The Last Month

The beginning of the end!

It is surreal to be in Hanoi when the season change. I see Christmas decorations up and it makes me feel a little bit like I’m on Mars. A “cold” day is still 20 degrees. “Why are people celebrating when its like… July?”  The weather makes it feel like time has stalled. We’ve almost been away for a whole year. Thankfully the dissonance helps me not feel homesick during the holidays.

Teaching is a good feeling. Some of my older students won prizes for creativity and performances in their video projects this week and I’ve started teaching private lessons to the world’s smartest/cutest four year old. (Thank goodness he’s still into Play-Doh)

For Christmas Jon and I are staying at an ashram in Ubud, Bali. We’re planning on meditating, chanting and motor biking through the holidays.

I had lot of ideas about how to end this year. Her is my shot to pick one final, epic intention. I thought about doing a little bit of everything. I thought about drawing. I thought about revisiting meditation and coming full circle.

Instead I’m doing something deeply simple and to the point.

In December I intend to draw every day. I went to my little art supply store and bought off-brand Copic markers for 50 cents a piece. 

I've been torn about whether or not to publicly document the drawings. This has been a consideration all year. Sharing makes me accountable. It's another way to stay in touch with people and not feel so far away. It's a way to stay in conversation. 

It's also keeps me online, scrolling through. It becomes very difficult to silence the voice that wants to be impressive, funny and "good" at it. This will be another offline intention. 

98 Pages of Love

I love this month. It is nearly the end of November with a fat journal full of letters. I have written 27 letters. That's 98 pages are telling people why I love them. Three more days to go. 

Hanoi is cold enough for jackets. I cat sit and meditate on the patio in the morning comfortably. Sometimes I even need a blanket. I feel more like myself in the cold. I feel more like myself when I’m a little bundled up.

Good things about November in Hanoi:

-wearing pants!

-My students are funny

-Stephanie visited us – I got a fix of family

-Dave and Kristen are coming to visit – another fix of family

-hair is almost reaching wo-man bun status

-hot bubble tea is a thing

-hot che is a thing!

- Jon and I started hosting a weekly meditation group

-long walks around west lake in the morning

-my head teacher is awesome

This month’s intention to write letters has become my favourite. I love the ritual of sitting in my patio chair with hot tea and waiting for the right person to appear in my mind. Sometimes it’s not someone I expect. Sometimes I have to ask “Is this a person I say “I love you” to? The answer is always “Well if I don’t, then I want to!”

The 27 people I have written to come from very different moments in my life. My family, old lovers, old friends, people I knew briefly, people I have only known since living in Vietnam. People from my life in Canada, from university, from teaching English. I know some remarkable people.

When I planned this month I didn’t consider that these letter would turn into dialogues. I haven’t just sent 27 letters. I have received 27 back. I have had 27 conversations with people I love about how special our relationship is. True Resonance.

 

November: Love Letters

I asked my mother to decide on an intention for me. What would happen if I agreed to engage with an intention everyday that I had not chosen? What would someone else choose for me?

In typical Katy fashion, my mother nailed it. “Write a letter of gratitude every day.” My mum has done something similar herself. A year ago she walked along the harbour picking up stones off the beach. She made 20 necklaces with the stones and sent each of them to a woman she loves and admires.

In November I will write a love letter everyday. I will choose a person I love and I’ll spend a some time in the morning writing to them.

One of my core desired feelings is RESONANCE. For me this feels like the type of communication where to really hear someone and you feel really heard in return. Especially with other women. To resonate. To be truest of yourself back and forth with another person. To be generous with your listening and honest in your own sharing. To see and be deeply seen.

Feeling resonance with the people I love is harder when I am far away. Changing the way I use social media has given me the chance to communicate with people more personally and directly. I’m excited to sit down every morning and devote myself to communicating exactly why I love the people I love. I think (especially in platonic friendships) we are taught not to express our affection. Even in romantic and familial relationship I think we don’t often enough name what it is we appreciate in our loved ones.

In service of feeling greater resonance with the people I love, in November I will write a love letter every day.

 

Joy of Duality

We are going on ten months since leaving Baltimore. I’m thinking about how absolutely normal it is to be here. Most nights when I’m driving home from work I feel aware of the duality. Being here is so completely foreign to me, and now, also so completely familiar at the same time.

