30 September, 2015

why i don't eat lipstick

Apparently a financial crisis triggers women to buy lipstick. 

Turns out when the purse strings are tight, women reach for the lip pie as an affordable beauty fix rather than the expensive get up on her proverbial Saturday High Street splurge.

Go figure.

What interests me a bit more though is what it is exactly that the ladies are reaching out for.

According to the latest market research from Lucintel, the global beauty care products industry is forecasted to reach around $265 billion by 2017.

Nearly half what the USA spent on war in this fiscal year (54 percent of all federal discretionary spending).

Needless to say - that is a lot of cosmetic face bomb! 

I could rant on about why women even feel the need to put on their daily war paint, could get a little critical about what it is to be female in the world we live in today and not to mention our very, very challenging unobtainable conditioned concepts of beauty that can tear down a woman's self esteem and bring a whole plethora of issues and dysfunction in to the collective psyche of humankind. 

But I might be here all day.

What I'm intrigued by - right now - is what the hell is in all these cosmetics so many of us are consuming?

I wear make up too sometimes (if not often) and when I decided to take a look at the ingredients of some of my beauty gear, I realised there were a lot of words that I never learnt at school, are unpronounceable and are missing from my vocabulary.

As I've scratched beneath the surface, I've learned a few more things:
  • According to the Environmental Working Group, 89 percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the FDA
  • In fact, the US federal government doesn’t require any health studies or pre-market testing on personal care products
  • As a result, many cosmetics are thought to contain carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and other chemicals that may pose health risks
  • Up to 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed into the bloodstream
It gets worse: the list of toxic additives present in many cosmetics is jaw-droppingly huge. 

U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals. Pfff.

Harmful ingredients in your makeup drawer that should be avoided at all costs include (but are certainly not limited to): Butyl acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Coal tar, Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA, Diazolidinyl urea, Ethyl acetate, Formaldehyde, Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl), Petrolatum, Phthalates, Propylene glycol, Siloxanes, Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate, Talc, Toluene, Triclosan, and Triethanolamine.

Blimey! Quick!! Open your vanity case and start reading labels like a Walmart shopper on the Atkins diet. In the frozen foods aisle… 

With a microscope…

Would you choose to eat any of the stuff put on your face and body? 

Now this is when I usually get brushed off with a shoulder shrug label such as 'hippie' or 'tree hugger'… not that I don't appreciate a good tree hug :)

But unfortunately for me, the Gods gave me brains too. 

And while thinking hurts sometimes and can take one on wearisome tours, these deep dives really can illuminate ways in which we may be causing harm to ourselves and being very out of harmony with nature. 

The average woman uses 13 products per day with 515 ingredients. That's a lorra lorra of stuff.

And no one really knows how certain chemicals affect us over time, or how they react in our bodies in combination. Some chemicals have known dangers: Phthalates, for example, which are often found in artificial fragrances, are a class of hormone disruptor which can be linked to birth defects, sperm damage, infertility, and the feminization of baby boys, for instance. Oh boy.

So what now?
Well, Mother Nature apparently has a cure for nearly everything, and fortunately these days there are many beauty brands that are keeping their ingredients list as close to the earth as possible.

Some options include:

Mainly due to my lifestyle - I make for a terrible beauty queen. Much to my mother's disappointment. "Yesssssica - you really need to do your nails!" she says to me when I roll in from a flight having spent the last month or so camping in the wilderness. But I'm ok about my tidy naked nails.

A lovely travel friend persuaded me to give away all my make up in 2011 while I was travelling through India and all I held on to was eye liner, mascara and the occasional blush. And I do really like to use simple natural ingredients on my skin worthy a mention such as:
  • Jojoba Oil - a natural hydrating face oil also good for hair
  • Coconut Oil - great for dry hair and on skin but only in warm climates (otherwise it solidifies!)
  • Avocado/olive/coconut oil, essential oil, salt and ground coffee - a yummy homemade body scrub that leaves the skin so soft
I wouldn't choose to eat them - but they won't hurt me if I did.

I've become so sensitive to the chemical smells we squirt around lately, airport Duty Free's can actually give me a head ache and don't even get me started on household cleaning products.

I've not convinced Mum on the wonders of vinegar and other alternatives - partly because I made her house smell like a fish and chip shop the last time I got evangelistic. But I tried.

Perhaps I might invite you dear reader to spare a thought for what it might be you're putting in your system and what other informed choices you might wish to make in the future…

Nature has a wonderful way of bringing out our natural beauty and thankfully these days, there are options for us to take that might also be healthier for our insides too.

Tree hugger. Over and out.

Useful link:

18 September, 2015

dear burning burning man

Photo: Galen Oakes
Dear Burning Man

As I watched you burning fiercely amongst the 70,000 'Burners' I reflected deeply on these last few years since I left Sydney and the stories I'd been battling with since I was a child. I watched you light up the sky bathed in beautiful fireworks and realised just how there I was. How released I felt and ultimately, how bloody grateful.

As I meditated on you I felt the fire within me burn too; absolutely free, alive and whole. Thanking myself for burning the shame, burning the sadness, burning the fears and burning the fury and the rage. Burning Man, you burn and boy do you burn good.
The BE //Photo:

What I wondered - as I sat under the stars of the Nevada desert - was what exciting dreams would come to life next? Where would life take me? How would I grow? As the ashes shook away, I finally, sighed with huge relief. I can't explain it but I can bow my head and say thanks. You took away my fears Burning Man and those things can hot bake pretty damn deep.

If all the grit brought me here, in this very hot moment, I thought. Then I have a lot to be thankful for. Except the wrinkles, they've taken a bit of time to adjust to - ironically. But I rather a few lines that crinkle when I smile, than the high security armored heart I'd slogged around for far too long. Yes I feel more than before, the tears come all too easily but yet the joy for living showers me in such inspiration, Burning Man. Like waterfalls of endless potential you rain down the message loud and clear; anything is possible.

