There’s so much diversity in the world that sometimes I feel I was living in a bubble in Australia. Not that there isn’t diversity in Oz. On the contrary. But my mind was so focused on visa, visa, visa (and making money to pay for school and visa, then, only then, live my life and my purpose), that I kind of forgot how big and expanded the world, the mind and ideas can be.
Staying in Ubud seems to be waking me up from some sort of dormant state. The place is such a melting pot of multicultural, creative people – sometimes even very overwhelming – that it’s making me see life through different eyes, and encouraging me to think outside the box. I still think Australia is the place for me, where I want to build my future, retire, reconnect with and contribute to my community, etc. Nevertheless, it feels so much needs to change as far as my mindset is concerned. I’ve been questioning career, my purpose in life, friendships and boundaries, relationships… I feel like a volcano about to erupt. Soon to create beauty from such eruption.
It’s an intense, sometimes painful journey (ah, all that lava being produced inside), yet it’s starting to feel very exciting. I can see how/why inner change is necessary. So wait and see – I’ll come out of this stronger, happier, expanded, with more purpose, and even more empathy. Right now I totally feel I can do it. And I will.
As I was filling in a form today, signing up for yoga classes, I realised letting go of Australia might take longer and might be harder than I thought. When completing the Country field, I automatically wrote Australia. Later I thought: no wonder why – I have an Australian ID card, Australian driver’s licence, Australian phone number, Australian bank account… 70% of my clients, my close friends, my sanga, my salsa community, and some of my belongings are all in Australia. Basically my life is still in Australia. It’s been hard to answer the question ‘Where are you from?’. I try to make it simple, saying where I’m originally from. But some people insist in asking where I’m based now. I don’t feel like making it up. I could simply say I live in Australia or Brazil or Italy. Not sure it’d matter to people. But it somehow matters to me. And it suddenly seems very unfair that I cannot settle down ‘Down Under’. Such ridiculous immigration rules. They say home is where the heart is. My heart is clearly in Oz. And it sucks that I’m going through this right now (although I’m enjoying Bali and can see healing at the end of the tunnel).
As I’ve recently boarded a few long flights, here I share some tips to maintain good health when travelling by air, following the principles of Ayurveda.
The dosha most affected by air travel is the vata dosha. Why? The characteristics of vata dosha are light, dry, mobile, and cold, and these are all we experience on an airplane. So we can try and balance these out before, during and after the flight, by having a routine that aims to stimulate the opposite qualities – heavy, moist, grounded, and warm. It works pretty well.
Warm oil massage – For a few days before the flight, and particularly right before you head to the airport and once you get in the destination, apply some warm sesame oil to the body. Sesame oil has warm and moist qualities. I have put some sesame oil in a small travel bottle to take with me in my carry-on baggage, so I can also apply the oil to my body when I get to the destination when I travel (and to nose and ears, as below). Don’t forget to take a shower after every time you apply!
Drink warm water – Make sure you drink lots of warm water during the flight. It will help keep the body hydrated (moist), and warm. You can ask the cabin crew to mix hot and cold water.
Oil to ears and nose – The air is so dry on an airplane cabin due to very low humidity that our nostrils and ears might feel it. I usually apply a little of sesame oil to my ears and nostrils once I’m onboard. If the flight is too long and the air is too dry, I might need to re-apply towards the end of the flight.
Cold water to eyes – Similar to ears and nose, our eyes may dry during long flights, not only because of the dry air/low humidity, but also because we have a screen right in front of us and we fixate our gaze on it, not blinking as much as we should. So take a break from the screen once in a while and go to the bathroom to rinse your eyes with cold water to keep them moist.
Squat – As we remain seated for a long period when we’re travelling by air, and as vata is aggravated, normal bowel movements can be affected. Squatting helps getting the bowels to move, and widens the anorectal angle. You can go to the rear of the airplane where the toilets are and squat there for a few minutes at a time. I usually take my book and read it while in the squatting position (on one of the flights, a flight attendant didn’t like it much that I was just squatting at the back of the airplane and asked me to go back to my seat. I told her I needed to be in that position for a while, also because I’m very tall and it’s super uncomfortable for me – my hips and legs – to remain seated all the time – as a result, I was upgraded to an extra legroom seat!)
Eat when hungry – When we’re on board of an airplane, we’re offered food at the times scheduled by the airline. But ask yourself when they’re about to serve your meal – Am I really hungry? Remember bowel movements can be affected, so you don’t want to keep stuffing up your body if nothing is coming out of it. Heavy can balance the light in vata, but too heavy (i.e., too much food) might be too much for your digestion. If you decide to skip a meal when it’s served, it’s ok – you can always later ask the crew for a meal or snack. On my last flight, my first meal wasn’t vegetarian as I had requested. So I didn’t eat (wasn’t fully hungry anyway). But later, when I was hungry, I asked a crew member if they had a snack because I hadn’t had my meal – they offered to see if there was any meal left from dinner.
