Phnom Penh


The elastic is going in my nickers, saggy draws, the only reason they don’t slide to the floor is my resolute tugging at the waste band. My hair normally a mass of thick gold has decided to spin itself into loopy wire that sticks out of my head like a thin blond Afro halo. Sigh….

It all kinda matches the other saggy bits. Mirror, mirror? I’ll just slide past you and wipe the sweat off my forehead as I lurch for the fan settings, better, it’s set on jet speed and the cool air is drying the rivulets of salty perspiration sliding down my face and back.

Make up, hummmm one look in the mirror and all I can see are the toothpaste splashes and this stranger being melted by the tropical heat. The mascara dissolves and slides off my face. Today a petite and immaculate local took to my face with a tissue after a day trotting about the markets. The sultry, stultifying, crowded, addictive markets with countless rolls of cloth, cotton, polyester, sequins, gabardine, checks, colours, a primary and paisley feast.

The days are hot the nights restful as the night noises of this straggling city arise. The karaoke somewhere down the street, the loud croaking lizard who lives just outside my room along with the buzz of tuk tuks and the hum of traffic.

Country song

Sunset over Kep hills

It’s a two hours car trip from Kep to Phnom Penh. I’d been staying in the hills near a quiet seaside town and the nights there had been empty of human noises. The first night a thunderstorm sent glittering sheets of lightening over the treetops and thunder grumbled. Crickets and frogs got excited and they sang froggy bass and cricket soprano until I was aurally hallucinating, hearing sentences and words repeated, my mind trying to make sense and find a pattern in the cacophony.


Evening comes early in the tropics a long sleep under a mozzie net meant I was up at dawn, writing, drawing mandalas and yogaring, stretching, sipping water, cutting Rambutans, the most delicious fruit known to mankind, the texture is smooth like lychees, smooth and sweet, hummm. The first bite on this fruit is manna. The critters silent, exhausted by their night time chorusing. I could hear distant power tools and hammering along with the voices of men rolling over the treetops.


On the trip back to Phnom Penh I tucked my earphones into my ears and listened to a new playlist. Ben Weaver brushed my ears with his emotional and ethereal song Glass Doe I got a lump in my throat as I remembered a long ago love like it was yesterday.



IMG_0006_4 IMG_0008_4

I’m sitting In a Phnom Penh café not embracing the heat, writing this in the delicious cool of planet pillaging air conditioning. I’m thinking of my new beginnings in this city. Beginnings that bring me to the god of beginnings Ganesha, the man with the elephants head, who is both the god of scholars, writers and of beginnings. My friend Penny was in India beginning a new moment when she had a vision but what is a vision that is rooted in the body? She felt great big ears embracing her from behind, she felt embraced, held, safe and to this day a look of unlined contentment envelops her when she speaks of it.

The days here are trickling down my body and soaking my clothes. Sometimes the winds come like giant entities squalling and fighting in and with the air just before the rain. The rain comes suddenly, in an instant soaking hair limp, mudding feet and my skin tingles with joy from the sudden change in temperature. We stand, the locals and I under shelter, there is no moving about while the elements quarrel, we stand under dense tangles of electrical wires that sway dangerously in the gale force stormette.

I told my friends here that I would be back when the rains came and the day I arrived the pressure dropped rain blanketed the city under a rainbow. The pot holes fill with brown water. The monsoon storms caress and embrace the land, make the hard rice grow and make the air fill with steam as the sun claims the road pools.

Flight through Angels


The flight from Singapore to Phnom Penh was full, a small plane and takes less than two hours. Usually I ask for an isle seat so I can stretch and walk about between movies without disturbing people. Now I have a window seat, a cramped and polyester window seat. As the plane rises I can see the cargo boats off shore of Singapore. I can see lines of roads and then clouds, piles of clouds, white clouds catching the afternoon sun.

My legs are stiff and I can’t straighten them to stretch but in compensation the little window flickers with flecks of light, little golden motes little angels bumping into my flying metal box. Food arrives, plastic water with its plastic nothingness wetting my lips, rice and fish in a plastic box, flakes of fish in a Thai curry the rice yellow with sauce. I wish I wasn’t hungry but I am and the fish is warm, and soft in my mouth, the rice is harder the texture slightly chewy. Scoop, chew swallow, scoop, chew swallow.