To all the Burners, you beautiful celestial beings that make the pilgrimage to this wonderful place, I wholeheartedly salute you. What an incredibly magical place we crafted together, what powerful dust storms we fought (I will not forget cycling straight in to that sculpture!), the boundary pushing workshops we dove in to and dance floors feet kissed while bathed in the breath-taking golden sunsets. I rode my edge Burning Man but I  didn't snap. Even as the storm pulled out the tent pegs and coated everything in a layer of dust. Even then when you pushed me that far. Nope. It was OK.

Burning Man, you are full of such dreamlike wonder. Full of the bizarre, eccentric and fun. You are full to the brim with creative spirit and you are so full of love and everything that's inspired. You are a great place to burn off the pains and exist more fully in the NOW with a smile on the face and a big open heart. And you are extraordinary because you are a collection of creations, selfless and empowered. A giant united heart facing the sunrise and looking forward, day after day. When I rode through the desert and found a watch only to learn that the time said N:O:W - I got the message. A great present from the desert that I offered to the beautiful Temple which was home to so much grief. Somber it was, thank god that got burnt down too! In silence. With plenty tears. And so many people moved by it.
The Temple //Photo:

Thank you for burning. You have liberated, enlightened and been a space for healing and self expression to a lot of brave people. You have also brought a whole manner of sorts in to one field; from the naked banana pancake camp to the giant penis sculpture.

Here's to more magic, more love and more joy. Let that fire ROAR burners, there's a fire in your heart and your life is the canvas to blaze it on. You don't always need a desert, baby, you've got soul.

So spark it up Burning Man and burn burn burn.

In love with desert light, made peace with the dust.

Jecta x
"Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path... exactly where you are meant to be right now... And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love." ~ by Caroline Adams

08 August, 2015

what does the world need right now?

I met this beautiful couple on the beach in Thailand.

At the time I didn't know they were musicians and my friend Brett and I decided to go for a walk and jam on the beach to the sunset with his guitar. We invited our new friends and in a divine spark of magical union, created a wonderful little song.

We called ourselves Coco and the Palm Trees. The next evening we performed it at the open min night (video here) which was so beautiful to share with our friend's at The Sanctuary and was a lovely welcome shift from some of my old heart bleeding poetry :)

This song really moves me, so I wanted to share it.

24 July, 2015

are you a drop in the ocean? or the ocean in a drop?

One of the virtues of being in charge of my own time, mostly, has been the opportunity to reflect on some of the deeper questions on life. This is not new for me. As a child I remember asking "what is the meaning of life?" with the rather cute response being "to find the meaning". For a little nipper, that is pretty wise and deep...

I'm fascinated by philosophy. Love to get poetic and metaphoric with spirit and science. I get called a 'hippy' on a regular basis. Which still bugs me a little but I am learning to embrace it. I don't know what qualifies me as a hippy... But nevertheless as a 'bonafide hippy' there's one idea I work to advocate and that is the shortcut key of 'Peace & Love'. I've got there a few times. Of completely 100% embodying this place but then like a burning fire on a relentless mission to purify the soul, something will come up and I'll be put back to work again. That's the inside practice.

What I often fall in to duality with is the 'inside-outside' world. I have written a lot on some of the madness our world faces and there have been times when I have walked around and felt disturbed by the world around me. Just the other day I walked around Times Square and being wide open to everything felt like I was taking a huge over excited moving screen hit of neon that was injected directly in to my adrenal gland. People everywhere. Lights everywhere. Messages. Buy, buy, buy... Eurgh. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Then I teleport back to walking through a small market town in the Himalayan region of India and seeing a beautiful grubby girl holding a plastic bag full of empty bottles. I loved that child. She was doing such a service by collecting that recyclable waste instead of allowing it all to toxify the lands in the area. But her society saw her as a low caste, an 'untouchable'. When I held her hand and we walked through the street together, my Indian friend Ganesh explained that people were pointing and expressing their disgust at this girl and I for being in contact. How cruel to think there exists a world where a child cannot be held because of the caste she was born in to.

There's a shamanic principle that suggests one 'has acceptance for all'. A wonderful non-dualistic concept; learning to appreciate the darkness to appreciate the light. Or something like that. But stepping aside from this enlightened place of 'everything's meant to be' I still struggle to come to terms with some of the terrible things that are happening on this planet.

A decision I felt forced to make in 2011 was to get dark, deep and gritty with my stuff. To delve within. And after many a self-righteous rant about all this is wrong with the world; the environment, poverty, sexism, inequality and a whole plethora of issues that need to be addressed besides the fact that media is brainwashing us with fear and subscribing us to tow a line that may not be in service of good at all ie. war... After all this ranting, I very quickly realised that inside me also exists shadow dimensions of pain, anger, fear, sadness and turmoil. Some inherited genetics, most psychologically conditioned reactions and resistances from Earth school grit.

I hadn't previously realised how much the past was still replaying in my present. What emerged were psychological wounds and vulnerable feelings of a misunderstood and very sensitive child. I recall reading about a polar bear that died in the local zoo due to the heat wave and I just broke down in tears. I began psychologically studying myself, got angry a lot, I practiced mindfulness and therapeutic practices. In an act of self-care, I hired a hut in the Caribbean and spent most afternoons doing yoga and meditation on the beach. In my shack I worked on integrating, writing, photo editing, creating beautiful things out of the resources I had and I danced. It was transformational and it was painful and at times I felt very sorry for myself. I found the key to mindful awareness was to develop a secure frame that could contain any feeling; no matter how painful, to allow it to to be received with grace.

