Tag Archives: yoga

3 things I’ve learned from writing

1. The process of writing means more to me than the finished product.

I’ve gone back to reading several of my old works. Admittedly, some pieces are cringeworthy; others still resonate true today. This comes as no surprise, really. The familiarity of what I’m reading allows me to bypass the story and concentrate on elements of craft. I see things differently than when I first published in 2011.

When I was a non-writing reader, the rules of grammar and punctuation only came to light if I saw an obvious error. Poor sentence structure, the overuse of adverbs, word repetition, etc., were but fleeting impressions.

Now, I’m more focused on how a sentence can be improved upon. This is probably why writers are advised to read — a lot. We feed off and learn from the writing of better authors.

Although completion of a short story, novella, or novel is cause for celebration once it’s published, it is no longer mine. The process of writing is what is important from a learning perspective, and remaining attached to a story after it’s made public serves no purpose.

2. The more I write, the more I learn about others and the less I know about myself.

Writing fiction demands that I look at the world through the lens of others, to inhabit my characters in order write their stories.

By gaining insight into others, I’ve discovered how little I know about myself.

Allow me to explain.

Because I must expand my imagination to write fiction, I sometimes question if it is truly me who comes up with the stories. In the genre of mystery and suspense, I’ve researched by reading a lot of true crime. It’s not surprising I’ve filled my mind with some awful images. That I am also a news junkie only adds to the chaos inside my head.

It’s great for fiction, but not so good for maintaining daily calm.

To stay grounded, I meditate and do yoga. In meditation, all kinds of thoughts come up. I simply observe them, attaching neither good nor bad feelings toward them. Acceptance of these thoughts trains my mind to stay calm and be in the moment. This translates to a more easygoing manner outside of meditation, and hopefully, more awareness.

Yoga serves to strengthen my physical being, which is intimately connected to the mind.

To create believable characters, it’s necessary to nurture them to behave in a way that might be contrary to my own behaviour. The important thing is staying true to myself when I’m not in my fictional world.

3. Writing can be all encompassing.

Writing absorbs me when I’m “in the zone.” At these times, I don’t need food or sleep, and I avoid all distractions. My only purpose is to ride the creative wave for as long as it will take me and as far as it will go.

It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s an amazing feeling when it does.

+++

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from writing? Please feel free to share. 🙂

XX

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Music Monday flows with @The_xx

Happy New Year! Thanks so much for joining me for my first post of 2017.

If you don’t know by now, Mondays on my blog are reserved for music because music inspires so much of what I do. I’ve been featuring both old and new songs here since 2010, and it all started with this little post. I laughed when I read it again; it was long ago when I first started my blog. At the time, a regular music post seemed the perfect way to kick off the week. It still does.

Music has always been a constant in my life, so I hope you will continue to join me every Monday.

For 2017, I’m starting with an English band I first heard last summer.

The xx is a trio who’ve been around since 2005. They are releasing their third studio album in a couple of weeks, but this track, aptly called “Intro” came off their debut album.

I first heard “Intro” while in a hot yoga class with one of my favourite teachers, Erick.

I recall sweat dripping off my forehead as I held a painful plank pose. More than likely, I was cursing Erick under my breath too.

Then this song came on, and herein lies the power of music for me.

Suddenly, my energy changed. I forgot the pressure on my wrists and the trembling in my core. The first notes of this tune injected power into my arms and I lifted my sagging middle just a little bit higher.

Instead of being in agony, I was now Superwoman, (well, not really), but I knew I could hold that pose much longer than I had initially thought.

Have a listen to The xx, and let me know if you don’t feel a spring in your step afterward. 🙂 Crank it up!

Enjoy, and hope you have an energetic, super-charged, and powerful week,

~eden

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 2) #Bali #Ubud

Welcome to the fourth instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first three, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite mind, body, and spirit to inspire my writing.

I started writing this blog while in Indonesia. I have since returned home. What an amazing trip!

Here are some final thoughts on my time in Ubud, which encompasses changes I encountered in Bali from the last time I was there in 1988.

Postcards—The Internet of the Past

The Internet was in its infancy when I was traveling around Asia almost thirty years ago. For all intents and purposes, it didn’t exist. To stay in touch, one of the first things I did when I arrived at a new destination was pick up a stack of postcards and spend a couple of hours writing them. The process helped me acclimatize to my surroundings and lay down thoughts on my travels while planning next steps. I had a list of about twenty people to write, including family, friends, and acquaintances I had met along the way.

Writing postcards was not just a responsible travel ritual.

I did not pen: “Hi, I’m here in XYZ city. Alive and well!” on all my cards. No, each one was personalized.

