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
Some experiences in life are so rare and spectacular, that they leave us feeling connected to the entire cosmos, the eternity of existence past present and future all rolled into NOW. Grateful for the winds that swoop me up into life's fortune and grace, after returning from a once in a lifetime experience in the Amazon jungle of Manu, Peru with Jessica Bertram and her Harakmbut team and family.
Other moments in life are fleeting and seemingly insignificant....
My month’s rental was coming to an end, and as often the case, my next moves were still unknown. I had long forgotten about my reply to Jessica’s Facebook advertisement for photographer in her upcoming Jungle Ayahuasca retreat, when I received her call. Jessica’s retreat fit nicely into the unknown, and I had never spent much time in the jungle of Peru - I had responded without hesitation or much consideration, as spirit guided me to reach out. Jessica called to let me know that I was the one she had chosen and ask when we could meet and confirm the details. Our first meeting was intriguing and exciting, learning about this wondrous courageous woman and anticipating the 7 day adventure ahead. Conveniently, my bags were already packed.
Jessica Bertram: Born in Germany with a Peruvian soul, fluent in English, Spanish and Quechua, mother of two Peruvian daughters, member of the School of Traditional Shipibo Medicine, with 22 years experience leading tours into the rainforests of Southeastern Peru - and family of the Harakbut People.
The Harakbut Tribes of the Madre de Dios River were discovered in the 1940’s and today consist of a population of only 2000. Within this group are the Huachipaeri and Amarakaeri people, amongst other tribes - all of which suffered greatly in their years of first contact with Catholic Missionaries, which continue to have a very real presence in their lives today. With the introduction of white supremacist missionaries, the majority of Huachepiri people were wiped out by diseases, leaving only 200 people left today to tell their story. Victoria, our hostess, Huachipiri woman and matriarch of ‘Grandma’s Home’ Retreat, is one of these rare people, sharing the tale of her father’s ‘first contact’. Today, ‘mission’ imposed beliefs and dependancies have left the Harakbut necessarily redefining themselves in stark contrast to their parents and grandparents generations. A fast changing world has forced the Indigenous worlds of the Madre de Dios River to conform in the ultimate confrontation of capitalist/consumer civilisation.
Jessica Bertram too shares a big history, that lead her directly into the arms of the sacred medicinal plant Ayahuasca. For the last 16 years Jessica has been working with Ayahuasca (also referred to as the Grandmother), and contributing to the community by facilitating healing ceremonies, both to bridge the gap between self and identity, as well as between ancient cultural values and introduced (now somewhat internalised) Catholic ideals. Twelve years ago, Victoria could barely breathe and the doctors told her that she was going to die and there was nothing to be done. Jessica met Victoria in the throes of her illness, and through Jessica’s Ayahuasca treatment, Victoria was able to heal herself from a ’shrunken lung’, the consequence of a life burdened with divorce, abuse and colonisation. Together, their commitment to the healing practice of Ayahuasca is secured in the humble retreat space that they have built.
Nestled deep in the banana plantations of the jungle, accessible only by boat, are the huts that home the hearts of those wanting to expand and heal. Here, in this buzzing and alive corner of the world, lives Victoria, her second husband Albert, and Victoria’s two sons, Jose and Steve. I was brought along to Grandma’s Home as the photographer, to capture the essence of their work and their space. What I experienced was one of the richest encounters of my life, an invaluable first hand experience learning, growing and loving (and painting) with ancient people of the lands.
Our little huts awaited, as we huddled around Victoria and Albert who welcomed us and gave us a few guidelines to liven in the jungle. Don’t walk off on your own, wear socks with your sandals, and listen… always listen. The sounds of the jungle would teach us lots over the coming days, if we would just learn how to listen. Our intimate group of four included a Canadian school teacher, two medical students studying the health benefits of Ayahuasca, a Swedish film maker and myself. Together we humbly joined Jessica and the family and embarked upon an experience that would stay with each of us for the rest of our lives.
The days that followed saw us creeping through viney jungle, wading through pebbled rivers, drinking sacred water from bamboo, identifying Puma tracks from Tapirs, rafting through Amazonian waters whilst bird watching, learning about plants that cower when you touch them and others that hurt you to heal you. We Immersed ourselves in the healing natural hot springs, ate at least 10 different meals made of bananas at different stages in their ripening process, and appreciated every spare moment we had to simply breath, rest and consolidate the plant teachings from our three powerful ayahuasca ceremonies set amongst howling nocturnal monkeys and noisy giant jungle rats.
