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A Sufi, a Wedding, & a Revolution June, 2013

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 2nd, 2014 | Email this to friend

(This post is under construction. Stay tuned as I complete the uploading of photos and videos)

May 20, 2013 -Istanbul
Sufis in Konya 2012

I arrived in Istanbul at 5:30 am on Friday. 12 hours later, I sipped Turkish tea on Turnacibasi Cadessi with a Sufi named Mustafa. He walked me home hoisting my bag in true Turkman fashion along the cobblestone alleys past the nargile cafes, past the old Galatasaray Hamam, winding around Cucurcuma’s antique filled shops, stopping intermittently to tell me in Turkish and in English about the interconnectedness of all things and about living from the heart. I looked into his eyes and listened with my heart because we had few words in common. “Anlidim” I said. I understand. Mustafa was telling me that when live from our hearts, divine energy enters and cannot help but spill out into the world.

So grateful for the mystery, serendipity, connection, authenticity and love wherever I am on the planet.

Robin


May 28, 2013 (see photos on FB timeline).
I am here for a wedding. A boy I watched grow up in California will marry a girl from Lebanon, and they and their loved ones have come together from San Francisco, LA, Beirut, Afghanistan, and beyond to marry in Istanbul.There are parties each night, concluding with the wedding at one of Istanbul’s most grand Ottoman palaces – the Ciragan. At the reception, a Turkish Symphony plays, and then a DJ from San Diego, and young and old dance one moment, arms snaking to the sky, to hauntingly beautiful Middle Eastern music, and the next to Bob Dylan. I step outside and watch the fat full moon rise over the Bosphorus, and I think that maybe, just maybe, Istanbul has come together, and is ready to show the world that Westerners and Middle Easterners can live together peacefully. Maybe I can live here again.

The wedding at the Ciragan Palace, the old residence of Sultans on the Bosphorus. An eclipse was taking place at the time this photo was taken. Later a full moon rose over the Bosphorus as we danced the night away.

Westerners & Middle Easterners celebrate at a wedding at the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul

Westerners & Middle Easterners celebrate at a wedding at the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul

May 31, 2013
I am in Istanbul, a city of 14 million loving, kind, generous Muslims. I am ALL about connection. It’s why I do what I do, and it’s who I am. This video warms my heart and I post it on Facebook.
Meet A Muslim Person.
Meet a Muslim

June 1, 2013 – Ist
P1050752
Istanbul has turned into a war zone and still they march to save their last green space. 6:30 pm May 31, 2013.

P1050774
I filmed this scene in front of my flat seconds before the military vehicle up the street speeded towards us firing tear gas cannisters and water cannons. I turned to run with the others and felt something hit me in the back of the head hard. It threw me to the ground and 2 men helped me up and got me out of dangers way and walked me to the Italian Hospital. Lots of blood, but I felt curiously alert. At the hospital they stitched up my head where the fired tear gas cannister had hit me. Safely inside my flat now…and I heard (but not confirmed) that the military has pulled back and is letting protestors return to Taksim Square. Helicopters are circling overhead as I write this, but otherwise all relatively quiet now. Grateful to be ok and safe in my apartment.
http://https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151596534563808&set=vb.519023807&type=2&theater905_10151596910288808_259492630_n

Solidarity for the Turks and showing off my war wounds – a slice on the wrist and a back of the head injury topped with an Iman’s cap to hold the bandages in place.

Greg Miller
June 2
I coached a client via skype from today. I heard crowds shouting and chanting out her window in Istanbul and she just had gotten home from the hospital after getting hit in the head with a tear gas cannister, but was diligently working away on her book project and apologized for not having gotten more done! You go Robin Sparks! Meanwhile in Beverly Glen, at stately Nancy Wayne Manor

June 2
Met my friend Elif on the streets of Cihangir last night to eat, and we watched people party and celebrate and then it grew tense as reports filtered in that the mayhem had moved to Besiktas, so I returned home. This morning I woke, took out my earplugs and approached the window tentatively to open the curtains …it was quiet!!! First time in days. Doesn’t mean there aren’t riots elsewhere in the city, but it is Sunday in Turkey and Turks take their relaxation with friends on Sundays seriously. And #2, it’s raining. Very strange for it to rain in Turkey this time of year. Can we (powers that be) make it rain nowadays? Would certainly be an efficient way to cool down a hot riot. Seriously, it’s pouring now like it does in Bali and rarely if ever in Turkey.

June 3

8:30 PM
Ecstatic Dance at Taksim Square 8:30PM, June 3, 2013
SEE VIDEO ON ROBIN’S FB TIMELINE

9PM
Peace for now in Taksim Park. 9PM June 3 VIDEO ON FB TIMELINE

Peaceful protestors about an hour ago in the square near my flat.
PHOTO OF PEACEFUL PROTESTORS

P1050821
9pm 6/2/13- filmed in Istanbul’s Cihangir neighborhood. Most took the day off for Turkish Khavalti and tea and now it looks we’re in for another noisy night. In this video all over the city they are banging on pots & pans and flashing lights to show support for protestors headed back to Kabistas. I saw on the news protestors with trash bags and brooms cleaning up in Taksim Square. VIDEO ON ROBIN’S TIMELINE

JUNE 4, 2013
I attended a yoga class at 6:45PM and the teacher said in halting English that we are going through big changes which can create contraction causing us to forget to breathe. With that we commenced yoga class and an hour of deep focused breathing. I then walked up the street to Taksim Square where I’d heard they were celebrating. They were – thousands of Turks were streaming into the Square to eat and to dance Turk style. Erdogan reportedly ran to Africa. Gul announced the people have a right to protest peacefully and granted them the right to use Taksim Square today…At least this is what a Turkish man in Taksim Square told me. At 9PM the whole city got its pots and pans out again, flashed their lights on and off, and beeped their horns. It’s something to hear in a city of 14 million + people. It’s now 11PM and my neighborhood of Cihangir is full of people in sidewalk cafes dining and sipping tea, with the frequent outbreaks of song, chanting, whistling and clapping.

JUNE 5, 2013
It’s a quiet Tuesday in Istanbul and I am wiped out from running on adrenaline for 4 days, so as I seem to have run out of steam, I am taking the night off from the revolution as it were.

At Yirme Bir, the cafe in Cihangir where I ate tonight, I spoke with Kursef , a Turkish revolutionary of yore and an author. When I asked him what was happening today in Istanbul, he said protestors were convening at Taksim Square (that was at 9:30pm), and that they would go on until 5am. He himself was planning to join them at midnight.

My friend Marco who is from Amsterdam and has lived in Istanbul for 5 years, said he heard today on the Dutch news that in Ankara, children were let out of school and took to the streets to join the protestors. The police told the young demonstrators that they had no license to protest and must return to school. They continued marching.

Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” came to mind:

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control…
Teachers leave them kids alone…
I don’t need no arms around me
And I don’t need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don’t think I need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.
1273

JUNE 5, 2013

June 5 – I met a Turkish friend (who I first met in Bali 2 years ago) for tea. ‘Aslan’ said that today is a sacred holiday in which Muslims celebrate Mohammad’s ascension. And for this reason, she added, most protestors are planning to stay in for the night. “They want to avoid provocation of devout Muslims and to demonstrate respect for everyone’s beliefs and religion.”

“Erdogan returns to Turkey tomorrow,” she said. “So we are resting in preparation for tomorrow night (June 6) when beginning at 5PM, we will all go to Taksim Square.”

I said I’d noticed that The Mind & Body Conference scheduled for this weekend had been canceled. “Makes sense,” Aslan said. “It would have appeared extremely insensitive if they had continued with it. Everyone is canceling everything. Turks believe that this is a time to unite.”

“Have you heard about what is happening in Maslak?” she asked. Apparently in the business center of Istanbul, there is a company called Dogus Group, owned by the second richest family in Turkey with holdings in banks, construction, media, and tourism companies. Because of close ties to the government, Dogus media did not report anything about the demonstrations the first 4 days. As a result white collar professionals have been protesting in front of the company’s headquarters during lunch break. “Here are all these people wearing heels and suits, holding signs and chanting,” she said. “Turks have also been withdrawing their money and closing their accounts at Dogus owned banks, and there is a moratorium on shopping malls for the next 7 days.”

“Even conservatives are joining the demonstrations in whatever way they can,” Aslan said. “This is beyond religion or belief. Everyone has come together and that’s amazing.”

“There’s support and solidarity that is heart warming. Medical students are assisting the injured free of charge, and if something is burning, everyone pours water on it. Grandmothers who are house bound are making pies and serving food to protestors. I never imagined I’d see Turkey like this but it’s happening.”

“There’s a cartoon being passed around,” she said, “in which Obama is portrayed as this angry parent, scolding a bad-boy Erdogan. Obama says to Erdogan in the cartoon: ‘We’ve been trying for years to segregate Turkey between the Kurds and the religious and the atheists, and here you’ve screwed it up in one night, and all over a park and 12 trees.’”

I asked, “What do you think will happen when Erdogan returns tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Just before he left, he made declarations that were incendiary, claiming that all the protestors were bums and that 50% of Turkey is waiting in their homes for him to give the word and they will come out against the protestors. He just doesn’t get it.” She added that yesterday the deputy prime minister apologized for the treatment of the protestors who were camping in the park that first night, but offered no apology to demonstrators that have been injured since that first incident. “He didn’t come out and say it, but he inferred that the injured demonstrators deserved what they got,” she said.

Aslan talked about how ironic it is that just last year Erdogan said to Assad of Syria, “Don’t do this, put down your weapons.” Assad, she points out, said exactly the same thing to Erdogan yesterday.

“Today there was a big meeting between the protestors and a government official with a list of demands,” Aslan said. “Their demands are: a halt to redevelopment of Taksim Square, a ban on the use of tear gas by police, immediate release of detained protesters, freedom of expression and assembly, and removal from office of all officials responsible for the violent crackdown. Until those demands are met, protestors will not quit.”

Aslan said, that late last night she flew into Istanbul from Ankara. Her phone was ringing off the hook until well after midnight with friends asking, “Why aren’t you here? Why aren’t you at the park?”
“At Gezi Park, Turks are posting their wishes, practicing yoga, playing music, dancing. They are even building a library with donated books so that those who live there 24 hours a day can read. Gezi Park has become a living space, and that is how it should be.”

With that we paid the bill, said goodbye, and went home to rest.

JUNE 6, 2013
The scene last night, June 6, in Gezi Park, Istanbul, Turkey.
SEE VIDEO POSTED ON TIMELINE ON JUNE 7, 2013

SEE PHOTOS ON FB TIMELINE OF GEZI PARK AS PEOPLE’S PARK, POSTED JUNE 7, 2013

Erodogan has just finished his speech…not at all encouraging from what little I could understand, and yet, the streets of Cihangir are alive at 3am with the sounds of banging on pots and pans. Oh please don’t let this country “in the middle”, as I’ve come to think of it, become polarized.

Sunday June 9, demonstrators at Taksim Square in Istanbul
SEE VIDEO POSTED ON FB TIMELINE ON JUNE 10, 2013

A friend living in Istanbul wrote this on her facebook page about yesterday, June 9 at TAKSIM SQUARE. You couldn’t see the ground much in Gezi Park. In Taksim Square you couldn’t see your feet. The foreign press reported 10,000 people. Ten times that. I found congenial company and stayed with them all day. The PKK tried to start fights as they have been but the Woodstock-like ambience squelched that. No police, but people are expecting them. Most folks are professional people and go to work today (Monday), followed by the park. The conversation was about unity. Everyone from drag queens to little old covered ladies was there. My new friend Duygu said, “I do not know what we will have in the end, but I do know that in this beginning we have got past our barrier of fear.”

JUNE 10, ROBIN’S GEZE PARK PHOTOS POSTED JUNE 11, 2013

June 11, 2013
After the police begin firing tear gas and the water cannons, I take a steep side road off the square. ROBIN VIDEO OF PEOPLE RUNNING DOWN SIDE STREETS FROM POLICE

Mayhem as the police take over Taksim Square.
VIDEO

4 PHOTOS ON FB

JUNE 11, 2013, POSTED JUNE 12
Tear gas in Cihangir. People running through the streets. Safe in my apartment. Shutting windows.