Every staple of my life has been twisted on it’s axis. My diet. My work. My mobility.  My time. The one constant is Jon. At this point we have spent a third of our relationship traveling or living away from the place we met and lived together. Who we are here isn’t novel anymore. Our closets are full of teaching clothes. Our motorcycles are parked in the driveway. We have house plants. I think of the person I was when we met in meditation class in Mt. Vernon. I don't know if I would recognize us.

The other duality is the itch to move and the joy of staying put. Hanoi is a good place to be. Easy to live and thrive. Easy to save and plan. I’m also homesick in a nice way almost all the time. I think about what’s next. What there is to work towards next.

Half of this month’s intention is about wanting to feel resonance and connection here. Working on my Vietnamese makes it easier and easier to be here. I feel less and less like an outsider everyday.

The other half of October’s intention is fuelling big plans. A commitment to asana every day is helping me find the pieces of my life that travel wherever I go. Yoga belongs to every part of my life. It’s how I met Jon. It’s where I’ll go next. It’s the collaborations and work I will do with my mother. It’s India in the spring.

All of this is being shaped by challenging my relationship with Facebook. I feel like I got some really important perspective by going cold turkey in September. The real balancing act started this month as I started to navigate how to use it, but use it differently than I ever have before. As much as I have focused on Vietnamese and Asana in October, I have also been working to construct a different way of relating to social media. It’s opening up so much dead time and exposing ways I sabotage creativity and mindfulness.

More pen to paper. More meditation. More reading. More presence. More patience.

And it’s imperfect. I still drink too much beer and sit on couch for a third consecutive episode of The Office. Just less.

Buying an alarm clock is life changing. (no more bedside charging) So is ‘Killing my newsfeed.” And not moving through my day with the goal of contributing to my empire I’d built out of my facebook profile. It was strange to travel in Cambodia and take pictures that wouldn’t end up online immediately.

What I’m doing for the first time this month is starting my day with the same ritual on my patio. Meditation, then a page in my journal of things I’m grateful for, then surya namaskar A 5 times. 10 months of daily ‘something’ and it’s now that its happening first thing in the morning.

 

Simple.

This month it's simple. 

I'm practicing yoga everyday and studying Vietnamese everyday. This week I also start Vietnamese lessons twice a week. 

Offline

Giving things up isn’t the point.

The common thread of my work this year has been developing habit. Imperfect habits. Sometimes End-of-the-day-half-asleep habits. Sometimes half-assed habits. Sometimes skip-a-day-and-make-it-up-later habits. But by and large, I have spent an hour in some type of practice every day.

My mum recommended The Desire Map to me in June. I was put off by the slick branding at first. I don’t need another pinterest-paraphrasing life coach. A self help book with candles and metallic temporary tattoos for sale to tell me what it is to be fulfilled.

But let me take my foot out of my mouth, because The Desire Map is killer. Instead of making big goals for your life and expecting they will result in happiness, it flips the process on its head.

How do you want to feel? What makes you feel that way? Go from there.

You decide on 4 desired feelings. I want to feel Resonance, Sparkly, Equanimous and Magic.  Those feelings relate to relationship, spirit, humour and art for me. That’s what I want to feel. Now when I look at my habits I have something to measure against. Does _____ make me feel _____? The alternative benefits all the movement and study of 2016 is some clarity about what’s working and what’s not working. What’s making me feel the way I want to feel.

Sobriety is working for me.

Sleep is working for me.

Asana is working for me.

Keeping a budget is working for me. 

Teaching is working for me.

 

Sugar is not working.

3 espressos a day is not working.

My relationship with social media is not working.

And this doesn’t mean I ban anything from my life. It doesn’t mean detox. (I dislike the idea of detox or regimes that focus on purity) It means I come back to my habits.

My habits around social media do not make me feel good. Certainly not resonance with others. It extinguishes magic. Leaves no time for equanimity.

Sparkly isn’t sparkly through a filter.

I’m checking facebook before kissing Jon every morning. I spend the moments of quiet between my classes on my cell phone. It simply takes up too much of my time.

In September I have the intention to be offline. I’m not deleting anything. I am taking the month away from social media to watch my habits change, to see how I fill my time, to see how my relationships flourish and to re-evaluate that piece of my life. Jon and I will travel to Cambodia on Sept. 2nd.