As meals were being prepared, we would curiously peel back pages of a giant folder, lovingly packed with an extensive collection of rare historical photos, photos of bare bodies, marked with the traditional wito* designs, as the pages turned the clothes began to creep in, the occasional image presented the catholic priest, surrounded by the people of the jungle, characteristically out of place, on mission to convert, conform and ultimately control. Jaws dropped at the incredible nature of such images, whilst both Alberto and Victoria identified family and friends from generations passed. Many persons they recalled are still alive, an ancient testament to worlds of extreme transition.
One day as the others were asleep resting, I sat with Victoria and Jose, threading beads onto necklaces that were to be given as offerings to the guests. As we threaded, I asked questions in my broken Spanish, and was privy to absorb the energy of Harakmbut family life, as jokes were made between mother and son, I understood the meaning without understanding words; marriage was the topic and Jose was the subject - being of the same age as Jose, and recognising the banter, I recognised again that some things in life cross cultures - indeed we are closer to one another than we might think at times. Victoria gifted me a monkey tooth and a piece of iguana skin. I painted her hair with Wito to cover her greys. The intimacy of the moments shared will stay with me forever.
No two ayahuasca ceremonies are ever the same. Most of what we experience is unable to be shared in words - and so, it seems fitting that our second ceremony left us somewhat speechless, having been escorted into multidimensional universes all existing simultaneously, past present and futute, now and only now in all of our minds and hearts… Let’s simply say that something BIG happened and I wouldn’t dare try to tell you about it.. It was clear, however, that things would never be the same for any of us.
Tobacco Insights and Breakthroughs
The two young medical students who joined the retreat encountered ayahuasca for the first time. One of them had clearly been a big smoker upon arrival, each break we took on our 5 hour drive to Manu saw him lighting up a tailor cigarette and puffing away as if his life depended on it. By the second ceremony, we could hear him crying out for help, for he believed that the tobacco was going to kill him and he was evidently afraid. He didn’t smoke another cigarette for the rest of the week, and I doubt he would ever touch a tailor cigarette again. On the other hand, if it were not for the sacred Tobacco, Mapacho, I do not think I would have made it out the other end. I give thanks for my reunion with a sacred medicinal plant that supports me in being grounded, centred and safe.
Though it was not my first priority, I was definitely hoping to have the opportunity to honour my hosts by painting them into their world… As part of my Emerging Earth People project, I aspire to recognise our indigenous origins through the people who have lived in harmony with the earth - and simultaneously be part of the SHARING of history… but as I have learnt along the way, 'mutual enthusiasm' is paramount and creating this experience/artwork was not my agenda in any way. Nevertheless, Victoria and Alberto were wanting to be painted and chose their special tree for the occasion. It was my first time painting people into the world who spoke a different language to me, which definitely added an extra challenge, but nothing that would hold us back. As we merged, Jessica swatted gigantic ants and mosquitos, and the two held one another as lovers do, whilst I honoured them for their creation of ‘Grandma’s Home’. The outcome, more than a million words. Ancient Love Lives on.
When it was time to leave, we bid our gracious hosts farewell, and each received a threaded gift, as a memory of our time together. Mine had a little frog on it, reminding me again of the frog medicine that has been appearing before my mind’s eye every ceremony... Our farewell was heartfelt, and a little bit sad - we had become family in a very short time, worlds apart united through our willingness to learn, heal and grow.
Giving thanks, Dákichi, for my time in the jungle, as I await the opportunity to return again to Grandma’s Home, one day.
For more info www.grandashome.com coming soon!
Photography and Web Design by Orly Faya
*wito - a natural dye that comes from a tree in the jungle.
The Harakbut Lovers, 2016
Life does not follow our plans. Spirit is naturally unpredictable, spontaneous and mischievous. Her manifestations are timely, organic and reveal much more than what meets the eye. There have been many times I have wondered why I bother to make plans at all, yet, as I journey along, I realise that it is not the plans themselves that are problematic, nor is the fact that the outcomes often differ from what we intended. Rather, it is our attachment to plans and outcomes that causes us to fall when they don’t ‘turn out’ as we had desired. We may confuse this misalignment of desire with outcome, as equating a measure of our own self worth and success, as if what 'seems to be' is the only perspective to digest. As children of the earth, we may cry out for the injustice of life's unexpected twists, without fully grasping the fact that this reality is made up of layers and dimensions - and hat all 'turns out' just as it needs to, according to the perfection of existence. We are made of stars, and the divine plan is written in the cosmos.
