Green Bananas + ‘Modern’ Wellness | de-conditioning continues.

Tell me a thing.

What colour is a yummy, ripe banana?

Yellow, right?

Not if you’re in Bali.

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I’ve always grown up to believe that green bananas are starchy, chalky, and raw. Until I couldn’t help but wonder why our hotel would bring us raw bananas in a fruit basket – and I took a chance on challenging what I thought I knew…. and discovered the banana was as ripe as bananas come.

It’s time to start de-conditioning my mind – unlearning the things I’ve known to be true.

So… in my pursuit of “energy” and how it fits into my life.. .. what I know so far is this:

Energy is a weird concept that nobody seems to really be able to target; its sources are identifiable, and its effects can be measured… but I’ve still yet to receive any kind of answer on what it actually is.

Okay. Fine. I’ll just choose to believe in its existence, then – regardless of the fact that I can’t logic my way into or out of it. (de-conditioning has begun).

I’ve also learned that my ability to perceive energy is based on a few things (as shown in my efforts to harness a lightning storm):

  1. Trust  – I needed to trust that I was capable of bearing witness to energy (or else I wouldn’t have made the effort at all)
  2. Faith – I had to believe that my efforts were more valuable than to not engage in them at all.
  3. Patience – it doesn’t come on demand.
  4. Openness – to re-calibrating my measuring tools
  5. Grit – I shouldn’t quit just because I’m ‘mostly happy’ or because the process is hard
  6. Gratitude – gratitude is like a lightning rod for awesomeness

So essentially I just need to know that it exists – that it’s this other plane of being – a thing that requires acknowledgement.. and… dare I say…. nurturance? healing? I dunno.

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Two months ago I ended up in Thailand with Mark  having no idea why we’d actually gone to that particular place – until it became apparent to us that we needed to heal aspects of ourselves as individuals. It’s referred to as a healing island and it seems everyone there vibrates on a higher frequency – whatever that means. But there’s definitely a palpable sense of awareness in the air; you can taste it when you breathe. So there’s no denying the increase in energy – despite the fact that I can’t make sense of it… yet.

Okay. Energy is this invisible force that causes a particular outcome. Reading anything outside of just ‘nutritional energy’ for the body, definitions begin to twirl around the idea of ‘spiritual energy’. And then things seem to get all “new-age-y” and hokey… right? Except, for… it kind of makes sense.

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I studied neuroscience and biological psychology  in university and I have a degree is understanding how the interactions of our physical components give rise to our perception of life. Medicine makes sense…. if I have low cortisol, I’m relaxed. High serotonin? I’m happy. Lots of oxytocin? I want to cuddle the fuxk out of you.

It’s linear. It’s logical. I get it.

But what happened to people before western medicine came along?

Maybe this is where I need to take the mind I’ve been conditioned to have and crack it open.

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—–

Her name was Alice and we met her getting on the plane in Singapore en route to Bali. “Is your carry-on specifically designed to carry a yoga mat?!” she exclaimed from behind me. I turned to see this strikingly gorgeous blonde yogini walking down the jetway behind me. “It is! I picked it up at Lululemon before we came to Asia.”

“I’ll have to look into getting one.” she concluded – in her definitively kiwi accent.

“Is this your first time to Bali?” Mark asked her.

“Not at all.” she replied. “I live in Singapore now – I escape to Bali for the weekend as often as I can.”

First world problems, right?

She was on her way to catch the tail end of Bali Spirit Fest – a consortium of gurus, hippies, healers, gypsies, and creatures in pursuit of enlightenment.

“So you’re heading into Ubud, then? Let’s share a taxi. Meet us at baggage claim.” I made some quick plans to connect with our like-minded new friend as we piled into our aircraft. Ironically, she was sitting just a couple of rows ahead of us.

By the time we landed in Denpasar it was obvious our paths weren’t likely to cross again: the walk through the airport was long, immigration lines were crazy long (and painfully slow), mine and Mark’s trekking packs were already out on the belt by the time we got downstairs. I tried to look back a few times to catch a glimpse of our taxi-sharing-friend but to no avail.

And just before we called our own Uber to drive us the 45ish minutes to Ubud, Mark took a quick bathroom break and as we walked back out to me – guess who I saw walking toward us?? Our beautiful blonde kiwi yogini alongside the driver she’d just hailed.

“Come with me!” she exclaimed. And we decided to share a car.

Any time you get into conversation with someone in SE Asia who’s living a life removed from the ‘norm’ you can bet you’ll have at least a thing or two in common. It’s always fun to figure out whether it’ll be a digitally nomadic life, wanderlust, nonmonogamy, spiritual pursuit. As it turns out, with Alice, it was her definitive spiritual awakening that struck us, and it was our non-monogamous relationship that struck her. Good thing we figured out what we’d talk about for the next hour!

As our driver weaved in and out of crazy evening traffic, our conversation ebbed and flowed from what we do for a living, how we choose to live our lives, and why we consider ourselves on a ‘journey’. It was the story of how Alice’s journey began that would permeate down into my cells and demand to be examined:

“I just couldn’t accept that all health, happiness and wellness originated within the schools of thought of a handful of affluent white dudes.” – She was mostly healthy, mostly happy – but wasn’t… RADIATING, you know? She just kind of existed.. like most of us do.

And the academic conversation she was referring to was a university lecture that drew all modern medicine and advanced thinking back to the originating works of some pretty smart dudes: mostly Hippocrates, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato.

SO WEIRD! I learned the exact same basis for modern thought in my History of Psychology course in 4th year (though, replace Hippocrates with Descartes, who came a little later) – and the idea that these guys are largely accredited with the foundation for everything we feel we know today.

“So then what came before them?” Alice pressed of her professor.

I don’t presume he was super open to de-conditioning the way she was.

There’s no denying that how history is written has been influenced by its authors. It’s the same logic as the skew of Wikipedia-based knowledge – all curated and reviewed by a particularly tilted group of users. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle were ground-breaking thinkers in their time, between 500 and 300 BC – sure… but what happened BEFORE them? cavemen and dark abyss?

Now, I’m FAR from a history buff in any way…. but even with our modern-day sensitivities to the sources of our accepted truths, am I the only one who can’t help but wonder what came, wellness-ly speaking, before the affluent white guys came along??

Hippocrates has gone down in all our history books as being the Father of Modern Medicine because he observed stuff that happened in the body, theorized around it, began building empirical evidence – all around a time when the ‘world’ was growing in size and preserved information began to matter.

So does that mean bodies and health and wellness didn’t exist prior to Hippocrates? Obviously not. Obviously this dude just came along and employed the tools of the time to begin a systematic approach to what had obviously been transpiring between people for thousands of years before that. What then, was accredited to wellness before he came along?  Well – perhaps some of these quotes shed some light:

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Natural forces, you say? Energy, perhaps? Hmmm…

Traditionally, health has been described as the absence of disease. But just because we’re not diagnosed with a medical condition, do we claim to be healthy?

Day in, day out – we complain that we’re tired, that we feel heavy, we’re lethargic, we’re unhappy. Our libidos stutter, our self-confidence plummets, our moods swing back and forth like a pendulum. Just because we don’t have a shiny diagnosis to boast doesn’t mean we feel our healthiest selves. We’re not “ill”, but we’re not well either.

Tell me then, how did humans combat depression before SSRIs were mass manufactured?

Mostly everything we’re taught about contemporary health and wellness comes from ‘western’ schools of thought.. that is, everything that’s not eastern…. yet, some of the oldest cultures in the world exist in the East. What happened to all the shit they spent thousands of years perfecting??

Please don’t tell me that the capitalism of human health tilted the conditioning we’re exposed to? Is it possible that we’ve been raised to believe that viagra, zoloft, and twinrix are the solution because they’re man-made, manufactured, and come with an astronomical profit margin?

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Here’s the historical snapshot:

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While certain elements of this timeline thoroughly confuse me, it’s an interesting visual depiction of how “medicine” has unfolded over time.

Egyptian physicians, which I know nothing about… 3000 BC.

Chinese medicine – well, if acupunture counts, I’m beginning to learn.. but alas… 2500ish BC. – Qi. (chi). ENERGY.

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Ayurvedic Medicine – now there’s a term I’ve been hearing a lot in SE Asia this time around: ayurvedic healing, ayurvedic eating… early wellness practices from India. Intriguing.

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And then we fast forward to that 500 BC mark where the “western” schools of thought from WASPy white guys begins to make its mark.

So what we know about health/wellness today obviously didn’t exist in a silo.

Prehistoric medicine is rooted in the use of plants, herbs, clays and soils as healing agents. Sure, maybe it wasn’t documented the way modern-day cancer studies are laid out… but does that make it worthless? Hippocrates didn’t seem to think so. I mean, these ancient practices were to use what they had at the time  – to combat the ailments they faced in their particular ways of life.

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So only after health/wellness practices from earliest civilizations (ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, India, and China) did we arrive at modern medicine:

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But apparently only when modern civilization happened did the heavens part and angels sang and lo and behold, the Greeks and Romans came along and THANK GOD they did because they built the foundation upon which we’ll all be saved, right?! Okay… so that was written in sarcastic font. I guess the entire reason I’m feeling a little aggravated at the idea of ‘healing’ as I’ve always known is the fact that we, as a western mind, have totally discredited all the things cultures knew predating “us” by literally thousands of years.

Do we really have the audacity to believe that the only solution to every pathology is what we feel we know today? surgery and pharmaceuticals?

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I mean, sure.. if I get bitten by an aggressive insect and that bite gets infected and my skin starts to swell and ooze and turning colours it shouldn’t be – I’m DEEPLY grateful for Fleming and penicillin and all its modern-day derivatives. Like, I wouldn’t sit and stare at a gangrenous foot with burning sage and a rose quartz and hope it goes away on its own…

But… humans began to live a largely unnatural life at one point – and our demands for health, wellness, and medicine really had to respond to shit like environmental pollution and unnaturally fast shifts in geographic locations – no? Would I have the same reaction to said aggressive insect if I’d grown up in the country it lives – allowing my natural immunities to build up over time to its shitty sting?

I digress.

To pull this ancient medicine talk back to where I started….

I started with energy… because so much of what I’m learning these days, and so many people I’m meeting these days, are guided by the seemingly mystical pulls of energy.

