Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stateside

We have been home for about a month now. It took some time to adjust to the stimulation of the western world. I still can’t drive and comfortably listen to music at the same time. Alyssa and I have bounced around from one gracious host to the next and are still in temporary housing, uncertain of our commitment to a long term living situation. Bali is still calling and the possibility of a third year at USM is whispering as well. I have gone back to hospice nursing part time 2-3 days a week and find myself writing on the days in between. Alyssa is in a stage of creativity and discovery exploring the possibilities of using her energy one on one and within a production company as well.
We hosted our first anahata meditation last night in Santa Monica and will continue to do that weekly, as it is something that inspires and moves us and has become foundational for our way of being. We remain well supported by friends and family in the way of places to stay and unconditional loving.
We have been singing and dancing. Dancing…we do it as much as possible and have found a nice community here. Not quite the same flavor as our Bali crew and yet interesting and fun. We will start hosting our own dance raves in the next couple of months and offer a loving space for our friends to gather and to let go and move however they feel called.
To think of this note as a wrap up is somewhat daunting. A quick list of what is true in this moment about my travels is: opening to the loving, surrender, trust, holding space, discovering untapped will power, intimate friendships, following the energy, beautiful men, amazing women, support from every direction, learning about myself through the reflection of others, peace in the chaos, understanding that falling in love is a matter of acceptance, and knowing that everything is always as it is meant to be!
Alyssa’s list: seeing Life as my teacher and paying attention to the lessons, witnessing patterns play out and yet aware of this peacefulness allowing the dance to be danced fully,
living outside my stories about life: outside my mind, listening to my body, experiencing love without objectifying it on someone or something, becoming more aware of mySelf... on many levels,
learning how to dance WITH life, following It's lead by living in harmony with the natural unfoldment and perfection of it all.

We may update our site from time to time as our intention is to continue this path of conscious growth and discovery. We send our love and care to each of you who offered support in any way. We felt so guided and loved along the way.
We are present to each passing moment and are open to ourselves, Spirit, and you. We look forward to more loving.