JUNE 12, 2013 POSTED JUNE 13, 2013
6/12/13 9PM – Today I spoke with 2 girls who are staying in Gezi Park and working in the S.O.S. (medical clinic) booth. In brief, today was peaceful in Gezi Park. But the sun is setting now, and spirits are a bit low. They are discouraged that protestors are being blamed for what they claim were police plants brought in to throw the molotov cocktails in order to justify police aggression. There is a photo being circulated that shows a man’s arm raised to throw the molotov, and under his shirt is a gun and walkie talkie. Tonight another confrontation by police is expected. People are beginning to pour into the Square to support them now, even with the police presence. I want to be positive, but it’s a bit ominous folks. Erdogan announced today that this will all be over in 24 hours. When I asked the girls how they think this will turn out, one said, “We do not know. But whatever happens, we have changed and nothing will ever be the same again.” She added, “I was never proud to be a Turkish woman before, but I am now. ” There is something so beautiful happening in that park and my admiration is just so deep for these brave souls on the front line. Please everyone send whatever positive heeby jeebies you believe in because we need it tonight in Turkey. Wouldn’t it be amazing if those on both sides remembered that they have in common a deep abiding love for Turkey? And came to a solution based on what is best for this everyone in this country? Thank you for sharing this.

JUNE 13, POSTED JUNE 14, 2013
Yesterday Erodgan told parents to take control of their children and demand they return home from Gezi Park. Mothers formed a human chain between their children and the police. This one made me cry. VIDEO http://in.news.yahoo.com/video/mothers-form-chain-protect-protesters-211541779.html

JUNE 16, POSTED JUNE 17, 2013
Almost 24 hours ago we received news that the police were moving into Gezi Park. This is how my neighborhood responded.
VIDEO OF NIGHT POT BANGING IN CIHANGIR

I suspected things were going to get bad last night when someone set up this table of anti-tear gas supplies and first aid between my building and the mosque next door. PHOTO OF FIRST AID STATION BETWEEN MY FLAT AND MOSQUE

Istanbul at 5am, June 16, 2013 VIDEO OF TEAR GAS BEING FIRED IN THE NIGHT

JUNE 17, 2013
Hey everyone, things have calmed down in Istanbul. I was shell shocked yesterday after 2 nights of hearing the police chasing down and firing at the protestors and reports of other meyhem. Got out of my neighborhood, which was practically Ground Zero, right before it got really bad and to a friend’s house in a much calmer traditional neighborhood, where I don’t think they’re even aware that this is going on. Came back today to pack up my the rest of my things and it’s like did I dream all that? Things are normal and calm. Everyone has gone back to work and is shopping and eating at cafes…I think I’m seeing how they do this now. They work during the week and demonstrate and clash on the weekends. I think I’ll plan to be at the beach next weekend.

JUNE 19, 2013 STANDING MAN
Standing man/Duranadam: “If the government won’t hear our voices maybe they will listen to our silence.”

For the first time in 3 weeks musicians played again last night in venues throughout Beyoglu. The mood of patrons was somber and hushed and normally manic Istiklal Aveune was eerily empty. It’s been only 4 days…Turks may not be able to voice their opinions openly, but their music says it all. SEE VIDEO (POSTED JUNE 20)

JUNE 24, 2013
Once tasted, no amount of tear gas can erase the taste of freedom, and everybody wants it. This video was taken today, Sunday, in Istanbul, on the same avenue on which police chased down peaceful protestors last night with tear gas and water cannons.

I am sharing what Patricia Moore wrote after she viewed the video below, because I believe she is spot on: This scene is inspiring and uplifting. Seeing what has been going on in Turkey and Brazil, I continue to get the sense of an undercurrent bubbling up around the world. I think it is the current of the new energy that is wanting to emerge out of the the crumbling structures of the end stages of the industrial era. I know we have more to go in the ending. It will likely be messy and chaotic as it is in stages of transition and transformation. We are going to continue to experience more signs of the power struggle of those trying to hold on to the power represented in the outdated structures of our current models industrial capitalism. But, I believe and hope, that these protests and people’s willingness to take a stand are the signs of the emergent future being birthed. A future based on freedom, equality and a sustainable future where all of life is respected; where we become stewards of life.

JULY 1, 2013 POST OF FILIZ TELEK SHARED
Viva the end of separatism! So heartwarming to be here now.
Let me try to share what’s going on in Turkey today…everyday full of historical moments, these days!

Today, in a town in Southeast, Lice, police fired on Kurdish people protesting the expansion construction of a police station in their town. One person died, 8 people got injured.
Before Gezi, this would have been just *news* in Western Turkey. Tonight, neighborhood forums around Istanbul either marched in protest, or stood silent or discussed the situation. People kept chanting: “the fraternity of the peoples”
This is massive!

Now I am watching livestream (http://capul.tv/) from the biggest neighborhood forum in Istanbul. AMAZING! There are more than a thousand people currently participating at the forum. There are people from other forums sharing reports, there are amazing invitations for solidarity, there’s honoring of diversity, there’s sign language for deaf people, there’s everything…incredible self-organization, awesome collective intelligence, striking solidarity…
of course, so much
LOVE

On the island of Burguzada,30 minutes from Istanbul by ferry, there are no cars. The silence was deafening! And then after 4 days I welcomed once again noisescape of Istanbul.

July 7 near Istanbul, Turkey
Packing my gas mask again…sheesh. Who knew I’d need a gas mask for a garden party?

July 19 near Ithaca, Greece via mobile
Sailing through the land of Odysseus.

Good Morning Bali

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 15th, 2014 | Email this to friend

1-14-14

The view off the balcony in a friend's home in Ubud, Bali

The view off the balcony in a friend’s home, where I am staying for 20 days. Ubud, Bali

Early morning in Ubud, Bali after a predawn lightening storm and a soft, steady rain

and I am so Full. Here. Now.

In this moment, in this skin, feeling this heart, sitting outside surrounded by rice paddies, bare feet, wrapped in a sarong, soft tropical air bathing body, tasting Bali coffee and cashew milk on my tongue, hearing a scooter motor past, birds twitter, and unseen things cackle and crow life into being, the flutter of wings, the buzz of a bee, all of us … greeting this moment.

It is the time of day when my senses are open and the moment pregnant with possibility and JustIsness before the world has had its way with me.

And that overused word, Grateful, is what I feel.

I like to enter the day slowly with waking making love, meditation, padding quietly through the dawning day house and opening windows and doors to let in the day, lighting incense, loving and gently straightening my nest, making coffee, quiet, no words please and then…and then…sitting down to write, to let words flow, to let messages arrive, to hear, to transcribe. Like now. This moment in which everything exists and everything is possible.

Good morning Bali.

Thank you for your womblike warmth. I’ll be leaving you soon to greet another soul who is preparing to arrive on Planet Earth.

In this moment, I birth into a new day on your tropical wet soil surrounded by temples and wildlife and thunderstorms, love and possibility.

Meanwhile, Back in Bali

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 3rd, 2014 | Email this to friend

October 15, 2013

P1090220 Workshop attendees and me dining at Bali Fair Warung.

Milestone. Workshop finished. Writers festival wrapping up. I did not want to come back to Bali, but I had a workshop to teach and so come back I did.

And now? Feeling blessed. Surrounded by friends. Laughter. Wonder. My beautiful home on the edge of the jungle. So much possibility. The remembrance of magic and mystery. The smell of cloves in the land that is Bali.

And a new appreciation for this island. For its Alice in Wonderland quality that always brings me squarely back home or plops me into a world of pain. There is something so other-worldly about Bali. When I told my friend, Claire last night about how the workshop transpired and the organic creativity that unfolded, first we laughed about how seriously New Age this island can be. And then she said, “We forget and take for granted the energy of Bali.”

Yes, we do.

I am watching workshop participant Francesca – who has committed to stay with me this month along with another workshop participant to focus on our books – transform, and she talks about the possibility of moving to Bali. I see the wonder in world travel writer, Don George’s eyes. I hear the roosters calling us to wake up this morning. The water trickling from the ancient Subak to the river below. Bali is magic and I am woven into it, and I am grateful.

Another relationship has come and morphed into I do not know what. But I saw a vision of him floating down the river. Goodbye. Nice knowing you. Now that love has cleared out, and thank you Universe for creating the meetings, the possibilities, the moving away…I don’t quite get the lesson yet, but the short-lived relationship was amazing practice for getting clear on “what I want”, and when seeing that his way did not fit, simply opening my hand and letting him fly. A huge lesson.

And now? Back to the big fat book. Love of my life. I talked to my students about being in relationship to their writing as if the writing were an intimate partner. And so in honor of living what I teach. I’m here to say, I love you writing and I’m committing to more intimate time with you.

Starting Here Now.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, October 2013

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 19th, 2013 | Email this to friend

At the recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, there was an Indonesian author who touched me deeply.

Augustinus Wibowo journeyed from Beijing to Pakistan over a 4-year period and has lived in the Middle East and Afghanistan. His most recent book “Titik Nol”, which will be translated into English next year, is a tale of visiting his dying mother and their exchange of stories – his of life on the road, hers of life at home.

Indonesian Author, Augustinus Wibowo with Tony Wheeler at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Indonesian Author, Augustinus Wibowo with Tony Wheeler at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Wibowo describes a scene where they are standing around the hospital bed where his mother lay dying. “Christians stood on one side of the bed, reading the Bible and trying to baptize her. On the other a Buddhist priest chanted. My mother opened her eyes, laughed, and said, ‘Bring them all in.’”

“We are human with so many colors,” Wibowo said.

There was more:

“The more I travel, the slower I go,” he said. Wibowo lives with locals when he travels and avoids social media. “ If I’m checking emails from back home, I’ve disengaged from where I am. I am there to connect to the sorrows, the joy and the lives of those I am visiting.”

Wibowo said that most readers of travel books read “to feel connection.”

“Travel is learning to see from a different point of view, and ultimately travel is about discovering yourself, about coming home. We don’t have to go far to travel. Our lives are the real journey.”

This guy was singing my tune.

More gems from the festival:

Don George, editor-at-large for National Geographic Travel Magazine said that good travel writing brings about wonder, dignity, respect, appreciation – that which makes the world a better place.” He added that some of the best travel writing comes from writers who allow themselves to be vulnerable, who take risks.

Don George speaking on Travel Panel at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Don George speaking on Travel Panel at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Mona Prince from Egypt, an outspoken Egyptian professor who has recently been charged with insulting Islam and suspended from her job said, “In 2011 Egyptian women were full of dreams and hopes.” “Aren’t you afraid?” the moderator asked Prince. “I’m willing to pay the price, my life if necessary for our freedom,” the Egyptian novelist said.

Mona Prince, Egyptian novelist, literary translator, and activist after "Inspiring Women" at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Mona Prince, Egyptian novelist, literary translator, and activist after “Inspiring Women” at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Haideh Moghissi, author of seven books, from Iran, encouraged the audience to hear all voices. “So much of the western world excuses the way that Middle Eastern countries treat women by saying that it is a cultural issue. “That,” she said, “is cultural relativism”.

Haideh Moghissi speaking on "Inspiring Women" panel  at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Haideh Moghissi speaking on “Inspiring Women” panel at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Amish Tripothi, from Mumbai, India, saw his first book, The Immortals of Meluha break into the top seller charts within a week of its launch.The Shiva Trilogy has become the fastest selling book series in the history of Indian publishing, with 1.7 million copies in print.

Amish said, “It took me 9 years to become an overnight success.”

Publishers did not believe there was an audience for his book. And so he and his agent published the book on their own and it sold 45,000 copies in the first 3 months. The publishers then began bidding on it. Amish refused to make the changes that the publishers requested. He said, “You can’t compromise on your book. That’s the voice of your soul.”

“The Greeks,” Amish added, “Say ‘The genius does not exist in you. Your task as a creator is to let the genius use you.’ My characters live in parallel universes and my task is to enter their worlds.”

Debra Yatim, Indonesian author after "Inspiring Women" panel Haideh Moghissi speaking on "Inspiring Women" panel  at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Debra Yatim, Indonesian author after “Inspiring Women” panel Haideh Moghissi speaking on “Inspiring Women” panel at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Oct 2013

Stepping Up

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 17th, 2013 | Email this to friend

Coming up the steps of the Kumara Sakti Resort in Ubud, Bali, October 2013

Coming up the steps of the Kumara Sakti Resort in Ubud, Bali, October 2013

I returned two weeks ago to Bali after a 4-month hiatus in Turkey, Greece, & California to teach a 6 day writing & breath workshop. Since I’d rather scrub toilets than stand up and speak in front of a class, this was self-imposed torture. At least that’s what it felt like in the months leading up to the event. I’ve been organizing writing retreats around the world since 2006, but this would be the first one that I would teach.

Most people don’t set themselves up to do things they don’t want to do. So why do I? I can’t really say. All I knew was that it was time.