Koh Phangan is deemed a healing island – and while there is a western hospital now for things like orthopedic surgery (when Full Mooner assholes crash their motorbikes), most of the healing happens in a dimension outside of western medicine: nutrition + herbal supplements, body work (massage, alignment, acupuncture), meditation, exercise. And beneath all those? That damn ENERGY again.

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It sounds much more…. preventative, doesn’t it? Compared to the west’s…. almost …. “reactive” treatment approach? If this thing is about to kill  you we’ll go in with super invasive procedures and chemicals to kill it first….  with very little regard for the imbalances being caused as side effects everywhere else?

After only a few weeks in Thailand I began to formulate a judgment for myself:

Western medicine treats the body like a machine, and when it’s broken – it hopes to fix it – but the historic Hippocratic Oath (still pledged by physicians today) – and specifically the promise to “Do No Harm” – well, that’s crap. Western medicine does harm. Pharmacology harms. Surgeries can harm. Mis-diagnoses harm. Malpractice harms. Yup, when I have a gangrenous foot I’m super willing to deal with the risk of nausea or constipation in exchange for antibiotic treatment…. but I don’t think the western approach, if in a vacuum, is quite as ‘healthy’ as we’d like to believe it to be.

And then there’s Eastern medicine – which treats the body like a garden…. it focuses on tending to your garden in such a way as to reap its benefits predictably, repeatedly, without end. Yup.. there’s a definitive lack of emergency procedures and chemical interventions for when shit in the garden goes SUPER sideways…. but it’s also this incredibly nourishing, balanced, holistic substrate that theoretically protects against the chronic, long-term struggles that our western lifestyle yields: chronic heart conditions, blood pressure, obesity, depression.

While my understanding of Eastern-based wellness is so limited that its barely even worthy of mention – wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where ENERGY (you know, that underlying thing that we can’t explain but that clearly exists – because – well, like – we charge our phones and stuff) is incorporated into our approach to health?

Did we honestly reach a point in history where Western medicine became threatened by the inexplicability and non-replicability of Eastern schools of thought that it struck them from the record entirely? Maybe ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practices don’t withstand the scientific method – but does that render them entirely useless? I mean, not even amoxycillin is 100% effective in 100% of cases, right? It’s long list of side effects definitely demand some acknowledgment.

Was it ever meant to be an either/or?

Are pathological conditions outlined in medical journals the only healing we need to pursue? Or is there something to be said for the healing that came before those WASPy white guys did?

Maybe… just maybe… if we started with the nourishing, natural, holistic approach – maybe our machines wouldn’t break down so often? Maybe eastern wellness is like the green bananas of Bali…. counterintuitive, seemingly unnatural – but actually just as good (if not better) than anything else I’ve ever known? The de-conditioning continues….

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Eat, Pray, Love? Nope. Vibrate,Transform, Decondition.

Somehow I think Liz Gilbert’s title has way better ring to it than my own.

Alas.

I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of two worlds right now, and it seemed particularly obvious when we walked into a little French restaurant in downtown Ubud the other day….

I’m standing on the edge of a grey concrete world with a hard line drawn between the world I’ve always known and accepted, and something I *feel* is much more colourful, inspiring, and powerful than anything I’ve ever know. I just need to be willing to take the step.

Like – it’s easy to be personally colourful and inspiring and powerful within yourself – but how much impact can you really have, how much transformation can you really invite in, when everything around you is dark? Wouldn’t it be so much more beautiful to just take the step and shift?

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You know… there was a time when you couldn’t have inspired me to write in this blog if my life depended on it. It’s like the box from which my prose spilled out – like handwoven tapestries from a loom – was all dried up. Empty. Nothing. Maybe the odd spark of creativity here or there, a thing I’d write some reflexive thoughts in Instagram about – but nothing of substantial value. A few weeks ago, in Thailand, I realized that these particular blog pages are for when I transform.

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And I’ve learned a thing recently about transformation —> it can’t happen unless you’re willing to de-condition what you thought you knew.

That’s why I write.

– because I can’t make sense of my thoughts otherwise.

I spend my life being so linear and logical about new things that present themselves to me… and sometimes you’re faced with some things that can’t be lineared and logic’d – yet you have to make sense of them too if you want to move forward. That’s where the de-conditioning comes in.

This blog, unbeknownst to me, has been where the de-conditioning has happened – where I’ve shed the skin of conditions-past to become new versions of myself.

Rad.

I  mean, sure, my Instagram account is chock-full of memorable and mildly altering moments… but the magnitude of transformative processes in me is no match for social platform-imposed character limits. When serious conditions need be to splintered – this is where they happen.

My first solo trek through India and Nepal changed me at my core and demanded this blog… it was a time when I faced the planet’s most real poverty at a point in my life where materialism held me to my core. I walked through the world’s largest slum in Mumbai while wearing Tiffany bracelets on my wrist. How’s that for desperately needing to be de-conditioned?

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My second visit to India, and my first adventure through SE Asia with Mark only asked to be subtly shared (with the exception of a few pivotal moments, of course). The beautiful little creature I met at the base of a temple in Cambodia de-conditioned my mind to beautiful little humans. I wasn’t, at that point, interested in a life partner, or a family… but the gentleness and helplessness and magic of this split second ignited a desire in me to provide, in any way I can, for those who need it…. I was de-conditioned again.

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My second, solo trek across SE Asia was intricately mapped out on Instagram but again, didn’t demand of me that I explore deeper in this blog space… though, in the past couple of years my own (and mine and Mark’s) adventures in constructing an openly open relationship did demand this definitively transformative stage. De-conditioning all around.

A few minor life blips in the past few years that required I sit and spill my thoughts to this here site…. some business related, a few here and there on life as a whole…. and then nothing ground-breakingly substantial until I slept with an Aussie and then married this stud I’d not shared online before — (each in relatively short proximity of each other, I suppose). Weird. So many unexpected transformations – all requiring the linear and logical approaches of working through my emotions on ‘paper’. Seemed it worked.

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Nothing’s demanded this blog space with any kind of regularity until this particular visit to SE Asia…. only this time it’s not travel… this time, it’s life.

Mark’s corporate life was undone and our joint focus became our startup. We decided it was appropriate to test-drive a lifestyle we’d been ogling for years: the life of digital nomads.

So we minimized our Toronto-based life, locked up our condo, gave my pup to his parents to watch, and set off. Weird that despite being on this journey together we’ve actually carved out very different paths of learning since arriving 14,000km away. What a beautiful reality – to be able to transform independently in such powerful ways – but do it alongside one another.

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I’ve been devouring Osho with relentless fervour since his name has popped up randomly in my world more than a half dozen times in the past few weeks. Books upon books of this teachings flood the shelves of just about every bookstore I’ve visited lately. I look up his quotes spontaneously on Pinterest and with each subsequent quote his words resonate more and more strongly with my current inner state.

Mark and I may be here together… but we’ve given one another unconditional independence in the pursuit of the journey each one of us needs. We each had conditions that bound us and limited us from growing on our own — and we’ve needed to overcome those independently.

Side-by-side journeys. Different paths. Both learning to vibrate on higher frequencies.

Man… how grateful I am for this incredible human in world alongside whom I have such a deep privilege to grow. — (we clearly take said evolution deeply seriously)

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Unbeknownst to us at the time of following a digital-friend’s online advice to visit Koh Phangan – what Mark and I needed was to heal (the ultimate transformation, I’d say). Ironically – we needed to heal not from any scars we’d imposed onto one another (which seems the relationship-default these days)- but to heal in our own personal, private, independent lives – the parts of ourselves that have nothing to do with the other. (beautifully, we’ve managed to keep those very much in tact).

Side-by-side deconditioning. Cute.

Mark’s openness to his journey in Thailand led him down the path of masculinity workshops and physical exercise.  He needed to de-condition the relationship he maintained with his body and his masculine sense of self – not a space I could have any positive effect on. Conversely, I accidentally ended up on a path of (physically) healing past trauma that I was certain I’d (emotionally) healed years ago, stacked upon some baby steps into awareness of myself on a plane I’d never paid attention to before: the energy and spirit that hold together my body and my mind (please note: I still barely know what this means). Perhaps it was just recognizing that this glue even existed that began the de-conditioning / re-conditioning process?

Side-by-side. Different paths.

We arrived on Koh Phangan at the end of February without any expectations. My Gypsy Goddess Facebook friend called it her ‘healing island’ but I didn’t really know what that meant. We came to know quite quickly, though, that the island was full of yogis, gurus, and body workers – energy healers, practitioners of ancient wellness techniques.. and as hokey as it all sounded to me at the time, I had found myself surrounded by brilliant, passionate, open-minded and open-hearted folks just like me – escaping the shackles of their superficial western lives and opting for a slightly more conscious existence in a very different living space.

They’ve all undergone their de-conditioning already.

They were just like me: they work (mostly remotely), they play (with passports full of stamps to prove it), they indulge (coincidentally with restraint, though), and they love (mostly in open, consciously non-monogamous arrangements). The sense of familiarity was so strong among this seemingly random group of strangers that I couldn’t help but realize this particular place on the globe did, indeed, attract some very likeminded souls.

And then, there’s the energy.

They all talked about energy.

They talked about it like it was as obvious, natural, and objective to them as the colour of my skin to anyone else. Nobody questioned it the way I did – they all just seamlessly wove it into their daily routines: meditating, exercising, barefooting, creating, loving, pursuing evolution in one way or another. I met folks who’d been doctors, lawyers, and otherwise wildly accomplished in their “other” lives – but who chose an existence a little more understated, a touch more connected, and a lot more nourishing than anything I’d experienced back “home”.

Everyone was hyper aware of this thing I could barely bring myself to acknowledge: energy. (BUT WTF DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!)

Seems they were all ahead of me in the sense that they were willing to acknowledge a thing you can’t fully grasp. How strangely counterintuitive and weird… yet welcoming and fulfilling? sigh.

Even Carlos, the acupuncturist Mark and I ended up seeing every few days, built his international practice upon the ancient Chinese healing techniques of balancing energies – and we went to acupuncture twice a week to allegedly balance a thing we knew nothing about — but more on that later.