Dry skin, stiffness forgotten suddenly as we descend I see rice paddies of Cambodia appear like lines of jewels in the sun and the distant tangle of a city that goes on for ever.

My own private feeling..


Private enemy number one is the very self that cranks up your thoughts. It’s never been the case that anyone can stop their thoughts but you can give them less power over your actions. How you feel, the hormones and neurotransmitters you generate are all, every last molecule of them, the direct result of thoughts riding on your beliefs and resulting perceptions. If you allow your thoughts to colour your perceptions and direct your actions you will get really emotional and often sick.  I’m not a great fan of emotions, I’ve had a few in my life, life changing emotions that I have thoroughly believed at the time but now that I look back on them I can see that I really didn’t have to act in the way I did, I could have chosen more astutely.

I was listening to some friends play music in a pub in the fair village of Balmain.  A Good Looking Man (a GLM) came into the pub and the connection was instant, we danced, we played verbally and he bought me a white wine. It was one of the most enjoyable nights I have ever had. It got late, past my bedtime so I picked up my bag and left. The GLM followed me out not really believing that I was actually leaving, without his number, without me giving him mine. Heavens to betsy what possessed me? I had been through a rough divorce and part of the way I dealt with it was to tease the threads of reality out of any situation, by meditating by questioning why I connected with anyone at all. By attempting to look at people as they are rather than through the filters of my own insecurities.

GLM was just my type, attentive, masculine, a great dancer, generous on the night but even though I did enjoy him and felt really drawn to him I walked away. I still to this day don’t really know why but it is an action I love about myself, I got a great night’s sleep, I felt my emotions on the night as suggestions rather than compulsions and having acted without that compulsion I followed an inner prompt.

GLM was a great teacher in impermanence. What remains is not the temporary dalliance that would have most likely faded into a shade of memory but a glimpse of myself beyond the imperative of emotions’ compulsions.

This is not to say I am immune to emotions. There are seven basic emotions that are coded onto all humans faces, anger, fear disgust, contempt, surprise, joy and sadness. Even if you are not feeling an emotion per se then assuming that emotion on you face will start the chemical process towards experiencing it. Just as good posture creates happy chemistry and bad posture creates unhappy chemistry. So no one is immune from the almost tidal pull of emotions but with practice you can free yourself from the tyranny of emotions to being fully human and exercising Free Will.

So how can you achieve distance from your emotions? Meditation is good and that doesn’t have to be a classic sit and struggle meditation. It can be absorption in the moment that dissolves your self and eventually allows you freedom to choose.  Exercise is a great balancer. Listening to music, walking in a natural environment all balance your emotional chemistry. But the most effective tool is self examination asking yourself why you believe something. It takes a great deal of courage to change and it takes time.



As within so without


I’m back in Sydney attempting to sort out the debris and detritus of my desertion of Sydney for Asia last year. It’s been a strange journey I’ve placed myself in scenarios that reflected my first family, seen the weather patterns on this little planet of ours morph into sinister patterns of the planet shaking off the increasingly infective infestation that is our heritage and found a place to work in Cambodia. Storms, unseasonal temperatures or rainfalls, flooding, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes , etc. I met them all in the months I travelled, Europeans telling me the Scandinavian countries are having an uncharacteristically warm winter, Americans complaining about changes, storms and droughts. Here is a link to a USA summary:

Weather patterns change daily but climate change is slower if we look at the trends you will find that change has accelerated in the last 40 years exponentially. I’m sure that those of you who are reading this are aware of these problems and doing what you can to recycle, limit your car emissions, wear warm clothing rather than as a knee jerk reaction turn on or up the heater as it gets colder.

Often in working as a therapist with men and women on an individual basis I’ve noted that generally change comes with a crisis. An accident or illness galvanises a man to take stock to exercise and eat more healthily. The death of a friend or relative often moves you to consider your own mortality and how you live your life. A broken limb puts you on notice to strengthen your body. A personal crisis can become a turning point towards personal evolution. The word crisis comes from late Middle English denoting the turning point of a disease: medical Latin, from absorbs ‘decision’, from krinein ‘decide’. The general sense ‘decisive point’ dates from the early 17th century.

