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Seven Days of Silence

They say what's buried in the winter is found again in spring

When I’m With You, Joshua Radin

Humans really cannot do two things at once. The majority of times that I try to, like talking to someone while sending a quick text or typing on my laptop and trying to listen (or my pet hate: someone scrolling on their phone while we’re talking) – I invariably miss something, or most likely – everything.

Earlier this year I had two choices: go to Sri Lanka or experience intense presence in silence. My curiosity won and I went on a 7-day silent meditation retreat with Spanda School in coastal West Australian bushland.

There is such richness to be lived offline. I found it incredibly humbling and healing to not speak for seven days, and I experienced a lightness of being I cannot explain.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. - Naomi Shihab Nye

However, being completely in silence did have its challenges. The list of what I couldn’t do was long (no talking, no reading, no phone, no music, no eye contact, no internet – to name a few). Only writing was allowed. And write I did.

My intention for going off the grid was to ‘unravel’. I filled up an entire Moleskin notebook with words from my stream of consciousness. In it is one attempt at poetry, lists, personal explorations, some things I probably don’t want to reread, and letters to the great loves of my life (I knew there would be an ex-boyfriend day!).

Every next level of life will demand a different you. - Leonardo DiCaprio

A lot of people have since asked me if I was bored or challenged or scared. Yes, yes, and yes. I have been doing Vedic meditation for two years, and yet I was still quietly worried if I would ever feel my legs again after four to six hours of meditating per day on the retreat. I had willingly signed up for no connection, no communication, no screens, no books, and essentially – living in flight mode. I quickly realised there was no way to Command T my way out of this.

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New Year, New Word for 2018

Must've been forces, that took me on them wild courses

00000 Million, Bon Iver

2017 was the year of being my #bestself, living the word reverence, and discovering that my name means ‘apricot tree jewel fruit’ in Japanese. Winning.

I tried to not force things (2016 word: flow), finally understood what all the fuss is about gin (delicious), tried to find the perfect mustard (still looking), and landed an exciting job in tech and marketing (Uber Eats).

I did quite a few things alone – like travelling to Japan in cherry blossom season and hiking in Muir Woods near San Francisco – and learning how to navigate solitude like a pro. I had my own back. In essence, I’ve spent the last twelve months focusing on self-care and self-study to, as Ram Dass says, get my own house in order:

I can do nothing for you but work on myself… you can do nothing for me but work on yourself.

It has been the first year in many that didn’t have major heartbreak. I did have a few disappointments with timing and romantic failures though. Key takeaway: thank them for their honesty and walk away. The other day I wrote: “I have gained more than I have lost” which I think best sums up that it won’t always feel good, but it will teach us something.

So, how will life unfold in the year ahead?

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Ichiego-ichie-life-curator

Be here in this moment. Sacred, I'm saying your name.

Give Me Tonight, Dustin Tebbutt

The Japanese have a saying ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ (一期一会) meaning ‘one time, one meeting’. It roughly translates to the idea that we live ‘each moment, only once’ and that the value of each encounter is that it happens only once in a lifetime.

I was introduced to the concept of ichigo ichie at a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto. Being a tea lover, I jumped at the opportunity to sit inside a century-old tea room and experience the artistic display of tradition and hospitality. Our tea hostess was captivating – a graceful lady in her sixties with an unhurried elegance and a quiet passion. I intently watched her transfer the hot water from a cast iron cauldron with a wooden ladle into ceramic bowls before whisking the matcha tea and serving us. I was overcome with the feeling of beauty and intense presence.

The Japanese have a way of doing things – it is slow and measured, with everyday gestures being undertaken with reverence and intimacy. I frequently got goosebumps while traveling in Japan, like when watching someone gift wrap something for me in a shop or when sitting at the counter of a tiny restaurant and seeing my meal being prepared.

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At Least My Heart Was Open

Never more alone or more alive

Shasta, Mat Kearney

The concept of time baffles me. I cannot explain how seven years can feel like seven minutes and how three weeks feels more like three months have passed. I’m currently travelling around Japan by myself, a concept that baffles some people that I meet. The ask “Just you?”, wonder “Where are your friends?”, and want to know “Is your husband joining us?”. I don’t travel alone to make a point out of it. I simply want to have adventures and experiences that I cannot have at home, and at the moment that means doing it solo.

