Shopping for Nirvana in Ireland

Quick Trip to Dublin 2019

Ireland and Scotland were on my bucket list for years. In my mind, these were mysterious European places I had no clue about. Not exotic enough to move them to the top of my list. Foreign enough that I was curious. Probably the main reason for putting them off was my fear of encountering fairies and spirits in castles and legends of things that can’t be explained. I do enough of this in my every day life and work! I didn’t need paranormal encounters while on vaca.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at protecting myself. Armed with my ‘ghost oils’ I took the plunge only to learn I was fine and should have explored more of these magical realms. This is my trip…

After 10 hours and 9 time zones, my 16 year old nephew, Will, and I arrive. Will surprised me by agreeing to join “Aunt Anita on her 62nd birthday extravaganza adventure!”

Our first night, we strolled down the popular Baggot St to Matt the Thresher for seafood which started Will’s daily ritual of eating fish and chips. By the end of the trip I thought he might swim away! He couldn’t stop talking about Guinness so I bought him a beer (drinking age is 18.) Two sips and he was over it. Decided he is not a beer guy!

The pub is a place of Irish cultural exchange.

We went to listen to authentic Irish pub music at O’Donoghue’s. I was told there may be a long line to get in and the pub may not even let him in. I put on my leather jacket to look hip and told Will to put on his black jeans so he could look a little older. I was determined to get in.

On the long walk over I told Will that I really wanted to experience Irish music and if they wouldn’t let him in he could walk back to the hotel by himself because I was going to stay! As it turned out – no line and they even asked him what he wanted to drink. We stood in front at the bar by the band and learned they were local guys with day jobs at the gas station, etc, and played here at night. A 22-year-old from Minnesota shared her Jameson whisky with Will, which I probably should have discouraged because drinking from a stranger’s glass in a bar is not something I should be teaching him. But she was cute (she took this photo of us) and it did loosen him up! Fun was had by all….

Georgian Architecture

A building boom between 1714 and 1830 built a ton of Georgian buildings. named for the British monarchs of the House of Hanover – George 1, George 11, George 111 and George 1V. Symmetrical proportions – block-like. Not very ornate on the outside but the interiors had high ceilings and ornate trim. Balance and simple mathematical ratios. Irish cities would have knocked them down and rebuilt – but money was always an issue so now they remain as historical gems.

From Joyce to Yeats – Dublin is a city of literature

Some of the famous Dublin writers include:

Syge who wrote “Playboy of the Western World.”
RB Sheridan aka Sean O’Casey writer of “Shadow of a Gunman”‘ that Alfred Hitchcock turned into plays and films
Jonathan Swift wrote “Gulliver’s Travels”
Richardson wrote 1st person narratives “Pamela and Clarissa”
George Bernard Shaw won and Oscar and a Nobel
Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Gadot”
WB Yeats was more spiritual
Thomas Moore was a balladeer
Oscar Wilde had extraordinary parents who held salons that included the intelligentsia of the day

“Be yourself – everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Sweny Chemist Shop is where Leopold Bloom buys his lemon soap in the epic “Ulysses.” Sweny remains pretty much in tact from when Dublin’s famous writer James Joyce set a scene from his book here. “Ulysses” is about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he wanders about Dublin on June 16, 1904. It’s a puzzle and enigma and difficult to truly understand. We gathered with a group of South American students learning English and went around the room reading passages from the novel. I was surprised to hear that Will actually enjoyed that experience!

What I learned are that Irish people are hardworking. They love their music, their literature and their pubs. Next trip I would like to venture outside the city to the countryside to truly experience Ireland in all its majesty.

Let’s Make Magic

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.

Incense Quick Tips:

  1. sends prayers to the universe
  2. pays homage to a temple or church
  3. blesses a sacred space
  4. used as an offering to a shrine or deity
  5. cleanses energy
  6. creates relaxing environment
  7. powdered incense is used for magic
  8. buy best quality with highest integrity

 

 

 

Sacred Stuff

me with monk in Cambodia

Golden Ganesh and the Monk of Ta Prohm

My Ganesh dharma began in Cambodia.

It was at the mysterious overgrown temple of Ta Prohm where I received my first Ganesh statue. I met the wizend monk who sweeps the steps to ensure the gods will have safe passage up the steep and narrow stairways. I bought a bamboo cowbell from him and he posed for a photo.

“He protects travelers and will help you find your way,” he told me as my guide translated. A sort of golden light washed over me in that moment,and then the monk was gone and I began to wonder…

why did he think I was lost?”

 

Everyday Spirituality

Jain Temple in India

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.

 

 

 

 

Lotus Blossoms

lotusLotus 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

Rub the Buddha Belly

laughing-buddhaWherever 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?

History Lesson:

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.

 

Take a Tea Break

tea

Story of Indian Tea

There’s always time for chai. The word chai means tea so if you are ordering what we call chai in the West – it is called masala in India. In India, chai was the only street food I dared try (I figured it is made from boiling water.) There was no set price, just pay whatever you desire. There is a tea component to everything you do from shopping to dining. Between 1660-1857 tea was the main export by the East India Company. Today, India is the second-largest producer of tea. Once I tasted fresh Indian tea, I was hooked.

Know your Indian tea:

Assam – largest tea producing region
Darjeeling – champagne of black teas
Masala – black tea spiced with cardamon and ginger

All the Tea in China

Tea is a Chinese tradition enjoyed throughout the day, but when the Brits arrived in Hong Kong they introduced “afternoon tea” where black tea is served with milk and sugar. One of the most fascinating books that brings clarity to the entire Chinese tea tradition is “For All the Tea in China.” It tells the tale of British horticulturist Robert Fortune and how he was sent undercover in 1848 to China to steal their tea growing secrets and bring cuttings to India for the East India Company.

Inspired Reading

For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose

Rented Charms

amulets

According to Thai tradition, Buddhas or phra phim are never bought or sold, only rented. These little charms encased inside clear boxes or frames caught my attention while getting lost on the back streets of Bangkok. The over stimulation of too many people living life out on the streets, mixed with the yummy smell of sizzling pan fried noodles, almost distracted me from noticing the wizened Thai man and his makeshift card table. Setting up shop on the street, he proudly displayed his spiritual wares. His prized possessions seemed to be phra phim, which I had never seen before. In chopped English he explained that they were passionately traded or “rented” – if the price was right. A person was only the temporary custodian of the each pieces’s magic and I found that detail very interesting. The charms were so intricate and beautiful and when I turned one over, I saw a tiny tolled up scroll set inside. It seemed that each piece contained a sacred script and magical drawing. Apparently, only charms blessed by monks are said to be powerful protection. Sometimes they are used for love – he winked at me. But mostly soldiers, taxi drivers and other high-risk professions are the true believers.