with great love and appreciation,
Alyssa and Laurel

Thursday, April 9, 2009

air tight security tag

Rewind to Chennai

We had arrived at the airport five hours early only to discover that we were an entire day late. We had stayed in Tiruvalamanai for an extra day in order to go to Satsong with a man named Mooji. Mooji was dear and shiny and full of compassion, but maybe not worth the ensuing three days of testing our resolve in Chennai. Or maybe sitting in Satsong with him was a major contributing factor for Alyssa and I not killing each other during our sleep while we were stuck in Chennai. I suppose you could look at it either way. So, we saw Mooji, said goodbye to our friends, found our magic bus out of Tiru and sang our way to the East coast of India. We were high on life and feeling very proud for once again getting on the right bus and enjoying the sights and people as we traveled. We got off the bus and negotiated a great rate for what we thought was to be our very last rickshaw ride. Over our five weeks in India, Alyssa had mastered a firm yet fair approach to negotiating rates for a ride. Something street came out in her and she was always ready to walk away if she felt we were being had. I learned a lot. I learned that I always want to be on her side of any negotiation. We arrived at the airport plenty early to find hundreds and hundreds of people milling about. We looked at each other, smiled, and took a deep breath.
In India people send their loved ones off at the airport. I kid you not. I counted 30 people saying goodbye to one couple on the first night we arrived. It was wild. I’m not sure how long this young couple was planning on being away, but from the sad looks the family was giving them, it was going to be a long time. I tell you this so you can get some idea of the vast number of people standing around. Standing energy is not the same as traveling energy. There is no hurry, no forward motion, and no real travel intention. No inertia to facilitate the process of movement. That night there seemed to be more of the standers than the travelers. And although this may be nice for the people being sent off, it creates somewhat of a log- jam for the rest of us. Family is important in India and if your third cousin is going away for a week, departing on a Saturday night, then it’s an event. That is what is happening for the entire family. It wasn’t easy to navigate our huge backpacks through this emotionally charged cloud of goodbyes. And as we are learning that expressing gratitude makes everything more graceful and can be quite heart opening, I was very grateful for my travel partner and for the cart that she had scored upon our arrival.
We were sharing one print out of our itinerary, which made our legitimacy of slight concern for the armed guards at the outer door of the airport. One of the things we have come to learn about India is that people (men in particular) like to negotiate. Friction seems to be the best part of any conversation especially between one who is serving and one who is being served. My name really wasn’t on any of the paperwork that we were holding, but Alyssa had reserved two seats under her name. And so it goes, Alyssa (read master negotiator) firmly expressed the reality of the situation and proceeded to push us past not one but two men holding guns. It seems once you engage in some sort of back and forth, some type of verbal banter than your argument gains some credibility. “You can see right here sir, that we have obviously paid for two tickets” “These tickets were purchased months ago in the US and we have had no problem traveling with them” “Here is the airline name” “Here is my name, the same as the passport” “and you can see from this number two here that there are two people traveling” “thank you!” Easy. This technique continued to serve us well for the next three days.
We cued up to take our backpacks through the x-ray machine. I was so curious about how some of the standers, family members, had talked their way into the airport to continue the goodbyes. They proved to be very protective of the cueing process and so Alyssa and I kept cool and calm as we waited in line to get our luggage screened. The gentleman monitoring this line tried to tell us after spending an hour in line that we were too early and that we needed to step aside. Ouch. We disagreed and used our “we are right you are wrong;” “we know something that you don’t” approach which worked perfectly. We were steps closer.
One thing we have come to take note of is the energy present not only internally but externally as we travel and move around in this world. Our internal experience was slightly altered as we had had a very long day starting with Mooji and a four-hour bus ride and now the slight chaos of the airport. My internal gauge was not so sharp, but something in the way we were being handled had me curious about our flight. We had only briefly talked about it earlier in the week and I knew we were departing early morning on the 10th but that was all I could remember. Alyssa must have been feeling the same thing as we both glanced at our paperwork and I said to her quietly yet with some unfortunate certainty, “I think we were supposed to be here last night.” It was a very calm realization and utterly true. What was there to do in that moment except to move forward? And so we did. More deep breaths.
Sure enough, it was confirmed that we had indeed missed our early am flight and that the planes leaving the city for the next two days to Thailand were completely full. No hopes of standing by, but we did anyway on that first night. It was emotionally draining and physically tiring. We approached the counter time and again only to be told no, there were no seats and could we stand a little farther away from the counter. Sure. Hours and hours passed while Alyssa listened to her ipod and I watched people while making up stories about their lives. We watched one gentleman race to the ticket counter as it was shutting down for the night. He tried with great effort to plead his case but to no avail. They denied him access as he was over 30 minutes late and the plane was scheduled to depart in less than 15 minutes. I did find it curious though that his seat was available at the time we last checked for seats and later during the course of their heated talks we found out that there were two seats on the plane that night. Apparently we had other things to do in Chennai. We were not meant to fly that night, nor the next. We made an agreement to come back two days later for the same flight and the man behind the counter said it would be no charge and then he initialed our paperwork. Seriously, this would not happen in the US. Initialing paperwork to make it valid, people giving their word that we would be able to fly in a couple of days for no fee. Wow. He said if we had any trouble with security to give them his name. That felt good.
