Reflections on the ‘bul

For the first day or two after I arrived in Istanbul, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck. There are SO many people, and SO much traffic that literally, every inch of available space is taken by someone or something. For me, this was quite ironic because I have a tendency to people-hate when I’m out in public. Now before you judge me, just hang on. I don’t deny that I like my personal space, but who doesn’t? And the truth is that it drives me insane when strangers invade my space. If you’ve read any of my etiquette posts, you know that I offer plenty of valid examples on why space invasion ain’t cool. The way I see it – if I can manage not to invade your space, then you most certainly CAN avoid invading mine. All you need to do is pause for one moment, and realize that there are other people in this world besides YOU.  Anyway, I definitely had to keep an open mind while traveling in Istanbul, which lead me to one conclusion: Istanbul is the perfect place to conduct therapy sessions if you have  personal space issues – just don’t carry any weapons 😉

So I’ve been home for about 3 weeks now, and I am very aware (and grateful) of how much free space surrounds me, even when I’m walking downtown during a busy lunch hour. In Istanbul, even the water and skies are constantly filled with boats, fisherman and seagulls. No matter where you go, you are constantly assaulted (for lack of a better word) by some kind of stimuli.  While I was there, I didn’t know how I felt about Istanbul. Probably because I had no time to think about it – I was too busy trying to keep up with everything that was happening around me, while simultaneously trying to avoid getting my ass run over every time I crossed the street. All of this led me to the (delayed) realization that while in Istanbul, I was  living IN THE MOMENT. No past, no future – just the present moment. The NOW.  Now that I’m home again, I realize just how awesome Istanbul is.  Its architecture and people, its food, its stray dogs and cats, its carpet salesmen and shops upon shops of Turkish delight and baklava, all of its nooks and crannies that make it so easy to get lost, and finally, the call to prayer that restores balance.

It also dawned on me that Istanbullus look you right in the eyeballs. They don’t look past you or through you, or go out of their way to avoid you – No. Despite the insane hustle and bustle of their city, Istanbullus acknowledge you with each passing glance. You are SEEN. This is very different from the society in which we live, where we are all so self-absorbed that we see nothing past the tips of our noses, and view anything beyond that as an intrusion. They SAW me. Amazing! For me, this was incredibly validating because for the last year or two, I have very much felt invisible in many of my relationships, and I forgot what it was like to simply be acknowledged by the people around you. This realization thus confirmed that I made the right choice(s) when I opted to walk away from certain relationships where I seemed to be nothing but a fixture. Bye bye, love, as The Beatles would say. Actually, I think I prefer a gentler reminder: Hit the road, JACK!

Despite everything that was going on in Istanbul, there was something missing… I didn’t realize what it was until today:  the big knot that took up residence in my gut a few years back. My stress gauge, my anxiety detector, the cause of my IBS, my resistance to all things worrisome or unfamiliar. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been very focused on not falling into old patterns, so last week when I started to feel a familiar disturbance, I knew exactly what it was and where it was coming from. I’m still working on keeping that bitch in check.

I didn’t go to Istanbul with any crazy expectations of what would or should be; I just knew that I needed a change and I knew that this trip would be the catalyst for everything else that would take place this year. No pressure, eh Istanbul? What I came home with was so much more than I could have imagined. I know that I left all the residual shit that I had going on, behind in Istanbul. Certain chapters were closed and that’s that – I’m done. The heaviness that I felt in my chest is gone too. The best way to describe it is to say that before Istanbul, my chest was filled with cobwebs – kind of like the spider’s lair in Lord of the Rings. But now, those cobwebs are gone. I can breathe freely again and it feels great! There was definitely a shift that took place during the retreat. I don’t know what it means yet, or where my path will take me, but I do know that I feel a hundred times lighter, and I’m a happy camper. That little grey cloud that was hovering over my head, giving off those shit vibes? Kicked to the curb by a bright, shiny ball of fire that I’m sportin’ like like a halo.

Rock on, Constantinople.

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

 

Namaste y’all,

A

 

Musings on Istanbul

Merhaba!