I can be reached at ahutchison@mica.edu, or via whatsapp/cell: 122 731 6004

August: Canadian History

This year I have watched my mother build a gorgeous business with her brilliant friend, Shannon Moroney. Full Circle Facilitation and Consulting (http://www.fullcirclefc.com/) offers forgiveness programs for hurt people and communities. My mum and Shannon create safe, experiential opportunities for people of all ages to explore what forgiveness means—and doesn’t mean—in their lives.  They consult with non-profits, employers, community groups and schools interested in restorative solutions to repairing harm and peace building.

Their work has taken them all over Canada. I’m so proud of their work with Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in the Northwest Territories. They have created an extensive, two-year program of on-the-land and community-based F-Word (forgiveness) retreats for residential school survivors in Canada’s arctic.

I hope to work with them one day as a yoga teacher and art therapist.

There is a lot of training, experience and sensitivity I need if I ever plan to do this kind of work. How do I contribute to healing without perpetuating the harm of colonization? Where can my power and privilege be used for good? I think I begin by identifying the sources of my power and privilege. Above all I have the intention to do no harm. I have so much to learn. 

The reality of my life is substantial privilege. 

I am an affluent, white, Canadian woman.

Who went to college and whose parents both went to college.

Who is debt-free.

Who has health of both mind and body.

Who is not straight, but will likely always “pass” and benefit from straight privilege anyways.

Who has the mobility and freedom to move and travel.

Who has the luxury of time to spend on things like this Big Possible project.

 

I have been afforded power and influence because of these privileges.

 

My power also comes from my resilience.

 

Power as a family survivor of homicide, a survivor of random violent attack, a survivor of abusive relationship.

My power comes from a commitment to mindfulness and non-judgment.

My power comes from my years practicing and studying art as catalyst for change for myself and others.  

My power comes from my brave mother.

My power comes from access to restorative justice and support in reconciliation.

 

This isn't to say my privileges are earned because my life has been touched by suffering. To ignore or deny the sources of my privilege would be an abuse. To deny to the sources of my resilience would be a waste. If I hope to play a role of healer/facilitator/teacher in my future then my tool belt needs pockets for listening, history and ally-ship.

I need to listen more than I speak.

Know what’s hurting.

Know why.

 

Because I am Canadian I will start with home.

I don’t fully understand the hurt and legacy of colonialism on Canada. I want to open my learning by reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 2015 report on Residential Schools. You can find more information about the TRC reading challenge here: http://trcreadingchallenge.com/ I will also complete the San'yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training course.  http://www.sanyas.ca/training/british-columbia/core-ics-health

In August I intend to study the history of Canada, with close attention to colonialism and the legacy of the residential school system. I intend study ally-ship and collaboration.

 

What Was Important in July

What has been important to me in July: 

-finding asana again. Cultivating an unguided solo practice that is very, very slow 

-patience with kids

-energy and enthusiasm with kids

-Friday mornings with my dear friend, Gabby.

-my new side job acting (lol!) in ESL videos with Jon

-Thinking (and reading and listening and having conversations) about cultural appropriation in yoga. Grappling with how (and if???) westerners should teach yoga. Thinking about my relationship with a practice that is very far from my own ancestry, how to respect it. This is energizing my desire to research and understand yogic philosophy and history.

-Finishing my second month of philosophy study with Paramahansa Yogananda’s autobiography

-Hosting couch surfers

-dreaming up travel/study plans

-keeping a budget to realize those travel/study plans

-keeping a full jug of espresso in the fridge

June: Yoga Philosophy

The great luxury of my job is free mornings.

The thought in the back of my mind as I make these monthly intentions is to build a tool belt of healing creative skills. One day I hope my career is some combination of teaching, yoga, mindfulness, art, counselling and art therapy.

The work of teaching (even teaching English to school children) serves my learning of how to hold space for others.

I can’t imagine having grown up without art. My access to creative outlets helped me navigate the experience of angst, joy, trauma, grief and triumph. As an adult mindfulness has been similarly transformative. The most important mentors of my life have been art, yoga and meditation teachers. I can’t think of anything more worthy than becoming a teacher like that.

Asana opened to the door to a relationship with my body. Had it not been for feeling empowered by my physical yoga practice I don’t think I would have found real love in any physical activity. It all would still be hitched to some goal for looking different.