One of the most intense sleeping nights we had had so far during the trip was on the front end of Chennai. We booked that hotel because we had arrived late at the airport and needed just a few hours of rest before our bus ride. The room was so dirty that we simply brushed our teeth and stayed in our clothes lying on top of the covers. Well, here we were again. An unexpected late night need for a hotel near the airport in Chennai. We bargained to the best of our ability and made our way to a less bug infested “three star” hotel. I was feeling deflated, defeated, and drained. The room had a terrible smell and I was struggling to find some gratitude. The day that had started out so well and turned into a weird night feeling stuck in a place which neither of us had intended. We said goodnight and sleep came.
We skipped out on what could have been our second night at the airport. They had offered for us to come and “stand by” again with little to no hope of getting on board. After a long day of calling different travel groups and checking the internet, we yielded to Chennai and surrendered to our bug infested hotel room.
On that second day we decided to put our USM tools to practice and take this as a learning opportunity. It isn’t the issue that is important but how you relate to the issue. Well our issue was being stuck in a place that we did not like. Not only did we not like it, we had upset about it, we kind of hated it. So, what do you imagine it was reflecting to us? There was friction all around and definitely inside of us as well. Everything that Alyssa said was wrong and I think I even started to judge the way she was breathing. I think it was her though that made the plan to take advantage of this learning opportunity. We knew we were not likely to leave the country for another day and a half. So we devised a plan. Let’s go see a movie. Oh my god, a movie. That was an amazing idea. How do we even find a movie in India? We were excited about this new challenge and the research began. The plan was to spend the next afternoon and what we hoped would be our last day in India at a very fancy movie theater far far away from our hotel. We chose the movie Australia. At the time we thought it would be a good way to warm up. (fast forward, or rewind as the case may be, to the part of the blog where Alyssa and I cancel our flights to Australia and New Zealand). We had a great time planning our day and devising our plans for transport inside of the city. It seemed with the movie plan in action that our second night at the hotel was somewhat more bearable than the first. We each took a Tylenol PM just to ease our process and we were off to sleep.
Not only did our third day bring the hope of a movie, but Alyssa plucked my eyebrows for the first time. This was indeed a long overdue procedure. It seemed as if things really were turning around for us. Our attitude, though not detailed in this writing, did become quite piss poor during our first stuck day. It wasn’t until the second day while feeling all of the internal upset about what should be different and seeing negative reflections all around that we both clued in to what we could shift about the experience. Us. We still had dominion over our internal process even though Chennai was ruling our physical world. We made a conscious choice to be more open and more loving not only with ourselves but with each other and our environment as well. We made our way to the most beautiful movie theater I have ever seen and enjoyed Australia to the fullest. We were somewhat alarmed though when a little over an hour into the movie the screen went blank and everyone started walking out. Seeing our confusion, our neighbor leaned over to explain that this was an intermission. How nice. How weird and nice. It was a good day. The movie and the intention of the day had been a success. We made our way back to the hotel, grabbed our backpacks and departed for the airport. We had high hopes, low expectations, and less of an attachment to the outcome.
With our cautious optimism and nervous stomachs we arrived again and waved our way past the familiar security guards. We had kept our security ties on our bags from two days earlier and this made it easy to skip out on an entire line of pushing and poking. I actually kept the tie on the lower half of my bag for the rest of our trip. It was like a badge I had gotten at camp for accomplishing something. (see picture)
Again more deep breaths and smiling at our new found equilibrium. So this is what Goenka meant about equilibrium during our Vipassanna training. It was helpful, once we had remembered to be aware of it. Our experience was easy and graceful. It was perfect timing. We gave up our bags, made our way to the gate, then into the plane and found our seats. It wasn’t until the airplane doors were closed that I actually believed we might be leaving India. I felt as if we had made some great escape. Maybe that’s the relief a smuggler has after reaching his destination. It is sweet!
Transitions can be some of the most challenging part of our lives. We found that from country to country that the few days arriving, of getting grounded and integrating the newness of our environment can prove challenging. We found that meditating and being completely responsible for our own experience was very helpful in traveling together. The space between where you are and where you are going is the only place that you are. The power of the now. The only time to do anything with or about. And in this space, the now, all you have dominion over is your internal experience. Bringing our consciousness to our “stuckness” and choosing to use a different filter, to shift our perspective, shifted our experience. Once we surrendered to Chennai we were back in the flow. Life does not want a fight. Chennai helped us put into practice things we were learning for the past two years. It was a challenging, opening, rewarding experience. I am grateful for the lessons and for all of the transitions in my life. Transitions are a time to reflect, to gather my resources, and to know that all is well. All is well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