In mid-March I spontaneously decided to go to Istanbul to participate in a yoga retreat that a friend was leading. For all intents and purposes, this was an early birthday gift to myself, a way to reconnect with my soul, and an excuse to get away from work (where my soul is constantly being sucked right outta me). The retreat was incredible; it gave me the opportunity to connect with an amazing group of people, explore a culturally rich and diversified city, and learn a few  things about myself.  The decision to go to Istanbul was more or less a spontaneous one that I didn’t spent too much time thinking about. Had I done so, I’m sure that the little voice inside my head would have found a way too talk me out of it. I didn’t know anyone except Bram. I’d never traveled that far on my own. What if disaster struck (it did – in the form of United Airlines – more on THAT later!)? What if I didn’t connect with anyone? What if I was left on my own in a city I knew relatively little about? What if, what if, what if? The problem with what-ifs is that you never end up taking any risks and thus, you miss out on all the amazing opportunities that are out there waiting for you. Fuck that – I went to Istanbul and LIVED an incredible experience.

The Turks were warm and hospitable, and even more-so when you spoke to them in their language (I spent a few weeks practicing my very limited Turkish before going to Istanbul). I saw incredible sights and feats of architecture, ate great food (including lamb – hello, I don’t usually eat meat), risked my life every time I crossed the street, learned how to haggle in the Grand Bazaar, experienced the ultimate scrub-down in a hamam (where my masseuse treated me like a daughter, kissing my cheeks each time I spoke to her in Turkish, ha ha!), topped off my metro card more times in a week than I would in a month at home, saw Whirling Dervishes and felt a warm and bubbling silence in my heart each time I heard the ethereal sounds of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

In my mind, I truly believe that this trip is the catalyst for all of the awesome things that will happen from now until the end of 2013. When I left Istanbul, I left knowing deep in my heart, that I had closed several chapters in my life, and thus, I am feeling lighthearted and liberated. I have returned home feeling restored and grateful. Thank you to Bram, my friend, teacher and mentor, and to the wonderful group of people that I connected with while in Istanbul.

So, having said all of that, I’ve got a few musings to share with you about Istanbul (=-D

1) In a city where multiple forms of public transit are offered, I don’t understand why all methods of transportation can’t simply be connected. Every time I switched over from (i.e.) the metro to the funicular or tram or bus, I had to pay a new fare. Um, hello? Just give me a transfer or let me travel on one fare for a set period of time like one or two hours, and that solves the problem. The up side is that you can use your transit card to take the ferries as well and it’s pretty cheap.

2) Public transit fares seem to be random; for the same commute, I might pay $1.00 while someone else will pay $1.25 or $1.95. It’s like the Turkish lottery every single time. Up side? Cheap fares, either way!

3) Stop signs would be helpful. Actually, any type of road signage/ regulations would be helpful. Apparently, in Istanbul you can drive anywhere (including on sidewalks, medians and people), tailgate, cut drivers/pedestrians off, weave in an out between parked cars – WHATEVER – and you don’t need to worry about getting fined. I thought Quebec drivers sucked but compared to Istanbul, we are angelic. Oh, and if you’re a pedestrian, heed this warning: look where you’re going because drivers won’t stop for you. They will give you a warning honk but if you don’t get out of the way well, too bad for you!

4) The stray dog/cat population is staggering. I’ve never seen so many cats in one city in my life. As a result, most of my photos seem to include cats. Hmm….  The up side (if you want to call it that), is that stray dogs are vaccinated, so if you see a stray with a tag on its ear or other body part, it means they’ve had their shots. I would prefer it if they had homes but you can’t have everything.

5) You have to pay 1TL to use the crapper. Now, I’m OK with that if it means I can pee in a bowl instead of a hole and have access to toilet paper, because this means there is no shortage of public tuvalets in Istanbul. However, in some cases, not only did I have to squat over a hole, but there was no toilet paper. My entrance ticket to the Hagia Sophia is not an adequate replacement for T-P. Just saying.  In this day and age, I really think it’s time to forgo holes in favor of bowls. The up side is that you can work on your quads while squatting if you are  lucky enough to walk into a stall with a hole in it.

6) The Blue Mosque is positively stunning, inside and out. But it smells like feet. Wear a mask.

