Eat, Pray, Love…Pray, Eat, Love

This year I made the choice to live differently and that I have!

After resigning in December and transitioning my agency to new management, I have travelled all over, had more bottles of wine and champagne than I can count, hosted parties, shared all sorts of foods, walked, talked and laughed more than ever in my life. This has been my year of reflection and renewal. This has been my year to Eat, Pray, Love only I altered the order to Pray, Eat, Love!

After leaving the agency, I travelled with my youngest son for a week. The goal was to restore my health – mind, body and soul before figuring out what I was going to do to make a living. Upon my return from an exceptional holiday at a health and wellness resort I returned home and worked on my next book. After being home for 2 days, a friend and I exchanged messages over Facebook and 2 days later I was on a plane to Mexico where I wrote and ate and drank for 2 weeks! It was heaven!!! Life was carefree. Water is church-like for me so I wrote, and swam and walked for hours. This trip was spontaneous and made me realize I needed to seize these moments – something I only did when it related to my children – rarely could I justify this for myself. With time and no commitments I was seizing every opportunity!

Separately, I had been planning a trip to South East Asia to meet my daughter. This had been in the works for a while but the fact that it became a reality still seems like a dream to me! And given that I was no longer the agency I could do it carefree.

Mariah and I toured Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali and Singapore. This trip was the climax to months of getting back to health, re-evaluating work and life, reflecting on failures and success.

In South East Asia there was a ton of spiritual learning – churches and temples. We did very little conventional praying but a ton of spiritual reflection and learning. It seems right to have had this experience with one of my precious children. And in this case because it was my daughter there was also the added reflection on being women and the state of women in North America and around the world. The two of us started Gypsea Diaries (also posted to this site) during this time. We traveled, visited temples and churches and realized how strong our family faith is. “Church” is within us versus a place and we “pray” daily. My time with my sons pre the trip to Asia and then the time with my daughter has been the greatest of my life. For the first time in years I was and continue to be truly blissful – a bliss that only comes from peace. This several months with my children nurturing me back to spiritual health was my “Pray”.

As I write I am in Italy. The food is incredible and I will surely be going home 10 pounds heavier than I began. I am at Debbie Travis’ Tuscan Villa with a group of women. A friend asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to come and I said why not! The villa took a little longer than expected – but it was worth it – it is beyond spectacular! I am here with a girlfriend who started off as an employee and is now my partner in a new venture at work. Slightly more than half my age she is a joy to be around and it seems fitting that she is with me in Italy as we attend this Women’s Leadership Gathering and the food around us abounds. A true foodie, Aleena is ensuring I sip and savour every bite and drink guilt-free…and that I am. While there is an added focus on food here in Italy, food has been a big deal in my family. We eat and order food based on what we want to taste and we share generously. Our best conversations are over food and we truly savour these moments. This is my “Eat”.

And “Love”? Well I gave up on Love last fall. A love partner seemed to elude me so I decided not to worry about it. I would focus on myself and my family, our home and our life. I would complete my second book, figure out my next career steps and not even worry about finding a partner. And in this focus I became healthy and very very happy and that was when I re-met my now, boyfriend. My boyfriend had been a client so we had shared business lunches and dinners but we had never gone on a date. Since I no longer owned the agency, he was therefore no longer my client and a casual conversation in the spring lead to a great friendship which has lead to love.

After my trip to Asia I went to Paris for 4 days with my boyfriend and as I drop Aleena and all the other women at the airport to fly home I will greet him. My boyfriend and I will then hop in a car and tour the Tuscan Coast and some of the key cities inland. Our plans are very loose because the goal is really just to spend time. There is a love and connection between the two of us that is surreal and so we are savouring these moments when we can learn and explore the world while learning about each other and strengthening our relationship. This is “Love”.

Its been quite the whirlwind since January – my Eat, Pray, Love has been in a different order – Pray, Eat, Love. In fairness, they have all criss-crossed and intersected. This seems classically ironic as I turn 50?! I don’t feel as though I am experiencing a mid life crisis but rather a renewed passion – an intense desire to live my values with more awareness and to consciously eat, pray and love or pray, eat and love!!!

A Gypsea Update!

A Gypsea update!

