Monday, September 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—273: A Walk in the SUN

Indecisive Seattle weather
One of the things I remember clearly from our trek over Salkantay Glacier in Peru is when our guide, a full-blooded Quechua, raised his hands, open palms to the air, just as the last ray of sun fell behind the glacier. He also closed his eyes and chanted something under his breath. In Quechua the sun is called 'inti' and is worshiped just like the moon 'quilla'. Pachamama, Mother Earth, is also highly revered.

After two days of torrential downpours ( I walked between squalls), I wanted nothing more than to get outside. I was determined, even though I had a full schedule today, to get outside and walk.

So even though the clouds looked dark and ominous, I convinced my husband to come with me to Greenlake for a 3-mile walk.

It started out windy and looked like a storm was going to crash on our heads, but then everything changed.

The dark clouds left the sky completely about half-way around the lake and the only thing overhead was that bright orb and blue sky.

Instinctively, my husband and I lifted our arms to the sun, palms to the sky, eyes closed, and just stood there very still taking it all in. We felt the warmth and let it penetrate us and give us the light we so miss this time of year.

After our little walk, despite storms and clouds (externally and internally) that still threaten our horizons to come, I felt energized. Such a simple, peaceful walk with my husband on a normally busy day changed my entire perspective about life. It made me want to slow down and it made me want to be present for the shifting winds that I'm sure are coming my way.

Do you ever stop to take in the sun, or is it around you all the time?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—272: The Passing of My Teacher, SN Goenka

“For real happiness, for real lasting stable happiness, one has to make a journey deep within oneself and see that one gets rid of all the unhappiness and misery stored in the deeper levels of the mind.”—SN Goenka

Today my meditation teacher passed away. I started practicing Vipassana in the tradition of SN Goenka in 1996. This practice changed my life. I sat that very first course in Kathmandu, Nepal with my now husband, then monk, Yoon.

The first course was so hard for me, I did not think I could continue, but year after year, I returned to sit a 10-day silent course and even sat longer courses. I signed up last month to sit a 10-day course over Christmas in North Fork, CA. That's where I'll be on Christmas and it feels right, especially since my lovely teacher just passed.

I had the privilege of meeting SN Goenka when he was doing a North American tour in 2002. That was a very long time ago. I went to Canada with my best friend Lena and sat with many people for a one-day course. I was able to talk and ask him a question. I don't quite remember the question, but the answer was "to keep on practicing."

In 2007, I traveled to India for the Teacher's Self Course with my husband and once again had a chance to sit with my teacher.

I am so grateful for all the metta (loving kindness) he shared with so many people. I'm so grateful that I found meditation and was and am still able to practice it.

I've written many posts here about Vipassana meditation and the benefits. Here's one post I wrote after my return from a long course of 45-days which will give you an idea of the practice.

In my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, I thanked SN Goenka for teaching me meditation.

Right now I feel like sitting down on my meditation cushion. I feel like that is the best offering I can give this wonderful man at this moment.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—271: Storms

We've got storms—two of them—colliding into each other in Washington State causing high winds and  torrential downpours.
We are housesitting. I think the rain may have let up and I'm thinking of venturing outside. I've felt a bit stormy myself today. Perhaps the weather has caused internal storms?

At any rate, I feel the need to make this post short. I'm adding a picture from the window today of the rain. You can see it coming off the gutter from the roof in large quantities.

Today I went over to my house to assess the basement. We often get flooding with heavy rain. I raised everything up off the floor and organized the basement a bit.

Off I go to take a look outside.

Do you often feel like the weather affects your moods?

Friday, September 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—270: Cooking in a Fully Equipped Kitchen—Gluten Free Baked Penne

We've been cooking at home to save money. We have been pretty good. I found $10 in the bottom of my book bag and went out for lunch with it and my husband took me out for lunch today, but other than that, every meal has been at home.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is not like me. With dozens of food options right out my front door, it's hard to get motivated to cook at home.

Just as I was starting to lose my inspiration for cooking, we got a call to housesit.

We love housesitting at this particular place because it's down on Puget Sound in Seattle and we get to take care of four lovely cats! Another great thing is that the house is spread out and very much like a retreat for us.

And the kitchen inspired me to cook! It's fully equipped with every gadget you could ever need to cook with and there's plenty of space.

I brought over a bag of potatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of olives, an onion, garlic, lettuce, brown rice penne and found a few veggies and cheese in the fridge here and I cooked the most amazing dinner!