more bali pics

http://picasaweb.google.com/LaurelLLewis/BaliAgain#

Monday, March 30, 2009

Headed West

It's a travel day today. I am in Malaysia and Alyssa is in the air on her way back to the states. The first time in months that we haven't been together. We had joked about me not coming home before we left. I am coming home...but not for a couple of weeks. We have left Bali, for now. Left behind some of the most bright and shiny souls we have encountered since our USM class. We discovered so much love and joy in ourselves encouraged by the Bali way. This past week in Bali was one of the most holy times of the year. We felt it. We danced, played, sang, meditated, and loved loved loved. Our last adventure together was the regular hosting of our Anahata meditation circle. Our friends Rolf and Karina have asked to keep the circle going and we are so pleased that they feel as good about sharing the loving as we do. Our plan is to take it home. Be looking for the invite to our welcome home party which will take the form of this loving circle. It feels to soon to close out our travel journal together even though we are not together. I feel Alyssa flying through the air and know that her family is stoked to see her. I have learned more about myself through the reflections that she offers than all of the travel experiences put together. What we have done we are so grateful for. Yes yes yes. We said it and we gave ourselves permission to do it. In the slightest ways maybe you could do the same! As we know it's not the travel, it's the exploration. Thank you all for your love and support. We look forward to reconnecting! I'll be posting more of my travels in my facebook notes.
Blessed blessed day.
big love from Alyssa and Laurel

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nyepi

Today is Nyepi. It is the Balinese New Year. We are in our villa, not eating, or speaking for 24 hours. The entire island is meant to be doing the same. I think it must be true for the most part as I haven’t seen a soul in the rice fields today, nor heard the men screeching to keep the birds away. We heard if you wander away from your house that the police strongly urge you to return. Some how without our knowing the silence from our Indian Vipassana and the fasting from Thailand have come together on this holy day here in Bali.
It is obvious we haven’t written for awhile. Bali has so moved us that we skipped out on the rest of our itinerary to decide if this was a place we would want to come back to for a more long term adventure. We have both agreed YES! This is someplace that we will be coming back to, sooner rather than later.
It is hard to capture the magic that is Bali. The subtle energy flow, perfect synchronicities, open hearts, smiles, the beauty and power of ceremony, the mountains, water, rice fields, soul connections, play. I have discovered how much I love to dance as a means of creative expression since I came here. I have also discovered one of my favorite things to do is to love.
Alyssa and I still host a Sunday night Anahata meditation which we will miss here but will be taking with us to Santa Monica. I will be meeting her back home April 14 after making a two week stop to explore Switzerland and France and a beautiful man named Guillaume. Alyssa arrives home just before me and we both look forward to reconnecting with all of our friends and family.
Alyssa and I gave a workshop here on the art of loving. It was a good process and we discovered that one of the things we value is holding a space for people to explore themselves. We will continue to do it in some form wherever we go. We see nothing but beautiful exciting possibilities for us both here and “home”. We are open to allowing our greatest ideals to come forward and have gained more clarity around continuing to share the tools and principles we learned while at USM.
Alyssa continues to amaze me as a wonderful spiritual travel companion and soul friend. We get asked at least every other day if we are sisters. We get accused of being angels. We delight in playing and exploring together. We have learned to navigate not only our inner world but this outer world with love as our guidance system. A renewable resource. Open mind, open heart, open world.
With deep love and gratitude for your continued interest and support, we send love from Bali..
Alyssa and Laurel