I share this because I want to get real here and I know what it is like to be going it alone and feeling vulnerable. Things happen in life, the ocean gets choppy, we swallow too much salt water and we may struggle to keep afloat. There are times when the life boat feels like it is sinking and safety feels a long way away. I learned that safety needed to be something I could create for myself amidst any kind of chaos and pain. An inner trust and sense of safety. With a tightly gripped hand we cannot hold water, it falls between our fingers. But with our hands we can cup it. When I came home to this place again, I realised it had never gone, I was always held by mother nature. But I'd got swept up in a big rip, held on too tightly and needed to improve my breaststroke and breathe a lot deeper. I needed to surrender and allow myself to be present with life no matter how painful. The chemical soap burn scene in Fight Club encapsulates that feeling; no power animal, no visualisation techniques, no mantras, just 100% there with the feeling.

The thing's that plague our society still make me dream it better and have had me in tears but I am grateful to feel. In the West we have built up a strange notion that feelings are a weakness not a strength. And there's a lot in this world that is heartbreakingly destructive or darn right insane. But thankfully there's also a lot on this planet that is so so stunningly beautiful, inspiring and kind. 

If we want to be shining beacons for peace, it starts - in my humble opinion - with being ok with oneself; to respond to one's authenticity with presence and acceptance (and compassion) even when the ocean's rough. And we need to have the courage to allow for change, as life inevitably is.
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” - Gandhi

24 June, 2015

love & care, going to extremes

sadhu crew at bamboo
"Most people would join a gym Jecta" my old friend Springer remarked as we crossed Wandsworth bridge in London while I explained that I was planning on spending some time on a detox retreat at The Sanctuary Thailand. Perhaps, but not for me.

Somehow my time in the French Alps had taken its toll on my mind, body and soul. I'd held myself to ridiculously high standards in terms of my work, my diet and my lifestyle and after 5 months working a six day week so intensely with all the responsibilities that came with managing chalets and a team, I could see how my relationships around me were telling me that something wasn't right and I was slipping in to a place of guilt for not doing as much yoga and running as I had hoped while nibbling on croissants and allowing a bit of winter buffer around my belly to bug me.

After some curve balls and disappointments, I chose to step back in to my power again. It was time to give myself a gift. The greatest gift of extreme self-love and extreme self-care. Nourishment from the inside out, a polish and a realignment with the rhythms of nature and all her blessed shapes.

On a beautiful remote beach on the coast of Koh Phangan immersed in the jungles along the beach lives a stunning retreat centre called The Sanctuary. After two planes, a cab, a ferry and a fisherman boat, I stepped on to the sandy bay and breathed it all in. It was like stepping in to a dream and London felt a lifetime behind me as I gazed up at the open ocean calling me in to her waters.

I had visited The Sanctuary in 2011 with my Mum and we had opened up to the beautiful therapies, yoga classes and detox programs of the resort. I'd spent a session with a shaman going on a journey to find my power animal(s) and had had wonderful enlightening experiences for the two weeks we were there. This time round however, rather than being a corporate advertising executive with my designer bikini, playing hard ball negotiating my next contract and staying in one of their beautiful air conditioned Garden Suites, I was donning my rasta string bikini purchased at a local shop for a couple of hundred baht, had no time restrictions to my duration and no Mum to take care of. Just me and a humble fanned room with an epic view of the bay.

My first two weeks I spent without food and having a self-administered plastic tube up my bottom. Some would argue that this isn't a very loving thing to do but my goodness when one feels the boundless energy of the emptiness created, the heightened awareness and looks in the mirror to see the slender body once a distant memory, I can guarantee it brings about great appreciation. The detox program involved regular clay shakes of benzonite clay and psyllium husk, super food capsules, daily yoga classes and spa treatments... along with a daily enema. It required a fair amount of discipline and time keeping.

What amazed me was how ok I was without food. I really wanted to explore what Russell Brand says "lives behind your hunger" but I actually felt ok. I sat with people eating at the incredibly healthy and delicious cafe of the retreat centre, admired the salad bar and perhaps felt a craving or two for the Raw Bliss Balls and cheese cakes but otherwise what really filled my being was gladness.

"There's no where I would rather be" I found myself saying as I surrendered my whole time in Thailand to that bay. I didn't go on any big adventures, I didn't trek the jungles or wash elephants. I didn't visit a single temple nor step on the streets of Bangkok. Instead I immersed myself in the beauty of the bay and shared some of the happiest moments with the gorgeous family of therapists, yoga teachers and travellers in this little hub of paradise.

"Don't be sorry, be sexy" was the mantra of the bay and boy did we all feel it.

Open mic night saw me step in to my vulnerability and read poetry and sing in front of an audience. Movie night I buzzed with excitement watching this incredible documentary; What About Me? I joined Craig Stuart from Coral Alive replanting coral in the reef donning masks and learning to hold breath underwater. I danced wildly with an empty stomach in the small hours of the morning at the local weekly shindig, I watched the sunrise over the bay in pink golden light and connected with some beautiful new friends from around the world.
the special veranda
One afternoon I doused in poetry on a bamboo veranda with a gorgeous writer-musician (actually a dinosaur in disguise as a human) Luke from Travel Write Sing before practicing frog impressions in the plunge pool and resonating powerful 'Ommmms' in the steam room cave. Another time, surrounded by beautiful women we sped like a ship of warrior goddess' across the ocean to a 'tribal chique' garden party in Koh Sumui armed with face paints, glitter and feathers.
Brett on the rock.
One day I trekked to the neighbour beach and meditated with a cliff jumping tattooed Canadian called Brett and we practiced Samyama meditation with the great rocks that had made it down the mountains after eons of travel. We knew they were happy to have reached the ocean at last. Sunsets I had jamming with musicians serenading mosquitos or joining gatherings to watch lightning storms across the bay. Not forgetting a few nights dancing wildly in the rain singing with the boy with the biggest smile, guitarist Jason and laughing and cuddling Maddie, my 'Sagi Sister'.

Another evening I experienced the incredible luminescent plankton as we went on a night swim and I felt like a child in ecstatic wonderment watching my movements create sparkles in the deep dark waters. I recall lying on a beach bed looking up at the stars with a soul brother Dan from the States. A kindred spirit who too had studied Law and pursued a career in the corporate world before it spat him out and he journeyed through Tibetan Buddhist culture and became a yoga teacher. His words still with me now and inspiring seedlings we birthed in each other.