I cooked baked Penne with tomato sauce and Italian seasoned vegetables and made a big green tossed salad.

Here's my recipe for the baked penne:

two potatoes peeled
one mushroom
half a zuchini
half an onion
one can of diced tomatoes
half can of black olives
cottage cheese
mozzarella cheese
Italian herbs or fresh herbs (I added rosemary, basil and chives from garden here and a little dried oregano)
brown rice penne (gluten free)

1. boil the penne al dente with a little salt and olive oil
2. saute potatoes, mushroom, zucchini, onion, garlic and italian herbs until veggies are cooked
3. pour sauteed veggies into an oiled shallow glass baking dish
4. drain pasta and rinse and pour penne into baking dish and mix with sauteed veggies
5. add cottage cheese and black olives and mix again
6. add diced tomatoes in a layer on top of penne mixture
7. sprinkle top with mozzarella cheese
8. bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees

Serve with a BIG tossed green salad. This was delish and not too heavy like most pastas. If you like it cheesy, you can substitute ricotta cheese for cottage cheese and add it to your liking.

I was just about to hang up the pot holders, but this new kitchen environment motivated me to cook something delicious with what I had on hand once again!

Do new environments inspire you to cook?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—269: Taking Care of Business—Doing Left Brain Stuff

I'm paying bills and figuring out my expenses and creating some sort of budget. I don't like doing these things, but they are necessary. I just finished my teaching week and I feel like I need to get organized and get a grip on things.

The teaching week went well. I teach ESL from Monday to Wednesday. I teach almost full-time on those three days, so they are long nights for me. I chose this schedule because I want to have Thursday-Sunday to write and focus on other projects that are in the works.

My house is in a state of disarray and I feel like I want to open all the drawers and cupboards and organize everything down to my underwear drawer. I will start with the upstairs, but dare I attack the basement?

It will get done this fall. It's my goal to work on my organizational skills at home and school over this fall season. I'm a big picture person, so I tend to overlook the small things that are now screaming for attention—like dusting, throwing old things away, etc.

Fortunately my husband mowed the yard and really cleaned things up, so the outside of our house looks great. The inside is not bad either as long as you don't open any drawers or closets. That's where you will find disorganization lurking.

I'm the kind of person that likes to sit down and organize everything in one foul swoop, but I know organization is a practice and it takes patience and time.

Off I go to clean the kitchen.

Stay tuned.

Do you like to organize and take care of business around the house and office, or do you procrastinate and do things at the last minute?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

365 Inspirations—268: My Favorite Season—Fall is Here!

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."—Albert Camus

Some people can't wait for the warm weather of summer to hit or the merry days of the winter season with snow, holidays and skiing. While I enjoy the other seasons, fall is my FAVORITE.

I was born on October 28th—three days before Halloween. As a child, my memories of this season are quite vivid. My father told the story of how I came home as a newborn baby on Halloween and how he had to chase some kids away outside because they were making too much noise.

Ghosts, devils, vampires, fairies, clowns, skeletons, pumpkins and other characters used to show up at my house for a combined birthday/halloween party when I was a kid. Up until my 40th birthday, I still enjoyed throwing Halloween costume parties at my house. I even had a few live bands in my living room.

I had my writing group over to my house last Friday and one of the members asked why I don't have my Halloween parties anymore. I thought, Well, maybe I'm too old for them?

Instead of Halloween parties, I've been choosing to go away for my Halloween/birthday weekend to a scenic, relaxing place like a hot spring or country town. Last year we went to Breitenbush Hotspring in Oregon.

But maybe I should bring the Halloween parties back. They don't have to be huge, just a fun gathering with friends.

I saw pumpkins in the grocery store the other day. It seems a bit early, but I was happy to see them. I take a scenic road to work that has a canopy of maple trees overhead. I noticed a tinge of change in the leaves colors. I can't wait to watch them change on my way to work. I am no longer wearing short sleeves and sandals. Instead, I actually need a jacket! Warm soups and hot teas are sounding like a better choice right now.

Fall started officially last Sunday and don't forget to turn your clocks back on November 3rd—you still have some time.

Happy fall everyone!

Do you like fall season? What is your favorite season?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

365 Inspirations—267: Cooking at Home

Brussel sprout, italian sausage, onion, and sweet pot soup
I'll be honest, it's not easy to eat every meal at home when you live in a place like Seattle. We have dozens of food options within a five mile radius—Ethiopian, Korea, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Mexican, Indonesian and the list goes on.

