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New life: reflections on being a new mum

Every year I seem to have less and less time for blogging. This year has the record for the least number of entries, but for a very good reason: motherhood!

Oh. My. Gosh. What a new appreciation I have for all the mothers of the world.

Maternity leave is not a holiday by any stretch of the imagination. There is no time for reading. I certainly did not get ahead on my PhD…

Motherhood is joy-filled work. Joy-filled, sleep-deprived, under-acknowledged, completely-exhausting work. Coffee with a friend and an hour or two of sleep is the closest to a break that (some) early mothers get. For me the focus was survival. Adrenaline, love-drug hormones, coffee and chocolate got me through.

Amazingly these little creatures have so much more to teach us than I could have imagined. Most surprising has been the level of love I feel for the little guy – I didn’t even know this feeling existed. And it grows and grows.

For the most part the last five months are a blur of beautiful moments.

Right in front of our eyes he has developed from this curious little three-day old gazing out at the world:
To this happy cheeky two-month old:

And to now at five-months, rolling, sitting, playing, and on the move:

There is so much that I’d like to reflect on and share, but time is rare for blogging on the magic of seeing this transformation. The moment I pick up my laptop is the moment he wakes up. All I can say is that the cliche every parent seems to say is true: “it’s hard work, but it’s worth it.”

What makes it so worth it?

The smiles, the laughter, the hugs, the perfectly soft skin, the innocence and essential goodness of a burgeoning being. The deep truth and kindness in his eyes. And most of all the love.

I feel joy every time I look at him. I treasure every moment I spend with him. I find every new things does endlessly fascinating: the first smile, the time he could focus on an object (my friend’s set of keys), the first time he rolled over, the first time he pulled himself forward. And all these firsts weren’t really firsts – each developed subtly, little by little, day by day, doing something by accident and in time learning to do it with intention.

He’s like the best toy ever. The cutest and most adorable little person I have ever known. Words can’t express how grateful I feel to have such a healthy and happy son, and a supportive and caring partner, in my life.

That’s it from me for now. I am glad to have posted at least one entry about the most significant and wonder-filled event of my life.

Wishing everyone a relaxing holiday, and a healthy and happy year for 2017!


P.S. For any readers soon to have a baby, and as a “note to self” should I decide to have another one, I have listed my 2 cents on getting through some of the initial challenges of motherhood below.


  1. Birth ends with the most incredible moment of one’s life. Before that it is insanely intense and can take a ridiculous number of hours, especially for your first as your body doesn’t know what to do. Pre-natal belly dancing and Calm Birth courses can help – my partner helped me breath “calmly” through every contraction. If your baby is not in the right position then Western medicine and epidurals can save your (and your baby’s) life. Just get through it.
  2. Bring your own food to hospital. Homemade fish broth is filled with the kinds of nutrients that your body will thank you for in the couple of days after giving birth. My partner brought me slow-cooked lamb shanks with roasted potatoes from a pub nearby. Without a doubt this was the best meal of my life.
  3. The first week is the hardest. The “feeding frenzy” will end. Nap and eat at any moment you can. Lie down when your baby is asleep, even lying horizontal for 5 minutes will help. Breastfeeding can take more than an hour, and you can have less time than that between feeds. Let someone else do the dishes and organise your dinners.
  4. You may want visitors, you may not. Visitors: you can give no better gift than a home-cooked meal. Please wash the cups before you leave – even if they insist there’s no need to, just do it! New mums don’t need any extra work.
  5. Do not attempt to work on anything outside your baby in the first three months. Sometimes called the “fourth trimester”. They say to demand feed to build the milk supply and it can be intense. It’s ok to let your baby sleep on you – keep a book handy. Carriers are great for letting baby sleep on the go. Surrender. Do whatever gets you through.
  6. Get to know your baby’s signs.  Baby Language by DBL is interesting. This list of signs of tiredness helped me. Crying may mean baby is tired (or over-tired), NOT hungry!
  7. ASK: ask for what you need. Be specific, people cannot read your mind. Unless they are a mother they are unlikely to have any idea what you need. E.g. If you would like someone to get you a glass of water every time you breast feed then ask!
  8. Join a community or two. For me Ryoho yoga therapy women’s health lunchtime classes (bring your baby), and my vibrant and fun mother’s group (plus one father) have been a great support throughout.
  9. Breastfeeding takes an unexpected amount of time and takes a lot of energy with so many of your nutrients going to your baby, but your baby gets all that goodness, and it’s convenient when compared to bottles – worth the effort! Drink lots of water.
  10. Potty/toilet training need not wait until one or two (or three) year’s old. You can start in the first few months. At the first sign of straining, you can help baby get comfortable with the potty, and (maybe, I’m yet to see) they can be trained or at least half-trained right from the beginning.
  11. Sleep is key. Babies need to learn how to go to sleep and connect their sleep cycles without your help. Being attentive to every little waking noise can be counter-productive, and you yourself can turn your presence (or your breasts) into a sleep aid. At five months I was waking to feed or calm Charlie every hour and the sleep deprivation was driving me crazy! I needed help. My sister’s friend shared the Sleep Sense program by Dana Obleman – it’s a series of simple videos that met me exactly where I was and stepped me through the training. Much better than books when one is lacking time and mental stamina to read… It helped us within one night, with only about 20 minutes of tears.
  12. Getting to rhythm of sleep, eat, play (rather than play, eat, sleep) helps a lot.
  13. Every baby, every mother, and every experience of motherhood is different. So these tips probably won’t help you, or even me if I do it again. Follow your instinct. Try not to let the challenges take away from the magic experienced each day. And always ask for help if you need it.