Do you need a crisis to change personally and act locally to effect a better environment within yourself and in your environment? Each of you has an area of understanding that engages your interest, absorbs and engages you so that you lose your sense of individual self absorption enabling you to act with compassion and dispassion. To change you need to consider your beliefs and take action. It can be as easy as suddenly understanding something that has influenced you or a more brutal brush with death.
Here are some inspiring links:
A talk on inspiration:

A man who could help clean up the environment with fungi:
A young student with ideas to clean up the plastic in the ocean.

What interests me is what hold each of you back from action and activity towards positive change. The main emotions that cloud your judgement and contaminate your actions are:

E Emotions are strong feelings deriving from your circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. They are an instinctive or intuitive feeling that leads to reactions as distinguished from responses that are reasoner knowledge based : responses have to be based on historical insight, not simply on emotion. The origin of the word comes from the 16th century meaning public disturbance, my point being the belief in and actions resulting from private emotions more often than not lead to public disturbances.

If you do not give yourself some time for introspection and question your conditioned beliefs then you will react to your thoughts as real and feel small and vulnerable and in the prison of that self deception catapult into the most primary of emotions FEAR and perpetrate hostility to those around you and more especially towards your most sacred possession on this planet your body and the body of your home EARTH.

Tokay gecko


Imagine yourself groaning in a loud, deep vibrating voice, saying, “Ello owe, ello owe, ello owe, ello owe.” Then occasionally adding a short guttural breathy sigh, “Ello owe, erhhhhh.”

Well, if you had been in my room in Phnom Penh at about 6:30pm that’s what you would have heard. It sounded like someone saying Hello Joe in a northern Russian accent. Maybe it’s a ring tone, I though. So I called out, “This has to stop right now, ”after, “Ello owe” had toned about 10 times. Then it dawned on me that the sheer drop outside my window probably meant it was not a phone ring tone. My hosts said nothing about my “This has to stop right now, ” loud and annoyed exclamation and I later found out the noise comes from a large lizard who every night and occasionally during the day exclaims, “Ello owe.” Our lizard starts his rounds outside my room, he sounds like he’s inside the wardrobe, then he moves to another location. It seems to do a regular circuit occasionally ending up outside my window at sparrows fart. I think I’ll record it and actually use it as my ring tone, at least that way I won’t feel so stupid.

Our lizard, the Tokay, is regarded as a lucky, lucky sign, especially if it gives multiple calls. It groans and sighs its way through the neighbourhood, I can sometime hear it in the distance. Its mating call, the loud croak, is variously described as sounding like token, gekk-gekk or Poo-Kay. The gecko’s call is responsible also for a slang name given to it by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam: the f- you lizard.

The Tokay is treated with deference and respect unlike other wild or stray animals in Cambodia. In fact there are hardly any stray animals in Cambodia. It is a very practical society and it has lost a lot of its language and culture after Polpot. There are fewer words for emotions in Khmer, than in other languages, basic emotions yes but nuances and differences are difficult, for instance the difference in degree between sadness and grief is vast, yet it is difficult to differentiate here. Average westerners perhaps have access to 16,000 words while the average Khmer will have maybe 8,000.

On the other hand, the soap operas, the incredible soaps are worth looking at, for information about the unconscious emotional forces running under the radar in Cambodia. My first impression is schmaltz, gold costumes, long, long, long, did I say long? crying jags, really snotty extensive crying episodes usually the result of lost love, death, betrayal, the usual story line, but played out in fancy outfits. All the outfits are a Versace wet dream, the accompanying sound track is over the top treacly, swelling bosoms, causing emotional fallout.

I have friends here attempting to help Cambodia find its cultural roots, its musical soul and in exploring the musical culture with them I’ve listened to more torch and sentimental, mawkish songs than I care to remember. Maybe it’s that the population is undereducated and popular culture reflects an unsophisticated access to emotional intelligence, but I suspect it also reflects a desire to let the past go and get on with life practically. I certainly can’t imagine personally what the effect of years of terror and oppression is like but to survive maybe emotions are too unkind and a hindrance to getting on with it.