With so many amazing choices right outside my door, who'd want to cook?

The thing is, I went on a trip to Peru and my next paycheck doesn't come for just over two weeks, so cooking at home it is.

And the menu has been lovely.

Today my husband cooked Korean rice cake soup for lunch and I made two crock pot dinners that have lasted us a loooong time. The weather is just starting to get a little cooler, so we've been making soups and warming foods.

We had chili for a few days and then we had chili potatoes with cheese and yogurt for sour cream with a nice green salad. I also made a 10-bean soup with anything I could find in the fridge—broccoli, carrots, sausage, onions, garlic, ginger. It was divine and we are still eating it.

Eating all meals at home is not easy with a busy schedule and tempting choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner within minutes from our house, but we are trying this out and it's been good.

How often do you cook at home and how often do you go out to eat? Do you have a good recipe to share?

Monday, September 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—266: First Day of School

Today was my first day back at school. I'm not sure I was completely ready for it being that I just returned from a trip a week ago and still feel like part of my body is in Peru.

The oddest thing is that I'm teaching a small business ownership class to ESL students and I had a small class, but I had TWO people from Peru in that class—one from Cusco and one from Puno. These were two places I visited on my trip and it was interesting to meet theses students in my class.

It was like two worlds colliding—my travels in Peru and my life back here in the States.

I think it's going to be a good quarter. I like my classes and students and it was just the first day!

It always takes me about a week or so to wrap my head around the idea that I have an entire quarter's worth of classes yet to teach. I find the best way is to plan, but take one teaching day at a time. Otherwise it can get overwhelming.

I also like to allow for space in my classes and time with my students to really get to know them. Being an ESL teacher is a fascinating job because I meet students from all over the world.

I'm looking forward to the quarter ahead and getting to know my students!

Do you have fond memories of the first day of school?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

365 Inspirations—265: A Visit to Soul Ease Spa in Kirkland, WA

Last Valentine's Day, my husband gave me a spa gift certificate to Soul Ease spa in Kirkland, WA and I just used it today. When I told people this, they said, "Are you kidding? I would have been there the very next day!"

The thing is, I generally feel pretty good and don't have too many aches and pains, so I don't feel like I really must go to the spa. I do always enjoy my time at any spa once I'm there and I absolutely LOVE hot springs!

So after our adventurous trip to Peru and hikes over mountain passes taller than the tallest mountain in my state, I decided to treat my feet and face to some soul easing.

It was blustery and raining elephants when I left the house for the spa. I had to make it over the bridge to the Eastside. Whitecaps were forming out on the lake and I could barely see two inches in front of me. It wasn't the most relaxing journey to the spa.

But when I stepped inside Soul Ease, things changed.

 A lovely woman at the front desk greeted me with a smile and got me a cup of green tea with mint. I filled out a few forms and then I was guided to a room in the back passing beautiful art and scented candles on the way. I was given a hanger for my clothes and a robe, towel and slippers for the infared sauna I'd be lounging in for 30 minutes before my foot detox.

I brought my tea in, but there was a cup of cool water waiting for me in the spa as well as other towels and magazines.

After 30 minutes, my foot detox therapist knocked on the door and led me to another room. She fetched me water and got me situated. I was now in the robe and slippers. She checked my body to find out my ph balance, and it turned out that I was a bit on the acidic end of things. I was at 6 and ideally I needed to be at 7.5 or so.

She put my feet in the detox machine full of salt water and after about 30 minutes the water turned dark brown. This was an indication that toxins were coming out of my body, most likely metals and other polluntants. I felt really alert and relaxed after the foot detox and she massaged my feet with cream and geranium oil. My ph after the foot massage was closer to a 7, so that was good!

I was then led to another room where a lovely therapist gave me an hour-long facial. She filled me in on all sorts of interesting facts and info I did not know and a few home remedies for the face. She then put me under a big heated blanket with my feet elevated and went to work on my face. The soothing music, low lights, aroma therapy and soft touch made me almost fall asleep. I received a face, neck shoulder and scalp massage as well and she moisturized and applied a face mask to my face. It was so lovely.

I don't know why I waited so long! My husband used to be a yoga teacher at Soul Ease, so I knew the foot detox was good because I had the opportunity to try it one time.

I feel alert, yet calm. I feel a huge weight has been lifted and I feel balanced again.