Havana: Aesthetics of an old city in changing Communist Cuba

My partner and I recently spent a week in Cuba in June, mostly in the apocalyptic-like old city of Havana. My research supervisor asked if we speak at a “soiree” at his house, and in preparation I gathered some of my thoughts here.

While I reveled in the history and politics, my partner is an artist and conversationalist, leading him to engage with the multi-layered city in a different way than I did. Two of the most striking aspects of Havana are photographic wall murals in the making…IMG_4878

First there’s the buildings, the mixture of magnificent old Spanish squares, generally a few levels high, some part of a new reconstruction project, others awaiting their make-over or demolition house large trees and ginormous vines that hang out of the windows onto the street. We worried about our safety as we first drove in. Soon enough we realised it was relatively safe. Appearances can be deceiving.

Secondly, in stark contrast to the river of grey and black SUVs that fill our traffic-filled lanes, the cars in Havana are as they say: take you straight back in time. American vintage cars worth god knows how much, beckon you for a drive – around the city, to the countryside or to the beach.IMG_4595 IMG_4606Hot pink classics toot their horns. All of them seem to carry white-skinned foreigners, driven by a darker skinned driver.

The opening up of Cuba’s doors, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is changing the landscape of the audaciously equitable society. In times past, lawyers and street cleaners earned the same salary. Id didn’t matter what you did, each is contributing to “the party”  and each gets paid the same – the equivalent of US$20 per month salary. Translated into Cuban Pesos, a currency only for Cubans, this $20 goes much further for them than it would in any other country. However beyond necessities there’s no space for a beer in the tourist restaurants or a fancy meal.IMG_5006

Cubans can now run small businesses, rent out habitacions in their houses, run cafes, restaurants and shops, and from foreigners they can make much more than they used to. Locals now sit outside the restaurants or approach you at the table, asking for money. US $1 is a twentieth of their month’s salary, so it’s not surprising they’d like more.

In the countryside one can see the historic equality in an even more striking way. While uniquely painted the houses are the same size and design, with two identical rocking chairs on each front porch.

People seem happy, yet also stiffed.IMG_4782

On one hand they have been set free through free education all the way to doctoral level, free healthcare, somewhere to live and an equal wage for all.

On the other hand the regime has imprisoned them in its equality: they are not allowed to question the regime, they have not been allowed to leave the country, and as Cuba slowly opens up on $20 per month it is very difficult to afford to.