During the retreat we explored authentic writing that comes from within via deep listening, body awareness, and showing up to the page consistently. We journeyed inside with breath work to stir up and release old blocks, and to mine what we really had to say. After two days of intense, cathartic breath sessions that took the students to places they’d never been, they asked for a day off from “breathing” – their psyches needed a rest.

Kumara Sakti garden

Kumara Sakti garden

Fully open, we sat down and brainstormed our projects, mindmapped, designed each students’ unique message, and plotted the way forward. I watched with amazement as our individual books and multi media “ideas” blossomed into real living, breathing things.

What did I learn? That teaching is more like being a guide and involves a heck of a lot of trust, getting out of the way, being still, listening, and allowing whatever wants to be taught, to show up organically.

Oh yeah, I also discovered that I can walk directly into one of my biggest fears and come out on the other side alive.

Stay tuned folks! Several amazing books and multi media projects are headed your way. I’ll be the first to let you know when they are born. And with that, I am off to write.

With gratitude and great relief,
Robin

Breath meditation in Ubud, Bali

Breath session

Writing exercises

Writing exercises

letting go

letting go

Connie Collins after breath session

Connie Collins after breath session

Just Breathe

Posted by Robin Sparks on September 30th, 2013 | Email this to friend
Breath meditation in Ubud, Bali

Breathing in the jungle

This article was first published in the October 2013 issue of Inspire Magazine.

I’m hesitant to tell people I’m a breath worker. After all, we breathe from the moment we’re born until we take our last breath. So who needs lessons in how to do what we’ve always done and who am I to show them how to do it?

Three years ago I attended my first breath workshop on the recommendation of a friend. The facilitator gave our group an introduction to the process and what we might experience. He demonstrated how to breathe deeply in and out through open mouths, without pauses, and he asked that we continue to breathe in this manner for an entire hour no matter what came up. He explained that we could control the intensity of our experience by slowing down or speeding up our breath.

About 30 minutes into that first session, my body full of oxygen, I experienced what felt like imminent death. The facilitator encouraged me to keep breathing. I did and what transpired next has stayed with me since. A crystal clear knowing came to me that day that the divine existed within —not out there in crystals, gurus, or any other number of teachings we reach for in search of peace. It was inside, all along.

Breathwork brought me home. And I got to lay down through the entire experience. I was hooked and I wanted to know more.

There are a number of breathwork modalities: Holotropic, Transformational, Rebirthing, Clarity Breathwork and more, too many to list here. Breathwork, regardless of style, allows unconscious thoughts and patterns to surface, while offering the means to release them energetically, physically and emotionally through sustained connected breathing. The various modalities differ mostly in length of sessions, speed of the breath, and post-breathwork integration activities. In Holotropic breathwork for instance, participants integrate afterwards with art, whereas, in Clarity Breathwork, breathers share their experience verbally. What all modalities offer in common is an awareness of spirit and an expanded sense of one’s true self.

As a writer, I find that breathwork helps me to write more authentically. When I fill every cell of my body with oxygen for a sustained period, all the bullshit fades to black and that which matters rises to the surface. Suddenly, I know precisely what I want to say. As in life.

Typically the experience for each ‘breather’ is unique each time. Participants may experience incredible peace, painful emotions, lost memories. They may journey — some claim that breathwork is the nearest thing to a psychedelic experience.

On a purely physical level breath sessions detoxify and rejuvenate the body. Under normal circumstances, 75% of toxins are expelled from our bodies through our breath. Imagine what happens when you breathe at full capacity, non-stop for an hour or more. It speeds recovery from whatever ails you.

Whether you would like to recover from writer’s block, painful memories, negativity, the inability to solve a particular problem or whether you simply wish to experience incredible bliss, peace and blasts of insight that will change your life, breath work can take you there.

For more information about our upcoming breathwork/writing retreat on Oct 6-11, 2013 in Ubud, Bali, email info@oneworldretreats.com.

Robin Sparks

An Interview

Posted by Robin Sparks on September 18th, 2013 | Email this to friend
Mom and Me

Mom and Me

So much has taken place these past 4 months – in Istanbul an East Meets West wedding and a revolution, in Greece 2 glorious weeks of sailing with friends, and in California up and down the coast reunions with family and new and old friends, meetings with my book editor, and taking care of the myriad of logistics that make my nomad life a possibility.

Now what? I’m packing up to return to Bali to facilitate “Breathe Life Into Your Book” at the lovely Kumara Sakti Resort in Ubud, Bali on October 6-13, 2013. We have just a few spots left, so if you’d like to join us, please email info@oneworldretreats.com ASAP.

The following is a recent interview with me by the staff of Oneworld Retreats.

Passing on inspiration via writing is not as easy as most think. Experiencing blocks with our creative process is something all writers experience. Robin Sparks describes how she revs up her writing process with connected breath work.

What inspired you to start a writing and breath work retreat?

Robin: While we can learn a lot “out there” about the craft of writing, I have come to believe that it is “in here” where we discover our most authentic voice. I had been writing professionally for 20 years and facilitating writing workshops around the world for 9, when I discovered breath meditation. I loved the way that connected breath for an extended period of time, created a space in which the outer world fell away, so that that which was truest for me, became crystal clear. I took a 4-level training course in breath work so that I could incorporate the two things I love most – writing and breath work, and share this process with others. In “Breathe Life Into Your Book” workshop we will approach writing from within and without.

As a teacher and trained breath facilitator, do you have any specific affirmations / empowering words when you begin a project?

Robin: I meditate with connected breath before sitting to write, and then from that space of knowing, I begin writing without thinking. If I get stuck later in the writing process, I ask, “If I could say only one thing in this story, what would it be?” I then return to writing with the answer to that question informing my story.

What are your hopes for future writers?

Robin: That each student might gain insight to the unique story that only he or she can tell. Once the student knows the story beneath the story, he can put to use the additional support we will provide in the workshop to breathe life into his book.

You have wide experience as a travel writer. What do you love most about your journey as a travel writer?

Robin: What I love most about travel writing is the opportunity to meet people from diverse environments, cultures, and ways of being. I meld into their way of being for a time, listen to them, and then share their stories with the world. What I have discovered, is that while we are a deliciously diverse bunch, all stories as it turns out, are our story. This is why I travel and why I write.

Why did you choose Bali for this retreat?

Robin: Bali literally hums with life. Everything grows abundantly and rapidly here, and nothing stays below the surface for long. The beauty and warmth of Bali along with its unique culture provides an inspiring and nourishing environment in which ideas flourish and projects are birthed. Bali is the perfect place to breath life into your book.

Robin Sparks, is a facilitator and teacher of writing workshops around the globe. Her stories and photographs have been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers and her online blog has been going strong since 2003. Sparks is enjoying the process of writing her first book about her trans-global search for “home”. Sparks is a Level Four Clarity Breath Worker and a global citizen, who is based in Bali and lives part of each year in Turkey and California. Robin will be leading the “Breathe Life Into Your Book” writing retreat at Kumara Sakti Resort on Oct 6-11, 2013

- See more at: http://www.oneworldretreats.com/bali-writers-retreat.php for more information about “Breathe Life Into Your Book” – a breath work and writing retreat”

Join me in Ubud, Bali for a writing retreat the week before the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. See you in beautiful Bali on Oct 6!
eblast-2013-robinsparks

Breathing Underwater

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 26th, 2013 | Email this to friend

Written on Nusa Ceningan, a small island off the coast of Bali, Indonesia on February 13, 2013.

snorkeling at Manta Cove

Breathing Underwater at Manta Cove

When I was walking along the beach last night, an Indonesian man told me they needed one more person for a snorkel trip in the morning. They were going to see mantas he said, and to stop at other beautiful underwater spots while circling the islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Time of departure, 9am.

“Ooh, that’s early,” I said.

I had arrived the day before on Nusa Ceningan for a solo 2-week writing retreat.

“I’ll see how I feel in the morning,” I said.

And so when I awoke this morning I thought, “Robin you are here to write your book, so write.” Another voice, “But it’s only 3 hours out of the day, and you want to exercise anyway and you can write all afternoon and evening.” A third voice, “Let’s see how it flows.”

A few minutes later, the electricity went off in my bungalow. It was 8:30 am. I’ve noticed that the electricity “goes out” for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. My cabin, which sits in direct sunlight on the beach all day, was quickly turning into a sauna. Oh what the heck, I’m going. I climbed out of bed, dressed, packed my bag and met the boat at the harbor.

Our first stop was Manta Cove where there is a cave where the sea water is breathed in and exhaled out. Into the cool cerulean soup I went. And drifted towards the cave.

In less than 5 minutes a large dark shadow appeared like a space ship, coming to within inches of me, and then gliding out of site.

Oh my God, I have seen a manta ray, and up close!

Before long there was another and then another. Darth Vader-like, the manta rays arrived with mouths agape. I floated quietly gazing into their eyes saying silently, “You are such a beautiful creature”. Each one (there must have been 8-10 in all!) would appear, look me in the eye, then swoop away, bank like a plane, and return. Flashes of light sparkled through the water from divers wielding cameras on the ocean floor. I flapped my arms slowly, gracefully, mirroring (thank you NLP training!) their movements, and I did not follow or approach them, but waited for them to come to me, and come they did. Again and again.

It was as if they knew that I was loving and appreciating them, and they were digging it.

They had wing spans at least 5 times the length of my body, triangular bodies, heads rounded, mouths open to display gills and hollowness inside. Underneath they had large evenly placed gills on a white torso. And a long tail from which I noted no stinger or threatening barb. We curved around each other, beings of light and love.

I wondered briefly if they were dangerous (vaguely remembering a recent story about an Australian travel adventurer who was stung by a ray directly in the heart) and then was glad I hadn’t asked before we left. Again and again they came and we practically greeted each other with a kiss.

AMAZING!!!

exploring the over and underwater world of Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia

Exploring the over and underwater world of Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia

In snorkeling, breath is the main event, loud, and present, like a metronome. I-Am-Here-Now-in-This-Moment breaths. What irony that I’d felt a tinge of disappointment this morning when I realized there would be no time for my breath practice – because here I am now breathing, deeply, rhythmically – underwater.

Hypnotic, soothing, effortless while all around is the beauty and wonder of the underwater world. What better way to go with the flow than snorkeling, where with the smallest effort you move like the fish with the fish?

I spent 3 weeks last month trying to push through a last minute visa to India so that I could attend a trauma release breath work class in Goa, India. One day while driving back from Danpasar after yet another failed attempt, the words “No more pushing the river” came, and I surrendered.

A few days ago, the trauma release breath work teacher I had hoped to train with emailed that he and his girlfriend, a tantra teacher and life coach, will be coming to Ubud in March and would like to trade a room in my home for personal training. Both tantra and trauma release are modalities I’ve wanted to incorporate into my breath work. Two teachers, coming to me, now that I am floating effortlessly.

I kept riding the current through February and ended up in Thailand where I met with old friends and new ones who re-invigorated me with their love. I interviewed Chiang Mai expatriates for the Thailand chapter in my book, and rode elephants bareback at an eco resort, which just happened to be perched over a flowing river. It was there where I met the owner Alexa, whose story will bring light to the chapter about Thailand’s expatriates – a chapter which had been leaning a bit too far to the dark side.

I will return to Alexa’s Chai Lai Orchid Eco Resort next year to offer trauma release breath work to the girls she donates her profits to – girls at risk for sex slavery. A greater purpose for my Clarity breathwork training last summer had appeared.

And as if that weren’t enough, 2 screenwriters and several writers have appeared in the past few weeks to support me with my book.

Life is coming to meet me where I am. Bringing me exactly what I need and much more now that I am still.

There is a popular meditation and way of being called “Following Life”. I like to think of what is happening to me now as “Life Following Me” when I stop pushing and directing it.

I love warm seawater

I love warm seawater

In the water I am transported to a primordial world where I once lived – Mother Earth’s underwater show of sacred geometry, repeated in shapes underwater as overwater and within and without in every living and non-living thing.

I’m sure I once lived in the sea as I am so at home and happy here. We all began, come to think of it, floating effortlessly, safely, in the wombs of our mothers complete with our own private snorkels, until our time to be born and breathe on our own arrived.

I think of my home of Ubud, Bali as a womb – warm, wet, and feminine – a bubble in which I have gestated, received nourishment, and grown. And I’ve been feeling vague contractions lately, a knowing that my time to emerge and to meet life in the light is nigh.

When I first attended a Transformational breath work session 3 years ago, I met the Divine within in such a cathartic way that the name “Transformational” was a an understatement. I was hooked. For God’s sake, it was here, inside all along. All I have to do is breathe deeply, evenly, for at least an hour to access it.

