Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! Just like paying it forward, but with a book.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench, so they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and this Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! The equivalent of paying it forward with a book. It is just that simple.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has  made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench. Instead, they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and the Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

A Dreamer Takes Flight

I’ve settled into my spot in 7A. My carry-on bag has been stowed securely under the seat in front of me. I spend the first 60 minutes of the flight from Toronto, Ontario to Oranjestad, Aruba reading 54 pages of Stephen King’s On Writing. Knowing little else of his life other than his notoriety as an author of numerous thriller genre books, I’m quite tickled by King’s keen wit and wry sense of humour. I may have actually chuckled out loud…twice…reading how he caught a terrible case of poison ivy after making the choice to go number two in a forested area and wiping with glossy green leaves.

I’ve put the book away and had water, coffee, and some (plain) plane cookies. Following my in-flight guided meditation, a Ludovico Einaudi piano melody flows through the thin white chord that extends out of the bottom of my phone and then separate into two branches; each one delivering a steady stream of full, rich, sound into the tiny buds in my ears. A soft, plaid flannel wrap is draped across my legs to keep away the airplane draft.

7A is a window seat, directly above the left jet. Looking out the window at 39,000 feet, the trivial details that previously preoccupied my thoughts around the items I forgot to pack (the tally currently stands at hairbrush, razor, and sunscreen) have completely faded away, replaced with seemingly endless blankets off cotton-baton like clouds. The sky clears a little, and my view becomes a haze of solid grey with only a string of clouds formed into a long straight line just beneath the jet. Then all of a sudden the entire sky changes to a sheet of brilliant cyan with not a single cloud in sight. I am mesmerized by the sky’s beauty, in all its changing forms.

I am defying the laws of gravity, floating through the atmosphere. The great expanse of the wide-open sky is my home, at least for the next few hours. I am flying.

This bird’s-eye view of the world has created a shift inside me. My spirit is lifted as high as the elevation at which we’re flying, and my heart is filled with the hope that all things—both great and small—are possible. Left alone with my thoughts, climbing to the top of the universe, I’ve found comfort in a soft blanket of clouds and my own dreams.

I’ve recently set a big dream in motion, speaking aloud the deepest desire of my heart. And I wonder if this is why the sky is unfolding so magically for me today, showing me both the vastness of possibility and the impermanence of everything. The meaning is far greater than I’m currently able to express. Today, the sky represents a new beginning; the start of something so incredible I don’t yet fully understand. Whatever it is, it’s something so remarkable and beautiful and potentially life-changing that I’m not yet able to articulate it in words.

In this moment, I’m no longer thinking about what is or isn’t in my suitcase.

Everything is perfectly simple and simply perfect.

I have my head in the clouds and I’m flying on the wings of my dream.

Remembering: A Love Letter to Ko Olina

I’ve been blessed to visit Ko Olina on the island of Oahu with my family a number of times, although there is some debate among us as to whether this year was our fifth or sixth trip. Regardless, our series of tropical vacations to this idyllic Polynesian paradise have not only offered me considerable time for relaxation and introspection, but also given me so much for which to be grateful. And you may be surprised to learn my gratitude extends well beyond the predictability of the precious memories I’ve created with my family.

Still, saying goodbye this time is a touch bittersweet when I think of all the fun we’ve had together on Oahu. Visiting the Dole Plantation, North Shore, Pearl Harbour, a few too many trips Leonard’s Bakery, Waimea Valley, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, and countless hours of fun in the sun are definitely among the highlights.

Although it is difficult to capture in words the depth of what Ko Olina means to me, it’s nonetheless important that I try to do so because this place of joy has effectively changed me. It is the birthplace of my spiritual awakening, and I can honestly say I don’t think I would be where I am today without having experienced the elixir of its inexplicable charm and intoxicating beauty.