This energy thing I’ve been so adamantly examining for a few days now was literally all around me – and nobody seemed to question it at all. They’d all been re-conditioned to accept that it’s just a permeating force in their life.. and they seemed to be MUCH happier for it than I was.

Did I find it a little hokey at first? Yup – totally. I mean, all these folks running around in dreads, fashionably tattered threads, with crystals in hand. I mean, c’mon, seriously?!

–  don’t even get me started on the crystals. How ridiculous, right? (I’ll get into that later too).

But who was I to call them hokey when it seemed they were all the things I longed to be: balanced, aware, mindful, happy.  I don’t actually think I’ve ever resonated so much on the same level with any group of people in my life. Was actually going to be obtuse and ignorant enough to scoff at their “new-age-y” way of life?

And, well, there’s that term again: resonate.

Vibrate.

Frequencies.

Energy.

A girlfriend of mine was sitting in an airport today and somehow the topic of my energy post came up in her conversation with the Native American sitting next to her (coincidence?). He responded:

“The guy sitting next to me at the airport says, ‘Energy is your soul’s vibration with the universe.’ I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds nice.”

“Sounds awesome.” I responded. “But WTF does that even mean?!”

“LOL.” she replied. “I asked the same thing, and then we had a conversation about how everything in the universe has its own frequency and vibration.”

— there’s those words again.

She continued, “Native culture is very strong here – so the guy I was just talking to was telling me that they believe in an energy exchange with the earth. – I’ve always loved the idea that energy (whatever it is) is an exchange between you and the world, but I’ve never really understood it.”

She’s not alone on that one. (she added that she has a Native friend whom she’ll ask more of when she has the chance.)

Native. brought up twice. That can’t be an accident, can it?

Vibrations. Frequencies. Energy.

Are Native people, you know, those folks still entrenched in so many of the values of their ancestors, less conditioned to the ways of the west than I have been? Are they in touch with something that we, as a whole, have otherwise lost?

While Mark is transforming himself, I’m trying to figure out my path.

What is this energy that feels so simultaneously intuitive yet counterintuitive that the very thought of it makes me crazy? that I can’t logic my way into or out of it – I can’t measure it but can’t deny its existence at all?

I mean… I sat for almost an hour last night trying to capture a momentary flicker to prove to myself that it exists… and I did.

How can my western-word conditioning deny real-world proof of the existence of this thing I can’t see?

Alright. Well… if I’m going to seriously pour effort into figuring out this thing that it seems so many around me (and before me) have known… then…. let the de-conditioning begin …

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The Girl Who Chased a Lightning Storm

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And as I wrapped up my earlier post on w.t.f. ‘energy’ actually is, night time creeped over Bali and it wasn’t long before our villa’s floor-to-ceiling view of the rice fields was cloaked in black. That is, until the lightning came.

From what I’ve gathered, it’s the tail end of the rainy season in Bali. There are thunderstorms in the forecast daily – it actually rains fairly infrequently all things considered – though we have gotten trapped in downpours of monsoon-proportions at least a couple of times at this point.

The lightning literally came out of nowhere tonight… there wasn’t actually any rain to be seen, and only a few distant thunder claps were heard… but as I got up to grab a bottle of water I was stopped dead in my tracks with this crazy white/blue/pink light that momentarily lit up the sky to my right and suspended me in my path. I needed more.

We paused Season 2 of LOST and sat outside…. I had my phone clenched in my hands and set to burst-shot camera mode. The lightning didn’t come nearly as frequently as I’d hoped….

1….2….3….4…. I counted slowly in my head. Often more than 30 seconds would pass between streaks and I got frustrated at my laggard human reaction time… from when my eye would process lightning to triggering my finger to push the button and the time it took my stupid night-time-mode Android to react – I ended up with a camera roll of nothing but black… row upon row of black.

I mean.. I could SEE the energy….

light·ning
ˈlītniNG/
noun
  1. 1.
    the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and typically also thunder.

Lightning. Energy. We can see it if we look at the right moment – we know, in theory, what creates it, and what it creates in turn when it makes contact with something it shouldn’t… but WHAT. IS. IT?!?

I sat in the muggy Balinese darkness and waited. Delayed snap after delayed snap of darkness, until finally….

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AAAHHHH!!

I mean, I totally get that my attempt was pitiful. (I was shooting with a smartphone, after all). The first momentary capture was blurry.. the next two weren’t much better… BUT, photographic perfectionism aside – it worked! I sat, patiently, and I did it – I harnessed the thing, the energy, that I was straining so hard to see!

However…

It wasn’t enough. I saw this momentary glimpse of energy, I could smell it in the air.. I KNEW it was there… but my method of harnessing wasn’t doing it any justice. How does one justify extrapolating on the topic of energy when I can’t replicate it? Isn’t that how modern science discredits things? By being unable to harness / replicate?

Minutes upon minutes, drowned out by the soundtrack of crickets, frogs, and the odd gecko… I had felt so fascinated by the idea of energy in writing my last post that I couldn’t go back to LOST without something, anything, captured to revisit.

Photo after photo of darkness.

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“Just give me something!” I silently pleaded (with the Universe?).

“I need something to work with to be able to build on this inkling of insight I feel.”

And just as the next thunder clap boomed in the distance, it hit me:

“You’re using the wrong settings, Mary.”

I mean – I’m far from a photographer of any sorts… let alone having any sense of how to properly use the Pro Mode on my android to tweak white balances and ISO settings. I watch Mark show-off — I mean — shoot on pro settings on his phone all the time. He makes underwhelming scenes look like absolute art (which is fortunate for me because I’m usually in them)… but it hadn’t occurred to me before – I was trying to capture lightning on the wrong settings….

Suddenly, this began to happen.

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They still weren’t amazing captures…. but I tweaked my approach a little and the ethereal thing I was attempting to capture began to make itself more apparent. If nothing else, THAT seemed worthy of a little more introspection.

And then… I decided to go back inside. I felt I had what I thought I needed… I’d seen enough “energy”, captured just enough lightning to feel sufficiently reflexive…. but I looked at my phone and it was 11:11. (urgh. It’s ALWAYS 11:11 when I look at my phone!) – so much so that I’ve researched the ridiculous spiritual meaning of this ridiculous repetitive number bullshit – isn’t this the time when spiritual gateways open up and the magic happens? I mean, wishing hour and all? I felt childish in my hopeful thinking …. but then, just as suddenly as the thought came in, suddenly I felt my entire demeanour change.

My furrowed brow, previously straining to catch a photo, softened a little. My shoulders slouched a little more and I sunk into my cross-legged position on our lounger. It’s like this wave of calm washed over me and dissolved all inner sense of goal-oriented struggle. Suddenly it felt less like work and more like a privilege to be sitting on a lounger in Bali, staring at a lightning storm over a rice field.

And then, that’s when this happened:

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I couldn’t edit this if I tried.

From a sea of blackness and frustration, to a slight adjustment to my approach… and suddenly, out of nowhere, this single solitary moment of sheer, utter magic….

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To be honest, I was hoping for one of those epic lightning-bolt streaks across a dark sky that you often see photogs capturing with $10,000 long-exposure setups. But when I saw this photo – granted it’s grainy (and still from a cell phone)… I knew my quest for proof of *something* would suffice for one night.

I wanted to tuck away some outward validation of this inner struggle I’d been having with the idea of energy and it’s elusiveness. This idea that it’s there, but it’s not really there – it’s undeniable but it’s barely harnessable …. you can’t see it – you can only see the effects it has on its surroundings… but its effects are impossible to ignore.

Curious thing, about examining something you’ve never looked at closely before:

  1. I had to trust that I was capable of witnessing it, harnessing it, despite being completely inexperienced at doing exactly that – I had to know it might have been possible, or else I wouldn’t have even tried.
  2. I had to trust in its intrinsic value – to prioritize it over the comfort of luxurious down pillows and Season II of LOST
  3. I had to wait. I couldn’t demand it to appear – I had to allow it to reveal itself in its own time
  4. I needed to not give up. Despite my frustration with a camera roll of blackness, I had to keep trying.
  5. I needed to be receptive to ‘being told’ that my attempts were feeble so long as I didn’t adjust my tools. I mean, if the camera settings were inherently apparent to me maybe it wouldn’t have come in as such a revelation – maybe my photographer husby would’ve known better from the start… but I needed to calibrate my tools.
  6. I nearly stopped trying at the smallest inkling of ‘success’. I almost closed up shop at ‘good enough’… and it took the weird coincidence of repeating numbers to dissuade me from stopping.
  7. Gratitude. I stated my intention – to further explore the idea of ‘energy’ – and I allowed myself to become immeasurably grateful the moment what I was looking for appeared.  Gratitude

The quest continues…..

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The Great Energy Debate

Today I got to thinking about energy.
What does that even mean, energy?
IMG-20170408-WA0002-02
en·er·gy
ˈenərjē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
    “changes in the levels of vitamins can affect energy and well-being”
  2. 2.
    power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.

Soooo, energy is strength? like, muscular strength? that’s not energy then.. that’s muscular strength. Vitality.. what’s vitality?

vi·tal·i·ty
vīˈtalədē/
noun
  1. the state of being strong and active; energy.
    “changes that will give renewed vitality to our democracy”
    synonyms: liveliness, life, energy, spirit, vivacity, exuberance, buoyancy, bounce, elan, verve, vim, pep, brio, zest, sparkle, dynamism, passion, fire, vigor, drive, punch;

    get-up-and-go
    “the bright weather has revived my vitality”
    • the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things.

Okay… so I need energy to live. Got it.

A quick “energy” search on Pinterest  supports this: a plethora of nutrition-related items fill my feed: raw vegan power balls, peanut butter banana smoothies, and high-protein lunches. Okay – so the predominant buzz around biological  ‘energy’ is that it’s the fuel my body needs to live. Okay… so then what’s electrical energy?