Friday, February 27, 2009

Following the Energy

Blessings all,
I am not sure every will be surprised by our news, our last post did indicate that we were feeling our way into this incredible paradise in a very deep and rich way. Alyssa and I cancelled the rest of our journey and intend to stay in Bali for another month!!! As of today we actually have no ticket home, but that's just because we are looking for a good deal. We have both moved into such a realm of grace and allowance in this place. Manifestation, living with intentions, the beauty of not only the land but the energy of this place is like no other. I have thought of telepathy before, but Bali is actually a place where one could really move into that kind of gift. I use that as a small example of the very "unreal" way things work here. The reality that exists here is unlike the day to day for the rest of the planet and it is the perfect place to play with the flow of life, or to play with how life is flowing through us.
Our connections have continued to grow and our circle of friends includes some very open, inetelligent, transparent, forward thinking, globally minded, service oriented, and creative personalities.
Alyssa and I are amazed by the company we keep. We get the joy of reflecting to each other the wonderful projections that this company is. We had no idea that the University of Santa Monica would play such an important part of this time in our lives. The "third year" is still unfolding.
The energy of Australia and New Zealand yielded to the peace, grace, beauty, and inspiration of Bali.
We moved from one incredible villa to another which is located in the rice fields where we can watch the farmers work the field as a meditation in and of itself. We are still meditating and have hosted our third Anahata meditation at a local yoga studio. It is a wonderful loving meditation, simple and powerful where each participant takes turns sitting in the middle of the circle receiving the loving of everyone in the room. JUICEY!
For the past two days I have had mixed emotions which generally come in time of transitions. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do whatever it is I want to do and I do so miss my families back home. I am eternally grateful for my travel partner who has taught me as much about myself in these past months as the travel itself.
Alyssa continues to read, write, play, and dance her way through the days. She has gone slightly raw these days which is admirable and yet not quite inspiring enough for this southern girl to give up her cooked food. Cutting back on the fried has been hard enough.
I am buying a mac today to begin working on a writing project that can no longer be contained. We intend also to work with some of the projects we have found in Bali, to what degree we don't know. Start where you are. That is what I am doing.
So much love to each of you my heart breaks the boundaries of my chest....
If you have thought of us these past months, sent good thoughts, love, well wishes, curious inquiries, feedback...we have been truly grateful for the connections. The energy between is all there is...
Love is the energy to follow, let's see where it will lead...
Laurel & Alyssa

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bali Bliss

Bali, natural beauty, manifestation, heart and soul connections, transparency, the flow of life, easy breathing, warm rainstorms, sensual food, peace of mind, living meditation, dancing 5 rhythms, tantra, exploring new friends. Our villa M is more beautiful than the ideal scene we had created in our minds. We host our first Anahata meditation tonight and will allow the love to flow as it already does with wonder and beauty between souls. (I know this is poetic, it is the mood I am in right now ;-) ) Feeling each of you as you call us into your minds, we say hello with the sweetest hug of appreciation and love.
Bali has touched each of us in a deep way and we are considering making some changes to our plans. It is too soon to tell.
Only in Bali can you go to dinner in the middle of the rice fields, eat a slow wonderful meal and have the staff say, "we are going home now, stay as long as you want." Only in Bali.
We have reconnected with old friends here and are grateful for the new friends who have blessed us.
I have danced here in ways that I did not know where possible and have opened to the mystery of life that animates us all.
There are some amazing humanitarian projects that are calling both Alyssa and I. We are exploring.
A spiritual fast in India, a physical fast in Thailand...revalations both inner and outer, Bali is a place to balance and to harness the power from within to manifest a positive influence externally. We are ready.
Much love and gratitude for the support.
All is well, all is well.