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I’m not too sure exactly why it is or how it happened, but Ko Olina has woven some strange and powerful magic over me. Whether it’s the extreme relaxation it induces, the salty ocean air, being close to nature, the immersion in the Spirit of Aloha, or some combination of all of these, it’s nothing short of amazing how this place has opened my eyes to a world of possibility and led me to a deeper connection with my true self.

For anyone who may not be familiar (and even I had to look it up to be sure my understanding was correct), aloha is commonly used as both a greeting and a farewell throughout the Hawaiian islands. The word itself is difficult to translate, though, as it encompasses many different meanings ranging from love to a friendly attitude of acceptance toward all things. The definition of The Spirit of Aloha that really resonates for me is: To consciously manifest life joyously (or the joyful sharing of life energy) in the present.

It seems more synchronicity than coincidence to me that I’ve been working on being more conscious and aware, more joyful, and more focused on the present moment for each of the years we’ve been coming. As a result, I’ve softened in my natural state of being, yet I am more bold in my dreams and actions. My compassion for others has grown and my heart is more open.

Our trip in 2013 is particularly memorable, as it served as the punctuation mark (a semicolon) between leaving a job I had been in for 12 years and starting a new one. Then, by some further divine guidance during our trip in 2014, I began to hear my heart whispering that I needed to leave my corporate job if I wasn’t happy there. Not long after returning home I gave notice, and the time since has continued to be about listening and heeding my inner wisdom.

I’ve written before about the ensuing process, which has entailed digging deep to learn about myself, excavating limiting beliefs, and remembering the many enduring universal truths my soul always knew. Again, I owe Ko Olina a huge debt of gratitude for showing me the way forward and setting me on this path of self-discovery. At the very least, you could say she lulled me into a position of surrender, allowing my truth to bubble up to the surface and helping me find the courage to break free from my fears. It’s really incredible how, progressively along with each visit, this place of joy has amplified my intuitive voice and encouraged me to peel back the layers to reveal the more authentic version of myself.

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In her infinite wisdom, this year Ko Olina gently suggested that the big wide world is calling. With her blessing of loving reassurance, she signaled to me that the time has come for us to expand our horizons by changing up our Spring Break travel plans.

And with that I give thanks to this place of joy for the grace she has shown and all the many gifts she has bestowed upon me over the years. For it is here, right beside the vast blue Pacific, trade winds blowing and sun smiling down on me, that I found a magical place where my remembering and my light intersected.

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From this trip I am most grateful for:

  • Reading Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh, as it helped me to remember the energetic nature of our world, the remarkable power of thought, the importance of gratitude, and while I do not consider myself religious, that I am free to engage in meaningful dialogue with my Creator whenever I choose.
  • Two weeks of morning meditation and moving toward the light. In these moments of silence and stillness, I remembered I am not my mind.
  • Among a slew of scantily clad strangers lounging poolside and playing in the ocean, I remembered I am not my body.
  • Amid the lush vegetation of the Waimea Valley, I remembered my spirit is most at home in nature.
  • New friends, the kindness of strangers, and all the other signs that helped me remember love will always find me if my heart is open.
  • The realization that, when I set aside labels and judgments, I am free to remember the truth of who I am.

I remember I am (So’ham = I am that):

Expanding awareness.
Infinite potential.
Pure love and light.

I am not the same person I was when I first visited Ko Olina, and for this I extend my heartfelt gratitude to her for helping me remember.

Aloha & Mahalo,
Andrea

“Each soul is a Master—though some do not remember their origins or their heritages. Yet each creates the situation and the circumstances for its own highest purpose and its own quickest remembering—in each moment called now.”
Neale Donald Walsh
Conversations with God

P.S. If you’re searching for your true self, I encourage you to get quiet so you can hear what your heart might tell you. You may even want to try the So’ham meditation technique. Instructions can be found in this article on the Yoga International website.

Defining Moment

Memories of my past are patchy, at best. But I still remember, with vivid clarity, one of the first times I flew on an airplane. I was traveling for work, and was one of only four passengers on an eight-passenger prop.