Yoga helped me transform my relationship with movement from ‘fixing’ myself to honoring myself. Discipline isn’t a tool to meet a number on a scale, it’s a consistent practice of self celebration. “I honor my worthiness by giving myself the gift of this practice.”

In the near-ish future I intend on going to India to practice meditation at Shanti Mayi’s ashram and take my RYT 200.

It’s all well and good to be into yoga. I am one of millions of people on that path. But if it’s something I am going to teach I want to take such time and care making sure I understand the history and philosophy that I am endeavouring to share. This learning is not something I could do in a month long course. This learning will take a lifetime. No time like the present to crack open the Sutras and get familiar.

In June I have the intention of completing Yogamaze’s Yoga Philosophy course. The curriculum is:

Session 1: What is Yoga? Definitions, history, overview, 3 main phases of yoga tradition
Session 2: Vedas and Upanishads; earliest sources of yoga
Session 3: Asceticism and Sramana traditions: Buddhism & Jainism
Session 4: Sankhya and classical yoga and the Yogasutra of Patanjali
Session 5: Bhagavad Gita
Session 6: Mahabharata
Session 7: Ramayana
Session 8: Bhakti
Session 9: Advaita Vedanta
Session 10: Tantra: overview
Session 11: Tantra: Subtle body; Kundalini and chakras
Session 12: Modern Postural Yoga

On my own I also plan to study the most famous yogic texts. The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, Autobiography of a Yogi and Light on Yoga. I will start with those four and add to the list depending on my pace.

The secondary goal of the month is to watch my meditation and asana practice be influenced by my study. To notice a deepening. To put my learning into action.

On Ambition

My grand final act of care in May is making “care” a lifestyle instead of an appointment. To restructure my day and my priorities to allow space for growth. For inward-reaching ambition. For art. For mind. For Self.

In June I intend to honour the validity of my spiritual, creative and emotional ambitions.

Read More

Rephrasing

Living in Hanoi feels normal and that’s weird.

Since February we’ve been completing another step, waiting for something to start. It’s all happening now. There’s a routine to follow. The things people carry on motorbikes aren’t shocking anymore.

And the work is real. I was prepared for a very steep learning curve. I am learning the ropes at a new job while teaching the ropes. Making the schedule. In charge of “quality control.” In 1000 ways this is new territory for me. In 1000 other ways I surprise myself. Years of art school critique prepared me for this. Growing up studying restorative practice and facilitation prepared me for this. Working for the New Day Campaign definitely prepared me for this.

I am learning lots.

And

I am stressed out of my mind.

Whenever I say that I try to rephrase. Switch “I am stressed out” to “I am watching the experience of stress.” I remember sitting with Shanti Mayi while she rephrased and rephrased and rephrased. Perhaps more than self-care this month is about the way I frame thoughts and words.

Self-Care Calendar

It’s so easy for me to get stuck I’m the story of “I’m so stressed out right now.” The prophecy fulfills itself. It’s so easy to connect with other people in complaining and gossip. I am working hard to talk about the experience of stress from the perspective of the watcher. Stress is something that happens. It’s not something I am.

Vipassana prepared me for this job more than anything. It’s taking everything I know about mindfulness to keep my head above water. My body caught up with my mind and I got sick after a few days of being quite identified with stress.

Since I work six days a week and have pretty limited vacation time I’ve decided to treat every morning like vacation. I’ve been going to the pool, taking yoga classes, reading Eckart Tolle on the deck, going for long walks, cooking good food, seeing friends… Every act of self-care is a tiny thank you note to myself. It’s about sustainability.

I would be incapable of doing this work well if I wasn’t taking care of my mind and body. No matter what intentions I chose for the rest of the year I want this spirit of deep self love and respect to be at the center of my motivation.

 

May: Find a Way to be Very Tender

I had a good plan for May. I had a blog post written, my intention was going to be to reading yogic texts. My kindle was full of books and I had my list of coffee shops to read and study in.

Then I got a promotion.

And this is wonderful news. APAX English is growing quickly in Vietnam. I am working at a brand new language center. My boss approached me during training and asked if I would consider moving into the Head Teacher position immediately. Starting Wednesday I am teaching and managing our teaching staff.

