The Interview: Jennifer Idol talks Diving all Fifty States of America, The Muddy Middle and why you'll never use a straw again.

Frozen with horror at the sight of the Deep Horizon Oil spill left Jennifer Idol with guilt and regret at not reaching for her trusty camera to record the sight in time. Luckily rather than dwell in the past she chose an empowered response in the moment and set her heart on sharing the stories of our underwater world to people everywhere. 

Between 2011 - 2014 Jen combined her passions of design and scuba diving to become the first woman in the US to dive all 50 states. She recorded her extraordinary journey and is now a published author to boot. We talk The muddy middle, our culture of immediacy and why you'll never use a straw again!

The Interview: Reverend Angel talks Change, Compassion and How to Stay Centered in a Crazy World.

The Interview: Reverend Angel talks Change, Compassion and How to Stay Centered in a Crazy World.

How do we stay calm and in our center when it feels like the world around us is "going to hell in a frying pan?" That's the question this month's podcast guest answers beautifully in this timely episode of The Interview!

Reverend angel Kyomodo Williams is a spiritual maverick, author, and the second only black woman to be recognised as a sensei in the lineage of Zen Buddhism. We discuss change, compassion how our inner world creates our outer and how to keep our center when all around are losing theirs.

Your Wild Selkie Self: A Forbidden Love Affair, Little Dares and Stretch Marks.

This was taken in Vietnam 2012 - How time flies!

This was taken in Vietnam 2012 - How time flies!

Squinting into the sunny distance I just catch a glimpse, a flash of silver, as the water runs off her skin and she dives beneath the waves once more ...

The Dare

Ever since I was a girl I’ve had this little dare that I do.
 
I love swimming in the sea. Not for me the chlorine stink of the swimming pool.

I can’t wait to wade out into the water until the strip of sand and laughter on the shoreline is a shimmering haze in the distance.  

 I swim until my feet can just find the scrape of sand or pebble at the bottom.  

And then I swim a little further still.

Just a couple of extra strokes… until there’s nothing underneath but the swoosh of deep, deep water.

It might not sound like much. This little dare of mine.

After all… it's never so far that the waves take on an ominous steel glint as they dip and ripple around me. I’m exhilarated, a little scared… yes. But I always know that I can swerve around at any moment and be comfortably back to shore when I need to.

 I’ve been thinking about that recently and how it’s been preparing me, ever so gently, for the life I live now.

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A Forbidden Love Affair

And today in my early morning train of thought it links to another of my favorite things- the film 'Brief Encounter."
I’m remembering a stage version I once saw of this heart wrenchingly romantic tale of a forbidden love affair between Laura, a bored suburban housewife, and the handsome doctor she meets every day at a train station.

Set just after the war in 1940's Britain all that longing had to simmer away in darkened station waiting rooms with soot on the walls and the steam of a rainy Autumn day on the window sill.  All that passion was stuffed down under stiff British upper lips, buttoned down coats and sensible headscarves.

In the theatrical version they placed a film screen at the back of the stage.

Whilst the characters spoke through clipped tones and clicking tongues in train station waiting rooms everything that they couldn’t or wouldn’t say to each other was played out on the screen behind them, as their characters ran along a beach, carefree and delighted.

Here, Laura unburdened by headscarf or husband could gambol free - dipping into the foamy waves, coquettishly beckoning us to join her, diving again only to emerge breathless and laughing and shaking the droplets from her hair.

Our Wild and Selkie Self

The Directors notes in the programme spoke of this fascination she’d had with the old tale of the selkie - our mysterious seal lion self that whispers to us from the deep. This is old faerie folklore from the most northern parts of Scotland where the waters are clear and the sands are white. Here the selkie transforms into a maiden as she steps onto land by shedding her sealskin. A fisherman watching nearby steals her sealskin forcing her to stay with him and bear his children.

Split from her wildself she gradually loses the light in her eyes and the fire in her belly. Her skin becomes cracked and parched of life, until one day - she finds her sealskin, snatches it from its hiding place and runs joyously back into the arms of the waves.  (NBThis tale of the selkie is brought wonderfully to life in one of my all time favourite life changing books - Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes check it out here.

I think of that show often.

How much do we button down and allow to simmer under the surface while somewhere out there in the far blue yonder is a girl swimming wide and free with, laughing and squinting out into the never never, beckoning back to us?

How much of our lives are spent ignoring her or telling her it’s too dangerous. Too far. Too scary.

I know how brilliantly careful I’ve been at pushing that girl away, only for her to come bubbling back up again demanding to be heard, demanding I give a voice to her passion. In a different form, a different way perhaps. The empty pang of depression, an inexplicable black rage that sidewalls me.

 So why is it so hard to to listen sometimes?

 I get it. It is scary.

There have been times where I’ve screwed my whole life up in a ball and chucked it into the metaphorical waste paper basket, Ive ended a relationship, started a new job and moved home all in the space of a weekend.

I told myself i am strong and tough and I can handle it.

But in honesty - it hurt.

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Small Strokes and Stretch Marks

 Somewhere along the line the fear of that pain returning made me a little less keen to step outside of my comfort zone. I’ve taken on too much and have the bruises and the metaphorical stretch marks to prove it.

But what I’ve learned since is there is an in between, a comfortable edge we can swim too.  

We don’t need to dive out and deep until we can no longer see land. We don’t need to scare ourselves witless plowing so far out we’re surrounded by nothing but cawing gulls.

It just takes one extra stroke…a dare to push out a little further than we’re used to.

