Last week I emerged from the womb of Goenka’s 10 day Vipassana Retreat, my second in seven years At that time, I had just left Israel where I had been living for three years, having walked away from a love story and a whole community of friends, I was back on the road in a familiar solo adventure. I remember vaguely making a promise to myself that i would return to the program every year… I remembered that it was challenging, I remembered how much I had wanted to leave on the fourth day, I remembered the compassion of the manager who had supported me in having my own room so that I could have the peace of privacy to stay on until the end, I remembered walking round and round on the walking trail, with exasperation and frustration, confronted by overwhelming sense of anger, that had no place to go but sit within me, my mind, my body. And I remembered eventually finding stillness, calmness, peace and a sense of completion within my heart which had given me a huge sense of my own BEINGness, beyond my identity, and the happenings of my life. I remember walking out of the centre, back to my room in Bagshu India, feeling happy. Simply happy. The course had spoken to me strongly.
Now, seven years later, I could barely remember what it was all about. Life had taken over, and my dreams, visions, desires and discomforts were running the show. I had applied to other centres twice within the last 7 years and both times had cancelled in place of another luring irresistible adventure. Third time ‘lucky’, now, I was not only available to participate, I was literally aching for the stillness… for the quiet. For 10 days to not have to think about My Next Moves. I was over ripe with a need to integrate the wild, nonstop twists and turns of my last adventurous 7 years. I wondered if 10 days would be enough.
After missing two buses, I finally arrived at Beit Deganya Vipassana centre, sitting between the Jordan River and the sea of Galilee, overlooking the expansive mountainous region of the Golan Heights. Sitting in the meditation hall again seven years later I felt like I was in the right place. Hearing Goenka’s voice chanting the songs of Gautama Buddha, a sense of peace and nostalgia for my India days came flooding back to me. A lot of time had passed in between and I was definitely not the same person I was seven years ago. It was time to shave it all back to its origins again, and remember why I had returned.
There is nothing quite like the voice of the late Goenka Gi, a Burmese-Indian visionary business man and one of the great teachers of Vipassana Meditation who lead thousands of people over the years of his life. His recordings are used in 170 centres around the world. Vipassana means to ‘see things as they are’ and is a process of observing our automatic responses to all our sensations by perceiving them rather than reacting to them. Continuing the original ancient 2500 year old teachings of Gautama Buddha, Vipassana (which means to see things as they are) is a non-sectarian process discovered to liberate human beings from suffering. Regardless of religion or creed, this practice is a way to self transformation through self-observation. The process consists of three aspects; Sila - morality (a seemingly simple yet highly contentious concept), Samadhi - strength of mind (exploring the hidden powers that we humans have that differentiate us from other animals); and Pania - practise of Vipassana meditation (self observation, annapanna breathing and the experience of the body as a mass of evanescent molecules).
This meditation technique is a process of scanning the physical body continuously from head to toes and toes to head and so forth, tapping into all the sensations starting from those upon the skin, under the skin and throughout the entire body. By this process of becoming aware of ‘sensations’ one can experience the molecular phenomena that everything is always changing and therefore impermanent. That becoming attached to any sensation, good or bad, doesn’t make sense and is short sighted. This is known as the law of impermanence and is the foundation of this path towards ‘enlightenment’. The logic is that misery is derived from becoming attached. Attached both to what you like and what you don’t like. It is the nature of attachment itself that binds us to misery. That craving for what we want and averting from what we don’t want is the recipe for human suffering. The process of Vipassana along side the ten parmis’ (generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort, tolerance, truth, strong determination, selfless love, and last but most importantly equanimity) promises to lead people out of misery, into enlightenment, slowly but surely. ‘Enlightenment’ as a final goal, is the attainment of nirvana, the dissolution of desire, and the end of a soul’s incarnation as a human on earth. Sounds dramatic, but according to Gautama Buddha, Goenka Gi and the buddhist philosophy generally, that’s the point of this whole ‘game’ called life. To reach the final destination and not incarnate anymore.
Goenka is a charismatic storyteller and a wordsmith, as well as a business man and a passionate devotee.. and the style of his teachings are tinted with incontrovertible truth. As I sat there throughout the course 7 years ago, I remembered that by the 6th day, his presentations of the process had become insistently ‘non-dogmatic’. Again, on the 6th day, I felt my intellectual mind awaken to the slight over simplification and potential hypocrisy that his discourses reveal. Goenka repeats the significance of Vipassana being a non-sectarian many times and therefore not a doctrine or a belief. This is true. Ironically, however, as he repeats the need to have perfect Sila (morality), Samahdi (mind control) and Pania (practice) in order to ‘succeed’ - it does tend to sound a bit dogmatic after all. Indeed, It makes perfect sense, in a perfect world, to maintain one’s sense of morality by acting only in ways that do not harm others. But nearly everything, from driving petrol guzzling cars, to wearing sweat shop branded clothing, to living in a country that needs to fight to defend itself in order to exist peacefully - is somewhat harmful and layered with . In Goenka’s course, Sila, Morality, is presented two dimensionally without availability of discussion; to act in a way that serves to support, protect and help, and not act in any way that can harm another creature. Sitting in Israel, listening to these discourses, there was something surreal and perhaps unreal about this simplification. Clearly, here on planet earth, one single act can be both harmful and helpful at the same time and its struck me as over simplistic and unrealistic to put our actions into boxes such as that. I tried to understand what it was the separated his argument from reality today, and realised that our micro existence which is that which relates to our personal lives and the macro existence which is that which relates to humanity and planet earth at large, are two very difference things and yet necessarily interrelated. Perhaps the question of how we integrate our micro spheres with the macro sphere in a moral way, is more relevant today than it was in the time of Buddha 2500 years ago, but surely morality has never been a simple concept in a world full of complexity?