How often do you see street workers watching one person take their turn with the work? Imagine a whole society with one employer! Inefficiency, bureaucracy and a lack of motivation pervade.

I deeply appreciate the sentiment of the Cuban Revolutionaries: to free the people of corrupt dictator, to empower the people. What happened?

Freedom is more than just a financial matter. It’s more than education. It’s also more than freedom to own property, as often emphasised in western societies.

Freedom is about freedom to participate – to shape one’s own life story and to participate in the broader stories of society, culture, species and planet which we are a part of. I will write more on the revolutionaries in a separate blog…

What will happen to the aesthetics of Havana as Cuba opens up?


I hope they do not allow the export of the vintage cars, and I hope they keep some of the buildings untouched in addition to the restorations. I hope they can keep their values and their vibrant culture, while enabling more of the freedoms that Che Guevara’s Pedagogy actually aspired to.

I hope they can bring in a democracy that is in better form than ours, one that is not corrupted by the media and its strings pulled by corporate interests and lobby groups…   

Money tips for Australians travelling to Cuba:

  • $AUD is worthless, unless you can find a generous tourist who will exchange with you;
  • Visa and Mastercards will not work in ATMs, but some cards work sometimes when you line up inside a bank;
  • Phone calls at $5 a minute so being on hold to your bank for even 10 minutes is EXPENSIVE!!!
  • Even the ANZ Travel Card fine print says it cannot be used in Iran, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and … CUBA.
  • Save yourself the hassle and bring $US, Euro or Pounds.


A few more snaps:


With our lifesavers and new friends, who very generously helped us out of our cash dilemma.








Retreat from the city: Watts’ mountain cabins and old ferry-boats

My partner, a sculptural artist, and I, with my love of writing, have been thinking about ways we might create some sort of retreat from the city. As I read Alan Watts’ biographies I have been curiously uncovering his two most unusual abodes: a communal mountain retreat with Gary Snyder, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Elsa Gidlow and others at Druid Heights, and an old ferry-boat named SS Vallejo with artist Jean Varda and other party-goers in San Fransisco Bay.

Druid Heights, Mount Tamalpais

“What do you get when you bring together a groundbreaking lesbian poet, a famous Zen philosopher, the founder of a prostitutes’ union and the inventor of the self-regulating filtered hot tub?” writes .

“The answer: Druid Heights — a once-thriving Bay Area bohemia deep in the forest, now moldering despite the best efforts of its residents, a few hardy holdovers from the counterculture, to maintain it.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Secreted away one and a half miles down a dirt road, Druid Heights is unknown to thousands of tourists who flock to the misty redwoods of Muir Woods, even as it comes under review by the National Park Service for recognition as a historic or culturally significant site.


The philosopher Alan Watts, who died here in 1973 in the Mandala House, a circular work of architecture resembling a spinning top, wrote of this community’s “numinous, mythological quality,” which drew artists, writers, musicians and hedonists from 1954 through the early ’70s.

Among them were the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder; Margo St. James, who organized the union for prostitutes; Catharine A. MacKinnon, the feminist law professor who advises the International Criminal Court in The Hague on gender issues; and the lesbian poet Elsa Gidlow, whose ashes reside near the Moon Temple. Her guest room and meditation cabin still exude an otherworldly goddess aura.”

Druid Heights was once a five-acre ranch formerly known as Camp Monte Vista Sub One. It was set up by Elsa Gidlow and carpenter Roger Somers. According to wikipedia: “Somers, influenced by Japanese architecture and American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, built many of the structures with unique furniture designed by Ed Stiles.[5] Gidlow was fond of organic agriculture and grew vegetables for the people in the community.[6]

Druid Heights was acquired by the National Park Service in the 1970s[2][3] and is currently under review for a proposed listing on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]
Watts wrote these journals on this mountain:

Check out the photos:

S. S. Vallejo ferryboat in Sausalito

Built in 1879, and out of service after WW2, this old 37m x 9m ferry boat was bought by artist Jean Varda, surrealist Gordon Onslow Ford, and architect Forest Wright in the ’50s. Wright sold his share to Ford, and they turned it into a houseboat, art studio and party place for the likes of Jack Kerouac among others.