That leading edge between a place where our toes touch sand and the moment they push away into nothingness.

Let’s allow ourselves to fall out into those enchanted waters and graze fingertips with the girl that we know is out there - swimming wide and swimming free.

That’s where we’ll find her.

Swim wide and swim free sister.

END

Does this resonate with you?  Leave a comment below or share it with a friend and make my day!

P.S: Looking to connect with your wild and selkie self?  Just fill in your name and email below and I'll send you a FREE 7 day Heart Connection Meditation course :) It's a good place to start!

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This tale of the selkie is brought wonderfully to life in one of my all time favourite life changing books - Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
I truly consider it a must read for wander women everywhere!

Or read what others have to say here *

I love sharing the books, courses and technology that have helped me the most. Some links will be affiliate links (like this one to amazon) it just means sometimes i'll geta commission for having referred you to the site in the first place. You don't pay any more than you normally would and sometimes get a discount.  Please know my integrity is very important to me and I only ever recommend resources I have tried, tested and absolutely loved myself on my journey and believe you may receive value from too. 

 

5 Spiritual Truths For a Successful Life - Learned at the World Domination Summit!

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Stepping out of the safety blanket of the 9-5 to live an extraordinary life isn’t an easy ride no matter how many palm tree fringed beaches you get to see en route. In the last four years I’ve gone from marketer to meditation teacher via a whistlestop tour of the world.

Part of what has kept me sane in an extraordinary burst of change and growth has been surrounding myself with other people who don’t think i’m nuts. 

Each year I go to an event called the World Domination Summit (WDS.) It’s a weekend of inspirational TED X style key note speeches plus hands on academies for people leading a remarkable life in a conventional world. It’s been a glimmering bright spot in challenging times and provided me with a crew of friends who I consider amongst my best.

Whilst my journey has been inextricably linked with my spiritual path so much of my own development hasn't been prompted by silent retreat or yoga class but by walking out of the door of the corporate world and into the skin of an entrepreneur.

Bizarrely demographic and pigeon hole free - WDS is not just for entrepreneurs and nor is it just for the spiritually aligned (although I know it has a secret pair of hippy pants in the closet!) However there are some fundamental spiritual truths about how to lead a successful life that were present across so many of the key note speeches this year I thought I would pull them together for you. 

Whether you’re heading out the door on your own hero’s journey or busy bootstrapping your first business…I hope that sharing these five little nuggets of soft and gentle truth will help smooth the entrepreneurial path ahead. 

1)  Finding Stillness

Jonathan Fields kicked off proceedings by asking us to ponder a Richard Wiseman quote “fortune favors the open.”  It’s easy to be swept away with reacting; reacting to our highly sensationalistic media, the sense stimuli surrounding us, the guy serving us our coffee, the red blip of a notification on the screen. If we are not careful our ability to choose our response in freedom and openness gets swallowed by reacting out of old fears, mental loops and habits. How do we cultivate openness to what is available in the present moment? Stillness.

Over the days leading up to WDS my meditation practice had gradually shrunk from an hour a day to a brief 10 minute chant. Welcome not so subtle hint from the universe. I’d received a challenge from the Be Kind game (more of that in Point 5) to buy someone behind me in the queue a coffee.

However queuing at Starbucks on the saturday morning I forgot all about the challenge and all about my environment. I didn’t even notice the person standing behind me in line until after they’d paid. Who was it? Yes. You guessed it. Jonathan Fields.

 He then went on to open WDS with the first speech of the day. The subject? Our ability to remain present and open to our environment is what allows us to choose our response and how we’re then free to respond with kindness.  POINT TAKEN UNIVERSE!

How do we zoom out and get the space and awareness to notice the opportunities surrounding what is - instead of getting lost in the “what was” and “what ifs?” We cultivate stillness. Cue meditation practice swiftly reinserted!

2) We have an unlimited amount of compassion to give.

My favorite Tibetan Buddhist saying ever by someone who doesn’t have a shaved head or surname ending in Rinpoche. 

Zach Anner didn’t let growing up with cerebal palsy and being confined to a wheel chair stop him from becoming a World Traveller, Comedian, Actor, Oprah regular and author of the brilliantly titled “If at Birth you Don’t Succeed.” He encouraged us to move beyond defining ourselves by our limitations and remember that when we feel we have nothing to offer we always have an unlimited amount of compassion we can give to the world. 

For me, this one line and longstanding truth  was a pure shot of sunlight into what can seem like a dark and sometimes scary world. 

3) We are limitless

Chelsea Dinsmore lost her husband Scott in an accident on Mount Kilimanjaro.

In the days and weeks after his death it would have been perfectly understandable if she had chosen to retreat from the public gaze and go into hiding to grieve. Absolutely devastated and with no experience of how to run Scott’s business empire and community of 200,000+ followers she chose a different response. A beautiful example of both utilizing our freewill to choose a healthier response in the moment and how to cultivate compassion - Chelsea chose to approach every new experience with “endless curiosity” and positively reframe doubts and fears by asking:  What is the best that could happen today?  How can I give more? and perhaps most potently of all: What if the hardest thing I’ve had to do is behind me?

In doing so she has successfully taken over the reigns of the Live Your Legend community as Chief Inspiration Officer, Scott’s legacy lives on and they continue to inspire people around the world to find the work they love. Her discovery through the process was simple. No matter what stories our mind tries to tell us. . . 

We are limitless.  

4) Me Too is empowering.