It’s occurred to me since I began breath meditation, that the things I have loved most throughout my entire life – riding a bicycle as a child, running through the woods with my dog, swimming, cross country skiing, ecstatic dancing, hiking in nature, connecting intimately with a lover, meditating, to name a few – all involve breathing deeply, evenly and consciously. Nourishing every cell in my body with oxygen, love, life force, the Divine. It was about the breath all along.

I have missed my Ubud community and our group breath sessions this past month – and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Breathing under water.

Taking a break from writing at Dream Beach, Nusa Lumbongan, Indonesia

Robin Sparks is a Level Four Clarity Breathwork Facilitator, available for private and group breathwork sessions. She’ll be leading a weeklong workshop at Kumara Sakti in October 2013 in Ubud, Bali called Breathe Life Into Your Book.
For details email Robin at Robin@RobinSparks.com

I Dreamed I Met the Pope

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 21st, 2013 | Email this to friend
Dream Beach

Dreaming at Dream Beach

Feb. 19, 2013
Nusa Lumbongan, Indonesia

I dreamed 5 nights ago that I met the Pope.

He was walking down an avenue surrounded by many people. A group of men were with him, bald, wearing vestments. The Pope, kind, soft and warm, approached me and looking me in the eye said, “Will you prepare a meal and bring it to me? I am hungry.”

I said, “Yes, I’d be honored,” and I turned to go home to prepare a plate of lasagne (of all things). But as so often happens in dreams, I could not find the lasagne I thought was in the refrigerator. OK, there were a few bites left on a plate, but that would not do. And so I sat out to find a meal for the Pope.

I met some women in the street and told them of my dilemma and they handed me a plate of food, their food, and said, “Here give this to the Pope.” It wasn’t what I’d had in mind, but it would have to do. And then I began to look for him.

So much time had passed. Had I lost him? Where was He?

I had promised.

“He is up ahead,” some people said. “You can still find him.” I began to walk looking for the Pope carrying the plate of food in my hand.

And then I woke up.

No big deal right? That’s what I thought. Weird, I dreamed about the Pope.

I rarely remember my dreams – maybe one or two a year is my average – although I’ve recently made an effort to change that.

And so I casually mentioned the dream to another guest dining with me at Dream Beach – yes, that is the actual name of where I have holed up for 2 weeks on the island of Nusa Lubongan to write.

Tescha looked startled and proceeded to tell me that the Pope has been in the news lately. That he is going to step down. “You know about that right?” she said.

“What?” I said, goose bumps coming up all over my body.

It was the first I’d heard regarding the Pope.

I haven’t read the news since I left San Francisco on November 1. I have blocked it from coming up on the internet. I have been around no television sets for several months, and have no clue what is going on outside my very immediate world, per my choice, when I am in Asia. I am not Catholic and the Pope rarely, if ever, enters my consciousness.

What did it mean? I wondered. And why now? The fact that I’d dreamed about the Pope when he is in the international news gave me the heebie jeebies. The good kind. A dreamtime example of collective consciousness?

My personal dream translation:
I have received a call for home delivery. A big one. And the Pope is hungry.

THE LUTE WILL BEG

You need to become a pen
In the Sun´s hand.

We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and eyes.

The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.

Don´t tell me, dear ones,
That what Hafiz says is not true,

For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny
And you awake to our constant need
for your love

God´s lute will beg
For your hands.

Hafiz

food!

High Pea Allen Times Day

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 21st, 2013 | Email this to friend
Indonesian sunset

Indonesian sunset

I have come alone to an Indonesian island called Nusa Lumbongan for a writing retreat.

Why a solo writing retreat when I live on the bucolic island of Bali? Because in Ubud there is just so much life, friends and distraction, that I have to hide away at least once a year to focus on writing. I am most creative when still.

And so here I am on February 14, 2013 on an almost deserted island.

“High Pea Allen Times,” the waiter said placing a young coconut in front of me on my table just a few feet from the sea. “Excuse me, what did you say?” I asked. He said it again. “High Pea Allen Times.” What??? I thought. I didn’t want to ask him to repeat it a 3rd time. And then it came to me, “Ooooh, Happy Valentines?” I asked. “Yes,” he said with a sweet smile of connection.

The sand is ivory, the sea sapphire, and the air a heavy damp blanket.

All that is left to do is write.

Robin at Devil\’s Tear

One is the Un-Loneliest Number

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 6th, 2013 | Email this to friend

January 3, 2013
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Back together again

My children and my former husband are boarding a plane in Bali at this very moment to return to California. As 2012 dovetails into 2013, I’m here to share with you something that is big for me. A long time dream of mine has come true.

My family is whole once again. Different and whole. We are one.

We were a unit decades ago and then something common happened. We grew in different directions, but instead of acknowledging what was happening and arranging paths that would serve all of us, it was as if a bomb exploded, leaving in its wake, a battlefield of injured and bleeding, with scars and pain that went on for far too long.

I’m here to tell you that, as of this past holiday, the war is over.

A few days before Christmas my 2 adult children, my daughter’s boyfriend, and my former husband arrived from the other side of the planet to the tiny island where I now live in Indonesia. We lived together in a foreign country with crazy drivers, rented motorcycles (oh yes, we were a motorcycle gang of 5 in Ubud, each with their own Honda…Did you see us weaving through cars all in a row?) My son surfed, we snorkeled in Lombok, relaxed in my jungle home, dined at new restaurants each night, attended a concert in Kuta to bring in the New Year where Michael Franti wrapped his arm around my son and danced with him. We ran and rode through the rain, waited out the rain, soaked up the sun when it made brief appearances, swam in the pool, surrendered to nearly daily massages, shot off fireworks over the rice paddies (“Man! You’d never be see anything like this in America!” my son exclaimed as the rockets did flare.) Laughter – lots of it. Accepting. Loving. Appreciating. Listening. Loving. Being.

We are family once again, sama sama in Balinese parlay, setting out into the world on separate paths, only now, with common heart. We’ve got each other’s backs and we respect our individual journeys. It is OK that we no longer meld in one direction as once we did. All faux pas, hurts and trespasses are forgiven and forgotten. Hoʻoponopono – I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

As expatriates, it comes with the territory that living far from “home” can result in not only physical but emotional distance from our families of origin. Healing at home and more time with our families is something I’m wagering that most of us long for. I know I do.

This concept of Oneness has been a biggie for me since I can remember thinking about these things. I was born into a family in California that believed that the human race is divided into 2 camps – the saved and the unsaved. I never could wrap my child heart around the fact that our neighbors not to mention foreigners – all those “unbelievers” out there, were, well, “bad”. They didn’t seem all that different from us. I sensed something in them that was beautiful and born of love – same as us. Seven years ago, I named my Turkish company – a business to place western tourists in real Muslim neighborhoods – Oneworld. And in retrospect, it seems that my whole life has been about scaling the metaphorical walls that keep us apart. It’s the reason I’ve spent the past decade not only meeting, but living among the Others on 4 continents in 7 countries.

Them as it turns out is Us – in business, politics, love, and life.

I have discovered that every single one of us – White, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Asian, South American, European… rich, poor, powerful, disenfranchised, young, and old…wants one thing more than any other. Love. Unconditional love.

We just go about trying to get it in different ways. If I can remember that every annoying behavior, every hurtful word or action is a cry for unconditional love, I can love each person as they are, including and most especially myself. When I offer unconditional love in the face of “off” behavior, so called perpetrators melt into the love that we, every single one of us, crave. And then they, make that we, no make that me, no longer need to hate, hurt, or separate.

Yep, this holiday was a big one.

I celebrated the coming and arrival of 12/21/12 – the end of that world as we knew it – with my Ubud tribe. All the discomfort, the pushing, the fear, the struggle, the pain, of this past decade, has been childbirth.

And life begins, as all we know, at home. It was essential to my own healing journey, that I set my familial relationships right before I could hope to heal anyone else.

Yesterday my former husband shared with me his experience of his mother and then his wife dying within 2 weeks of each other. Followed a few months later by his own near death – a sign from God he believes, that his life as he knew it then (60+ hour work weeks) was over. Within a year he moved to Mexico to do surgery among the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon of Mexico. He stops at the drug cartel blockades between Mexico and the USA as he drives supplies back and forth. (Another doctor who tried to outrun a blockade saw his wife shot to death) He flies in small planes to deliver care to those who cannot walk the many miles through the mountains to the tiny hospital. Amazingly, I had a vision many years ago in which I saw him doing exactly this, and I shared it with him then.

My daughter will go back to researching and writing public policy on America’s education system in the hopes of helping the children she so dearly loves. Her boyfriend will return to creating entertainment in Hollywood. And my son will go back to engineering weather satellites that open windows on our world illuminating the fact that we are, after all, Oneworld.

I will keep writing the stories that remind us how much more we are alike than different and I will continue bringing together teachers and students around the world. I’ll pick up again, what I began last summer as a Clarity Breathwork facilitator (my latest jet fuel for re-remembering Oneness).

There is most certainly a bend in the road ahead that’s not on any road map I am currently holding. I don’t need to know where the next turn is. With my family beneath me, love restored, forgiveness complete, I am now ready.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HEAPS OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!

[caption id="attachment_1598" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lindsay and her boyfriend Vince with Bruce at Balinese performance"]

Ryan Surfing

leaf placed on the pillow of my room in Lombok

Refugees – A True Story of Thanksgiving

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 23rd, 2012 | Email this to friend

Istanbul, 2008

Sultanahmet Skyline

I am up hours before the sun speeding in a taxi to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul to assist Iraqi refugees who are headed to the country that I have voluntarily left behind.

Refugee: One who has crossed an international border and is unwilling or unable to return home because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

If I count the rednecks in America including some who have been in political office recently…nah, I probably still wouldn’t qualify as a refugee although I often feel like one.

So who are these Iraqi refugees and why are they leaving, and why are they headed to the USA?

They are Chaldean Christians, one of the world’s oldest religions, in existence since the first century. They constitute what remains of the original, non-Arabic population of the Middle East. All use Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. Despite successive persecutions and constant pressures, Christianity has continued in Iraq since brought there allegedly by Thomas the Apostle.

Before the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Christians and Muslims lived together peacefully in Iraq. Chaldean Christians were mostly middle and upper class professionals. But as a result of the US-led surge the struggle with al-Qaeda moved to the city of Mosul, the home of Chaldean Christians. In misplaced anger towards the West, Muslims have increased demands for Chaldeans to convert. Death threats, the looting of homes and businesses, kidnappings, bombings, and murder have become increasingly commonplace. This past March the Chaldean archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was abducted and murdered. Numerous priests and deacons have been tortured and shot or beheaded. And at least 40 churches have been burned to the ground.

I am here today because the United States requires an American be present at the airport for a final identity check of all political and religious refugees headed to the United States. The job pays little and costs a night’s sleep, but I come at least once per week because it pulls me from my ant hill existence and lands me in an experience that is raw and real.

Fifty adults and children stand in line at the check out counters – next to 2 bags per person, each weighing a maximum of 23 kilos, containing all the belongings they will take with them into their new lives. They have waited for months, some for years for this day. It is 5 AM. They’ve been here since 2 AM after a 6-hour bus ride from various satellite cities throughout Turkey. They are excited like children the night before Christmas.

Sweden has taken in the most Iraqi refugees — 40,000 – while the United States, which had only taken 1,608 by the end of 2007, has implemented a program for receiving up to 15,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of 2008. Around 500,000 people have fled Bush’s new Iraq and its violence, mass abductions and economic meltdown and most of them have been Chaldean Christians.

Arim standing with his family of five says, “My life is in Iraq, my work as an English teacher. My home. My friends. But lately they are making it impossible for us to stay. When my daughter entered university to become a teacher like me, she was told to convert to Islam or she would be kidnapped and raped. It was then that we knew we had to go.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to convert to Islam?” I ask.

“We would never do that. Our fathers, our grandfathers, their fathers, for 2000 years we have been there. We will die before turning our backs on our ancestors, our faith.”

Arim and his family

After hours in the checkout line shuffling through all the documents, checking passport photos with faces, police letters, sponsor letters signed, the group is ready to go.

But wait. There’s a glitch.

Someone notices that the photo on a security letter for one of the young men does not match the photo on his identity card. A government bureaucrat hundreds of miles away in the Turkish capital of Ankara apparently transposed photos on the documents by accident. Calls are frantically made, but government offices are not open at this early hour. The International Office of Migration officer here with me tells the family that she is sorry. They will not be able to go.

