January 18, 2013
November 20, 2012
I’m still here.
Planet Earth > Europe > Italy > Umbria > Assisi > Nocera Umbra > Ananda.
I’m in Ananda’s “library” with artist Mavis Muller. Mavis traveled from Alaska to Spain to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of an oil spill that happened in Galicia. She wove a basket sculpture in the form of a fractured heart, which was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vigo. The public was invited to begin to tie the heart back together with rainbow-colored ribbons, and the plan was to release the basket by burning it. But the museum was unable to secure a permit from the fire department to burn a sculpture on the streets of downtown Vigo. So, the fractured heart sculpture is being shipped here to Italy. On 12/12/12, we will have a community ceremony to burn the sculpture after Ananda community members have had the opportunity to add their own white ribbons!
The leaves have been turning here in Umbria the last few weeks. I’m loving the blazing colors, the brisk cold fresh fresh air, the smell of firewood burning.
This is my second autumn with the actual seasonal evidence (sorely lacking in Los Angeles), and I love it.
The day after tomorrow will be my second Thanksgiving abroad.
Last year I was in Argentina, and had a big fat steak with an Australian friend (click here for the blog and here for photos of the meal).
This year I will be having a vegetarian Thanksgiving in Italy at an Ashram with Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French, British, Croatian, Swiss, German, Canadian and American friends.
I love my life.
September 17, 2012
Kittens. Nature’s antidepressant.
When we moved into our apartment, we were greeted by a small, sleek, cuddly calico cat. We decided to name her Bella – I know, cliché, but it’s fun to come home and say “Ciaooo Bella!!!” We later found out her real name is Matilda, but we still call her Bella.
One day, about two weeks after we’d moved in, Bella showed up with these two little fluff balls following her. We immediately tried to grab them, as you do with kittens, and they hissed at us and tried to puff up and look ferocious. This, of course, elicited a lot of squealing from us girls.
We called the orange tabby Zenzero l’Impavido (Ginger the Fearless) and the white one Neve la Timida (Snow the Timid).
When we sit outside for breakfast in the mornings they’ll scamper about, pouncing on twigs and leaves, pouncing on each other, and generally spazzing out.
After living with a wise woman in Patagonia (yes Ginny, that’s you! ) and learning about Native American animal symbolism, I wondered – what can kittens teach us?
Observing them, I see that through playing they develop what later become skills – focus, courage, determination, secret attack strategies. I see that they grow a little, day by day.
They’re full of energy, they’re curious. They’re present.
They encourage me to be more playful, to be ok with risking looking silly.
Then, of course, there’s the pure joy that you feel when you see a spunky, wobbly little kitten bounding around aimlessly. Feeling this joy, this wellbeing is, I think, the main point of life.
How can we have more fun, today? How can we be more present, more joyful, more playful? How can we enjoy life a little more than we did yesterday?
Having kittens around is a good start.
September 7, 2012
I think I should do another Blog-a-Day Challenge. I am entirely out of the habit of blogging, and I need something to get me over the resistance/fear that accompanies creating. Plus there’s been so much amazingness going on in my life these past few months, I feel guilty not sharing!!! (I’ve ditched most of my general guilt, but I still haven’t managed to completely shake the blogging guilt…)
So I’ll do a blog-a-day starting today and going through September 20th, when I leave my home of the last month and a half for a trip to Florence and the Ligurian coast.
For the last three weeks I’ve been renting a room with two lovely roommates about 5 kilometeres from the Ananda center here in Italy. We’re an international bunch, me being from the states, one roommie, Calypso, hailing from Greece, and the other, Luigi, an Italian native (obviously… Luigi). A Portuguese woman named Lakshmi normally occupies the three-room apartment; she’d been house-sitting but is moving back in next week.
After a year and two months of Nomad Living, the thought of committing to stay anywhere for more than a month at a time brings up some issues for me. Though I don’t want to keep traveling forever, and I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling, I haven’t entirely shaken the itch to keep moving. But life here at Ananda is pretty close to my dream life. I’ve got a community and group of close friends who already feel like family. Everybody meditates and does yoga. The community is working towards self-sufficiency, and I’m helping to launch the Academy of Art, Creativity, and Consciousness. I’m speaking Italian every day. The air is fresh. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. My house is in the countryside overlooking olive groves, and our neighbors make home-pressed olive oil from their orchards, which we can see from our bathroom window.
For now, I’m happy here. Very happy! Yet at the same time, not entirely sure I’m ready to commit to staying… I feel I still need to be following my bliss and inspiration, and I don’t want to confuse myself and my path by making commitments to other people and becoming entangled in their plans… So, I’m sorting through some things, figuring out which is the voice of fear and which is the voice of my soul.
August 18, 2012
I’ve been here at Ananda for a month, and it’s flown by. It’s beautiful here, and I’ve been meeting new people every day. Most of them thought they knew me or had met me before, that odd sense of familiarity – what is that? Is it the knowing of a prior lifetime? A soul recognition, a soul resonance? Is it a product of my Irish/English face, the genes that have spread around the globe? Is it merely my love for people in general, my work at being open that causes them to feel that we are closer than strangers normally are, that I accept them like an old friend would?