Even though it was one-way communication, postcards helped me maintain friendships and forge new ones.

bali postcard

In my two years away, I must have sent close to 200 postcards. My only regret was that I didn’t send one to myself each time I posted them. Along with my photographs, they would’ve added another dimension to my scrapbook.

Fast forward to this trip and I can hardly remember when the Internet did not exist.

En route to Ubud, I connected with loved ones at each juncture—each time I landed at a different airport until arrival at my final destination. Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter made it easy. I no longer had to write a note to each person. I could provide an update of my whereabouts and what I was doing en masse.

It was quick and easy, but it did not have the personal investment of postcards. As much as I love the Internet and its ability for near instant communication, it lacks for something. Perhaps I’m a romantic. I still like writing letters and cards on occasion.

Even now, postcards are available if I want to buy and send them, but the process seems like more effort than it’s worth. For a short trip, coupled with slow postal service, postcards probably won’t make it to the addressee until I’m already home.

For most people (and me included) *sigh*, the Internet has replaced postcards as the touchpoint along one’s journey.

Hostels and Hotels

Hostels were a great place to meet other travelers especially when backpacking on my own. I never felt like I was alone and the normally small facilities meant I would make friends, usually over breakfast or while using shared facilities.

This type of accommodation was perfect for a twenty-something on a budget. I don’t remember exactly where I stayed in Ubud so long ago, but it couldn’t have been more than $4 a night.

This go-round, I didn’t exactly stay at the Ritz, but it was luxury by comparison. I had a large room, king-sized bed, and a washroom I didn’t have to share with anyone! Breakfast was included as was a pool, and housekeeping was excellent. Space and privacy was what I valued during my stay at Gana Restaurant and Villa.

If you’re thinking of going to Ubud, consider booking Gana, located centrally and within walking distance to many attractions. The best way to book is via Anita’s Airbnb Listings. She has multiple places listed with different price points.

gana staff 2

The friendly and helpful staff at Gana!

Monkeys—Then and Now

Below are pictures of me in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary back in ’88.

bali me and monkey 1 I was feeding peanuts to the Balinese long-tailed macaques and recall them being quite timid. They didn’t mind sitting with me for a while before scampering off.
bali_monkey-2

For this trip, I brought with me a a bag of unshelled peanuts again. Unfortunately, visitors to the forest can no longer feed the monkeys certain foods—peanuts being one of them. The caretakers maintain a strict diet with the monkeys, which consists of sweet potato, bananas, coconut and other fruit. It’s understandable for the continued health of the monkeys.

monkey forest sign

Instead of feeding them nuts, I gave them bananas purchased inside the Forest. Several monkeys approached and snatched the fruit immediately. They were no longer willing to sit and have a chat. 😉

monkey forest 3

There are now more than 600 monkeys living in the area. This has more than doubled since I was last there. Along with the population growth, the monkeys now seem more brazen. I can’t help but think it’s due to the continued interaction with tourists.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-47-37-pm

One of the guidelines states: Do not make eye contact with the monkeys. They see this as a sign of aggression.

And yes, there are stories of how monkeys bite, scratch, and jump on tourists.

The amount of interaction between humans and monkeys did seem too intimate at times. I saw tourists posing with monkeys using their selfie sticks, the monkeys on their heads and shoulders. I was only too happy to observe from afar.

monkey-forest-roots

A photo opportunity with a monkey did not interest me, as I wanted my presence to be as non intrusive as possible.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-43-15-pm

Along with monkeys, there are 115 separate species of trees and three temples inside the Forest. With its moss-covered statues and hanging tree roots, the Forest is an amazing place to walk through.

monkey forest temple

Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or the “Main Temple,” built around 1350

Toilets, Toilet Paper and Why the Hose? 

When I was first in Indonesia, I was terribly naive about many things. The first time I walked into a public toilet, I was shocked to find nothing more than a hole in the ground. No toilet paper.

Luckily for me, I always traveled with a small packet of tissues, so I was able to take care of myself that time. Later, I learned the lay of the land as far as toilets were concerned.

If you’re squeamish about bodily functions, this is a warning not to read further.

In Asia, travelers spoke incessantly of their bowel movements. Whether you were constipated or had diarrhea was a topic of conversation at breakfast. I quickly got over my shyness around the subject, and to this day, I have no issue talking about poo to anyone at anytime. (Not that too many of my friends want to talk about this anyway!).

There are several iterations of the Indonesian toilet. In the one I first experienced, a ceramic basin filled with water and a bucket stood next to the toilet. The idea was to use the bucket to scoop water from the basin and clean yourself—with your left hand only. (I’ll talk about this distinction of hands shortly). You would also use the water to flush contents down the bowl.