7) There are 20M people in Istanbul. That’s all of Canada in one city in Turkey. There are a LOT of people. You will be walked upon or possibly trampled almost everywhere you go if it’s a tourist area. People will cut ahead of you in a line without apologizing for it, sellers will frankly ask you to give them your money (or ‘help’ you spend it – at their kiosk of course). You just have to roll with it. The up side is that if you generally dislike people, walking around Istanbul is really great therapy!

8) My hotel needs to invest in a vacuum cleaner. Just a suggestion.

9) Be open. You will experience amazing things. Especially if you go to a hamam and speak Turkish to your masseuse.

10) Eat a LOT of Turkish delight and Baklava. I order you to do this. Stop by Hafiz Mustafa for both Turkish delight or Baklava, and Karaköy Güllüoğlu for the best Baklava around. Yumm-O!

Spice market (Photo: RAnnDomized)

Spice market (Photo: RAnnDomized)

Namaste,

A

 

iYoga at Tremblant

This past weekend, I participated in my first yoga retreat at Mont-Tremblant; this opportunity came to me unsolicited, and unexpectedly, courtesy of Lululemon Athletica, Juna Yoga and my friend/mentor, Bram Levinson. I feel so grateful (and blessed) for having been selected to be part of such an amazing group of awesome and powerful women, from whom I learned from and grew with (yes, over such a short period of time).  I feel both empowered and humbled by the women that I met and practiced with, and I ended the weekend feeling refreshed and renewed.  I don’t particularly feel like getting into the details of the retreat (for now, anyway), so to compensate, here are some photos of Tremblant! Tremblant National Park is gorgeous, made even more so by the group of ladies with whom I spent time there. But, I must admit that when we were  heading up to the summit (and later, chilling on the beach), I just couldn’t help thinking “Damn, this place is small compared to Whistler!” So as you can see, my love affair with Vancouver has not ended, and thus, that elusive post on Whistler will be forthcoming soon. I swear it!  As always, you can see the full size fo each image by clicking on them. WordPress is still being a biatch and I can’t make any damn adjustments!

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

 

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

 

And finally, at one with the Buddha.

 

Photo: RAnnDomized

 

Namaste,

A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth of the Matter

You’re probably not surprised to hear that I’ve had writer’s block for the last couple of months. I’ve given this problem a lot of thought lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve got too many thoughts in my head, thus, making it difficult to neatly compartmentalize them and write cohesively. BUT Spring is upon us and I’m a big fan of Spring cleaning, so why not clear the cobwebs from my brain and get on with the writing already?

Six years ago, I embarked on a journey that was largely fueled by a need to reprogram my mind and body so that stress would no longer be a source of torment for me, both physically and mentally. I’d reached the point where my body was reacting very, very strongly against the amount of stress that I was imposing upon it and something had to give. When you find yourself (seriously) thinking that you’re going to be the cause of your own heart attack at the early age of 32, you know you’ve got to get off your ass and change the things in your life that are negatively impacting you.  The problem was that I spent a lot of time inside my own head – so while much of my stress was caused by a third party, a shit load came from my own self.  I found myself wishing for an OFF switch on numerous occasions, but sadly no such thing existed. Damn it! Do I have to solve all of the world’s problems myself?!  Anyway, being unsuccessful in finding the much sought after OFF switch, and not really knowing what might help alleviate all my stress and unnecessary over-thinking, I opted to try yoga. Now, I should tell you that the mere thought of yoga stressed me out. Why? Err… well I’m more of the kick-boxer type and I was seriously convinced that the act of yoga itself would stress me the hell out . When I first tried it, I hated it. It was way too slow and I saw no value in it whatsoever. I was still stressed out, still thinking too much and still assuming I’d have a heart attack ‘any day now.’  Eventually I discovered two yogis whose style spoke to me, and I decided to try yoga again. It took a while (OK, a few years) but thankfully, I  began feeling the benefits of maintaining a regular yoga practice, and I  eventually grasped the concept of letting go. It took a LONG time for me to get there – I like to be in control so ‘letting go’ was a foreign concept to me. At some point on the road to enlightenment, I learned that my need to be in control was fueled by my ego. That bastard!

