comments (5)  

Journeys Abroad, Journey Home

Hello Friends,

I am heading to my home in Belize.  I am so profoundly grateful that after four years of searching, I have finally found the place where I can be healthy, thrive, and afford to live.  Today, my body and my lungs hurt, but I know by tomorrow, I will already begin to feel better body, mind, heart, and spirit.

I only get to be in my new home for a little under a month before going out on tour, but that time is going to be so helpful in getting me better able to be on the road for almost two months.

I just finished up with a west coast tour that started in Vancouver, Canada, went to Washington, then Southern California before wrapping up in San Francisco.  In Canada I was doing a benefit for a yoga teacher named Ryan Lier and his wonderful program, Vinyasa Yoga For Youth (www.vinyasayogforyouth.com).  Ryan and I had a great time co-leading conversation and yoga.  Even though I had never met Ryan in person before, I felt an instantaneous kinship with him as we both have a real enjoyment of the ridiculous (also known as being slightly, very, non-grown-up! ; ) and yes, I meant to say it that way… call it “creative license.”  The stories I could tell you of huge overgrown fish, hot water pots, and even meditating… but that’s for the secret blog where only those who know how to go to imagination land can find it!

Whenever, I travel in the US, I try to stay in Bed and Breakfast Inns as often as possible because it is a way to invest in my commitment to support local as often as possible.  I also, of course, look to see if I can find any that are practicing any kind of sustainability practices.  I found a really great one in Vancouver that had only one availability left by the time I found it.  And the funniest thing… the name of the Bed and Breakfast run by the lovely Barb and Bob (also B and B) is… and I kid you not… “The Tree House!”  If you find yourself needing a place to stay in Vancouver, BC, Canada, I encourage you to stay with them in their lovely home!

After Canada, I travelled across the border to Washington.  I had a wonderful experience at the border when chatting with the agent as he asked me my purpose in Canada, and I told him that I was there doing this benefit.  He actually thanked me for it!  Wow!  That was a cool and unexpected surprise.

In Washington, I spent the evening at another Bed and Breakfast overlooking Puget Sound a little ways outside Seattle preparing for my next day at Edmonds Community College.  I stayed with an absolutely delightful woman, Helon, in the converted bedroom attic of her home (named the Maple Tree, I scored with the trees on this trip! : ) which is actually the only room available for let in her home.  The stairs were steep and narrow, the bathroom was downstairs, and everything was old but well cared for.  It was like staying with my grandmother.   We shared breakfast together in the morning (me with Earl Grey tea, fruit, toast and jam) and I got to hear some of her incredible life and how she became an accidental Bed and Breakfast hostess (stepping in to help a friend in need) many years before and loved it so much that she never stopped.  It was so sweet to be able to spend time with her and hold loving listening space as she shared about her dear husband of over 60 years recently passed on, her eyes welling up with tears as she told me she had lost her very best friend in the world when he died.  I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like.  My longest relationship (with a person that is) was only one year, so I can’t even begin to comprehend not only that many years of marriage, but clearly being that in love and that good of friends over all that time!

After a lovely breakfast with Helon, I went to a local coffee shop for some organic pick me up and then headed to the college where I did an afternoon event, followed by an interview and then a visit with two classrooms combined including an ESL (English as a Second Language).  I love the more intimate settings that community colleges and classroom visits provide.  It just feels so much more real and alive when it is a small group.  I especially love classes like ESL as the conversation is so much more real often times—there is just a different way of relating to the story and to beliefs and to world view—really has me be even more mindful of my words.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone at ECC including the sound technician and the house manager of the theater space where the gathering was held.   They were both truly great to work with and the house manager had his big, beautiful, black rescue dog with him, and I had the opportunity to pet and cuddle with him which helped me feel so much more grounded and happy… mmmmmm…. I SO love and appreciate animal companion energy!