The Big Smoke Phnom Penh

My time in Sri Lanka is done for now. In the final week I travelled to Galle in the south of Sri Lanka and took in the buddhist ambience. The huge temple Yatagar near Galle is set in the middle of a rice paddy and wines amongst huge outcrops of rock. The temple itself contained images that were redolent of Hindu mythology. My Tuk-tuk driver had never been there and was a buddhist so this handsome and courteous young man and myself climbed steps, hot from the sun and circled the Buddha’s. We visited the inner sanctum where the walls were decorated with the Hindu-look alike — gods though they may have been Buddhist deities. The line between images, the line between religions is thin yet it has divided these communities in the past. Sri Lanka is becoming a tolerant society, the old prejudices although still in evidence are slipping into history.

I travelled to the south where the tourist trails are well trod, the jungle beach of Galle, the south west coast with its resorts and beaches reveals many a sunburnt European in unfamiliar clothes and walking sandals sweating in the heat. Mostly they stay near the coast.

Near a place called Betota a Sri Lankan family the Bawas, created incandescently beautiful gardens. Geoffrey Bawa was an architect and his home Lungaganga is a treat, (if you are interested I have posted an album on my Facebook page). I had dinner there in solitary splendour, overlooking a lake while a storm played out in front of me. Great folks of lightening slashing the star burdened sky as I slowly ate a hot curry, I gotta say I was a very happy camper.

I caught a train back to Colombo and spent a half day getting essentials like haircut and drinks with friends realised. I love my new hairdresser Ravi from Crown Hair I believe he is one of the best cutters in the world and finally I have hair that does not feel like a woollen hat. I also got one side of my head shaved, it looks kinda punk and rather fabulous if I do say myself. I am too beyond caring what I look like opting for comfort in preference to attractiveness and I love life when comfort and looking look coincide. 5 hours in a bus, my bladder was very well behaved but I was a tad dehydrated and I arrived back in Udekki. My final days there were filled with amazing people, sun, beaches, yoga. Now I’m propped up on a bed writing this in the middle of Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh is a crowded city, like many asian cities it’s grubby at the edges, poor facilities sit next to or underneath mansions. The food is cheap if you stay away from the western places. They are identifiable by their slick finishes, modern signage, design elements and AC. Because Cambodia is still slightly under the sway of French influences the coffee is great and besides AC, good Wi-Fi are good elements in a day. Today I got a cheap new phone, 2 sim cards (don’t ask) and phone credit. I went to a Smart shop very green and AC’ed to arctic levels. Like all Asian experiences and language differences it was funny. I asked,”Why am I getting two sim cards? What is the point?”

In a society where more is better the fact that the phone had the capacity to hold 2 sim cards was a plus, Sim 1 and Sim 2 both with completely differing numbers in the one phone, “Why?” I wanted to whine on but didn’t just wakled away a few dollars poorer and non the wiser, still that’s been my experience of life in general.

Shadows and Light

Photo on 2-12-15 at 2.01 PM

I’ve been back in Sydney for a few weeks and I’ll be leaving to go back to Sri Lanka, this weekend the 15th February. After a month in Sri Lanka I will fly to Cambodia to spend time with friends and help with some children in an orphanage.

I am at a crossroads in my life, the vicissitudes of accidents and genetic heritage leave me at time breathless with struggle. A struggle to walk sufficiently often and far to keep fit, a struggle to fit into the model of ageing well. Cheerfully disappearing into the philosophical blanket gained by a deep yoga practice, good eating habits, a voracious appetite for music and books. Soooo my chemistry is balanced at a neutralish pH, which augers well for my continued good health, except for the run away inflammation that swells my knees, inherited apparently.

On one level I’m ageing really well, calm, self sufficient, great friends, sleep well etc. I recently attempted to Skype a friend overseas and was confronted by my own image peering back at me. A pair of specks perched on my nose, hair recently washed and untamed. I look tired, yet it is only mid morning.

I scrutinised some images of me taken as I was teaching and they showed me that my posture is not what I thought it was and that my back is still majorally contracted around the disc bulges on the left side of my lumbar. Much as I still see myself as my younger self, these images betray that self deception. The widening hips, the flappy arms, the lop-sided back. It’s led me to a rock and a brick wall. Back fat freaks me out more than pretending I’m my slimmer self.

I can list the merits of age with actuarial precision, yep, wiser, yep don’t care what others think of me, but you know deep down I care about how I see myself and somehow I have to jive the deceitful image of the cultured slim rock chic yogi with the back fat and the floppy bits. The bigger the dissonance between the two images the greater my humph with myself.