The mother collapses to the floor, pressing her hands together in the universal sign of prayer and begs, “Please, please, help us. We have no money.” The officer looks away, there is nothing she can do. The woman’s sons and husband try to console her, veiling their own disappointment behind cultural machismo. The IOM employee continues trying to call offices that are not yet open. She cannot find a solution.

After at least an hour of pleading and crying and desperate attempts to talk the IOM officer into letting them go, the family concedes that their worst fears have come true. The other passengers look on with a mixture of pity and relief as the family shuffles out of the airport, the father and son holding up the mother by her elbows, daughters trailing behind, heads hung low.

“Where will they go?” I ask the IOM personel. “I don’t know, “ she says her face a blank mask, and turns back to processing the remaining 44 refugees.

They are checked through, documents combed repeatedly at checkpoint after checkpoint, and then the only remaining gateway is passport control where once approved, the refugees will be granted entry to the other side – the side of the airport full of glittering duty free shops and restaurants, a sort of paradise before getting on a plane to heaven. Even I, without an airplane ticket, am relegated to watching from outside the pearly gates.

One by one each passes through the barrier after saying goodbye to family and friends on the other side that wave them on. Only one elderly woman remains, melded to a young adult man, her tear racked face glued to his, bodies entwined as if to imprint a memory.

I’d been looking away all morning gulping down rising emotions and silently repeating the mantra: be professional Robin, be professional. But it’s useless now. The tears spill in a torrent and I gulp down sobs that rise up in my throat. I watch this mother saying goodbye to a son she will likely never see again.

My son is in America and I am in Turkey. She will go to America and her son will remain in Turkey.

They pull apart as her name is called over the loudspeaker, and the old woman goes through the gate that separates her new life from the old one, turning to gaze one last time into the eyes of her son. At that moment she scans the crowd behind the barrier and our eyes meet. Unbelievably, she returns to where I stand, reaches over the barrier and wraps her arms around me. We stand there, a woman whose name I do not know, whose language I do not speak, holding each other. And in this moment she knows me, and I know her.

And then she is gone along with the others to America.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I will eat turkey in Turkey with American friends. I will celebrate Thanksgiving as never before, grateful that I am free to be here because I am an American. And I vow to never, ever complain about filing my taxes again. (A vow I have admittedly broken since writing this article).

Postnote: The family that was turned away at the airport in this article, boarded a plane for America 6 days later.

How You Can Help:

Church World Service (CWS)
www.churchworldservice.org

Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)
Episcopal Migration Ministries
www.episcopalchurch.org/emm/

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
www.hias.org

Bureau of Refugee Programs
Iowa Department of Human Services
www.dhs.state.ia.us/homepages/dhs/refugee

International Rescue Committee (IRC)
www.intrescom.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)
www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
www.usccb.org/mrs

World Relief (WR)
www.wr.org

Bangkok – So Bad It’s Good

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 4th, 2012 | Email this to friend

Ganesha and Central Shopping Center share real estate

I love gnarly shiny Bangkok with its jarring juxtapositions. Vendors selling anything and everything you didn’t know you needed (vibrator anyone?) for miles and miles along potholed smelly sidewalks, next to towering air conditioned shopping malls, the likes of Terminal 21 – a play on a 5 story airport, each floor representing a different country. The ease of speeding from one gristly or glittery part of the city to another on the Sky Train. Thais holding smoking incense sticks at their heads while bowing to temples with golden Buddhas in the shadows of mega skyscrapers.

Billboard in Bangkok as seen from a sky train station

I ate a hurried meal of naan and curry on the street of Bangkok’s little Arabia, and watching the people pass by in the streets was like being on the film set of Arabian Nights – not entirely surprising considering both the Pakistani and Dubai embassies are located nearby.

Bangkok reminds me of Bombay in “Shantaram”, the book I am currently reading. It is the biggest, most bustling, economically alive melting pot of a city I’ve seen in the world. It’s good, bad, beautiful and ugly all stirred together. And it works.

I am here to get my visa renewed. Easy enough to speed to the Indonesian Embassy across the steamy city on the highly efficient and cooled sky train. And it was no surprise when I arrived at 1PM – the hour advertised on the Indonesian Embassy website that they open – that someone had pasted a piece of paper with the number ’2′ over the ’1′. So to kill time, I thumbed through hundreds of pirated movies and music at the nearby Phuntip Plaza – a 4 story shopping mall entirely dedicated to all things digital.

I am also in Bangkok for my yearly physical exam at one of the world’s most medically advanced and inexpensive (by US standards) hospitals. Kings and queens and just about everyone else with even a little bit of money or means in Asia come to Bumrungrad for medical care. Today in the waiting room I met a pilot from Ethiopia, a woman from Bangladesh, and an American couple living in China. I saw women wearing black burkas with only eye slits sitting next to women in flirty, silk lace-edged veils, and men with table cloths on their heads and white pillboxes, some wearing white flowing gowns (and these weren’t hospital gowns), and I have no idea who and where all these people come from. But come they do.

See the story I wrote on this hospital in 2003. (Scroll a ways down on this blog roll).

I stood next to an older guy outside the elevator in the hospital who when I asked for directions to Building A, sounded like he was from Iowa, and then I noticed his name tag said Chief Executive Officer, Bumrungrad Hospital. Dennis Brown showed me the short cut to get to the next building over for my next appointment.

Next time I come to Bangkok I’m going to check out the Chulalongkorn Hospital where they have a snake farm out back.

With Love from Bangkok,
Robin

International Healthcare in Bangkok


Bumrungrad Hospital


Remember when nurses in the U.S. used to wear these cute hats?


multi-lingual elevator buttons

Out of Our Heads…with words

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 5th, 2012 | Email this to friend

Words can take an us out of our heads and into our bodies…From intellect to full body sensuality

From my favorite blogstress, Daniel LaPorte:

“I want my day to feel like jazz.
I want kissing to feel like eating an orange off the tree from Tuscany.
I want my next success to feel like Adele must feel with her latest album.
I want my body to feel like a Jaguar in a new open field.
I want smiling to feel like mangoes.
I want my friendships to feel like sandalwood oil, and bowls of popcorn, and hand-knit, with Vodka mixers, served up in a red tent.
I want my nervous system to feel like The Buddha must have felt when he discovered The Middle Way.
I want my gigs to feel like Jimmy Page playing Kashmir, and Gaga doing a Born This Way finale, with some Leonard Cohen tenderness.
I want my neighborhood to feel like a new Jason Mraz song.
I want my integrity to feel like the Hope Diamond.
I want my money-making to feel like walking though a vineyard, surveying ripeness, a production of sun and earth for craft and pleasure.
I want my word to feel like gold bullion.
I want my laughter to feel like electric pineapple children.
I want the end of the day to feel like a happy quiet baby.
I want being of service to feel like a Squaw mixing herbs into healing paste for warriors.
I want my philanthropy to feel like a cosmic Queen on her best day.
I want my challenges to feel how Siddhartha felt when the left the kingdom.
I want my love to feel like a gorgeous secret that only he and I know. For eternity.
I want my writing to feel like Citrine, and Jack Kerouac with a fresh buzz on.
I want my ideas to feel like sunrise.”

Nice huh? Thanks Daniel LaPorte for sharing your yummy way with words.

Photos of Istanbul – December 2011

Posted by Robin Sparks on December 18th, 2011 | Email this to friend

After I moved to Istanbul in 2006, a Turk named Mehmet told me that one day the European Union would beg Turkey to join. That day may be soon. Turkey is booming in the midst of Europe’s current economic crisis, and Istanbul was recently named by the Financial Times as the #1 liveable city in the world.

In 2009, I moved to Bali. Three years later, I still consider Istanbul one of my “homes”. Last week I returned from a whirlwind business trip to Old Constantinople. Here are a few visual memories from my 10 days there.

Photos were shot with an iPhone 4.

Sunrise on the Bosphorus

A Turkish lamp shop on Yuksek Kaldirim Caddesi near Galata Tower

Balat neighborhood

Turkish teapot in my apartment

Balat

the making of manti in Balat

fresh squeezed juice for sale on Istiklal Cadessi

durum and fresh juice for sale on Istiklal Cadessi

alley off of Istiklal Cadessi

Trolley on Istiklal Cadessi, a 2 mile long pedestrian (mostly ) walkway in modern Istanbul

Istiklal Cadessi, the dining and entertainment center of Istanbul

Turkish sweets

Islamic gravestone at Cihangir Mosque

Olives and tea, quintessential Turkey

Lunar eclipse over the Bosphorus Bridge

The view of Sultanahmet from Terrace Three

Clicked My Heels 3 Times

Posted by Robin Sparks on December 12th, 2011 | Email this to friend

Been home less than 24 hours after flying half way around the globe – Turkey to Northern California – in time to get my mother to the doctor for Round #3 chemotherapy treatment. …So grateful for the ability to get around the planet with such speed. And for the knowing that the all the world is home.

Gated Communities and Homeless Dinners

Posted by Robin Sparks on November 17th, 2011 | Email this to friend

Hey there…

Where in the world am I now?

Home. Really home. With my parents in Northern California. As you may have surmised from last month’s blog, I am with my mother who is undergoing chemotherapy.

photo shot last week while driving down Columbus Street in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco

With the soundtrack of Bonanaza, Walton Mountain reruns, and the preaching of Dr. Phil droning in the background – my father is an avid TV watcher – I am mining notes that comprise the story of my search for home.

Sometimes an experience I’d forgotten surfaces. Here’s one found today, circa 2004, San Francisco.

GATED COMMUNITIES AND HOMELESS DINNERS – San Francisco 2004

An old friend from my Tahoe days visits me in San Francisco. We haven’t spoken in over 4 months, pre-Brazil.

“Karen” has a new condo in the East Bay with a private lake, a tennis court, and “it’s in a gated community,” she adds with emphasis.

“What are you afraid of?” I ask, genuinely perplexed. After all, she lives in a suburban town the likes of Mayberry.

“Are you joking? Haven’t you been watching the news?” she says. “Didn’t you hear about that guy who was killed at the Giants game and what about that woman who disappeared last week in Oakland?”

“Yes, I heard. Repeatedly until finally I turned off the TV. Don’t watch the news,” I plead. “They bombard you with the occasional horrific event, and because that’s all you hear, you begin to believe it is the norm and live in fear that you will be next.”

Karen looks at me oddly.

___________

I accepted an invitation for one of Marc Bruno’s monthly dinners in North Beach for the homeless. Bocce Cafe donates the space and much of the food. Other restaurants like the North Beach Cafe and Washington Park Bar and Grill prepare desserts, salads, bread, and drinks. The purpose of these meals Marc says is to give the homeless a feeling of community by sitting down to dinner with their neighbors.

And so tonight I am dining with people I normally see emerging from a blanket on a street corner.

They are memorializing Punky who died last week at age 28 of liver failure. A tall lanky man stands and introduces himself as Macaroni and talks about what a kind soul Punky was and how he was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone. He adds that they are all going to miss him, “but hey, he is in a better place now.” Then one after another they share how Punky touched their lives.

It is not all that clear who is homeless here tonight and who is not. I am mindful of small talk like, “So where do you live?”

It’s a fine line between us.

I sometimes worry about how I’ll pay for my apartment. (ok so it’s a luxurious worry).
My newly divorced friend has been looking for a job for 6 weeks.
An ex boyfriend buys an SUV so that he can sleep in it if ever he should lose his home.

After the dishes have been cleared, Macaroni stands to announce that he and Dougie need 35 cents each for cab fare. A man at the next table says, “Do what I do and sneak on the back of the bus.” A woman dressed in ski cap and layers of clothes says, “Or look on the ground for a bus pass.”

We, neighbors all, walk to our homes – some under roofs and others under the stars.

Coit Tower towers over North Beach and Telegraph Hill in 2004

Decide to Rise

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 5th, 2011 | Email this to friend

Every now and then I read a blog that makes me want to rise up, fist in the air, and shout, “Yeah!” Like the one below by Danielle LaPorte.

Perhaps this particular blog resonated with me tonight because I am finally making good on my promise to write every single day no matter what. I’m not talking emails or journaling here. I’m talking a minimum of 1 hour per day writing The Book. I’ve been editing the first draft today and dang! What an amazing decade.

I am home now with my parents in Northern California. Today we attended my mother’s first oncology appointment. When the nurse called us into his office, I snapped close my laptop where I had been speed reading about gentle natural methods for restoring a body to its healthy pre- cancer prognosis.

