Friday, September 30, 2016

The Queen Bee of Weird and Other Side Effects of Novel Writing

I sit half asleep in the back of the class. The teacher steps out of the room for just a moment, but in that moment, the class goes nuts. A girl squiggles by me on her belly.

"I betch wanna know what I'm doing?" she says.

"I sure do," I say.

"I'm being strange and crazy," she says.

The teacher walks back into the room and everyone calms down by maybe one degree. The girl stands up, and as she passes me on her way back to her seat, she says, "I'm the Queen Bee of Weird."

This is my new life here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In less than a month, these third graders will be all mine. How did I get here?

How did I get here? I followed my curiosity here. Over the past 9 months, I've explored ashram life, mountain life, city life, beach bum life, and island life across 4 countries and over a dozen villages and cities, and now here in this new country, this new city, I'll explore a more grounded life teaching at an elementary school.

And, of course, as soon as I arrived in Chiang Mai, the most curious thing happened--I began to see the side effects of being so focused on novel writing these past several months. For example, one of my main characters teaches astronomy, and the book starts when he is in 3rd grade. So, when I am asked to teach a demo to a 3rd grade class, I teach an astronomy lesson on the planets.

As magic is weaved through my story, magic is also weaved into my life here.

Within my first week, everything fell into place like an easy game of tetras--my job, my apartment, my niches--the markets, the bookshops, the yoga studios, the writing community, all the amazing people who have whisked me around this city or have given me the best advice. Life before traveling was rarely this easy.

Since stepping onto that airplane in San Francisco, I've opened up and tapped into something vast and magical. Always letting go, always allowing, always understanding I was never not meant to be here. Mountains and the Mekong to the north, Bangkok and beaches to the south. So much to explore in-between teaching and editing.

After 9 months of travel, I am settled here--my job and apartment to seal the deal on this grounded life I've come full circle to find on the other side of the world. Maybe I'll be off again in six months time or maybe I'll stay and linger longer. But here in this present moment, I'll embrace this magical, nomadic life I've co-created with the Universe.

Circle the point in your life at this moment and think: How did I get here? How did you get here? Did you open up to allowing? Did you let go? Or are you still hanging on too tight to those things that no longer serve you?

You guys! Magic lurks! Chiang Mai is completely surrounded by a moat because dragons, obviously. And I wouldn't doubt there are faeries and aliens and goddesses lurking here too.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Seasons of Yin and Yang

To say Amed is a sleepy fishing village might be an understatement. A stillness and calm permeates this short stretch of land along the east coast of Bali--encapsulating it and folding into every aspect of it. Cut off from the rest of Bali by Mount Agung, the largest volcano on the island, Amed sits between fire and water, living in a state of perpetual equilibrium.

My first six months of travel were very active, very yang, very external. I saw a lot, I did a lot, I met a lot of people. At the six month mark, it all came to an abrupt halt when I landed in Otres Beach, Cambodia. Life suddenly became very still, very yin, very introspective. Not to mention I became very productive on my manuscript which I have savored and loved.

Things will be changing again very soon. If all goes smoothly, I will be planting myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the next six months teaching, living, and writing--where I will hopefully find my tribe of writers and yogis and miracles workers.

Perhaps these past three months are the the calm before the storm. Or maybe I'm sitting in the eye of a hurricane about to hit the other wall. I don't mean a chaotic, destructive storm or hurricane--just a more active and involved-in-things-around-me kind of life. And as I move into this more active, yang state of being, I will hang on to some of this yin where I'm able to stand still and see clearly as life swirls around me--so to be able to maneuver my way around all the flying cows and trees if they happen to be heading right toward me. Maybe I'm thinking of tornadoes. But you get the idea. 

Today I will linger in this incredible hidden Balinese gem called Amed before I begin to slowly transition to an altogether different reality.

Does your life move through seasons of yin and yang, of stillness and motion? How do you handle the transition?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Logical Song (or the Art of Divine Timing)

I attempted to go to a yoga class a few days ago. I had been here in Amed for almost a week--it was time. I arrived at the studio to find the class had been cancelled because a group on retreat was using the space, and since I was already there, I was invited to join the group for their class. Great!

Turns out this retreat group was from Spain and very few of them spoke English. And it was a Vipassana inspired meditation class that particular night. I stayed because why not. During the introduction, which was entirely in Spanish, the group leader whipped out a selfie-stick and began to wave it about wildly as he spoke. I have no idea what he was saying, but the group looked a little terrified. He then briefed me in English that the meditation would be approximately 45 minutes, and he would clap 3 times to indicate the end. He did not wave the selfie-stick at me.

About 10 minutes into the meditation, I felt a solid bop on the head and my eyes flew open. The leader was walking around bopping folks on the head with his selfie-stick. He made his rounds every 10 minutes or so--in order to bring us back to the present moment, he later told us.

Later that evening something happened. I opened my manuscript file and a few aspects of the story I had been struggling with miraculously began to fall into place. Most surprising was a fifth character--someone who simply did not exist until now mysteriously appeared tying a big sloppy bow on my story. This was not the first time this has happened. Let me rewind.

About 5 or 6 years ago, I was driving home from somewhere when a CD fell out of my car sun visor and hit me in the head. It was a Supertramp CD. I have no idea where it came from. It wasn't my CD. I'd never seen it before. I popped it into my CD player and proceeded to drive around my block 10 times listening to the first song on repeat: The Logical Song. Something was happening.

As soon as I parked, I flew into my house and began writing. Four characters introduced themselves to me and begged me to tell their story. Well, what is your story? I asked. They took their time telling me in bits and pieces over the next few years. Then one day I stopped writing. For about 2 years or so, I would open this manuscript and cry. It was a mess. It made no sense to me at all. In retrospect, a complete reflection of what had become of my life.

About a month after I left California, I was able to start wrapping my mind around the story in a new way, but it wasn't until I was in Cambodia that I really began to focus on it and write. But there were problems. Yes, life is messy and sometimes does not make sense, but I am not Murakami--I cannot get away with leading you down surreal paths of strange and leave you dangling there.

And then the selfie-stick bop on the head. And then the fifth character. And the realization that my four original characters never left me. More often times than not I hear stories of people who put a manuscript to the side for various reasons, and when they go back to revisit it, the inspiration is no longer there.

This did not happen to me. My characters stuck with me through it all. They chose me to tell their story and didn't abandon me to find someone else! I am incredibly grateful and honored. I have no idea if anyone else will even like this story or if it will even make sense to anyone else. But I love this story. I love these characters. They are not always the most likable bunch, but they are mine.

Divine timing has always played a huge part of my life. For reasons I can only speculate, I don't think this story was meant to be told until now. I don't think I was mentally ready to tell this story until now.

We wake up each day and can see the world as logical or illogical as we please. We have the power to change our perception. We have the power to invent our universe. We are made of star stuff! It doesn't get much more miraculous or magical or beautiful than that. Why in the world would we let anyone convince us otherwise?

The Logical Song still fits (and in my mind, will always be entwined with this story and these characters). The Vipassana class congealed it. Here in this small stretch of Balinese fishing villages called Amed, I found a stillness that allowed this story to finish unfolding.

Do you feel divine timing has played a role in how your life has unfolded? Have you ever felt like life was withholding something from you until the perfect moment? I want to hear your stories!

This is the second book I've written, but it was the most challenging. I typically tend to write short stories or essays from personal experience and about people I've met. This story is completely fictional. And it's a novel. I'm still filling in gaps and editing, but I feel ridiculously good about it!

What creative projects are you currently working on (if any)? Do you feel divine timing has played a part in it?