Emily McDowell , multi millionaire business owner and creator of an empathy greetings card and stationery empire for people in real life relationships talked about the dark spots in her own life first as a cancer survivor and then as supporter to a best friend diagnosed with the disease.

Those times when we’re at our lowest when we most need people to reach out to us is often exactly the time when people just don’t have a clue what to say. Oftentimes it’s not just the curve ball that life’s thrown but the side helping of shame, guilt or fear that comes with our experience that also stops us looking outwards for support from others.

Loneliness, ill health, depression and anxiety weren’t carved out as a special present from the universe just for you -  they are a part of the multi coloured rainbow that is the human condition. Keeping ourselves separate and just reading the good news of other people’s aspiration can be exclusionary - sharing our story or being willing to listen to another’s helps us connect. As Mcdowell so succinctly put it: 

Me Too is Empowering.

5)  Be Kind.

Hugs and high fives are par for the course on this positively joyous and non judgmental weekend of the year and this time it was taken a step further. The overarching theme of the event (not to mention the lynchpin of most major spiritual traditions) is Be Kind. The Be Kind game launched at the opening party and continued throughout the weekend encouraging attendees to perform random acts of kindness on unsuspecting strangers. That coffee that I didn’t buy Jonathan Fields?  That was this game (yes there was a subsequent lucky recipient and she was highly surprised and grateful! )

If there was one message that I took from the event it was this. We always have something to give and what we can give is kindness.

Ride that Baby! 

Life will happen and the entrepreneurial journey more than most can be a bumpy ride. We will never have control over other people’s reactions to us or the curve balls that life throws but we do have control of remaining centered in the present moment and how we choose to respond. Will we be centered and strong enough not to sway in reactivity; remain open to the opportunities and grace available to us in each and every present moment, cognizant of our potential and our power and use our free will to respond from a place of compassion and kindness? I hope so.

Stillness is a good place to start. 

How to Develop a Daily Practice

Meditation helps give us the space and the stillness to witness our reactions and make healthier, wiser choices on how to respond in the moment. 

If you’d like to develop a daily meditation practice - one that is easily accessible regardless of personal religion or spiritual belief and aligned to the wisdom contained within our own hearts and feel the “me too” in an empowered global community of women - join my sangha of heart centered female seekers and you’ll receive a free 7 day heart meditation course as a welcome gift to get you going! 

Join and Receive a FREE 7 DAY Meditation course - Just Pop Your Name and Email Address in the box below!

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Alternatively drop me a line (Dominique) to wanderwomenclub@gmail.com  or my personal email ddidinal@gmail.com and let me know how I can be of service to you :)

PS: The next latte's on me Jonathan! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview: 4 Questions that could change your life with Byron Katie

“Watch out - she move fast!” warns her assistant Tania in hushed tones, and boy she’s not exaggerating. Byron Katie  - spiritual teacher, Oprah favorite and author of the international bestseller “Loving What Is”  is blink and you miss her gone.

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In February 1986 Byron Kathleen Mitchell (Katie) - an All American mum of three children and on her second marriage was suffering from a crippling descent into rage, despair and clinical depression. Her suffering was so deep she checked herself into a halfway house for women with eating disorders (the only place her insurance would cover) and slept on the floor each night as she felt unworthy of a bed.

 

One morning she was pulled out of sleep by a cockroach crawling over her foot and (in an experience that mirrors descriptions of enlightenment on the spiritual path) realized that everything had changed. She had awoken to a mind empty of thoughts to discover that all of her suffering had disappeared and that a creature of absolute delight and joy was looking through her eyes and out at the world. 

It came with a life changing realization.

Listen to the Audio

"I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer... Freedom is as simple as that... I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment."

She developed her process of deconstructing her thoughts into a form of self enquiry called “The Work” which has eased the suffering, depression and pain of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. 

Byron Katie is radiantly beautiful in a way that I imagine only those who are no longer troubled by the workings of their mind can be; a puff of white hair frames her heart shaped face, brilliant blue eyes sparkle with love and delight, and yes…she moves like the wind. When she’s ready to leave a room she’s out of the door and down the hall whilst everyone else is still picking up their handbag.  I’m guessing it’s that one part sugar to two parts spice, kindly fairy god mother with a dash of iron that allows this elegantly trim 73 year old to stand and command a stage for the best part of 8 hours in a 200 people strong workshop in Mexico City. She’s also found time for me in her forty minute lunch break and is currently managing a hectic travelling schedule taking “ The Work”  to cities around the world. 

Ladies, meet the remarkable Byron Katie. 

WW: Katie thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, we’re at the workshop of The Work in Mexico City - I’m going to dive right in because I know that we don’t have a lot of time…so just understanding a little bit about your background, you were suffering for quite a long time?

BK: (Nodding) Deep depression, more than a decade and very very painful, I felt so estranged from my children and my life.


WW: And in that time were you seeking help for the depression? Or taking medication?
 

BK: No I was trying to self manage.  It became deeper and deeper until it became clinical depression and it escalated into agoraphobia.

There was a moment I was sleeping on the floor and a bug crawled over my foot and it woke me up. And all the depression was gone. It was just completely gone, it was another world and what I learned from that moment in time was that when I believed my thoughts I suffered and when I didn’t believe them I didn’t suffer. And I’ve come to believe that’s true for every human being. So when we come to question these judgements that run through our head, these judgements that are so painful and mean minded- we assume “he this, her that…”  when we question this we open to a world…there are terms for it like self realization, peace, love understanding and connectedness. It’s an amazing world when we’re present to it.