When it comes to our determination of plans, we are lead by the masculine. The ‘masculine’ energy lives within the domain of doing, striving, measuring, analysing and defining and forms the basis of our western way of living. We are bred to make plans, to set goals, and measure cause and effect as linear principles. The feminine knows how to flow, knows how to surrender our little plans to the great plan, understands that The Highest Good is always being served, albeit sometimes in mystical and unknowable ways. The feminine is about patience and collaborates with spirit and nature. The weather is the true determining factor and the great plan is always met through our BEING-NESS. If our plans stand as structures of possibility, frameworks of intention, then we are free to surrender, free to trust the great flow, and relinquish our earthly dreams to the unimaginable creative perfection of life's unfolding… If we are able to connect with the feminine flow, then we can accept whole heartedly that things are not what they seem, and that LIFE is far deeper and layered than anything it looks like on the surface of our senses. Through this understanding, is it so that all of our plans are merely vehicles for us to face ourselves through the great magical reflection of life happenings and each other. Our visions and dreams reflect only the surface of that which brews within us… the unfolding of our plans is a continuous revelation into that which we have requested to learn, on a soul level. Who we BE in the face of thwarted expectations is our key to the magic of LIFE.
And so, I have a story to share, about my recent happenings and their respective unravellings…
Recently I met a fellow creative, a siSTAR whose reciprocal admiration had been building through online streams for some time... In other words, we loved each others work! When we met in Peru in person, the air instantly bubbled with beauty, excitement and anticipation! I offered a collaboration, a sharing of our hearts and art, money free, pure and simple - an exchange of celebration. She agreed and we set about planning an extraordinary adventure, honouring The Goddess through both of our crafts and each others bodies and beings. For the first time in a long time, I was going to be the focus of the art form, I was going to be the actual figure inside the image, celebrated, not for what I do but for who I am in my entirety. The possibility of such an incredible experience stirred feelings inside me that I hadn’t realised I had had, and I recognised the ‘medicine’ of our work. The more I attuned to the possibility, the more I began to believe that it was a destined outcome, the more attached I became to the plan. I suggested the most incredible place I could think of... -Vinicunca aka 'The Rainbow Mountains'! I had only seen photos but it looked like a piece of land that mirrored my soul. She too beamed at the possibility, we worked out dates and I set about organising the logistics.
I googled Rainbow Mountains tours, and the first group that popped up was Ayni Tours Peru. I wrote in the customer service box with questions after question, and every time, the kind lady behind the screen named Amanda would respond with a a reasonable and rational answer. Finally I wrote an email explaining our intention to paint and produce certain creations, with links to my work. We needed to know for sure if it would be ok with them to bare breasts up on the mountains? How cold would it be? and whether this was truly possible…?? She replied that indeed it would be, as long as the tour guide didn’t have to be naked also! I assured her that this wasn’t necessary. Our wickedly outrageous idea was being met with the necessary logistics, making it... possible! Without me even realising, my excitement became the glue of attachment. Though confirmation had been achieved by all parties… the morning would reveal a new perspective of this dream.
Upon waking, the wonderful 24years old Creaturess told me that she had 'changed her mind.' Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed, unsure if my upset lay more in not doing the actual project, or in the fact that someone had confirmed a project, broadcasted the collaboration to the online world, and then changed their mind. Questions about integrity stampeded through my consciousness: what exactly was integrity in this case? She was ‘honouring her feelings’ rather than 'honouring her word'… surely integrity must come from within? An honouring of self! Then why do I feel so let down...? There we were, living together in a small house for another 7 days, no where to hide or escape. Disappointed to the core, struggling to sift through my emotions, I reached out to my online networks and received many words of wisdom that helped me understand, be vulnerable and accept 'the way life goes' - it simply wasn’t meant to be for now. I wrote to Amanda, told her of the unfolding, thanked her for her time, and surrendered to spirit’s flow.
A couple of days later, in the midst of a synchronistic meeting with J’aime, a talented Canadian filmmaker with a passion for celebrating Indigenous wisdom, I received an email from Amanda from Ayni Tours Peru. She wrote that they were interested in my work and asked me what would I need to make it happen? Knowing at this point how big an event it is to paint someone into the world, I responded clearly: there are two options, I either paint people into the world on commission, OR I honour my other project, Emerging Earth People and collaborate with Indigenous people through this creative expression to honour our origins as human beings.