Two years ago, my yogic efforts came to fruition, when my yoga practice became more about the spiritual journey and less about the pursuit of physical perfection. It’s true – while I started doing yoga to help me relieve stress, I was also (mainly) doing it to lose weight/be fit. But the more I practiced, the more I realized that yoga grounds me. It helps to de-clutter my mind and offers  me a form of clarity that I haven’t experienced before. It allows me to turn inward and reflect upon myself – whether it’s a shituation I’ve found myself in, an energy boost that I need or simply some quiet time to help me refocus.  Yoga makes me feel amazing, and as a result, my spirit is much calmer and my stress is almost non-existent (I said ALMOST people). I am grateful for discovering something that yields benefits in so many different ways – and it’s definitely more sane then a drug addiction, right!? =-D

Funny where my yoga practice has led me…. In 2011, I met a local yoga teacher that I’d heard a lot about via Lululemon. Coincidentally, we ‘met’ via the blogosphere, when I randomly came across his web site. A light went off when I saw his name – what were the odds that I’d find this guy via a Google search?  Now, I don’t believe in coincidences, so I knew that our paths crossing had to mean something.’ And so I reached out to him; Bram (who I’ve mentioned here before) has been giving me private yoga classes every couple of months for the last year or so. I’ve been learning a lot from him both on and off the mat, so when I decided that 2012 was going to be my year of change, I asked him to mentor me. I have changed a lot in the last two years; my focus is very much on the positive, on letting go of my shit and not sweating the small stuff. Essentially, if I have no control over ‘it’ then ‘it’ isn’t worth stressing over.  I am seeking enlightenment. Joy. Wholeness. So it was important to me to work with someone who had positive energy, whose vibe I felt and who could relate to where I was and where I want to go. I am in the process of examining various areas of my life – some of which will lead me to specific goals, while others involve a closer look at myself. One of the areas that has been on my mind a lot is relationships. Or specifically, my relationships.

For some time now, I have felt unsatisfied with many of my friendships (not all, but a lot). When I think about how much time and effort I have invested in people who don’t seem to reciprocate or even give a shit, it makes me tired. I’m tired of making efforts to keep friendships going, tired of doing all the reaching out, of being the event coordinator (otherwise we never each each other), tired of being understanding when they don’t have time to see me, tired of listening to one-side conversations about other peoples’ lives/problems/whatever, tired of getting little if any support for things that are important to me but not important to them. Am I the perfect friend? No, of course not.  I can be self-absorbed or negative or cranky just like anyone else. But I am PRESENT in my relationships, and I am loyal to my friends. I very much believe that relationships are two-way streets and that both parties must make an effort to nurture the friendship if it is to evolve, otherwise it will disintegrate. That said, I’m not the same person I was two years ago – but the people of which I speak have no idea because they haven’t been present. So perhaps that’s the answer; I realized a while ago that it might be time to move on from certain relationships. It looks like now is that time.

Goal #1 = Accomplished!

 

What’s your take on relationships? How do you make yours work?

 

Peace out,

A

 

 

What I Did on my Summer Vacation – Part 1: Action!

Yeah I know – I’ve come up with more creative titles than this one!

I can likely offer up a bunch of meaningless excuses as to why I haven’t written in nearly two months, but the sad (or not-so-sad) truth is that I’ve been enjoying a fabulous summer in Montreal.  So, here I am, ready to write, hopeful that I’ve still got a few readers left. Still here? Good! Let’s get this show on the road – we’ve got a lot of catching up to do! Oh, I should mention that all of this took place pre-vacation.

 

Get on your mat!

First, this catch-up post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take a moment to talk about my yoga practice. Since April, I’ve really regained my focus (thanks Bram!), and have been practicing for 90-minutes, almost daily. To say that I feel amazing would be an understatement. I feel fan-fucking-tastic! While yoga is amazing for toning and shit, I no longer practice solely for the physical benefits that it brings me. I am much more focused on the spiritual, more mental side of things, and it’s made a big difference overall – not just mentally, but physically and emotionally as well. At the end of my practice, I feel super energized – but more importantly, I feel a profound sense of joy. Let’s not forget the added benefit of yoga making me more fucker-proof too. It totally rocks. More on that in a later post.

