Today’s prayer and affirmation:

Today I surrender to my heart. Teach me to be patient. I trust that I am right where I am supposed to be.

My friend Narisa is fasting for the month of Ramadan. I decided to join her in her fast today. This is my gift solidarity with my friend during this solemn time.

Fasting, generally speaking is the voluntary avoidance of something that you deem as good. Usually it means restricting what you eat and drink. In my own Roman Catholic tradition, fasting is prayer of the body. It is a spiritual discipline that takes you on a journey to tame the body so you can focus on God. Fasting is also a way of doing penance for past excesses. Lent is the most popular period of fasting for Catholics; it is the 40 days before Easter Sunday. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving go hand in hand.

Reading up on Ramadan I realized that it teaches you patience. My friend Narisa further explained that patience and perseverance are fundamental teachings in the Qu’ran. You are called to restrict food and drink, this includes water. You eat before the sun rises and break fast when it sets.

I chose to do this fast for three reasons: My friend is doing this great thing, which after doing it for a day, I have a new respect for her; I wanted to reflect on my own lack of patience and to focus my thoughts inward and meditate on my path and to break this thraldom to my body and get in touch with my spirit. I got up early like I planned and had what I call an “Ultimate Green Smoothie” because I put oatmeal, flax seeds and lots of other good stuff in it. I had 2 glasses of water. Then I said some prayers and started today’s posts.

I was fine until I got to work. The coffee smells were playing with my mind. By 10 I was thinking to myself, why, oh why did I agree to do this? In my Catholic tradition, I could have some water at least. But in this tradition, you have nothing to eat or drink during the fast. I was sleepy all day, probably because of the early morning. But I made it through with prayer and mindfulness and lots of encouragement from Narisa. Needless to say, when I had that first sip of ice-cold water when I broke fast it never tasted so good.

I will do this fast again. My birthday is coming up and I’ve decided that this year I will be giving instead of waiting to receive. I want to prepare my mind and body as I enter a new year of life and a new phase of loving.

The Path is sometimes precarious

Today’s affirmation:

Today everything is happening perfectly. Today whatever I give, will be just right.

I spent today in a funk mostly. Just reflecting on my life, my mother, my job, my goals, hopes and dreams and what I’m doing to further them. I’m getting more and more frustrated at the office and it’s manifesting itself in my punctuality and general disinterest. I have good days and bad and I’m bored. Very, very, very bored.

Sometimes, fear and doubt consume me and I feel like if I truly express what is in my heart, it will be wrong somehow. Starting this blog was one of my steps in the direction of my dreams. Today’s gift is the renewal of my covenant to myself to always live my truth, to walk in light and to not be afraid to express myself even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

All I have is this one life, this one chance to be who I truly am. And that’s what today was about, re-affirming that I am on the right path. The only path! There is no right or wrong decision, only experiences that bring us closer to our authentic selves.

Go to your fears, sit with them, stare at them. Your fears are your friend; their only job is to show you undeveloped parts of yourself that you need to cultivate to live a happy life. The more you do the things you’re most afraid of doing the more life opens up. Embrace your fears and your fears will embrace you. – Jackson Kiddard

Today’s affirmation:

Today I give from the heart.

Lately, I’ve been chronically late for work. I know it’s because there is a lot going on inside of me. My birthday is coming up, that usually brings reflections on where I am and where I’m going and why I’m not further along. My mother’s 2 year anniversary is a week away. I think about her all the time. I miss her so much. My lateness is a combination of all that coupled with insomnia and a general I-don’t-feel-like-going-to-work-today-ness.

Today was no different. I got to work a few minutes late. As I was walking through the doors of my building, I felt a pang of guilt for not putting the needs of the company for which I am paid just enough to keep me coming back, before my own. I decided that today, I was going to view my work and my co-workers through eyes of love and compassion. This is hard most times because my department is a melting pot of personalities, mine included. Usually I slip into a let’s just get this over with mode. But the more I thought about it, is the more I realized that life is in the details. And work was part of those details. I was still coming off the high of the Nariva Hike and it really got me thinking about work in the context of my life. The time I spent at the office with these people I barely know or care to know, made up a third of my day. I needed to be more present to this experience that affords me the opportunity to experience things like Nariva and Jamaica and Green Smoothies.

So I set about being more mindful as the day progressed. There is a report outstanding, which our IT department is working on delivering. In the meantime, my unit still had to present something to Senior Management. Over the weekend a solution occurred to me and when I got to work I decided to test it and it worked. Sharing this bit of information with my supervisor would mean working overtime to get this interim report done.

I shared it with him anyway, because I wanted to clear the bad energy from my lateness, my disdain for my co-workers and my general apathy of late during time I spend in my office building. I wanted to complete this project and I wanted to do something positive for my unit. Yes, technically it wasn’t my “job”, but I felt so much better when the report was completed and presented, despite having to work late to complete it. There was a certain satisfaction and pride when I did; I think my intention was accomplished.

Today’s Affirmation:

Today I give with love

Late nights and early mornings, make for a very interesting day. Lucy and I had to meet the rest of our tour group for 5 a.m. for a sunrise kayak and nature walk in Nariva Swamp. However, a friend of mine was picking us up. The original meeting time was 4:15, which turned into 4:30 but was actually 4:50. It required a lot of willpower not to hurry my friend up when the tour leader called to say, he was already on his way. My mantra for the day was: It’s all happening perfectly.

We had three stops on the way, which of course resulted in further delays. We finally met the tour leader at 5:30 but we still had to wait for the kayak man. More patience. Finally, we were on our way just as the sun was rising. It was simply breath-taking driving along the coast in Manzanilla and watching the first rays of morning over the tops of the coconut trees.

We stopped at a very humble looking house just off the main road to the right. We were here.

Nariva Swamp is declared a Ramsar Site. The Ramsar Convention is an international convention for the protection of wetlands of international importance. Nariva is the largest freshwater wetland in Trinidad and Tobago, which a vast array of habitats and wildlife. The swamp comes alive with the first rays of light, hence the early start.

Our tour Leader Courtenay Rooks is a National Geographic Naturalist. His tour was over-subscribed so he gave us a choice of kayaking or boating in. Lucy wanted to take pix so I opted to stay in the boat with her. It’s a 30-minute kayak into the swamp and then you get to Bush Bush, a land peninsular that juts out into Nariva Swamp and which is home to Red Howler and White-Fronted Capuchin Monkeys. The boat should be less than half that…that is…if the boat returns. So those of us left behind for the second boat trip had a test in patience, which I’m afraid I failed. But the bright side was that we discovered a Doudouce mango tree and well had our fill.

The boat arrived and we were off into a world of mangrove, palm trees and lots and lots of crabs. When we were back on land once again, we were greeted by a wooden structure or house which started and ended the trails. Now, Courtenay said walk with insect repellant. What Courtenay didn’t say was that you should wash your clothes in insect repellant, bathe in it, lotion up with it and then come on this tour. Mosquitos are everywhere and they bite through your clothes.

White-Fronted Capuchin Monkey, Bush Bush, Nariva Swamp

The trail is lush and green. The smell of nature is everywhere, the musky odour of porcupine, the mustiness of monkey urine, the greenness of the place. Tropical Forest dominates the area. It’s sensory overload.

Trail Walking in Bush Bush, Nariva Swamp, Trinidad. Photos: Lucy Masters

And then…MONKEYS!!! Bush Bush is a flat wide trail which makes it easy to spot them. The White-Fronted Capuchins were in the trees all around us. They were curious about us too, they kept coming closer. It was amazing. We saw some Howlers high up in the branches. We heard them too and let me tell you…it is one of the spookiest things ever. We saw a Toucan and we only smelled the porcupine.

The trails were nice and cool so you didn’t feel the morning sun. But after exploring the forest for about 2 hrs, our tummies were rumbling and it was soon time to leave. Going back the way we came, Lucy and I were on the first boat trip out.

Bush Bush, Nariva Swamp

We were absolutely looking forward to lunch in Plum Mitan. Another place I’ve never been to in Trinidad. Unfortunately, the boat had engine problems and this delayed our departure by an hour and half. PATIENCE.

We eventually had to leave Courtenay behind and head to Plum Mitan. Another long drive but thankfully the Sooknanans who are great friends of Courtenay’s were ready and waiting. They prepared a mouth-watering buss-up-shut country-style curry lunch for us. And boy did we eat. I had lunch on a banana leaf. Was YUMMY!!!

The after effects of Curry

Curry Aftermath or as we say in Trinidad “Ethnic Malaise”

It was a great day. I discovered a part of my island I have never been to before. I had curry in Plum Mitan. And I had some lessons in Patience. Today’s gift, you guessed it, patience. I know that everything is happening in its own time at the perfect pace. Sometimes we have to tap into nature’s patient pace to learn that.

Today’s affirmation:

Today I give with joy

Today was a day of chores. I’ve been neglecting my apartment for a while, it was long overdue some loving. It was night time before I realised I didnt have an opportunity all day to give a gift. I was preparing for my friend Lucy, who was coming over because we had a very early morning planned for tomorrow. We were going on a Hike and Kayak Tour in Nariva Swamp. I’ve never been there before, neither has Lucy.

I needed to find an opportunity to give soon, or I’d be back at Day 1 tomorrow. By the time Lucy got to my spot, I decided what the gift would be. She was gonna have the bed and I’ll sleep on the sofa. It’s a bed too and I wanted to try it anyway.

Coming up with this gift, brought back a lot memories of my childhood, like being forced to take naps and praying before we went to bed. I couldnt believe that after all these years I still remember the first prayer my mother taught me:

Gentle Jesus,and mild meek, look upon this little child, pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to thee.

I’m thinking about my mother a lot, I can find a memory in everything. Time for bed. Turns out the sofa bed is quite comfy!