The inevitable highs and low of travel are amplified when you have no one to share them with. When you are travelling alone you get these intense moments of personal pride. Like navigating a complex subway system with no WiFi, and ordering a meal in a foreign language using hand gestures. It’s a chance to celebrate the things you did all on your own.

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Flow-1000x1000

All my life I wasn't honest enough and I thought I would never get over you

Sahara Pt. II, Bear's Den

Is there anything left to say about 2016? Libraries’ worth of articles, tweets and ‘what the fuck’ conversations are trying to understand the year that was. So instead I am going to share how I start and spend each new year with a new word, because your life is not going to magically change at 12:01am (and if it did, please do share).

It all started back in 2015 when I was travelling and couchsurfing across North America. The word ‘grace’ kept showing up everywhere – on street signs, in song lyrics, and in things I was reading. Grace, hey? It was not a new word to me and it initially sounded kind of meek and meh. Certainly not very exciting or adventurous. Until I really thought about the state of grace.

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digitaldopamine-1000x1000

And I know you wanted to for some time now

Into the Sun, Sons Of The East

If you eat an abundance bowl but don’t share it online, are you still #blessed?

I’ve been wanting to learn Vedic meditation for quite some time, and recently travelled to Byron Bay for a retreat with The Broad Place at The Atlantic. Initially, I was planning to only go phone-free for the four-day immersion, but then I decided to go offline for the following week to figure out what is real. A sort of ‘detox’ from digital dopamine.

Digital dopamine is a term I like to use to explain the feelings of reward and pleasure from constant online communication, Facebook likes, Instagram hearts and Twitter retweets. It’s that rush of satisfaction and self-worth we all know. But more and more, I/we are using social media to kill time and that is literally what it does – kills it.

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new words for old desires

I want to see you dance again

Harvest Moon, Neil Young

Sometimes in life, you have to go backwards in order to move forwards. It’s called ‘closing the loop’. Allow me to explain – it’s like an incomplete romantic relationship and needs to come full circle. Perhaps you have unfinished business with someone whom you once shared affection with. Basically – it’s all the unexplained, unsettled, unfulfilled parts of you that are tied to someone. An intense intimate encounter with no ending. Do you feel me?

There is a high price to pay for keeping the loop open. Like keeping a part of yourself closed to real commitment. The incompleteness with this person is exciting, sure. We fantasise about what could have been and what will be. Because the loop is not closed, we yearn for the road not taken, the one where anything could happen.

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long distance crush

I can't help but wonder do you ever think of me

Reverie on Norfolk Street, Luluc

A playlist for longing for someone who lives far away. A long distance crush. For what might have been. Songs about an emotionally unavailable love interest. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you. For the times when your heart is in it more than theirs. For getting close, but not close enough.

I once heard that ‘true love is matching energies’ and I wrote it down. A holiday fling, instant soul sparks, electric connections – we’ve all had one. Long distance crushes do have their success stories but in reality – they are part ecstatic romance, part the perils of technology and part insanity management. At first you (think) you are falling in love, but then later realise that you are falling into patterns of sustaining whatever this is.

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if its a friend you need playlist life curator-1000px

You've got heart and you're going your own way

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, Noah And The Whale

A playlist for anyone with an aching void. A deep sadness. The feeling that something is missing. A hunger in your bones. An urge to cry for no reason (like breaking down in the middle Berkley’s busiest street) – we all feel loneliness from time to time.

You are everything you want. You are trying your hardest. Stop having and getting, and start being and becoming. You’re going to have to save yourself.

If we are lucky, loneliness will break our heart open. It hurts because it matters. You are changing, and being honest with yourself is too beautiful for words.

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Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Sometimes you gotta start clean, you gotta begin not begin again

Happiness, The Weepies

A playlist for anyone in a constant state of craving – for liberation, for solitude, for fun, for adventure, for nature, for exhilaration, and for wonder.

I have made many attempts to resist, fight and shoosh these cravings. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and the feelings of an unfulfilled life can take over leaving you with the only option you knew you had  – to liberate yourself from the suffocating atmosphere of hesitation and indecision, drop everything and throw yourself into what you were always meant to do.

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