My people I found there. Grounded, open hearted and inspiring souls from everywhere who reminded me of things I already knew and whispered through their hearts "keep going Jess, keep going". I cannot begin to explain the love and gratitude felt for the tender hearts on that bay. Its a magical place.

After meeting a powerfully healing ROLFING practitioner Sarah, I spent a month having regular sessions and experiencing some of the deepest healing's I've ever had while bringing my body in to its fullest alignment and posture. I won't lie, there was certainly pain. Ever questioning I couldn't believe it when I physically felt an energy leave my stomach like a tangible ball of anxiety dust extracted through a cosmic vacuum cleaner. "Oh my God... What the hell was that?" I said to Sarah. "It doesn't matter now dear, it has gone now in love and light" and then a world of tears fell as feelings of betrayal vibrated through my body and intense heat gushed through to my finger tips while a sigh of relief breathed my insides. Wow. Then there were cacao ceremonies, elemental dances, sound baths, Ayurvedic classes and all the other incredible workshops the Tea Temple hosts for guests at The Sanctuary.

Well, I could go on and on. I can say that nothing felt more liberating, more empowering and more inspiring than this time being at The Sanctuary. I was bare feet for a month - that is always a good sign for me. I swam in the ocean everyday and wrapped myself in the sounds of nature; the frog orchestras, the birdsong, the monkeys and the soft beating of the gentle waves crashing on the sand. And I've been writing, that long awaited tale that I've spoken so much on and finally found the inspiration to write. It feels like an old painting that I am merely articulating through words. And my goodness is it flowing, I've filled up the back of my journal and found myself scavenging scraps of paper to capture the words that want to live somewhere. So exciting for this little writer.

I appreciate that not all jectaspecta readers live a lifestyle that gives them the means, time and space to go on long nourishing retreats like this one (and so does The Sanctuary with its weeklong programs). I can't say that my lifestyle is always easy but I can say that like the human experience, it is one hell of an adventure and I love it most the time... and in moments when I'm not, I know I'm growing in appreciation and strength.

Admittedly in the past I have got entangled in the heavy stuff, fallen in to places of doubt, frustration, envy, anger and sadness. These places are hard for me - I'm sure like many of us - because I grew up believing they were wrong and I didn't have the courage to sit with the pain. This nourishing experience really acted as a soothing balm on what has been one hell of a deep process on the road and while I was there a beautiful friend and Yin Yogini Georgia shone a light upon my grief one afternoon as we swam through the ocean together. She helped me see that what I thought was grief for an old love and everything that revolved around it, was actually the grief I had for my old self. A simple realisation but the most liberating to date to realise the intense transformation the last few years traveling has had on me, shedding the layers and old programming and coming to accept the person I have become through it in the NOW.

So more and more I am learning about self empowerment - to find the love and care for me from within and give myself a lot of it because I bloody well deserve it as do we all! As my Mum would say "Happiness is always with you, patience and faith are a good combination. But happiness is with you always." Such a wise woman she is and what an empowering reminder for us all.

Thank you The Sanctuary and all the incredible lights that held and shared space for me while I was there. I am still buzzing in grace :)

23 March, 2015

jectas top 10 cities to blow the mind...

Kyoto, Japan
Someone wise once said to me 'you can't love a city until it loves you' as in it takes time to create the memories, the stories and shared moments before one feels a sense of belonging there. I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed a good amount of time in some great cities and wish I could do more for others.

I love city dynamics, the movement, the energies flowing in all different directions and unique expressions; the arts, the nightlife, the anonymity and ability to walk out your door donning a pair of scruffy tracky b's, pair of shades and a beanie to get a coffee in the small hours without worrying about who might recognise you (having grown up in small villages - where everyone knows everyone - I also know that feeling).

It is really hard for me to write a list of only 10 but I thought I'd give it a go. Here are my top 10 most mind blowing cities from around the world. Not in any particular order.