Back to the micro sphere of this intense 10 day course, our days are action packed with 12 hours of silent Vipassana meditation. That’s 12 hours of silent stillness for 10 days! Despite the amount of people who say “wow sounds very relaxing and wonderful”, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that sitting still for so long, day after day after day, is extremely hard and very painful. One of the ideas of allowing oneself to experience and explore pain is to be able to sense the sensations of the pain without attaching to the experience. After we come out of stillness back in physical movement, the feelings in the body change also. Pain comes and goes, as does pleasure. The idea is to feel the sensations move through the body, to feel the molecular significance of our physical realities, to pierce through the seemingly solid forms so as to recognise the potential of change and the peace that comes from being beyond natural human attachment. Again, this is an act or ‘retraining’ ourselves, that goes beyond our innate human patterns. Philosophically one could discuss whether our progress comes through accepting our nature or reprogramming it altogether and likely this is as complex a discuss as the integration of daily micro spheres with the situation of our macro world. Generally speaking, parallel to the concept of equanimity, I think we need to find the balance within everything and acceptance of our humanity, full of pleasure AND misery, is an important part of our experience here on earth.
So….Obviously, I had a lot of time to think! To ask myself whether this Enlightenment thing was my goal - or any goal to be taken too seriously at all. (and whether we humans even have enough time to reincarnate as many times as needed for enlightenment before the earth swallows us up?). From a simple perspective, to be free of suffering sounds wonderful, but to give up my passions in life, to give up that delicious craving for chocolate and sushi, to give up ENJOYING anything and everything in the name of being free of suffering..? Im not so sure I’m really ready for such a bargain. However, I love and appreciate the idea of remaining equanimous, middle grounded, realistic. I know people who are naturally like that… and admire their cool and calm. Myself, I have been more on the extreme side of emotions, happy is very happy, sad is very sad… and it can be exhausting for sure. I resonate deeply with the truth that nothing is forever and everything is constantly changing, so why get so excited…? why get so down? The moment is alive and thats all that matters. Hypothetically. But the Aliveness inside sadness and grief, and the Aliveness inside passion and enthusiasm is also very real.. and very beautiful. Can we appreciate the beauty of humanity as an observer and remain equanimous in the face of disaster and celebration? To really delve into the possibility of enlightenment from this perspective is to beg the question: How attached are we to this life on earth? Are we here to continually be reborn into an inherently selfish domain of personal experience or are we here to realise ourselves as part of a wholeness, beyond the personal, beyond the ego, and renounce our attachments for the sake of liberation?
There are many rules in a Vipassana centre and as one might imagine, the road to enlightenment follows a strict regime including the exclusive practice of Vipassana meditation, no yoga, no food after 12pm, no sexual activity, no talking, no writing, no reading, no eye contact with other participants, no distracting others (which included not sitting in trees apparently), no moving during the three one hour group meditations… and many others. And yet, for anyone who has read Siddharta, you will already know that Gautama was an explorer of consciousness and needed to walk his own path, learning from the people and ways around him, and formulating his own discoveries through experience. Yes there is huge value to learning from those who have walked this Earth before us, but ultimately, as Goenka would often say, life is not an intellectual game of learning the theoretics - its a real LIVING experience whereby one must learn from their own practice.
As an explorer, I have spent the greater part of my life venturing into unknown territory wrestling with the meaning of life. I have ventured deep into the Amazon to sit in shamanic medicine circles and travel dimensions, I have sat with many a Sadhu in India to learn the existential ways of BEING without ambition, I have felt the flurry of sacred prayer in the holy city of Jerusalem and I have gone walkabout with Indigenous Australians to grow the ears needed to hear the whisperings of the ancient land down under. I have rolled in hedonism and dabbled in asceticism and I have met the kinds of people that one cannot imagine exists! From all walks of life, all manners of perceiving. And I have observed that there are many ways to live, many ways to understand.
In accordance with his spirit and many other revolutionaries, even when it comes to Vipassana, I too, find my own way. I am the first to admit that I have never been much for following rules for rules sake. The system I was born into continually imposed rules, discouraging any trace or inkling of initiative or creative exploration to develop, and left me vehemently opposed to being told what to do. These days I am able to cooperate with rules because I understand that they exist for the sake of order and harm management. I realise now that most societal rules reflect the need to manage from the bottom up, pertaining to the lowest common denominator.. but most importantly I honour the need for initiative, self regulation and respect the freedom of choice within the spectrum of not harming another. Thought I will never follow rules blindly, I will always enquire into their origins and necessities and I will feel into the truth of my own intuition and body to know what it good for me in any particular moment. Health has been at the forefront of my life for some time now, so looking after myself in this process was important. During the first 6 days of the course I was in chronic pain, with my deep psoas muscles tightening by the minute and my lower back feeling like it wouldn’t carry me further. Pain all day, pain all night. I felt that my body required love and care - so I did some yogaic stretches on my mat in my room, I helped myself to fruit after 12pm with the new students. I did not feel bad, I felt whole.