So we may be back home, but the diaries will still continue.

Gypsea Diaries is not just about our travel in Southeast Asia, it is our life and our way of being. After coming home we realized that our “Gypsea life” actually started when we went to Paris for Mariah’s 16th Birthday. This trip was memorable for various reasons, it was where Nicole reclaimed her femininity, where Mariah fell in love with travel and adventure. But most importantly it was our first big adventure together and what made it amazing was that we chatted and walked every corner of the city holding hands.

That trip 5 years ago planted the seed from which Gypsea Diaries grew. Since Paris, we have travelled together and apart consistently all the time evolving uniquely our perspectives on life, love and everything in between. While Southeast Asia was the catalyst for us to bring everything together the conversations started long ago and will continue well into the future.

So what does that mean for us two Gypseas and this process we have set in motion? Well we think that there is still much dialogue to be had and we think we can hopefully help to be catalysts for these conversations. We will continue to write our streams of consciousness sharing with you our thoughts and hopefully provoke thought and conversation…

The Gypsea in Me!

I was sitting on a plane when I came up with the idea for Gypsea Diaries. I literally pulled out my laptop and wrote the intro, tears running down my cheeks. I sent it to Mariah and asked her what she thought, would she be interested, was this a good idea,….And here we are writing it – nearly 9 months later!

When Mariah was accepted to participate on an academic exchange I asked if I could meet her for a month and we could travel together throughout South East Asia. Thankfully she said yes and we proceeded to buy all the requisite travel books to make our trip exceptional! And true to form we reviewed them all and then proceeded to book/solidify plans 1-2 weeks before I arrived or on the fly. Hence my self naming as a ‘gypsea’. Mariah and I tend to travel on the fly.

I have always been impulsive and spontaneous. For the most part this has served me well and my children know this means there is never a dull moment. For others, specifically life and business partners this has caused some challenges because they never know what I am thinking and will my thoughts take us off course. The answer is Yes – Yes, I am always thinking and Yes, we will be going off or rather evaluating other courses. Isn’t life more interesting this way? Isn’t this the path that leads to great discoveries and revelations? That said what has made me crazy is that the essence of these thoughts/ideas are rooted in my commitment to the greater plans/vision. Unlike a real Gypsy I have a strong foundation and have always committed to a vision, a business plan, a family plan – these are what root me and my thinking. These visions and plans are a catalyst for the creative musings of my mind – these musing are what add the colour and the vibrance and what set us and how we execute the visions and plans apart.

Steve Jobs, Einstein, Richard Branson and the list could go on,…all amazing men, all noted for fits of “crazy”. I am not putting myself in the same league but what I am suggesting is that it is the crazy ones, the ‘gypseas’ that make life interesting!!!

And its funny as Mariah and I have been touring temples we have come to fall in love with some of the historical and religious symbols and very specifically the Apsara. The Apsara are technically gypsies from another day and time. They danced and provided entertainment for everyone. We love their whimsy and now both wear Apsara necklaces. These necklaces and other memories of these magical gypsies remind the two of us to ‘dance every day’!

What sets Mariah and I apart from the Apsara and traditional gypsies is our cerebral discipline to life – we match whimsy with wisdom.

So, to all the eyebrow raisers and those who we drive crazy – sorry, no intent to make you crazy. If we drive you crazy and you have no interest in us then let us go and leave us be! If however you have a vested interest or a love for us then patiently and gently listen to us and through a positive conversation share your constructive thoughts. It is likely that we gypseas will adjust our ideas and/or the adventure we are contriving as a result, but to do so we need to be accepted for who we are, and with the understanding and positive acknowledgement we will take your thoughts into consideration and devise an even better plan.

Not sure where Gypsea Diaries will take Mariah and I and our loved ones. While this was a formal adventure – Gypsea is how we live everyday! It’s who we are and unapologetically,…it makes life amazing!

I bless my children

I have been ‘blessing’ my children since the day they were born. Even now I make the sign of the cross with my thumb on their foreheads when they are sleeping. I have no formal ‘accreditation’ to do this other than motherhood – and for me that is the only accreditation I require and the greatest accreditation on earth.

