“In many Native American cultures each of the thirteen moons of the year is said to hold its own story, and each is powered by the turtle who is believed to contain the mystery of the moon in the shell of its back.” – Book: Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back
Many Native cultures relate the cycles of the moon to the seasons. The story of the Turtle’s back is used as a calendar, whereby each moon signifies the initiation and completion of each new moon cycle.
Aboriginal Education at UVIC:
Two weeks ago we went up to Mount Tolmie and we were given a talk by an Aboriginal elder. He informed us that the Anishinaabe legend states that there are 13 moons, and that the “Freezing Moon” is what signifies a new cycle of moon.
A link to the moons can be found here: http://www.anishinaabemdaa.com/moons.htm
Sankalpa, in Sanskrit, translates to determination or will. It is an intention, resolution or vow – one that reflects your highest aspirations. It is a declarative statement to fulfill a specific goal. ‘San’: a concept/idea formed in the heart, and ‘kalpa’: a way of proceeding.
We all have our specific goals and how we go about attaining these is through our actions. The actions are a product of our mind’s intentions and we need to have the will to first want to reach these goals. They say that the mind is the ultimate ruler of your fate. And it certainly is. The buddha once said, “What you think, you become”. The energy you are putting into your conscious thought is your intention. When you think about a certain outcome you are feeling and acting in ways that are manifesting that reality – you are growing into what your mind believes you are destine to be. This of course can be problematic as most of us are bombarded with negative thoughts that plague our minds and disillusion us from keeping a positive intention or will to reach our utmost desires.
The Four Desires, or Purushartha is thought to be four desires which are within our souls. The first one, Dharma, is the desire to become who you are meant to be. We have the ultimate longing to express ourselves, or have a voice in the world which allows others to understand us. Your Dharma, can be interpreted as your calling or passion. It is what you solely believe you are supposed to be doing during your life. The second piece of the puzzle is your Artha, the desire for the means (money, security, health) in order for you to fulfill your Dharma. We may know that creating documentaries is our dharma, but how do we start to make this our living when we can’t afford to buy the equipment for this passion? The third desire is Kama, and this is the longing for pleasure in any and all forms. So ideally we would like to feel happy. I think that we fulfill Kama when we have the means (Artha) to accomplish and live our Dharma.
These three innate desires of the soul work with one another until we finally can fulfill Moksha – the desire for spiritual realization and ultimate freedom. We can be at peace and live a life of balance when these desires are all attained.
It is imperative to understand that, if Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are met – and they can also be material wants – if these are desired mindfully, we can navigate through our rose-shaded consumeristic, 21st century ideals to alas find ourselves in the real presence of Satyakamna, or our true desires. What we think we want is 180 degrees left of our true desires, and to figure out what these real wants are, we need to look within ourselves, hangout with ourselves, get to know ourselves truly. Become a master of your mind, becoming so aware of your challenges and how you can work through the societal, parental and social imprints that have masked your true being. Then, you will find what it is you so desire.
At the moment I am reading a few books which have been inspiring but also challenging my own views of the world. I feel as though the more I see, the less I know for sure (John Lennon -he knew). The more you dive deeper into trying to understand or make sense of everything in this reality we’re living, the more doors you open that also desire an answer. Here is a list of some good books I’ve been poking in and out of:
1. It’s Here Now (Are You): A Spiritual Memoir – By Bhagavan Das
This book is one man’s journey from the US to India in the early 70s. He talks about his pursuit of “enlightenment” and how he knew from a very young age that he was not meant to stay in America – He didn’t want material possessions or a career, he desired happiness and finding the meaning of his life.
2. Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis
This book is for the malleable minded. Reading this book has really challenged all things I currently know or have learned about in the past. The authors discuss Carl Jung’s work on dream analysis to UFO dreams and their significance to the possibility that some psychological disorders are in fact spiritual awakenings. They dive into the ancient societies, Aboriginal medicine men and Shaman’s who had exceptional abilities to heal, read minds, and do the unthinkable. They discuss how, all of a sudden there are fewer of these people around but rather more individuals who are described or diagnosed with psychosis. Why is this? This book questions it all and makes you think deeply about many issues.
3. The Purity of Desire: 100 Poems of Rumi
Just some great quotes to meditate your mind on.
I had heard about Ha Giang province while googling: off the beaten path in northern Vietnam. The blog I discovered detailed a motorbike loop which would take 3-4 days from Ha Giang city. At the time, I was in Hanoi, hating everything about it – the busy streets, the tourists, and smoggy weather. So Rachel and I made the last minute decision to wing it and head up to this province which looked so exotic and untouched. The day we left, I went scouting the streets for a giant map of Ha Giang and bought myself a cheap North Face waterproof jacket. We booked a sleeper night bus to Ha Giang and the lady was utterly shocked that we were going to go there. “This place is not for tourists! Only Vietnamese go here for holiday”.
PERFECT. We then bought two tickets and it was the best decision we ever made…
Day 1: Arrived in Ha Giang early in the morning after taking the sleeping night bus at 5 pm from Hanoi. Got to Ha Giang at 5 am.
Photo: A bridge in Ha Giang
Upon arrival we had no hotel or hostel booked. We were given one hotel name from the tour lady we booked our bus tickets from, and we told the taxi to take us there. “Golden Stone?” I think the hotel was called. We Paid 200,000 dong for laundry and a half sleep because we decided to leave at 3pm to pursue motorbikes to rent.
We walked around for ages trying to find Johnny, who apparently rents good motorbikes in the city. I had read a blog online about another person who had rented bikes from him and it was a fiasco trying to find out how to find him. Finally our hotel got him on the phone and 10 minutes later he was at our hotel ready to teach us how to drive a standard motorbike…
After a quick 5 minute tutorial, and after he had made me go over the instructions with Rachel, we were ready to go. He drove us 6 km in the direction of Quan Ba, 44km from Ha Giang. He said goodbye and we told him we’d see him in 4 or 5 days.
Along the way we saw the children at a bridge and we decided to take a dip with them. There was a strange older man also following us into the water and he kept flashing his stuff to the kids and us and seemed to be itching himself.
***Bike costs: 800,000 dong for 4/5 days.
Photo: Kids playing in the water under a bridge
We continued to drive along the pothole, windy roads through the lush mountains, stopping every 10 minutes for some photos. No pictures can really paint how gorgeous the drive was. It started to downpour and We found ourselves taking cover under a make shift hut on the side of the road. It was getting close to 6 and we knew we didn’t have much time until it would be dark. We were still trying to find the hotel that Johnny had suggested called 567 hotel, but did not see it. As we sat in the sheltered hut some hill tribe women came by as well as a girl on her motorbike, who saw us, and immediately stopped, backed up, and came to have a chat with us. She brought us a bag of some unidentifiable fruits which turned it to just be cucumbers.
Photo: Ha Giang to Quan Ba
Photo: Rice paddies on the way to Quan Ba
The rain stopped and we made the executive decision to continue on our way and hope that the city was coming up soon because we had sworn we had just read a sign saying that we had entered the city already.
We also stopped at heavens gate and walked the stairs to the top. By his point I was so hungry and tired and we knew we had to really get going and find he hotel.
We eventually found the hotel, and no room available due to a huge influx of Vietnamese tourists from Hanoi. We ended up finding a different hotel which was across the street. Checked in and then went out for dinner.
Photo: Our hotel room in Quan Ba (200,000 Dong/night) ~ $20 US – not the cheapest up here… compared to Hanoi
Photo: Quan Ba City (view from hotel room)
Hill tribe lady near Meo Vac. She sat down for a bit and we tried to have a conversation but with zero English, and us not knowing ANY hill tribe dialect, we couldn’t get too far.
Stopped to buy watermelon from this families stand. The little girl in the pink was slicing our watermelon for us and we definitely thought she was about to take her fingers off.
The permits we had to get once we were in Meo Vac. You apparently need these in order to stay at any hotel in this town because it’s near the Chinese Border… (Cost: around $20)
Hill tribe ladies popping in and out of bushes with branches, fruits, children in baskets.
You would see these ladies walking so far in the hottest weather… Then, once and a while, men on motorcycles will stop and ask the hill tribe girls if they need a ride somewhere, and most of the time they are relieved by this offer, jump on the back, and head off to god knows where. This one time we were motorbiking we saw a motorcycling Vietnamese man, stopped, and he was yelling and shaking a hill tribe lady. We stopped and walked over to see what was the matter and they just disappeared. It was interesting because the men who rode the motorcycles were definitely not from Ha Giang and were from the villages surrounding Meo Vac, however, they distinctly had more resources then the hill tribe ladies and where ever they came from. The men could afford bikes and the hill tribe ladies basically lived off weaving and selling fruit and kittens at markets.
Young boys walking their goats and doing their chores.
The land before time. This was the most beautiful point of the trip and was absolutely magical!!
These head scarfs are sold in the villages in Meo Vac. The hill tribe ladies would wear these all day, covering their hair from the sun.
Vietnamese flag at the furthest point along the Vietnam/Chinese border.
Actually so in the middle of nowhere and we met this boy. He was really thirsty so we gave him our water bottle 🙂
A village (cannot remember where) that we stopped in to get more gas for the bikes.
Rachel and I were done with the cities. We were in Hanoi for 2 nights when I decided that I needed out. I didn’t want to be surrounded by heaps of tourists, go on exhausting tours, or eat alongside belligerent 19-year-olds (Sometimes at 9 o’clock. Really?) – all the while listening to a constant, UNCE-UNCE-UNCE, DUP-DUP-DUP, electronic Vietnamese music beat. The waiter comes around and I try and order Pho, pronounced in Vietnamese, ‘Pha’. I pronounce it ‘Pha’, yet every time, it’s “I don know”. Trying to help the waiter understand what I’d like to order, I point to the picture of the Pho on the menu. He screams: “OooOOHhhhhhhh, PHoAAAAAAH!!!!!!”
Yes. That is what I want.
For screaming it back to me in much higher pitch with the same pronunciation.
We were back to the city and instantly wanted to get away. We had done the basic South to North route, starting in Saigon and going through Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Mue and Lastly in Hanoi. Here are some photos from the Trip up to Hanoi:
Mui Ne & Hoi An
#1: Apple Cider Vinegar Drink
– 1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
– 1 c. boiled water
– Ground up ginger
– Sprinkle cayenne (optional – it is quite spicy so perhaps gargle with this and hot water prior to the ACD).
Directions: 3-4 Times a day and will instantly reduce the pain and swelling within minutes.
Note: I took this 10 minutes ago and my throat is, I kid you not, 90% better. An absolute goldmine.
#2: Lemon Throat Coat Tea
Directions: Take throughout the day, as much as you like.
– 2 cloves of garlic
Directions: Take 2 cloves of garlic and suck on them on each side of your cheeks. You smell absolutely repulsing after but I swear it works wonders.
#4: Oil of Oregano
– Take about 10 ml, 3x a day – Just completely shock the system with this stuff.
*This is something I never have seen the immediate results from… But people swear by it.
Directions: Take this morning and night.