Watts bought Ford’s share of the houseboat in 1961. Varda’s parties and salons continued. The most famous party, thrown in 1967, was known as the “Houseboat Summit”, and featured  Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Watts discussing LSD. Many of Watts’ lectures were recorded on this boat:


This aerial photo was taken by Ted Rose [owner of the white octagon houseboat] and Ford Kiddo.

Marian Saltman, who had begun living on Vallejo in 1971, arranged for its purchase in 1981, and began to restore the boat. She said, “I hope she will continue to be the home of remarkable people and ideas, and I wish her to serve the creative and artistic needs of Sausalito and the Bay Area.”[3]

In 2001-2002 Vallejo was restored by Kiwi’s and privately owned by someone who is now collecting its stories!

photo by Heide Foley

I believe Watts recorded Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives on board Vallejo.


Brown, Patricia, Oasis for Resisting Status Symbols Just Might Get One, New York Times article published January 25, 2012


Stories on Vallejo


Also note: if I have not credited the photographer/source it is because I have not been able to locate – please do contact me if any issues re copyright.

Japan – a poem

An experiment with experiential learning
Brought me back
Seven years had passed
Since I called Tokyo my home

Like an ex-lover
Familiar but different
A flood of memories
In the streets, big and small

The love and the hate I once felt
for the city, for the culture and for a boy
Fused, buried
A different self, many life times ago

Filled with paradoxes
Racism to extremes
Celebritised or despised
Aliens swimming in a foreign sea

of manicured faces
Designer top to toe
Toy cars, play trucks
Uniforms with helmets

Hostesses and serial killers
Cold beer and hot rice wine
Pachinko, yakuza
Ninjas, samurai

Loud lights scream
A subtle honour
In a fantasy land
called Japan.
















Blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On Tuesday 18 June, I shook hands and looked into the eyes of the man who seems to be the happiest man in the world—His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. More than meeting him, at the end of our event I received a blessing from him. It was very real but also surreal.


As one might imagine, it takes a lot of work and preparation, and a bit of stress. Ok, a lot of stress. Every detail must be taken care of. Every person must have a seat, but no seat should be empty. This person is responsible for this, that person is responsible for that. So much detail that until the night before I’d almost forgotten: tomorrow I would be in the presence of the Dalai Lama! But would everything run smoothly? Had I forgotten anything? The anxiety-filled mind chatter would return.

When you are an event organiser (which I have inadvertently become), you are the key person for everything on the day. Here or there. Make sure this area is clear. This person doesn’t have a ticket. That person is unaccounted for. Remember to breath.

With a wonderful team of people from the Dalai Lamas office, NSW Parliament House, ABC Big Ideas, and a small number of generous Council members and volunteers, the Sydney Peace Foundation staged an intimate gathering with His Holiness in conversation with Australian compere Andrew West. The doors opened just before 8am, and by 8:25 the Theatrette was filled with high school and university students, the Tibetan Community, and key supporters of the Foundation.

When His Holiness was walking down the long set of stairs into the Theatrette foyer a hush filled the air. The mind chatter disappeared. Quiet.

I peered up at the maroon cloak. A calm energy filled the space. He shook our hands, and we introduced ourselves. Took a photo. Put on the microphone. And he entered the Theatrette.

A new hush. Silence.

The audience stood in awe of his presence. He let out friendly chuckle as he walked down the aisle. To the front, he stood in the centre stage. Hands in prayer. Blessed the space. On stage, he took his seat. Andrew joined him. And the discussion began… His words rang true, as if directed at me.

“Religious institutions, not religion, cause violence.”

“Religious violence comes from a singleness of mind.”

“Be true to your tradition, but don’t be attached to it.”

“I am a Buddhist,” He chuckled, “so I can not be attached to Buddhism.”

I wondered if I should be be more open to Christianity. Not in the sense of believing in supernatural spooks in the sky, or in the sense of conforming to the doctrinal interpretations of Christianity as an institution, but in the sense of appreciating the history of my ancestors. Have I lost this appreciation? I’m not sure.