 

Let’s join the circus…

Last Spring, I spontaneously bought tickets to Le Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, Totem. The tickets weren’t cheap, but my gal pal and I decided to splurge, knowing the show would be worth it. On June 26th we stopped in at Le Grand Chapiteau to see what all the fuss was about – boy were we in for a surprise!  The show, whose main theme is evolution, was breathtaking – fantastic, stunning. AH-Mazing. Our seats were center-stage, about 20 rows up, with an unobstructed view of well, everything. That night, I became the ‘official’ ticket-buyer for all future shows – that’s how awesome our view was, according to my date (I don’t know how many times I refreshed my browser when making my seat selection – I was looking for a very specific spot!).  Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed, so I have no show pics to share with you (but hey, check out the tent below, LOL), but if you haven’t already seen this show, or any Cirque show for that matter, I highly recommend checking out what’s on in your city. Totem was brilliant; from the set design and intricate costumes, to the make-up and fabulous music, and of course, the badass performers – they didn’t miss a beat. Well worth the money – both my date and I would go see it again.

Poto: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

Photo: RAnnDomized

 

An overdose of candy…

A week after Totem, I took my 15-year old niece to her very first concert EVER. Before I tell you who we went to see, I’d like to remind you that I’m a diehard U2 fan.  OK… are you ready? For her first show EVER, Audrey picked…

Katy Perry

We checked out Perry’s California Dreams show at the Bell Center on July 2nd. Now, I like Katy Perry – she’s got great energy and catchy tunes. But I did have some reservations about the kind of people I’d encounter at this show. I could see myself surrounded by thousands of screaming teenage girls, all wearing pink. This is exactly what I got, but with an added bonus: the stench of cotton candy being pumped through the vents for 2.5 hours. Jesus! I thought I was going to pass the fuck out from the smell!  Anyway, when we got to our seats, I had a look around, and the first thing I thought was “Wow. That’s a small stage.” Then I thought “Wow. This is a lot of pink. Why are there muffins on-stage? Oh wait – are those cupcakes? What are those lollipops doing there, and what the hell is that pink, bumpy, square thing hovering in the middle of the arena?”  Anyway, fast-forwarding to the show: Perry put on a great performance and I was really impressed by her level of energy, her sense of humor, and her rapport with the audience. She did change outfits more often then any other artist I’ve seen but hey – everyone’s got their quirks. Perry played most of her hits and the crowd seemed to enjoy the show. More importantly, Audrey had a great time. Overall, I’d give Katy’s performance a high rating (notice how I don’t commit to an actual score, lol). Oh, and that hovering pink thing? It was a fake cloud that Perry used to transport herself from the main stage, to the other side of the arena. Kinda nifty, in a kitschy sort of way. To read a review of the show, click here.  Here’s a pretty decent video of KP performing Firework:

 

 

And last but not least…

The space ship is coming! The space is coming!

In September 2009, U2 played two shows at the Sky Dome in Toronto. Unfortunately, the 360 Tour wasn’t stopping in Montreal and this made me rather cranky because Montreal has a way better crowd than TO (sorry GTAers!). Well, it’ll be one cold day in hell before I miss a U2 show/tour – so I packed up my shit and headed for the T-Dot. LELELELELE!  Yes, I went to both shows, and yes I lined up forever in order to get the perfect spot on the floor! Such is the life of a U2 fan.

Not long after the TO shows, U2 announced dates for the second leg of the tour and Montreal was on the list for two nights in July 2010. The girls and I decided that we were also going to do TO (again) and New York (the last show of the tour). We were eager for July, but weeks before the first Montreal show, Bono had to undergo back surgery and all remaining dates in North America were canceled. Though understanding and supportive of Bono’s shit-uation, the U2 community was pretty disappointed by the news. Well, we waited almost two years to see the boys play again – and on July 8th and 9th, the space ship finally landed in Montreal.  Tune in tomorrow to hear all about the 360 madness…

Photo: RAnnDomized