Pure Love

Oftentimes when yogis engage in their practice, we set an intention before we begin.  This could be anything from focusing on a mantra, like Om, sending positive thoughts to someone we love, or reminding ourselves to come back to the present when our thoughts stray.  Yesterday, like nearly every day since arriving in Gili, I attended a yoga session taught by my dear friend Kate Middleton who teaches Freediving and yoga at Freedive Gili/Gili Yoga.  As we started the class, sitting on our mats, silent, eyes closed, and breathing, Kate asked us to set an intention for our practice.  I skipped through a few in my mind – judgment, presence, Om – until I landed on Pure Love.  Just the thought of it, just the two simple words in that perfect succession made me smile, and no sooner did I set my intention of Pure Love that the little white kitten who often hangs around the shop walked straight over to my mat and started purring and squeaking.  So I smiled and laughed and loved her until she’d had enough and moved on to another yogi.

Pure Love carried me through that yoga session.  Every time my thoughts strayed to what I did that day or whether the girl next to me was more flexible than I, I radiated love from my core to everything.  Every cute little kitten, every yogi in the room, everyone I’ve ever known in my life, everyone I have yet to meet and the ones I may never have the privilege of knowing.  And invariably, my face would break out in a huge, goofy, uncontainable smile that lasted for a solid hour and a half!  I have never experienced a more blissful yoga session, but I hope to experience many more like it.

I know it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but I truly believe that sending pure, unselfish love to all beings in this universe as often as we can is not only the best way to exist, but the only way in which we can all learn to coexist and maybe even heal each other.  If I spend every fiber of my being loving you without expectation, you will eventually find that you have no reason to hate me or judge me or misunderstand me.  Some people call this concept God – the Biblical version who could theoretically unify us all, but I call it simply Pure Love.  It is the intrinsic, fundamental element that flows through us all, that unites us all, and that we must find and foster in order to find the God within us.

So thank you everyone.  Thank you for existing so that I may love you eternally.

Namaste and Pure Love,

Jackie

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I have arrived…

Selamat pagi (good morning) and Happy New Year everyone!

How was everyone’s New Year celebrations?  Hopefully you didn’t have to start out 2013 guzzling water and popping aspirin.  As for me, I had a lot to celebrate (sans alcohol).  After 4 planes, 32 hours of travel and nearly not making it out of the US due to flight delays and nasty China Airlines staff, I finally made it to Ubud, Bali, where I dropped my excessive baggage and showered off my airplane and stress filth in a beautiful outdoor shower before meeting up with Zach.  He’s been living in Ubud for a few weeks now and has made a plethora of ex-pat friends, 2 of which invited us to their house for a small New Year gathering.  They live in a beautiful wooden house overlooking rice paddies and they own two adorable kittens, so obviously I was in heaven as soon as I stepped onto their property.  One of their kittens hugs you every time you pick him up.  He places his paws on your shoulder and puts his nose to yours and suddenly you know that your only purpose in life is to love this little kitty.

Mardana and Marcello, the party hosts, made me feel right at home in a room full of strangers.  Mardana is French and Marcello is Venezuelan and they’re both beautiful, exotic, charismatic and lovely people.  They, along with a few others, made tons of vegetarian food and the guests who arrived throughout the night brought more and more.  We placed it all on the floor of the unfinished wooden house next door – Marcello’s project and future home – and ate and drank out of coconuts until we felt like vegetables ourselves.  Right around 9pm, the fatigue of travel caught up with me, so Marcello and Mardana offered to let me nap in their bed.  At almost exactly 11:30, I woke up to the sound of the water that rushes through their property and beautiful guitar music.  For the next 30 minutes, we sang by candlelight on the floor of Marcello’s house, alive and vibrating as it was with the love of new friends.  Soon after midnight, we shot off fireworks that Marcello and Zach bought and continued to sing and celebrate.  I think this is the first year in a long time that I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol on New Year’s Eve and I can say that 2013 could not have started in a more blissful and perfect way for me.  Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Zach.  He contracted food poisoning from something he ate (or possibly pool water from Marcello’s and Mandana’s pool) and spent most of the night and the next day in the bathroom, which is exactly how I spent New Year’s last year.  The Universe plays its jokes.  Eventually he started feeling better and was able to eat, so we visited some of my favorite food spots in Ubud before parting ways, not for the last time 🙂