  1. Florence, Italy. Birthplace of the Italian language thanks to Dante, a beautiful river with old fashioned bridges, delicious Italian food and the old market square really made Florence a special place to visit. Nearly a third of the world's art treasures reside in the Tuscan capital of Florence. It's terribly romantic but has such a timeless essence to it that I just love. I would love to sit outside at a cafe and drink an espresso watching the world go by while learning Italian or eating homemade pasta.
  2. Vienna, Austria. I wasn't so interested in Austria until recently. Over the last few years I've visited a couple of times and been fortunate enough to pass through Vienna. A land where time stood still and horses and carriages still trundle through the cities beautifully paved streets. Known as the “city of dreams” a term coined by Sigmund Freud’s influence on the city as the world’s first psycho-analyst born there. The baroque architecture is so regal, perfect and pristine white that it just glows in the sunshine and the city is such a fantastic place to wonder around feeling safe and philosophical...
  3. Kyoto, Japan. Ah I loved my time in Kyoto. Like Japan, this city has a beautiful blend of old and new. From the old narrow streets where one might glimpse Geisha's amongst the temples to the new modern neon lit buildings, Kyoto has something quite unique about it. Sat in a valley, while the weather is humid in summer and rainy in winter, it has a wonderful river passing through it and beautiful walks alongside temples and gardens. It is great for a hot saki and sushi street snacks and gatherings, it is also very bike friendly. The main challenge I found was the language but a great way to sharpen your skills in 'communicating by stomach' and recognising when a friendly Japanese has no idea but doesn't want to say that word they don't like to say ('No'). I did a day trip to Mount Kurama where there's an old temple and the ancient energy healing technique 'Reiki' was born from. Very spooky spiritual place.
  4. New York, USA. Start spreading the news! This is a city where you very much feel a part of it. Wow. I'm buzzing just thinking about it. I've not had my socks blown off quite like it as I did when I was in the Big Apple. Never have I found a metro underground system so grimy yet entertaining. I got lost countless times while living in New York and would love finding a random band jamming on the platform, kids pulling out epic dance moves swinging from the bars in the carriages and the fascinating conversations to be had with people from all walks of life. My British accent went down a treat in New York and it was a city that even during winter, had fun activities and a Christmassy cheer to it. I still get a sense of nostalgia thinking about that city. Ridiculously competitive, loud mouthed and happy to kick you in the balls if you've got some, I got kissed a few times by this city in a way that was totally forgivable but challenged me oh it did.
  5. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Everyone in this city is beautiful and having therapy. Which is probably a good thing. I have always said you can tell a city by its pigeons and Buenos Aires is the only city where I've seen pigeons eating beef scraps. The pavements are broken and littered with dog poop and the architecture is spectacular while the sky a dream. A recipe for disaster if you're someone who likes to look up in admiration, especially if you're in heals. Nevertheless, I just love this latin city. It was one of the most heart breaking cities I've visited but in a way that has left a mark forever. The football, the theatre, the ice cream and the sky. I loved living in BA. People challenged so many of my Britishisms and the city pushed all my buttons and yet I kept loving it out, loving it out and still love this mind-blowing chaotic latin city fiercely. This is a city for poets and artists preferably on a foreign income...
  6. London, UK. An organised, prestigious, diverse and interesting city. London is the only city I've been to where I've seen a man with jewels embedded in his head as a mohawk sat next to a man in a pin stripped business suit on the underground. I love London and I love my London crew. I play in the East when I want to dress like a teenager, make grimy look cool and dance to some of the world's best electronic music. I settle in the West if I want to visit some fancy art galleries or my favourite building, the History Museum, while drinking tea and going for a city stroll. It is a city of many faces and many stories. If they could make the sky higher, rain less frequent and people less busy and stressed, I'd be tempted to live there again...
  7. Sydney, Australia. I lived in Sydney for 4 years - so I knew it pretty well. Life by the beach, coming home to sunshine, having access to some amazing restaurants and asian cuisine is such a dream. With the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley close by and an abundance of fun outdoor things to do, such as surfing, trekking, cocktails on rooftops, yogging, picnic, BBQs and festivals etc. this cosmopolitan city will always have a special place in my heart. It's miles away from the rest of the world but sometimes I wonder, perhaps that'd not a bad thing after all. 
  8. Kathmandu, Nepal. One of the most hectic, crazy, cows in the road, monkeys on the highway city I've been to. Waking up to the sound of all the temple bells and the morning puja's is a beautiful experience. Going to one of the many UNESCO Heritage sights such as Boudhanath Stupa and doing the auspicious walk around the prayer flagged stupa is a very unique experience. As is visiting the burning ghats. Not for the faint of heart but certainly a place to have the eyes opened wide and feel a million miles away from one's comfort zone (old post on Nepali trip here).
  9. Jaisalmer, India. The Golden City of the Rajasthan desert (old post on Rajasthan here), this place is just magnificent. My friend and I slept under the stars in the desert one night on a camel safari, watched camel racing and walked around the lake feeling totally mesmerised. This city is a place of pure wonder, deliciously spicy curry and days easily spent admiring the fantastically etched buildings of the Raj. It is the kind of place where one could live for a few months and write a novel.
  10. Siem Reap, Cambodia. This country is actually incredibly sad. Its one of the saddest places I've ever been to and the wounds of the Khmer Rouge are still fresh in the hearts and bones of many generations that survived the horrific killings that took place in the 70's. The Angkor Wat temples near Siem Reap however are absolutely astounding and walking round imagining the ancient civilisations that lived among these old grand relics embedded in the jungle is just amazing. Siem Reap is a great city to give to by donating blood, supporting the anti land-mine efforts or getting a massage by the blind community. I would never choose to live there but for a mind blowing experience, it's pretty impressive.
And so there it is. Some of the cities that have made some deep impressions and I've had some incredible experiences in. Hopefully more to come!

17 March, 2015

dancing in the rain

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning to dance in the rain."
I've been a bad blogger, sorry. I've been really busy. You know how in this crazy fast paced modern world we live in,  someone asks "Hey how you?" and the other responds quite frankly and sometimes proudly "Busy"? Well I hate to admit it, but that's been me. Busy doing what I love - mostly - but equally busy not doing enough of what I know is good for me.

I feel like I have stepped in to a chalet world vortex in a little bubble known as Reberty Village up at 2000m surrounded by white mountains. Having the responsibility of managing three very nice chalets and their staff has been a really interesting experience for me, mostly amazingly good and rewarding, although it's also asked me to really work on staying centred and apply everything I've learned the last few years and learn a whole load of new stuff. Like how to order in French.

One day, the sanitizer in one of the chalets flooded, the Jacuzzi exploded, one of my chefs was missing something from his order and I had a list of questions to answer for our very lovely guests. Amidst this I had a number of things on my mind to do, wine stock, ski lessons, table bookings and had the beautiful fresh powdered pistes winking at me, teasingly, knowing I was too busy to get out and play on them that day despite wishing to.

I walked in to the restaurant where I needed to make some bookings, propped myself on the side of the bar and before I had chance to do anything, I started to cry. If anyone had asked me what was wrong, I wouldn't have been able to answer it with one particular thing, but for a change rather than resisting the urge and holding back what I was feeling, I let the tears gently fall and took some breaths. "Will this matter a year from now?" I asked. One of those questions that quickly put things in to perspective. Obviously not.

But what I realised was - I was, like many others in the world we live in, stressed. Bad habits I thought I left behind in Adland had snuck back in to my life. I'd been waking up in the mornings and instead of saluting the sun with a few asanas or a meditation, I'd be checking my phone for emails and messages. I wasn't drinking enough water or herbal tea. I wasn't doing enough exercise and my eating habits told me I was seeking comfort.