From Edmonds Community College, I went to Southern California for my mini-tour with dear friend, activator, and actress, Daryl Hannah.  We started in Los Angeles at UCLA where they have a very impressive sustainability initiative going on campus.  When we arrived on campus, the parking kiosk folks who we were told to check in with had no records of us, and there was quite a bit of back and forth before a student coordinator finally came and helped iron out the situation and get us to the appropriate parking space.  We had a delightful dinner with some of the key sustainability organizers on campus including the amazing professor who was to be our moderator for the evening.  The format for these events is conversation style vs. presentation in an effort to create a more inclusive vibe for everyone in the room.  I find this style, to be such a more interesting format even when there are occasional curve balls because of the more loose design.  The conversation was great and some of my closest friends in LA were at the event, which made it extra fun for me.

From there, we went to San Diego State University (SDSU) where we drove around in circles trying to find a parking lot and being given the craziest directions imaginable before I finally told the point people to just come meet us and take us to the assigned parking lot as I was beginning to lose my patience and did not want to waste any more time driving in circles.  We had a very full day beginning with a lunch talk (http://www.youtube.com/sdsuvideo#p/u/0/pdKePr9L2Y4) with incredibly delicious vegan, organic lunch including chocolate cake!  Yum! Following the lunch, Daryl and I had an interview, and then we were scheduled to talk with a professor and his team member, where I quickly realized they were trying to get us to give money to their fund.  It felt really inappropriate, and I was a bit vexed because we had such a small window of down time during a very long day, and to have it filled up with a meeting where they were trying to get money out of two people who do a ton of pro-bono work (that would be Daryl and me) and who were their guests at their school just felt really slimy and frustrating.  I did my best to honor and acknowledge them and their good work, though, and at the same time let them know very clearly and quickly that Daryl and I are not banks nor have contacts for them. So often, people think fame equates to being rich, and Daryl and I often have to deal with people who think that of us even though it is far from the truth.   I did, however, give them some very real and concrete ideas for creative avenues of funding, as I do believe their program is a good one and want them to have support for their vision—even if their approach to us was really off.

Then, I was blessed with incredible bodywork from a Facebook Friend who saw that I was going to be in her hometown and came and gave both Daryl and I some much needed healing and loving massage.  Thank Goodness for the Angels!!!!

Then, we had the larger public event with a moderator.  The moderator came across as incredibly lacking in presence and any sense of who was in the room adding yet another layer of weirdness to an already weird day.  The funny thing is that it flipped this switch in me, and I became fully animated and even a little intense.  But I knew that if I allowed him to lead the conversation, it was going to go in a way that did not really serve anyone in the room.  Afterwards, many people came up to me and thanked me for my passion and for redirecting the conversation.  I have learned that sometimes my passion and intensity can be too much for certain situations (as in I come across as a bulldozer when a rake would do the job just fine ; ), and that it is better to be more soft or even silent.  But there are other times, like this one, where a bit of fierceness was called for.

The final event of the day was another vegan, organic catered affair of appetizers and finger foods with Daryl and I giving a talk honoring the incredible work of the students on SDSU campus and the faculty who support them in truly inspiring and committed sustainability initiatives on campus.  One of my favorite parts of what they are doing at SDSU is that they are integrating the importance of cultural preservation and human diversity in ecological sustainability.  They have a cultural diversity chair as part of the sustainability team which is so powerful, important, and inspiring!

Last stop on the Southern California tour was Pasadena City College (PCC).  The professor who brought us to campus was also the moderator and was an absolute joy to spend time with.  Her commitment to her students, the campus, and to the world is so inspiring.  She and her students had just returned from Arcosanti in Arizona (www.arcosanti.org) the day before and so many of her students were talking about how the experience had changed their life.  It was clear that young people going through her class leave with real leadership skills, compassionate, caring views, and a commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

There was supposed to be dinner for us before the event and something happened and the dinner did not show and somehow they scrambled and got some salad together for us.   With all that had been going wrong in the world of logistics and communication over the last few days, I started laughing and knew the great trickster of Mercury in Retrograde must be playing in the celestial cosmic ball field and we were the ball being tossed all over the place!  When I got to a computer, I looked it up and SURE ENOUGH Mercury was in Retrograde!  I knew it!!  Without even knowing it ahead of time, I knew with that much chaos, it had to lead to Mercury!