No I learned when I asked him, the doctor does not use (nor believe in) an alternative/complementary approach. His is a singular aggressive fight against any renegade cancer cells that may have escaped that little gray mass they removed from my mother’s ovary. The chemicals are so toxic, they will not only kill the bad guys but many of the good ones that make my mother the radiant, vital, sweet woman that she is. This just screams out against everything I believe in – a life lived well – lovingly, joyfully, gracefully, mindfully, proactively, preventively, spiritually whole. My dream of a holistic team of support for my mother is not gonna happen.

That is, unless … Can I be on your team Mom?

The aforementioned blog by Danielle LaPorte, Read it at www.WhiteHotTruth.com

(refer to this when in doubt, or sick & tired.)

“I’m all for mental health days. And gentleness. And I think the world should take the month of December off. And for the love of God, a 4 day work week would revolutionize the collective human spirit and thusly, healthcare. But this pep talk isn’t about taking it easy, this is about another form of self care: doing whatever it takes.

Here goes…

Just got dumped? Lace up your runners and move your body.
Under the weather? Go in to work any way, wearing your favorite sweater.
Up to your earrings in deadlines? Go cheer on your friend. Show up at the bake sale. Call your mother.
Crying before show time? Put some tea bags on your eyes. Say a prayer. Enter stage left.

Pull an all-nighter. Turn up the volume. Go hard. Go harder.
Re-prioritize your aches and pains.
Infuse your sensitivities with courage.
Tell fear to fuck right the fuck off.
Devote to Done.

There are soul-justified reasons to cancel. There are times to stop. This isn’t one of them. Keep going. Show up. Decide to be one of those people who pull it off.

Do what you say you’re going to do.
Don’t let us down.
Decide to rise.

Why decide to rise? Not for the reasons you might think. In fact, these are the reasons that will make you sick and tired:

Do not rise out of obligation. Do not rise because of feared consequences. Do not rise because you think being tough makes you smarter (it doesn’t.)

Decide to rise because you want to expand — your being, your life, your possibilities.

Decide to rise to explore your place in the universe.

Decide to rise because super powers are meant to be activated and applied to real life.

On the other side of deciding to rise is illumination, ecstasy, insight. And the angel of your strength is there waiting, smiling, applauding, with a goblet of endorphins for you. When you transcend circumstances you get special privileges. Like the deep knowing that life wants you to win, evidence that you are indeed amazing, and irrefutable proof that your mind chooses what matters.

Decide to rise.”

Thank you Danielle LaPorte!
www.WhiteHotTruth.com

Robin juicing daily in the Bay Area, California

Where to Live When All the World is Home

Posted by Robin Sparks on May 2nd, 2011 | Email this to friend

San Francisco


Bali


Istanbul

I recently read an article online called “Parents of the Third Culture: Where to Retire When All the World is Home”.
http://www.expatharem.com/2011/04/27/parents-of-the-third-culture-where-to-retire-when-all-the-world-is-home/

It got me thinking. I’ve been moving and living abroad in over a dozen countries on 6 continents for over a decade to learn who is moving where and why for articles and a book I was writing about expat life – and ultimately, to find my own way home.

I’m often asked what qualities are on my Where are the best places on the planet to be an expatriate list. Here’s the short one: Geographically beautiful, within an hour of the sea, pleasant year round weather, a community where art and culture and architecture are valued, where colors are bright, where music and dance are an integral part of life, a cost of living significantly lower than that of the United States, within an hour of an international airport, a warm, loving, inclusive, progressive community with a world view, low crime rate, excellent, affordable healthcare with an emphasis on holistic health care, and where good healthy food grows easily and abundantly.

I would learn that most countries don’t allow foreigners to earn money legally, so my list grew to include a place where I could work. I had discovered in Turkey the most hospitable, inclusive people I’d met anywhere on the planet – and the most misaligned, thanks to a movie called “Orient Express”. I dreamed that if Westerners lived even briefly in real homes in real neighborhoods in Turkey, they might go home to report that muslims do not actually sprout horns and that we are in fact, more alike, than different. Maybe, my dream went, the undeclared war that my country had engaged in against all things Muslim, might begin to seem, well, nonsensical. And so Oneworld ltd was born and grew to include 7 apartments which I now rent out to global travelers passing through Turkey.

Three years later, Istanbul’s soaring cost of living, bleak winters, and spiritual polarization (one it seems is either a fundamentalist Muslim or an atheist in Turkey, with very little in between), and lack of environmental awareness and concern, resulted in new additions to my list: spiritual, conscious, alternative, environmentally proactive – and led me back to Bali.

Thanks to the internet, a Turkish manager and assorted “assistants” on the ground, I run a business in Turkey from a lumbung in the tropics of Bali.

One of the many things I have learned over the past 10 years, is that expat havens have a growth trajectory. Take St. Tropez for example. Expat havens begin as bohemian artists’ enclaves. Word gets out and within a few years (barring a bomb or ongoing political unrest), the masses arrive, followed by the developers, prices escalate, and the qualities that initially drew foreigners in the first place disappear. The bohemian early adoptors move on to the next best as-yet-unknown place, and the old expat havens become high priced made-to-order-for-tourists parodies of their former selves.

Many of the locales in which I have lived have already peaked on this trajectory – San Francisco, Paris, Buenos Aires, Buzios (Brazil), Deia (Mallorca, Spain)…There are others coming up from behind and they include Istanbul and Bali…

Yep, my antennae are up and quivering. Next best place? Shhhhhhh!

Safe

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 11th, 2011 | Email this to friend

An office of my own

I was blissfully going through emails in my lumbong across the garden from my house in Bali this morning, when I read a friend’s newsletter. That was the first I heard about the recent “random shooting” in Arizona.

I love not being fed the news on a regular basis. It lets me believe that the world is overall, a pretty safe place.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t experience a few of my own OMG events.

Yesterday when speeding along on my motor scooter down a bumpy country road, rice paddies whizzing by, I saw a plate-sized spider inching his way to my left hand on the handlebar. I screamed (which must have looked strange had anyone been watching) and veered to the side of the road leaping from the bike to await the spider’s departure. I don’t know what I would have done had that spider reached my hand before I managed to stop.

“How Safe Do You Feel” is a treatise on living our lives like they might be changed drastically, or end, at any moment.

Thanks Peggy for this latest scream of consciousness.
http://www.screamsofconsciousness.com.

Robin

Gate to my home

Wow, What a Workshop it Was

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 31st, 2010 | Email this to friend

November 1, 2010

Yet another amazing dinner at our Write & Sell That Book Now! workshop


I arrived in Bali from Istanbul end of September, just days before our Write and Sell That Book Now! workshop.

We had 14 students and the instructor, Joanna Penn, was AMAZING in every sense of the word. Each of us walked away from the workshop pregnant with cutting edge information about how to get our books out of our heads and out into the world. The Kumara Sakti Resort was sumptuous and accommodating, and the Oneworld Retreat staff professional and organized.

This was my first experience in teaching a class. The creativity session I taught was an experiential exercise on accessing the subconscious and writing from a place that is deep and authentic in order to discover one’s unique message. My course served as a counterbalance to Joanna’s left-brained, info-packed approach.

After our “Write and Sell That Book Now!” workshop, I attended the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, and then holed up in a hotel with a friend visiting from New York. After she returned to the USA, I began the hunt for a new home in Ubud.

My house perched below Sayan Ridge has been feeling less and less secure as the rain saturated earth around it has begun to slide down to the Agung River below. I’d been wanting to move closer to town anyway, so I’ve looked at house after house and have finally found one which I will move into December 10. Thanks to several dear friends I’ve had amazing homes to stay in from a beach house in southern Bali, to a seaside palace on Bali’s northern shore, to an extra bedroom in a friend’s bungalow in central Ubud.

It will be amazing to finally park myself in one place for at least 9 months and unpack everything for the first time since May. That’s 6 months of living out of suitcases!

Back to the workshop. Here’s a recent blog Joanna Penn wrote about our “Write and Sell That Book Now!” workshop. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/10/20/international-speaking-lessons-learned-from-a-multi-day-retreat-in-ubud-bali/

I’ll be posting photos and some of the highlights and tips gleaned for the workshop soon. Until then!

Love, love
Robin

early morning on Echo Beach, Bali, 10/10

Ready, Set, Back to Blogging

Posted by Robin Sparks on September 12th, 2010 | Email this to friend

Istanbul!

And so here I am in Istanbul, the experiences from this rich summer piling high and fast creating quite the blog jam. The “when to live” vs. “when to stop living in order to write ” conundrum is a long standing one for me. I nearly always opt to jump into life rather than to pull out of it to write. But I’m a writer and I get cranky when I don’t write.

There’ve been comments lately, lots of them about the dearth of recent blogs on my website and well… OK, no more excuses. I’m either a writer, or I’m not. And so I sit down to write.

Immediately I begin to think about the party this afternoon that I will attend at Ellen and Husam’s yali (a summer home for former sultans on the shores of the Bosphorus ). Yalis on the Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey

Then the To Do list for Oneworld, my business in Istanbul, fills my head…..

Followed by the biggest I’ll do it later boogeyman of all, Mr. Perfectionism – the only Virgo trait I’ll admit to. I can’t bear to post anything less than perfect, and, well, perfect as we all know, never arrives.

And so I’m going to post stream of consciousness experiential stuff in this space, because if I don’t I may as well retire this blog, and I really do want to share the richness of the life that has been mine these past few months (make that years, but we’ll settle for months for now).

It’s not easy to get going after a good long bout of procrastination and so I begin in as good place as any – “Yesterday…

The phone rings. I get up to answer because I am expecting a call from my manager Elif. We discuss me walking to her apartment (30 minutes through central Istanbul) to clear my things from her home where I stayed last week and to pick up the keys to the flats we rent out. I remember that I need a manicure and a pedicure before catching the bus to meet Alexandra in Fener to ferry over the Bosphorus together to Husam and Ellen’s party in 3 hours.

Oh yeah. The blog.

Yesterday…

Yesterday after meditating, I got up to prepare coffee. But the refrigerator was bare in the apartment I’d just moved into, and so off I went, down the 5 flights of stairs, and up the hill to Galata Tower (the Coit Tower of Istanbul) and down the back alleyway called Camekan to Molly’s Restaurant.

Camekan Sokak in Galata, Istanbul

Molly's Cafe

Molly is from Toronto, Canada, a robust redhead with freckled white skin and a sweet smile and big bosom that makes me want to curl up in her lap. She has this little cafe that I’ve been wanting to try, she’s got filtered coffee and she’s got internet. So I sank into a big leather armchair facing a floor to ceiling bookshelf packed with books at Molly’s Cafe, next to where a cat was sleeping in a window sill, and someone in an apartment across the alley was playing a violin. We chatted for a few moments and next thing I knew I was sipping a mug of coffee and eating a breakfast burrito prepared by none other than Molly herself.

I opened my Mac and begin to write. My morning stream of consciousness journaling is free form, completely unedited and done directly from my heart in a nearly subconscious manner, often with eyes closed. After approximately 30 minutes, the writing stops itself. I just know when it is done. And usually I have no idea what I have written until I read it again. And I am nearly always surprised . I wrote THAT? It’s my daily visit with my inner therapist.

I left Molly’s leaning into the winding cobblestone alleyway twisting, climbing, dropping past the hamam shops, past the new designer boutiques, to a ezcane (pharmacy) . I showed the pharmacist a piece of paper on which I had written the name of a medication I needed for a minor but persistent infection. I understood in bir az Turkish that they were telling me that they must order the medicine, and would I please return in half an hour. So I crossed the street to Sok Market, filled my basket with milk, yogurt, almonds, and plums and headed back down the hill and up the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment to unload the food. I slipped out of my sweaty clothes (this has been the hottest summer in Istanbul’s recent history) and into a sundress and flip flops and returned to the pharmacy.

The pharmacist pointed to my dress and said something in Turkish. I looked down and horror of horrors, saw that my dress was on wrong side out, its big white tag flapping like a flag from one of its exposed seams. The pharmacist motioned to a room in the back where I could change.

I stood there in that room eyes focusing in the dark and what i saw was row after row of dusty brown jars in all shapes and sizes with white labels with names like Boric Acid and Sulphur. Ancient bronze scales and crusty bunson burners. My God. I was in an old time chemist’s workshop. I wanted to whip out my camera and start shooting. Sometimes memory is best.

I walked across Galata Square (which is actually a circle)

Galata Tower

past gypsies playing happy music that made me want to shimmy my shoulders. Beatnik types (do they still have those? Oh well, the word fits) were everywhere just sort of hanging out. On benches, in the surrounding tea gardens, seated at sidewalk cafes, on benches around the tower. As if no one had anywhere to go, and as if nothing was more important than just being there. It was like stepping back into 1960′s San Francisco or Soho, New York.

Hours later I was walking back home along Istiklal Avenue (a 2-mile pedestrian artery through central Istanbul with over 1000 restaurants, taverns and bars), when something caught my eye in a side alley way. Looking into an early evening summer sun, there in sillouette were several old Turkish men gathered around a tiny turkish table, a cloud of smoke billowing up behind them from the nargile pipe they shared, and I heard the click clack of backgammon pieces being picked up and set back down again on a wooden board. I was filled with something that can only be described as joy.

I thought about that as I walked the remaining half mile home. Why did the sight of those men in that cinematic setting make me so happy? Why did I love finding myself in that old timey chemist’s shop this morning? Why did I delight in seeing an Islamic woman on the street earlier, her head covered in a scarf for modesty, whilst her blouse was revealing and tight? Why did hearing the gypsies play beneath Galata Tower make me smile? Why did I stop to watch the man with the little round hat on, long pointy beard, standing in the street selling big platters of baklava?

Because I’m hooked on surprise. I love being childlike, wonder-filled, confronted with things I’ve never before seen, smelled, tasted, or touched, and I like it pretty much all of the time.

I thought about this and the fact that I have been on this search for home – a place on the planet to settle.

What is this thing called home that I am looking for? Do I really want it? Is it possible that home for me is the freedom to change my environment whenever, wherever I want? Is home for me an eternal state of surprise and delight? A never-ending state of wonder? If so, why am I looking?

Maybe all this searching and not finding has just been an excuse for the journey.

Maybe I am home.

Robin on the rug drug

A Village

Posted by Robin Sparks on May 10th, 2010 | Email this to friend

I have traded houses with a friend temporarily…my Sayan Jungalow for her home 5 minutes from central Ubud in Bali. I wanted to taste community again, she peace. We both got what we wanted, me in spades! I’ve been writing happily on my sunny terrace surrounded by the sounds of Balinese village life humming all around. Until last night…when at 3am I was woken by the sounds of chopping. I’d heard that Balinese men rise early to begin preparation of lawar before Galungan, but 3am? Yes, apparently so. One of Bali’s biggest holidays begins tomorrow, in celebration of ancestral spirits who come this time of year to visit. And so, I replaced the irritation I felt at being woken early morning with a sense of contentment, a knowing that the sounds of chopping just outside my bedroom window, represented the men of my newly adopted “village” preparing a feast, taking care of us, continuing the thread of hundreds of years of tradition…It was then that I remembered the curious squealing of a pig I heard in their yard yesterday…

And so, this is village life.

Over the backyard fence

Spirit of Place

Posted by Robin Sparks on May 4th, 2010 | Email this to friend

I am reading Lawrence Durrell’s book “Spirit of Place”. And it has got me thinking. (: Durrell, like myself, lived in places in order to intuit his heartbeat and considered himself more of a foreign residence writer than a travel writer.

About capturing the essence of place, Durrell writes,
The great thing is to…travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not too much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention…in so doing you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle, you’ll be there….

…travel becomes a sort of science of intuitions which is of the greatest importance to everyone — but most of all to the artist who is always looking for nourishing soils, in which to put down roots and retreat. Everyone finds his own ‘correspondences’ in this way — landscapes where you suddenly feel bounding with ideas, and others where half your soul falls asleep…Writers each seem to have a personal landscape of the heart which beckons them.

I love the way Durrell takes me there. Take this description about Egypt for example:
If you sit quite still in the landscape-diviner’s pose — why, the whole rhythm of ancient Egypt rises up from the damp cold sand. You can hear its very pulse tick. Nothing is strange to you at such moments — the old temples with their death-cults, the hieroglyphs, the long slow whirl of the brown Nile among the palm-fringed islets, the crocodiles and snakes. It is palpably just as it was when the High Priest of Ammon initiated Alexander into the mysteries. ….of course you cannot arrange to be initiated through a travel agency! You would have to reside and work your way in through the ancient crust – a tough one – of daily life. And how different is the rhythm of Egypt to that of Greece! 


On Greece,
Just try for a moment sitting on the great stone omphalos, the navel of the ancient Greek world, at Delphi. Don’t ask mental qustions, but relax and empty your mind. It lies, this strange amphora-shaped object, in an overgrown field above the temple. Everything is blue and smells of sage. The marbles dazzle down below you. There are two eagles moving softly softly on the sky, like distant boats rowing across an immense violet lake.

Don’t you love this???? I am so there.

And finally, Durrell on Scotland,
…the poetry, and the poverty and naked joyous insouciance of mountain life…Clearly she is a queenly country and a wild mountainous mate for poets.

Why do you write about Place? For me it’s about cultivating recognition of our common web of humanity. For it is through sharing our stories that I believe peace is possible.

Join us October 1-6, 2010 for Write and Sell That Book Now! An amazing adventure in Bali where you will learn how to get your book out of your head and out into the world! http://www.oneworldretreats.com/ubud_bali_yoga_retreat_robin_joanna.php

Robin in Ubud, Bali

Come experience the essence of this beautiful island and learn to write about it. Create a book and sell it!

On Death, Aging & Ashtanga with Danny Paradise

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 5th, 2010 | Email this to friend

Originally published at Balispirit Festival Blog

So many yoga classes, so much time… Even though the festival is officially over, I thought I’d add a dash of after-blogging to the after party spirit.

On April 3, from some 25 classes, I selected Danny Paradise’s Ashtanga class for 4 main reasons. First the name -Danny Paradise – sounds more like a piano bar player than a yoga teacher.  Second, the description of the class – Aging and Death.  Two events I do my utmost not to think about.  Third, Danny’s experience and reputation as a practitioner of Ashtanga for over 30 years. And fourth, the fact that Ashtanga is a style of yoga distinctly different from the out of the box off-the-mat styles of Shiva Rae, Eoin Finn, and Rebecca Pflaun. Ultimately Astanga yoga is the origin of nearly all yoga styles.

I place my mat near the front of the class and settle in at the feet of this man who looks like he stepped right out of Haight Ashbury circa 1967. His many years as a yoga practitioner and life of a seeker have granted him wisdom and insight that he graciously shares during the first half of each class.

The following are a few of the gems that Danny Paradise shared with us on the last of his three classes during the festival. The topic – Aging and Death.

First he lays this on us: The root cause of depression is fear of living your dreams.

And how do we know what our dreams are? By listening to our soul.“If you don’t acknowledge the presence of your soul and what it is saying to you, you create depression. Your soul knows what you want. Listen.”
“We come to yoga mainly as a physical practice but ultimately yoga is soul work.

On death: Danny says death is a transition to an ecstatic awakening condition.

Mayans refer to death as “Nowness”. Most indigenous cultures don’t have a word for death.  The message of ancient yoga is that if you take care of yourself on a regular basis your whole life, if you purify yourself, and live love, when death comes it will be a rapid transition. At the moment of death, you come to full realization that all effect is created by thought, manifestation is a result of intention, intention creates reality, and everything you experience in life, you have called into your life for your personal evolution.

On aging: Yoga is an excellent healing tool… As you heal yourself physically,  it empowers you to make radical changes in your life.When you have vitality and energy you can use that to meet any challenges that come your way and in so doing avoid depression and discouragement. Remember that you are creating the challenges in your life that help you to evolve. Yoga gives expanded focus.

The Mayan word for “old” means strong like a tree. Elders in these cultures were pepole you could count on for information about wisdom and understanding. They aged with health, vitality and grace.

The word for life in Mayan tradition means interconnectedness…we are all interdependent. Anger,  jealousy, anxiety, distress, creates disease.

Yoga helps you to be healthy and happy through your own will. When you make yourself happy, you make others happy around you. If you want to be in a solid relationship, you need to be happy with yourself to draw that to yourself.

Through building heat in the body and sweating you eliminate toxins…yoga is far and away one of the best detoxing exercises you can do.

Yoga reaches deep into the mind and heart and brings up old wounds and memories that we have suppressed. As they rise to the surface you can release them.

Bringing yourself completely into the present as we do doing yoga practice, is one of the main ways of healing – forgiving, pulling in your spiritual destiny, recognizing your spiritual essence.

He talks about developing a “peacekeeper mind”, getting rid of thoughts of scarcity, conflict, separation, and bringing into your being a healing force.

Personal power strengthens your immunity and strength. “I’ve seen people heal themselves from cancer, scoliosis, allergies and more …people altered their diet, thought positively and took care of themselves on the deepest levels possible…those are yogic, ancient prescriptions passed down generations to generations for thousands of years.
In our lifetimes everyone here will at some point experience loss of personal power, whether through radical challenges, losing your health or your possessions. At that point you have to determine what you have faith in, do you believe you can heal yourself?  90% of the work of healing is the work that you do for yourself.

Yoga adds 20-30 years of active health to one’s life Danny claims. It is changing the nature in how people are aging. All this talk about health care in America? Insurance companies are starting to finance yoga because they realize that those who do yoga require less medical care. “I am now seeing people in their 60’s and 70’s practicing yoga and the way that they are aging is amazing.”

Danny then goes on to talk about how yoga can completely alter your body. It takes 10 years to purify to eliminate and correct the past. All the 103 industrial chemicals we carry in our cells contribute to the creation of diseases like cancer, allergies, and immune system problems. Yoga is your best option for healing.

A student asks how to break patterns of behavior we don’t like but find ourselves repeating.

Danny answers, “On the simplest level yoga clears your mind. Allows you to step out of regular order of your life and to break patterns by becoming aware of them. Through awareness you can perceive patterns and the perception alone can sometimes allow you to break the patterns.”

Every time you are jealous or angry, you throw a stone in your bowl, but at any moment in the day, you can turn that bowl of stones and pour it out and your let with a full bowl of life. That’s how you can recognize who you are and what your sacred nature is.

Sometimes it just takes sitting down and asking for guidance, how to be true to yourself. Honest, clear, recognizing that your primary responsibility is to yourself. You must make yourself happy first,for  if you’re not happy, it will have a negative impact on those around you. If you don’t make yourself happy, you will create disease.

If you have a fear you should step into it. He uses as an example his fear of going to India the first time because he knew it would open a door through which he would never return. He confronted that fear, went to India, and it set the course of his life.

Then we move into the practice. He demonstrates opening our chests, taking deep breathes, lifting the solar plexus, utilizing the banda,ojai breathing,  lean into legs, move stomach muscles in and out, back and forth. We spend the next half hour doing extended standing sequences and asanas with derivations based on classical yoga from India.

Danny ends the class by reminding us that the most important aspect of yoga is prana, the increasing of the life force through inspiration and respiration.

Yoga is breath. Breath is spirit. Spirit is ageless – and spirit trumps death. Yoga anyone?

Heal Yourself, Heal the World with Rebecca Pflaum

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 4th, 2010 | Email this to friend

Originally published at the Balispirit Festival Blog.

Heal Yourself, Heal the World with Rebecca PflaumIn December 2008, I heard there was a “famous” yogi named Rebecca Pflaum visiting Ubud. Having recently arrived in Bali after 3 years in Istanbul, and a year before that in Argentina, I was out of the international yoga loop. I’d never heard of Rebecca Pflaum and had never attended a Kundalini workshop.

At the end of that class some 16 months ago, we were invited to enter a healing circle. As I laid there in the middle of that healing circle on a beautiful island in a country far away from home, those in the circle around me sang, “May the long time sun, shine upon you, may all love surround you, may the long time sun, shine upon you, guide your way home, guide your way home…” As I laid there, tears streaming down my face, I saw an egg-like shell coming apart, all jagged edges, and a pink fragile wrinkle-y creature emerging, and gingerly unfolding.

That was my initiation to Bali.

And so it was with great pleasure and anticipation that once again today, I attended Rebecca’s Pflaum’s Kundalini class.

The workshop title was: Kundalini Yoga and Meditation: Heal the World, Heal Yourself. The brochure read,We each have within us the power to heal ourselves and our world; Experience your own healing potential through Kundalini Yoga, ancient healing mantras, kriyas, meditations and healing sounds. Focus on areas of your life where change is welcome and allow yourself to manifest these changes. As a group we will support and radiate our healing energies exponentially, share more light into the collective consciousness, and experience that “we are ones we have been waiting for”.

Kundalini energy Rebecca explains at the beginning of today’s class, represents creative potential. She encourages us to let it rise through our chakras opening and nourishing us. She says that mind, body and spirit are inseparable. “This practice wakes you up. Focus on healing and set your intention. Embrace whatever comes to you today and set your intention on healing.”