My husby spent nearly a decade working in corporate finance for an electrical utilities company. I figured he should know.
“You mean, the stuff that powers televisions and things?”
– but I didn’t asked him what electrical energy does… I asked him what it is.
I went to Wikipedia…
Electrical energy is the energy newly derived from electric potential energy or kinetic energy. When loosely used to describe energy absorbed or delivered by an electrical circuit (for example, one provided by an electric power utility) “electrical energy” talks about energy which has been converted from electric potential energy.
– but I didn’t asked where electrical energy came from…. I want to know what it is. 
Should this actually be so difficult to answer? Am I just searching wrong?
I go back to the original definition of energy – liveliness, life – okay… so energy is the act of being alive? and the more alive you are then theoretically the more energy you have?
“Spirit.”  huh. okay. I’ll come back to that one.

I moved further down into the definition of energy and in its synonyms pep, zest, sparkle…. what the EFF does that even mean? Like, nothing I consume / digest / excrete can translate to my degree of spiritedness or effervescence – can it? What does THAT even mean?

Clearly either I’m searching totally incorrectly, or there’s a really weak handle on what energy actually is… I seem to only be able to find 1. where it comes from and 2. what it does. Interesting.

So then, for fun, I search “spiritual” + “energy” together. Gone are the vegan balls and casseroles, replaced instead with bluish/purple/pinky psychedelic looking backgrounds adorned with hamsas, chakras, and crystals. There’s a quote from Nikola Tesla,

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Tesla, hey? Wasn’t he the guy with the electrical current discovery? So I’m back to the great unknown that’s electrical energy. Sooo, Tesla…. the genius inventor/physicist engineer futurist thinker to whom we accredit so much of what we know to be true in modern day living.  Alright, so as far as this quote is concerned,clearly he’s talking about electrical energy? right? Like, the highly scientific, highly measurable, replicable electrical energy? So – I plug my phone into the wall and it charges. Bam. Easy.

But what’s actually charging my phone?? This mysterious thing called energy is coming from electric potential, interacting with the electronics in my phone, charging my battery – and BAM, I  have access to Instagram. Still doesn’t answer my question.

So, I’m trying to understand what energy is – maybe I need to dissect Tesla’s quote (like, the guy obviously knows a thing or two about the stuff).

fre·quen·cy
ˈfrēkwənsē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light), usually measured per second.

Noted. Soooo, energy can happen in larger amounts (higher frequencies = more vibration = more energy) or smaller amounts (lower frequencies = less vibration = less energy). Seems to check out.

What’s a vibration, then?

vi·bra·tion
vīˈbrāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. an instance of vibrating.
    “powerful vibrations from an earthquake”
    synonyms: tremor, shaking, quivering, quaking, shuddering, throb, throbbing, pulsation; More
    • PHYSICS
      an oscillation of the parts of a fluid or an elastic solid whose equilibrium has been disturbed, or of an electromagnetic wave.
    • informal
      a person’s emotional state, the atmosphere of a place, or the associations of an object, as communicated to and felt by others.

    Okay.. so vibration is movement…. of… something…. that makes sense.

    But, wait….

    “Vibration” refers to a person’s emotional state? atmosphere of a place? associations of an object as communicated to and felt by others? What does THAT mean? And wouldn’t those vibrations be HIGHLY subjective? Like, in terms of the atmosphere of a place…. isn’t that up for interpretation by the person in said place? So what’s being interpreted?

    Energy.

    You elusive minx.

    Okay…. so it’s clear that a definition for what energy is (not where it comes from, not what it does) is a little difficult to decipher. It’s just a thing… and we don’t deny its existence when it comes to Tesla’s genius contributions: like, I know that if I plug my power cord into the wall something happens and my laptop turns on…. awesome. And I know that I eat things and I get nutrients from them and the nutrients turn into an ability for my muscles to lift things….

    What’s mental energy? I mean, aside from food metabolized down to glucose that feeds my neurotransmitters… and the sodium and potassium and ion channels whose activity triggers action potential in other nearby neurotransmitters…. but what causes those quantum biomechanics to function? Aaaand I’m right back to mysterious conundrum of electrical energy. URGH.

    neurotransmitter energy.jpeg

     

Alright. It’s obvious that my entire biological existence is controlled by my brain telling my body what to do – using electrical signals…. and yet I still can’t figure out what energy is?!?

I keep scrolling through my energy Pinterest results and this is the next little nugget:

Energy is consciousness.jpg

Consciousness.

I can’t even fall down that rabbit hole yet….

But energy?

This is something I need to chew on for a bit.

 

{{ to be continued… }}

 

Are you there, Sacred Feminine? It’s me, Mary…

“You need to write about this stuff. People need to know! Nobody else will talk about it!”

In the moments when I begin to wonder whether I’m wasting my breath writing as much as I do – when I debate whether I’m coming across as self-righteous or somehow above my previous-self – and then I get feedback like this I realize that I literally couldn’t stop writing if I tried.

“These days it feels like my blog is really just a space to document large transformations.” I said to Mark as we sat on our bungalow porch last night. The sun was long set by the time he returned from Day 1 of his Masculinity Workshop and I was deep in reflection about the blog post that’d just poured out of me.

It’s weird to talk about a lot of this stuff openly… sometimes really weird… but if nobody did it then how would anyone learn? I’ll take this one for the team, guys.

The moment Mark walked up to me last night I knew something had changed in him. He had a different vibe. That’s one basic thing this island, and its inhabitants, teach you quickly – trust the vibe. We seem not to talk much about energies in the West… most of us discredit it as shamanism and witchcraft and hokey pokey eastern stuff… but when you’re in the east it’s totally different. How did the world cure itself before pharma came along? How were mental imbalances treated? How was autoimmune dysfunction relieved? People didn’t just all die from their misalignments – they were treated. By acupunture, by Chi Nei Tsang, lymphatic drainage massage, reflexology, cupping, reiki – all the stuff that western med has scoffed at… but those are the therapies that got our species as far as its come. They trusted energies long before I was around… so maybe I should swallow a humility pill and trust it too? I mean, there’s a decade-long Anaesthesiologist on this island for its healing properties, for gods’ sake.. and I dare to think I’m above it? sigh.

Mark came back to me last night with a different vibe. I mean, Mark has always had a particularly incredible feminine side – the compassion, nurturing, sensitive, thoughtful man he is – that’s who I madly fell in love with…. but masculinity is an important polarity as well – there’s much to be learned from and achieved by embracing and honouring his ‘sacred masculine’ (as they call it here). I mean, as a female led by strong masculine traits I can definitely see how we could both stand to benefit from polarizing our relationship (in life, love, and business) — but more on that soon.

First we talked about his day – his workshop with twelve other guys who, as he put it, “If I met them in a bar I’d think – wow, they must have their shit together.” and he realized in his circles of vulnerability, openness and intimacy that everyone struggles. While I’m not super at liberty to disclose most of what happened in the sessions for him yesterday, I’m positive that if you’re curious you can reach out to Mark directly and he’d be willing to share. As he spoke the various stories to me I could feel the emotions swelling in him and I responded in like. Seriously, my husband came back a different version of himself – and it was only Day 1.

My day, on the other hand, was spent in a different kind of ‘sacred space’. — everything is sacred here. I looked up the word for posterity’s sake:

sa·cred
ˈsākrəd/
adjective
  1. connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.

Okay – so I don’t so much identify with the God/gods side of things…. but the idea of venerating consciousness? Yup. I can get on board with that. I mean – it’s how Mark and I try to live our lives every day regardless of where we are in the world.. but god knows it’s much easier in some places rather than others. So, sacred it is.

Sidenote: I searched Pinterest for the word “Sacred” – just to see  what visuals would attach to the word. My results were immediately met with summaries of the ‘power’ of different precious/semi-precious stones. Weird? Also super ironic that while we breakfasted at Orion this morning Mark and I fell in love with two gorgeous mala necklaces – his a moss agate on red string and mine this stunning rhodonite, lava stone, pyrite, agate creation:

 

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It’s literally impossible not to immerse yourself in the ‘sacred’ here – even if you barely know what it means. Like, I swear – if you try and inhale, it’s literally what makes up the particulate matter in the air. But alas – back to yesterday’s ‘sacred space’.

I met our Nomad Goddess for an impromptu coconut date following my morning acupunture treatment. She’d had a transformative night of her own – a connection that nourished and held her. The energy radiated from her as she told me about it – and I thought… wow…. in the west we just know it as ‘fuxking’ – and here they call it ‘mutual worship’?!?

I’ve spent a few days learning about the deeper nature of connections. The Anaesthesiologist, at our seaside dinner, taught me about sexual polarity as defined by David Deida. This guys says there are three relationship polarities:

  1. The Submissive Housewife and the Macho Breadwinner.
  • this is the predominant stage that’s led up to recent times – strictly defined gender roles, rigidly upheld masculine/feminine tendencies. The guy makes the coin, the chick cares for the kids. The dude dominates the woman with physical intimidation and withholding of resources. The woman dominates the man with emotional intimidation and withholding of sex.  — These partners use their lover/spouse to satisfy their own needs – manipulating the relationship to get what they want. These are the folks who judge themselves by external factors – size of paycheck or Pinterest-worthiness of their home.

 

2. The Working Girl and the Sensitive Flow Boy

  • this state emerged around the time of feminist and gender equality movements – this is the stage where people seek to become integrated. Here is where women embrace masculine values/opportunities – they become tougher, more independent. Men here become more in touch with their feminine flow and emotions. They openly relate. The way people in the first stage seek out approval on possessions and appearances, this second stage is where you aspire to be appreciated for what you do rather than what you have. Value here is determined by internal properties of the self.
  • Stage 2 isn’t all unicorns and rainbows though. Deida believes this is where things are maintained to ‘not rock the boat’ – conflict is avoided, and in intimate relationships the tension of polarity disappears and is replaced by a withholding of depth – you’re not allowed to judge or rank people. Everyone agrees to disagree.
  • This is a perpetual self-improvement cycle that seems to lead to nowhere – happiness looms on the horizon but doesn’t seem to arrive.
    • imagine this couple to the be fierce female corporate beast with a male crystal healer emo-singer.

I mean – it’s not exactly where Mark and I fit – but I do think that much of Stage II applies to us. He’s the calm, gentle, calculated and soft-spoken partner while I’m the dominant, decision-making, leadership-taking force. Though we’ve worked on these roles a bit in the past — mostly under the terms of “Alpha” and “Beta” partners… whereas I recognized myself to be mostly Alpha with a bit of beta in the sidelines and Mark was the opposite.

