Rishikesh: Nothing and Everything All At Once

Hi Friends,

I have a few weeks left in Tokyo, and have been preparing for my departure. There isn’t much to do really, because as you know, I already sold almost all of my belongings when I moved from Nihonbashi to Suitengumae. If you recall, three American guys came with an empty truck and cleared out my apartment for about $500, but it was a relief to get rid of everything in one shot. If I didn’t sell everything, I’d have to pay to have it removed, so they did me a favor. I underestimated the power of Craigslist though, because I posted all the items at 8am, and by 10am, the email came from a Californian saying he’d buy it all….and anything else that wasn’t listed.

So, I’ve downsized yet again, and have nothing but two suitcases and one bag. You can’t imagine how good that feels; unless of course, you, too, have simplified. Last night, I was thinking about what I didn’t need and could bring in some cash, which is always useful, and decided to sell my (two) watches. Neither watch has been worn in in about five months, and they’re pretty much dead weight. After I posted them on Craigslist, once again, a response came in record time, with an offer to buy them both. However, this time, the eagerness in which the guy responded made me reconsider selling. Someone else wanting what I had rejected made me want them again. Funny and typical, no? I started to reconsider, “Should I keep ’em, even though they’re not needed? Maybe, I’ll want to wear them again in the future?” I realized I was being ridiculous, since they were only worn when a good impression needed to be made (i.e interview, etc.) and not actually to tell time. The buyer’s picking them up on Monday, and when it’s time to buy a watch again, and the time may surely come, then okay. Don’t get me wrong, beautiful things that give pleasure are always a plus, but different strokes for different folks. Just yesterday, a friend and I were talking about how amazing it is that the things that once seemed so important can become totally insignificant.

It seems obnoxious to others when one says, “I don’t do this” and “I don’t do that.” It seems like whenever anyone invites me to an event lately, I say, “Oh, shabu shabu? Sorry, I don’t eat meat;” or, “An izakaya? Sorry, I don’t drink anymore.” Just the other day, my co-worker asked me how long this charade would continue, which is quite humorous. Yes, it’s all about balance and moderation, that’s true. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people’s personal choices, what whoever chooses to eat, drink or wear, but that’s exactly it, a choice. I asked my mother the other night, “How do I take my self into the real world? The world of my friends who knew a different person?” She told me to just live and not feel the need to explain anything. (Wise woman.) As Osho said, “Every morning you clean your house and throw the rubbish on the rubbish heap, but you don’t go declaring and advertising to the whole town that again you have renounced much rubbish, again this morning you have done a great deed of renunciation. No, you know that it is rubbish — finished.

What is there to tell about it?” This week, I’ve applied for my visa to India; paid my deposit to the ashram in Rishikesh; starting walking a few kilometers a day around the Imperial Palace to physically prepare myself for what’s ahead; and, tried to cut down on chocolate to prepare myself for the complete lack of it where I’ll be. Ha! Eliminating chocolate only made me crave rum and raisin ice-cream, and that’s been on the table one too many times this week. The ashram has a no dairy/no fish policy, so it’s going to be a challenge. A real challenge as sugar addictions are no joke. Despite the fact that I’ll be shaking from sugar withdrawal for the first few days, here’s an idea of the incredible schedule:

5AM        Prayers

5:15         Hatha Yoga class

7:00         Pranayama        
7:30         Meditation  
8:30AM    Breakfast
10:00       Practicum class 
11:00       Class or free time
12:30PM  Guided Diaphragmatic breathing session
1:00         Lunch….. etc.,

The ashram has no Internet, so I’ll be without Internet for one month, which will also have me twitching and feening as well. There will be a majestic view, breathtaking sky or majestic sight that I’ll want to share with you via email or this site, and I won’t be able to. Though, I guess, after a few days, it won’t even matter anymore. Kind of like giving up Facebook; for some reason, this time, it just doesn’t matter at all. I could never get how others did it. There will be hours and hours of silence. In scouring the Internet (my beloved friend), I found this Courtesy: http://www.healthandyoga.com (A popular website that helps you find natural solutions for complete health and detoxification) :

As you make your way to the room, you are struck by its modesty – even austerity for some. No carpeting, no air conditioning /heating and no TV… what the hell am I going to do? Is this what I paid for? – Again, that wretched mentality of expectation! While most adjust quite well, others are filled with agonizing thoughts such as this.