And now I’m on the tiny island of Gili Trawangan where there are no cars and you don’t need shoes or shorts or shirts to get service!  Just a swim suit will suffice here.  I spent yesterday freediving with the Level 1 course and one of Freedive Gili’s newest instructors, Dean.  He was actually in a Level 1 course that I helped teach back in March.  Yesterday I was helping him teach rescues and he pointed out to the class that I was actually the first person he ever “rescued”, and now he’s an instructor!  He also dives to 60 meters, which is awesome.  I’m really looking forward to being able to dive with him over the next few months. 

So, in typical Jackie fashion, my plans have changed at least 20 times in the past month or so.  The original plan was to spend a month in Gili diving and doing yoga before heading over to Australia to take an instructor course and start working as an instructor.  Well, to make a long story short, that’s all changed.  Now I’ll be taking the course here with Mike in a couple weeks so I can stay and teach with Dean while Mike and Kate take a long vacation in France.  We’ll see if that plan sticks, but I sure hope it does.  In a couple days, my first instructor, Tristan, will be coming to the island from France to dive with me for a month!  January’s looking pretty good so far…

That’s all the news for now.  I hope everyone has a blessed 2013 filled with love, learning, adventure, giving, hope, inspiration, and even a little bit of pain, because it’s the uncomfortable parts of life that teach us to appreciate the beauty.

Love from Indonesia!

 

 

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Thoughts on Pot: Confessions of an Ex-Smoker

It seems like whenever I come home for the holidays, or return from some epic hippie event like Burning Man or another traveling adventure, my parents try to elicit a confession from me of an illicit nature. Since they were both trouble-makers in their day, I can only assume they want to hear something on par with their hippie 70s years, something Ken Kesey worthy, like dropping acid and partying with the Hell’s Angels or stumbling upon an orgy in the desert or participating in some strange, tribal ceremony that I pledged on pain of death never to discuss (all of which may or may not have happened). I always counter them with an equal dare that if I tell them something I’d rather they never know, they have to tell me something they never imagined telling their children one day. And surprise, surprise, it never works. So since we seem to be at an impasse, I’ve decided to gift to them and to all my diligent readers what you might call a freebie, or what some people refer to as a death bed confession (I’m not dying, for goodness sake, I’m just saying, this is one of those things you might only confess to your loved ones on your death bed, so don’t freak out). So Momma and Daddy, friends, God, the Universe, etc., etc., here it is.

I, Jacquelyn Elise Dent, used to………….

………..smoke pot.

Whew! There it is. Out in the open for everyone to see and judge. I know, I know, you could never imagine how such a lovely angel as myself could EVER get mixed up in something so evil and vile and corruptive as pot. But I did and somehow I turned out okay, imagine that.

But this isn’t really about me and my silly confessions. This post, however, IS inspired by that innocent little green plant that has caused so much argument and strife in our own country.

Parents, if you’ve ever wondered where all that pot comes from that your impertinent kids smoke or that you smoked at their age, it’s Northern California. I came out here feeling generally ambiguous towards pot. I didn’t smoke it (anymore), I didn’t know much about it besides how it made me feel (stupid, sleepy, numb, happy, hungry), and I certainly didn’t care whether it was legalized or not. Now that I live in a place where nearly everyone smokes and advocates for its legalization, I’ve started forming my own ideas on the subject, whatever they may be worth. I used to smoke in high school because 1.) the town I lived in was mind-numbingly BORING and I felt like I needed something equally mind-numbing to negate the numbness, 2.) everyone I knew was doing it and I was a new kid in a new school and wanted to be cool too, 3.) I had this troublesome habit of wanting to do things my parents explicitly told me not to do. So I smoked and ate and did silly things with my friends and then fell asleep, like ya do. In college, I continued to smoke every once in awhile and fancied myself grown up and somewhat evolved because I could sit in the grass with my friends and have esoteric conversations about the state of the world and energies and the healing properties of this lovely little herb. And then I’d fall asleep, like ya do. So it took several years of smoking and not being particularly productive while stoned for me to figure out that…I was not particularly productive while stoned. And I love occasionally laying around and being lazy like the next guy, but I eventually realized that no matter what strain of pot I smoked, I always got that fuzzy head stupid feeling that made me want to close my eyes and feel simultaneously hot and cold, heavy and light, while stars and swirl patterns danced across my closed eyelids. In short, smoking makes me worthless.