This week was taken up my teaching demo lessons at our center, shadowing other teachers, and training for my new role. Yesterday In a panic of PMS, doubt and stress I realized something had to give. May is going to be a hard month. I know the kind of intention I was planning would end up feeling like the last item on a to do list. What will not feel good this month is a nagging “you should be reading” voice in my head. The Yoga Sutras will have to wait.

Instead, in May I am going to become a master of self care. My intention for the month is to take excellent care of my mental health. I want to be so gentle with my mind and body while I settle into this role. I want to take very, very good care of myself so I can become very, very good at this job.

My game plan for managing stress is to make time for acts of self care and cooking. I will engage in daily reflections by naming an affirmation and intention.

1. Name my intention for the day.

2. Name my affirmation for the day.

3. Cook a healthy dinner to bring to work.

4. One act of self care.

(yoga, meditation, running, reading, sitting my the pool with a podcast, painting my toenails, etc etc...)

*A word on affirmations – I believed this was totally hokey until recently.

When Jon and I were biking to the motorcycle shop I was scared shitless of buying myself a bike and riding it home through Hanoi traffic. On the back of his bike I started loudly declaring “I WILL RIDE A MOTORCYCLE SAFELY AND CONFIDENTLY!” into my pollution mask.

During my bout of PMS along a stretch of highway I yelled “I AM COMPETANT, CAPABLE AND DESRVING OF THIS JOB.” Later I chanted the Gayatri Mantra. When I got to work I felt better. The length and anonymity of my ride to work is ripe time for presence.

I’m not about to get preachy about the power of manifestation. In moments of doubt and anxiety this is one strategy for ‘getting free of the story.’ In many ways having the intention of self care is about becoming deeply present. I'll try it. 

My work before becoming an English teacher was organizing art shows about mental illness and addiction. I walked away from that job feeling incredibly grateful for my mental health. It is a type of privilege to be generally comfortable in your own mind. That said, mental health (like physical health) requires upkeep.

I felt myself totally derailed by anxiety about work this week. The intention of this month is to mindfully and deliberately make space for ease, pleasure, gentleness and care. Mind, spirit and body.

“It is in your best self interest to find a way to be very tender. “ – Jenny Holzer

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a Fine Place to Be.

We left Baltimore in December. 

We left Victoria in February. 

We left Prague in March. 

All this moving and preparing has been for a teaching job in Vietnam. This week we completed our training with APAX English in Hanoi and signed our contracts. The finding and formulating is done. The work of the last four months came together on the dotted line and finally we are planted. 

This past week we learned the APAX teaching methodology and trained with a group of other new recruits. Up at six, asleep at 12, rehearsing lessons and learning the structure of the foreseeable future. 

This is my good excuse for not spinning poi this week. I don't feel bad. (almost) This week was my forgivable anomaly - the other days in April have started on my roof, spinning. Play Poi's beginner series is a wonderful tool. Everything is broken down into clear choreography. I've taught myself a handful of basic moves and slowly have started pulling them together. Some things are second nature now and I can spin to music and getting a little lost once in a while. So far my new favourites are GRiZ, Tipper and Moon Hooch. 

The highlight of the month was spinning at the Hanoi circus meet up. A friendly stranger pointed to me and said, "You're ready for fire!" I disagreed and he asked to see what I could do. "No, you can totally do that with fire." He handed me two flaming poi. 

I'll continue my morning practice this week as I get settled into teaching. 

Today marks one month living in Vietnam. I'm eating meat again (PHO!) and drinking coffee. My hair is huge in the humidity and my ankles are prey to mosquitos. I ride my motorbike everyday. It was scary for a week and now it feels like freedom. I found a yoga studio, a book club, and a friendly man to buy veggies from. I get to work barefoot and use a green screen to make music videos with my students. 

It took me two years to decide I loved Baltimore. I'm surprised how easy it is to love Hanoi. Here is a fine place to be.

Here are some personal/professional intentions I have:

  • fill my free time (weekday mornings and afternoons!) with yoga, poi and reading
  • dress up for work, even when it's 40 degrees out
  • assume everyone has nothing but the best intentions, communicate accordingly 
  • arrive early, leave prepared
  • learn everyone's name quickly
  • eat a mangos and listen to jam bands every day 

 

April: Spinning Poi

We live in a four story house with a rooftop terrace. Jon and I set up our hammock and yoga mats there. We eat breakfast and if the smog is low we can see the lake.