Welcome to the Ashram… Your transformation has already begun!

Every experience should prod you to witness it with awareness. You should constantly witness your feelings and try to go deeper by understanding why you feel particularly so. As you do such introspection on a regular basis, you realize over time that the fault is not in the environment or the people that you interact with. Instead the problems arise from within. The situation is only a catalyst to bring the deep contradictions to the surface.

The Ashram setting gives you a chance to experience and reflect on this. Consequently, the changes that take place within you are more positive and permanent.

Once you are settled in, you begin experiencing the immense positive energy that envelops the Ashram. Starting from the morning Aarti prayers on the banks of the holy Ganges River to your morning yoga class, the mind and body experience a unique freshness.

The “now,” and the anticipation of the many tomorrow’s after tomorrow, stirs feelings of nervousness and giddiness.Tonight, I had dinner with S, my friend and former housemate, who’s been away from Tokyo for two months. Such a fabulous person, such a giving friend, and as we sat around the table, and then said goodbye outside the restaurant in Nihonbashi, I thought how I’d surely miss him; how, if he’d been in Tokyo these last few months I may have delayed my departure. It’s difficult leaving; taking a step forward; wishing someone dear farewell, but it’s just a constant journey back to self, isn’t it? We’ll meet again, won’t we?

Love, Val

The Walk to Jembawan, no.3

Dear Friends,

Most mornings, I wake up early and walk from Bisma Street to Jembawan Street, which takes approximately fifteen minutes. Along the way, there is a rice field, a school, the outdoor market where vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, restaurants, gelaterias, cafes, small boutiques, and stray dogs that are strangely quiet. Today is a ceremony day, as almost everyday seems to be in Bali, and some men are decorating  bamboo poles with colorful flags.

Wayan, the caretaker of the villa, in which I reside, is always up and sweeping at 6:30am. “Good morning, ” he smiles; “Yoga now?” I walk down a narrow, unpaved path to Bisma Street, where Guday (pronounce Good Day), who is Wayan’s cousin, greets me with a warm “Good morning.” In Japan, I acquired the habit of bowing, which is unconsciously done to all along the way. I bow to the elderly man in the sarong, who walks down Bisma Street every morning at the same time; I bow to the schoolgirl on the scooter in the brown uniform, who’s just driven herself to school, though she can’t be more than twelve; I bow to the man sitting on the sidewalk enjoying the morning breeze. I bow to them to respect their divinity, as much as my own.

When I lived in Cacapava many years ago, I walked daily– a longer journey physically, but the same distance inward as this walk to Jembawan. The walk in Cacapava would encompass pastures, cows, horses, a few houses, butterflies, stretches of cloudless sky, solitary pilgrims (on occasion), questions from within and when lucky, answers. Walking was a meditation, and with each step, seeds were planted in my mind and heart that are now beginning to flower.

Though Cacapava and Ubud are more than fifteen thousand kilometers apart, when I walk in Ubud, I’m also in Cacapava. Technically this experience is new, but it’s all familiar: the way the sun  holds my face up, the way the window frames the trees, the way the ceiling fan chases mosquitos away, the way strangers say, “Sister,” the way the airs sizzles and palpitates, the way the sweet, ripe banana tastes, the incredible beauty of strangers, the awareness of what “is” combined with the struggle to accept the “now.” In Ubud, as in Cacapava, a smile given is a smile returned.

Being in Ubud is no accident. It took years of travel along an invisible current to reach here from Cacapava, and the journey was challenging and worthwhile. On the journey, there were: new cities to live in and explore, interesting people to meet and love, awesome accomplishments, stunning failures to learn from, romances to get lost in, failed relationships to glean wisdom from, boring jobs to get through, resolutions to make (break and ignore), pain to endure, awareness and ignorance. The thread that ties Cacapava to Ubud forces me to examine the question to myself (and you), which stems from the then and relates to now, “What would it take?”

What would it take?

1) What would it take for you to realize that you, and only you, are responsible for your happiness?

2) What would it take for you to stop looking for approval outside of yourself and draw strength from self-love?

3) What would it take for you to understand that you are as responsible for the well-being of others as you are for yourself? (You are your “brother’s” keeper– The joy of others is your joy.)

4) What would it take for you to accept yourself; to look at yourself as your own creator? (To look at yourself, and think, “Yes! That’s just how I wanted it.”)

5) What would it take for you to give more than you receive today?

6) What would it take for you to claim your divinity; to acknowledge your god self?

7) What would it take for you give yourself what you need– a kind word, a nap, a hug, a vacation, a fantastic meal, a hug, a moment of silence?

The walk to Jembawan, no.3  filled me with many questions, which will take many journeys to answer.

My friends, be well.

photo (19)



p.s  I love to see when you’re dancing from within. It gives great joy to feel such sweet togetherness. Everyone’s doing, and they’re doing their best. —Bob Marley (Jump Nyahbinghi)


Glad List- #6

Today’s been such a quiet day– quiet, but easy and relaxing. When I got home, I was thinking, “I have to write my glad list, but nothing happened. What will I write?”

I wondered: Should the “glad” thing of the day be that it didn’t rain; or that my morning started with Tiease advising me to wear long johns, a small but sweet thing; or that two of my favorite students took lessons today, so I had two hours and forty minutes of enjoyable conversation; or that my last student didn’t show, so I could leave early; or that my sushi bento from Takashimaya was fresh and an ocean of goodness; or that I’m now surrounded by warmth (literally); or that Juliano introduced me to ,  a cheerful, upbeat Brazilian song espousing pure adoration for Tokyo (and many places in-between), and it makes me smile every time I give it a listen.

Pretty soon, it hit me, that nothing has to happen; the whole point is to be glad.

1) I’m glad that I came upon this quote on the Osho page on FB:


Feel thankful,

and never demand in your prayers

because all demand is complaint deep down.

Just thank.

Let every prayer be only that of thankfulness, a



Never ask, and you will be surprised:

continuously gifts start coming-

gifts that you had asked for and gifts

that you never asked for.


Take care,



p.s Warning: Don’t listen to this song if you don’t want to dance or feel joyful.

Me gusta tokio
 Mira los karnako
 Me gusta tokio

……………………………..me gusta jamaica
 Me gusta brasil me gusta guiné bissau
 Me gusta españa me gusta africana
 Me gusta istambul me gusta los andes
 Me gusta barretos me gusta peru
 Me gusta barramas me gusta pequim
 Me gusta moscou me gusta lo reggae
 Me gusta lo samba e o rock and roll

The Glad List- #5

Hi Friends,

As most of you know, when I moved to the U.S at eleven, I wasn’t very happy. It didn’t really help matters that I moved in the fall, and the temperatures were below eighty degrees, soon to be below seventy. It also didn’t help matters that I was a still developing (ok, not even yet starting to develop) underweight kid in a junior high school of girls who looked twenty-five. Plus, my father insisted that I dress and look my age: no makeup, no nail polish, no jewelry, etc. etc. Now, really!

There were two things that made me extremely happy in Long Island though– Pizza Hut and Dominos (in that order). The year I left Jamaica, there was one pizzeria– Shakey’s. For some insane reason, I hated pizza then. I thought it was weird and too cheesey. However, when I moved to L.I, there was pizza at every sleepover, birthday party, and lunch. Pizza became not only my best friend, but my most fulfilling and filling relationship to date.

As I told you a month ago, it came to my attention that I had to cut dairy from my diet (or face the consequences), and I can’t remember ever feeling so sad by any news. However, I missed my best friend, and decided that we should meet up tonight, even if she hurts me to the core. So, tonight, I’m glad for:

1) My small Pizza Hut cheese pizza (just a few slices will be consumed) and my small Haagen-Daz green tea ice-cream. My tongue’ll be so pleased, as “this is the moment” to eat pizza.


Take care,


The Glad List- #4

Hi All,

Tonight, LD and I went to Daikanyama and Roppongi to “find life.” The night was going swimmingly well; first we went to Kin Folk in Daikanyama, then Agave Cigar and Tequila Bar in Roppongi, where three guys sat beside us, and I was chatting with the winning S, a Japanese guy with perfect English (lived in the Arizona for four years).

Sadly, or as fate would have it, turns out, S and the other guys, work at the same office as LD‘s ex; they got on the subject of lost love and killed the mood. Woe is me. The three guys went on to another bar, and invited us, but LD was in no mood to go. We wound up at Alfie for one super over-priced drink. the caught the last train. ($17 for a gin and tonic. Yikes.)

1) Today, I’m glad that I have a friend like LD, who’ll be my wingman. Strike up a convo with the guys at the next table, find out all the pertinent info, and really try to make it happen for me. We swore, on the next outing, we’ll get it right.

another time
another time not tonight

Ciao, :)

p.s this was written on the Hibiya line on the way home. To reiterate, Tokyo’s awesome.

Osho Would Say “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun”… You Are Too.

Find ecstasy within yourself. It is not out there. It is in your innermost flowering. The one you are looking for is you. – Osho

Today, I spoke to my very dear friend N while on a two-hour break at work. We hadn’t spoken in eons, due to time differences, the general business of her grad school life, and that neither of us are on Skype at the same time. I’ve also been partly responsible, because I’ve withdrawn from many “social” things, i.e., Facebook, Skype and an abundance of social activities, largely because I’d like to quiet a lot of the “noise” around me/ in me. It seems to me, so much of my daily life gets caught up in a lot of mindless chatter and inattentiveness…

The mind is always ready to go on some ego trip. And if you are fed up with the world, then again the ego starts finding new ways and new means to enhance itself – it becomes spiritual. You become a great mahatma, a great sage, a great scholar, a man of knowledge, a man of renunciation; again you are special. Unless the desire to be special disappears, you will never be special. Unless you relax into your ordinariness, you will never relax. – Osho

It seems lately that I’ve been a renouncing fool, but I’m not running away from things, but running to something. Trying to “be.” Looking for peace within myself and not looking for answers or validation from other people or from artificial, temporary buzzes. This is a period of “not really caring” about the opinions of others. It’s about trying to quell the ego. It’s okay if you think I’m a bitch, or kind, or superficial, or ugly, or attractive, or well-dressed, or poorly dressed, self-involved or giving. It doesn’t matter, please say what you like.

Your whole idea about yourself is borrowed– borrowed from those who have no idea of who they are themselves. – Osho

The most amazing thing I learned in college was how insecure most people are, including myself. I met some of the most wonderful, beautiful girls. Girls who swore they were ugly or fat or a combination of the two. I couldn’t believe that acknowledged “beauties” and genuinely lovely people could be so hard on themselves, have so much ingrained doubt. I was a size seven then, and internally browbeated myself about that until I got to a weight I found “attractive.” Did I become happier then? No. As I get older, I realize that this is what this life does to us. (Sometimes, it’s not life but family and friends). Beats us down. Forces us to concentrate on the superficial, the inconsequential, the complete time wasters. If we knew we were the black gold of the sun, if we knew and believed we were Godly/God-like/divine from day one, could anyone tell us we weren’t good enough? Would we even care what another person thought? Would we care if we weighed more than a few pounds past the “ideal?”(In case you’re in doubt, the answer’s a resounding “No”).

Take hold of your own life. See that the whole existence is celebrating. These trees are not serious, these birds are not serious. The rivers and the oceans are wild, and everywhere there is fun, everywhere there is joy and delight. Watch existence, listen to the existence and become part of it. ―  Osho

Let’s go inside our minds. Meditate. Become. It would be nice to spend as much time on the spirit as on dining out, make-up, clothes, hair maintenance, etc. It would bring real joy. N said that she’s been reading my blog and I seem very happy. Tokyo makes me glad (the orderliness, the courteousness, the amazing food), and there are great days, but as I told her and all of you in previous posts, I’ve felt something is missing. I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I’m bored, despite the social activities and gregarious people that surround me. My boredom isn’t coming from the outside, but within. For years, I aimed to attain spiritual clarity to quiet my hyperactive mind, but I haven’t done anything in months. Not even as much as a moment of gratitude or a silent moment. N‘s conversation about “fantasy lives,” a part of which will follow, reminded me that there’s more to life than shopping, acquiring, eating, and living without an aim.

All that is great cannot be possessed – and that is one of the most foolish things man goes on doing. We want to possess.  ― Osho

N: my fantasy life is a bit silly but I would love to live in a bungalow by the beach, grow fruits, and write a book.

valerie smith: Dude, me too!!!! That’s not silly at all.

N: No kids.  Just me and my husband.

valerie smith: Me too, but not the fruit part.

N: Just living. That’s what I want.

valerie smith: I love that!!!

N: So ya, that is what I’m visualising. Now to make it happen.

valerie smith: I think that’s amazing not silly at all.

N: Just very low-key.  No make up, no handbags. I got rid of half my wardrobe recently. Kept only what I like. Was so liberating.

valerie smith: I’ve done that. It feels great. No makeup would be fantastic.

N: I realised that even though I now have enough to buy what I like, when you have the expensive handbag or shoes, the happiness is short lived, you’re bored after 5 min. It’s not satisfying. So there’s got to be more.

valerie smith: yep.

Each person comes into this world with a specific destiny – he or she has something to fulfill, some message that has to be delivered, some work that has to be completed. You are not here accidentally – you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you.  ― Osho

What is my purpose here? If nothing else to bring a smile to someone else. (I make myself smile all the time, it might mean I’m crazy… ?). Though, this blog is a journal of sorts, it’s meant to be positive… for myself and others. How would relaying the days I feel down serve you (and obviously, there are some) ? I don’t believe it would. Everyone’s mission is different however, and I learn from and relate to the sadness of others. In a previous post’s comments, my brother said I was being “Pollyanna-ish,” and I thought “Yes, I’m glad, I’m happy, my intentions are succeeding.”

Be well.

Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself… – Osho

Prepping For Paris

Dear Friends,

In less than eight hours I’ll begin my final day of work in New Jersey. Three and a half years of working and studying at an end (still can’t believe it). My boss threw a lovely farewell yesterday replete with champagne, an Eiffel Tower red-velvet cake, and many guests. Now, it’s time to keep on truckin’.

This is the plan: Paris from July until October, as long as a tourist visa will allow. Aim to find work in France after becoming TEFL certified, which I just read in Teaching English Overseas is next to impossible for Americans (Eastern Europe’s much easier); or, if no work materializes, I could obtain a student visa. On my list of desires, studying again is tied for sixty-sixth place with “being afflicted with leprosy,” and “cuddling with a llama on a ninety degree night.” The thought of student loans gives me the heebies. If no job arises then I’ll move on to Belgium where I have spoken to program directors, and it’s proven easier to find teaching jobs. Ah employment… there’s actually nothing that thrills me more than the thought of my impending unemployment.

The universe is bounteous; it contains large amounts of amazing. Up until now, I’ve nibbled around the “amazing,” taken small bites of “good,” sometimes “really great,” but now I’m ready to devour/slurp/nyam all the goodness this life has to offer. In the words of Frighty and Colonel Mite, “Life is what you make it.” If reality’s like fantasy, in France I’ll be awed by beauty at every turn (landscapes, architecture, parks), live on a block with a bakery and eat fresh bread daily (though I don’t eat bread here), be surrounded and inundated with words that I don’t understand, appreciate all the sounds around me, then marvel when language begins to click, be confused/thrilled/frustrated every day and be grateful for that, make time to write every day about new experiences, meet interesting people, travel, and be confronted with a bit of magic, and by magic I mean “magic,” however it comes.

Preparing for the trip has been relatively easy, mostly because I’m a minimalist and hardly own anything (one person’s “poor” is another’s claim to “minimalism”). An apartment was found on Craigslist for a reasonable rent (I learned quickly that there’s no such thing as a “reasonable rent” in that city. The rents made NYC look downright affordable. The studio, a seventh floor walkup (no need for a gym) is tiny/boxy/ungrandiose, but it has its own bathroom, large windows, and a lovely view of a park. An added benefit is that it’s only a twenty minute walk from the school.

The hardest part, the only hard part, about packing was deciding which books to bring. I don’t own a Kindle and have no intentions of buying one (cheapness, or the love of turning actual pages? I’m still undecided). However, though I scream “Yay books,” I’m crying “nay” to their weight. Thus, I’ve decided to bring only nine: a French/English dictionary, a French grammar book, Leaves of GrassThe Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Osho’s Joy, Andrew Stone’s chapbook In Disguise, Wole Soyinka’s autobiography, Lorna Goodison’s Controlling the Silver, Helene Cixous’s Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. I’ll know if nine were too many when I’m lugging two suitcases up numerous steps.

And, speaking of steps… thank God for change! Making baby steps, big leaps… for flying and landing in new places, with new people, and luckily having Skype to keep one grounded and in touch with the familiar– faces, voices, meanings of things.