OK, so I’ve got this big heavy dark boulder in my chest just over my heart. I set an intention for the darkness to lift, for my light to come back on.

We sit in lotus position and sing chants as directed. Sat-nam, Sat-nam Sat-nam…Rebecca tells us the sanskrit chant means “higher self”. She tells us to remember our perfection, our bliss, and to forget “any of that other crap” that tells us we are not enough.

“Everyone who thinks they are perfect, raise your hand,” she says. A few hands tentatively go up in the air, and then mine. She laughingly says, “Ah some of you are finally getting it. You are perfect.

What a relief.

“Heal yourself first, “ she says, “Find your center, your strength. And then you will begin to heal the world.”

We do arm raises and waist twists from a seated position, until some of us are groaning our arms ready to drop. You can moan and groan, she says, but you can’t stop.

Another chant set to music, Goo naru – “It is blissful to move from light to dark,” she translates.

I can get behind that.

It helps that we are singing. Singing!!! Such a universal connection to source! I had forgotten that Kundalini Yoga involves singing. And I love it.

We sit sweaty back to sweaty back with a partner and bow forward and back repeatedly while singing. Then we face our partner and swaying back and forth sing the children’s song, “Who, who, who can that be, happy oh happy, happy as can be. Who, who, who can that be, happy oh happy, happy as can be….” Try not smiling while singing that.

My friend Claire whispers, “It’s like kindergarten for adults.”

Next Rebecca directs us to hug the people around us and so we do, moving around the room holding both strangers and friends in turn.

Then we dance freely, smiling, jumping, rocking out.

This is one feel good class.

Sixteen months after my first Kundalini Yoga class, we are once again end with a healing circle. Me and that heavy black boulder lie down in the center prepared to embrace whatever might come. And once again, all around me, they are singing the sunshine song, “May the long time sun, shine upon you, all love surround you, may the long time sun, shine upon you, guide your way home, guide your way home….

The darkness that had weighed so heavily in my chest, releases and lifts. I am home.

Woodstock revisited in Bali April 2010

Posted by Bradley on April 3rd, 2010 | Email this to friend

I’d been at Day Number 2 of the Bali Spirit festival all day and was at home listening to the audio of yesterday’s press conference with Shiva Rae, Ninie Ahmad, Yudi Widyatoro, and Duncan Wong. (all about that tomorrow). As a teaser, there is an AMAZING array of yoga classes at this year’s festival. Thus far, I’ve attended classes taught by Eoin Flynn, Shiva Rae, and Danny Paradise and heard about dozens of others from various festival attendees.

At 9PM I closed my computer and prepared to leave on my motorcycle for the concert at the Arma Museum. That’s when it started to rain. Hard. I sms’d friends. How was it? Were they calling off the concert? Text messages came in one after another with variations of “We’re all on the stage dancing. Come!”

I called a driver and off we went on a Mr. Toad’s Wild ride through the pouring rain to the Arma Museum. By the time I arrived, the rain had stopped, and the monsoon rains had left the ground wet and sloshy giving the whole scene a distinct Woodstock feel. People smiling and drippy in the rain and not caring. Mud slushing through the toes of our flip flops. Friends from Thailand, Byron Bay, Australia, Goa, India, and of course Bali convened to celibrate. Music group after music group came on stage. Everyone dancing, talking, loving…. By the end of the evening we were all of us – everyone from Isa’s teen aged step son, to Daphne’s elderly parents dancing to Love in the Circus followed by the Swedish group Kultiration. It was after midnight when the band played their last number, and then it was off to the After Party at the Flava Lounge.

And yes we are doing yoga. All about that tomorrow!

Famous Authors Who Self-published

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 29th, 2010 | Email this to friend

When I recently posted on Facebook that it is easier today than ever before to become a published author, a friend disagreed. She wrote, “It might be more possible to get something out there more easily nowadays. The problem is getting people to know about it, getting a store to carry it (chains won’t), or getting it to show up prominently in digital stores. How many top selling authors are self published? I can’t think of 1.”

I asked Joanna Penn of www.thecreativepenn.com to respond to my friend’s email.

“In terms of top selling authors who are self-published, it is interesting how many ‘famous’ books started off as self-published before they got picked up by publishers (who love a winner!), ” she wrote. ” If they hadn’t self-published in the first place, they likely would never have been published. Self-publishing is now a way to make an impact and help you get a book deal (or can be rewarding in itself for some categories of books).

Here are some examples-
Julia Cameron self published “the Artist’s Way” which was then picked up by Putnam and has now sold millions of copies.
Christopher Paolini’s Eragon was published and hawked by his parents.
Richard Bolles “What Colour is Your Parachute” was self-published for several years before being traditionally published.
Deepak Chopra self-published before being picked up by trad pub.
Beatrix Potter self published The Tale of Peter Rabbit before a publisher saw the potential…. and so it goes on….
John Kremer, who wrote ’1001 ways to market your books’ has a self-publishing hall of fame if you want to see a whole list -http://www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish

Alan Rinzler, a legendary editor and publishing consultant had this essay on his blog last week – “How self publishing can lead to a real book deal”
http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/03/11/how-self-publishing-can-lead-to-a-real-book-deal/
about how publishers desperately want people who can sell themselves, and a successful self-pub book can really get you started.

In terms of marketing leading to book sales, look at Gary Vaynerchuk who built a video blog audience and then got a book deal, and bloggers like Leo Babauta of “The Power of Less” from Zen Habits.com and Christian Lander of “Stuff White People Like”. These guys got book deals off the back of self-publishing their articles daily on their blogs, gathering an audience and building a platform. This is another way to go about it.

Basically, if you combine self-publishing (or indeed any publishing) with effective marketing through blogging, social networking, video and other methods, then you will make an impact on a market. It’s easy for anyone to put something out there, but self-publishers who know what they are doing can sell their books and stand a better chance of attracting a publishing deal than someone who faces years of manuscript rejection and has no marketing practice.”

So there you have it. If you’d like to learn how to pull your manuscript from the bottom of the slush pile and place it under the nose of an interested publisher — or skip the publisher altogether and get your book into the hands of thousands of readers, join us in Bali Oct. 1-6, 2010 for “Write and Sell Your Book Now!”

A $300 Early Bird discount can be yours if you register before April 15, 2010.

http://www.oneworldretreats.com/ubud_bali_yoga_retreat_robin_Joanna.php

See you in Bali in October.

Robin

photo courtesy of Flickr

This workshop will take place the week before the Annual Ubud Writers Festival – not to be missed.

The publishing world, in case you have not yet heard, has changed.

The time has never been better, riper, more promising for story tellers to get their tales out of their heads and into the hands of readers fast. And to make money doing so. The old publishing paradigm dinosaur is gone. Poof. Like that.

I for one say, “Thank God”.

The old way: Months and months to find an agent. Followed by more months seeking a publisher. Followed by 2 years (If you are one of the 1% chosen for publication) of line edits, book design, back and forth between editor and writer – all before ever (if ever) seeing your book in print. Followed by years of having to hit the road on your own dime to sell your own books from the trunk of your car, for a few dollars per book.

The publishing bottleneck that has developed over the past 20 years is enough to intimidate many authors from even getting started.

No more.  There is a new way.

Join us in Ubud, Bali at the “Write and Sell That Book!” workshop October 1-6, 2010 – one week before the Annual Ubud Writers Festival – and together we will learn how to use the new tools available to write our books, to promote and sell them.

Details : http://www.oneworldretreats.com/ubud_bali_yoga_retreat_robin_Joanna.php

And just in case you’re worried that all that new technological know how will give you a headache, relax. You won’t have to do anything but sit back soaking up the infamous Balinese atmosphere while Joanna Penn www.thecreativepenn shows you everything you need to know to take your place in what is rapidly developing into a new era for authors.

We’ll stay at the luxurious Kumara Sakti Resort www.oneworldretreats.com

The peaceful Kumara Sakti Resort

located in a stunningly beautiful jungle valley just outside the artist center of Ubud, Bali – home of the Love chapter in the bestselling “Eat, Pray, Love”. You’ll get a free 1 1/2 hour herbal massage, see a Balinese dance at a local temple, and take a stroll through a breathtaking terraced rice paddy for a luncheon at my favorite Ubud restaurant – Sari Organik.

We’re keeping the class size small at 20 students – 5  reserved for locales.

In case you’re not convinced about the changes unfolding in the world of publishing, here are predictions for authors for 2010-2020 in an article by Jane Friedman.

http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/01/11/WhatDoesFutureHoldForWritersPredictionsFor20102020.aspx

Or you can just read my excerpts from the article below:

“Predictions are common as a new year begins–especially a new decade. And the publishing industry invites more speculation than ever, given the tremendous transformation underway.

The rise of the independent, as I expect more individual authors and small presses will be able to take advantage of the digital format to sell direct to the consumer, make a healthy living doing so and take advantage of the platform to provide more (and more unfiltered) coverage of a broader range of content, including niche and emerging topics. Just as apps have liberated bedroom coders, so too will the preponderance of ways to connect directly with readers, build a healthy fan base and enjoy higher profit margins doing so compel legions of aspiring authors to finally put pen (or is that stylus?) to (digital) paper and permanently blur the lines between amateurs and professionals. While they’ll still have a place in the industry, I suspect by that point, most agents will be, shall we say, a good less relevant than they’ve become accustomed to in the past.

—Scott Steinberg, DigitalTrends.com

Long-form text-only narrative will continue to thrive as it has since cavemen gathered around the fire, just as painting has thrived since Lascaux. The advent of more and richer iterations of multimodal entertainment and edification will not kill off others (either multi or single mode) in the future, just as they did not in the past, though they certainly will kill businesses with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement based on past success in a given mode.

—Richard Nash, publisher

Digital First/Print Maybe Deals Will Give Authors Leverage: Not only will traditional publishers enter into more ebook-first deals, but more digital publishing houses will emerge, across all genres. Because the latter will naturally start from a position of higher royalties, traditional publishers will have to up the ante as well. Right now, the trend is to decrease digital royalties, but when publishers ask authors to take new kinds of risks, publishers have to be willing to make it worthwhile for the author. Especially in a world where playing field is increasingly level.

—Kassia Krozser, Booksquare blogger

Trend: [Publishers] will continue to focus more resources on fewer titles, using their strengths as large-scale marketers and distributors to publish brand-names. Title count at the largest houses could drop by as much as fifty percent over the next five years. Counter trend: At the same time, self-publishing (including partnerships like the one announced recently between Author Solutions and Harlequin) will grow exponentially.

Trend: Title reduction will be most significant for new talent, with the largest houses entrusting support of new authors to a handful of editorial imprints. The editors at those imprints-editors with proven ability to choose new material successfully-will increase in value. Counter trend: Editors whose job is to handle existing talent will find their roles diminished.

Trend: As the initial sale becomes less of the focus for authors, the agent of the future will become more of a business manager who handles every aspect of an author’s career, overseeing the author’s online presence, developing sources of revenue outside of book sales such as workshops and lecture tours, and acting as the author’s publicist in between publications. Counter trend: Publishers will create free-standing departments whose services can be purchased a la carte by authors, whether that author is self-published or published by a competitor who doesn’t offer such services.
—Bob Miller, HarperStudio

Thanks to digital, there is no minimum length for a book anymore. Ebooks that are too short to be print books will become a real factor in ebook sales, opening up new opportunities for publishers but even more for authors. Short fiction is already well established in the romance genre and some major publishers have broken out stories from anthologies as separate items to be sold on Kindle. In 2010, authors and agents will discover that shorter-than-a-book works can be the subject of useful experimentation and learning through electronic publishing and, by the end of the year, it will become a frequently-employed device. Periodical media (newspapers and magazines) will also see this paid delivery mechanism as an alternative worth experimentation for them as well. After all, if a big publisher can unbundle a short story anthology to sell the individual stories as Kindle editons, why couldn’t The New Yorker sell the short fiction it publishes that way as well? This concept has been tipped by the announcement in 2009 than the web site Daily Beast will be delivering shorter books in a timely manner through electronic distribution.

—Mike Shatzkin, publishing futurist”



So ready to write your book and get it out into the world? Join us in Ubud, Bali the week before the Annual Ubud Writers Festival for all the tools you’ll need to get your book written, published and in the hands of as many readers as possible, fast, and actually earn money doing it.

Snag one of the 20 spots available asap and we’ll see you in Bali in October!

http://www.oneworldretreats.com/ubud_bali_yoga_retreat_robin_Joanna.php

Robin

Beautiful Bali