My last day in LA was official Earth Day, and I had various meetings including with my dear friend/brother/ally John Quigley who spent the first part of the day in court as he is being prosecuted for working to try to save some beautiful and important Oak trees in Arcadia, California. (http://www.arcadia4justice.org). We commented on the irony of his being in court on Earth Day being prosecuted for defending the Earth.  But mostly we laughed and shared stories which is part of why I love this amazing man—he is incredibly intelligent, committed, creative, active, caring and even though he is often on the front lines of destruction, continues to keep his playful spirit!  To check out his beautiful, powerful, and important creative work go to (www.spectralq.com).

The last event was in San Francisco at the New Living Expo.  All expos creep me out!  I haven’t done one in years and have turned down requests to do them because they are really just one big shopping mall, and although spending our money in conscious ways is crucial, we can not buy our way to enlightenment, nor can we just buy our way out of the mess we have created as a species on this planet!

And although I love beautiful rocks and crystals and gems just like the next person, the reality that no one ever seems to talk about is that all those booths of crystals and gems support MINING!!!!!  We are raping and pillaging the Earth for all those supposed enlightenment tools.  It turns my stomach and makes me want to cry.  We are so disconnected that we don’t realize we just raped the Earth for something that is supposedly “Divinely Conscious.”  Poor people.  We are so incredibly mislead and disconnected—even the most “conscious” amongst us.

But, I had agreed to do this expo because I had been there many years before and had called them to task to produce their event much more ecologically because it was so far out of integrity with what it was espousing in the world.  I said from stage that I would not come back until they stepped up their integrity. And in the ensuing years, they have shifted much of their production to be more ecologically aware and responsible.  Plus, I was going to be leaving out of San Francisco to head back to my new home in Belize, so it made sense logistically, as well as I am still financially recovering from massive bills from my torn ACL and reconstructive surgery on my feet, and as most of the work I do is pro-bono and I am not on paid staff anywhere, paid events are really needed right now.   So for these reasons, and because it was an opportunity to work with Daryl again, I agreed to do the New Living Expo again.

The conversation was moderated by my dear friend and ally, Marianne Manilov, who also, is co-director with Alissa Hauser of an organization I helped launch with them called The Engage Network (www.engagenet.org.) It was a lovely conversation and Marianne did a great job not only of moderating, but also presencing the need for community and building community as we do the work.  We talked about having love at the core of our work and choices and at the same time being fierce and active in the world without judgment.  We talked about uncovering our being underneath all the doing, and  allowing our core purpose to direct our actions and choices in the world.  We covered a lot of themes that are at the heart of the work of Engage, which made me really happy to  be a part.  Daryl  was delightful, sweet, funny, smart, and engaging as she was at every talk we did!  This event also had many of my friends in attendance, which was really heartwarming for me.

I got to my cave (as I lovingly call my sublet) around midnight, fell out exhausted  on my bed, but couldn’t sleep—something that usually happens to me every time I am about to go on a trip.  I still had much to do to be ready to leave, but I was much too exhausted to be coherent and focus.  I finally fell asleep for about 4 hours before getting up and finishing packing.  A dear friend came and picked me up and took me to the airport.  Again, I am SO grateful for the Angels in my life!

By the time this blog posts, I will be in Belize!  Warm Caribbean Sea, Papayas, Coconuts, and Friends await me!!!  I am so very humbled and so very grateful.  So grateful, it makes me cry.  It has been one long, intense, and literally as well as metaphorically, painful journey to find a place I feel at home.   After spending many years branching far and wide, I am now in the process of sending roots down deep, and it is the very best feeling—beyond what words can describe.

Here is to roots.

Love,

julia

Published in: on May 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm  Comments (8)  
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