WW: And do you describe what you had as enlightenment, yourself as enlightened?

BK: No I don’t describe myself that way. The truth for me is I know the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t and I’m extremely grateful. So I am enlightened to what is true for me and what is not and enquiry ( “The Work”) is the way I stay clear. I question any judgements that I may hear someone say I don’t just immediately believe it. Inside of me I have this mechanism running because of the practice of using these questions that is automatic. If someone says“he doesn’t care about me” I don’t assume that to be true any longer and it makes me a better listener. I don’t have to say “oh no after all you’ve done for him,”’ I don’t have any of that. My life is about listening and staying connected and it’s a beautiful way to live.

WW: I have a question about depression because I suppose it’s something I’ve struggled with myself and still do sometimes, and the first is - I see these entrenched beliefs coming up that I’ve become aware of so its not just thoughts that are racing through my mind in the moment, its about entrenched beliefs about myself - but the enquiry seems to focus on judging other people first?

BK: Well no it really is about judging yourself, because if someone says: “My brother says he never wants to speak to me again” I don’t just assume it to be true but If I believe it look at how depressing that would be, and times that by hundreds and thousands of judgements we make in a day, and that’s depressing. So we notice our emotions andlook at what we are thinking and believing andnotice what we’re thinking and believing when we’re experiencing those emotions.
 

That’s depressing to notice the emotions and depression and heart ache, to notice those and to question them.


WW: So there’s an importance on feeling the emotions as well then? Because I think sometimes when I’m doing “The Work” it somehow becomes a bit of a mental exercise when I’m writing something out.

BK: No this is meditation, its contemplative, you look, ask and look at a situation in your life and look at your judgements on that situation and then question them one at a time, write the question down.  The first question is: Can I know it’s true?

For example taking the judgement/ statement: Her brother doesn’t care about her.

(First question) Can I know it's true? ….Yes she says so and yes she believes it.

(Second question) But can I absolutely know it's true? Can I believe this about her brother, that he doesn’t care about her  just on her say so?

(Third question) How do I react and feel, what happens, when I believe that thought? I haven’t even met her brother and I don’t like him... I have a resentment against someone I’ve never met and that’s crazy - but worse its depressing because it builds up and builds up throughout the day.

(Fourth question) Who would I be without the thought? When she tells me that? I’d be open I’d be listening I’d be connected to her and her pain and sorrow and there to help rather than to enforce upon her that there is something wrong with her brother. And that her pain is justified, but I can be there for her and put my arm around her and have tissue - and I don’t know anything more powerful than- connection and human kindness.


WW: I think the resistance that comes up me for me when I’m doing “The Work” is that there’s a part of me that wants to hold onto anger or grievance with someone almost as a form of protection.

BK: Well that’s fine, we’re just working with one judgement at the time, we’re not working with this whooooole thing and do them one at a time. Just start with one judgement - work it through, then go to the next one. It’s a practice you might take an hour a day working on one judgement for three days, but you’re talking about your life here, you’re talking about your happiness here, this is not a little thing.

If I can’t find a way out of that hell I was in, it just means I’m stuck forever. But what I discovered on that floor, what was shown to me- and that I’m passing on is that people are losing their depression all over the world as they sit in this practice of The Work.

WW: And does it work when I’m at my lowest?  I’m thinking about my depression when I’ve felt at my lowest it feels like a physical pain with no energy and I can’t get up?


BK: Well try it- can you get still with one judgement and just sit in it and meditate with one judgement and those questions and let me know!

WW: Ok (laughs)

BK: If you’re mind is open to it, it works.

WW: Well you say we need to have an open mind, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing right?

BK: Well an open mind isa state of grace, I think it’s a great gift, an open mind. But anyone can learn to meditate. And that’s difficult for people because it means getting still. The Work is getting still and meditating on a situation, a moment in time when we’re judging and that takes stillness. It really is just sitting with your eyes close, getting centered, holding that judgment in front of your face in your mind’s eye and questioning it.


WW: Mmmm, I think you say in your book “Loving what is” you say there is nothing that we can do that doesn’t help the planet, is that right?

BK: I think probably what I meant, and something you read was “If I’m married for example and in an abusive relationship and maybe he hits me” then he shows me who not to live with. So he has shown me a kindness of who not to live with, and if my mind is “Oh I love him and oh he’ll change” you know I may be right but I know one thing for sure, he hit me and maybe I’m someone who said “I would never live with someone that physically abuses me.” We can love someone without living with them, we don’t have to be resentful or hateful or dislike someone to leave them. We can love them with all of our hearts and leave them.

WW: So doing “The Work”  and accepting what is isn’t about condoning or accepting poor behavior towards us.

BK: It couldn’t be because that would be inviting the world into more craziness, “The Work”  is a call to peace.


WW: And do you believe that by doing "The Work" on ourselves internally,  collectively that can shift the amount of violence in the world?
 

BK: When you shift your whole word shifts - it become kinder. Everyone is responsible for the way that we see the world, I’m responsible for the way I see the world and if I don’t love the world then I question my judgements about the world and then I see a kinder world.


WW:  You talked earlier in the workshop today about a time when you were in hospital for surgery and had to decide if you wanted to be resuscitated should it be required and you couldn’t decide so in the end your husband had to step in…!

BK: Well I couldn’t decide - I just couldn’t honestly answer the question, who did they want to resuscitate?What identity were they going to resuscitate? So I couldn’t honestly answer the question!