Avoid alcohol & caffeinated drinks – It can be tempted to ask for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee when the cabin crew passes by the aisle offering drinks. But both alcohol and caffeinated drinks (coffee, some tea, cola, etc.) promote dehydration. And all we want is to avoid that while we travel by air. Best is to keep drinking water!
The good thing about some of these tips above is that they keep you moving during the flight (as you stand up to go to the bathroom to apply your oils, or to rinse your eyes, or to find a spot to squat…), improving circulation, which is also good for your health.
Safe travels everyone 🙂 especially my friends who are going on special journeys this month and early January.
Disclaimer: I’m not an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, however I’ve been studying Ayurveda for some time now. These tips are not meant to replace medical advice in case you suffer or not from any condition, and I don’t guarantee that they’ll work for everyone – best is to know your body and what it needs, but if you feel that your body is affected by air travel, these tips might help.
As I sat at the train station in Cefalù waiting for my night train to Rome, I looked at my suitcase, my toiletry handbag and my laptop bag, and bang! It hit me – these are all my belongings for the time being. I once thought it was extraordinary the fact that my life fitted in a car when I moved from the Gold Coast to Adelaide. It was comforting though, to know that I was driving to a city where I already had a furnished home to move into, I was ready to build a new life, and in one year my dream of migrating to Australia would start to come true (#not). Now this – one suitcase, a small bag, a computer, and the uncertainty about when I’ll have a home again – feels like a whole new level of unexpected minimalism.
Six weeks have passed so far and I’ve managed to live with so little. Few belongings and lots of emotions. Life is interesting – who’d have thought that I’d be experiencing something like this? Sometimes it feels so simple – it’s all temporary, it’s only a matter of navigating through this period, and before I know it, it’ll be over. Other times it seems too complex – there are lots of awakening happening, lessons being learned, and wounds being healed. Too little, yet too much. Simple, yet complex.
I am now a contributor to the Health & Harmony blog 🙂 Here is my first post – on how yoga has helped me during this current challenging time! Health & Harmony is a yoga studio owned by a dear friend (a follower of the Simple Yet Complex Journal!), and where I used to practice yoga. It was also where I’d go on Sundays to practice chanting and kirtan, and where I’d have probably started teaching and holding mantra/kirtan sessions if it wasn’t for the current challenges.
So you go to your yoga class every week and get your dose of calm and balance, then something challenging happens in your life and wait… what? Where did all that calm and balance go?
Throughout all my years practicing yoga, I’ve come to understand more and more that yoga is a way of life. We learn so much about ourselves in class, but everything becomes even more inspiring when we take yoga out of the studio and into our daily life.
I’ve been going through some very challenging times lately – a period of transition, after being refused a migration visa to Australia and having to leave the country, not currently having a home, and facing a romantic relationship which didn’t work out. My life turned upside down overnight, and a great deal of emotions and feelings surfaced because of it – one after the other, hitting me in…
So I’ve struggled to grieve and mourn. Sometimes I forget that what I’ve been through is so intense that I need time to deeply feel my sorrow. Sometimes when the pain comes, I feel I want it to go away quickly. I resist. And by resisting, I don’t allow it to be, and it becomes more intense.
Thing is, I spent my childhood feeling my mum’s intense sorrow when she got divorced. She cried and cried, and I had to be there with her. I have sad memories of having to sleep with her, and she’d spoon me or hug me, and would just cry until we fell asleep. I was 9, and I can’t recall for how many months or years her pain and crying carried on. I know she had to grieve – I just wished it wasn’t in front of me all the time or while she was holding me. I also had to grieve my parents’ divorce and the fact that my family was falling apart. I unfortunately didn’t have any space for that, neither had I any support to understand or express what I was feeling. Today it feels as if I’ve done a lot of mourning in my life – however, I’m discovering it wasn’t really me who was grieving back then, at least I wasn’t doing it about my own pain.
It’s as if my mind wants to say ‘Enough of crying’. I sometimes think that I’m making a big deal of it all. That I wasn’t supposed to feel it so intensely, that I wasn’t supposed to miss things, that I was supposed to be bigger than that and just appreciate what the Universe has given me now (beautiful Sicily and a Vedanta retreat). Until I’m reminded of the contrary. So I’m kind of learning now, and although my personal yoga practice has helped me stay grounded and aware, most of the times I have to be reminded by my therapist and my friends that it’s OK to grieve, that it’s OK to have a bad day just because my mind wants to go through every little aspect of what’s happened, and my heart just feels overwhelmed. (I’m so grateful that I have so many beautiful friends helping and supporting me, spending their precious time to call, message and/or video call me. Love you.)
So here it’s, from my grieving heart today: I miss Adelaide. I miss my life in Adelaide. I miss my own bedroom and my housemate, who so dearly had me in her house. I miss my routine, my yoga class on Tuesdays, my chanting with the sanga on Saturdays, the nights out dancing, the dance classes. I miss the people, my friends. I miss the sense of security that that routine gave me. I miss the freedom I always felt in Australia, the fact that I seemed to always know where to go, the homecoming feeling I’ve always had. I miss the man I grew to love in ways I never thought I would. I miss his hug, his touch. I miss his happy face whenever he felt us more connected. I miss his stubbornness, his silly jokes. I miss relaxing by his side and caressing him during the many times he cooked us a meal. I miss, I wholeheartedly miss all of this.