While writing my thesis on panentheism and peace, when I come across scholars who have an intention to convert people to a fundamentalist Christianity (in the sense of believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible and a belief in its inerrancy) I turn off. I simply cannot entertain the notion that Christianity is the only way to heaven or peace.

As His Holiness observed, “if you think there is a creator, then the creator must have created Buddhism too.” If it weren’t for the arrogance embedded in some Christian domination’s exclusive approach to God I’d be much more into it.

Many forms of Christianity are not like this – for example, the Uniting Church and the “Emerging Church” interpret the Bible in its historical context, understanding the elements written as myth and Midrash, and find far meaning in it this way. In particular, I’d like to visit the Unitarian Church, which is explicitly panentheistic. But all in good time… for now I’ll sit with my blessing, do my yoga, write my thesis, and contemplate the marvels and surprises that life brings when one is open, works hard, seeks and persists.

At the close of the conversation, His Holiness blessed a number of people who had made significant contributions to the event:








Following the conversation His Holiness said a few more words about the values of human rights, dignity, well-being, nonviolence and compassion, and how promoting these values can help bring about a more peaceful world:

View the broadcast of “Ethics for a Whole World” : His Holiness in conversation with Andrew West – on ABC Big Ideas



One Drum: A film about a road trip from New York City to Rio De Janeiro

On 7th day of the 7th month, 2007, I met a person who would inspire a change in my life. He lit a spark of creativity inside me, and pointed to the possibilities that exist if you just fucking go. Soon after our chance encounter (and kiss), I stumbled across his blog

On September 13th, 2007 we’re driving out of New York City on an adventure through Central and South America, en-route to Rio De Janeiro.

Aside from making it there in one piece, our journey is about the experience of new cultures, following our hearts and living life the way we want to.

The world is in a fragile state and we feel we must make an effort to give back to the earth by living consciously, sharing love, life and happiness, to ensure the positive development of our planet.

We will be updating this site with more words, pictures and video of where we are, who we meet and what we’re up to – so stay in touch…


Harley, Steve & Betty

With this opening paragraph, I was hooked.

A year or so later I travelled to South America myself. I didn’t expect to find Betty (the kombi), but I kept my eyes open for her.

Eventually I did find her, and so much more.

The adventure inspired me to write My Brazilian: and a kombi named Betty, tracing my journey from Galapagos Islands through Bolivian Salt Lakes down to Patagonia, then back up to Iguazu Falls, Salvador and Rio for Carnaval. This travel memoir and spiritual journey is now seeking a publisher…

Meanwhile last Wednesday I travelled back to 2009 as I watched a screening of Harley’s film One Drum. More than a film, Harley plays interludes of an original soundtrack live as he narrates Betty’s journey from New York City to Rio’s Carnaval.

one drum2

On the road Betty stops for Harley and Steve to chat with the people they meet about what is valuable and meaningful in life. These conversations hint that happiness is not found in material things, but in following our dreams, giving to others, and living in ways that will allow our planet to may remain vibrant and beautiful for generations to follow.

It was the sixth or seventh screening of his film, but the first time that Steve, Harley, Jack (their friend who joined for the last part of their trip) and I were in the same room since Carnaval in February 2009. We marked the occasion with a photo:



If you are up for a trip to South America without leaving Sydney then I highly recommend this refreshingly honest and creative use of music, philosophy and film. A reminder that the best things in life are often the most simple, and that the greatest adventures come from following one’s intuition and convictions.

Harley is screenings/performing this wonderful show every second Wednesday evening in Paddington, Sydney. For more information visit the One Drum Facebook page.






Honouring Outrage: Celebrating Courage in Paris

On 2 May 2013, in Paris, my colleagues and I represented the Sydney Peace Foundation at the Australian Ambassador’s Residence in Paris, where we awarded a posthumous Gold Medal for Human Rights to Stéphane Hessel for his life-long contribution to building a more peaceful and just society.