xo
Laurel & Alyssa

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wasting away

It's hard to imagine 5 gallons of coffee water going up your bum twice a day for seven days, but that is part of the process we went through in Thailand. The most chiseled Greek man instructed us on how to insert our own private poop wand and also how to manipulate and massage the colon for maximum results.
We drank a psyllium and bentonite shake 5 times daily to help with fiber and detox issues. We drank carrot juice and coconut juice once a day (thus leading to Alyssa's new affair with the fruit) and we took some warm broth at "dinner time". We also took 6 pills 5 times a day. We had daily massage, God bless Pa and her 67 year old awesome self, a daily herbal sauna, and the best team to support what was a slightly awkward experience.
I had no idea someone could still be pooping 7 days after eating nothing while taking twice daily "colemas"!
It is possible.
We each lost nearly 10 pounds. I had already lost quite a bit in India and my body sort of went into freak out mode. I was so grateful to be eating again and our first meal of watermelon was awesome.
We had a wonderful friend, Drew, who brought us a chocolate cake that we really were not suppose to eat for another four days. I dipped my finger into the chocolate sauce in the morning and by afternoon I committed to one full bite. Alyssa was incredibly disciplined and she skipped the chocolate. Her will power is still in high gear.
I highly recommend a detox program and if you want a good environment check out Thailand.
So many new adventures...inside and out.
much love,
A & L

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thai Life

Big hugs and love to all of you. I haven't written in awhile because I was too weak from my fasting and detoxing. Potent is one word that comes to mind. Alyssa had the idea to do a detox and as usual I was up for something. We found a wonderful resort that had yoga and detox. Agama/Ananda on the island of koh phangan and that is where we spent our time in Thailand. It is an amazingly beautiful island, with lush vegetation, friendly people, clear water, and perfect beaches. We met, once again, an array of wonderful souls some of whom we had connected with in India. Our idea of a short fast turned into a 7 day program, details to follow in another post. Needless to say we each lost weight and each have gained some insight into our relationship with food. I have never done anything like this before and was completely intrigued by the process, but by day 5 I was super weak with barely enough strength to slather on the sunscreen to head down to the beach to chill out. The fast and detox was a good success and we have been happily eating again for over a week now.
We rented a motor bike on the island which allowed us great freedom and we played everyday with each other and the friends we made. Exploring the island was one of my favorite things.
I continue to be surprised by all of the support we have received along the way. A simple shout out to Spirit has always left of better off.
We stayed in only two bungalows on the island and it was nice to feel more grounded than in India. The sunsets were perfect and once we started eating again the food was worth the wait. Alyssa has gone wild for coconuts and will eat one at any time of day.
We have continued to meditate but not vipassana style. I have also taken us through some yoga and Alyssa sometimes calls me her teacher. A big shout out to my teacher, Manjula, for all of her wisdom.
We have each grown in our intuition and are more deeply connected not only to each other but ourselves.
Continued gratitude for all of the love and support coming from home. We plan to find a house in Ubud and get even more settled. Hopefully that will become more clear with more writing. Much love to you all. Big hugs and kisses.
Laurel & Alyssa

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A rodent, a roach, and a spider

