Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PHOTO MOMENT: Scary monkey faces in Indonesia

When traveling through Asia, it's so interesting how different every single country is even though they are only a few hours away by plane.  In Thailand, the laughing Buddha is everywhere, but in Indonesia it's a mix of cute and scary -- but still the art is beautiful.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Celebrating "Silent Day" in Bali with mindfulness meditation

The day after the fnew moon of the ninth lunar month is the Balinese New Year.  The locals call it Nyepi, but it's also known as "Silent Day" or "The Day of Silence." This is because the entire country goes silent for one day.  All external activities cease. There are no TV broadcasts, no driving and not electricity. Even the airport shuts down for the day.

The forced day of silence and peace was just what I needed and one of the reasons why I choose to go to Bali at this time.

My day of silence included two mindfulness mediations -- one at 9 am and one under the stars at 9 p.m.   The sessions were conducted by Nan, who is a former Buddhist nun.  She studied the Dharma in monasteries throughout Asia and has been meditating for nearly a decade.

The style of mediation she practices is called "mindfulness," and it's great for Type A personalities like me who have trouble staying focused and are constantly planning, thinking and doing.  In fact, even as I'm typing this I'm already thinking of what I need to do next.

Mindfulness mediation comes from the Buddhist vipassana mediation and the goal of it is not to force your mind to be quiet for an hour, but to learn to be mindful.  What this means is that as you do your meditation, whether it's 10 minutes or a few hours, that you are doing it with the intention of focusing on what's happening in the present moment.  This means turning off the multi-tasking thoughts that we have about what you need to do in the future or what has happened in the past.  You are to focus on what's happening at that time, which is nothing. You are sitting and breathing.  That's all you need to worry about.

It sounds simple, but it's harder to stay in the moment. Thankfully, mindfulness meditation accepts that people's minds move faster than the speed of light, so part of the meditation is accepting and non-judging when your focus wanders for a brief second or so.

"Your mind is like a spider that sits in the center of its web.  It sits there, but is constantly aware of what's going on. When something touches the web, it senses this, but then goes back to the center," explained Nan. "This is what mindfulness mediation is. When you hear something or feel something, acknowledge it -- but then go back to the center and refocus."

Now that I can do.

PHOTO MOMENT: Spicy deliciousness in Indonesia

As you know, I'm a foodie -- but I still try to eat healthy.  It's sometimes hard to find food with flavor that is great tasting. But this isn't a problem in Indonesia at the Four Seasons Sayan.  I got the rice on the side for this dish so that I wouldn't be tempted, and instead could really savor the grilled Mahi Mahi over spicy eggplant. MMM…so good.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ogoh-Ogoh Parade in Indonesia

Ogoh-Ogoh parade in Denpasar, Indonesia

Yes, I'm moving to Switzerland for work after spending 1.5 years in Saudi Arabia, but I decided to do a 4 day pit stop along the way to clear my mind and rejuvenate myself.

I haven't been to Indonesia before, but I've been wanting to.  So when I did some research and learned it was actually cheaper to stay in Bali than to stay in a hotel in Geneva, I figured "why not?"

Also, because I'm moving to Europe and to a place that is a little expensive, this little getaways will probably be my last Asian trip for  a while. I might as well give it try.  And, when I learned it was Balinese New Year,  I definitely had to go. What better way to start a new job in a new country than by celebrating it with a day of silence and mediation -- just like the locals do!

Balinese New Year is known as Nyepi (aka, annual Silent Day) and the area Bali takes it very seriously. They shut down all TV broadcasts, airports, public transit, schools and businesses.  They also turn off the electricity. It's a day for quiet reflection.

Ogoh-Ogoh --- love saying that!!!

The day before though, is the opposite of "Silent Day." It's the day of the Ogoh-Ogoh parade, but this isn't any normal parade. This one is all about demons and spiritual cleansing.  You see, the ogoh-ogoh are mythological beings, mostly demons.

My driver told me that the goal of the parade of ogoh-ogoh creatures symbolizes purification.

He said that in the Hindu tradition, there are three goals: human to human harmony, human to nature harmony, and human to God harmony.  The parade of all the demons is to showcase all the spiritual pollutants people have done through their activities when they have not been in harmony with each other, nature or God.

The spirits are bigger then life and are carried through the parade the a bamboo frame by 8 or 12 men.
They are made by the village artists.

The best part is the end as that's the cleansing time - and it reminded me of Burning Man and the burning of the temple.  That's because after the parade, the ogoh-ogoh sculptures are burnt to ashes as a symbol of self-purification.

Such a cool and interesting night made even more cool as I had no idea it was happening until I arrived in the country.

PS Sorry, my photos are a little crappy, but it was getting dark out and my iPhone isn't that fantastic at dusk.

Related: Burning Man: I never expected the Temple

Thursday, March 19, 2015

PHOTO MOMENT: Gatotkaca Knight Statue in Denpasar

A totally fluke shot of the Gatotkaca statue in Denpasar that I took with my iPhone from the car.

It was built in 1993 and is located in the middle of T- junction outside of the airport, and depicts the story of the gallant and brave knight Gatotkaca, the son of Bimasena, one of the great warriors of the Pandavas. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Starting My New Life with New Vision

Moving to a new country for work is stressful - even if you've done it before.  In addition to learning a new job, you have all the added pressure of trying to find a place to live, a cell phone carrier, how to get to work, figuring out the language issue, the local customs, etc.

If you've been following my blog, then you know I've moved from Toronto to Memphis, from Memphis to Tampa, from Tampa to Houston, from Houston to Sacramento, from Sacramento to Phoenix, and then from Phoenix to Saudi Arabia -- all in less than 8 years.

Yes, it's been hectic, but I've learned so much and grown so much with my career and leadership skills. I've been on the fast-track, but not with the goal of running up the corporate ladder. Instead, my goal was to be the best digital news/managing editor I could be by working my way through the local news markets. It's been fun and challenging -- and I really, really love my life, my career, all the people I've met and my lack of material stuff (can't really have a lot when you move as much as I do).

I've just been offered a great position with Frontiers in Lausanne, Switzerland where I'll be able to fine tune my skills and learn some new ones.  This position is new for me as instead of running a digital news team, I'll be doing their communications. So it requires my skills, but from a different angle - a brand new way to challenge me.

When planning my move,  I learned I couldn't even start looking for a place to live in Switzerland until I got my Swiss ID, which I can't get until my first day of work. So I decided I should be like a normal person and take a week off in between to clear my mind and refocus my energy rather than rushing there.  Generally, I'm nuts and leave my job on Friday and then start the new one on Monday.  That's what I've been doing for years -- even when I moved to Saudi Arabia. I arrived jet lagged and exhausted, but I was there and ready to work.

So yes, I tend to start my new jobs a little burnt out and in desperate need of a vacation which I won't get until I pass the 3 month probation period. I do this because I'm paranoid I'll run out of money before my first pay check or there will be unexpected moving expenses and I'll regret that I didn't work until the last second.

Yeah….life/work balance. Still haven't mastered that.

But I'm learning. This time for the first time ever I'm taking a week's vacation to refocus, rejuvenate and  mentally get ready for the move to Switzerland instead of moving there directly - and I'm freaking out a little bit.

While moving to a new country or taking a new job is completely relaxing for me and so is not having an address as I'm floating between places, this week off for "pleasure" is stressful.  For me, spending this money on myself knowing my next pay check is a month away is a risk - and outside my comfort zone.

Isn't it amazing what you learn about yourself when situations arise?