“Does my bum look big in this?” Well, the succinct answer to myself is, “Yeah,It looks big in anything ‘cause it is big, my bum that is.“ You might think that having something resembling a meditation practice I’d be less prone to self deception of abnegating the truth.

I’m prone to holier than thou thinking, and the only way I can sustain that is to create a self image that I can tolerate. Perhaps it would be better to have less back fat, I could do that by restraining the satisfaction of my appetites, one less piece of toast, one more back extension, revving up my life style to capacity when I really only have the fuel and fortitude for minor excursions accompanied by a low tolerance for whatever I deem stupidity, I did mention a tendency to arrogance and self deception.

Deep down I really believe that I am not on this dusty little planet to be a one-woman judge and jury I’ll leave that to the zealots who have the stupidity to believe and act on their unquestioned beliefs, feelings and impulses.

So to my own little puddle of self contemplation, I am going forth into the world carrying my back fat under a tee-shirt, hauling my dimpled legs along encased in tight tights, disguising the bulges and for brief moments I will be blissfully unaware of my inner dilemmas and laugh with my friends under Equatorial skies and tell silly stories about stupidity, mine predominately and all in all have a jolly time in this world of shadows and light. I wonder if I can photoshop all my pictures, speaking of shadow and light, and at least in the one dimensionality of a photograph maintain my self deception, probably not, I don’t know how to use photoshop except to make peoples faces into swirly patterns and that doesn’t help, funny though.


I had a dream last night, a vivid saga. I can’t remember the story, as is the way with dreams, but I do remember, the Meercats. Two baby Meercats had become entangled in a cloth, for some reason I decided to help. I got down onto all fours. The two babies trapped now apparently in two separate cotton bags rolled off. Suddenly Meercat adults squared off between me and the babies in bags. Their teeth bared snarling perilously close to my nose. I remained strangely unafraid, almost unaffected but really still, just looking at them. Suddenly the atmosphere changed and the Meercats relaxed and went about their business, there was no sign of the pups. One of the Meercats stood up tall, as they do, at least In David Attenbrough documentaries they do, and said to me, in the cut glass accent of a handlebar moustached, English peer, “You’ve been living dangerously for faaaar too long, it’s time to desist.”

I’ve been reading a book, The Strangers Child, it’s about the sweep of time and memory. Set in pre World War I years it moves through to the present day. One character said in reference to her memoirs, “It’s a pity I took so long to write them. Anything interesting that happened to me, happened after 6 o’clock and after G and T, its difficult to remember. ”

The story was peppered with Gin and Tonic episodes in stately Victorian gardens, shabby terrace houses, cottage kitchens and gentlemen’s clubs. Fairly soon I return to Australia from Sri Lanka and I was enjoying my last nights at, a tropical paradise resort. I probably haven’t had a G and T for 30 years but last night fresh prawns, and chilli pasta and good company called forth my recent reading history and I was given the mother of all G and T’s. The warm tropical evening drenched in sea breezes made me sleepy and maybe gave me my colourful and advice-full dream.

When I stretch the back of my neck long, which I do while standing 100’s of times a day I can feel the pull of my spinal muscles right down my spine. My neck gets long my weigh redistributes to my heels and my posture elongates. When I first started to correct my posture like this I felt like a Meercat, with its head poked up above the African Veldt.

I’m coming home to Sydney very soon to see my friends and family, check in on my house and generally have a knees up on Australia Day. Have I been living dangerously? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing? If I do desist from living so precariously then how do I do that? Do I really want to? That pesky Meercat, with his English Peer authoritative voice may be relevant, in an inner voice sort of way, or a G and T hallucination. Who knows? I know that in the last few days I have travelled to Kandy in Sri Lanka and stayed at two beautiful yoga retreats and returned to the sea side with a huge sense of gratitude that I have travelled so far, changing over time from an opinionated teenager, to an addled 20 something, a hormonal cascade in my thirties, ambitious in my 40’s, second winding my way through the 50’s and now I really don’t know what I am and it is of no consequence. Each moment turns my breath and my diminished appetites towards regulating and caring for my body and being. Now I, at least have the insight to say yes to what life brings and ask of life with no expectations of receiving, I think I might finally be getting out of my own way, I hope my inner Meercat approves.