But it doesn’t matter where we are now.. it matters where we seek to go… and that’s Stage III.

3. The Radiant Goddess and the Warrior of Love

  • or as The Anaesthesiologist would say, “the ray-dhient goh-duss”. I can’t even accent-type how beautiful this term sounds when he says it. ACK! Alas. I digress.
  • This is where the magic happens – it’s a stage for rare souls fortunate enough to attain it. Here is where life is characterized by an ongoing state of giving yourself and your world to your partner and to others. The woman offers up divine feminine radiance in service of her partner and to the world – she opens them up to the deep flow of her awesome life force and beauty (a thing talked about on this island a lot.. the Sacred Feminine — though I still am not sure I know what it means)
  • In this stage, the man offers unending integrity, stability, a desire to penetrate the world with truth, love.  – It’s not always calm and peaceful here – it doesn’t need to be. Partners i this stage have the freedom to love intimately and consciously as they choose – and they don’t repress their inner desires (which often offends anyone of lesser development). — these expressions are designed to serve the world an the people in it. Sometimes these services won’t be appreciated, but people in the third stage moment have transcended the need to be validated by internal or external factors.
  • This is the stage of feminine pure, unfiltered life energy – busting with love at the seams
  • This is where she seduces him out of his narrow-minded focus, sexes him out of his head and into his body, where she shivers earthquakes of wild anger as she hurls hail storms at him for being less than she knows he is capable of (hmmm – now this I can recognize!) — and he serves her in return. He’s unperturbed by her emotions, he presses into her with presence and love – and they melt and fuse into the throes of ecstasy.

….. whoa.

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So when that yogi couple in Poland told Mark and I that tantra could serve to deepen our already rad relationship they actually weren’t lying?? And THIS stuff has nothing to do with touch and everything to do with mindstate. I like it.

Back to The Nomad Goddess. She’s on this incredible journey on her own and I happen to be lucky enough to have crossed her path in person and learn, face-to-face, the power of the lessons she’s been accumulating for years. They certainly didn’t disclaim that on my boarding pass to Taiwan.

Sipping on coconuts we talked about connections that nourish vs. connections that break down. A little flighty for my current preference but she said that certain schools of believe uphold that when they’re intimate, men take on their partner’s energies for up to a year… and women – up to 7 years! (*cough*). Hmmm. Unsure on that particular angle… but do I believe that who you connect with can impact your wellbeing? (STIs aside?) ya – I see that. I can see how, from a scientific standpoint, connecting with someone super insecure and shitty and negative ultimately results in communications / strangleholds / crappy energy exchanges (even if in the form of text messages, phone calls, pillow talk).

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The idea of seeking out connections that nourish rather than just release.

What a weird and crazy and awesome take on a thing I’d never given much thought about.

The Western mindstate is about superficial release… acquiring partners like trophies to feed an ego…. and here, to those we’ve been meeting, it’s not about the trophy but about the connections that contribute to our pursuit of consciousness. Urrrghh… I write these sentences and I shudder at how new-agey and hokey it sounds…. but how to do you resolve the new-age hokeyness with this unshakeable visceral sensation that it fits?

I could probably try to science my way out of the difference I felt in Mark yesterday.. but do I want to? Do I want to attribute the perceptable change in him to higher levels of serotonin, GABA, and an increase in functionality of his parasympathetic nervous system? Or can I just say that his spirit felt calm? Maybe it’s the same thing.

Maybe it’s like The Anaesthesiologist said — it’s about allowing the freedom that comes from un-knowing what we think we know… regardless of what anyone else things about how hokey it truly sounds.

So, on this particularly auspicious International Women’s Day… all I can say to my “Sacred Feminine” is… “I don’t know what you are… I don’t know who you are to me or what knowing you will bring to my world … but all these people whom I’ve met, who I admire and respect – they can’t all be wrong, can they? And who do I think I am, thinking I know better? If nothing else, today I realize how very willing I am to to set my ego aside to find out. Whatever you mean, I look forward to meeting you.

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Find more on David Deida and his teachings here. — I totally hijacked his theories to share in this blog.. I hope he doesn’t mind.

 

 

Trauma, Tantra, and Thailand

I’ve written before about sexual trauma in my childhood years. I wrote about it years ago – April 7, 2012 – five years and a month to the day – about the first time I mustered up the courage to fly to Poland – where he now lives – to see my parents for Easter. It was my first time traveling Europe alone. It was my first time doing that type of travel at all. Everything terrified me. And I wrote about all of it.

A number of readers commented on how nonchalant I was in my mention of the abuse… “For something so prominent in your life”, they meant… but the reality is that I’d spent so long (about a decade before) doing so much work on myself to overcome the impact of my past that I was almost entirely confident I’d done just that – overcame it.

I mean, I was grounded, successful, working on being happy. I wasn’t heavily tattooed, pierced, addicted, or jailed – or any other extreme outward misappropriation of emotions related to trauma. I was beginning to live a more conscious life, make more conscious connections and really dig deeper into who I was in order to enhance who I was about to become.

All seemed well.

And all continued to seem well for the next handful of years – I would continue traveling, would shape shift my businesses, I would end up meeting a man with whom everything just fit and we would end up tying the knot a few years later. He and I would approach our connection with a similar degree of awareness and conscious intent: we would come to realize the beauty to be found in an open arrangement and we would grow both separately and together alongside those we would come across in our life.

All didn’t just seem well – all was actually really well!

And then something strange happened.

Mark and I were in Europe for the holidays. Just a few days before we were set to leave he was searching for couples’ massages – we’d both survived a bout of norovirus and were generally feeling a little crummy.

“Have you ever heard of tantric massage?” Mark asked me.

I had heard of it loosely – the very name itself conjured up mental images of hindu goddesses and hippie people sitting around touching each others’ no-no-private-parts. Clearly my initial take needed to grow the fuxk up.

“Not really.”

He showed me their website and I read through… they were a couple themselves, trained in the Tibetan tantra… yogis from the sounds of it… but deeply grounded and sans the flighty hokey voodoo stuff that I wasn’t super interested in.

Anahata-Chakra-Heart-Chakra-The-Love-Chakra

(I’ve since researched that anahata is the word for the heart chakra – I barely know what that means so I won’t even both trying to elaborate… alas, when I searched it, this photo appeared… so… ya).

The Anahata Tantra Temple is a place for powerful spiritual practices such as Tantric Massage and meditation. The Temple is also a school of tantra open for everybody who wants to integrate their divine consciousness, connect on a deeper level with their partner, experience sexual healing or simply feel more peace and love in life.

My eyes glazed over meditation, consciousness, and sexual healing (I repressed the urge to burst out a poorly keyed rendition of Max-A-Million). “Connect on a deeper level with your partner” you say? I’m intrigued. We’re pretty connected already.. you’re saying it can get better? I was willing to try.

“I’m willing to try.”

Being entirely uneasy and completely unsure of what to expect I devoured every stitch of Testimonials and FAQ I could get my hands on.

Tantra is not erotic massage. Tantra uses massage to generate sexual energy for the purpose of personal development. The purpose of tantra is not to achieve orgasm.

The “this is not about orgasm” part must’ve been mentioned at least a half dozen time over the pages of their site. Okay. Noted. The goal is not orgasm. Perfect.

The purpose of tantra is to load the body with vital energy, which facilitates cleansing and healing and creates space for pleasure and bliss.

A quick Google images search reveals sites that label tantra as ‘the science of cultivating personal power’. I needed to know more.

posts_tantra

The Temple website told me that side effects would include feeling peaceful, sensitive, confident, and more powerful. The website read that I’d become more “huggable” which I found pretty cute.

Then, the warning:

The next day after massage it may happen that you don’t feel good. You may have headaches, physical pain, anxiety, short-term quarrels with loved ones

I read on and was assured that this was normal, short-lived and part of the cleansing process. Well, they sold me at “deeper connection with your partner” – so I was willing to try. That, and Sergio had unreasonably positive reviews on his Testimonials page; I hoped I would get him.

Mark booked our sessions at the very last possible minute – I believe the night before we flew back to Canada. We chose that evening to walk to the “temple” – a brisk hour-long stroll from our hotel downtown. We had exactly NO idea what to expect.

It seems that prior to doing anything atypical (even for us) we have this really solid practice of creating an action plan should either feel uncomfortable.

“If it’s awkward, we’ll leave.”

“If the house is sketchy we won’t even go in.”

Action plans in place, we walked up to a gorgeous luxury condo building on the outskirts of town, took a deep breath, and rang the bell.

The door swung open and the smell of Nepalese incense wafted out from behind it. A dark-haired yogi opened the door and behind him stood a beautiful blonde yogini – both with smiles on their faces. Definitely no discomfort yet – we went in.

The condo was welcoming, warm, lovely. More than just a luxurious living space, it was understated, with unignorable zen-like charm. The smell of incense took me immediately back to my time in India and Nepal, as did our practitioner’s soft-spoken tone and gentle approach. We talked a bit about them, a bit about us, and a bit about tantra. They told us about their travels and their teachings and their practices and how it deepened their connection – and Mark and I reiterated that we, too, sought to explore the connection this practice could evoke. I mean, could it actually get any better?

It was time for the treatment.

We were asked to change into airy, hindu-print sarongs which would later be removed for the massage. We were led into the “temple” room… the second bedroom of said beautiful condo – and to say the energy poured out of the room when its door was opened is the understatement of the century.

(this photo isn’t of their room, but the general vibe isn’t far off)

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They’d transformed their second bedroom into, truly, a temple. Rich, heavy, dark red and gold tapestries hung on the two walls opposite the door – blocking all natural light. An oversized plush rug covered the floor and two massage mattresses were laid in the centre of the room covered in deep red sheets. An intricately ornate dark wood ‘altar’ was positioned to one side of the room and from it flickered a dozen candles, wax dripping down their holders into beautifully time-etched designs. Pillows, drapes, golden hindu figurines…. I didn’t even have time to judge whether I thought it was hokey – it was so powerfully serene that I didn’t even care. We took our places on the mattresses and the session began.

Mark had the female practitioner and from the whispers I heard I assumed she was checking in with him on all the same intentions and boundaries that my practitioner was asking from me. We both audibly stated that our intention was a deeper, closer, more powerful bond with one another and deeper, more powerful growth on our own.