With so few others on board, and maybe also because I was the youngest, the pilots provided me with a set of headphones to listen in on their communication with air traffic control. I was awestruck.

The invitation to connect with a front-row seat to their world of aviation gave me a sense importance. With an inside track and a bird’s eye view, I felt larger than myself. A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body, causing my heart to palpitate and stretch well beyond its regular size. The immersion of my senses was an unexpected thrill beyond that of my wildest dreams.

I can still remember how everything on the ground below gradually contracted as the metal bird lifted me higher and higher into the sky. Large buildings, roadways, foothills, forests, and entire sections of land shrinking away into tiny specs of dust before dissolving to nothing.

Making our way up through the cotton candy wisps of cloud, all of the big things became little things, and the repetition of a single word consumed my thoughts.

Perspective.

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Perspective truly is everything. Conversely, everything is also perspective.

Flying several thousand feet in the air at the tender age of 20, I began to comprehend how changing your position, your angle, your viewpoint can change the perception of what you see. The ability to alter your perspective has the potential to change your life, if you let it.

I thought to myself in that singular defining moment: I must remember this.

The miraculous, life-changing potential of perspective is something I hold true to this day, and most certainly always will.

“The smallest change is perspective can transform a life. What tiny attitude adjustment might turn your world around?”
– Oprah

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En route to the Big Apple & already missing the apples of my eye

Start spreading the news. I’m leaving to day.
I want to be a part of it. New York, New York.

Alright, alright. I’m happy to leave the crooning to Frank Sinatra. As it should be. I just couldn’t help but use the reference. After all, it is very apropos under the circumstances.

You know when you go months at a time without any dedicated one-on-one time with your significant other? Then, by a strange twist of fate, the stars align, you get a reliable sitter, and you’re finally able to go out on a real adult date with your hunny? Only to be able to spend the entire evening talking about your kids? Ya. That.

Sitting in the lounge at Edmonton International Airport at the start of our first kid-free holiday in quite some time, and I’m already missing my kids. Even though getting through airline check-in, security, and customs was a dream without them in tow. Even though I’m sitting here in blissful, yet eerily quite. I feel like something’s missing.

And something is, because we always have them with us when we travel. It’s what we do. It’s what I know. My daughter was just 11 months old when we took her on an eastern Caribbean cruise. My son was just four months when we traveled as a family to Maui. And as I sit here in this peace and quiet, I am flooded with memories of all the trips we’ve taken together.

Like the time we went to Turks & Caicos… The trip was planned in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary. We had planned a vow renewal and were very excited to have our kids with us to mark the occasion. Yet, if I had to give the trip a name or title, Trouble in Paradise would barely begin to describe it. My daughter got a black eye by running into a luggage cart before we left Edmonton, she nearly lost one of our passports by putting it into a suitcase moments before it went onto the conveyor belt at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and we all spent over half the week knocked out by an awful stomach virus. Despite the crappy run of luck (pun intended), what I remember most is having that time together, as a family.

Even though I miss my kids already, I must say I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be going back to New York with my hubby. We visited once before and found the city magical. I think it was in 2003 because I remember going to see the rubble at the World Trade Center site, and it was definitely part of our pre-kid life. We’ve been wanting to go back for quite some time, but never thought it would be a suitable destination for our seven and five-year-old children. With all the sightseeing and walking, it’s a much different type of vacation than what they’re used to.

We’ve intentionally kept our four days in the City that never sleeps fairly unstructured (and we may not sleep for four days, either). If you have recommendations for Broadway shows, restaurant, and must-see sights in NYC, please drop me a line. Not sure how much we’ll be able to squeeze into the next four days before leaving for St. Martin, but we’ll do our best!

After an adventurous cab ride, we’ve made it to our hotel, which is just a couple blocks off of Times Square. More adventure awaits, just outside our doors, and I’m sure we’ll be back in the New York groove in no time. (Ok, that’s my last song reference. For now.)