My blessings have always consistently come with the sentiments – be safe, be happy and healthy, dream and live to the fullest. There are other thoughts that I put out, unique for each child or for the moment in time. Regardless, my point is, I bless my children. It has always been important because I have always felt like their protector and guide. But I have always been discreet if not shy – who am I to bless and what will they think. Given that I blessed them when they were sleeping no one needed to know. Then when they left for university I would send my blessings to the sky, make the sign of the cross with my thumb on a virtual image of their forehead. My kids now know I do this and they know it comes from a place of love. I am no longer shy nor seeking anyone’s approval – I have decided it is my ‘right’, it is a ‘spiritual rite’ among the four of us and it is most certainly a family ritual.

While Mariah and I were away we attended a series of blessings and I have found it very interesting. Admitedly these were not for the faint of heart and will potentially cause some readers to raise their eyebrows. When we travel we experience everything that a culture or country has to offer – and so these interactions were one of the offerings. Some things felt very natural, some were surreal and some caused us to be a bit skeptical.

The first blessing was in Chiang Mai from a Native American woman named White Star who decided 5 years ago to relocate to South East Asia with her husband Robert (who would later be our tour guide when we visited Ubud.) and their son. Before leaving for South East Asia my friend Carolyne said Mariah and I had to see White Star during our travels so we made this interaction a priority and in fact designed the first leg or our trip around connecting to her. In addition to blessing us, White Star also talked about past lives, our future, our health and well being and that of our loved ones. Mariah and I both left feeling uplifted and a little surprised at how much White Star knew about us and our future. Not sure how you would describe White Star’s talents – I think I would say psychic, shaman, wise native woman.

The second blessing was from two Buddhist Monks in Cambodia. Mariah and I sat in sarongs on a stoop of one of the temples as one of the Monks chanted and poured what felt like saucepans of water on each of us. Once over the initial shock, we both thought of our greater family and prayed in accordance with our own beliefs that everyone is happy and healthy. Post this blessing we changed and made an offering to the senior Monk who offered another blessing as he tied red yarn bracelets around our wrists. We are to wear these bracelets until they fall off. Many locals noticed them on our wrists and would point and say Good Luck when they saw them reinforcing to us that we need to pay these symbols respect. The two of us were ‘participants’ in these blessings tried to understand the meaning and significance but learning more from the response of others who commented on the bracelets or were aware that we had attended the blessing. These rites are cherished by the locals and so as a result we felt honoured to have had the privilege to receive the blessings.

The third blessing/treatment was in Bali with a Medicine Dr. Jakorta Rai (very much like Ketuk from Eat, Pray, Love). We individually sat in front of Jakorta while he rubbed our heads and diagnosed any issues or challenges. Then we layed on a mat and he provided some Eastern medicine treatments – akin to reflexology. Everything is very open and in the public and so you actually see and feel the difference Jakorta is making to all sees – and honestly he is making a difference. While the pictures make this interaction look odd (according to Western thinking), this was actually a great interaction. When you are in Jakorta’s presence you feel his wisdom. This truly felt like an excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love.

The fourth blessing/treatment arose from the spontaneous opportunity to meet a Balinese Healer who was treating White Star. On this day, Robert (White Star’s husband as noted above) was taking us on a tour of Ubud and White Star was home in bed recovering from a stint in the hospital. Still feeling ill and in a way that seemed mental/spiritual, White Star had asked the Balinese Healer to visit her at home and given that we were now close she suggested we also have the rare opportunity to meet the Healer and receive a blessing. When we arrived, the healer was well into her treatment of White Star and we were invited to watch some of the healing ceremony. The ceremony was a blend of prayer, chants, lyric song, forceful hand movements and then very lyrical motions and dance. When the healer was finished with her treatment of White Star she offered us a ‘blessing’. She hugged me and chatted with me for a moment then quickly diagnosed my strength and disciplined focus and proposed I relax a little before punching me in the stomach (?!) to make her point and then hugging me and telling me she loved me and everything would be great. Her connection to Mariah was extremely loving and gentle as though she was mesmorized. She noted the strong connection between Mariah and I, Mariah’s indomitable spirit and her undoubted success in whatever she chooses to do. We were then blessed with a sprinkle of holy water and a lyrical Balinese prayer. Admitedly this whole interaction was overwhelming for the two of us and we just sat silently trying to process everything we had just witnessed and experienced.

Our fourth blessing was with the High Water Priestess. This 29 year old woman who at the age of 20 went into an unexplained coma and awoke with a special calling is renown in Bali. The fact that we were in her presence was a big deal. After a ceremonial prayer where she turned plain water into holy water, the Priestess addressed us, chanted and prayed while pouring water on us. The water was poured on our heads several times while we stood in prayer and then we washed our faces with it as she continued to pour and then had a taste. Cleansed with the water and prayer we were blessed. Similar to the Monk blessings we knew this was a significant privilege however equally similar we felt somewhat detached by the lack of understanding.

Our final blessing was in Ubud with a local who we met through our villa – the husband of one of the staff at the villa – Made who offered to be our tour guide for the day. Made took a special liking to Mariah and I and took us to a place in the mountainous jungle where the locals go to cleanse, pray and bless themselves with the holy waters that spring from the mountains. This was a trip highlight because we were actively engaged in the process – we were praying and blessing ourselves. (This is the picture that is featured)

Having experienced all of these blessings, there were some common and uncommon threads. In all cases these healers, blessors are people of unique distinction and devotion in their communities. For us to even have had the privilege of meeting them is a great gift. While the Monk and High Water Priestess blessings were special and we felt somewhat detached. With White Star, the Medicine Dr and the Healer there were individual conversations and so these learnings and blessings felt very personal and intimate. The one however, that lifted our spirits the most was the one with all the locals where we made offerings, blessed ourselves in the fresh mountain water and prayed. There was a liveliness, a community spirit, people were praying but also talking and laughing and hugging. There were families and children – we felt blessed to be among them and they even laughed at us as we responded to the coldness and strength of the mountain water.

Needless to say Mariah and I had many conversations post all of these interactions. Our religious/belief system skepticism crept in at times, perhaps some ignorance but in all cases a sense that what we had experienced was to be respected because while we were learning, others had strong devotions. In addition, just as our questioning of religious leaders has caused us to redefine our own beliefs at home it also applied as we met leaders throughout our travels. And it made even more sense to us as to why the blessing or interactions that had the greatest impact were the ones where we were engaged on equal footing with those who were sharing wisdom. Bottomline, everyone is human – even spiritual leaders and elders and the ones who embraced this versus preached/prayed over us were the ones we connected to.

My “Mom” blessings now seem normal and equally as powerful as some of the ones we received and our beliefs, closest to Buddhist thinking than anything else, mean we are constantly learning (aka seeking enlightenment) all the while striving to be good people ~ simple actually.

Blessings to you.  XO

GypseaDaily 25

Day 25 & technically 26

It took roughly 2 days to get home – we left Bali on Thursday night and arrived in Toronto at 1 am on Saturday!

We are glad to be home!

Our house was full of people on Saturday and Sunday – lots of love and typical crazy commotion.

Home is where the heart is and we are so glad to be here.

Home definitely grounds us, but true to form the two of us are already talking about what’s next….

Coming Home

Six months later and here I am on a flight back home to Toronto. Excited and melancholy because I don’t want any of this to end. While I know this is just one of the many trips that will happen over my life, its hard to leave knowing that I won’t be back to Southeast Asia for a while. That being said, I am confident that I took advantage of every opportunity possible – socializing, exploring, etc.

It’s crazy how fast time flies. I remember boarding the plane to Singapore with my friend and thinking that this is surreal…and then arriving in Singapore and thinking… what did I just get myself into. But quickly everything fell into place. I met great people and lifelong friends and every day seemed like an adventure. I was on a constant high.

I am looking back on all the crazy, incredible, “pinch me” moments and experiences and I can’t believe the adventure I was just on. So many incredible memories! And as I sit on the plane reflecting on this journey, I am already thinking of where I want to go next!!! What can I say…I love the Gypsea life!!!

A Gypsea is a free spirit and crazy as hell. She lives her life by her own rules, to the betterment, not the expense of others. And Gypseas live with strong morals and values. They live their lives with a whimsical spirit, seeing the beauty in life, and making the best of every moment.