With so much time to BE, I would sit and watch the beetles, little red beetles with lovely black designs on their back wings. There were thousands of them, climbing on dry grass, crawling over cracked earth. One could see many joined together from their butts, one pulling in one direction and the other pulling in another… one always more dominant (assumedly the male) dragging the other around as it inseminated her. At times little ones matched with big ones, no rhythm or reason for how they paired. I thought “arent they lovely, and what a lovely simple life they have..”. Then I noticed many of them in huddles and wondered what these little meetings were all about… upon leaning further in, I saw the other side to ‘lovely’, nature in action, as they feasted upon a dead one of their own. The ‘Sila’ of a bugs life in question…? As I pondered the expansiveness of nature I saw a couple of these red beetles running and tumbling over each other, and upon closer inspection noticed that they were flighting for little pieces of grain, the kind of grain that was in abundance all around them. These two were scrambling on top of each other to take it from the other, at some point one would take it and run, then the other would grab it. Whether they were playing, or fighting, the reality of a somewhat active and reasonably complex consciousness existed - and these guys would have no problem with eating each other at the end of it all. And though it may seem inconsistent to compare bugs with humans, I have studied many a strange reality within humanity to know that morality can be a double edged sword.
The different kinds of pain that I experienced:
Sitting in the meditation hall, I wasn’t sure what was more agonising: the pain I was feeling in the body or the pain of the cringe that came with listening to the squelching mouth noises of my neighbours. I find it hard to actually find the words to describe these sounds in words, but I know that you all know what I am talking about. If you don’t, simply open and close your mouth without words, and you will decipher the subtle squelch that I am referring to. I am not bothered by the sneezes nor the coughs and not even the gurgles of hungry stomachs - but when mouth sounds reverberate in my ears, I really have to work hard to stay focused. It got so bad that I found myself actually disliking people I don’t even know, just because they kept gurgling spit in my ear! My neighbour, a woman who would take her mouth plate out and put it on the Vipassana pillow every session was my nemesis. I was so grossed out that it actually took the focus off the pain in my body.
Hour after hour, breathing through discomfort, scanning the body, allowing my body to melt into a vibrating molecular lump of atoms, thoughts racing by, deep in meditation only to find my mind wrapping olives in pastrami and pinning them with toothpicks, back in the room, sudden bouts of peace and silence, return to the amplified mouth gurgling sounds that distracted me from the growing numbness in my legs as I clenched by butt so to protect my lower back from snapping. Hour after hour after hour. Day after day. After the first 6 days of physical torture I asked for a chair to sit on, and discovered that the only place I could sustain a relatively comfortable unmoving mediation was literally perched upon the edge of my seat. Sitting on the edge of my seat. Not one bit surprising considering that the place I feel calmest is sitting on the edge of a cliff. I am already friends with Suspense. At times I feel forever suspended in the unknown… And the metaphors that reveal themselves bring the meaning into the forefront and reveal that which is not easily understood. So there I perched, and as the pain subsided into a simple sensation, uncertainty remained the only reliable truth. Success. Momentary, yet momentous.
Nature’s Perfect Ending
The days were hot. We went from one air conditioned space to the steamy outdoors, over and over and over again. On the 8th day the blue sky finally filled with puffy white clouds and offered an opportunity to for creativity. As I lay there on the grass, letting my eyes see visions in the sky, I was filled with appreciation for the constant state of change that we are all a part of here on Earth - seeing the clouds move, warp, distort, form, evaporate and disappear. Everything always in a state of flux, nothing to hold on to, visions coming and going. Anicce, anicce, anicce. A dragon fly came to play, darting back and forth, circling me then sitting still. So fast, so still. Realising that symbolically I was playing with illusion I reflected on how alive I felt in the magic of what is evanescent.
On the 9th day the rains finally came, and along with natures blessings were shrieks of joy, tears, dance.. Washing the earth, washing the mind, for the seeds of stillness that had been planted were thirsty and our souls were hungry to connect. By the evening, walking back to the hall, two low flying fighter jets zoomed above. We stopped and stared into the sky, for what we didnt know of the outside worlds happenings. We had been in a blissfully disconnected bubble, in the middle of a land fraught with troubles. The ‘real world’ out there roared with possibilities, and we were only a day from our great reunion. Our hearts where already in sync and we could taste the anticipation of our release. Forty beautiful women, connected and filled with compassion. Life’s insanity, juxtaposed with truth love and power.
Reflection with the Mountains
Blessed with a room to myself that faced the mountains and had two windows instead of one, I gazed outside. The background full of rolling mountainous hills, the foreground a mass of shrubbery and small trees. My eyes caught upon a small tree, still growing, not yet strong enough to hold itself up. It was supported by two sticks on either side, tied in the middle loosely to each. Technically it was being pulled in two directions so to grow straight and strong, and I couldnt help but see the reflection of myself in its essence, pulled in two directions, Australia and Israel. Perhaps, perhaps, this tension of having roots in two lands is something that makes me stronger, something that helps me to grow straight and strong. I liked the idea. Somewhere between the land of Oz and the Land of Is…. is a path to humility that embraces the unknown and welcomes diversity. There is so much space in between these worlds that the yellow brick road is often hidden by the hills and dips of life - but at that moment, where I sat upon the land known as Israel, I felt supported and love by people I had never even spoken to, people who mirrored my soul, and I couldn’t deny that this felt like home. A familiar sadness washed over me, knowing that I would not live near the family I grew up with… that the yellow brick that started in the land of Oz has lead me back to the Land of Is.