Having a consistent home base opens up possibility for practice. In the last two months I have been careful to choose intentions that could be thrown in a back pack and taken somewhere else. Now I have a place to put my shoes and my sleeping bag is in storage.

In April intend to teach myself to spin poi. I’m starting from square one. I have two orange socks full of rice and some youtube channels for lessons. Mostly it will be me on the roof flailing with socks. I have also found a group of circus/flow artists that meet weekly in Hanoi.

Last month I needed motion. Any motion. This month I want to teach my body as new way of moving. More than one foot in front of the other. 

I was feeling inspired by Marlee Grace. She has a daily practice of improvised dance. http://www.personalpractice.space I want to wake up every morning. Bring my breakfast to the roof and spin socks around my head.

This is also an opportunity to hunt for music that makes me feel close to myself. I have felt lazy with my listening. I have habits and old favourites. This month needs good music, and lots of it. I called on friends who are flow artists and dancers for the music that moves them. I have a growing playlist and dozens of artist that are brand new to me. 

It’s also just because spinning poi is sexy.  

This month’s intention is also in service of meditation. Giving myself something new in the body/movement/mindful tool belt. Where as walking is the most natural movement I know, spinning poi is a new language to speak.

Bamboo Walking Stick

Our guide walked into the bamboo forest and hacked off long stalks with a machete to use as walking sticks.

Sapa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwest Vietnam. It is home to the  H’mong, Tay and Dao ethnic groups. The markets are full of unbelievable colour and textiles made by local women. The mountains are carved into flooded staircases of rice paddies. We struggled to keep our footing in the wet mud and water buffalo and motorcycles barreled up and down the slippery paths. 

I wouldn't call most of my daily walks remarkable. Highlights included finding markets, rivers and coffee shops. Remarkable wasn't the point. I thought of Keri Smith's How to Be An Explorer of the World. "Everything is interesting." The idea wasn't to find things as much to be quiet, curious and happen upon them. Learn my neighbourhoods, take slow walks without a grocery list or agenda. Get good lost and get good found. 

The last three days of hiking were something like magic. Sapa ranks in the tops views of my life. Table Mountain. Jasper. Volcan de Masaya. Giza. Sapa. My compass was a marker of my movement through Prague and Hanoi, the brand new and mundane of walking every day.

The bamboo walking stick was a marker of something else entirely. My final walks of March didn’t follow suit.

Deliberate, not aimless.

Calculated, not lost.

Sublime, not ordinary.

Collective, not solitary.

A tool for great effort, carrying ourselves up and down the mountains.

Last month I felt a nagging for movement and presence in my body. I wanted to get really familiar in my new place and give myself an opportunity to build a friendship with it.

Walking cracked open doors and windows all over my new cities and forced me to have a relationship with Hanoi and Prague that is completely my own. Jon and I live here together, I ride on the back of his motor bike and we share a tube of toothpaste. AND I have my own set of roots beginning in this place because of my solo walks. I have time and a few kilometers every day to inhabit my moving body in my/our new city.

Ending on a triumphant, exhausting, intentional note feels like a welcome home.  We begin teaching in two weeks. 

We live in Hanoi Now

We arrived in Vietnam last Wednesday and chose a hostel at whim in the Old Quarter. There was a St. Patrick's Day party on top of the complete culture shock and chaos of downtown Hanoi. 

Mostly drunk British and South African travellers en route from Thailand or Cambodia, stopping to party before Loas and Bali. I think if it wasn't for Hanoi's midnight curfew I would have gone mad with the constant music and hollering. (Don't get me wrong, I also dominated at flip cup.) Jon and I wandered around the Old Quarter for two days and got our bearings. 

We found a room in a house full of expats in Tay Ho. (The wrong side of the lake we've discovered.) It's near four temples and there's a woman selling Bahn Mi from a cart at the end of our block. 

My goal on the morning of my first walk in Vietnam was to cross the street. No small goal. There is no waiting for a break in traffic. You just step out into a stream of cars and motorcycles and trust it to weave around you like a school of fish. Learning to drive will be a whole other story. 

In Tay Ho I've been exploring the neighbourhoods beside the lake. I walked around it (and found my new yoga studio) and the next day I walked around it the other way (back to my new yoga studio).