Stéphane Hessel was a German born Jew whose family fled to France who became a fighter in the French Resistance where he was captured, tortured and escaped execution by the Nazis. On returning to Paris Hessel became a diplomat and was a one of twelve members of the committee who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the French Ambassador at the United Nations in Geneva, Hessel promoted non-violent responses to conflict and made a stand against human rights abuses.

In 2009 Hessel published a short 30-page book INDIGNEZ-VOUS! (Get Angry! Cry Out!) that became an inspiration to popular protest, particularly the Occupy Movements, around the world. Buy it from Amazon for only $4! The most worthy and yet shortest read I have come across.


Under its English title Time for Outrage, Hessel encourages citizens of the world to find our “reason for indignation” and “join the great course of history,” helping it to move “toward greater justice and greater freedom.”

He acknowledged that in this “vast, interdependent world” it is not always easy to see whose actions are causing the problems. Yet he reminds us, “there are unbearable things all around us… Open your eyes and you will see.”

Hessel describes two central challenges: “The grievous injustices inflicted on people deprived of the essential requirements for a decent life;” and “The violation of basic freedoms and fundamental rights.”

The widening gap between rich and poor is a reason for outrage, “not only in the third world… but in the suburbs of our largest Western cities.”

We must “not be defeated by the tyrannyoutrage2 of the world financial markets that threaten peace and democracy everywhere.”

Under the heading “Palestine: My Own Outrage” Hessel says, “Israel is not above international laws.”

As a Jew, as a survivor of the Holocaust, and as someone who had visited Gaza and the West Bank many times, his outrage at Israel’s cruelty towards the Palestinians is of particular significance. We must help others claim their rights and grip tightly onto our own—“we must never surrender these rights.”

Hessel calls for: “a rebellion—peaceful and resolute—against the instruments of mass media that offer our young people a worldview defined by the temptations of mass consumption, a disdain for the weak, and a contempt for culture, historical amnesia, and the relentless competition of all against all.”

Hessel believed in the power of people to make a difference.

Stéphane Hessel was originally selected to by the Sydney Peace Prize Jury to be the 16th recipient of the Prize in November. On 6 March 2013 before arrangements for this prize could be made, at 95-years old, Hessel passed away quietly in his sleep.

Following an address by Chair Stuart Rees, and a reception graciously hosted by Australian Ambassador to France Ric Wells, the Gold Medal was be presented to Hessel’s widowed wife Madame Christane Hessel-Chabry.


My boss, Em. Professor Stuart Rees (left); Madame Hessel-Chabry (centre); and Ambassador Ric Wells (right).


I was honoured to present a small gift – a silver necklace with dove pendant – to Madame Hessel-Chabry.


The Sydney Peace Foundation hopes that this award will help broadcast Hessel’s words of outrage and hope, and that his legacy will continue to spread and inspire non-violent outrage around the world!



All quotes in italics are from: Stéphane Hessel (2010) Time for Outrage, translated by Marion Duvert, Hachette Book Group: New York.

The photo of Stéphane Hessel was taken by Marie-Lan Nguyen at Europe Écologie’s closing rally of the 2010 French regional elections campaign at the Cirque d’hiver, Paris.

The second photos shows French Occupy protesters participating in a rally as part of the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, on December 10, 2011 in center Paris.

This is an adaptation of an article I wrote for the May 2013 Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies Newsletter PeaceWrites which can be downloaded here:


PS. Other highlights of my 4 days in Paris included coffee, croissants, baguettes, flan, wine, cheese, frogs legs, snails, art and love.


The perfect picnic under the Eiffel Tower


Morning stop for petit déjeuner




Final comment: the gorgeous dress that I wore to the ceremony in the Ambassador’s Residence is of my sister’s new collection: It will soon purchase from her online store Enough! by Nicole Bennett for $289.

In the “flow” in Cambodia

Juliet Bennett

“If you’re aiming for a goal that isn’t your destiny, you will always be swimming against the current… Find out what your destiny is and the river will carry you.”—Men Who Stare At Goats.