Do you ever treat yourself to massages or spa therapies?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

365 Inspirations—264: Spending Time with My Mother

Today I ventured out to Port Towsend, WA to meet my mother for her birthday. Actually, it was the day before her birthday, but she planned to play golf on her birthday, so this was a pre-celebration.

On the way to our meeting spot, I was struck by the beauty of Washington State. I've been out of the country and haven't ventured far from my house since my return.

As soon as I got on the ferry, the smell of salt water reminded me of why I love this place. Seagulls hovered above the ferry boat and I didn't mind at all to stand directly in the wind for the entire ride. I wanted to feel everything.

I drove passed the quaint town of Port Gamble and saw people setting up for a wedding at the little chapel over looking the water. The leaves had a tinge of color to them indicating that fall is on the way.

I met my mom in the parking lot at McDonald's because there are bathrooms. That's important in my family. There should always be bathrooms before you set off on an adventure anywhere.

Since my mother knows her way around better than I do, she drove and I left my car behind. We found a perfect parking spot and landed. Mom already knew what restaurant she wanted to go to for lunch. She wasn't thrilled with her order of smoked salmon on a bed of lettuce, but my lunch was appealing to her. I had the steamed clams and mussels with a side salad. Very Pacific Northwest!

We wandered in and out of shops. Mom bought sunglasses with bright blue rims and she decided to buy me shoes—completely unexpected. After all, it was her birthday.

I did give her a few gifts: a Peruvian hat handmade by my host mother on Amantani Island, a wool table runner from Peru and a book about going Gluten Free that she's interested in at the moment.

We were only together for a few hours, but I enjoyed the time. I think it's important to spend time with my mom. I thought about her a lot while traveling in Peru. When I was in my 20s, I did not do a good job of informing her of my whereabouts while I trotted the globe. This would make any mom worry. This time I made a point of keeping her updated through my blog posts and photos, etc.

We parted ways at around 2pm and I had a quiet journey home. I counted up my change and bought a Seattle's Best Coffee from the vending machine, plopped down on a chair and stared out at the sailboats on Puget Sound. Our boat made a magnificent, glowing path of light. I think the future is going to be bright!

Do you spend much time with your mother? When do you usually get together?

Friday, September 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—263: Break

I need a bit of a break this evening. I have a cold coming on from traveling and need time to transition back to my life here. I start a new quarter of teaching on Monday and lots of changes are in the works on the homefront.

Feel like I just need rest. So my inspiration today is a break. A hot bath and hot tea is waiting for me. Good night all...hope to be back to my usual self soon.

Do you ever feel like you just need a break from life?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

365 Inspirations—262: Transitions (i.e. marriage, children, new job, loss of job, divorce, death)

"Divorce, disease and death don't have to be terrible journeys that we should all avoid, they can be enlightening journeys of growth, depth and new understanding."—Katherine Jenkins


How do you feel about that word?

Transition is my inspiration today. Life is full of transitions, some small and some life changing.

Our world seems to be getting smaller and smaller. All we have to do is log onto Facebook or Twitter and we find out in an instant who gave birth or who died.

Most people like to share the good things on these sites. We see hundreds of pictures of newborn babies from every angle. Wedding pictures splatter the pages showing happy faces and sunshine. Those traveling to exotic locations around the globe like to include albums of their travel pics (I'm one of those people). It's enlightening and uplifting to read about these transitions. We prefer, on average, to share those transitions which are positive.

But what about the not-so-postive transitions? What about divorce, disease and death? The three Ds? Not many people are willing to share these or look at these as a transition anyone would CHOOSE to have.

The funny thing is that we will ALL, each one of us, get sick at one point or another and we will ALL die.

I know you are thinking, "Please don't remind me, I don't want to hear it, I want to focus on the positive transitions!"

I don't know what it is about our culture that makes us afraid to except all transitions equally as passages to a new way of living. One is not better than the other, it is just different.

Divorce, disease and death don't have to be terrible journeys that we should all avoid, they can be enlightening journeys of growth, depth and new understanding.

If everything in life were simple and easy, full of ponies and rainbows and sunshine, then why would we need to make any effort at all.

I realize that being a positive person may make it difficult for others to open up to me about their own suffering or uneasiness. Sometimes it is even difficult for me to open up on such topics because who wants to be a downer, right?

The truth is, when I do choose to share that my day is not going so well or that I'm suffering in some way, people are often very empathetic and supportive. Why? Because THEY'VE BEEN THERE. We have all been there.