Her reply began “This is a stream of consciousness kind of email” and told me that her partner Domingo was Indigenous to the Cusco regions, and that they had a big story to tell about the environment, tourism and 'The Rainbow Mountain’. As I read her email, I sensed spirit’s great plan unfolding and my deep sense of disappointment swiftly transforming into an emotion that words struggle to define, but that evolved into deep deep sense of gratitude.
AYNI means ‘reciprocity’ in Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire and the local language of many from these regions and surrounds. Amanda and Domingo founded their company, Ayni Tours Peru, five years ago in the name of giving back to the local communities from the entourage of tourists coming to ’see’ other worlds. Their teams are made up of people Indigenous to the local areas, and local ‘homestays’ play a huge part in their tour packages. Visits to Vinicunca, also knows as the Rainbow Mountain, had been restricted to only a few local tour groups because that was all demand had required for all of history… until one fateful Instagram post last October. Instantly one stunning image of the Rainbow Mountains went Viral and the world quickly discovered a hidden magical and sacred piece of earth. The people started to flock in great numbers to see the magical rainbow mountains and small unauthorised tour groups from the city of Cusco began to take large groups of people to see the site, leading unconscious brigades of people on one day journeys, leaving rubbish behind whilst literally walking through the backyard of people's villages on the way. Amanda and Domingo continued their work with small groups, and witnessed the calamity of changes as they swept in, scatterings of littered packagings dotted the paths as hundreds of people a day from countries far and wide began flocking in to see the magical mountains - with no idea that their presence was changing this world forever.
Amanda shared this story with me and their desire to bring consciousness to travellers in these regions. My insatiable imagination rippled with possibility, yet again. As my work has developed over the last years, so has my intention deepened - and the opportunity to story tell through art and cross cultural collaboration via Indigenous Wisdoms has become a central focus of my work, and my life. For me it was clear, this project had taken on a life of its own, and had majestically evolved into something so much greater than I could ever have imagined! I shared the news with J’aime, invited her on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she jumped for joy at the opportunity! Spirit quickly manifests that which is in flow!
I wrote back to Amanda with our plan to co-create and collaborate, money free, promotion for all, and most importantly, in the name of our shared intention for elevating consciousness about the earth, connecting the visitors to the people of the lands and highlighting our human responsibility to care and reciprocate whilst we travel. Amanda agreed, we set a date and the dream became a reality - Again.
J’aime had to disappear after that day to complete other productions, and so we planned to connect the evening before the date that we were booked to journey to the mountains. the tour guide Domingo was also out and about on tours and was only available to connect the night before the date of our magical tour also. And so, I waited with bated breath to coordinate our meetings, what was needed from all parties and how this was actually going to happen… the night arrived and I trudged down the mountains to get wifi signal. I waited, and waited - and eventually Domingo and I connected. He tells me we need to be in Cusco (1 hr away) at 7am - 7am!? Meanwhile J’aime is no where to be found, not a peep. I tell Domingo OK, and hang up the phone feeling anxious. Although it would be a wonderful thing to paint him into the mountains, without J’aime to document the process, my enthusiasm is halved. Its a huge endeavour! And to be honest, I wasn’t even feeling 100%. I waited another hour and walked back up the mountain, feeling more and more comfortable with cancelling the journey the next morning..
5:30am - Dawn broke and still no word from Jaime. I called Domingo and he answered sleepily… Apologising for waking him up, I hesitantly told him that I had not heard from Jaime and did not know where she was or what to do. The film maker was missing! He replied that everything had been already been booked and we had to go. Again, I simply agreed. I hung up, had a shower, packed my bags and walked down the mountain again to catch the collectivo to Cusco, all the way breathing into surrender and trust.. And then, that joyful familiar trill of a whatsapp message sounded! Jaime was awake and well in a not-too-far away mountain, and just in time to find out that she had an hour to taxi it to Cusco and meet us. I told her we would wait for her, then breathed into gratitude as I skipped the rest of the way to the collectivo!
I arrived, shortly followed by Jaime. I noticed Jamie had packed extra light and asked if she had warm clothes? ( we were going to be sleeping in -15degree!) She had literally bundled herself and her camera out of bed, beanie-less, gloves-less, scarf-less… with one layer of tights on. Luckily in Peru you can buy warm things around every corner for very cheap. “Oh we are climbing?” she asked… “uhhh… yep” I replied. “..About 5000masl!” Jaime seemed to be taking the reality in, meanwhile I was so grateful that she had showed up... We had had very little time to discuss any details - and here we were, traveling directly into The Calling, whilst flying on the wings of trust.