Thankfully, not everyone is like that. It wasn’t until I moved here that I realized there are actually people who can smoke all day long and go to work and build things and hold normal conversations without sounding and acting like Steve Spicoli. Most of these people hold medical marijuana prescriptions for a myriad of ailments (including, ironically, a chronic cough) and smoke on a regular basis to heal their pain.

Now, before I continue, I don’t mean to sound like I’m supporting America’s misguided War on Drugs. Because I’m not certainly NOT. I find it completely ludicrous that our government would rather support alcohol, which is responsible for more car crash fatalities, more domestic abuse cases, more infant mutilations and deaths, hell! more fatalities in general, than does marijuana. Alcohol is literally poison, there is no argument, whereas marijuana is a naturally occurring plant that numbs pain and makes you hungry, sleepy and makes Robot Chicken seem funny. If we had any sense, we could tax it and pour that money into our awful, failing school system, but we don’t, so instead we waste money trying to catch and jail growers and dealers of, arguably, the most innocuous drug that exists! I’ll never understand it.

However, living here has definitely caused me to reevaluate my relationship with pot. Another confession: I smoked once while here and to my complete and utter lack of surprise, my head got fuzzy, I polished off a massive bowl of popcorn, and promptly fell asleep. I think the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different outcome. Turns out I’m certifiable. So I came to the conclusion that smoking is just not for me because, lo and behold, I like not to eat the contents of my fridge in one sitting and I like to have conversations with people that involve more input from me than “uh huh” and “yeah” and “I’m sleepy.” Consequently, I’ve been able to observe more the people I’m surrounded by. You know, the ones who can smoke all day and still function like normal. I listen to them all argue for the legalization of pot and I hear them bitch about the police and the dangers of growing and selling and how it shouldn’t be so hard for them to buy medicine. But these are people who are medicating hip pain and headaches and a COUGH for crying out loud! I thought such medicine was supposed to be for people dying of cancer, people who suffer from fibromyalgia and other diseases that cause unimaginable pain, pain that can’t be ameliorated any other way.

So I listen to these people, to my friends, talk about the beauty and the gift of this plant that heals, and while I agree that it really is a gorgeous plant, that, like all other plants gives us oxygen and helps sustain life, I can’t help but see their arguments as cheap and counter-productive to the pro-legalization movement. It seems to me that such people smoke to cover up reality. They’re not smoking to numb unbearable physical pain, so what’s the use? To numb psychic pain? I thought the whole point of the legalization movement was to make it easier for those who desperately need it to grow or buy their own medicine, not for the world to find temporary happiness through an intoxicant.

Which brings me to another issue. Why do humans so badly need an outside source to provide them with happiness and the eyes to see the fascinating world around us? I know it’s really all just personal preference, but I can appreciate nature’s incredible beauty and the light within people without outside help. I know that we can’t all do that and things just feel better and look better when we’re intoxicated, but I wish the world didn’t need substances to be happy. Why can’t we get high off knowledge and love and each other and nature?

And now I’m just a rambling hippie, so I’ll leave you with those thoughts. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this!

Peace, Jackie

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Reading this blog is American.