As with most ancient practices, we were instructed to focus on our breath above anything else. Our breathing was to be deep, long, rhythmic, in and out at as slow and calculated a pace as we could build. Iiiiiiiiiiiin through our noses, held, oooooouuuut, audibly through our mouths. It’s basically impossible to not relax when so much attention is put on your breath. I don’t know about Mark but I melted into my mattress and into the hands of my therapist.

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I don’t want to get into too many details of the massage itself as I feel it’s an experience everyone should have on their own. The logistics and sequences and techniques may be different and I think it’s important to connect with a practitioner you trust to feel it for yourself. Trust I did. I was open to the yoni (internal) massage when he asked me if he could incorporate it into his ‘cleansing’ session (I’d read on the website that not every massage would include this component). I consented, set my uneasiness and nerves aside and melted back into my breath.

Okay, okay.. I know the website said that orgasm was NOT (!!) the intention of the massage… but what must’ve been no less than an hour later it was literally impossible for my body not to surge with energy through every fibre of its being…. three times in a row. I literally couldn’t have even stopped it if I tried. (for the record, try I did). I’ve never been multi-orgasmic – it was always just this faint urban myth I’d heard from pseudo-removed women particularly connected to themselves. I wasn’t. I’ve actually always seen myself as particularly DISconnected from myself.

And then the massage ended and we got dressed and went back to the dining room table to debrief.

I felt light, airy, almost outside of my body. The practitioners’ entire work is based upon generating energy and redistributing, generating and redistributing…. Not about release but about generation and redistribution to create higher degrees of consciousness. No big deal. – I definitely didn’t grasp all the spiritual stuff at the time – but I knew I felt different.

“You have a blockage.” Sergio stated.

I was a little shocked.

“You’ve had sexual trauma. It’s blocking the energy. I couldn’t get past it.”

I looked over at Mark and I’m quite certain I literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor. A simple, “Huh.” is all he could choke out.

I confirmed Sergio’s completely unexpected observation… still spun and stunned that he picked something up of that magnitude.

“It’s not healed.”

I choked on the flurry of thoughts racing through my head.

What do you mean it’s not healed? Of course it’s healed! I worked really effing hard to heal that shit! It doesn’t affect my day to day life anymore. I don’t think about it anymore. I don’t dwell on any of the negativity anymore. How dare you tell me it’s not healed?

All I wanted was a couples’ massage! 

But I had to give him the benefit of the doubt – he called something out of seemingly thing air. Who was this crazy voodoo guy who’d just made me have three accidental orgasms in a row?! (To note: I’ve had the privilege of experiencing some very skilled partners in bed… but this was a first).

“You have healing to do.” – it’s basically the final words we left with that night.

They mentioned to us about a retreat they’d be hosting in Poland in September. I mentioned wanting to bring them for a retreat to Toronto. We all discussed the power of places like Thailand, Tibet, Bali for this type of work. And that was that – we left. On air. On a cloud. On Cloud 9. Whatever it was, it truly was the bliss we expected. A girlfriend from back home (coincidentally also a tantra teacher) texted me to ask how I felt… I responded with this photo as it perfectly applied:

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Fast forward two months and Mark and I are in Thailand. We weren’t planning on coming here. We looked at Bali, at India, at Vietnam. All we were after was a place to live that’s cheaper than back home – and we finally settled on Thailand because, well, green curry chicken.

Lo and behold, we’ve literally accidentally found ourselves on “Healing Island” – Koh Phangan – in the gulf. Where it seems every practitioner, yogi, yogini, and healer flocks to connect. As such, most treatments you’re looking for here are unreasonably accessible and affordable. We’ve both delved into acupuncture and yoga, and when you’re here it’s basically impossible not to feel the draw to meditating and breath work – ‘cause, well, everyone around you is doing it, too.

Want to know something weird? The acupuncturist was “listening” to my meridians during our first session (I barely even know what that means) – and he says to me – “You have a blockage…. In your sacral chakra. This is related to sexual trauma. It manifests as urinary infections and kidney problems.” (both of which I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. I could’ve puked. I looked at Mark with desperate eyes as Carlos held my wrist ‘measuring’ me further. I don’t even know what he was doing – I just know he wasn’t wrong.

What did he see?

What could he tell?

How did HE know too?!

Is this written all over me?! Could I be ignoring something that I thought I’d overcome? Is this something bigger than I’ve ever paid notice to?!

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I don’t have the answers. I barely even know where to begin to find them. I know that in between acupuncture and yoga and breathing and green curry chicken I’m still running a company and hiring people and managing people and marketing an app and I’m still just as Western as I was 10 days ago when I arrived…. But, shit… I’d be lying if I said something wasn’t changing… something wasn’t… awakening? uncovering? Dare I say…. Healing? Ya, I get it, it sounds completely ludicrous….

But these days I tend not to come back to my blog unless it’s something that’s really setting me up for something big. Is there some cosmic transformation that I’m meant to undergo on this island that I didn’t even have in store when I came? I don’t know.. but I do know this: there’s nowhere else in the world I should be if I’m committed to figuring it out. Every day’s a school day.. and with every sunset, I’ve learned.

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Sell the farm. (?)

“It’s time to sell the farm,” he said.

Well, in all actuality I don’t think he said those words exactly… they were more my words in response to his pseudo-expert analysis while standing, waving a dry-erase Sharpie at the 24sq ft of whiteboard brainstorm space that looms over my tiny condo living room.

Sell the farm.

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You know, get rid of the sole thing that’s kept you afloat and fed you and sheltered you and, arguably, defined your purpose outside of any planned purpose you ever thought you had.

Am I being a touch over-dramatic? Maybe. I mean, it’s just a website. It’s just a blog with a (rather powerful) unique URL that’s brought me some nominal semblance of financial, professional, emotional, personal growth and success over the years.

“You don’t love it anymore. It’s time to sell.”

Honestly, this sell-don’t-sell tug-of-war has been going on in my head (and across the pages of various notebooks) for a few years now. The passion initially slipped away similarly to that 4-year-itch that creeps into relationships and tosses feelings around like a rag doll (I can only speak from one bout of young-love experience.. I’m not otherwise too savvy at long-term things). But ya, around 4 years of this biz I sort of looked around at my life and looked at who I’d become and thought, “I’m not so sure this is congruent anymore”.

But at the time, rather than toss in the towel and start over like most true-blue-entrepreneurs will do, I tried to take the Mother Theresa approach –

“No, no! I can use the brand I’ve created to provide a springboard for aspiring GirlBosses to pursue their passions and avoid the trenches and so long as I help them and support them and inspire them and stuff then they’ll be wildly successful and in turn we’ll be wildly successful and everything will be….”

No.

No, it won’t.

“Because you can’t turn wantrepreneurs into entrepreneurs. They’ll want to have babies and you can’t compete with oxytocin.”

I desperately wanted to prove him wrong… but if you scanned his multi-billion-dollar portfolio (and even just caught a glimpse of the headline attached to the Bloomberg Business article that populates when you Google-search his name)… okay, it’s clear, this guy knows what he’s talking about.

To some women business is what they get into when they don’t want to go back to a full-time job after being a full-time mom for a year… and, I mean, HUGE kudos to that because I can’t imagine it’s easy to balance that kind of responsibility with this kind of responsibility… but to me, this is all I’ve ever known. And when you experience some semblance of nominal success and it’s clear to trace the distinct highs alongside the challenging lows you begin to fall into a pattern of comfort among the discomfort… and suddenly change becomes scary as fuxk (despite what you spend your days proclaiming to the rest of the world).

“It’s time to sell.”

urgh.

How does one value that thing that sort of feels like a gigantic accident in their life?

I mean, I suppose the URL is worth a thing or two… like $55 USD maybe, for not being “WeddingsByJennInVermont” or some bullshit business name that no Google crawler will ever pick up.

And I guess that nearly eight years of traffic stands to elevate my fresh content above the fresh content of a website set up in early February of earlier this year… ya, okay, I guess I have that going for me.

And, I mean, from what I’ve (naively) managed to search on my own, I mean, I guess I think the pagerank is pretty high…. I guess there was that one time that this badass SEO Pimp that I know jokingly laughed at a public event that I have “what? like, pagerank 100?!” and I modestly laughed it off but I knew in that moment that he knew I’d worked hard for it.

So ya… I have this site that has this traffic with all this content at this semi-okay domain name (but I can’t buy the .com because some chick who makes baseball caps in, like, Arizona, said that the domain has ‘very strong sentimental value’ to her and she won’t sell… (for less than $10k – no joke).

But how do you determine value over this thing?

Is the resale value of my farm actually just distilled down to the 1’s and the 0’s of the number of visits less the sum of the bounce rate to the exponent of the number of incoming links divided by the redirects made by that time I realized that http://www.WeddingGirl.ca isn’t the same as WeddingGirl.ca? (and, um… what the actual fuxk does that even mean?!)

How do you valuate the marketing potential of a website that’s kept me (and my sometimes outlandish travel lifestyle) afloat, multiplied by the visibility of a handful of other revenue stream brands, plus the pivots into totally uncharted territories for sums of money outside of anything I could’ve imagined… alllll the way back to the days when I sit around and twiddle my thumbs and think, “How did I end up here again?”

“I’m dissolving the company.”

“No, wait, I really can’t.”

“But maybe I should.”

“But, the paid links.”

“But it’s not fun anymore.”

“But the opportunity?!”

“But people don’t give a shit.”

How totally self-congratulatory of me (to use the term of a blogger I deeply, deeply admire)…. to “lament success” as I’ve been brazenly accused.  The truth is, that behind this arguably valuable shell of a site that reflects the identity of a girl formerly known as WeddingGirl..  I haven’t the foggiest fuxking clue what to do next.

Sell the farm.

It’s time to sell the farm.

Convince someone else (with money) that something you’ve created (without money) is worth something over time (money) in exchange for … well…. money. ha. Sell the farmhouse. And the cattle. And the chickens. And the … hens? (are they different from chickens? – unsure. – just needed a one-syllable animal in there for cadence purposes.)

Do the thing that seems to go totally against what makes logical sense. The only thing more impossible than staying is going… yet the only thing less probable than going is staying. I actually don’t even know.