The doors to our voices were opened on the morning of the 11th day. It was exciting, and tentative and somewhat miraculous. Women who had been in deep process for 10 days together suddenly able to look into each others eye and connect. New friendships formed to last a lifetime. Joy. Suddenly a desire emerged, how to hold on to this peace? This Joy? And revelation upon revelation, in the moment of trying to hold on to what is, all is lost. Though enlightenment is the goal, the path is long and so ultimately, this lifetime, we are devoted to process and practice, on a continual journey of being, releasing and surrendering. At times we shall rile in our worry until we remember that all is simply passing by… we are alive and we are dying… the moment is full of breath and being. Everything, coming and going, coming and going.
And so it was that forty women and forty men walked on into the next stages of our lives to practice what we had learnt and find our own way forth, together.
bhavatu sabba mangalam
May all beings be happy and peaceful.
Here in Israel, two months has almost passed and I am again caught in a bind; hesitant to make plans to leave, yet aware of the insanity of staying. Its hard to put my finger on what it is in the air here that makes me feel ‘at home’, It would be easy to say its the Jewish thing, after all, I am surrounded with remnants and reminders of my history and my culture. But I don’t feel an affinity with organised religion - so that isn’t it. Besides, there are about 150 Arab villages here, predominantly muslim but also christian, that line most roads here in Israel ,(not including any of the villages in the Palestinian Territories) and for sure I have never lived in such close proximity to large muslim communities before now! The feeling of home comes as much from the unknown as from the known. I am passionately interested in the history of the people and the land here… able to be active and involved in life as it plays out around me. Here I have a feeling of being welcomed, wanted and witnessed. I am part of a big family, a big web of people who care to connect, and create. Perhaps feel like my gifts can offer much to the people and the land, that I will be looked after and that I will never be alone. Perhaps this is what it means to be home - but I guess it’s so much more.
Since i arrived here two months ago I have spent time exploring friends, family, history and the personal and political perspectives of Jews and Arab Israelis/Palestinians. Even as I type the words the complexity of this issue shows itself… both through the reaction I feel rearing in YOU, my listeners - and my own learnings.. as I recount the diversity of perspectives I have come to hear within the words ‘Palestinian’ and ‘Arab’. From Mohammed of Hebron telling me that his people are Caananites and not Arabs, to my Arab Israeli friend, Rabea, saying they he does not identify as Palestinan, to my friend Hiba who identifies as Palestinian but who doe not have Palestinian citizenship because she was born in Jerusalem - one of the most contested places on Earth! As I wandered through the old city I met Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, who also do not eat pig, I saw many a robed men, with a few variations that revealed their religious affiliations, and amidst the religious structures, a flurry of tourists from all over the world, all colours, all races, united in either fascination or prayer and probably both. To say that this situation is complicated is an understatement - the more you know about the stories of this land, past and present - the more complex one realises it is. Here in Israel, the people diverge perspectives within their own supposed groups, and there is infinite variety of accounts, situations and realities that exist, live, thrive and suffer here, side by side. Yes there are patterns, and narratives and stories. Injustices lined up next to defiant courage and cross-cultural camaraderie. The only REAL certainly is that anyone who from the outside aligning with a side, is stupendously ignorant. From the inside, its impossible to judge. People have been through so much pain, so much injustice…. there is no right answer, but gentle reminders to recognise our own humanity when we look in the mirror, so we can see it reflected in the eyes of our neighbours.
As most of you know all my painting equipment was stolen a month ago and I have been fundraiser in preparation to replace everything when I know where I am staying.. I have recently repurchased the basics needed for Merges (hooray!) so I am now officially able to do that again - in case the need or want arises. Everything in Israel is twice as expensive so the value of my lost equipment is double what I thought it was… Such is life. Here is the link if you wish to donate, https://www.gofundme.com/supportorlyfayareplaceherkit you are welcome to and I thank you with all my heart - to everyone who donated already, gems! Love you very much. May blessings shower one and all.
In the meantime I have begun writing my book ‘Painting People into the World”, chapter one almost complete and it was cathartic and wonderful to write. I look forward to more quiet time in a little house somewhere somehow, to get this story out and into the world.
I am about to catch a bus to Tiberias where I will be picked up to go to my Vipassana course. It has been 7 years since I last sat in silence for 10 days and I am so ready for another round. May clarity, purpose and presence be met in the silent hours with myself.
See you on the other side!
Peace, Salam, Shalom
Israel Israel Israel! I feel a sense of belonging that I have missed out on during my times in Australia. No its not the Jewish thing, its not the food thing and its not really the earth itself. My connection to this land is cultural. At last I can speak and express myself with vigour without feeling like I am ‘too much’, able to get into deep confronting conversations without fear of losing friends; able to take what I need without needing to ask or say please all the time. Knowing that the people around me will ask and take what they need also. Here in the land, its normal for cars to make U turns onto pavements and park in the middle of the street. People yell to one another across the street and speak effusively wherever they are, on buses, in malls and at home. Supermarkets overflow with too many options, and restaurants are open all night, with people flooding out of bars into the streets to celebrate the moment. Arabs and Jews and many others live side by side and there are many opportunities to come together, if they choose, both professionally and recreationally. Busy is taken to new heights where it is normal for people to have to active mobile phones and four jobs to support their families. The pace here is fast, the rules are loose and the community is tight.
Of course nothing is one sided and here in Israel, life is not all peaches obviously.