Happy 4th everyone!  I hope everyone did something super American like drink beer, float in a pool, get sun burnt, shoot a gun…you know, those simple things that really make Americans the best nationality around (sarcasm doesn’t always translate well so just picture me smiling while I wrote that).  As for me, I did absolutely nothing on this momentous day in our history.  I woke up late, talked on the phone with my family, an old friend, and a new friend, read by the pond, watched the wild horses, and did just a wee tiny bit of preparation for my rafting trip tomorrow.  The rafting season has been pretty slow lately due to the cool weather and late start to summer, but it starts picking up next week when we have a trip almost every day!

I’m definitely not complaining about the lull though.  Before I came here, I thought I would fall in love with rafting.  I was sure that, like every other outdoor adventure sport I’ve tried and taught or guided – rock climbing, freediving, surfing – I’d be completely enamored of it and swear my future to pursuing it.  Turns out, my first time on the river wasn’t as rapturous as I’d expected.  And thank goodness!  I mean there’s no way I can possibly handle more passions that I already have, especially when I seem to have decided that my near future will be devoted to freediving.  But more on that later… 

Even though rafting hasn’t turned out to be my calling, or even a passion really, I’ve decided to throw myself wholly into it for the short time I’ll be up here in northern California.  Go big or go home right?  So I’ve been reading books on rafting strokes and rescue techniques and asking Tannere all I can about what to do if such and such happens and precisely how to navigate certain rapids.  When Tannere tells me I’ll be working a certain trip, I try to fight that first gut reaction that screams “Damn it!” in my head, instead choosing to think about how fun it will be and how maybe this time I won’t throw myself or my passengers out of the boat (which I’ve done once and twice, respectively).  Each time on the river gets easier – I’m mentally less stressed, not so worried about what I’ll do if I screw up, and I’m getting better at reading the river – and each time I get a little more excited about the next trip.               

I’ve recently decided that come January, I’m going to head back to Indonesia to get certified as a freediving instructor.  Mike Board, the guy who led me through the Masters course, is now an instructor trainer and I can’t think of anything more fulfilling and appropriate than to go back to an instructor I know, respect, and is just pretty damn awesome.  Plus his girlfriend Kate is an incredible diver and yoga teacher and person.  They’re the dynamic duo of freediving, at least in my mind, and there’s no way I’m going to pass up the opportunity to learn from and teach with them.  Also, my first instructor and mentor, Bjorn Hedquist, and I used to talk about how great it would be to work together on Gili Trawangan one day.  Since he’s passed on, I’d like to honor his memory by teaching in a place he loved so much.

And then?  Australia to be a freediving instructor!  I still have a year-long work and travel visa for Australia and you better believe I don’t plan on wasting it.  I have no idea if I’ll stay the full year, but I’ll work and have adventures and LIVE.

So cheers to America, cheers to our beautiful Universe, this incredible life, and brilliant you!

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Lemon Pudding Love

If you love lemon deserts, you should give this recipe a try.  I made it last night with Tannere who introduced me to a raw diet.  We’re both too poor to live completely raw right now, but every once in awhile we make raw meals and deserts like this one.  If you have a really good blender or a food processor, this is really easy to make and delicious!  All it calls for is…

 

1 avocado

2 lemons, peeled

1 cup dates, pitted and soaked

 

Tannere and I didn’t soak the dates, which gave the pudding a bit of texture.  We liked it, but if you’re not one for texture in your puddings, then pit the dates and soak them for about 2 hours.  Then just throw everything into the blender or food processor and blend away!  It turns out green, which might be disconcerting, but I promise, it tastes absolutely divine, especially if you’re a fan of lemons like I am.  And the best part is that you don’t need sugar (because, really, you NEVER need sugar)!