This week my goal is to learn to ride a motorbike and eat a mango every day.

What I liked about Prague / What Scares me about Hanoi

Our graduating class from TEFL Worldwide Prague

Our graduating class from TEFL Worldwide Prague

On my last afternoon in Prague I'm sitting with classmates from my TEFL course in Anonymous Coffee. They had interviews for teaching jobs all morning. We are settling in for the afternoon to read and plan lessons. My last walking meditation this morning was through Prague 2. I saw two wiener dogs.

I've have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. My favourite insight is that FEAR IS BORING. 

"Around the age of 15, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note - one word actually - and that word was "STOP!" My fear never had anything more interesting or subtle to offer than one emphatic word word, repeated at full volume on an endless loop: "STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!"

Two weeks of walking around Prague

"There's nothing particularly compelling about that. Do you see what i mean? You don't get any special credit for knowing how to be afraid of the unknown. Fear is a deeply ancient instinct, in other words, and an evolutionarily vital one... but it ain't especially smart. "

On the plane from Victoria I wrote a list of fears for Prague and the TEFL program. Today I am starting the cycle over. I don't believe my life is at risk of being driven by fear. In an effort to cultivate the opposite I work to make space for the reality of my fears. The buddha inviting Mara in for tea. Looking at judgements, discernments, anxieties and fear and sorting through which ones are useful to me. My fear of being killed on a motorcycle in Vietnam is useful, but won't necessarily stop me from riding one. It will just be incentive to drive bravely and safely. On the other hand, my fear of having dumb hair in the humidity is mostly useless. 

THINGS I LOVED IN PRAGUE:

  • Everything looks like a dollhouse
  • My brave co-teachers. Very cool women.
  • Watching my fear become my competency
  • the smallness of living and working on the same block for a whole month
  • Hearing students proudly use words and grammar I taught them
  • Lesson planning getting easier
  • Teaching a bad lesson and owning it
  • Czech beer
  • our incredible trainers (Who worked 9am-7pm every damn day)
  • working towards a common goal with Jon

THINGS I AM SCARED OF:

  • Scooter accidents in Hanoi
  • Not being a good enough teacher for APAX
  • Not impressing my new boss
  • Not handling culture shock like a boss
  • Being sweaty and frizzy all the time forever
  • Being perceived as a dumb, spoiled foreigner
  • Cockroaches
  • Kids not liking me/not being fun
  • Crossing busy streets
  • Not being able to communicate easily with my landlord/bank/doctor/phone company

Walking as Art/Meditation/ Movement/Discovery

If I listen to what I want it’s movement.

As I was working in my art journal I felt a nagging “should” constantly. You’ve been at your desk all day – this is beautiful yes but you need to get up.

I didn’t think practicality had a place in the year of Big Possible – but it must. That’s alright. My next daily practice needs to fit the rhythm of my life. Working in an art journal served a very important part of me, but I felt anxious to be up and going all month.

I work all day and barely breathe fresh air except walking the 20 feet from school to our apartment. Maybe to get groceries if I am lucky. Rarely (and usually at the cost of skipping a journal page) I run along the river near my home. I went from take 15,000 – 20,000 steps a day to maybe 5,000.

I asked my mother what can I do that’s movement, but not yoga again, that’s not running. Something that is of art and spirit and body?

Walking. At first it’s too simple. Walking isn’t big or fast or brave or art.

Then I realize I’m wrong about all those things and that it’s perfect. And it’s exactly what my life needs.

My guru, Adhikari, had us do walking meditation on Vipassana retreats.

Richard Long, Janine Antoni, Marina Abramovic. They all walked.

I want fresh air every day before I sit in a desk and learn to teach.

For five years I lived in a city I was afraid to walk through. I’ve probably never been to a city as safe as Prague. I could get as lost as I please and never really be in danger. Better yet, in two weeks we will move to Hanoi and stay there for a while. Walking will be how I learn that city and make it feel like home.


Questions for March.

What if I let myself get lost?

What if I wandered without fearing other people or losing my way?

What if I accidentally discovered new places every day?

What if I got to know a city by walking through it?

What if I walked without distraction? No music, podcasts or maps?

What if I used walking as meditation?

In March I intend to wake up and walk. As art, as exercise and as meditation. I intend to carry a compass and add to it each day.