I’ve been revisiting the little poems I’ve written, and below is one that somehow connects to this post. I don’t know exactly when I wrote it, but it was between the date when I got the visa application result and the date of my departure.
When I finally let my guard down The universe conspired Against So it’s time to say goodbye Again And again So much hurt already Can I have a break? For once I was thinking of settling down I’ve found my place Little Adelaide And its people with the biggest heart Why? I question I try to make sense Maybe there’s nothing to understand Don’t overthink, I tell myself Just live Just love Every singe moment Every single person Connect Be open Be honest
Here’s a little bilingual poem I wrote on 24 November 2018 while sitting by one of the waterfalls at Waterfall Gully in Adelaide. Nearly one year later, it came to my mind as I am sitting today with myself:
By the waterfall / Aos pés da cachoeira
I can. I believe. I dream. I achieve. I hear the sounds of water flowing down. I hear the sounds of my own emotions calming down. I hear the birds. I hear the wind. I feel my heart. I find peace.
Eu posso, eu acredito Eu sonho, eu conquisto Ouço o som das águas caindo Ouço o som das minhas próprias emoções se esvaindo Ouço os pássaros, ouço o vento E a paz encontro no peito
I like experimenting with my body, and seeing how my mind reacts. This year I have given up alcohol, just to see how I’d react in moments of stress and in social life. All going good so far, nearly reaching 10 months without drinking. Even over these last few months, with so much going on for me, I didn’t think once of asking help from a glass of wine 😉 it’s really good to see how body and mind change when we change habits.
I haven’t either drunk much coffee in the past couple of years. I haven’t given up coffee completely but I’ve been careful when drinking coffee as I’ve noticed it agitates my mind. So I’ve been drinking decaf instead, or simply chai/tea. It’s interesting how coffee is such an addiction everywhere – here at the retreat we have a designated person for coffee making as seva! Even though we have Italian coffee here, I don’t feel like having it. I feel so happy that I’m super determined to make habits change. Specially now, with so much uncertainty, I wouldn’t want an even more anxious mind.
And another experiment – I’m trying to eat a vegan diet for these five weeks. Our meals here are vegan (prepared with local, seasonal produce!), but some people have brought cheese in from town (I don’t blame them!) or other animal products. I’m determined though to avoid these and stick with vegan meals, and see how my body and mind will react over these five weeks. So far I feel light, my bowels are working wonderfully every day and I’ve been sleeping well. Winning!
Today I naturally woke up during brahma muhurta, those one-and-a-half hours before sunrise, best time for knowledge and connection with divinity, as described in sacred texts like the ayurvedic Ashtanga Hridayam (for more on brahma muhurta, click here). I had set my alarm for 7 am, but at 5.14 am I was awake. I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was too fresh and alert. It was pouring down outside and cold in the bedroom, yet I still sat down in bed encouraging myself to meditate. A mantra came to mind, and I found it on YouTube, focusing my attention on such a pure and touching chant – Namo Avalokiteshvara. If you haven’t listened to this mantra yet, I highly recommend – watching the video on YouTube (below) is highly soothing and moving.
Namo Avalokiteshvara is known as the Great Compassion Mantra. I heard it for the first time while watching the documentary Walk with Me – it had a profound effect on me; it really touched my heart and after a few minutes listening to it, I do feel like my heart is melting with compassion.
Compassion – and particularly self-compassion – has been an important aspect of this journey I’ve been through lately. I was raised to be tough, to hold my cry, to get things done no matter what emotions I was having, to never fail. So it’s natural that I go easily into a self-criticism mode and feel inadequate when/for having hard times. Or I just somehow ‘forget’ that I’m going through so much and start doing too much, putting on my plate many more things than it can hold, until I’m reminded through a chat with someone that I’ve been going through a tough time, and that it’s normal to take it easy. So more and more I’ve been finding that I need to practice self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-love while navigating this journey. And I think I’ve been succeeding in doing it here and there. When things get hard while I’m sorting things, packing, or just when emotions arise, I try and cultivate understanding and kindness toward myself. Like it happened yesterday – I was packing and this avalanche of emotions hit me, as my mind started to think about my uncertain future and the fact that I’m leaving my life as know it behind. I let the emotions flow, distanced myself from packing, thinking: it’s ok, I can sit with my emotions now and come back to packing tomorrow. For some, this might seem like a natural response. But for people who have always been criticised for having emotions and for their sensitivity, being so gentle on themselves may take lots and lots of practice, and a voice may still echo in their head questioning if being warm and accepting is really the right thing to do.
I’m glad I was up in brahma muhurta, with a fresh mind, ready to accept compassionate energy from the mantra, and with clarity about what I’ve been learning about self-kindness and being imperfect. This opens a new window to see everyone as imperfect, and to be compassionate and understanding also toward everyone around me. It’s a new perspective on life!