"We took a vow not to kill anything", I whispered to Alyssa in a low tone; breaking the vow of noble silence that we all took five days prior. She was holding my dirty well worn flip flop in one hand offering it up for the destruction of one of the largest roaches I have ever seen. Jacked up and an evolutionary phenomenon.
It was Christmas day, or so at least I thought it was. We had been in vipasanna for five days. I had thought hard to remember the long days as they went by without any connection with the outside world or a calendar. December 22nd, December 23rd, December 24th. I would say it to myself several times a day. I had planned to slip my leftover goji berries into Alyssa's tent as a Christmas gift. In reflection, I'm not sure about the day, but I am sure about the visitors.
Each day we heard a loud gong outside of our dorm at 4am. The next set of bells was distinctly different ringing persistently at 4:25am letting us know we had five minutes to get to the meditation hall for two hours of pre breakfast meditation. As I claimed out of my brilliant one man anti insect tent set up on a one inch foam pad on the floor, I noticed some rather large droppings. Having grown up in the South, I know my droppings. This was definitely larger than a roach but not large enough to be a rat. Gross. Mice running all over the place and relaxing long enough outside of my tent to take a dump. These droppings scattered around the room and against vipasanna rules, but not breaking any vows, I touched Alyssa's leg as she climbed out of her tent and shined my flashlight on the evidence so she could be careful not to smash any with her bare feet. She looked at me with both surprise and concern. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn't know what else to do. I collected all of the droppings I could find, some at the foot of the tent some precariously close to where my face was at night. I suppose our friend could have been searching for the goji berries himself. We had been instructed to hand over all of our personal valuables; money, credit cards, passports, jewelry, books, electronics, and food. Some how it had not registered to deliver my goji berries and thus began the mouses nightly hunt.
The day was structured exactly the same as every other day. 4am gong, 2 hour meditation, breakfast, 3 hours of meditation, lunch, 4 hours of meditation, dinner, 1hour of meditation, 1 and 1/2 hour discourse followed by 1/2 hour of meditation. On this day in between I tossed the berries into Alyssa's tent and she eventually found them, but of course not only could we not talk about it, but we could not even make eye contact or gesture the happening.
After evening meditation, we retired to our room as usual. Upon entering the room Alyssa's energy was fired up and she was attending to her backpack with great alertness and concern. She mouthed the word roach and pointed to her 40 lb pack. We had both already dressed for bed which meant we were wearing very small cotton shorts and skimpy shirts. Not appropriate for Indian public but fine for our room of three. Imagine two grown women tossing a backpack back and forth kicking and poking at it to encourage the beast to show himself. There was inappropriate giggling and great sighs as we dance and hopped around the room. I smartly gathered my awesome flashlight and made contact with it. I grabbed the can of off insect repellent and thought I could stun it or poi sen it. I sprayed away with our baby powder scented off and made direct contact with it at least four times. It slowed him down a bit, but it became obvious that this alone was not going to take him down. We were all dancing around the room until eventually he was cornered.
Alyssa was holding my flip flop and the death of this roach was weighing unusually heavy on my mind. "We vowed not to kill anything", I whispered. She looked at me now shrugging her shoulders. This was my duty as I was the one closest to the roach and in the course of the year of rooming together it had become a near nightly ritual back in Santa Monica to capture and release spiders from Alyssa's room. She would often watch me release them outside to be assured of proper removal.
I knew I didn't have much time as my history with roaches shows they are both fast and resilient. I had no idea how long the blasts of off would be in effect. I was intent not to break the vow and I quickly scanned the room and saw a huge plastic Target bag that was holding my shoes. I dumped the shoes and with a deep breath of courage, I put my hand inside of the bag and in one brave swift move lunged forward and grabbed at the beast with my bagged hand. There was no denying I had in my grasp as I could feel his feet struggling against my fingers. I had been training my mind all week to remain equanamous (this was a true test). Shivers running throughout my body feeling him trapped with such a small barrier between us. Alyssa forged the path through our dorm and outside to the nearby forest where I with great force and directness opened my hand and through the beast into the woods. In the past, in all other circumstances I would have smashed this bug. This vow was serious and yet I could see the alternative. This alternative was not only emotionally unpleasant but would have been physically inappropriate as smashing this size of a roach would have left me with a major clean up. What I had chosen seemed to be morally, spiritually, and physically correct.
Huge sighs of relief abound and smiles. We headed back to our room. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and usefulness. I was feeling resourceful and creative. Vipasanna is about equanimity regardless of what is happening. For the fifth day in, I think we were doing OK. I climbed into my tent and Alyssa let out another concerned sigh. I glanced over at her, now what, I thought. Her nemesis, the spider, which she has been dealing with nearly daily since I've known her was not only in our room, but inside of her tent. Yikes. She mustered her own courage and went in after it, tissue in hand. Her own capture and release. I was so proud of her. She was certainly overcoming her fears.
We turned the lights out and each breathed in and out the events of the day. Our Christmas day in India, in vipassana. The morning brought screeches of a mouse, a sound I had never heard and didn't know was possible. The mouse had run from an area close to my head and directly onto and across our third roommate who just happened to be our cook and den mother, a native Indian. She shot up and kept her cool as she scanned her bed for the mouse. Eventually we found it up in the rafters peering down at us. I was sure he was ready to leap onto my face at first chance. It had been our nightly visitor and continued to be so throughout the week.
A big shout out at this point to Steve, the man who suggested we purchase tents to protect us from mosquitoes. Who knew these tents would also keep us safe from so many other creatures of the night.
Vipasanna taught us that all things come to pass. Life has a rhythm. We were not able to talk about the incident for five more days. We laughed and giggled so hard recounting our Christmas day, breaking some vows and keeping others. What will be will be. We did our very best that week and have both come away with some profound lessons. That night and the following morning had me feeling more connected not only to myself but also to nature and all of what she is. Of course, we still get startled from time to time, but we both realize there is a place for all of us to come and go-to exist and to pass. Us, the rodent, the roach, and the spider.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Leaving India and taking her with us