Domingo, his team and the Ayni 4WD minibus soon rolled into Calle Puputi, and began bundling us and our equipment into the car. As we headed off we started to talk about the details of the projects, the climb and the journey, when Domingo suddenly asked, “So who are you going to paint?”. Jaime and I looked at each other in disbelief. “You!” I said. Domingo laughed as he replied, “Oh no no no not me.” My face must have changed from smile, to confusion… “Yes, Domingo - Amanda organised YOU to be painted. She didn’t tell you?” Domingo’s face became very serious as he turned around, faced the front and mumbled something about calling Amanda. Already this journey had been one surprise after the next - already I felt completely surrendered. What will be will be. I had already released the painting of this project so many times, that I wasn’t far from accepting that as a possible outcome. I was happy to be going on the adventure and not have to think about pulling off a rainbow mountain merge at this point! The five hour drive continue with Jaime and I chatting away. Our first stop allowed us to buy warm things for Jaime, have a juice, and stretch our legs. I sat on the step next to Domingo and asked him how his chat went with Amanda? He replied simply - “Yes, Ok I will do it!”. Hooray! A willing Emerging Earth Paintee, man of the land; it was on. We celebrated as we drove the next 3 hours to destination.
We arrived at the stop where we would begin our trek. Our mules and muleteer, Daniel, waited patiently for us. Next to him, a beautiful older Abuela sat with her tapestries and creations laid out for sale. I crouched down and began to sift through colourful hand woven bags, fabrics and threads. She smiled and waited patiently for me to choose. Finally, I skipped down to the team with a couple of precious creations, a full heart and the song of Gracias on my lips. A table had already been set up in the middle of the open terrain, tablecloth and all, ready to serve us warm vegetable soup. Jaime and I were feeling life guests of honour, and graciously sat down to our humble meal. Warm and soothing and light, for as Domingo explained to us, we would need all our energy to walk at this altitude, and too much food would require too much digestion. As the sun beat down, and Jaime managed to nut out an interview with me before we began our trek up the mountain.
The walk was beautiful! The mountains bore down upon us with their majestic colours and the streams of water revealed themselves all the way, signifying healthy earth and abundance. The air grew thinner and the coca leaves we chewed connected us to the earth and gave us the strength to keep going. Meeting locals on the way we stopped, greeted, sat and shared coca together, choosing the best three leaves from the bag and handing them to our new friends. One at a time, whispers of prayers and gratitude were blowed upon the leaves before they met their destiny inside the mouths of humble travellers. Blessings were passed to one another as we all continued on our ways.
Two hours later we arrived at base camp - somehow the muleteers had already arrived, set up a food tent, two tents for sleeping and had almost finished preparing tea and dinner - a beautiful warming vegetarian set made with lots of love. As we ate, we spoke openly of our agreement, our expectations and the art of collaboration and set the tone for open dialogue, and clear communications. After dinner we set up our humble home and settled into the starriest night ever seen, the galaxies above sparkled upon us and our cosmic mission. I showed Domingo an image of a spot I wished to find in the mountains and asked him if he knew where to find it… - he replied to my surprise “China!” Confused, I asked again… and he clarified that the rainbow mountains in the picture were found in CHINA. Literally. We laughed into the evening whilst taking one minute exposure galaxy photos.
We woke up at 4am and headed up the mountain by 5… Apart from two eager people who overtook us and beat us to the top, we were alone in our early morning climb. By the last 20 minutes, our climb had become a slow laborious stride as we struggled to breathe, each step was huge effort. The air thin, and the incline steep, the rainbows revealed themselves more and more with every step, egging us on until finally, we made it to the top! ….What we saw from the top was out of this world. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a place so magnificent could exist. Bliss. And yet, there was no time to waste. The production was on and the sun was making its journey across the sky. Finding the right location wasn’t hard, as every perspective glowed with possibility. Though Domingo had done this climb 100’s of times, this was definitely the first time he would take his clothes off to be merged with the landscape. I felt honoured to be able to offer him a new experience in a place he knew so well.