Below is a pretty fancy version of these toilets. The one I remember was simply a hole with no decorative ceramic tile. I’m not sure why the water is brown in this picture, but it should be clean water from the spigot.

squat toilet

With regards to cleaning yourself with your left hand only, I learned this when I was introduced to an Indonesian man and extended my left hand in greeting. He was polite but did not shake my hand.

As the left hand is used for cleaning yourself, you would never touch a stranger with it. Also, Indonesians eat traditional meals with their hands, and only the right hand is used to pick up food.

On this trip, my hotel had a Western-style toilet along with a handheld hose—a bidet, if you will. I saw more and more of these bidet hoses in public restrooms.

toilet with hose The hose is attached to the seat and activated by a button or knob, or in some toilets, it is mounted to the wall. In any case, it’s a step up from using the bucket. The idea is simple: After you finish your business, you would hose yourself while sitting on the toilet. Because I had good water pressure at my hotel, I didn’t need to clean myself with my hand.

The hotel also provided toilet paper, which I used sparingly to dab myself dry after applying the hose. A full roll of paper is only about a quarter of what you would get in the West.

Toilet paper is expensive, and the sewer system is not equipped for flushing copious amounts of it.

It takes some adjustment and coordination, but I like the idea of cleaning with water. It’s much more hygienic than just using toilet paper.

Food and Drink

I LOVE Indonesian food.

I had opportunity to eat at some fantastic warungs this trip. These small, family-owned businesses serve traditional food, and are usually housed in modest dwellings, though some can be quite large.

trad-food The food is normally a simple combination of rice, meat or fish, and a vegetable. Along with a drink and shrimp chips, you can have a filling meal for less than $3.00.

trad-food-2

What makes the meals delicious are the spices, usually a combination of chilli, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Curries are also a big part of Indonesian cuisine.

curry

On one of my last days in Ubud, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party with many other women. It was a veritable feast that lasted over three hours. Thank you Ednawati!

I tried a shaved ice dessert made with fruit, grass jelly, and sweet and condensed milk called Es Campur.

me holding es campur

I never thought I would be able to eat the entire bowl, but I did. It was so delicious! I couldn’t finish the birthday cake though, but it was also very good.

dessert-and-drinkYoung coconuts were abundant, and since it’s a super food, I could not get enough of them. The juice from one coconut filled me for hours.

coconuts

Wine is expensive in Indonesia, given it is imported and there isn’t much variety. I’m also not much of a beer drinker. As such, I drank hot tea most days, particularly green tea, which I am addicted to! I found an amazing brand of it at Kakiang Bakery near my hotel and bought three bags to take home.

Now I have to find out how to replenish my supply once it’s finished! green-tea

On this trip, I tried something I’ve never had before—Kopi Luwak coffee. If you are unfamiliar with this coffee, it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

Why? The unusual production process.

The coffee beans (which are actually seeds) are digested by the Indonesian cat-like animal called the civet cat (known as luwaks in Indonesia). The feces of the cat/luwak are collected by farmers, processed, and then sold as Kopi Luwak.

Cat poo coffee.

civet-coffee

I told you I had no qualms talking about poo. Heh.

So, did I like it?

To frame my response, remember I’m a lover of green tea. I’ve also been off coffee for several months, so my taste for it is not discerning, by any stretch.

I drank the Kopi Luwak black, which is what you’re supposed to do in order to experience the unique flavour.

Truth is … I didn’t hate it, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement!

kopi luwak

Kopi Luwak is very rich, as you can see from the residue around the cup.

I tried not to disturb the coffee as I drank it, but once I got near the bottom, it became too thick to continue.

My best analysis of the flavour is it’s a blend of dark chocolate and dark coffee with a smooth, nutty aftertaste. Given I usually take my coffee with a bit of cream, I expected it to be bitter. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bitter at all.

My recommendation is you try it once and make up your own mind. Indonesia is certainly the place to do it.

Travel with Purpose

When I traveled to Bali and Asia in the late eighties, the purpose was to explore the world. With an open ticket and no set timeline, I started in Hong Kong and meandered from there. I had a simple formula—when my funds ran out, I would return home.

Indonesia was not on my radar when I started my journey, but it manifested as I met other travelers along the way.

bali_Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, 1988

The only purpose of that trip was to expand my realm of experience and my mind. The power of travel helped mould me into the person I am today.

festival banner

On this trip, I planned my stay around the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The festival saw numerous speakers come together for a five-day event to discuss writing, books, and issues affecting the world today.

open-dance-for-fest

The festival began with a traditional Balinese welcome dance.

The theme – Tat Tvam Asi: ‘I am you, you are me’ – created a strong focus for the conversations.

eden at the festival

One of the most entertaining speakers I met was Delhi-based author, Mayank Austen Soofi. (You have to love a man who chooses his middle name after his favorite author!).

He writes a popular blog called The Delhi Walla. I attended a couple of his panels, one in which he shared the stage with three other authors.

His approach was decidedly different from the others.

How so?

He didn’t try to sell his books by obnoxiously mentioning them while answering questions from the moderator.

Indie authors like myself who do it all, including promote our work will understand why this is so important. Nobody wants to listen to someone who screams: “Buy my book!” at every turn. In the age of social media, over-selling is easy to do, but it won’t work. Seasoned authors know that selling a book does not mean flogging it to death.

Mr. Soofi’s responses, infused with enthusiasm, warmth, and wit sold his book.

nobody can love you moreFor this reason, I feel fortunate to have received a copy of Mr. Soofi’s book, Nobody Can Love You More. It is an account in words and photographs of life in Delhi’s red light district. He was gracious enough to sign the book for me, and I look forward to reading it.

mayank sign book

Writing, yoga, and sightseeing made up the other days of my stay in Ubud. Instead of telling you about it, I’ve attached a slideshow. You will see for yourself why Ubud, Bali is one of the most magical places on earth.

Thank you for reading. Now that I’ve returned from Bali, my Mind Body Series will tackle other areas of my life. I hope you continue to join me as I explore this curious time in my life.

~eden

Approximately 30 pictures

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Pieces of You in Ubud #poem #Bali

A poem for my husband on the occasion of his birthday.

* * *

John,

Thank you for being who you are, for granting me precious time and space … for Ubud.

In return, this is my gift to you,

eden
xox

* * *

Pieces of You in Ubud

 

I walk the streets of Ubud and discover pieces of you
In the cracks of broken tile pavements
Across ill-fitting, metal sewer grates
Your spirit rises to greet me like incense to the gods

Faded signs of cafés and hotels line a main road
Veering toward alleyways filled with unknown treasures
You pull me close for a moment or two
To breathe in the wonder of a new day

Appeasing and pleasing gods and demons
Begins a daily ritual in Bali
Devotional gifts of flower petals and frangipani
Adorn sidewalks, shrines, and statues

You walk with me in harmony
Careful not to step on the canangs
The day is young and the hustle has just begun
You hypnotize at every turn

 

I meander the streets of Ubud and find traces of you
In statues wrapped with black and white checkered cloth
In the sweet fragrance of incense permeating the air
You guide me through narrow walkways hand in hand

I sidestep a dog that is too hot or too tired to move
Or maybe he is just claiming his space
You escort me to the edge of shattered crossroads
Where I look right, then left, then right again

A rumble quickly escalates to a roar
In the tangle of vehicles that defines Ubud traffic
A chaotic racetrack unfurls from around the bend
Unleashing a blur of motorbikes and vans

“Wait …” you whisper in a cautionary voice
I feel the squeeze of your hand as you inch me forward
The dust and noise settle down, a fleeting calm
Just the break needed to run to the opposite side

 

I weave through the streets of Ubud and remember pieces of you
In the voices of young women offering a massage
In a bakery window filled with chocolates and sweets
Your essence surrounds me like a favorite sarong

A gentle rain falls in the early evening
Merchants pull in their wares and clapboard signs
Backpackers scurry to find shelter
I seek refuge under my latest possession

A monsoon hits, third one in a less than a week
The downpour floods the streets within seconds
I skip over puddles with unsteady footing
My flip-flops are soaked, yet again

You navigate me around a minefield of gaping holes
Loose rocks and debris float toward overflowing gutters
I squelch my way toward my hotel
And silently thank you for my umbrella

 

I travel the town of Ubud and conjure up images of you
In the faces of men who call out “Taxi?” as I walk by
In swathes of brilliant green rice fields as far as the eye can see
You tug at my heart until I choke with tears

Ubud …

You cast your spell on mortals and spiritual beings
Lay bare the knowledge of your ancient wisdom
You tempt
Like the graceful sway of a Balinese woman
You inspire
With the mystery of the Sacred Monkey Forest
You arouse passions and fulfillment of passions
Pieces of you live inside of me
And they always will

* * *


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Music Monday flows with Pink Floyd #Bali

Hello from Ubud, Bali.

The past week has been incredible in so many ways. To find inspiration for my writing is one of the reasons I took this trip, and I am so happy I did.

If for no other reason, I’ve confirmed that the sights, sounds, and smells of Bali have to be experienced. There is no possible way I could have breathed the magic of Ubud without being here.

Last night, I went to the Laughing Buddha Bar to decompress after a day of writing, sightseeing, and dinner. It’s a small, live music venue located on Monkey Forest Road, one of the few main arteries in Ubud. An Indonesian band called the Cooltones played rock cover tunes.

They were very good musicians.

Along with Clapton, Hendrix, and Muddy Waters, they also played this song by Pink Floyd.

Oh …. how I wish you were here.

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