Maybe they haven't had exactly the same experience, but each one of us has had to go through our own share of not-so-wonderful times.

No matter what any of us may be experiencing at this moment in time, there's one thing for certain. IT WILL CHANGE.

The process may not feel nice. We may even feel like running away or escaping. But if we can move through the transition. If we can look at our situation and say, "This is happening right now. Things are changing. I'm going through this transition. I'm here and witnessing it and hopefully learning and growing from it," then it doesn't matter what we may be experiencing or going through. It is in fact all the same: a learning experience.

And now you are asking, "What transition are you going through?"

And here it is:

My husband is planning on closing his yoga studio in order to pursue a self-sustained business model. I believe this is necessary and will turn out extremely positive, but the process is scary. He has built a very wonderful community near Seattle. I believe that community will continue, it will just take on a different form.

Do you tend to embrace transitions (positive or negative), or do you try to avoid them like the plague? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

365 Inspirations—261: Returning to Paleo

I've gone off and on the Paleo diet. What happens is that I tend to go on it and feel so great that I somehow believe I can eat a chocolate croissant and then chocolate anything and then I just pretty much eat whatever I want, which is nice, but not always agreeable to my system.

So it's the battle of what I'd like to eat (with no restrictions) and how my body reacts.

I talked to my mother today. She went to a naturopathic doctor and found out, after several tests, that she was gluten intolerant. Stomach problems run in our family. She is primarily eating a Paleo diet now.

I know I feel better when I cut out sugar, grains and coffee and eat Paleo. When I just stick to meat, veggies and fruit and maybe a little yougurt, I feel so much better.

But then I get bored and want to start eating things that don't agree with me.

Today I ate a turkey patty and steamed broccoli for dinner. That was enough for me. I'm not a huge eater. I felt pretty good after that meal.

I've decided to give the Paleo diet a go again. I don't know how long I'll keep it up, but I believe my health and body are worth it.

Do you have any dietary restrictions or complications with diet, or do you just eat whatever you want regardless of how you might feel?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

365 Inspirations—260: You Have Options

"We must dare to think 'unthinkable' thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world."—J.William Fulbright

One of the best lines of our entire trip to Peru came from our guide on the Salkantay Trip to Machu Picchu. He always gave us a briefing every morning at breakfast and my favorite thing he said each morning was:


And then he'd clue us in on the 'normal' plan and all the other options we had. For example, instead of trekking on a service road with cars whizzing by leaving us in a blanket of dust, we had the option of foregoing this section of the trail by truck, hence saving us from a very unpleasant few hours of walking. We took this option, preferring to trek on pristine trails far from cars.

Whenever I feel like I'm stuck or don't know what to do, this line now comes to my head.

It's so true.

All of us, at some point in our lives, get stuck in our habit patterns and 'normal' ways of thinking. We may feel like there is no way out of a situation. What I've learned, however, is that we all do indeed have options. One option might not be much better than another, but all of us can choose something or some direction in our lives.

Knowing that there are options, even options we can't perceive at this moment in time, provides a sense of freedom.

Right now my husband and I stand at a crossroads. We have to do something different. I won't go into details yet, but I'm not afraid of a detour or a different direction because I know we have options. Instead of using my limited thinking mind, I'm going to leave the space open for those options to come.

Actually, I'm excited about all the options and different directions we might take. New options and directions are always breeding grounds for growth and change.

I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Do you often feel stuck, or do you believe you have options?

Monday, September 16, 2013

365 Inspirations—259: Living in the Light

Ruins of Machu Picchu
Ever since we came back from Peru, I feel very light and calm. I don't know if it is because we have descended from a very high altitude and all the oxygen in my lungs is making me feel extra high and happy, but I feel so good.

During our trip we were blessed by a shaman at a ruin that was pre-Incan. We were high up in the mountains. I still feel like the blessings I received are with me. Again, while trekking over Salkantay Glacier at 4,600 meters, our guide, a true Quechan who was born on the Inca Trail, blessed us each at the summit. He chanted and placed coco leaves for each of us under a stupa and left these leaves at the top of the mountain.

These blessings and this light and feeling of lightness has been following me around all day. I feel absolutely like I'm walking on clouds.

I'm not sure if I'll ever come down....maybe I will, maybe I won't.

I know life is bound to have its ups and downs. I don't have any expectations.

Yoon and I are about to go through some major transitions, but I'm not afraid.

After all, we all have to go through transitions, the biggest one being the end of our lives.