The moment had arrived. I declared my gratitude to the spirits of the land, the people of the land, the synchronised perfect moment in time, pacha mama and padre sielo. We hugged. I wished him a good journey. He took off his jacket, then his jumper, then his shirt, revealing his bare body to the Apus and to two foreign women who he had only just met. Without a doubt in my mind, this had never happened before in human history! I began to work, as fast as I could, painting him, stroke by stroke, into the glorious magical rainbow streaks of earth, formed over thousands of years, immortalised through this merging experience in one hour! As we came towards the end, I was conscious of not wanting to cut his hands off in my post-production magic - so I asked Domingo where his hands might feel most comfortable, anywhere above the waist. Unable to connect with the question, I suggested he raise one arm as if pointing to a place in the distance, a stance I had seen him take on many times already in the short time we had been together. He raised an arm, but didn’t seem to be able to connect with the movement. It looked superficial and forced, and a shadow formed under his arm. Suddenly I realised if he simply pointed to the heavens, both the energy of the stance and the shadow under the arm would be healed. I suggested that he raise his arm right up, and it worked. Quickly I painted his arm into place, and snapped my picture. We made it! An expedition of the spirit, a collaboration of great magnitude - and we had done it. Quick hugs of congratulation before Domingo hurriedly put his clothes back on. His blue face smiled at the oncoming entourage of tourists, who had thankfully missed the show.
I was spent, needed to drink, pee, and all of the above. After fulfilling my needs I sat - and stared at the magnificent view. I knew that there was one more piece to do - as Jaime, superstar filmmaker, was awaiting her moment. But I needed a moment to breathe. As I took my time, Jaime interviews Domingo about the significance of being painted into the earth. The people had begun to arrive, we were no longer alone. I scoped the space to find the chosen spot for Jaime, and she finished the interview with Domingo. For some reason, I was struck by this beautiful understated greeny-blue space right in between the rainbow land and the black and white striped snow capped mountains. It was the space of sacred transformation, a space of sacred feminine energy. Jaime had wanted to include her grandmothers sapphire ring in the artwork, which looked like she was adorned with a piece of the sky! Somehow it felt right to Merge her with this seemingly understated, poignant perspective where rainbow meets light and dark. By this time, there were many people around! Some stopped to watch; most moved on to the higher perspectives. Jaime bared herself to the shoulders and braved the wind that had begun to pick up. We sang the tunes of the grandmothers as we Merged and sent prayers out to the earth, prayers of gratitude and love for the transformation of life. Half an hour later, painting was complete and I took the final pictures. Our work for the day was done.
It took us a while to decide that we were too tired to explore further, and eventually realised that climbing back down to camp to rest was the most tempting option. To our surprise, it was still only 10’oclock in the morning - but we were completely spent. As we walked back down, hundreds made their way up, marvelling at the blue faced people by my side. Most travellers were on foot and some on little horses that struggled to take their heavy human loads up the mountain. The view was spectacular the whole way. Between the thin air and the picturesque mountains, my breath was taken again and again. My feet carried me back to camp but my heart fought to stay, to explore a land that mirrored my spirit... All the way I promised that I would return, one day.
Jaime and I collapsed as soon as we made it back to camp. Our sleepless night, coupled with the biggest expedition of our lives had taken its toll. We basked in the warm sun and memories of what we had just accomplished. Eventually sleep evaded us, so we sat together and shared feelings, stories, coca and cacoa until dinner time. As always, treated like princesses, we ate delicious food and the air was filled with gratitude. It had been a super special day, one that none of us would ever forget, and that the whole world was going to share soon.
After dinner we played under the galaxy again and made light art, writing our names and making pictures with my LED light and long exposure until the cold bit so hard we retreated to bed. Jaime and I agreed that the first night had been one of the most painful experiences ever - freezing cold, and so so uncomfortable! Having only just met a few days earlier, we hadn’t reached a ‘spooning' point in our relationship yet - but now, our life-changing day coupled with the icey night found us easily resolving to stick to one other like glue for the entire night. and it really really helped!! Its amazing what 48 hours in the mountains can do for a relationship! I managed to stay warm for most of the night, the dreams flowed and the morning didn’t come a minute too soon.
When I woke, the lake was frozen. I wondered how little ducks we had seen the day earlier survived the frost? Even the cacti had furry jackets to protect them from the cold... Hot cacao and eggs warmed us up before the sweet walk back to the bottom of the mountain. It had been an exceptional experience! First class service from all ends, exquisite teamwork, magical energy and final products that are sure to bring magic into the hearts of those who have forgotten… We revelled in our experiences the whole way back to Cusco. Domingo left us at the restaurant for our 'included lunch', to be taken care of before we made our respective ways back ‘home'. Big hugs and grateful acknowledgments were passed, and promises of footage to be shared were declared- we bid each other farewell with anticipation of post-production creations and final works to share.
Each of us came together with our own project. Me, with Emerging Earth People, Jaime with her Indigenous Documentary and Ayni Tours Peru with their project to Protect the Mountains. Each of our projects weaved into one masterful collaboration that will take us further with our respective projects - but ultimately, each project’s intention was and is the same: To honour the earth we live upon, to respect the people of the lands we visit, and to re-member ourselves as pieces of the earth, children of the gods, family of creation born to collaborate and work together.