Sirens sound on this day, the offical memorial day known as Yom Hazikaron, to commemorate all the lives that have been lost along the way. Friends and family go to ceremonies and cemeteries to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. Wars, divisions and hate have caused this land to be fraught with post traumatic stress and the innate loss of innocences that comes with teenagers going to the army. I sit with young people on the buzzing strip of tel aviv’s beaches, and they share their army experiences with me, how they were taught to die for their country, only to discover years later their actions destroyed a part of their soul that they can never redeem. On the other side of it, they also express the depth and beauty of comradery and friendship that could only be born our of such circumstances. Here in this land, people are part of community all their lives, friends and family form the basis of their existence. And life goes on.
When the clock turns over to 6pm, the entire energy of this country shifts into celebration, as the eve of Israeli Independence day booms from speakers across the land. Celebrating freedom, belonging and the existence of a Jewish homeland. Tears of sadness are transformed into tears of joy as the people come together to break bread, drink wine and celebrate LIFE with the gusto of a people who have suffered and survived. At the same time, the people in Gaza, suffer the loss of their homes, their freedom and their lives as they knew them. At the same time, Arab Israelis are torn between; living comfortably in a very accessible and innovative country, with friends and families on the other side of a painful wall in between. The emotions that are felt and expressed over these 48 hours in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are extreme and cover a depth of human experience known by many others around the world. The refugees, the disenfranchised, and the persecuted will all be able to relate. And yet, this story is specific to this land and these people, and reveals a complexity of history, people and emotion that I can only describe, imagine and share in my limited way.
This land is worth visiting. If you haven’t yet, put it on your bucket list. Life is BIG and there is much to learn.
Over the last 4 years I have found my enthusiasm for my work, painting people into the World, to come in waves and lately, I have been called to ask myself whether this is still the right path for me. Despite the fact that this practise truly makes my heart sing, I now have a deep appreciation for all the facets within… including the gravity and extremity of the entire process. Today my passion for this art form lies primarily in the work I do exploring ‘Indigenosity’, and honouring the people and the lands that I visit through this creative process. By Painting the People of the land into their Lands, I get to play in my favourite ways. As an anthropology undergrad, cross-cultural collaboration is my heart and soul. Learning about one another, sharing our likeness and marvelling at our differences is my most comfortable and favourite way of being in the world. The opposite of being part of a ‘society’ where a ‘normalcy’ pervades and we are expected to be something particular. Learning about another’s culture is fascinating and liberating. To truly appreciate that the way we see think hear and understand things is not actually the way things are, is a relief! We move from life being ‘ordinary’, to life being full of possibility.
Here in Thailand’s hippy corner of Koh phangan, surrounded by a melding pot of culture, one can become whatever they like. There is much to absorb and adopt, there is much to release and let go of. Staying in the centre of ones being, feeling into he body’s intuitive signals, is key to an authentic and meaningful journey.there are many ways to deepen ones connection to themselves, but necessarily involves solo onwards practise. Being back here in Thailand after 8 years between, I felt a yearning to connecting with Thai people. At times there can feel to be a disconnect between the people and the tourists and sometimes it’s as simple as not having the language to really connect. But along the way I started to make Thai friends... And it occurred to me that we could do a Merge Ceremony together in honour of the land that was bringing me back to balance: i thought, if I meet the right Thai person (preferably woman) then I would be honoured to say THANK YOU in this way, and create a THAILAND edition to the EEP series www.emergingearthpeople.com
Whilst I was booked to paint at a festival here, I met a woman called Lala. We had gone into the ice bath together, she had stayed in for 4.5 minutes when the usual time period is one minute! Her will and mind power blew me away. When I told her about my project and asked if she wanted to be part of it, she was an immediate YES. As was revealed along the way, this project was born from the stars.
The team came together effortlessly. James, with a heart as big as a giant peach was the man to hold space, and look after details so we could create. Ron came to work together with me for a second time this week, and blessed us with his photography. The production was set to occur our in the shallow waters of Koh Phangan, with the painting taking place against the backdrop of the water and shoreline. We needed a sturdy table to put in the water. I learnt that Thai people love to help and can be all too willing to give you their fruit stand table on the spot if asked! Having a very beautiful Thai woman by our side asking, helped also. It offered the opportunity to really experience Thai culture as Thai people relate to each other.
Being naked in public is also not something that can be taken for granted but bless this island for having a fully sanctioned naked beach! The production itself was more beautiful than I could have imagined. With Lala arriving in complete tradition Thai dress, with all her glistening adornments. She walked out into the water just like that, and gradually shed all the decorations, until she stood bare, ready, open and present. As I painted her the tears began to run down her face... I was soon to learn that she was pouring prayers upon me... at first I chased her tear streaked Face with my brush, but quickly noticed the most beautiful art I had ever seen. The reality of emotion, nature of strength and gentle vulnerability all being seen at the same time. My paintbrush wouldn’t dare cover up such beauty... Celebrating the beauty of tears through this powerful and courageous Thai woman was a privilege and an honour.
I realised that we didn’t have anyone doing filming for us and decided to take it on myself. I captured little parts of this whole beautiful magical process and planned to put together a short video. My interest in making film has been ignited over the last years, with a few very inspiring people encouraging me to get into this mode of expression. One of these people is NAS, of NAS DAILY. If you haven’t heard of him check him out. Those who know me know that I’m pretty obsessed with this guy and his work. He went from being an amateur making one minute films on Facebook to being followed by 700000 million people!! His films are inspiring and authentic. I have wanted to meet him for a year now... one of my big hopes and dreams was to meet him in Israel as I will be arriving in a couple of days...