Nicola’s comment on my 2010 blog post on Optimal Trajectory  reminded me of this philosophy. As I blogged last week, there are times in life where you are “in the flow”, and times when you are swimming against the tide.

When your destiny is carrying you, it can feel as if there are green lights all the way. Stars seem to align. You feel in sync with the world around you. Looking back over the last five years, I see a yin and yang:

My trip to South America in 2008 I was in the flow. It was the flow that allowed a travel book to evolve.

My trip to Europe in 2011 I was fighting against a dangerous rip. Most of my friends were out of town, I made bad money-based decisions and missed opportunities, I was not true to myself, I had a terrible accident on a scooter in Paros and my trip was cut short.

Getting back in sync took time – moments of clarity interwove with confusion. Writing and teaching in America, visiting a friend and doing yoga in Canada, teaching Pilates and hanging out in Nicaragua… some things helped, some things didn’t.

Returning to Australia the pattern continued: flow on, flow off, flow on.

The first two weeks of 2013 in Cambodia, the flow was definitely on.

Arriving in Bangkok with nothing planned, we looked at our guidebook and decided Cambodian beaches were the go. Along the way we had the lucky last room available everywhere we went. We found buses and trains at the right time. The lights were green most of the way.


The trip simply “flowed”, every step of the way – even some of the strangest experiences, such as a long conversation with a this stranger had a “meant to be” feeling about it (who might I add had an incredible toothless smile that even in my flashy shades, for the camera he wanted to hide).


There are at least ten examples, but I won’t share them all. Instead I’ll share the one that contained the most significant lesson for me about flow.

Angkor Wat, at sunrise, crowds flock regardless of the time. They find their spot to take “the famous shot” of the ruins, with reflection over the water. They wait.

Jonny and I started to do the same. But within a few minutes an idea struck us like lightening: “if everyone’s out here, does that mean no one’s inside?” It was still pitch black. We had time…

We walked passed the waiting crowds, up the main entrance, smiled at the security man, wandered around alone in this ancient spiritual wonderland. We arrived a few people sitting around near a steep set of stairs leading up to the top of Angkor Wat, but a rope blocked it off “for maintenance.” A policeman slow walked toward us. “You want to go up?” he asked.

“Yes, of course.” we answered eagerly. The policeman tilted his head, motioned a “well…”  Jonny slipped him a $10US, and we were up. The top of Angkor Wat, alone at sunrise!

Bridge pose – at the top of Angkor Wat:

Juliet Bennett

When we finally got outside, the first part of the sun started peaking over the trees. We hadn’t even missed “the shot”! But I like this one better – all the “suckers” who stood waiting, while we experienced the true wonder of Angkor’s majesty:


It’s moments like this one that are worth meditating on, at least once a day.


This is a snippet from my diary at 10am while eating breakfast back at the hotel:

“Angkor… words fail. Lifetimes of thousands of artisans, maybe millions of peoples life times, dedicated to building – designing, creating, carving – these exquisite temples. Life – humans, animals, plants and their infinite parts – emerge from their time and place to form patterns within yet greater wholes. Our breath is part of the pattern; our birth and death; our societies; our civilizations; come and go – all part of the pattern of “God” (if one wishes to call It that).

Today we experienced something that was ‘not atheism and not religion’ – an experience of wonder, awe and mystery, an experience of past meets present meets future, an experience of stars aligning and a natural yet surreal magic moment.

‘Good luck to you and your family, and for longevity,’ a monk handed us incense, we bowed three times, said a small prayer and he tied a red cotton weave around our wrists.

I feel a deep gratitude, and an all-consuming happiness, perspective and hope.

We were one of thousands to arrive at Angkor Wat for sunrise, and tens of thousands to visit Angkor Wat that day, yet we were the first and only two to enter the holy place upstairs, and to explore it, meditate in it, and photograph it without another soul in sight. Breathing in the past and sighing out to the future. 

This was a reminder of what it means to ‘connect to the universe’ and be ‘one with God’ in the sense of being in tune, being on the frequency, that seems to pull, to persuade, and to facilitate, one to live their life to its full potential. It is a universal drive to greater complexity with harmony. Positive conflict is a key.