I send these blessings out to ALL of you who have chosen to read this LONG blog!!
Thank you for sharing this journey, your energy is felt and means a lot. May your days be met with magical synchronistic meetings and may we all remember to TRUST the great plan and see our goals as ’structures of possibility’ rather than outcomes we need to achieve! As we surrender, she weaves her magic into our lives with grace, humility and the most unexpected, unimaginable perfection.
WITH SO MUCH LOVE AND GRATITUDE,
Today, the 11th May, at 11 o’clock I will go and meet with the other 11 women who I am about to spend 11 days with on retreat with the sacred medicine ayahuasca and a powerful shaman, a Shipibo woman from Pulcalpa, a place far away in the hills of Peru.
Yes, I am nervous. Im not sure if its nervousness about the medicine itself and what it will reveal to me, or simply a sudden anxiety about spending 11 days with 11 women whilst drinking medicine. In any case, I have chosen this path by investing a significant amount of money to participate. The choice was mine, and now - here i am. No turning back.
Its been an eventful couple of weeks (months, years..!) leading up to this point. Having recently posted a Bored Panda article (online media of 'interesting people doing interesting things' publication with 20-30M reach/day) , relatively absent minded to the consequences of putting my images out to the masses, I have been inundated with media requests and invitations. Totally amazing! I even got picked up by channel 7 and starred on Sunrise one early morning last week in the Blue Mountains! (Check it out here). It's been fun to be a superstar but overwhelming considering I needed to prepare to jump on a plane to Peru 2 days later. The logistics of living without a home, preparing to leave without a return date whilst receiving the biggest exposure possible via National TV in the country that I was leaving, has been altogether - insane.
I left Australia at 12:30pm on the 8.5 and arrived 12 hours later in Santiago, at 12:10pm on the 8.5. Longest day of my life. But that wasn’t the end… I had another 6 hours to wait for another 4 hour flight to Lima. Grateful to see the little Peruvian grandmama waiting for me at the airport with a sign that read, “Welcome to Peru Orly”, we trundled ‘home’ and I slept for the next 24 hours - enough time to recoup before my next flight to Cuzco.
Now sitting here in The Sacred Valley of Peru, I feel somewhat displaced, that familiar feeling of having ‘just moved’. The hills, the apus, are familiar - but I have changed. Truthfully I didn’t feel ready to leave Australia, projects have been going well and so has my work Painting People into the World. I am relieved to think that I can return on my pre purchased return ticket in September to honour Spring bookings and hopefully receive the government grant to support Merging with the Earth: First People project. On the other hand, I know this moment with transform and Peru will warm again as time goes on - last time I was here, I wanted to stay forever!
This is it. I am about to go offline and enter a very intense session of healing work. I have chosen to go deep into this experience to get clarity about the direction I am to take with my work from here on in, to clear old 'stuff' that holds me back from expansion and to heal and understand some health issues that have been plaguing me since I arrived back in Australia. Ready or not, this is it. Spirit I trust you! Hold me and protect me as I grow.
To all my friend, family and fans around the world, I feel you with me always. See you on the other side.
Love Orly Faya
The Biosphere Foundation and the ship MIR. 2015-2016
I travel through the night and arrive in Singapore whilst its still dark. Gaie awaits my arrival at the lobby, and greets me as a sister would. I feel like we already know each other even though we just met. We are buggy carted to The Mir, the 105 year old ship that is to be my home for the next 5 weeks. Captain Laser welcomes me aboard as my heavy overpacked suitcase is lugged on deck. I am tired but excited. Six months ago, I was invited to join The Biosphere crew to honour their work in the world and celebrate our connection to our planet by painting them into their world. My arrival felt like a dream become ‘reality’, and as I crawled into my bunk for my first nights sleep, I disappeared into the mystery of wild sailing adventures ahead, grateful and satisfied.
I awoke on Christmas day - the sails still needed to go up so we decide to delay our exit from Singapore. That night, family members of the Singaporean shipmates joined our christmas dinner. Sitting on pillows on deck, our faces glowed under the full moonlight. We feasted on turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes and broccoli and the vibe was of family, love and humble beginnings.