 

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WW: Is that a fear for some people?

BK: It’s a horrible fear for some people unless they question their judgements about it. It’s not something I planned certainly. But my doctor wanted to me to live, she said “no one dies on my watch!” she’s a friend of ours and she’s so funny! So she certainly… if I wasn’t going to make a decision she was going to make one. And my husband was there and he said “I noticed she’s not answering the question so I’ll answer it for her so yes resuscitate her!”

So that was ok with me too. But you know I think I said it today, if I died how would I know? What am I saving? What identity am I saving?

When I looked back at all those years of depression I was so suicidal, because I didn’t know how to deal with my mind. Those images of past and future, and the moment we believe a thought and that’s depressing.


WW: Past regrets is something I’ve found debilitating...

BK: So another way of saying that is judgements on the past, so itemize those judgements as they rise and they’ll show you which ones to do “The Work” on;  so just have fun in your beautiful self.  It's important to me that your listeners and readers know that the work is available to download for free on the thework.com and you can find it in most libraries and on YouTube.


WW: Do you still practice “The Work”  yourself everyday?

BK: It’s ongoing I just call it noticing, noticing, noticing... the judgements that come through. In the example we used about the woman with her brother (“my brother doesn’t care about me”) It’s a silent “ is it true?” I don’t even know I’m thinking it, but I know when my connection is broken... the connection withmy heart - so in that I don’t know I’m connected with her, and I’m very open to her brother as a man that cares about his sister, or who doesn’t care about his sister.  I. Don’t. Know.


WW: So our connection to ourselves and each other comes from our hearts you believe?

BK: Well the heart is a term for me that represents our true nature, and our true nature is pure love, pure kindness, pure service - just pure. And anytime we go against our heart, a judgement goes against our heart, we feel it.

WW: Because it’sour natural instinct?

BK: Well a judgement is the opposite of what our true nature is. To question it is to bring us back into our hearts. And it’s lasting when you question something, it changes your whole world when you really sit in it.


WW: So for women who are completely new to The Work they can download it free from the website thework.com. And anyone can do it by themselves is that right, they don’t need to be with you in person?

BK: Yes that’s right they don’t need a teacher and we also have certified facilitators if they get a little stuck and need help - all these facilitators all over the world in all these languages are on thework.com  and there’s a free helpline too that is 24 hours a day.

WW: Katie thanks so much for your time.

BK: You are welcome thank you for finding ways of serving your listeners and helping them deal with their wonderful lives and minds.

END

IF YOU'D LIKE TO START A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE - JUST POP YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE BOX BELOW AND I'LL SEND YOU MY FREE 7 DAY HEART MEDITATION COURSE TO GET YOU ON YOUR WAY!

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Do you suffer from depression or anxiety? Have you ever tried The Work, do please share your experience, thoughts and any other feedback or insight you've gained from The Interview in the comments below, I'd love to hear more from you :)

Footnote: 

The Work is a method of self inquiry that consists of deconstructing the mental thought patterns and stories that we tell ourselves with the use of four simple questions. We begin by writing out the judgement that we are holding about someone or ourselves (it is, however, recommended we begin by "judging our neighbour" rather than starting with ourselves.)

(For example) Her brother doesn't care about her.

Then we ask the four questions - getting still and asking the first question and listening for a truthful answer in our body.

  1. Do I know that this is true? If we can only answer yes to question 1 we move onto question 2.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it's true?
  3. How do I react and feel, what happens when I believe that thought? 
  4. Who would I be without the thought?

The Turn Around:  Then  turn around the statement and rewrite the statement as if it were written about ourselves, and then rewrite it again doing a 180 degree turn to the extreme opposite. In this way we examine whether other statements are true or truer for us than our original thought.

For example the statement/judgement  Katie uses in the interview

Her brother doesn’t care about her

becomes

She doesn’t care about her brother

and also

Her Brother does care about her.

For example:

(statement/judgement) My mother should have been more loving to me

becomes

I should have been more loving to my mother

and

My mother shouldn’t have been more loving to me.

As Katie mentions in our chat  "The Work” four questions, worksheets and exercises can be downloaded for free at thework.com. There is also a free 24 hour helpline and the contact details of trained facilitators worldwide on the website. Demonstrations of Katie doing The Work with participants can be found on YouTube. The book “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie is available on Amazon, in all good book stores and in libraries. 

 

 

The Interview: Defying the naysayers and Overcoming Shyness through solo travel with Ambreen Ajaz.

WW:  Ambreen so great to talk again. You know when we met in Turkey  ...that was what gave me the idea of interviewing women that I meet on the road and sharing their stories. You were my inspiration!

Ambreen: Aaaah thank you!

WW: So why don't you start by telling me about you and your background. 

Ambreen: Ok I am 40 and a half years old, to be exact. I was born in Pakistan in a city called Lahore inJanuary 1975 and I had my schooling here and education and then I started working for a bank and I did that for five years, Then I moved to a telecoms company in Pakistan - so I worked there for 7 and a half years. Then in 2012 we moved all of us to United Arab Emirates.

From there I worked as a consultant for 6 months then joined a bank for 2 years. After one and a half years my family decided to move back to Pakistan. So  I was living there alone for 6 months and decided to take a vacation to Turkey. When I came home I decided to move back to my family in Pakistan. My former employees offered me the same contact with the same package back home, so I winded up everything in UAE and moved back to Pakistan.

WW:  So you moved with your mum and your sisters is that right?

AA: Yes but because of visa regulations we couldn't get a permanent visa for my mother so she had to move back, back and forth, so but because of her age she decided she wanted to get back to her roots in Pakistan. So my sisters decided they would also come back with her and they move

WW Why did you decide to go back and join them?

AA I'm a very family oriented person. And although I had a dream of living in my own apartment and living a very independent life when I started to living in the city by myself  I missed them a lot and they said they missed me. So for emotional reasons I decided I should come and be with my mum. 

WW: I remember you telling me about the first time you decided to travel by yourself. Could you tell me some more about that, was that Malaysia?

AA: No it was Thailand and I did that in 2010. Travel is my passion i have a lot of countries on my list to visit and I was totally confined in my work environment for three consecutive years. I never had a break and a tough budget and finally I decided to myself "I'm going!  if I have to go alone i'm going alone!" 

  So I decided to take some time off. And everybody said "No you won't be able to handle it, blah blah blah" and they discouraged it but I decided to ignore that and go head anyway. That was the first trip and now I'm very confident I can go anywhere. Then I went to sri lanka and dubai alone, and then turkey where i met you!

WW: Yeah! When you decided to go to Thailand why did you choose Thailand first? 

AA: It was more feedback from my work colleagesu, they said it was very cheap, has beautiful landscape and i would love the shopping. But i'm not a very much a  shopping freak so I chose it because it was cheap and beautiful, but then I did end up doing a lot of shopping also! 

WW:  Haha well why not!?  and tell me what kinds of things people said to try and discourage, you... was it your family or your friends?

AA: Both of them.  They were like: "no you will meet people and they will kidnap you and they will steal your passport and hold onto it."

They scared me so much that everytime I went out alone in Thailand i used to lock my passport in three locks and hold the key in my pocket. I thought "I can lose everything but I can't lose my passport!  But they told me all sorts of things: 

  • people aren't trustworthy
  • I don't know the language, how will I communicate?
  • I will not be able to bargain because I've never done this by myself before so i'll loose a lot of money 
  • I will bored
  • It's not a place to go alone

But I just said:

No I'm going.

WW: I think you told me that  your brothers were on the phone the night before discouraging you and that although when you were there you weren't you didn't always have a great time you always told them you had an amazing time... did I remember that right?

AA: Yes when I decided to go to Thailand, they said I shouldn't be moving ahead. The situation in Pakistan is that women should always be tagged along as someone's companion and not go out alone so they said  "we are saying it for your security you shouldn't do it, you don't know who you will be coordinating with and finding your hotels."  So we had an argument about it before I went to turkey also.

They weren't happy, they said "no we are not happy about this, but its your life" and I said " Yes I've taken a decision, I'm old enough to do what I want to do with my life so i'm doing it!"

WW: Good for you! But then what was the reality like when you were in Thailand travelling by yourself?

AA: Actually the first day I went to Phuket first instead of Bangkok and then when I landed  the customs stopped me and checked my luggage and it took them hours although it was just one suitcase. I was so scared I was praying that they wouldn't put me in jail.  Then finally they give me clearance and said sorry.

But when I met the tour I was going to join and the lady that picked me up I felt very relaxed. 

 I really enjoyed having the time to myself, the places to think and relax, no one to question me "why are you doing this, why are you going there?"

I could stay in the hotel or go out, it was totally my discretion so I thoroughly enjoyed that!  Because these things really don't happen like that over here (Ambreen lives in Pakistan.) You have to be compliant to a lot of other people's requests and wishes also. 

WW:  Tell me about that because I don't know so much what it is like to be a woman in Pakistan.

AA: The culture is you live in a joint family system and the way that women are being brought up is that you always have to be comply to some elder. Either the siblings, the husband, the mother, the brother, the father. Women are not considered competent independent creatures here. Also the security situation is such that there's too much dependence on especially the male side of the family or the elder part of the female family. There are too many restrictions, you can't stay late out after 10pm or go alone to certain places.  You have to be accompanied or someone has to come and drop you or pick you, you can't go to certain bazaars alone. So it's quite confined. You are always looking to someone for permission. Someone has to give an approval to "can I do that?" 

It's not totally free like it is in Thailand or Turkey. In Turkey one night I just decided I would stay in all day in the hotel and relax. It's not like that here you have to force yourself to do tasks that you don't want to do.

But it's improving, now I see a lot of girls doing this. In 2010 it was unimaginable that single women would be travelling to other countries abroad but now I see a lot of colleagues in my office planning and visiting trips to places like Europe and I am very impressed that things have changed so quickly in the last four or five years.

WW: And why is that is it to do with a change in government?

AA:  I think its a lot of things. I think its to do with the media and the awareness is there. And also a lot of people like it because its become a kind of status symbol they see someone else has visited a place and they want to go too. I'm sorry to say that, but that's the reality. Wanting to brag about it, "ooh i'm gong to UK, i'm going to Europe' so its like the age we are in. Social media and the cultural changes, people are studying abroad so the youth are getting independent.

WW: When you were in Thailand and Turkey by yourself, what did you do to feel safe? Apart from padlocking your passport three times! Was there anything you did to help you feel more safe? 

AA: I used to pray before I went out from my hotel. You know we pray five times a day (Ambreen is a Muslim) and the early morning prayer I used to pray in my hotel before I left for the day. In Turkey i wasn't very scared but the day before I was leaving my friend told me "you have to be careful about people in Istanbul because they are very scary and they attack single women," So i was wondering "How come I feel so confident if this is going on, and then I remembered reading some articles on the plane about women being raped and murdered whilst going hiking. So I got really scared, but then I thought to myself "come on you are not a coward!" so I used to pray in the morning and then  - normally i'm not very friendly just because i'm a very quiet person so i don't talk to people easily but i thought i would talk to people because i realized if i kept myself confined to a corner then there would be no one to come help me because no one would know I was in trouble, so I should get along and mingle with people and make friends. So I made a lot of friends in turkey. 

WW: I think that's a really great point, because one is more vulnerable if one's by oneself but if you have at least one other female friend you're safer.

AA: And also i got a local SIM and that I didn't do in Thailand and was always worried about how I would get in touch if i needed to. But in Turkey i had a local SIM and so i could be in regular contact with my friends and family back home. I thick its important if you are alone to be connected back home with somebody, so i could tell them "i'm going on this tour or staying at this hotel>"

WW: It's interesting isn't it because of course we have to be safe and to protect ourselves but if you read all of the bad things that happen we'd never leave our room! 

And i don't think its representative of the majority of experience as well. Sometimes terrible things happen but that's not the general experience in a place.

AA: Yes and when people want to scare you they only tell you the experiences that are scary rather than tell you about the positive experiences and I believe if you are feeling like that then you raise that kind of instinct in other people who then might try to attack you. if you are not confident enough people can tell you that. So its the aura that you exude also, the feeling that you have inside. In Thailand in the late evenings I wouldn't go out of the hotel in case someone would kidnap me, whereas in Turkey i did the opposite.

One day in Turkey I was really scared, but i appeared very confident and i was traveling on a public bus where no one knew English and I sat on this bus and knew that in 3 hours I would reach my destination but for some reason the bus took a different route and i didn't get there for 6 or 7 hours.  I messaged to my hotel and said tha this person was supposed to come and get me but its gone this time and i don't know where i'm going, they then called my phone and spoke to the bus conductor and found out where it was going and then they reassured me that we were safe and just going a different route. 

WW: So you ended up where you were going?

AA: Yes just 7 hours later

WW: You know I don't know if you remember this but i'm half Turkish, my father and his family are all turkish, and this sounds like a joke me and my mother would make - it just sounds like a very "Turkish" experience,e you think you're going one way and it turns out you're going another, you're told its going to be 3 hours but it ends up being 7 but it all works out fine in the end! (laughs) 

But great also that you could have that communication.

WW; Have you learnt anything about yourself? Having had the freedom to travel by yourself? 

AA: Yes. I used to think that I was not very brave. But it turned out i can handle a lot of tough situations on my own and previously I was not very confident, and in Pakistan I didn't go anywhere by myself. So i thought If i was in a situation that I would not been able to handle it, but there have been incidents in both places which if I hadn't been in them I wouldn't have realized that i do have the confidence to handle things. I am a brave person and I do have courage. Basically I was always a very shy person and I figure that If I am in a situation where it will benefit me i have the confidence to talk to people and introduce myself and to ask for help. I've also learnt how to communicate. Before I used to confine myself by saying "oh no i dont want to talk to people i don't know" I was very and i realized that if i talk to people they are very friendly.

WW: that was very my first impression of you that you were lovely, warm and friendly.

AA: And after you i met a girl from Argentina and she was very friendly also and we had lunch and shopped together and she said "oh you are so friendly!" `and i was patting myself on my back and saying "good job." So I  learnt that it's ok to talk to people and to trust people, i had a wrong impression that people are always going to bring you harm and that's not the case.

WW: Talk to me more about your faith and your spiritual faith. You are muslim and you mentioned it briefly, is travel accepted as part of your religion? 

AA: Generally its been laid down, we've been asked in our religion to go and explore the world because its been created by Allah and its so beautiful so if we have the means we should go and discover it. But for women its mentioned if possible they should travel with someone close. But its not mandatory or a compulsion that you cannot then go. So it's very much allowed and very much to  move ahead and see the beauty that Allah has created in the world. And i must say that every time I visited a new place in Turkey I couldn't help praising "Wow" Literally there is so much in the world that I get to see and it's really helped me settle my beliefs we have the world as a good thing, its not a bad thing and not that we are not supposed to enjoy the world It is there and it has been created so beautifully by Allah for us to appreciate. 

WW: what is the expression that you said? And what does it mean?

AA: Subhanallah - Alive and pulsate. 

WW: and you talked about praying as well,

AA: Basically as part of our religion we are not supposed to stop praying but there is some relaxation of the rules when we are traveling, we can shorten the prayers or we can combine some prayers. Like we pray 5 times a day, one is early mooring before the sun rises, one is afternoon and one is afternoon, and one is late evening when the sun sets and before midnight. So when we are traveling we can only pray three times by combining the early morning, then afternoon and then i used to combine the evening and midnight prayer. In Thailand I didn't pray as regularly but in Turkey I prayed on time and regularly every day. 

WW: Do you have any other places you want to visit?

AA: Yes I really want to go to Italy, London and South Africa. In shallah. 

WW: What advice would you give to other women wanting to travel for the first time by themselves?

AA: I think they should be more open to it and the most critical thing is opening to communication. A lot of time you don't realize what will come your way but if i hadn't been open to communicating with people then I wouldn't have received so many of the tips and info and help that people on my travels gave me.  So its very important that you free yourself from your worries and open to yourself to communication with outhrs.

WW: And what about for people still building up the courage? 

AA: I think they should just go ahead! And when they are planning don't look into the negative side of places because its a very small portion of an experience, and when you are trying to build up courage people will always try and discourage you so just believe in yourself and keep up the faith and I think that everyone will see that its the best thing that they could ever done. It frees you from so many worries and opens you up as a person.

WW: Thank you so much Ambreen - I agree! 

 

END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ode to travel - Inbetween Hours and unseen days...

ugly fish a frying

This isn’t a story of sun lit beaches and crystal blue waters or the scent of incense wafting on the breeze.  This isn’t about a carefree woman swishing a white scarf behind her whilst whimsically leaving a trail of footprints in pure, white sand. This isn't turquoise waves, or heat that "envelopes you like a blanket"  or another yoga posture silhouetted against the caramel of another setting sun. This isn’t picture postcards or self congratulatory social media posts or a pininterst board or an insta - gasm of travel porn. 

This isn’t mountain ranges hazing into the distance or the starfish fronds of a palm tree against twilight, this isn’t the pink stuccoed walls of strange crumbling colonial buildings or the peeling paint of another continental town.

This isn't the travel pretty and this sure as hell ain’t the travel  beautiful. This isn't the perfectly swooshed cappuccino set against geraniums and rusty railings of another picture perfect coastal town looking down upon a crescent of navy and another nestled picture perfect town.

This is an ode for a love of travel that never gets spoken about.  That in between land that internet and social media forgot. The in-between time that every hungry wanderer still gets a frisson from. 

So this in an homage to the unsung. The in- between hours. 

This is the bleary, nauseous feeling of another 14 hour night bus and the road side cafe that you get chucked out at at 4 am in the morning. This is for early morning dust, and a strange city coming to life as another stray dog tries to piss against your backpack.

This is for the long days and dreary nights on cramped train cabins and bleary mornings stacked with rucksack in roadside cafes waiting for another connection.  No idea where you are, not sure when you’ll be leaving.  This is for the wanderers who already know you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you’re going.

This is for the hotel with the mother lying on  a stained mattresses at reception nursing a baby ; the click of the plastic fan in another roadside cafe and  the smell of bleach. For the boy mopping the floor with vinegar from an old cola bottle. This is for the stray dogs,  parading around town, holding their early morning mothers meeting, giving out orders for the day and then split, scram.  This is for the shop with 70 litres of condensed milk and three types of corn syrup, the crushed together packets of old cigarettes, the bunches of herbs trodden into the floor, the range of gizmos and gadgets in the window,  the nodding cat with its shaking paw high on the wall. This is for the shy kid serving me in the store with the fake Oreos and dove soap bars squashed in moldy packets between sacks of grain, tupperwares of bread rolls, and pork scratchings in cellophane. This is for the whiff of tobacco and mothballs, the stench of fish on the wharf, or a small boy curled up asleep in the shiny shank of a supine water buffalo. For the whisp of smoke from a fire lit before dawn outside a hut, for the sleepy shuffling eye lid heavy hours where dirt streaks tiles and floors smell of disinfectant.

This is for the tuk tuk drivers lounging in their seats, women swatting flies with plastic bags on sticks across the purple trays of offal, taxi drivers wiping sweat from their brows and the old crone that fixes you with her one good eye,  sat bent beside her cardboard tray of chicklets. This is for the dirty, dusty,  inglorious queasy hours of travel when the bus stops for no reason and every one gets out and stares at the engine or the driver throws a bucket of water at it, or there’s a crash up ahead and you watch as a mom holds her child up to piss by the side of the road and sunflowers push through the open window and someone tries to sell you some corn. This is for the blinking, Jesus and mary swinging in the taxi window and the driver who crosses himself at every turn in the road. This is for the loud tinny music from an old transistor radio, or blaring from the bus with its incessant, jangly beat that never ends christ how i hate love miss that music. This is for the ubiquitous blare of football from another tv screen, the  stink of gasoline dirtying on the pavement, for the stray cat and its one winking eye,  the caretakers and the cleaners, the stench of rotting fruit as rubbish mounds up in the kerbside, and the blue streak of dawn rising on another tired city as people gather for work, the graffiti, the tin cans,  the empty garages and the endless roads.

This is for formica table tops and the grains of rice sitting in moist salt shakers , the thick sweet coffee served in a plastic cup with a bloop of condensed milk stuck to the bottom or the crusted rim of a tomato shaped ketchup bottle served with chips half cooked. This is hours spent typing up notes in airport cafes and an arse sore from plastic seats. The dirty, salty, scratches on a backpack hauled onto a boat and slopped with sea water, the hours, minutes, days spent squashed into buses with mens jeans and arms too close to me and a box of chickens squarking. This is being crammed into the backs of lorries sitting on sacks of pretzels, of barrels of water slopping and the gentle nudge from the eels within, the thick purply  hunks of raw meat that get crammed on a crate beside me and for women’s hips pushed into my own, shyly looking at my skin from under eye lashes for women wrapped in scarves  blatantly looking at my skin and laughing, pinching it, pointing at it, thrusting their children into my arms. For snot nosed kids gazing over shoulders, or puking in corners, for watery eyed babies.  This is for the great swathes of travel time that no internet meme, postcard, social media post or insta filter ever remembered to tenderly curate. The in-between hours of travel on the road, that still shoots a thrill of tiredness and adoration through my aching, hungry body as i sit slumped propped up by my bags in another road side cafe waiting for a connection at 4am in the morning. 

I love every dusty, itchy, bloody, chirping, stinking shrieking, queasy, rushing bleary eyed bloody beautiful second of it.