 

Nush olsun! (‘Bon apetit’ in Azeri)

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Yeah I live in NorCal

San Francisco is windy!  I feel like I knew that at some point in my life, but I definitely forgot it the day I left my friend’s house in Berkeley and headed into the city.  Berkeley felt fantastic.  I left the house in a dress, leggings and a light sweater, eating my apple and almost skipping with elation for having already had 3 perfect days in California.  Walking towards the BART, I fell into conversation with a man about the value of eating apples for breakfast (I was eating an apple for breakfast which prompted him to quote the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”) and his penchant for choosing greasy burgers instead.  I chided him good-naturedly and we laughed and I marveled at how nice everyone is.  We split ways and I successfully navigated the BART all the way down to the first San Francisco stop, Embarcadero.  And then I stepped outside and immediately regretted my choice of clothing.  It was WINDY.  And I HATE being cold.

I bought a coffee and a scone at Starbucks – where everyone was bundled up in coats and scarves – and decided that walking would heat me up.  So I walked.  And walked and walked and walked for nearly 4 hours.  I walked to Fisherman’s Wharf where I bought turtle-shaped sourdough bread to munch on.  I kept walking by the water and rested on a little beach where I watched swimmers with a death wish swim back and forth in the freezing cold water.  I walked towards the Golden Gate Bridge for what felt like an eternity with my arms wrapped around my body, shivering and cursing.  I finally gave up trying to get to the bridge and took a bus to Golden Gate Park where I walked even more.  Yeah it was beautiful and blah blah blah but I was too cold to appreciate it.  After about an hour of that misery, I found a bus that would take me back to Fisherman’s Wharf and warm restaurants, but before I boarded, my friend Liz called and asked me to meet her on Haight Street.  So another 20 blocks later, I made it to the most wonderful place I’d yet seen in San Francisco.  There was beautiful graffiti all over the walls, grungy street performers, shops selling all sorts of hippy clothes and trinkets, cafes, and myriads of people who seemed to be some variation of beatnik or vagrant or tortured artist.  I was in heaven.

So Liz and I had lunch (falafel wrap at a café where I randomly met a guy who also went to UCF), and she took me to hippy hill in Golden Gate park where all the hippies of yore used to trip and play music and philosophize on art and Zen and the meaning of it all, man.  Then Liz gave me a collapsible hula hoop and drove me back to the BART and sent me on my way back to Berkeley.

One plane ride on a tiny puddle jumper and one particularly lovely conversation with an older hippy named Mike later, I landed in cold Redding where my friend Tanner picked me up and drove us home.

And so here I am, living in a little cabin on Tanner’s property waaaaay up in the hills of northern California, an hour and a half away in either direction from any real cities, and of course I love it.  I don’t have a car so he’s taught me how to drive his manual truck.  I don’t know how to guide rivers so he’s taught me that too.  I’ve also learned how to manage worm compost and back up a trailer with rafts piled on it.  And I’ve only been here for 4 days!

This is going to be an epic summer.

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Glorious Napa

Day 1 (Sunday May 20):

Everything went well with my flights – no horrible turbulence or screaming children and my bags showed up on time. However I made it to the bus stop just 15 minutes too late to take the 10am shuttle to Napa, so I had to sit around and wait for the 12pm shuttle. Which was of course no big deal because it afforded me some quality time to people watch and read my book. The ride up to Napa took about an hour and a half and was of course gorgeous. Like the excitable and naïve tourist I can sometimes be, I got giddy when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and I would’ve taken pictures from the bus if I could’ve come off my high for 2 seconds and remembered to take out my camera.

I made it to Napa and was picked up by Jim, my friend Cobalt’s husband. I met Cobalt at Burning Man in 2009 – she sold me a ticket, invited me to camp with her, showed me the ropes, and of course is a lovely person, as are most people who attend BM. Anyway, she and Jim own a farm with a veggie garden and chickens and ducks and turkeys and rabbits and sheep and dogs and all sorts of creatures (like snakes that like to hang out in the garden while I’m weeding) and occasionally host WWOOfers (volunteers who work on organic farms all over the world). Anyway, as soon as I got to the farm, I set up my trusty North Face tent (which is still covered in dust from Burning Man) in the orchard and settled in. Cobalt’s hooping group showed up for a workshop so I sat in the grass and sleepily watched them. I’ve wanted to get into hooping for a long time, but I still have to learn how to keep the damn thing on my waist for more than 5 seconds. They all made it look so easy!