How do you break free of a persona you’ve built, that the world knows (the digital one, at least), but that you don’t want anymore?

Sell the farm.

It’s like selling the condo in downtown Toronto that’s actually a super-great long-term investment but in the short-term it ties up dollars and you don’t really love it that much anyways because the sun only comes in on a very indirect angle at, like, 3:30 p.m. when you’re never actually home to bask in it anyways.

Sell the farm.

However impossible, however unlikely…. no matter how improbable it feels to be…

Sell the farm.

…… how the (actual) fuxk do I even begin?

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Fake Rich, Happy Poor, and Smokey Grey Laminate.

A markedly influential Scriptwriter once said to me, “Put those emotions down on paper – they’ll pass.”

In the past, while I’ve moved from blogging here nearly-daily to mostly microblogging on the Instagrams instead, some topics / feelings / happenings continue to beg for blog space… and tonight’s emotions are among them.

Tonight, after his day at work, I picked my husby up at the office and with flat whites in hand we made the trip back home. I’ve driven him to work nearly daily for a pretty long time. It gives us time to chat and strategize and get really good coffee together. More importantly, I think it helps to take the sting out of having to leave every morning and go to a job he hates while I otherwise have the privilege of staying home and working from the couch | bed | dining room table, etc.

The few days we’ve had off together Mark’s always expressed how happy he is to be at home with Ella and I – living life the way I’ve lived for about as long as I can remember at this point. Sure, there were moments in our past few years where the allure of his corporate security and stability and paycheque made me consider returning to a real job – but the feelings pass pretty quickly. A lawyer I admire once said, “I’d rather be poor and happy.” – and I couldn’t agree more. But tonight’s meltdown wasn’t about flat whites and drives down Bay Street.. tonight’s meltdown was about flooring.

A few weeks ago, this guy and I got hitched – shit became real. I mean, it didn’t really change the nature of our relationship at all – our agreements and plans and rules have all stayed the same… but contrary to my expectations, things feel different. They feel real… a different kind of real; a really happy real. Suddenly it hit me that I get to continue living my epic life – but with this epic man by my side… it’s like having a sleepover every night with someone I continue to be stupid crazy about. Whoa.

But at this point we’ve chosen to make bigger decisions together too – which condos do we keep? which do we sell? which do we renovate? which parents do we spend the holidays with? where do we travel to next? how do we decide how to spend money? It’s actually really awesome to practice adulting with someone you trust infinitely with your health, wealth, and well-being! On tonight’s drive home, adulting turned into a discussion about flooring for my condo. I mean, it’s something I’ve wanted since the day I took possession of the place nearly four years ago… but it’s just not been something I’ve ever prioritized. Suddenly now I’m *married* (weird) and we’re making financial decisions together (also weird) and minor renos to make my condo a more appropriate our condo are on the table.

We stopped into Rona in the Junction; a flooring event is happening and if you buy one box of flooring you get the second for 50% off. Well, despite the sale, we were still looking at nearly $2000 for the cheapest flooring option:Smokey Grey Laminate, ftw. We hummed and hawed and debated and calculated and hummed some more. Somehow we were both gun shy to pull the trigger and make the investment. Driving home we discussed the pros and cons and the wants and the needs and the realities of whether this floor is something we should make happen… and then it hit me:

“We’re doing exactly the thing we said we wouldn’t do.” – we’re succumbing to western douchebaggery:

New floors.

New beds.

New cars.

New throw pillows.

New clothes for that thing we’re doing next weekend.

Despite having our wedding on a remarkably (and proudly) small budget, we still had epic vendors, and I still commissioned an epic custom wedding gown (though, anything custom-sewn in 10 days is worth it, IMHO). We still had oversized inflatable mythical creature pool toys drop-shipped to the farm from Amazon and customized mugs sent to us in time from China. We spent money on a thing we said we never wanted – though, to be fair, there’s not a stitch of remorse on that because the day was a goddamn DREAM.

Alas. I digress.

So, tonight, we didn’t get the floor.

And it made me realize that if we can justify spending hundreds of dollars on random nights out having drinks and sleeping in luxury hotel rooms, spending more hundreds of dollars on decor and bedding and other materialistic bullshit that, quite frankly, nobody actually needs… but we don’t feel comfortable making this stupid flooring investment without the bat of an eye – are we fake-rich?

Are we actually succumbing to that thing we vowed we wouldn’t become after returning from SE Asia – materialistic, egoic, compulsive Westernized consumers motivated by keeping up with the Jones’ and the Morgan’s and the Smith’s? I mean, some of the happiest moments that Mark and I have ever been – separately or together – have been within the borders of some of the poorest nations on the globe… so what are we doing here?!

But, I mean, luxury corporate job – right? The golden handcuffs. Multiple commas in your annual salary. Benefits. Attractive pension.

Buuuut, if the job is sooo lucrative and sooo attractive and it’s all about the money…. why do we debate on investing in a floor?

It’s like the Universe reached out and grabbed me by the throat and picked me up and slammed me against the proverbial wall; this isn’t the life we want at all. This isn’t the life we dreamed of creating together. We built an app to be able to create freedom and opportunity to live how we want… yet a corporate job eats up the hours in the day needed to get that app the fuxk off the ground? Interesting cyclical pattern of crap… ya?

“Imagine what could happen with the app if 10 hours of your day were dedicated to building it with me.”

And the breakdown (or as Jake called it – the rapid iteration) had begun.

We dream of traveling.

We dream of living abroad.

We dream of being humble and inspired and to live life on purpose.

We talked for a year, during the development of PrettyBird, about how we want to work remotely as digital nomads from Bali, Thailand, Laos. Well – giddy the hell up. We’re certainly not going to accomplish these goals by clinging to what’s secure and familiar and safe. We’re married now (still weird).. and if you ask me, we’re a powerful fuxking twosome – literally the epitome of a couple who can do ANYTHING…. but yet we nearly agreed to being caught in the stranglehold of “financial freedom” and the illusion of security? Well, no, I mean, the job security is fairly certain… but has anyone every regretted walking away from a thing they hate? I doubt it.

Everybody knows you don’t amass wealth by working a 9-5…. but we’re running out of role models here. We’re running out of The Physicists and The French Cyclists and Dutch Couple who rode their bikes from Mongolia to India. We’re running out of badass digital nomads who carry everything they own in 12L packs and spend their days living on purpose rather than putting down hardwood.

And here I am, in Toronto, spending my days inspiring keen minds to step outside of their comfort zone and monetize their passions to create a life they love – hypocrite? I mean – I’m living proof of how very real the dream can be… yet every morning I feel like I’m driving the dude I love most in the world down the green mile to a place that drains his soul and extinguishes his excitement for life. I’d be seriously failing at wifeing if that was how I agreed to live our next month let alone decades between now and retirement. I refuse to live the same year 70 times in a row and call it a life – and with me in tow, I’m going to err on the side of Mark not feeling too far off from that.

It’s time to shake shit up a bit. That flooring debate was exactly the catalyst I/we needed to realign our choices with what we vowed to do: say yes to new adventures. It’s time to jump and grow wings on the way down… again – only this time, I have a partner in crime to help hand me the tools. Thank you, Smokey Grey Laminate, for putting fake-rich into perspective. It’s time to go be poor-happy again – only this time, together.

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The Man, The Myth, The Legend. :: meet Mark

“So, can I ask you the completely inappropriate marriage question that is nagging at me? You totally don’t have to answer (you can also tell me not to ask).”

I didn’t know what she was about to ask me, but I hoped it would be good!

“So, have your views on monogamy changed? Or does he share your open viewpoint? (TOO PERSONAL! I KNOW!!!!!)”

Dude.

It wasn’t too personal at all.

Sitting cross-legged at the table in the back of a 30’ limo-like RV (more on that later) I got to thinking about the reactions from my digital world on the moment when I shared a wedding photo from this past Monday.

“I was casually browsing Facebook when I came across your wedding photo. I actually said “Holy fuxk!” out loud. My husband thought something was wrong!”

“I won’t lie – when I saw that you got married I nearly fell off my seat!”

“The girl who was never gonna get married went and fell for a guy and got hitched?!”

I mean… it’s not like I feel I owe anyone an explanation… but, I think that maybe this random revelation deserves a blog post at least.

Everyone… meet Mark. He’s my favourite human on the planet and as of Monday afternoon he’s my shiny new husby.

If you’ve had the distinct honour of meeting this guy, you’ll already know what I mean when I say he’s literally one of the raddest dudes on the planet – the kind of brilliant, creative, generous, thoughtful, passionate and adventurous that you wouldn’t ever believe exists in the same person. I never did. And it was for that reason that when Mark and I first met two and a half years ago, I didn’t pursue any kind of “relationship” with him. I mean, sure, we got together regularly and we talked daily and we adventured together here, there, and everywhere…. He was a lot of things to me: roadtrip buddy, dinner partner, co-creative and confidante – but one thing I never called him was my “boyfriend”. I mean, I didn’t even want a boyfriend…. My life was really good how it was…. So we just carried on carrying on.

“This is Mark’s friend, Mary.”

Jane and Mike, Mark’s parents, really had no idea how to introduce us to anyone. We would go and visit them at the farm week after week…. The intimacy of our conversations grew, as did the number of empty wine bottles piled by the door from our tireless chats about life, love, and the Universe. Maybe a year or so into “Mark + Mary” an unexpected stint of “So, it’s been a year now – what’s next?” teetered me slightly off balance…. And both Mark and I assured Mike and Jane that nothing was next – we were happy as we were with no need for anything else.

The truth was, we’d kept our “non-relationship” so private for the past year that it was really lovely to be completely free from the questions and inputs and opinions of anyone. And truth be told, nobody seemed to care. We ate and drank and laughed and adventured our way through the months – one upon another as our intimacy grew – without the socially prescribed pressures and expectations of a “typical” life.

How beautiful it felt to love and be free at the same time.

Having really liked who I’d become while being single, and knowing that Mark was relatively recently single as well, we knew that labels would not serve to enhance our bond.

We both continued meeting other people.

“What?! Weren’t you jealous that Mark would speak to other women?”

…. Why would I be jealous when, every night, regardless of how the day had unfolded, I would end up hearing from him?