My days at Ananda usually begin around 5:30am. Recharging exercises (a series of breathing and muscle tensing exercises), kriya yoga, and meditation at 6am or a shorter one at 7am, in the temple or the yoga hall. Breakfast served at 8:45am – homemade yogurt, fresh baked bread, honey, oatmeal, cream of rice, corn flakes, fruit, coffee, tea… and, occasionally, unfortunately, Nutella. I cannot NOT eat Nutella if it’s within eyesight.
While here at Ananda I participated in the ‘Yoga in Action’ and ‘Service is Joy’ programs, so for a discount on room and board I volunteered around 20 to 30 hours per week, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming the large dining room, cleaning bathrooms. We were given a few tips on working joyfully that were actually quite effective, so I almost always enjoyed the work – I even learned to scrub toilets without minding. This for me was quite interesting. I feel like I didn’t really learn to clean the house growing up – searching my memory banks (which are fairly sparse on childhood memories), washing dishes, cleaning windows, washing the car and taking out the trash were some of the chores I remembered doing. I don’t remember ever actually cleaning the house or bathrooms, so I think for those reasons they were always chores I’d avoided after growing up. Through this work at Ananda I learned (and practiced) cleaning efficiently, without negative feelings or resistance. The daunting concept of cleaning has become more manageable.
Sometimes in the morning we would have Sadhana meetings with Tony and Namasia, the two directors of ‘the Service is Joy’ programs, during which we would meditate and discuss spiritual readings and topics – part education, part therapy. During ‘Yoga is Action’ we were allowed to take one of the courses offered at the center – I did “How to Live With More Energy” and the incredible art workshop with Dana Lynn Anderson “Painting from the Heart and Soul”.
Lunch is served at Ananda at 1:30pm. Vegetarian/vegan, always a salad bar and fruit and steamed veggies and rice and then the day’s offering – gorgonzola pasta or stuffed zucchini or a lentil dish. I’ve been eating entirely too much as I always want to try everything, and the fresh bread is so good.
Afternoons are more work or class, yoga and meditation around 5:45pm, dinner served at 7:30pm. Most evenings there’s something to do after dinner – kirtan music and dancing, a talk about art or community, a concert by the resident cellist or a visiting violinist.
There are about 150 people who live here in the Ananda Community, and anywhere from 30-100 guests who stay at the retreat center. So there are always people around to chat with and new people to meet.
Everything is in Italian and English, which I absolutely love. I’ve gotten to translate a few times – in a yoga class, in a meeting. It’s a skill I’ll have to practice more – it’s challenging to be talking at the same time someone else is an trying to keep up – but I enjoy it.
Sunsets here are amazing. In 30 days I think I only saw one sunset that wasn’t spectacularly vibrant reds and oranges. And the views are 100% Italian – rolling hills, patchworks of fields, green trees, stone houses.
July 21, 2012
I feel like I’m living in a dream. Not a freaky weird dream – an awesomely surreal dream, a dream of my own invention.
To pick up where my last blog left off, on July 2nd my couchsurfing host/new friend Dario and I flew to Barcelona to attend the Nowhere festival, the European equivalent of Burning Man. I spent a week in the Spanish desert dressing up in crazy costumes, meeting crazy and fascinating people from all over the world, dancing, and laughing my arse off. I joined Costume Camp, which was perfect since as a nomad I don’t have any costumes with me. Some of my favorite moments include being a part of the Baywatch Flash Mob, during which we ran slow-motion through the desert and “saved” “drowning” people by pouring whiskey in their eyes and giving them boob-to-mouth resuscitation with our Pamela Anderson sized balloon breasts, and watching a group of Pirates pillage the Babycham camp while my friend Sam grabbed a 5 kilo jar of Nutella from the French camp and smeared Nutella all over the pirate’s faces.
I’d left my return from Nowhere open-ended, and ended up in a van back to Barcelona with a few of my favorite new friends – the stunningly fit and hilarious South African couple who coordinated Costume Camp, the British ginger-haired stylist who lives in her pimped-out caravan and travels around Europe, and an 11-time Burner veteran from San Francisco who we call “The Solution” because he solves every single problem you throw at him (including sand in the lens of my brand new camera).
Post Nowhere, our motley crew spent the week in a beautiful house in the mountains outside of Barcelona. I fell in love with the Spanish architecture and got my first taste of Gaudi. I was mightily tempted to just stay in Barcelona forever, and ditch my plans to come back to Italy for a yoga/meditation/service program at Ananda in Umbria…
But in the end my spiritual drive won out and I caught a plane and a train back to Italy. So now I am living a dream I never even knew I had – doing yoga and meditation and serving at the Ananda Center/spiritual community in Umbria. All the yoga classes and lectures and meditation classes are in Italian… Heaven!
I’m sitting in a little glass house where you can access wifi. It’s late and I can see lightning flashing and hear thunder rumbling – time to go to bed. More on Ananda next week…