I wasn’t planning on an “Outlander” Tour of Scotland. Admittedly, I am obsessed with the series, yet I did not plan any “Outlander” visits while on my summer birthday bucket list trip in June 2019. But the moment our (I went with my 16 year old nephew) tour guide picked us up in Edinburgh and we headed to the Highlands of Scotland for five days, he knew. He just knew he should alter the itinerary and take me to OUTLANDER!
While in the Medieval City of Edinburgh, our guide there included a pit-stop to Bakehouse Close where Jamie and Claire were reunited 20 years after their separation. A “close” is an alleyway off the main Royal Mile road that leads to private property and were once gated and closed to the public. To this day, they remain frozen in time which is why they used Bakehouse Close as Jamie’s Print Show of 1700s Edinburgh. I stood on a step with no clue that when I would go home and re-watch the series, I would be standing on the same steps where Claire could be seen entering A. Malcolm print shop.
Our Highlands guide David Campbell gave me a map “Outlander – Visit the Scottish Locations as seen in the hit TV series.” I poured over each and every location on that map. We only had time to visit a few. First was Linlithgow Palace where they shot Wentworth Prison. In the center of the haunted ruins of Linlithgow was a magnificent fountain built by James V in 1538. Fed by underground water, when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited in 1745 it was made to flow wine. I couldn’t quite figure out which scenes were shot there. Maybe the creepy haunted narrow hallways.
Next we stormed Doune Castle where they shot Castle Leoch for months. The interior isn’t much, but the grounds and exterior courtyard is energetically exciting. You can really imagine castle life in those days. As an intuitive, I liked this happy castle. It talked to me and let me know that shooting the show brought back a life it had lost for centuries. The castle was pleased so many visitors were taking an interest in it. Doune was a bit lost for a long time and now it had been found again. Castle Leoch was the fictional home to Colum MacKenzie and his clan in the 18th c. Misty and moody, I loved this castle visit.
The 3 Sisters Mountain in Glen Coe is a highlight of the Highlands visit. Majestic world-famous Scottish landmark with high mountain peaks, ridges and rushing waterfalls. The opening credits were shot here as well as a few horse riding scenes. How could it not? Breath-taking scenery.
The magic of the movies never gets old to me. It’s always exciting and illuminating and pings at my heart. If you make it to the Scottish Highlands and are a fan of Outlander, you must visit ALL the spots where they shot. Tell your tour guide!
Spirit begins with prayer and what better way to speed up that communication then lighting incense. Smoke is the vehicle that dispatches your wishes and dreams to the universe,
Incense is a powerful tool dating back 6000 to 8500 years to ancient Hindu texts or Vedas. The trend took off spreading to Greece and Rome when Babylonians wafted incense sticks during prayers. Did you know that peddlers along the Silk Route turned incense sales into big business when various techniques, multiple flavors, and a variety of styles became accessible?
The famous trade route changed its name to the Incense Route.
I have opened the portal to a more spiritual way of being in the world and there’s no going back only forward.
This past year I chased meridian spots all over Taiwan. A meridian spot is a Feng Shui portal of energy that directly links to the universe. They are quite difficult to find. Only a Feng Shui master can locate such powerful energy. So, my Feng Shui teacher and mentor Joey Yap led a spiritual excursion to Taiwan so we could all experience this powerful energy and shift our Qi. It truly changed me and I had no clue it would happen.
The idea of finding your own quiet space in time in the midst of city noise and people chatter is so important. You can find it in a remote mountain village outside Taipei or you can even create it within your own home. I suggest a focal point of energy in your home with a shrine or altar. It doesn’t have to have religious or cultural, it just has to be your personal space of meaning and empowerment. Start a morning ritual of prayer and focus. I like to light incense, sit with my back to the Qi Men Dun Jia direction of the day (you can get this information from my Google Calendar I created) and do a brief meditation to set your intentions of the day. For an added boost I surround myself with highly charged sentient quartz crystals for protection. Then I seal this energy in with a finger snap and go on with my day.
After my week in Taiwan I continued temple hopping in Laos which was on my bucket list. I had gotten the hang of lighting incense (my hair smelled like sandalwood for months) and saying prayers and Laos offered some of the most magical spots although not meridian spots. One of my favorite temples was actually a large cave along the Mekong River. The sacred Pak Ou Cave (above) is home to a thousand Buddha statues and it is here where fishermen have placed all sizes of statues made from wood, metal, plaster and even plastic over many decades for good fortune. The shrine pictured above is only the small altar, the cave is amazing and a must-see if you are in Laos.
What I have learned from trips to China, Southeast Asia and India is that they have an innate understanding that everything is connected. Life is full of spirit. Sacred objects, ritual and meditation are their daily routine. Everyone has at least one shrine or altar and possibly more. Buddha and Quan Yin greet their guests in China. Lakshmi and Ganesh remove obstacles in India. Incense is wafted everywhere. Dragons are power symbols and Lucky Cats bring good fortune to businesses. To me, it’s about living every day in a spiritual way.
Here I am above at the famous Jain Temple in India. I had been sporting a bindi dot on my forehead since I arrived and it was not easy keeping it on. I tended to forget I had it and smeared it across my face hourly as sweat dripped down my face from the extreme heat of the desert. One of my favorite rituals throughout India was getting a red string tied around my wrist that came along with a priest blessing and a red dot on my forehead that I got from anyone willing to give me one. I also bought a packet of decorative bindi dots. And a lady at lunch one day gave me her packet of glittery bindi dots, seeing as I was so into them. Some folks can pull them off. I am not sure I am one of those. But I loved them anyway.
BaZi Chinese Astrology is not fortune telling or a psychic reading. It is an ancient practice based on a person’s birth chart. Originally it was used to personalize your Feng Shui. We still work with it like that today, only now it is also a stand-alone tool for movers and shakers throughout Asia and now in the West. BaZi Destiny Consultations are one of my specialties. Successful people have coaches, spiritual people have Cosmic Coaches.
When I was in India I just had to have my fortune told. They have different methods based on their traditions and this master above did palm reading as well as looked at my Vedic Astrology. I booked an appointment with him at my hotel in Agra, right after my sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal and before glam dinner at the Oberoi Agra. I love the magnifying glass on the table that he used to view the lines on my hand. He was lovely, but I don’t remember what he told me. I just remember it was an experience!
When you book a consultation with me on your BaZI be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work on yourself. Set goals. Focus on plans. Get real with who you are, why you are here, and what you want to accomplish. This is not airy fairy fortune telling! Namaste.
A ritual of initiating every grand trans-global adventure with a purchase is my secret to shopping for nirvana. You have to make an investment otherwise you’ve got nothing at stake. At the famous Gem Palace in Jaipur, 7th generation jeweler to Moghul Emperors Sanjay Kasliwal held up a pair of sparkling diamond earrings and said to me, “If these don’t bring you nirvana I have bigger ones!”
I did not purchase the diamonds, but I did come away with gorgeous citrine drop earrings that I treasure to this day. Later that evening Sanjay took me to a Durga Festival and invited me to dine at his ‘private’ table in the uber chic Rambagh Palace. After a yummy Indian meal, bottles of champagne where shared on the veranda with a young couple from London who flew over to have Sanjay design their engagement and weddings rings. You must stop in at the famous Gem Palace when in Jaipur, because it’s a museum of history. See the sign-in book from Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ visit. Ogle at the priceless gem stones. Watch the jewelers cutting semi-precious stones. It is a very special experience in the pink city.
Our goddess tour goes to Tibet and China where we find Tara, whose name means “star” in sanskrit. The other meaning is “she who carries us across the waters.” Tara is our spiritual cruise director. She is the Hindu and Buddhist starlet who helps us travel smoothly and safely to our destination. She is complex with multiple personalities depicted by many different colors. Within Tibetan Buddhism,she has twenty-one forms. When Yellow, Blue or Red she is a temperamental diva. When White or Green, Tara is a loving lady.
How to recognize White Tara?
White Tara is gentle, peaceful, patient and nurturing. She expresses maternal compassion and offers healing to those who are hurt or wounded. She focuses on longevity and approaches problems with prayer. Easiest to recognize because she is – well – white. More difficult to recognize in statuary so you have to look for those freakish seven eyes on top of her head, palms of her hands and soles of her feet. This way she can see anyone who needs help in any direction. White Tara holds an open white lotus as a symbol of purity and is said to be as white and radiant as the moon. She clears away harsh relationships, environments and chemicals. She also protects from loud noise, crowds and violence. She is the goddess for those with an open mind and receptive heart. White Tara spreads joy and happiness.
How to recognize Green Tara?
Green Tara is a no-nonsense gal. She is intense with a loving warrior spirit, a true diva with a reputation for being proactive and making things happen. Green Tara reminds you to delegate and ask for help. She works fast and is excellent in emergencies. She helps you understand situations and relationships. Recognized because she is – green. Green is considered the color that contains all other colors. In statues you must look more closely to see the half open lotus in her hand representing night. Sometimes there are two lotus blossoms. She does not have any extra eyes. Green Tara rescues us by empowering us to save ourselves.
Lotus Blossoms bring balance and moderation in all things. They are an important component to the Buddha statue. Buddha is either seated upon a lotus in full bloom or holding a blossom in his hand. Some images portray him with each foot resting on a separate petal. When Siddhartha declared his Enlightenment and took seven steps it is said that under each step sprang a lotus blossom.
Did you know that the lotus blossom grows in murky swamps? It’s true. With roots buried deep in the mud, the lotus flower rises to the surface. It’s not easy pushing through the muck, which is why the lotus symbolizes that beauty is born from hardship. In Sanskrit and Tibetan, the lotus is called padma and represents purity, joy and perfection. Lotus is cool and Buddha is hot – so it is said to cool Buddha’s fire.
White Lotus – spiritual perfection and total mental purity Pink Lotus – supreme lotus reserved for the Great Buddha Red Lotus – love, compassion and other qualities of the heart Blue Lotus – victory of the spirit over the senses and signifies wisdom
I discovered Spirit Houses on a bumpy dusty back road in the countryside near Angkor, Cambodia. I noticed these cute little houses in everyone’s yard. It seemed that poor folks had makeshift versions, while rich families had fancier ones. Some were lit up with lights and candles while others had figurines. They all had incense and offerings and it turns out they are very popular throughout Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
No one likes nosy relatives poking around in their affairs and that’s where the Spirit House comes in handy. When a loved one passes onto the spirit world you want to make sure they don’t stick around wreaking havoc in your life. In Asian homes it is not uncommon for families to share the same house for generations. Lurking spirits can be a pesky problem, so the solution is to build them their very own abode and place it outside. A Spirit House is a replica of a tiny dollhouse (think the size of trolls not barbie) perched on a pedestal planted in the ground.
Spirit House Rules:
Paint it. Decorate it. Light incense to send prayers to heaven. And don’t forget to prepare daily offerings. Each Spirit House has its own unique personality and that’s the charm. They can never be tossed out and need to be buried in a Spirit House graveyard or left beneath a banyan tree.
Wherever I travel throughout the world Fat Happy Buddha is an iconic image. I always thought he was just another version of Buddha, but I was wrong. He is also called Laughing Buddha and is technically a Budai or Chinese deity. Budhai means “cloth sack” and that’s because he carries his worldly possessions in a sack tossed over his shoulder. He also carries good luck beads and a money gourd aka hulu or wu lou – that brings wealth and prosperity. No wonder he is honored and adored all over Asia. But really, who is he?
Laughing Buddha aka Po-tai Ho-shang was an eccentric monk who lived between the 6th and 10th century. Neighbors knew him from his fat belly, bald head, robe and prayer beads. He was considered a good man of loving character, poor yet content, discovering the Buddha within himself. He did so many good deeds during his lifetime that when he died he rose to bodhisattva status (deity who attains enlightenment but remains in human form to help others) and was renamed Budai.
How to recognize him?
As opposed to Buddha statues which tend to be thin figured, Laughing Buddha has a fat tummy, bald head and happy grin. Sometimes he carries a bag of wealth. Sometimes he carries your bag of troubles, which he has collected for you. When he was a monk traveling from village to village handing out candy to poor children, he asked only for a penny in return. That is why when you find a Buddha with children climbing all over him, this is very auspicious and means abundance of good fortune coming from heaven. Happy Laughing Buddha is a lovely statue to display when wanting to attract abundance in life. Go ahead and rub the Buddha belly!
Laughing Buddha reminds us of our capacity to achieve happiness and enjoy the good life.