And for the past few years I would come to see Mark not as a possession but as this incredible gift I’ve been given in life – and if another woman came along who inspired him to share his awesomeness with her then – wow – was she ever lucky!

Not once did Mark ever attempt to hold on to me.

He knew of when I’d chat with other men – I would tell him about the gentlemen I’d met and the conversations I’d had. Even when particular meetings would lead to stronger connections – we would continue to share with as much or as little detail as we chose for ourselves in each moment.

The conversations didn’t start out being easy. On the contrary, it felt shameful, counterintuitive, wrong – to feel the feels for more than one person. But isn’t that natural? Is there a single human on this planet who hasn’t been caught in the crossroads of emotions for more than one person? And don’t we typically respond with what we’ve been taught – to bury it, shame ourselves, or worse – blame our partners for not getting us high anymore?

Another year passed and Mark and I continued to work on ourselves as individuals. We read books and watched docs and traveled together and apart. We listened to people speak and devoured articles and found role models for this label-less existence we’d created. Mark would meet women on Tinder and tell me about them – I’d learn about their coolest traits and become curious for myself. I would connect with men who brought new shades of grey to my life and I’d turn to Mark for his thoughts and take. We approached each new person in each others’ lives with full awareness that jealousy was natural, that it was transient, and that regardless of any connection made outside of the two of us we somehow maintained an unconditional positive regard for one another.

“I slept with an Aussie… and it’s on my blog.”

It might’ve been one of the most difficult texts I had to send to him. It was a little over a year into our “union” and I met a man who unraveled most of how I thought about things. I wasn’t sorry for any stitch of the two days we would know each other (his Australian passport and limited Canadian visa would play their part in ensuring no further connection was made). With **MUCH** courage and transparency I published a blog about a page that changed my story…. And I knew that I man I cared for may or may not take it well.

Who would’ve thought that “The Aussie” would become a cornerstone in so much mutual growth, enhanced compassion and personal development for both Mark and I separately as well as together.

Other members of the opposite sex would weave into and out of our story and yet somehow we constantly came back to each other. Some connections were stronger than others… and the stronger they became the more we would speak to one another about how we felt. We basically took the one thing that’s been socially shamed – romantic interest in another person – and chose to make it our own.

So if you’ve followed my blog or Instagram or random Facebook musings you would’ve heard about random dates and random trysts and “Married Cops” and Aussies. If you only knew my life from the internets you’d likely have assumed I was wild and single and free…. And, I was…. There was just this incredible gentleman in the sidelines with whom I’d learned to be wild and free together… and as days turned to weeks turned to months I realized that in the midst of our un-relationship we had accidentally created something unlike anything else. We trekked together from city to city, from country to country – on accidental Turkish layovers to India, Thailand, and across SE Asia. We adventured and learned and experienced and grew – but I didn’t demand fanfare.. I just let the bond we had quietly grow as it felt right – without the LIKES and the COMMENTS and the SHARES. Just on its own. And without fail, time continued to pass.

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Only a few people would question the “who” in my life… a friend on Facebook commented on a birthday celebration asking who I was having beachy champagne and charcuterie with. One girlfriend exclaimed, “I KNEW that the person taking photos of you in Asia had to be someone who loved you madly!” — well, I mean, a LOT Of those photos were taken by random passersby – but yes, quite a few of the specialest gems were taken by this super cool man. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I really was writing the early pages of what would one day become “The Man, the Myth, the Legend” – as stated by a photographer friend we randomly bumped into at a Marshall’s one day. “I knew he existed!” – he would exclaim. And yes, he definitely did.

Fast forward to Winter, 2015… I was traveling through SE Asia and filming a Tinder doc along the way. I met person after person as I trekked from country to country…. Some intellects, some lust monsters, some crazy bitches and some unforgettable souls… each of whom contributed pages to my story that changed me. And 15,000 km away, Mark would read those pages as I wrote them. I’m positive he didn’t like all of them… but they weren’t for him, they were for me… and he loved me enough to allow me the privilege of continuing to smith them for myself. – and then…. he met me in Asia.

We connected in Bangkok – I waited for him at the entrance to the Sky Train at Eastin Grand in Sathorn. It was his birthday a few days before and I had a hotel room full of balloons and cake awaiting his arrival. Most “couples” would have to fib and hide and apologize and feel shame for a month of SE Asian antics…. But I didn’t. Instead, I led a dude I loved into an incredible suite and we ate birthday cake in a king-sized bed and drank cocktails on the rooftop. None of the random characters in my previously written pages mattered anymore… the most important character at that time, in that moment, was right in front of me.

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Little did I know that everything was about to change forever.

The next day my 70-year-old firecracker of a mum flew to Bangkok from Poland to meet us. Mark and Mama B and I would go on to travel Thailand together – trains, planes and tuk tuks from Bangkok to Surat Thani to Koh Samui to Koh Phangan to Koh Tao and back. For one week I watched Mark totally fawn over Mama B’s well-being – from balancing multiple bags of fresh coconuts on the handlebars of his motorbike to planning meals and outings and arranging travel fares.

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“You have such a good man here.” – she would tell me over and over… on the planes and on the trains and in the tuktuks, without fail.

I fell in love with the man he was on that trip… not for who he was to me, but by watching him be who he was to my mum. I realized that he wasn’t just someone who cared about his partner, but expressed such a deep care for my family that it rivaled any others I’d previously seen. Despite how exhausted, sun burnt, sore or defeated we were, he continued to put me above everything – and we continued growing and unraveling each other together.

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(It wouldn’t be for months later that I’d learn he’d gone to visit my dad every weekend in Niagara while I was traveling Asia and my mum was living in Poland. – that’s love.)

When Mama B left Thailand, Mark and I chose to continue traveling together. We spent Christmas together in Chiang Mai and New Year’s Eve in Bali. I proceeded to get so violently ill in the Philippines that he spent five days boiling kettle after kettle of hot water and filling a bathtub in our shitty hotel so that I could spend my days curled up in the fetal position crying in pain. He was also the one who found the Korean Massage Master in Manila who figured out what was wrong with me and fixed it. I wouldn’t say that they saved my life… but it felt pretty fuxking close.

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And after Asia we would come back to Toronto and accidentally end up living together. I had a one-way ticket booked to Europe for January but with the launch of our new app it made no sense for me to move. By that point Mark had rented out his downtown condo and moved into mine. Surprise! – a chapter I totally hadn’t been prepared to write.

The first week was fun – like the random sleepovers we’d had for a few years until that point… and by week three I was beginning to stress a bit. Would I actually never be able to have my house to myself again? Would I never again be able to invite over a gentleman caller? Were my random dates and trysts and adventurous nights over for good?

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So how did I deal with my fear?

I talked to him.

I told him that I didn’t want the random dates and trysts and nights to end. And how did he respond?

“They don’t have to. We’ll figure it out.”

And we did.

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Somehow we continued to be open and honest and just as examining of our lives as we’d ever been. Rather than slinking back to the reality we were comfortable with from relationships-past, we chose to find new role models and new ways of learning to live this designer life. We compromised and communicated and kept writing new and exciting chapters together….

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One afternoon, coming back from the farm, I made a knee-jerk decision to renovate my parents’ house. I packed up my bags and the dog and “moved” to Niagara to do the work. Mark would finish work downtown at 4 p.m. and sit in traffic until 7 – help me until the wee hours of the night and wake up at 5 to go back downtown. Forget love – that was what partnership dreams are made of.

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And then, we “got engaged”.

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“YOU GOT ENGAGED?!”

A girlfriend, upon seeing the somewhat cryptic post on Facebook, messaged me immediately. We connected for coffee and I explained the arrangement. She proceeded to refer to us as “#RelationshipGoals” – and I realized, again, how very special a something our un-something actually was.  It was her that inspired a desire in me to speak more openly about what we’d built – so I did.

Nothing about our engagement was typical – it’s not a diamond, it’s not on my ring finger, he didn’t get down on one knee and we discussed the basic tenets of this new chapter together – essentially bringing forth separate sets of proposals to our mutual engagement table.

“I promise to earn this life with you.”

“I promise to never stop adventuring.”

“I promise to never stop growing with you.”

“I promise to renounce an unexamined existence.”

We weren’t blinded by wedding celebrations or plans for the future…. I was just given some pretty jewels and we drank some champagne with a few close friends. That’s it. No wedding date, no plans for one.

And the more open we continued to be about it all the more positive response we earned. Suddenly friends were asking us who and when and if and how… and I realized we had become role models.

Huh.

How lucky I was that not only had I designed a life for myself that I loved, I also ended up with a boss of a man by my side who only served to enhance the awesome. Seriously, that’s worth a bit of fanfare, no? But we didn’t fanfare at all.. we just continued about our life.

It was about four weeks ago when he’d casually say to me via text, “I’d love to call you my wife.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Why not?”

And the more I thought about it the more I realized I had exactly zero good reasons to object to celebration. I’d always vowed that if it ever mattered to someone who mattered to me then I would make it happen… and by this point I think I was beginning to feel an inkling that it might end up mattering to me too.

Three and a half weeks later, we got hitched.

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No changes. No expectations. No new rules. Just love. (though I did choose to seize back the dream of an 08-08 wedding date). We made a choice to create a life all our own – based on the values we’ve made and judged by nothing more than the conscience we share. It sounded like “Happily Ever After” to my ears.

My blog about the wedding itself will have to wait until the photos come back – it’s all too gorgeous to leave up to my marginally-expressive way with words… but to call it a “dream”, a “fairytale” or “perfect” doesn’t even begin to do it justice (and all those words are super lame anyhow).

Alas, today…. I have a husby… and he has a wife-y…. and as I wind this long post down I’m mid-way through our #HoneymoonWithGrandpa (search it on Twitter, it’s actually amazing) – pulling into yet another Esso station in yet another random rural Canadian town. (also a blog for another time).

And until I can sit back down and gush about this accidental little shindig we decided to throw…. I leave this one incredible moment captured among many…. and breathe a huge sigh of relief that I can now gush and rave to you about this super-rad man and you finally don’t have to answer me with, “Mark? I don’t think I’ve heard of him?”

Life… meet Mark – one of the most beautiful blog stories I’ve never told. – with assuredly many, many more to come.

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