Sailing Singapore to Bali - 10 days at sea
As we pushed off into the sea, my moon cycled into flow. Impeccable timing a.k.a. a fucking disaster. Pain permeated my whole body as the ship began it’s rock and roll… A day passed and we arrived at immigration in Indonesia. Thick black smoke bellowed from the immigration boat whilst papers were passed over sea via fishing nets. Permissions were granted. Our crew filmed the black layer of oil on the surface of the water as we sailed away. Meanwhile, a headache started to pound to the beat of my creeping nausea. A squall set in and the rain washed us into submission, the team came to life with exuberance as Laser thundered his orders upon us as only a Captain on a ship knows how.. By the end of the next day, my headache had washed away. Gaie and Laser began to share their story with me, 30 years working in the realms of conservation, education and environmental connection, and the original ‘Biospherians’ from Biosphere Two. Biosphere Two was the world’s largest scientific enclosure, a $200 million dollar experiment funded by Ed Bass, a white sheep philanthropist from a family with an accumulated oil fortune. The multi million dollar initiative was born to mimic the earth itself as a research institute, set in the desert of Oracle, Arizona. Gaie and Laser lived inside for two years, breathing air only from within and eating food only from what was grown. The experience that ended in a savage armed seize for reasons mysteriously unanswered, set the foundation and life’s purpose for Abigail Alling (Gaei) and Mark van Thillo’s (Laser). As I listened to them share their story with me, I began to awaken more and more to the gravity of my presence their on The Mir, that through painting them into the biosphere itself, we would be expressing their message in the most direct visual way, honour their story through my paintbrush.
As the days went on, planning ensued, and meetings were had. Each person within our 10 piece ship ensemble was assigned a vital and significant role in the execution of our upcoming unprecedented production. It was finally decided that Gaie and Laser were to be painted naked into the sea and the ship whilst sailing through Indonesian waters. As usual, I agreed to the plan without knowing how I would be able to do it and prayed to Spirit to support me in seeing it through! In the meantime, life on the ship continued with our voyage to Bali only halfway there, 4 hours shifts cycled between the crew for helming, deck checks, and meal preparations, and the starlit sky guided our way, through the deep sway of the nights. The weather rumbled with anticipation for a choice had to be made on which day we would create. A gamble, in pure faith - we chose. We prayed to the mother for stillness on the chosen day so we could express our love for her and then we surrendered in trust and respect; I asked them to trust me, trust her, and they did.
The day arrived, I awoke at 4:44am to meditate and pray before the Merge. The sky was dark excepts for a trifecta of light. Mars, Venus and the moon gathered in a perfect isosceles triangle, symbolic of the unification we were about to honour between the people, the messenger and the almighty. I breathed it in and sat in stillness, inhaling trust and exhaling prayers of gratitude. Eventually i made my way to front deck to meet the crew. Gaie and Laser were ready and prepped in their sarongs, and Qi, our camera man was waiting to be hoisted up the mast to install the go pro for the time-lapse footage. As they leveraged him up, Gaie and Laser and I huddled together, arms around each other, to give thanks, honouring the essence of the creation and joining our intentions for the healing of the planet and humanity. The world became lighter with the dawn approaching and time beckoned us to begin. Hair was woven into plaits, gelled back, sprayed white and left to dry, positions were taken, marked out and secured - heads faced the same direction and hands held one another at the meeting point of the flag pole whilst feet sunk into the deck. A path of sea stretched out before us, and the stillness of the water affirmed the perfection of the moment. The Merge had begun.
The next four hours that ensued were holy. Our synchronised purpose revealed the magic of teamwork and Spirit kept the world still and peaceful whilst we worked. Our shared message was reborn through our hands, our hearts and our Art, to be told forever through the works created. As the heat beat down, the speed at which I needed to paint began to take its toll.. after about 3 hours my head was spinning and I needed to keep myself from blacking out. Breathing consciously until the dizziness past again and again. Meanwhile, Gaie and Laser seemed to be blissed out on the sparkles of the sea, with barely a quiver and certainly no complaints. Strong as the 105 year old ship we sailed upon, their legs solid, connected and merged held them in place as I painted straight lines of the decking on the curves of their steady ankles.
And then, without warning, we were done. Photos were painstakingly taken whilst the sun glared against my camera screen, and I squinted and struggled to see whether I had got the shot..! Within seconds of me declaring the word 'OK', the Biospherians had jumped off the edge of the boat with no second chances offered; paint was released from its body-bound form whilst the blessed two baptised in the cool baths of the gods.
My job was done.
Ever grateful for the unique experience with the Biosphere Foundation, for witnessing the difference that a small group of people can make in the world when they follow their heart, take risks in life and live integrally with purpose to the calling.
17 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. , 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.