The tide is often strong. People naturally go with it, even if it is not going in the direction they wish to go. Yet we are strong enough to swim against the tide and discover worlds that lie unnoticed to sheep who follow each other.

Is this a secret that should be shared? If even anyone else had thought outside the square and entered Angkor Wat instead of waiting outside, then we would not have been alone. The policeman might not have taken a bribe, and we might not have climbed to the top.

Here lies a paradox: what is good for one is not good for all. Unique experience comes from exceptions, and if even a third of the majority were exceptions then it would no longer be exceptional.

Civilisations rise and fall.

Species evolve and go extinct.

Planets, suns and galaxies, maybe even universes, cannot escape the ebb and flow.

The phenomena of life. The ever-changing process.

This can be interpreted as futile and meaningless. Or as having the highest value and ultimate meaning. We are small temporal expressions of this infinitely large cosmic process.”

It goes on, and on, but I’ll leave it there…


It is interesting that we remember and admire the exceptional things that civilizations do, not their normal every day lives.

“Flow” for one person may mean swimming against the tide, but if it is flow the that tide will part and you won’t tire.

I think it can be hard to find your flow, but once you have found it and are aligned with it, the challenge is not to be caught up in the tide. You must listen to your intuition, have faith in the flow, in what your gut is telling you, and move with it. It’s in that space that the greatest moments and greatest achievements occur.



A few other examples of flow in Cambodia, January 2013:

We were the only guests on this island off Sihanoukville:



Or at least we thought we were—until the next day when we discovered another awesome hippy dwelling:


Maybe this one is not so out of the ordinary. It’s a small world when it comes to Aussies in popular backpacker destinations… 6:30am getting on a boat from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap, I hear “Juliet”—and I turn to see a member of the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Executive Council!


A friend recommended the Shanghai Mansion in Bangkok. The best value hotel I’ve ever experienced. Buffet breakfasts. And a grrooovy jazz bar:


On our last night, after days of travelling, we were welcomed with a free upgrade for our last night. If you need a place to stay in Bangkok, the Shanghai Hotel is a gem.


Now, back in Sydney, the clarity still interweaves with confusion. But moments of synchronicity affirm my path.

It takes active engagement to keep that feeling: questioning the direction I’m headed and adjust when it feels as if I’m losing my way. Right now I feel more or less “in the flow”, but it is a challenge not to let the tide take me in other directions.

When I’m in the flow I feel aligned with my destiny, even if I do not know what that destiny is…

In 4 weeks I am going on a work trip to Paris. I hope that the “flow” travels with me there.

Living authentically, and its anxieties

I am far too aware of my being-towards-death. While Heidegger calls this “authenticity”, I call it “frick’n annoying” and a “tad bit depressing”. But it’s too late now.

My ignorance is gone and like when you see a huge zit on someone’s face, it’s hard to then go back to ignoring it.

For all it’s frustrations there may be something to it: an awareness of death leads to more conscious decisions in the way you live life.

Awareness of death makes you reflect on what you care about, and encourages you to ensure your actions reflect that care.

This is the “authentic” experience of  not only being-toward-death but living-toward-death.

Heidegger predicts a certain anxiety that comes with this authenticity. The anxiety of understanding your limited time in your body, that every day brings you a day closer. But he thinks that with this anxiety, life becomes a bit thicker – more meaningful, more purposeful – because one lives with an awareness of his or her finitude.

Consequentially I spend a lot of time asking and re-asking myself: What do I want out of life?

In a less self-centric form that question is: What do I want to give back to life? That is, how do I want to influence the world beyond my own bodily existence?

And from that question: Am I getting that and giving that in my life right now? Am I on a path that will continue to bring more of this into my future?


The pic: I took this photo of a boy sending a rocket into space earlier this year in Nicaragua while on an adventure with a friend who is doing amazing work over there, an example of truly authentic living. Jason set up the La Isla Foundation to address the epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease among sugar cane workers in Central America. Check it out: