Embracing the shadows

“We cannot erase people’s traumas, but we can give them positive memories to overcome the effects of negative ones” Jeroen taught us in his freediving coach training (diving without scuba gear). And that: lots of positive memories, he delivered! In 10 days, I got over a long list of fears, some I didn’t even know I had. Fear of drowning, suffocating, exhaustion, darkness, cold, getting lost, being wet, seasickness, crowds, dogs with skin diseases, tentacles on my face, insects, touching feces, sewage, garbage, infection…to name a few. Growing up in a family of doctors, where everything had to be sterile before we could touch it, I had a mild case of germophobia. After 10 days with Jeroen, I’m definitely over it! The best part is that I didn’t die or even get sick. It was, as always, all in my head.
I traveled for 10 hours by trike (tricycle), plane, taxi, bus, ferry and foot to finally reach the dive house: Jeroen’s place. Luckily dinner was ready. 26 more people joined and we all sat on the floor, in his tiny apartment and ate the delicious curry he made. 27 of us, ages 9-60, only 3 non Filipinos, trained and dove together. Lived, cooked and ate 3 meals together in a tiny 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment where our collective luggage was piled ceiling high in one corner. I was freediving in the Filipino culture as much as in the ocean. When I went in the bathroom, my heart sank: A toilet, sink with soap and a large tub of water with scoopers. No toilet paper, no trashcan, no bidet or flusher, no shower. I badly wanted to ask somebody how to deal with #2 but my pride got the best of me. I thought, as an engineer, I should be able to figure it out. Back to the basics: pour water on your butt and rinse it with the other hand. Aiming the scooper took a couple of trials but you learn fast. Even though it’s dirty business, you get to know your ass hole intimately and it’s much cleaner than TP, no smearing action! And, you save lots of trees. Just wash your hands afterwards and you’re good to go. Embracing the shadow side of life is very liberating and empowering. Instead of fear, tension and disgust, I now feel gratitude, appreciation and a stronger connection to my ass hole. I know I’m not fully relaxed until I can relax my anal sphincter. Now I have a clean relaxation gauge!

#freedivingcoachesofasia #freediving #philippines #westandinlove #unconditionallove #travel #travelblog


From outer to Innerdance

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, my body is convulsing, uncontrollably, on the floor of a bamboo structure in the jungle. My eyes are closed. I hear music; a hand twitches, a leg shakes, an arm shoots up in the air. That’s not what I expected when I decided to meet my friend Jenny in Palawan.

My online search for intentional communities in the Philippines came up with one result: Maia Earth in Palawan. I put it on my list. When I learnt Jenny was in the Philippines too, we agreed to meet! As fate would have it, she was at Maia Earth: 2 birds with one stone! I felt immediately welcome and included by the village founder Pi, who is also the founder of Innerdance. Unbeknownst to me, I landed in Innerdance world headquarters! So I jumped in.

My left hand then arm started shaking. There were tears. Lots of tears. Some laughter, followed by tears. No idea where they came from. Just sadness welling up. Tried to justify the tears, but the reasons were after the fact. Cried for my family, for my mom, for mother Earth, for the oceans. Then gave up trying to justify. Allowed the tears to flow, and the sadness to swell up and wash out. Releasing sadness. Lots of sadness. Then there was stillness… and relief. The words “I’m tired” resonated with my sadness and magnified it. I felt like I want to put down my burdens and rest. There was darkness. No colors, just black. Sometimes I would see the face of an angry animal, like a wolf, or a bear. I wasn’t afraid. I felt calm but challenged. Then more tears. Then stillness and calm again.

It always starts with my left hand, twitching, shaking, moving randomly, then other body parts, typically the right hand, start moving on their own in random ways. Lots of convulsions, twitching and shaking. Moaning. Tears. The image of war planes in the sky and the feeling of fear. Then stillness. Being awake and aware the whole time is strange because I’m not controlling my body. It just takes off on its own journey. Can’t predict where, what or when. I simply surrender and witness. Like it’s someone else’s body but I’m Inside It.

Release then stillness and rest. I felt very peaceful, relaxed and happy. Floating sensations. One with the universe feelings. Calmness and lightness.

Weird music. Little harmony, more distortions. Twitching. No emotions. No crying or joy. Just twitching and orgasmic contractions, mostly hands and feet. Innerdance music mimics our circadian rhythms. It simulates dream states while being awake.

Laughter, tears, stillness, movement, images, ebbs and flows of thoughts and emotions. I’m awake and fully aware, yet my body has a mind of its own. Then the music stops. I open my eyes. The process, or journey is over.

I was not doing weed, Ayahuasca, mushrooms, acid or any psychedelics, not even chocolate. We were tripping on my drug of choice; music! Sometimes there were words, but only sound waves. We were high on sounds! Welcome to Innerdance!

#innerdance #maiaearthvillage #philippines #unconditionallove #westandinlove #travel #ecocommunities

With Pi at Indigo, Maia Earth Village.

With Jenny at Nagtabon beach.

Bidding farewell to the sun.

Under the coconut palms at Surf Surf Cafe, Nagtabon beach.

Talaudyong beach.

At Bahay Kalipay, Puerto Princesa.

Baby Sheeva at Bahay Kalipay.

This is how we do yoga here.

Full moon at Indigo, Maia Earth Eco village.

With my Maia Earth family, eating breakfast.

My last sunset at Nagtabon Beach.

Chilling at Surf Surf Cafe

Sunset in El Nido

Trip to El Nido with Maia Earth friends

Heaven and Hell

What’s the difference between heaven and hell? The same moment, circumstances and environment can be either heaven or hell depending on what we choose to focus on. I have been practicing switching back and forth to increase my capacity for choosing my reality and living consciously. It’s very simple and never fails: think of past trauma or horrible future scenarios = fear, contraction = Hell. Focus on the present moment = all’s good, relaxation, enjoyment = Heaven. Choosing fear/Hell is automatic because we’ve been trained that way. Even under seemingly perfect conditions, I almost instinctively make up worst case scenarios.
Setting: I’m in the ocean, swimming in an idyllic paradise beach.
Hell: scenes from the movie Jaws. The time when I got caught in an eddy and my brother saved my life by pulling me out. Memory of the wave that sucked me down and banged my head on the rocks. Imaginary horror scenarios of made up sh!t that my mind is so good at concocting.
Heaven: at this present moment, I feel the crystal clear warm water caressing my whole body. I see the beautiful green mountains surrounding the blue ocean all around me. I hear the soothing sounds of the waves, breeze and water splashes. I smell the fresh clean air. I taste the salty water and I think to myself what a wonderful world! I get out of the ocean and lie down on the soft sand under a beautiful tree. I look at the ocean and admire the vibrant colors of nature! I quietly and humbly bow in awe and say “thank you” to the ocean, sky, trees, sand, mountains, clouds, my body, my life, everything and everyone who made this magic moment possible. Then the next moment happens and brings its own magic. And I feel gratitude, love and joy.
Hell is irrational Fear. Heaven is the present moment! Take your pick.

#travel #philippines #unconditionallove #westandinlove #heavenandhell

My Addiction is…

I’ve had the habit ever since I remember. Sometimes I surrender to it and sometimes I resist. I can stop whenever I want, I believe, but what’s the point? When I think “I should stop”, that only lasts until I see the next opportunity then I’m on it again. The sweet sensations of freedom, excitement and joy are all I could think about. I surrender, feel the bliss, keep going, want more, there’s always more. People think I’m wasting my life away. They don’t understand. All my senses are heightened when I’m doing it; food tastes better, sights and people are more beautiful, I’m friendlier, more creative, happier and less inhibited. I know I’m not alone, there are thousands of us out there and we’re all happy. Some people use only the cheap kind, others use the expensive stuff. I like variety. I keep switching and that heightens my senses even more. No matter how many times I stop, I keep going back. In my early 30s, I had an episode that lasted 5 months. I had to stop so as not to lose my USA green card. My cat Goddess Keesha was the only one who made me kick the habit. When she passed, I immediately went back and I’m still doing it…
My name is Hala, and I am a traveler!

Apo Island

The Philippines consists of 7641 islands, many disappear in high tide. So if you are on one of those, forget about the multiplication tables, memorize your tide tables. Apo island doesn’t disappear in high tide despite being very small. It’s basically a couple of pointy rocks jutting out of the ocean, with a village on each side between which one can walk in 30 minutes. There are no rivers here and therefore no drinking water. That has to be brought from the neighboring island, Negros. There are a couple of wells that fill up in the rainy season and people use their water for washing and bathing. No plumbing here; there’s a big bucket of sea water by the toilet, and a big bucket of well water by the sink. Each bucket has scoopers. After using the toilet, you scoop sea water and dump it in the toilet until it’s flushed. Want to shower? scoop and dump. That’s when you wish you had 3 hands (… besides masturbating 😜). The island has no electricity except from 6-10 PM. Otherwise, sunshine and battery power save the day. Everyone has chicken and dogs (I have a suspicion that chicken and dogs raise people here). Unlike textbook roosters who crow only at dawn, real life roosters actually crow at all times of day and night, whenever the heck they want.
There are no sandy beaches in Apo island, it’s all rocks and coral. The only reasons people come here are snorkeling and diving. The underwater life is rich and fascinating with coral reefs as far as the eyes could see (visibility is typically 15 meters). There are several Marine sanctuaries to guarantee the continuity of tourism income. One may also go hiking to the top of the two rocks, which is mostly climbing up and down stairs. The views from the top are totally worth it. Apo village is the busy commercial center with accommodation, restaurants, schools and shops, Cogon is a tiny village where pigs, chicken, dogs and cats keep some humans to feed them but no commerce of any kind. Even in this tiny spit of an island, people speak very good English.
To get to and from Apo island, prepare to get wet. The fishing boats that carry people and cargo back and forth have no docks on either side of their route. You pull up your clothes, carry your luggage on your head (local boys will help), walk to the boat and climb on the wooden plank. Waves are unavoidable and will often be up to your hips. Even if you pull a Jesus trick and get on and off without getting too wet, the boat ride will definitely get you as the waves splash onboard the shallow deck. Luckily they stow away the luggage and goods in the hull so they stay dry. If you’re going to be on a tiny little island with nothing to do but snorkel and dive, you better be fit and willing to get wet. Getting there is the fitness and endurance test. Welcome to Apo!

#travel #travelblog #apo #apoisland #philippines #unconditionallove #westandinlove

On top of the south rock

Apo Village

The south rock

The north rock.

Hiking in Apo

One of the neighborhoods

Typical house

Are the stairs going up or down?

Sunset in Apo

The coconut tree embryo tastes like healthy cotton candy, coconut flavored!

The old woman and the sea

Cogon resident

The mayor of Cogon

Prestine beach, unfortunately, no sand.

Apo sunsets are spectacular!

Sunset with the tide in

Apo island, Philippines.

Traveling Sola

“Are you traveling alone? Why?” “Where’s your husband?” “Why isn’t he with you?”… are some of the questions people keep asking me in the Philippines. They might as well be saying:”Where’s your owner? How come you’re not on leash?” The concept of a free unattached woman traveling by herself seems to be alien to them. They look puzzled when I say that I chose not to have children. I don’t even mention polyamory. I’ve experienced the same sentiments in Egypt, India and most third world countries. The traditional thinking is that the main purpose of a woman is to reproduce. If a woman chooses otherwise, then she’s not normal. Unfortunately “normal” comes from our human heritage of fear and scarcity. In a culture of love and abundance, everyone is free to choose their path and follow their bliss without any pressure or coersion. Every person is sovereign with full autonomy over their own body. This basic right is, unfortunately, still a foreign concept in most of the world. Hence a solo woman traveler is often seen as a disturbance to the calm stagnant waters of conformity and fear. In my long history of solo travel, I acquired habits that help me navigate potentially hostile attitudes. Here are some:
1. Posture and attitude: (all my dance students practice those from day one) Walk with confidence and pride. If needs be, put on your “don’t mess with me” attitude, otherwise, a confident smile works great. Pretend that you just aced a hard exam. If you believe for a second that you’re weak and need protection, you’ll attract energies to confirm your beliefs. Do NOT travel alone if that’s how you see yourself.
2. Humanize your interactions. Look people in the eye. Nod. Show interest and curiosity. Initiate a conversation, even if it’s just asking about the time. When you connect with another being on a human level, it’s hard for them to see you as a piece of meat. Someone makes you feel nervous? Go over and say ‘Hi’ and watch the nervousness dissolve instantaneously.
3. Own your Yeses and Nos. If you want something, don’t be shy to ask explicitly. Don’t drop hints expecting others to get you. Likewise, when you don’t want something, don’t be afraid to say no; a hundred times if needs be. Peddlers can give you a great practice. Look them in the eye and say no confidently, as many times as you need to make them go away. If your ‘no’ is weak, they’ll keep pushing.
4. Stare back. I was on a beach in India and a man kept looking at me. No matter what I did, he kept staring. I turned around, faced him and stared back. He immediately looked away and went about his business. Don’t be shy to assert your needs, otherwise, don’t be disappointed when people don’t get you.
5. Take a compliment. Don’t jump into stories if someone smiles at you. Smile back. Say thank you to a compliment and move on. Not everyone wants to jump in your pants. And those who do, cannot touch you without your “Hell Yes”. Trust yourself, because if you don’t, you cannot trust anyone else.
6. Ask the locals. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Even when you stick out, if you befriend and follow the locals, they will respect and protect you if needed.
7. Trust your instincts. If your gut feeling says no, listen to it. Sometimes our logical mind isn’t as smart as our intuition. Develop your intuition by feeling and taking care of your body, meditating and cultivating your higher self. Solo travel is a great way to do just that!
Happy trails!

Many moons ago when I was practicing karate.

Sunset in Siquijor Philippines.

Tree and Sky. Dumaguete, Philippines.

That ship has sailed…

Edible dildo 😀. Sticky sweet rice called “Budbud”.

Dear My Fear

Dear my Fear,
Our relationship hasn’t been the smoothest or the most amiable. You’re either controlling me, often paralyzing me, I’m ignoring you or following you then hating myself and your guts. Admittedly, sometimes you make me laugh with the ridiculous crazy thoughts you have. When you act up, you deprive us of living in, and fully enjoying the present moment. You’re always stuck in the past or running horrible scenarios of the future. Can we just rest in the present moment and enjoy? I’m tired of the painful dynamics and I want to make peace. Our disfuncional relationship is not healthy and I apologise for my share in it. I will stop blindly following you then hating you for it. I acknowledge your role in my life. I will stop pretending that you don’t exist. You’re too powerful to ignore.
I embrace you as part of me. You’re trying to keep me safe and alive. You have succeeded and I thank you for my wonderful life. You’re also my link to my ancestors who passed you down to me one generation after the next. You’re my history and my heritage. Your mere existence is proof that, at some point in the far or near past, you had saved one or more of my ancestors and therefore, you are directly responsible for my existence. Thank you! You’ve been working super hard to protect me, all my life. I want you to know that I am good now. You may retire and rest. I learnt to love all of me, including you and I’m safe.
I assure you that I will always remember and consider your words of caution. They’re etched in my brain. But you can let go of control because I am a loving being now and can take care of myself.
I love you and I release you.
Yours truly,