After the production on site (in the water!!) was completed, we headed out for some music. Sitting there chatting away like two sisters separated for many years, Lala mentioned that maybe she knew of a project good for me... “NAS DAILY....” she began to say before The look of shock on my face told her I knew who she was talking about. “NAS DAILY! I love nas!” Was all I could say, and suddenly Lala’s Face changed also with words following “wowwww this project is for you!!” She showed me a video from Nas INVITING WOMEN CREATORS to join his BOOTCAMP! The deadline for the application video: April 10th!! I Haven’t really had many dreams lately.. but this one shines like the sun. Apparently he will fly us somewhere in the world to learn film making with him and create stuff. YES! Soo soooo yes! So I spent my last two days in Koh Phangan in my computerland editing and preparing stuff to send out.
It’s been massive. I did my best. Hearts on my sleeve again. Here it is. Enjoy and send some good vibes out for me to be the chosen!
Now: en route to the holy land. Nervous, excited, tentative.. not really sure what it’s all about. Of course visiting family and friends is great and I will be doing lots of that! But also reminding myself that I’m coming in the tourist spirit, keen to connect with all types of people in ways I haven’t before: arab-Israelis, Jews, christians, Palestinians especially EVERYONE outside the box in some way, let’s get together, create art, and express ourselves and expand within the healing realms.
Thailand, I have truly love every second. It wasn’t long enough. I feel strongly about coming back, and maybe even staying here for a proper while. Seems perfect for me in many ways…Huge thank you again to all the amazing Thai people I met who took the time to share their lives with me, and teach me a little bit more about THAILAND. I would LOVE to make a home here one day :) Sending it out to the universe! I’ll be back x
After 18 months in Australia, my wings demanded to be stretched, my spirit needed to breathe. Such a long stay in Australia has only been matched only once before, four years ago after a love story with a man that turned into a love story with Art and healing. Now, only one week since I arrived in Thailand, I am feeling relaxed, happy and motivated in ways i haven’t been for a while. The pressure has been lifted. Having left the constraints and oppressions of ‘society’ again, I have temporarily returned to a nomadic life where everything I have fits into a bag and I know I will be moving on eventually. There is no expectation that I will stay here as I know I am leaving, and my new framework is not about making money but rather about spending what I have. Gratefully, in a much more sustainable south-east asian way, giving my self time to nurture, work and play. To feel the present moment, to take the opportunity to breathe in and out of my body consciously, I experience myself as a vibration, and the spirits of those around me. I reconnect with the important foundations, necessary for gestating and birthing new meaningful magical creations. Self Love. Security. Authenticity. A quiet space where I can focus.. And Time…! Hallelulah. This was a good move.
I don't know whats coming through yet and I don’t know where this will all lead. I never do. what I do know is that my 15 years of solo travel has taught me much. The last time I was here on this little island was at the conclusion of my first expedition 15 years ago. I was 19 years young and had been travelling solo for 9 months. Wild as wild can be, I pushed every boundary and tested every limit. I had no idea what I was doing, and even less realisation that 15 years later I would be back on this island, healing myself from the experiences I had all those years before. Life is funny like that.
I live a very opposite life to many in many different ways. For me, now here in Thailand, I am embracing a routine after 10 years of free flying month to month. For the first time since university I am holding myself to a Rhythm. Just for 3 weeks to see how I feel. I wake up around 8 and mediate for 10 min. I jump on my bike and cruise around the corner to Tuun’s fruit stand. He makes a really great banana coconut smoothy and adds all my super stuff to make it best start to my day…psyllium just, chia, organic cacao powder, and hemp protein. He is teaching me to count to 10 in Thai. This smoothy is 40 baht (less then $2) Then I jump back on my bike and head around the corner to Orion Yoga for my morning class with Ben, a very inspiring and lovely yogi. Then I buy whatever I need and head home for lunch and to work in the AC through the hottest hours of the day. Yes I look forward to working inside the AC :) I finish up at 5pm and head down to the nude beach for a naked swim/sun gazing session, followed by a cold coconut to sip on whilst I enjoy an ever incredible sunset to the sounds of the drum circle and any other magical musicians rocking it out to the pink skies. I could listen to Orlando forever! He plays sax like he is making love to the moment and sings us the sounds of sunset. And then I go eat dinner at one of the many yummy Thai restaurants around. If I splurge, I will pay around $12. Yes. I love this routine :) I get to appreciate the importance of time ‘in’ and time ‘out’, in every sense of the words, equally
Most come here for a holiday and many are in their travels. Many come to detox and get treatment to heal themselves from the conditions they have acquired, born out of their home societies and situations. Some people stay for the whole season and some return for every season after for many years. Some stay here all through the year and get out just to do their visa run. And then there are people like myself, who find themselves in Thailand for whatever divine reason, who’s extended history consists of more travel and movement than stillness, who come to relax, consolidate, integrate and prepare for the next leg of life’s journey.
And so it is that I allow the words to do their magic. The stories that beg to be written. The thoughts that would offer more on paper. The incessant pondering of my mind made quiet… by the clicking of my keyboard. Being brought to life, in a new and wonderous way. Consolidating and reflect upon an epic tale of life that I have chosen to live. So - the blogs are back. The first book has been conceived.
How long till its born, no body knows. If you stick around you will be able to share this process with me as I progress with little excepts along the way, and I am honoured to know that my little 534 people community newsletter consists of YOU. Thank you. If something I say touches your heart in any way, let me know. We may be behind computer screens but we are ALIVE. May our community grow, and may the wisdoms of darkness and light that are born from within our own explorations serve the highest good for all beings in the world.
From the West Coast of Kho Phangan,
We come together, souls embedded within one another - a babushka of lives, hidden and revealed by the shedding of time. Etched into the darkness of starry skies burns an earthly desire that swells from the centre of creation; to be seen and to be acknowledged against the vast backdrop of humanity. We ache to connect with our Greatness, despite being birthed into little bodies of selves that crave to be seen - to know ourselves as part of this world that breathed us into existence. We face one another in love and fear, eye to eye, heart to heart, reflections of projections and introspections, to know ourselves through each other and discover ourselves as all that we are - as One.
Sacred smoke wafts over body and earth alike, burning with gratitude, cleansing through space and time. We stand. Naked and raw, a testament to our humanity. Strong, empowered by our vulnerability, authentic & exposed in all our glory - ready to be seen to disappear. We extend our hands and hearts to spirits calling and latch on to the possibility of magical metamorphosis through the universal language of art and ceremony. Becoming one with the earth, this day we merge, reptilian reminders of where we come from surge through our bodies, pulsating with the presence of our ancestors who meet us at the precipice of this holy production. As the Great Spirit hums her tune to our creative weavings... we begin.
Spiralling between the ecstasy of sensual strokes and the agony of simple stillness, our breath guides us into the Now as the sun sails across skies. Gaping winds twist and twirl as voluptuous clouds scoop up light and sprinkle dancing rays upon the minutes - the hours... Time passes. Inhaling molecular synchronicity, praying with the swaying trees that exhale our life force - we forget ourselves. Our lives no longer ours to own, false identities evaporate into the intensity of this collaboration. Lovers of the earth, we are.
Our blood flows with the rivers, and our bones become the fresh fossils of today. Skin stretches across the horizon as hair follicles tingle with vibration. Feet on earth, toes digging into dirt, energy drawing upwards from her core to ours; we tense and tighten and release again - Shedding. Shaking with truth, surrendering into trust. Geometric patterns blanket our thoughts into trancelike states and we breathe deeper, yogic and stoic. Chaos transforms into peace as our colourful metaphor morphs into metaphysical experience, holding space for polarity as one being darts to and fro whilst the other surrenders into stillness. Eyes skip back and forth, a blur of perspective transpires into illusion, to see you disappear. We see you disappear...
Heart beats deepen with the rhythm of our shiva shakti play, as we separate to find our way back to each other. To graduate from our menial realms of this, that and the other - the ‘otherness’ of outsiders casting selves aside in order to discern our unity in humanity. We strive. We strive for one more minute of stillness, whilst the rapids of time crash upon us... becoming the puzzle piece of perfection, as our bodies mould into the forms of spaces, once know as places but best known as The Mother; we strive to remember her as we become her experiencing ourselves as her. We merge. Stillness with chaos, time with eternity, spirit with technology, ebb with flow, skin with colour, land with body and breath with the beat of the earth. We inhale as she exhales and together, we are the masterpiece.
One within the breath of the wind that blows, spirit smiles upon us. The sacral fire flows down the river into the bellies of babes of babylon - and creation is reborn. Wiggling into the light of sight, crackling with delectable inspiration, the serpent’s tongue flicks the air, reminded of salty sweet memories of the times before time... Satiated by spirit’s dance upon the fertile force of this moment, the serpent weaves figure eights against the spectrum of light’s possibilities, upon the escapement of life’s happenings. Happiness upon the skin of manifestation, creation upon creation, we return to the star dust of our dreams, the same dust that birthed existence itself and sparkles with the memory of eternity... as her tongue meets her tail and she devours herself in a magnificent cosmic embrace.
Our final Merge Ceremony for the last season was momentous, BIG & beautiful, full of colour, trust and magical intentions. It signified the last of 12 Merges that took place over the 6 months period - a period that helped me deepen my relationship to this process and realise again and again what it TAKES to merge, both from myself and of those who stand to become one with themselves, with the earth under their feet and with each other. A period that saw projects come to fruition, others dissolve before they had even begun and others break apart after many months of preparation. Amongst all that took place, Personal Merges continued to flow, with me continuing to be available to those who wished to mark powerful moments of life, travelling up and down and all around, to meet extraordinary people like Joni, Jackie and Meredee, to celebrate new love with Alexis and Nelson, Old love with Carol & George and Sue and John, honour the Wedding of young Eve and Vlas and be privy to the sacred stories of people’s lives such as Megan and Derek’s.
A while ago It became clear to me that I was not meant to paint ‘anybody for any reason’. That the Merging process was sacred and therefore the ‘INTENTION’ was of crucial importance. The people who eventually became the 12 Merges were initially asked when they had shown interest, the same question: “What is your intention for Merging with the Earth, Being Painted into the Land?”. Their answers became the ingredients that determined whether we could continue this process together. Over time It became important to know that the Mergee was as clear as possible about their intention to Merge, so that I could meet their vibration and manifest this organic-but-organised process together by following the 3 day process. During these days together, I learnt about extraordinary histories, life stories, the triumphs and the pains of what had come before - before, during and after I painted their bare bodies into Natural environments of significance, merging aspects of their bodies and being with elements of the earth, crashing waves, grassy plains, under beating suns and cloudy skies. From the moment we connect until the final delivery of Artworks, our engagement is raw, real and unabashed. Words need to be said, tears need to be cried and songs need to be sung - the colours of the earth meet flesh and we become one with our own majesty. Again.
The last 3 years of facilitating this process, has taught me so much about where I stand and who I have to BE to proceed with the work I am doing. I have never 'known' what this was all about, this project, painting people into the world, has had a life of its own from the get go - but the last 6 months have helped me develop a new level of appreciation for the sound process that incorporates adventure, personal discovery, ceremony and challenge and delivers a deeper sense of connection between ourselves and the world around us. I realise now, the eco-psychological basis of my work and see the value of my years of growth within the conversations of development; revering the art of self-reflection and conscious ways of being have come together to form a beautiful Immersive Art Experience that enriches lives - both of the people i work with, the people who witness the works and most definitely my own.
And I have been affirmed, again, as I have known from the start somewhere in my heart - that this process Painting People into the World, is a part of a bigger journey. There is so soo much more to come that time will eventually and inevitably blow open the doors of this creative menagerie or possibilities. I look forward to the release of my work with Planet Ark coming soon on June 5th for World Environment Day, as I am a proud ambassador for National Tree Day, I feel that my work has been utilised in exactly the ways I have dreamed of - for the betterment of humanity and our beautiful planet Earth.
Season 4 will begin in September 2017 as per the last 3 seasons have, and will run until start May 2018. This is the first conscious chosen and directed season of Merges within the organic development of 'Mergings' as a Service. There are 12 places available only, which allows me enough time and energy to travel where needs be and to facilitate the Merging Process with integrity. I invite you to delve into this process with me, as we dive deeper into ourselves and our earth, contribute thoughts and ideas, visions and inspirations and share the opportunity with your communities and families.
One of the biggest teachings i have taken with me over my short 33 years, is if your heart calls you, you’d be a fool not to follow ! for if we follow our hearts, we will be inevitably be lead closer to ourselves, closer to our essential nature, where joy resides blissfully creative and abundant, and tis no secret that ‘wellness’ lives within
Thank you everyone who is part of this Magnificent Merging Journey.
Follow your heart! ;)
In light and Dark and all in between,
What a journey.
This year, a year of expansion and contractions, has carried me across the seas and onto stages with giant screens, given a voice to stories I never thought I would experience, let alone share with the whole world, taken me to the top of rainbow mountains and to the depths of my soul, intertwined me with the medicinal journeys of many, and humbled me inside the magnificence of the amazon, guided me to meet ancient peoples from near and far, from the land I was born to the land I was reborn, spun me into existential oblivion whilst riding the waves of ‘successful’ expression - from national tv in Australia to radio broadcasts in Germany, Brazil and South Africa, exhibitions in Bondi to commissions in New Zealand - this was the year that I ‘made it’ as an artist, a year of saying YES to all opportunities, another year of travel, that fed me well… the third climactic year of devoting myself to my calling… a year of pouring my heart and soul into every collaboration and creation; I experienced my growth as well as my naivety, humbly directing me into new veins of self-development, professionally and personally - I have flown higher than ever before and fallen so hard - i have learnt the importance of seeing eyes to eye and making agreements, the making of contracts and the breaking of contracts; the reality that trust goes beyond a piece of paper, of how to be clear with others only from the place of being clear with myself - realising my worth as an artist and a human. I have learnt some painful but important lessons of discernment, how to choose otherwise in the face of opportunity. I have strengthened my values of integrity and felt the beautiful flow of clear conscious communication and collaboration. I have lost faith and gained wisdom and sped along spirits path, jumping around like a monkey on fire… on my own - a lone wolf, a wild woman, riding a unicycle on a tight rope on the edge of the precipice of consciousness, sometimes wobbling and yet making it across to the end of this giant year. Alive.
As the globes turns into a new cycle of 7 years, I return to myself. Grateful to stay close to the security of this ‘home’ in the mountains; still piecing all the pieces of 2016’s jigsaw together - processing, integrating, healing. Always healing. Feeling all the cells in my being surrender to stillness, I find myself wrapping silk threads around my body, round and round, acknowledging the blessings and the curses, wrapped into one being - one human being. Feeling big shifts, inside and out. Heart already leaping into wishes, dreams, visions and intentions for the year to come, (there is so much more…) but for now, my cocoon is warm and welcoming, resting in the knowing that metamorphosis is underway and patience is the prayer that carries me deeper into my dreams.
Many thanks to all who have journeyed with me again this year - May you all connect to your highest purpose and live your days with intentionality and meaning.
In light, darkness and all the colours in between,
"John & I both feel that we will take this experience with us for the rest of our lives, truely memorable. We have been left feeling regenerated happy & connected. So grateful to you for this. “ - Sue and John Schena
"Thankyou Orly. Words cannot describe how amazing this entire experience has been. I could never have imagined how wonderful and beautiful it would be. You are an incredibly talented person and so thrilled that we have met you. Cannot wait to see our finished artwork.
Lots of Love Megan xx"
"You really made this a magical experience for us Orly. Megan and I feel so enriched by this journey with you and will treasure it always. Amazing how we feel so fullfilled by the process and we haven't even seen the final result yet! Thank you once again.” Derek Avard
16 years world traveller, internationally recognised award winning body painter with a background in Anthropology, Orly delves deep into the enquiry of what it means to be a human being and ceaselessly expresses her art whilst following her heart. Nowadays, specialising in mimitism (camouflage), Orly's current expressions are a moving living creative and expansive entity that represents her passion for re-merging humanity with the earth from which we came, sustainable conscious living, healing the sacred feminine as we learn to respect our mother earth and advocacy for balancing commercial gain with global and local contributions.