Friday, December 11, 2009


“Meditation heals, makes you whole: and to be whole is to be holy. Holiness has nothing to do with belonging to any religion…It simply means that inside you, you are entire, complete, nothing is missing, you are fulfilled. You are what existence wanted you to be. You have realized your potential.”

It was great to arrive on Vamizi Island to find a yoga teacher living there, ready to take us through our paces.

Leela had just done her teacher training in Uganda and was looking forward to trying out her newly learnt skills on us.

Every morning we carried the yoga mats to a thatched sala looking out onto a bright sun rising over the beach. Each morning I felt more and more at peace as we headed back for breakfast followed by another swim in the clear, blue water.

Leela was also into Poi which she'd learnt in Goa.

Poi is a performance art employing two balls suspended from a length of flexible material held in the hand and swung in circular patterns. Poi actually originates from the Maori people of New Zealand and was performed primarily by women.

Leela was fantastic at Fire Poi and helped me with a few simple moves. It inspired me enough to take Poi lessons in the park at lunchtime, under the stern stare of Big Ben!

Osho championed active meditation in a quest to calm our busy 21st century minds. Each programme consisted of shaking, humming or dancing followed by a period of relaxation and stillness.

Maybe Poi followed by meditation would be a winning combination?

Leela was open, positive and feather light in her body.

She was an inspiration.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Innocence in Relationship

"Where there's laughter, there's God. Where there's seriousness, there's ego.'

Innocence in relationship is a very rare thing.

It means consciously, moment by moment, resisting the habit of overlaying the world with our own agendas.

Agendas are formed by the mind and take many shapes and sizes, from marrying someone through insecurity or the need to have children, to using a friendship for our own personal gain. Our layers are sometimes so thick and varied that we're often not able to get the to truth of the matter, so adept are we at justifying our actions and covering up the things we don't want to look at.

Accepting responsibility for every single one of our thoughts and feelings offers us a great opportunity to get clean, but even this is a big call. Often it takes another to act as a mirror for us.

Many exchanges between tourists and indigenous people are based on agendas. A friendship may be engineered for financial gain or a photograph. Agendas can be a challenge to avoid, but a starting point is to at least be honest about them.

The children of Ibo have have not been primed to see tourists as a source of revenue. Their innocence disarmed me and gave me the license to open up.

Slowly, in all walks of life, an awareness is being brought into how we relate and the world of tourism is no exception to this. Bit by bit, at what sometimes seems like a snails pace, we are learning from the blundering reactivity of the past.

How often have you made a sarcastic joke to a youngster only to get an open, blank expression back? Children are such valuable mirrors.

How many people have you met who retain the innocence of a child but the awareness of a sage?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Silversmith's Project

"If you wish to increase the speed with which you are evolving, seek to observe more".
CwG, Book 3
Neale Donald Walsh

The old Portuguese fort on Ibo Island, which once housed hundreds of African slaves, is now home to a very different activity.

As you step through the entrance the 'tap, tap, tapping' of the silversmith's tools can be heard echoing through the rooms. Passed down from father to son over hundreds of years, this craft was first learned from ancient Indian Silversmiths who settled on the island. Traditionally, Portuguese coins were melted down and used as raw material but nowadays the artisans have access to a supply of silver and are able to distribute their wares internationally.

It is delicate work and the Silversmith's sit for hours working on just one piece which can take up to two weeks to complete. I love the flowing, curly patterns of this intricate jewellery. It is very feminine and I bought a beautiful necklace that looks like a line of daisies strung together.

Having spent a few Monday evenings in the basement of a jewellery shop in Pimlico, with eye shield on and blow torch in hand, I could see that the techniques that they were using were very ancient. I could appreciate the skill and concentration that goes into the process.

Ibo's silver tradition dates back to the 12th century when explorers from the Arabian peninsula sailed across the Indian Ocean bringing their trade and traditions to the shores of East Africa. For the next 800 years, Ibo Island became a port of call for Chinese, Indian, British and Portuguese explorers. This coming together of cultures gave rise to a fascinating blend of cultures that is still visible in the designs of the jewellery.

The craftsmen are highly revered amongst local community members and the intensity and seriousness they bring to their work is palatable.

The Silversmith's Project is just one of the small but sustainable projects managed by Ibo Island Lodge, the 'brain-child' of Fiona and Kevin Record. The principle aim of the lodge, from its inception, was to provide clear economic benefits to the people on Ibo Island.

22 years ago now I was sitting on the back of an old, clapped-out motorbike darting in and out of the chaotic traffic that makes up the streets of Old Delhi. I was visiting a number of small scale Oxfam projects dotted around the ever-increasing shanty towns. For my final year dissertation I had chosen to answer the question:

"NGO Aid, a good way to channel resources?"

What better place than India to find an answer..?

NGO stands for 'non-governmental organisation' and these groups are characterised by a small scale, 'bottom-up' approach to development which is known for targeting the poorest of the poor without the wastage that often occurs with larger scale work. So often World Bank aid is imposed, has a political agenda and is inappropriate to the environment. NGO's roll up their sleeves at grass-roots level and really engage intimately with the people and their issues.

Small scale development focuses on the skills of the people that are already in place and tends towards empowerment rather than control.

It is great to see this approach being implemented with such care on Ibo through high-end tourism.

To see more of the Ibo jewellery visit

Sunday, November 22, 2009


"Why mistake the weather for the sky?"

Lyrics from Kirtana
Song: The Train Song
Album: Falling Awake

Friday, November 20, 2009


"True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God."
Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

Friday, November 13, 2009


"Writers don't need tricks or gimmicks or even to be the smartest fellows on the block. A writer needs to be able to just stand and gape at a sunset or an old shoe - in absolute and simple amazement."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Open Door

"You are that awareness, disguised as a person".
ECKHART TOLLE, Stillness Speaks

The fact that we reach the fort just before sunset is a bonus. The white cross throws a long, dark shadow over the roof as the light of the sinking sun sparkles on the surface of the water. Lined up at regular intervals, the large black canons point ominously seaward. The surrounding palm trees sway back and forth in the warm breeze and two dhows (African sailboats) can be seen passing each other on the far horizon.

Down in the courtyard, the bright green leaves of a huge almond tree contrast against the blue sky above.

The walls of each room lining the quadrangle are thick, and bright sunlight streams through the narrow slits and round portholes. Each room has a story to tell.

Dollar’s quiet but firm voice cuts through the silence. Named the Fort of Sao Joao, the building’s unusual star shape was decided by the Portuguese, he explains. Designed to accommodate up to 300 people in the days when this island was linked in with the slave trade, the dark, cramped lower chambers were used as slave holding points.

Dollar Karingiramambo, our Zimbabwean guide, is adept at weaving past and present into fascinating anecdotes and stories. But today the words aggravate me like an open wound.

I wonder off from the group with my camera.

The sounds of the words feel unnecessary and intrusive. Real communication after all, needs no words. I often wonder whether more caring is done for yourself and 'the other' when sitting, silently.

Just now, the shadows, the light, the vibration and the play of colours is more than enough.

Feeling takes over and the stillness is overwhelming....

Experiences like this remind me of how lucky I am. Just a moment of presence makes up for days spent in the pain of illusion.

These moments make me aware that clarity and confidence is more than possible, in fact, that anything else is short-changing myself.

The door is always open and beckoning for me to create this feeling in every moment of my life...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recognising Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shifting Sands

"The word art implies putting everything in its right place. If you understand the meaning of that word, the real art is not painting pictures, but the art of putting your life in its proper place, which is to live harmoniously. When you have put everything in yourself in its right place, you are free. Putting everything in its right place is part of intelligence. You will say we are giving a new meaning to that word intelligence. One must. Intelligence implies reading between the lines, between the words, between two silences, between speech, listening with your mind all the time alert to listen. You hear not only with the ear, but also without the ear".
Freedom from the Known

I always feel so impressed with the way some people are able to create beautiful homes and calm spaces for others to to come and be together. Relaxation with just a smattering of style.

Having travelled to and stayed in hundred's of beautiful lodges, camps and boutique hotels in both Africa and India, an appreciation of what makes a place stand out in one's memory starts to emerge.

Why does the essence of a place remain with you long after you have left?
Why, when asked 'what was so special' is it often difficult to articulate?
And how is it that one person may really 'get' a place whilst the next remains relatively untouched?

Tourism pioneers Fiona and Kevin Record stumbled upon Ibo Island by chance about 10 years ago..

"We will never forget that first arrival. Under dhow sail at night with phosphorous bouncing off the water we slipped silently into the ancient harbour of Ibo. The trade buildings reflected off the sea and in the moonlight Ibo appeared to us like a lost city."

In 2006 they opened Ibo Island Lodge.

History plays an important part in the feel of a place. The lodge is made up of three mansions, each over a century old, with walls a metre thick and high, lofty ceilings. It sits on the edge of a beautiful bay dotted with fishing boats. Bright green palm trees sway in the wind and frangipani trees creep and flow around the balcony pillars.

Ibo Island Lodge has a special energy.

My room was blue (of course) and called Nkwazi meaning 'moon'.

It was straightforward but elegant. It was the sort of room that you can't hide from yourself in as it just seems to reflect a truer picture of you than what the mind spins out. The pieces of furniture had been beautifully hand-made by the local community using indigenous teak and mahogany.

Being here was like trying on a pair of brand new shoes in a shop only to find that the leather is already creased in all the right places, moulding snugly around the heels and giving space for the toes to spread.

There were excursions organised, which were all great, but once the the mind has taken a back seat, there is no need to go anwhere. One just feels like making the most of the break in self-criticism. To stay still and enjoy the surroundings...

The swimming pool...

The flowers...

The shady balcony with its view of the sea and warm wind blowing...

The roof-terrace where dinner is served, sundowners enjoyed and dusk envelops the scene with such an energy of love that there is just no more mental fighting to be done.

Laughter echoes across the bay and for a moment, time (or mind) stands still...

As I sit at my desk in a rather scruffy (but improving) flat in Hertfordshire and dwell on this beautiful place that gave me such sweet, although temporary, relief, i'm struck by how my perspective has changed.

I used to experience a great need to travel to exotic destinations. The adventure and excitement allowed me to escape from the unsatisfactory nature of my real life, which, at the time I did not acknowledge. I remember all too well that deflated feeling on return as the realisation hit me that what was possible 'out there' did not marry with the reality of the way that I was choosing to live life. Conflict between the internal and the external weighed heavily on my shoulders.

And so here is a typical Sagittarian traveller, aged 41, born on a Thursday (Thursday's child has far to go.....) and working in an industry which relies on people's need to escape, feeling that the interesting jewel is not 'out there' but 'in here'.

The definition of adventure for me, like Krishnamurti's definition of intelligence, has shifted.

Sometimes the intensity of this journey causes me to spring into one of my characteristic grooves or escape routes but then, if it was easy, where's the adventure..........?

Friday, October 16, 2009


"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
Conversations with God, Book 3
Neale Donald Walsch

Universal Wish

"I long, as every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."
Maya Angelou

Thursday, October 8, 2009


There is a rapture in me
when I think of you.
But is it love, to think?
Or is love
the moment of pure being,
when I am furthest from thought
and closest to an action,
that is not a re-action
but an arising from my heart,
a single moment
when I am not premeditated
when I can’t think of what to do
because there is no time.
I am just me, now, Love.
And you are there, loved,
standing, unknown
and unknowing me.
Something pure, golden
passes between us,
which becomes a memory in our heads
as the momentary opening, closes.
Afterwards, occasionally
there is a memory in my heart,
lightness fills me
freedom reigns,
and I am re-minded
of feelings
I never usually dare to feel.

By Joshua Wiskey

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simply Be

"Whatever you are being, you are creating."
Book 3, Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch

Sunday, October 4, 2009


"Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth, You owe me,
Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights the whole world"

Ibo Island

"I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speak."

Three years ago I was standing in a smokey East London bar having the usual post-mortem after the World Travel Market. This annual and hectic Trade Show hosts anyone who is anyone in the world of tourism.

What was the state of the market?
Who was doing well, who was struggling?
Were there any holes to fill in our company strategy?
What were other people doing that we weren't?
How can we differentiate ourselves with so many other African tour operators flooding the market place?
How are we to maintain our edge?

Tesna, one of my smiley and (thankfully) quirkey colleagues broke the flow of industry-speak with a sudden and passionate outburst about a new spot that she had been assigned to represent.

Ibo Island, being billed as the 'new Zanzibar'.

Virtually unknown to the outside world and undisturbed for centuries, this little island forms just one part of the Quirimbas archipelago in Northern Mozambique.

The words flowed out from Tesna's mouth....

It is a place where 'time stands still'.

It contains people so innocent that they are 'untouched by the greedy pull of capitalism'.

It is a 'blue paradise' where artisans work to make the most delicate of jewellery.

...and there is this beautiful lodge that overlooks a sea dotted with fisherman's boats.

Here, there are some of the deepest sunsets on the planet.

None of us had heard of it.

Only a hand full of westerners visited.

It had the makings of the sort of place where I might fall in love (with what or who I didn't know). In that moment I clocked it, resolved to visit one day and have kept it on my radar ever since.

Ibo Island is not easy to box up into words and due to this, I have been avoiding putting fingers to keyboard for months now.

How do you begin to describe a place which brings to the surface such deep emotion? Does the very act of describing something so beautiful reduce it to the finite, degrade it somehow?

True to type, I have to start from the only place that makes sense to me, from within.

How was I feeling as our light aircraft bumped down onto the grassy runway...

What was going on the inside as we pulled up next to Ibo Island domestic airport, Terminal 1....?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Sitting on the beach outside my hut, toes buried in the sand and salt drying on my skin. Sunrise and sunset, every day, nature unfolding its message...

Vamizi Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique