When spring arrives we can’t help but feel the shift in energy from sleepy, hibernating winter to awakening and buoyant spring. We too must awaken like spring and blossom. It’s time to come out of our shells and share our brilliance like the sun, bloom like flowers, and sing from our hearts like our feathered friends.
I observed in late winter how the bare trees seemed sublimely changed. From our vantage point near the ground, it appeared that nothing had changed, the trees were as stark as ever; but there was a difference. Due to the height of the limbs it was difficult to see, but I finally realized what I was observing were the buds that had sprouted on the bare limbs. It gave the trees a deeper dimension, more of a presence against the blue skies. They seemed more alive, vibrating.
Once the buds opened and began to show their colors, we knew that spring had truly arrived. In NY, our state tree, the bright, yellow forsythias seem to trumpet the arrival of spring. The enchanting pinks of cherry blossoms, the deep fuchsia of the red bud trees seem to be courting us; colors observed by our eyes, whispered sweetness to our soul. I love the color pink, and the soft pinks of my peonies had yet to bloom when I arrived home from Thailand. I was thrilled to be able to witness their soft, pinkness unfurling.
Spring is a time for us to start showing our true colors, of beauty, love, wonder and adventure. It’s a time to take care of our soul’s needs. Sign up for that class, take a road trip, see a therapist, join a support group, change the hair, baby the body or get that new lip color or hair cut. We know very well what we need to be our lovely best. And if we don’t quite know, this is the perfect time to take the steps that will lead to being more aware and thereby able to find and eventually manifest all that we can be.
Today was a day of incredible markets and unusual experiences. In Thailand like in most markets, they are not just a place to purchase food, goods and pick up desirables. It’s a place to commune, connect, and perpetuate community. This is more than evident in the markets we visited today.
First stop, the Maeklong Railway Market just outside of Bangkok proper in the Samut Sakhon Provence. There is no other market like this one in the world. The story goes that the market was originally on land that became too expensive for the merchants, so they decided to relocate to place that would be free, the railroad.
This market is set up on either side of the railroad tracks and when the train comes through (eight times a day) everyone has the clear the tracks and make room for the train. For shoppers this merely means moving out of the way. For the merchants this means, winding in their awnings, rolling back the carts that their wares are on (a foot or two) and then there are other items low enough to the ground that the train passes over them without harm. It’s a most unbelievable experience.
Once the train passes, awnings are rolled back out, crates with wares are rolled back into place and the shoppers are once again all a bustle. Everything you might need for creating a dish is there, vegetables of all sorts, as well as fruits, seasoning, fresh fish and seafood, meats of all kinds and young girls stringing the worship garland of marigold and jasmine that I purchased and wore around my neck.
The second stop was the Floating Market in Dameoen Saduek. We drove another half hour or so to arrive at the dock to take the long nose boat to the floating market. This is a canal that was dug by hand which is incredible to imagine considering the length of the canal. We were on a pretty fast moving boat for at least twenty minutes.
Two of the elements of both of these markets are the incredible heat and humidity and this is true despite the fact that we began our journey at 7:00 to avoid the height of the heat. Despite that the heat was quite intense a somewhat draining. Thank goodness for the air-conditioned tour bus. The other element consists of droves of people, locals shopping and tourist from all countless far away lands. The largest groups are tourists are from China.
Last stop wasn’t your usual market; it was small and was actually a cocoanut processing compound. At this stop we were taught how the cocoanuts grow, the many ways it’s processed for oil, to make sugar, syrup, soap, oil, milk, juice and of course we were able to purchase, fresh, young coconuts to drink. Most Thai food includes some element of the coconut. As a special treat for us, our wonderful tour guide, Nok, purchased some plantain bananas that were rolled in cocoanut shavings and deep-fried. It was very delicious.
At this stop we were also able to go inside of a traditional Thai home. Made of teak wood, these homes are on stilts to raise the house to avoid flood, to house the water catching device and because having the house high off the ground, makes for a cooler home.
Inside each home is a shrine to the Buddha, in varying degrees of elaborateness. There are also shrines outside of every home and business. Each home has two shrines, a shrine to the land elements (soil, air, water, plants, all botanicals) and a shrine to the ancestors. The ancestors have their own home outside the house because they are not allowed to live inside the home; they have their own home.
The land shrine is on a single pedestal and the ancestor shrine is typically on six legs. There are offering made to the shrine daily of acknowledgment and prayers, incense burned, food offered and worship garlands made of flowers like the one I purchased. I wore mine all day long and was just enchanted by the fragrant aroma of the marigold and jasmine. I can only imagine the ancestors loving this fragrance too. It’s jasmine that is the primary essence in the Anu Essentials Sea Scape Perfume, a fragrance that has easy access to my heart.
Also, this home, market had many animals, monkeys, birds, roosters, dogs and a cacophony of insects, which made for quite the sound system. We finally arrived back to the hotel and just as I was about to prepare for a nap, veteran globe trotter Kay called and asked me to go with her to an antique mall. That would take a whole other blog post if I could even find the words to describe one incredibly fabulous store with antiques that are just mind blogging. That’s another post for another day.
Finally there was a delicious dinner with my two veteran, globetrotting friends who planned this incredible trip, Kay and Patricia at the night market on the river front. Yes indeed, the market remains a hub for people to come together, to be together, to live and enjoy life.
It has not been easy for me to admit this to myself, let alone anyone else. But I can no longer delay informing you that after much consideration I have decided to discontinue the Anu Essentials Line of Hair Products with the exception of the Hair Oils. Our botanically infused Hair Oils have been handmade by yours truly since 1980 and will continue on.
My focus now is on my true love, botanical elements (herbs and essential oils) and all the ways I can infuse them into our lives. This includes Body Care, Essential Oil remedies (soon to come) mood enhancers that include our Refresh and Spiritual Spritzers, Perfumes and semi-precious, gem stone jewels. We will also be offering unique home and environment fragrances to enliven, cleanse and enhance your breathing space. It is our plan to expand in all the above categories.
As one who has been studying the healing arts for many years, I have studied Chinese Medicine, I am a Certified Yoga Instructor, and Reiki Practitioner, the desire to heal is a part of my DNA. The infusion of herbal based beauty and environmental care products of Anu Essentials are an extension of my desire to offer natural healing solutions that beautify and inspire. I will be turning 60 years young this month and what better time than now to fulfill my soul’s desire to heal and beautify using the gifts from God, via nature?
I would like offer my heart felt appreciation to all those who have supported Anu Essentials line of Natural Hair Products over these four years. We encourage you to stock up on the Hair Products you like most, while they last. I have! Due to the quality and cost of manufacturing the products, there will be no sale or reduction of prices.
Last but not least, Great News!!! We are very excited to inform you that in the coming days, we will be launching a new Anu Essentials website. Stay tune. And Many Thanks!
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I have been thinking about the touch of love. For many women (and men) Valentines season can be a painful reminder of being without that loving touch. Even for those who have a spouse or partner, being touched in a meaningful way can be an element lacking in the relationship. Because there’s the unfortunate truth that there are many who do not know how to touch others, or how to receive being touched or how to lovingly touch themselves. So often the hunger for touch is ignored or even buried. This very essential need can and should be addressed and we are responsible for taking care of ourselves, our needs.
Being touched is one of the most affirming and healing aspects of this physical world. A cruel study revealed that babies who are not touched (other than to be fed and bathed) simply died. The power and radiance that comes from our hands is far greater than most of us realize. The great news is that there are plenty of wonderful options to address our needs as humans to be touched and I’m here to share some of them with you. And let me assure you I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself. I practice these rituals of self care on a regular basis and I’ve had every healing arts modality that I’ve listed below. Each one leaves you feeling the magnificence of how we could all feel daily, if we lived in a world that put spirit above dollars. Welcome to healing.
First up, Touch Yourself ~ The easiest and most accessible way to be touched is to use our own hands. Ever notice that as soon as you hurt yourself, the first thing you do is reflectively place your hand on that area? We do this because even though we may not be consciously aware of it, we intuitively know that our hands are healing tools. I suggest that you search your heart and mind to find out if you are in need of being touched and if so, allow yourself to address this need. Here are just some of my suggestions.
Tap In ~We can show ourselves some love by caressing our own bodies. Any time you are unable to be with a lover and your needs arise, be your own lover! That’s right! Who better than you can know what you truly want and need? Well actually a healing arts professional might be able to better assess your true needs; that information is a little further down the page. In the meantime, since you’re always with you, this is the least time consuming option, you won’t have to travel anywhere to be with yourself, you are already there. And since it’s likely that you won’t charge yourself anything, this is the least expensive way to receive that loving and healing touch. It can be difficult to make this decision if you haven’t been practicing self care on a regular basis. But remember there is a part of you that longs to be taken care of. Make the commitment, explore and enjoy.
Self Care ~ My favorite and easiest touching ritual is bathing. No, not showering, but getting in a tub of deliciously warm water. After relaxing in this elixir of life, begin washing your body sans a wash clothe. Instead of using a clothe, use just soap and your naked hands. There will be some tender parts of your anatomy that will delight in the feel your hands.
Be mindful, be intentional and truly be present to what you are doing. Feel the beauty of your hands on your body. After bathing the body, an exfoliation treatment can awaken the skin, making the body feel more alive, more radiant as exfoliation stimulates your lymph system. Follow up the exfoliation with a soothing cream. When you apply the cream focus 100% of your mind on what you’re doing. Imagine how lovingly you would apply that cream or butter to a baby you love and then baby yourself in the same way. If the thought of a baby caring for a baby doesn’t inspire you, then touch yourself the way you’d want a lover to touch you, and enjoy it. Have your favorite music playing, a delightful fragrances burning and scrumptious chocolates and divine wine at the ready. You’re going to fall in love you!!!
Sexual Healing ~ My other suggestion for self-care is for you to offer sexual pleasure to yourself. Some women and men know how to please themselves and others may have no clue. If you know how to please yourself, during this Valentine’s season take this opportunity to go there. It may be the release you truly need, ahhhh… But if you have no clue on how to sexually please yourself, remember we’re in the information age… research! Consider taking a class. There are wonderful, insightful, and fun classes being taught at places like Babeland here in NY. If you’d rather more privacy, seek a highly praised book on this topic. One of my favorites books on this matter is by famed African American Gynecologist, Hilda Hutcherson, entitled, “What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x.” You might consider watching a how-to video or a steamy, foreign film. Call up your sexiest friend and ask him or her for some tips on this subject. They will be delighted to share with you and excited you’re finally getting your glow on. You can do this. Decide to find a way to stimulate yourself. Perhaps dancing gets you in the mood. Whatever it is that gets you going, get going.
Healing Hands ~ As a one who has studied Chinese Medicine for a bit, is a certified yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner, I truly believe in the power of the healing arts. Being touched by a professional who respects and loves their work does not fall under the banner of being sensual. Nevertheless, the senses are subtly engaged by the relaxing music, the burning incense, or the essentials oils being applied. I highly recommend booking an appointment for one of the healing arts as a means of being touched. It’s a curative and sacred touch, but that might be just what the doctor ordered. The benefits are just amazing and you’ll want to thank me when it’s all said and done. So let me tell you now, you’re welcome! Don’t worry if you’re unable to book on February14th, that’s probably one of the busiest days for spas and not the best day for you to receive the attentiveness you deserve. Since everyday is a good day to love yourself, book your treatment for a the day or two after or as soon as you are able. Just do it!
Healing Arts Options
Massage – There’s nothing like a good massage to renew you and make your feel relaxed, restored, renewed from head to toes.
Acupuncture – Is one of the oldest and best healing practices available in our modern times. This ancient healing modality is my first option after massage when something ails me. But having it just for a tune up is also very calming and healing. Two of my favorite acupuncturists are Elizabeth Healy and Bishara Wilson.
Manicure and pedicure – With added on services like a leg massage or chair massage, your mani-pedi might just do the trick. Even hand massages at a good nail spa can offer great relaxation. They are just wonderful.
Reiki – A Japanese form of hands on healing that will allow you to relax so deeply. You will feel submerged into a world of peace and calm. Please feel free to contact me to book this service.
Cranial Sacral Massage (head massage) OMG, talk about relaxing, you’ll be in heaven wondering when it’s over, why you have to come back to earth. Cranial Sacral Massage
Facial –I truly enjoy the way a facial feels and beautiful glow after the treatment. The fragrant botanicals used for facials, naturally heightens the entire experience. My two favs skin specialist are Skin by Mamie McDonald and Tres Belle Spa.
Reflexology (foot massage) – When booking spa appointments, many people forego this wonderful healing service. But all of our body’s organs have a region in the feet that are readily accessed via reflexology, making it a worth-while investment.
Thai Massage – There are so many types of massage therapies, but a Thai massage is like a having someone do yoga for you, using your body. As the massage therapist moves your limbs in graceful, stretching and circular ways, you wonder how you can do this more often.
Ayurveda – Hailing from India, Ayurveda is the oldest holistic healing therapy in the world. There are many different Ayurveda therapies. My favorite spa for Ayurveda treatments here on the east coast is the Kripalu Yoga Retreat located in the Berkshires. Kripalu specializes in Ayurveda and their treatments are simply, divine.
Yoga – Take a restorative yoga class. In restorative yoga it’s all about relaxation. It’s for beginners or those who just want a chill yoga class. There’s no competition, you don’t need fashion savvy yoga clothing. All you need to bring is a willingness to go within. There’s a small, intimate class taught by Dianne Scott at the Joy of Living Yoga, right around the corner from Khamit Kinks on Bond Street.
How Do I Love Myself ~ So there you have it, more than a few ways to show yourself the love you deserve and may want from another. As the great Buddhist Monk Thích Nhât Hanh reminds us “we must truly love ourselves in order to be able to love another.” Check out this beautiful video by Thich Nhat Hanh called How Do I Love Myself.
Some times we must leave something beautiful to fully appreciate it. I had this experience after my 18-hour long flight from Dubai. Headed home from the airport just before dawn to my Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice litter everywhere as a part of the landscape. That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen litter in over a week, for the entire time I was in Dubai; nor had I seen any homeless people. It was evident that in American culture people are thrown away much like litter, something unheard of in the Emirates.
It was then that I truly realized I had just left a place of extraordinary beauty that was also exceedingly civilized. The Emirati people are gracious, hospitality is a hallmark and the value put on how you treat others in this Islamic culture makes for a very heart and soul felt experience. There is a kind of sacred elegance to this way of life.
Elegance ~ While my friends live very nicely in the Emirates, I’m not referring to material things when I say elegance, although there was an abundance of that. Elegance because there is a kind of nobility that comes from people living a life based on long held values which include not only love of God (Allah) but an abiding love of family, extended family and respect for others. It creates something special in the air, literally and figuratively. Men and women seem to glide in their long robes. There is a certain way one carries oneself when dressed in robes. Do I sound naïve? Well let’s put aside the fact there are also in world those who wear long robes and spread death, war and misery. I know they exist, but for the sake of this post, I’m referring to my experience in the Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where there was an incredible generosity of spirit and a simple elegance to everyday life.
Ancient Tradition – Food From Nature ~Let’s start with the food. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices, dried fruit, particularly dates, figs and fresh juices are in abundance. Because alcohol is not a part of the culture many amazing and exotic fresh fruit juice blends are available. Think mocktails instead of cocktails. This is not some recent health food kick or fad. This is the way the Emirati people having been eating for centuries, before processed foods were made readily available and yet, they’ve maintained the old tradition of maintaining in their diet and abundance of food from nature.
I love pomegranates and had been eating at least one pomegranate a day since early autumn. Just a week or so before I left for Dubai, they were no longer available; the season had ended. But as soon as I arrived in Dubai I saw a huge billboard ad for pomegranates. Pomegranates are used as a garnish on many dishes and the whole fruit sans the skin, is eaten including the seeds; yes, the seeds are chewed and swallowed, like the pomegranates in this lovely salad made by SJ. SJ a native of Nepal, and is the housekeeper for Shannon and Jim; she makes the most delectable meals. All that to say that in Dubai, I was back to eating pomegranates daily and drinking pomegranate juice. I was off to a yummy start. The drinks above were from a fabulous Lebanese Restaurant, Zahr El laymoun, that was just outstanding. The pink suede chairs had me dazzled. A very popular juice is a Mint and Lemon combo, and this one was a perfect balance of sweet and tart. That combo was one of most delicious libations I have ever had with the exception of that fresh pressed pomegranate juice. It was ethereal, I felt I could just keep it drinking until I passed out. Incomparable!
The Souk ~ When Shannon (my friend and host) and I traveled to the souk or souq (old marketplace) there were long burlap bags filled with all manner of unique spices, resins, gums, rose buds and hibiscus teas, whole dried lemons and limes, frankincense and myrrh. These offering were all outside of each store, and the aroma!!! I was in aromatic heaven. But in-doors where the a/c was available, were the more expensive items like saffron, magically red sitting piled on glass plates under glass covers. A large variety of nuts were also available ~ cashew, almonds, pecans and pistachios. And the nuts came in a variety of options from raw and unsalted to flavored with curry and other spices.
Mall Life ~ Shannon, such a dear one, who’d invited me to Dubai kept bringing up the mall, saying we would be going to this mall on this day and the other malls on other days. And I’m thinking to myself, I don’t even go to the mall at home, why would I want to go to the mall on a regular in Dubai, the mall of all places??? It took me a couple of visits to the mall to finally get it, to understand the importance of the mall life in this region. Here the mall is the new age market place, the new town square where you go to find what you want and need, hang out with friends, see neighbors, foreigners (very big international presence) and to soak in the beauty of life. The biggest and the best grocery stores are at the mall. There’s all kind of activities for the children at the mall. There are top end designer stores for the wealthy, as well as mid range priced stores, banks, the cleansers, money exchange windows, etc. There is something for everyone at the mall.
Not to mention, I was there in January, the winter season where the high was 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the high is 75 in the winter can you imagine how hot it gets come late spring and summer? The temperature hovers around 115 degrees, and what better place to be than the air-conditioned mall where you have access to whatever you may want or need and be entertained. There are all kinds of eateries, everything from Garretts Popcorn to 5 star restaurants, movie theaters, ski slopes, ice-skating…I kid you not, and the Dubai Mall has an Olympic size fish tank. You could actually don a diving gear and swim with the fish. It seems people are either in their homes, their cars, at work, the Mosque or the mall. The other really exciting thing to do is to travel out to the desert, a place unfortunately, I didn’t get to travel to this time around. My friends shared that for the Emirati people, going to the desert is like going back home, a place of ancient traditions and a reprieve from the modern world of malls and excess.
The Dubai Museum ~ My visit to the Dubai Museum really gave me an invaluable perspective of Dubai. It’s not what I thought, some new place with skyscrapers that emerged from nothing. The Emirati people have lived here for centuries, but in a very humble way. Up until as recently as the 1970s Emirati people lived very much like traditional African people, close to the earth with a high value on community, family, elders, with most everything made by hand, woven clothing, woven baskets, hand made furniture, utensils, tools etc. and in a very communal way. Today the Emirati people still live communally, with several generations of a family in one household. What’s changed is the infusion of great wealth, but coupled with the same traditions in place. What a winning combination! Instead of exploiting their people, the Emirates have everything set up so that the Emirati people are well taken care of, no matter how many foreigners come to live and create wealth for themselves in Dubai, the indigenous people of that land continue to thrive.
Generosity ~ I stayed with two African American couples while in Dubai. And all I can say is that they treated me with so much care and generosity that it literally brought me to tears. One friend, Tamu booked us for spa treatments and then casually mentioned that it was her treat. This wasn’t just any spa, this was the Emirates Palace Spa. The grounds alone are astonishing and the inside, was epic. As I lay on the massage table I became so overcome with gratitude that the tears just began to flow. My heart felt expanded, opened by all that I’d been experiencing. This gift of an exquisite spa treatment was on the heels of nearly a week at the home of Shannon and Jim who were anticipating my every want and need, treating me to 5 star restaurant excursions and then after working all day, taking me out to the different malls and treating me to exceptional outings at night like Global Village and the Burj Khalifa. Both couples explained that the generosity they were offering me was what they had experienced themselves as expats in this foreign land and they had been influenced in this way by the culture.
Oud ~ And then there’s oud or oudh, one the most expensive perfume ingredients known to the human nose! This was the thing that initially sparked my interest in traveling to a place half way around the world that is not known for its beaches. Oud is an intensely odorous oil procured from Agarwood trees and is easily found for purchase in the Emirates. Dark with an animalic scent, oud can be off putting; but blended in a perfume formulation, it enhances a scent as no other can. I wear oud for my own pleasure, but I also have it as an element in a couple of my perfumes, the Sita and Nola. These day most top perfume brands are rushing to have an oud perfume in their repertoire.
The oud shops in Dubai were located in the malls. Elegantly set up, oud shops are like high-end jewelry stores, with elaborate chairs and offerings of bespoke espresso and coffee, two very popular beverages in the Emirates. I guess that addiction is all over the world. My addiction is fragrance and I had a good dose of it in Dubai. In addition to the natives wearing oud raw and in perfumes, it is burned daily in homes and businesses. Also, top brands fragrances from around the globe are sold and worn quite generously in Dubai. Beautiful and unique aromas were ubiquitous.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque ~ Last but certainly not least the Mosques ~ Mosques are easy to find in the Emirates, so come prayer time (5 times a day) one can easily make their way to a mosque. Even with my stop-over in India, there were signs in the airport indicating prayer rooms. I knew I was entering another world when I saw that. On my weekend visit to Abu Dhabi I didn’t have a chance to go inside the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, but Shannon and her husband Jim would not hear of me leaving the Emirates without seeing the inside of this famed mosque. So they made arrangements for me to go back and take in the grandeur of it all. A personal driver drove me back to Abu Dhabi, waited for me while I toured the Mosque and then drove me back to Dubai (a hour and a half drive each way). This is what I mean about how I was treated in Dubai, the level of generosity was humbling.
The mere size of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is just astounding! I was spellbound by two facts. First, that Sheikh Zayed was inspired to build this mosque based on his visit to the Taj Mahal. And so he hired the same family of artisans that built the Taj Mahal, to build this mosque. It took ten years of planning the architectural design and an additional eleven years to build it. I was absolutely enchanted by the floral theme that cover the walls, pillars, were in the ceiling, and on the largest carpet ever made in the world. There were over a thousand different colors used to create the flowers, but they’re not painted. Instead, the floral designs are comprised of over a hundred different semi-precious stones and types of marble.
The other fact was that was heart felt, was that Sheikh Zayed passed away before the Mosque was completed and the decision was made to bury him on the grounds of the mosque. The Holy Koran is recited 24 hours a day at his burial ground with the belief that the deceased can feel the energy of their environment and the people wanted Sheikh Zayed to feel on the other side of eternity, how very much he is loved and appreciated. But what blew my mind is that the recital is not recorded. It’s actually recited by a number of Imams taking turns through each day and night. Talking about devotion! What a great and beloved man, was Sheikh Zayed. He is the Sheikh who decided that in order to build a great nation, women had to be educated and then he proceeded to put in place all that was needed in order for them to go to school, including paying them to go to school. What a man, a visionary, a leader!
In Conclusion ~I had a most beloved experience in the Emirates that I will forever remain with me. I was surprised at how being in the Emirates warmed my heart and gave me another perspective on Islam. While I didn’t feel closed to Islam, I had an opportunity to more easily see the beauty of this faith in its motherland. I appreciate spiritual enlightenment from all religions. In my eyes every religion has something of value to offer considering all roads lead to the one Source. My new appreciation for Islam was a reminder of how we truly benefit from venturing out of our comfort zones and exploring other cultures.
Thank you Shannon and Jim for your most generous and gracious hospitality.
Thank you Tamu and Amir for such a wonderful and heart felt experience.
Check out this juice menu from the world renowned Hakkasan Restaurant at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Hotels are the only places allowed to serve alcohol in the Emirates but a fine selection of non-alcoholic fruit based drinks are always available.
So as you can well see if you’ve gotten this far, I had a most wonderful experience and there was plenty more. But this post has to end at some point. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share your comments, thoughts on this post.