I've decided, while I'm here on earth, to walk in the light. Even when there are thunderstorms and lightening, I will find the light. I've let go of trying to control the wheel. I completely believe that life will show me the way.

This doesn't mean that I won't make plans or do things, it just means that I'm not hanging on to the outcome. This makes my life much lighter and it brings more light to my world and the world around me.

Afterall, we are all connected. How we live with this life we have is so important. I choose to live in the light, even when it seems like there is only darkness.

I believe and trust that things will be okay.

Do you tend to be an optimist or a pessimist? How does being one or the other affect your life?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

365 Inspirations—258: The Comforts of Home

It was an amazing trip to Peru, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you how happy I was to make it home. It was a very looooongg trip home.

We left yesterday at 4:55pm and didn't get home until about that time this afternoon. We also took the link rail and a bus to our front door. The first thing I did was peel off my clothes and take a HOT shower in my very own bathroom.

I've been wearing the same clothes for weeks and it was so nice to open a closet full of clean clothes. One of Yoon's yoga students was very nice and watered our plants and brought in the mail, so we perused through that.

We then realized we had nothing to eat in the house, so we went out for Korean food. I think my husband was in heaven and I also enjoy a good Korean meal. He still has a bit of a traveler's stomach and was affected by high altitude sickness, so he's happy to be back at sea level.

We also stopped by the local grocery store near our house and picked up a few staples for breakfast tomorrow.

I'm wearing comfy flannel pajamas and it's rainy cats and dogs outside. We've got thunder and lightening, but I could care less.

So happy to be back to the comforts of home.

Do you enjoy coming home to your own house and the comforts of home after a long trip?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

365 Inspirations—257: Goodbye Peru

Last night, after a brief stop for dinner in a run-down town, we made it back to Cusco (a seven hour drive from Puno), checked into a hotel, took hot showers, repacked and then hit the hay.

We woke up this morning feeling refreshed and met two of our friends for breakfast which consisted of homemade bread, scrambled eggs, strong Peruvian coffee and juice.

We then met our friend and driver Isa at the chocolate museum and said our goodbyes to him after sipping chocolate tea.

Finally, we made our way down the cobblestone streets to the Temple of the Sun and wandered around. At 1pm, we enjoyed a three-course lunch and then planted ourselves on a bench in the main square with two of our friends and contemplated our amazing time in this country. We then said our goodbyes to them too as they will return to Seattle a day after us.

Now we are high up above the mountains in an airplane headed for Lima. We have a six-hour layover in Lima and then we board an all night flight to Los Angeles and then on to Seattle.

We won't arrive in Seattle until mid-day tomorrow.

I am now reflecting with Yoon on our time and I will not forget it.

Do you often feel excited to return home at the end of a trip, or do you wish you could stay longer?

Friday, September 13, 2013

365 Inspirations--256: Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

After spending the night on Amantani Island, we headed over to Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca and walked the entire circumference of the top of the island.

We passed women in traditional clothing weaving with breathtaking views below, we passed villagers wearing colorful hats, sheep, chickens, flowers of brilliant colors, and children running and playing games in the cobblestone streets.

We are now on the boat again on a three hour journey back to Puno. I can't believe we will be leaving this country tomorrow. Our time here has been unbelievable. My first visit to Peru was hard due to my budget, the weather and sickness. This time it feels like Peru is giving me a big, warm hug. The sun is high and so are we--high on the beauty of this place.

I feel tremendously blessed for my experiences here almost 20 years later. Tonight we head to the mountains closer to Cusco and tomorrow we make our long journey home to Seattle. More soon....

Have you ever been to a place that was unforgettable and left a deep impression on you?

365 Inspirations--255: Homestay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca

Yesterday, we headed to the docks of Puno and haggled with boat drivers. We wanted to visit Uros (Floating Islands) and stay overnight with a family on Amantani Island. We were late to the docks and most boats had already left, but we found a few drivers who were eager to take us.

Two other fellow travelers were looking for
A boat and asked to join us--Philip is from Holland and Sabrina is from Switzerland and they've turned out to be great travel companions.

I can't fully describe what an amazing experience it's been to be with this traditional family on the island. They welcomed us with open hearts and made us part of their family. They cooked for us and their youngest daughter guided us to the top of Pachamama mountain where we saw the most incredible sunset and all the surrounding islands and Lake Titicaca in all directions as far as the eye could see.