Surrender, compassion, gratitude, peace, equanimity, connection, solace of the mind and heart...these are what come into my awareness as I sit to write our last entry for our time in India. We stayed in Tiruvalamanai longer than we thought we would because we were both wooed by the mountain. There are two "caves" that Ramana spent much of his time in on the mountain and we both enjoyed the energy and vibrations of those places. We circumvented the mountain with our Finish friend Arrtu. I read somewhere that circling Arunachula was energetically similar to going around the globe. Lucky us we saved time and money! We found ourselves time and again on the mountain, reading, playing, dancing, listening to music, meditating, meeting friends, enjoying sunsets, being. We sat day after day in the meditation hall and listened to the vedic chants. The quality of quiet was different than during Vipassana. It seems as if vipassana allowed for an opening and a richness, a depth to occur, that was my experience. The company was again entertaining and diverse. The local restaurants served the food we needed. I seem to have replaced my starbuck's grande triple breve latte addiction with that of masala tea! And so it goes. We have been playing games with awareness and intuition and verbalizing our sense of knowings and watching the magic unfold before our eyes. We have met some brilliant shining Spirits who take us in and show us things that are important to them. We have taken late night motorbike rides and meditated at ancient temples under the moonlight. We have been delighted at what has been reflected to us in our journey in India. Again, when I close my eyes, gratitude for life and for this experience floods through me. We missed our flight out of Chennai and have made the best of our layover here. We plan to leave for Thailand tonight and may spend the day at the cinema watching the movie "Australia" which seems appropriate as it follows our time in Bali. Thank you for your love and support. We have been blessed to be witnesses to the way life is expressing itself here in this vast and complex region of the world. All is well... All is well...
much love, Alyssa and Laurel

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Breaking the Silence

Writing about the experience of vipassana is difficult. I think that is because it is an intense introspective experience, highly individualized and obviously personal. For me, it was one of the best choices I have made in my adult life. The environment was both beautiful and challenging. The morning gong was rung at 4 am and we started each morning with 2 hours of meditation before breakfast. Basically time to eat and pray with an occasional bathroom break. We washed our clothes and hung them out to dry, which to me felt extremely feminine and purposeful. We were in complete silence for 10 days and meditating for 10 and a half hours each day. We now have no issue sitting still with our legs crossed which has been quite nice since our arrival here in Tiruvannamalai and the ashram of one of Alyssa's teachers, Ramana Maharishi. We left the silent retreat and headed to Varkala, a wonderful beach town close by. We played in the ocean, met wonderful people, and finally after ten days chose what we wanted to eat from a menu. We flew across India from west to east and took a four hour bus today to be with this wonderful mountain named Arunachala. Peaceful, expansive, connected.
We haven't taken any pictures for awhile because the batteries here in India are only good for about 4 pics. We will send some along as soon as the friends we have made along the way send them to us. We are both filled with so much gratitude for this experience and we both feel the love and support of all of you! We really do.
Thank you is not enough of an expression for the appreciation we have for those of you sending us love and notes and thoughts.
We went into the silence and explored ourselves and found you. Much love to you all.
Alyssa and Laurel