After the workshop we prepped for the potluck and looked at the eclipse through a welder’s mask. I’d never done that before and it was incredible! The sun looked green and you could see the moon passing over it. In places where the eclipse was shining through leaves, it was casting crescent-shaped shadows on the ground and house and everything around. We were all amazed.

The potluck was fabulous! Lots of natural foods from the farm, topped off with chocolate cake for one of the women’s birthday. Afterwards, the girls hooped with their LED hoops while I tried to stay awake (I woke up at 2:45am east coast time after a day of food poisoning and little sleep) and took pictures. And my first night camping in over a year was beautiful and comfortable. Napa is COLD at night! Much better than Alabama’s humid heat.

Day 2:

Woke up around 7:30 and had endless cups of coffee with Cobalt. Then we started the morning round of animal feedings! First we stopped at the rabbits where we changed their waters, topped off their alfalfa and gave them some leafy food to eat. The baby rabbits are of course ADORABLE. Cobalt says that rabbit is some of the most protein-rich and nutritious meat you could ever eat. She also claims it’s the best meat for developing countries, not only because of its nutritional value, but because they eat what we don’t, reproduce incessantly, and are easy to take care of.

After the rabbits, we fed the turkeys, then the sheep, then the goose and ducks, then the chickens. The sheep kept trying to stick their head in the food bucket while I was trying to dump it on the ground for them. The goose is probably my favorite. We turned on the hose to top off their little plastic swimming pools, and while the ducks scattered, the goose raised herself up as high as she could and slightly spread her wings while we sprayed her with water. She loved it, and she looked as happy as a goose with a huge knob between her eyes can. In the chicken coop, I watched one hen latch onto Cobalt’s hand with her beak while Cobalt was trying to get eggs out from under her. Most of the hens lay their eggs in one of the roosts and then leave, so the eggs are usually pretty easy to collect. But apparently this hen is getting “broody”, as Cobalt says, so she just stays in the box and tries to protect her eggs. Poor girl.

The rest of the day I weeded the garden and did some work on my computer. Before dinner, I had what may be my favorite experience on the farm so far – a hot, outdoor shower with a beautiful view. When I was in Bali, I had an outdoor shower, but it was really just a roofless shower enclosed by a brick wall. This shower is legitimately outdoors, with a gorgeous view of a field…and voyeuristic bunnies. It was lovely.

For dinner, I put together some leftovers from the fridge – rice and black beans – and added corn, spinach, salsa, sour cream and tortilla chips for a makeshift taco salad which we ate with artichokes from the garden. I LOVE fresh food!

Day 3:

Woke up and did the morning chores on my own. Everything went well, except that I was too afraid to look for eggs under the broody bitch hen. Cobalt uses a stick to kind of hold their heads to the side while she reaches under them, but the mean hen is used to the stick and knows how to get out from under it (or I’m just a big weak baby) and she kept pecking at my hand. So I gave up and resigned myself to more weeding in the garden.

Which, by the way, is infested with snakes! Every time I walked over to the flower row, I’d see at least 3 snakes scatter. I’m pretty sure they’re fairly harmless (at least that’s what Jim tells me) and they’re obviously afraid of me anyway, but it’s still disconcerting to see something slithering by in the exact spot you were about to put your hands.

After weeding, I took a bike ride over to Clos Du Valle, the winery where Jim works. He showed me around and let me taste a plethora of white wines. I’ve always heard people talk about how they want to go wine tasting in Napa, and now I can say that I’ve actually done it!

Tonight I’m making eggplant parm for us, which of course we’ll eat with wine from the winery. Though I’ve really only seen the farm and the winery that’s a whole mile away, I already love Napa and feel like I could stay here. But alas, I’m off to San Francisco tomorrow to visit friends I met on the road, and of course I’m ECSTATIC. I’ve never been to SF, so I’m looking forward to being shown around by my friends and being the dorky tourist.

Stay tuned for updates on my adventures in the big city!

Much love and more…

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