So I did what most of us would do in this situation - I phoned my Mum. Bless Mum. My mum recently brought my Venezuelan abuela / grandmother back to Spain to live with her awhile as she's unwell. I listened to my Mum explain how hard it had been for her with abuella being very frail and the side affects of her diabetes and Alzheimer's had meant my Mum was doing an awful lot of care giving and struggling to balance that with managing her work. I took a moment to count my blessings while providing an ear for Mum who was clearly feeling the weight of it all and perhaps needing to chat it all out more than I did.

As someone who hopes to make the world a bit better and wants to create balance and harmony in life - I give myself one hell of a hard time when things get bumpy and the grit of Earth school grates. And I screw up as much as the next person. During my little anxious stumble - I got a grip and did what I could to make my life better. I made time to chat with people I care for, got my yoga mat out, made myself a salt scrub and found solace within while keeping perspective. That all forgiving and understanding perspective that mother looks at me with.

I love exploring the spiritual realm, realising universal truths and the interconnected web of existence, there's profundity and insight there. I get that. And then there's presence. Just being present to it all and breathing through the experiences (and emotions) of life. Sometimes they might squeeze and test... sometimes I may need to take a step back and sometimes I may seek comfort in food and a phone call to Mum. Because, despite being strong, I'm still infallibly human.

19 February, 2015

warm in the mountains

“The mountains were his masters. They rimmed in life. They were the cup of reality beyond growth, beyond struggle and death. They were his absolute unity in the midst of eternal change” – Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

I’ve been quiet a wee while. Perhaps its because I’ve needed some space or perhaps I’ve exhaled as much as I could following the last few years on the road. But now I am still... I have a home in the French Alps where I am managing three chalets for a family run business. I love my job despite the early starts, which begin with an alarm clock ring tone the least offensive I could find on my work phone (back in the smart phone dimension after a prolonged detox!). That has taken some getting used to and my body clock seems to enjoy waking me up an hour in advance to minimise the shock it has on the system as the sunrises over the valley.

So I am back in my happy place; Mountains. The mountains always feel like home for me. I guess it is because of my mother, with her indigenous roots of the mountain people of Venezuela that I have this affinity with them. It is a place where my spirit thrives and I welcome each day looking up and being in awe of the world around me held in nature. “Well, you’re in the mountains now, time to relax and slow down” I say to my guests when they arrive after their long journey getting here.

And I also turned thirty. I did find myself a little reflective on the past few years. It’s not been easy. Choosing to live a life on the road has come with risks, vulnerabilities, existential crises, financial crises, foreign bugs and a whole plethora of realities, perspectives and paradigms to look at the world through. But then seeing after all the experiences, the depths of emotions and all the fears faced, I wake up on my thirtieth birthday surrounded by the most beautiful mountain landscape fulfilling a dream I’ve sat with so long to do a ski season I can look back, appreciate the funny way life takes one on it’s galavants to put you where you’ve wished to be and feel pretty glad.

In the afternoons I can get on a snowboard and glide through the mountains, work on my balance, carve at speed through snow, along ice. Moments of euphoria flood my body as I feel ever present and in awe of the peaks around me. Mountains teach strength, endurance, patience and peace. They’re dangerous. They’re steep. There's the constant change of weather yet they’re also the gentle giants of the Earth that take you higher to the sky as you gasp for breath.

So life in the mountains is good. Life is more grounded in routine and familiarity while I get to embarrass myself regularly with my terrible French that I will continue to try to speak despite being responded to in English. I’ve got to keep learning my heart says - how else will I get better?

And the adventure continues.

02 December, 2014

my story is your story

This video is just so stunning. A beautiful message that I had to share.

I spent four years living in Australia and the wisdom of the indigenous, the connection to the land and the beautiful tender environment taught me so much.

"People ask me for my story
but my story is your story
When you cry
Don't you cry the ocean?
When you sweat
Don't you sweat the ocean?
When you drink
Don't you drink the rivers and the rain
And when you wash
Don't you wash into that ocean
so the cycle can start again?"

25 November, 2014

health is wealth.

 Auda, mi abuella (my grandmother) is a Venezuelan woman who grew up in a world of poverty. Her home was a concrete shack in the busy city of Barquisimeto. Her face tells the story of a hard life and yet her smile, a softness that’s transcended it all.

I went to hug abuella as my Aunty asked her “Remember who this is madre?”  trying to light a spark in my grandma’s now deteriorating memory. She has Alzheimer’s and diabetes, two conditions that don’t bode well together.

“Yessica” I whisper in her ear quietly hinting as she holds me with her little skinny arms.

She looked at me appreciatively holding my shoulders as she took a deep look in to my eyes. ‘Something familiar is there’ her eyes say.

“Yess-i-caaa” she said to me and smiled.

I hadn’t expected my travels to take me to Venezuela but given I have roots there and it is my mother’s old homeland, it was wonderful to reconnect and see my family.

My abuella’s condition was saddening and yet, there was a peace in her presence. She was living in the constant now. The past stories, the old stuff of my mother’s hard childhood and her addiction to buying shoes had dissolved. There was something quite beautiful in that.

I gave her some paints and a pad for her to paint with. She proceeded to simply paint hearts.

“What is the most important thing in the world abuella?” I asked my grandma wondering whether she had something profound to share with me, a message of sorts from the years she’d spent living what had not been a neasy life in such an unstable country.

“La salud” she replied.


I have enjoyed reading much on philosophy, psychology and the metaphoric stories of religious texts and Disney movies. I’ve found meaning in the lyrics to songs and deep truths inspired from meditations and asanas but my abuella told me something very true for us all.

Health is wealth.

The word wealth is rooted in the oldEnglish translation of the word ‘health’ and there’s a truism there if I ever I wanted one. The well-being of our minds, bodies and spirits is what makes life enjoyable for us, our friends, our family and our world.


11 November, 2014

honour time & happiness

Too often in life we find ourselves entangled in stuff, being drawn away from ourselves or getting stuck in a loop of behaviour patterns that disempower us.

Thanks to my old friend and 'gay husband' Faz Bags for this simple empowering exercise that he kindly shared with me.

It is such a great exercise for thinking about one's well-being and honouring the sacredness of time; a resource we all have a limited supply of and so in my humble opinion, must appreciate. "This too will pass" is a wonderful little reminder for that.


Take out a sheet of paper, and a pen.

On the left side of the page, list all the ways you've been spending time on things that don't serve your goals of being happy, healthy and wise. For me I realised I spend a lot of time on social media which can distract me from the here and now. Thank God I don't use a smart phone.

On the right side, tell yourself how you will use that same time to your advantage, or how you can shift time around to make space for your goals. Even 5 minutes a day spent stressing less and healing more is extra healing you didn't have before. And when it comes to transformation, it all adds up!

Then, tape that sheet up on the fridge, and whenever you see it, remember to re-orient your day by using that brain of yours that's so good at getting what it wants to move your body into brand new habits that YOU want.

When I did this exercise in 2011 I came off Facebook, took up daily yoga practice, herbal tea and woke up every day with the mantra "carpe diem" trying one new thing every day. Spontaneously. This was my prescription in the wake of a break up and they were great new habits that I got to share with friends.

For people looking to get a step closer to their dharma, their purpose or calling(s) in life,
this exercise below is really empowering and simple to start brainstorming with to create a life you love.

Anyway I hope this helps.

Keep smiling - its good for you - as is being great.

06 November, 2014

why travel?

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. – Mark Twain
I've touched upon before the cool things I've learned travelling. I love always learning, having a beginner's mind and exploring new ideas and possibilities that not only grow me but also help create a better world.

What I've hardly touched upon is what I've unlearned and if there's one thing that explorative travel does for you, is teach you to expand your awareness, your ideas and perspectives on oneself and others. It teaches you to respect and care for others, despite them being different to you. This is invaluable in a world that is getting increasingly smaller through technology and industry.

As a girl who grew up in a small village in Warwickshire, England, I was fortunate to be surrounded by nature. I'd be playing in cow fields, making dens out of abandoned train tunnels, swimming in rivers and generally having a slow paced environment to grow up in. But I was also of a generation that watched a lot of TV, played computer games and studied very hard for fear of failure. Something that plagues teachers as well as their students. Hence, I had a whole world of ideas hot baked on to my being. Cultural programming one might call it and a lot of learned fears.

Despite leaving England 7 years ago, I've had chance to spend a lot of time in Britain this year (I still have lovely friends and family to see). It's been so good to come home to people I care for, especially my Dad, while also observe Britishisms and see how they've affected me and others around the country.

What a quirky bunch the Brits are!

Thankfully, Brits tend to be a very polite bunch and up for a laugh! I love this. I love the sense of humour, the banter and also the good manners. I love how we get together over tea. In fact one habit I have acquired travelling is to make myself a cup of Earl Grey whenever I am feeling homesick. I like how grounded this country is. Its organised and timely which is practical for me sometimes (and very necessary when working with others). I don't particularly dig the cost of living, extortionate train ticket prices, deeply entrenched ideas around class and the degree of alcoholism but I love this politeness and conscientiousness that is a tendency among Brits. And it is the most apologetic country I've ever been to.

As a country surrounded by water, Britain also has a sense of self-defensive reserve. Britain was once upon a time attacked at sea from all angles, our navy was world re-known and the cooler climates have created a hardiness among people. I think this is why the Brits can be somewhat reserved. It reminds me of the Japanese in a way, with the wall they build around themselves painted with tradition, reverence and honour.

You can tell when you get on a train. I laugh to myself at how contrasting a train carriage in England is with one in India for example. We're so proper in England and awkward around one another's space. In India, your hearing bhajans in the carriage next door, a man persistently pushing "chai chaiiiii chaiiii" and are likely to smell a whole world of Indian odours as you intimately share space with people, food and livestock.

But there's also an arrogance that comes with being British along with a pride and prejudice. We're a country of high standing in the world's history and were very good at manipulating the psyche's of countries we wished to conquer such as places I've visited; New Zealand, Australia and India (a failed attempt in Japan). I don't want to criticise as all cultures have 'their thing' and nor am I in denial of where I was born, but I can say, it has served me very well to spend time outside of England and explore the rest of the world. Eyes widen to fresh new paradigms, healthier ways of being and one's mind can take a big leap out of the fear mongering media that this country spins its wheels on creating an undertone of low level anxiety and fear of the unknown.

What travelling taught me to do was to look at the world from the stars. Somehow from there, there are no foreigners, no borders, no right and wrong, just life experiencing itself.

I really love an open-mind. A curiosity that welcomes the new despite challenging the status quo or what is believed to be known. I love having my perspective challenged or illuminated by that of another. That is why I travel, because I keep learning new things, meeting interesting people, seeing different perspectives and having life experiences that keep me moving. Not always easy I might add.

My next adventure takes me to the Alps where I will be managing some chalets in Reberty, a small French village in the Three Valleys. A far cry from my old desk job. But I am so excited about this trip! It was on the bucket list to do a ski season. I'm delighted to be also offering therapies and running a yoga retreat in the mountains while sharing the incredible practices I've learned these last few years to people in resort.

I invite anyone reading this not to get too stuck in your ways, to allow new ideas to come forth and to keep that dream alive!!! You may have to defend it, you may have to face some fears and you may have to patiently wait or learn a thing of two. You may have to change things. But my God does it create a life worth living and to be incredibly thankful for.

That's why I travel. Because it reminds me to keep loving life and believing.

01 November, 2014

give me truth.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. - Henry David Thoreau

I've been doing a lot of reflecting recently. An awful lot. And I've been going deep in to myself and finding the points in my being that still get affected by the behaviours of others. Given that I spent a good year or so in a wonderment of being in India and Nepal working on inner peace (these are great places for practice because anything can happen and one learns to patiently wait for the train to arrive at the station 5 hours after it was due in a state of surrender), I had hoped I'd be more masterful at it

What I recognised about relating to others, most importantly, is how much of a good relationship boils down to trust. Now granted, people change and things do happen in life so commitments might be made which can't be adhered to. But where my integrity (or 'my code') has been poked at over and over is when I've felt cheated of truth.

The first time this happened to me traveling was in India and I was so upset. "It's his karma" the man at the crystal store said to me after he revealed to me the fact that the stone around my neck I'd bought earlier that day was actually a fake. I was determined to march back up to the mountain where I bought it from and tell that boy what for! But crystal man told me to let it go and I eventually did.

As a traveler, I trust the world. I believe in humanity and human beings can be just absolutely awesome. The other day I was on a bus from Salzburg to the airport without a ticket. I was whacked after waking up in the small hours of darkness and didn't find the time nor energy to buy a ticket believing I could get one on the bus. Evidently not but I sat down nevertheless. When the ticket inspector came, I felt like an awkward foreigner with the bus carriage watching me wriggle out of the situation - honestly might I add - with my hands up in "I'm sorry, I didn't get one". Before I had chance to blush, I was totally bowled over by this kindly gentleman next to me who placed a bus ticket in my hand and proceeded to merely smile and shake his head when I handed him a 5 euro note.

Now recently, forgive my self-indulgence, but I've felt really let down by a couple of situations. Being a natural optimist and I absolutely look back and think "thank God for that" accepting that I attracted them in to my world to learn something "lesson or a blessing" as the yogis say. Nevertheless I've dug deep in to my psyche to work out what has been the pain point in this.

It boiled down to one thing: dishonesty. I feel fortunate that I am aware enough to feel when I am being manipulated or seduced and to also have a good degree of understanding and compassion. I'm sure, no doubt, that I am guilty of it too - getting too attached to an outcome and trying to make it happen rather than to allowing it to flow.

But disappointment is one hell of a teacher. And perhaps this is a root of not just my own disappointment but also that of many others living in this world. Unless you live in an ashram or a community - we are all part of this capitalist society whether we like it or not. And consciously or unconsciously - we get told things that aren't necessarily objective truth. I remember seeing a sign saying "Time is money" in New York last year and smelt that smell again.

I, being the meditator I am, try to practice creating space around these stalks to gently dig around them, like a gardener does a tree root in order to get it out. And this operation can hurt a lot because it requires me to sit with the feeling and try not direct negativity at the person who's brought it about (and I struggle with it because I'm the one I am really annoyed with so Jess gets a hard time). This sensation if it had a voice would say something like "how dare you!" in self-righteous indignation which only serves to create more separation between me and the button pusher. The same kind of separation that creates war between beliefs / religions :(

But this is what it comes down to. Trust. Whether you admire / believe in another person's integrity i.e. it aligns with your own, or whether you resonate with truth and thus have an innate ability to sniff out bull-shit like you've already stepped in it, this is what can powerfully unite us. Truth.

I wish I could say I've been perfect but I've made mistakes, been in denial, afraid to speak my truth (or been too truthful and created a wee bit of trouble), I've responded harshly and in the early years been foolishly misguided by others.

It's such a simple little word and yet so important; Truth. What I do know is that there is one person I can wholeheartedly trust and that is myself. In my experience, the most empowering lesson is to be true and working towards feeling absolutely comfortably with it.

With fearlessly speaking it, thinking it, walking it and living it.

And in the modern world we live in today - where we are often surrounded by hooks and fears - this can take some practice and humility to step out of.

But as a wise Baba I hung out with in India said to me: "Don't get stuck" and "Keep going" - head wiggle, head wiggle. There's something incredibly enlightening about that approach.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss

14 September, 2014

the magic word

Travel Montage from Jessica M. Brookes on Vimeo.

I've had the weirdest most magical and eye-opening few years of my life. Totally unexpected and rich with life's tapestry of stories, people and impressive encounters.

Recently I exchanged my travel diary (great for venting and reflecting) to a 'gratitude journal' where I write five things everyday that I am grateful for. Simple.

It really illuminates the little things in life that make one smile and reminds one to live with grace. I have found my first week of writing thank you's very magical and if you're reading this, wanted to say thank you to you too. 

10 September, 2014

we're all mad here

This is my friend's brother Sam Reynard driving at 100 mph on a motorcycle while his friend drinks a milkshake and sports a 'Saved by the Bell' t-shirt.

When I saw this years ago, I thought - Sam's cool.

I guess I was right. Since then Sam has set up an enterprise that teaches kids how to make their own films. It is called; Mad Hatters Film Camp with a goal to inspire others on the art of film and video production, tools they believe students can learn to express themselves and use as a powerful tool of communication.

Based in Sotogrande, Spain, students learn about story, character and from day one the course offers a hands on film experience. After two weeks, they leave with a number of short films and students then can enter the films into festivals around the world boosting their creative talents and hopefully starting a hobby or even a career in filmmaking.

Mad Hatter's Film Camp 2014 from sam reynard on Vimeo.

Based on previous camps, both the students and instructors have grown from their experience together and I asked Sam Reynard to share.

"I, for one, have learned a lot about myself through passing my knowledge onto the students. I hope this camp in later years expands into a world-wide film camp. Where we have students stay over for 2 weeks a summer to create all types of film media and learn the importance of film and video production in an online media world."

When I asked Sam, 'what makes a good Director?' he replied;
"I think someone who can share their vision with others, be a fair leader and work harder than anyone else on set has what it takes to be a good director. The rest is practice, practice and more practice!"

We live in a world where content and more content can occupy our lives online and offline. What a wonderful endeavour it is to learn to be a creator of content to share with others and empower kids to feel the same... perhaps with less war scenes and of course many more happy endings!

If you have any rug-rat Spielbergs in the making that need to hone their craft, get them to Mad Hatters Film Camp for a tea party with Sam. Hopefully they won't be returned covered in milkshake.
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