I made an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) just as the sun was setting. I offered a stone shaped as a pyramid and then meditated there. I felt so full and high--perhaps from the altitude.

We went back to the house and had dinner and wine and then walked up the outdoors steps to our sleeping quarters overlooking the lake. A zillion stars were above us and I felt like I could see the Milky Way. The moon is upside down below the equator and it made a happy face!

We woke up refreshed from all the hospitality and country air.

Now we are on the boat headed to another Island. It's been an unforgettable experience.

Have you ever done a homestay in a foreign country?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

365 Inspirations--254: Lake Titicaca

Today we drove from Cusco all the way to Puno (about an 8-hour drive). We saw lots of Inca ruins at various pueblos along the way.

Now we are at Lake Titicaca, which is one of the largest lakes in the world. It creates a natural barrier between Peru and Bolivia.

We are staying at a hotel along the lake tonight and tomorrow we hope to sleep overnight on one of the floating islands.

Lake Titicaca is a mystical place which contains both the Island of the Sun and the Island of the Moon. Many believe there is an entire ancient city below Lake Titicaca.

Have you ever traveled to an ancient or mystical place?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

365 Inspirations--253: Peru Rail

Right now, we are on Peru Rail. We got on the train at 6:15pm at Machu Picchu station and we are heading to Ollantaytambo Station and then on to Cusco by minivan. The train is really nice. It's got sky windows, drink and food service and its very clean. I'm having chamomile tea and a ham and cheese roll which is included in the ticket!

I don't remember ever seeing these modern trains when I was here 20 years ago! They've definitely improved things here and made it easier and more pleasant to travel in Peru.

Have you ever traveled by train? Where did you go?

Monday, September 9, 2013

365 Inspirations--252: Machu Picchu

Today we spent an entire day at Machu Picchu! The energy is so high there. My body is still vibrating, but I also feel relaxed.

We woke up at 5am, had breakfast and took a bus up to Machu Picchu just as the sun was coming up. Even though I've been to Machu Picchu before, it still blew me away once more. It's a place that is impossible to fully describe in words or pictures. it must be felt.

It feels like I spent a day with the Inca gods. I feel uplifted and blessed and I feel like spreading that feeling outward and sharing it with as many people as possible.

After wandering around the ruins, Yoon and I fell asleep on a grassy hill high above Machu Picchu. We both had very lucid dreams. I felt like I was flying or soaring above the earth like a condor. I had a bird's eye view of the entire world--past, present and future.

I awoke feeling very refreshed and peaceful. My energy is high, but I don't feel the need to do much today, except soak in all the beauty and wonder that is all around and share it.

Have you been to a holy place that felt charged with energy?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

365 Inspirations--251: Aguascalientes Calientes, Peru

After two nights of camping and trekking the Salkantay Trek, we made it to Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu and will stay here for two nights to give us time to explore this wonder of the world!

Aguas Calientes is a little tourist town with a hot spring. We haven't been to the hot spring yet, but it was nice to finally have a hot shower!

Do you enjoy camping? Do you ever feel the need for a hot shower after camping for several days?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

365 Inspirations--250: The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

I'm several posts behind, but am now catching up. We were way out in the Andes Mountains trekking and camping and it was impossible to get Internet, but I'm determined to keep these posts coming.

So let me backtrack a little.

On Friday, we began our trek over the Salkantay Glacier on our way to Machu Picchu. When we arrived at our trailhead, we had to wait two hours for our pack horses. We would be traveling with a cook, a guide and a horseman.

Since the horses were late, this put us back two hours on our arrival to the first camp and we had to trek in the dark with headlamps over very rocky and steep terrain and even our guide had difficulty finding the path.

The accent over Salkantay Glacier was not easy and the altitude gain was significant. We reached the top of the mountain at 4,200 meters--much higher than Washington's Mt. Rainier where I live.

Every step was a challenge near the top as we struggled to get oxygen.

We were happy to finally make it. We took a picture at the top and our guide performed a ritual. Our guide is Quechuan and was born on the Inca Trail. He very much believes in ancient rituals and making offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth).  Even though we were exhausted and it was starting to get cold on the mountain top, we stood in a circle holding two coco leaves each as our guide chanted each one of our names and wished everyone a safe journey.

He then placed the coco leaves under a stack of rocks at the summit and we turned to descend the mountain just as the sun was setting.

Have you ever reached the summit of a mountain or mountain pass? How did it feel?

Friday, September 6, 2013

365 Inspirations--249: Beginning our Trek to Machu Picchu

This morning at 5AM, we are heading out for a three night four day trek to Machu Picchu. Yesterday I got traveller's diarrhea, but I feel a little better today. Since our time is limited, we are only doing 3 nights four days of the Salkantay Glacier. Twenty years ago I did the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu and this time we'll attempt the Salkantay Glacier trek.

My only apprehension is that I'm a little ill and that not the best to be for hiking out in the wilderness, but I'm going to believe that I will be just fine and the trek will be amazing!

We are going with a guide and porters. We will most likely spend our last night in Aguas Calientes, a hot spring resort at the base of Machu Picchu.

Off we go, I'm going to try and keep these inspirations going, but if for some reason I can't get connection out in the bush, I may be on a short blog hiatus, but I will try.

Tune in here to read about our journey to Machu Picchu.

Have you ever gone trekking and slept out in the wilderness?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

365 Inspirations--248: A Day of Rest in a Peruvian Home

Today I woke up with traveller's diarrhea. It was my biggest fear about coming back to Peru! And here's my fear sitting with me today. In my 20s, I did not eat well while traveling overseas and as a result, became very ill and even ended up in a Thai hospital while traveling through India.

The others went to Cusco for the day and I have this huge house and garden all to myself. This house we rented in Urubamba  in Sacred Valley is one of the best parts of our trip! It's walled in and has fruit trees and lots of flowers and you can see mountains all around and a million stars!

The living room and dining room are huge and there's a lovely kitchen where we cook together or the caretaker cooks with us. In about 10 minutes, I'm going to the market with the caretaker to buy ingredients to make Saltado de Carne. I may even help to prepare the meal.

Later tonight a Peruvian band is coming to the house to play for us.....

More soon.

Have you ever gotten sick while traveling?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

365 Inspirations--247: Ollantaytambo and Ceremony with Shaman

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better."--Albert Einstein

Everyday is more amazing than the next and it's hard to put it all into words! We are seeing and feeling so much! Today we were blown away by the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. There are no words that will give it justice, but I'll post a few photos of the experience.

Later, we hiked high up a mountain and met with a shaman who performed a ritual in honor of Pachamama, Mother Earth. This was a little known spot in a cave in the mountains. He played a flute and burned some sweet smelling herbs. He had flowers arranged on a mat in the cave. We stood in a circle and held hands as he chanted. He called each of our names one by one and we made offerings of rice, dried beans, dried fish, and other plants to Pachamama. I felt my heart soar and felt truly blessed to be alive and to be having this experience. The place of the ceremony in the cave overlooked soaring mountains and there was an Ancient cross carved in the stone that was thought to be pre-Incan.

The shaman then wrapped all of our offerings in a blanket and we passed the wrapped offerings around and held them and each of us gave our silent blessings. Then we buried the offerings by throwing soil and alcohol made from corn on the burial site.

We then stood in silence and I felt tremendous peace.

I felt truly blessed and I share that all with you!

Have you ever participated in a ceremony or ancient ritual?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

365 Inspirations—246: Sacred Valley

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."—Anonymous

We've been in Sacred Valley for two nights. I'm realizing that it's hard to blog on the road every single day when all you have is a backpack and you are in a foreign country. I'm doing this post on my husband's iPad mini, but its a little tricky! Not sure what I'll do while trekking to Machu Picchu?!

We are staying in a gorgeous house in Sacred Valley, Peru. We are on a yoga/trekking retreat! Today we spent the day at Pisac Market and went to a wildlife sanctuary where they take care of animals who may have been abused or injured. We saw giant condor, alpaca, pumas, llamas and many more animals and learned a lot. We then toured the Inca ruins in Pisac. The word for today is 'breathtaking' in all senses of this word. The high altitude took our breaths away, but the Inca ruins and the market made us gasp in wonder! I visited this country 20 years ago, but was afraid to return to because of the hard solo traveling I experienced. But this country has embraced me in its warmth and light and I am in awe of all that I see here. I'm seeing it with new eyes. And maybe Peru is seeing me with new eyes.

In my 20s, I did not realize the sacredness of this place because I was trying to survive on 5 soles a day. Now we have the means to fully experience it and absorb it. Tomorrow we will meet a shaman who is going to perform a private ritual for Pachamama. Pachamama is Mother Earth. The Incas and Quechua worship her and give thanks to her for the sun, fertile land, and good crops.

More soon from our journey....

Have you ever returned to a place and had a very different experience?