Today, I am so pleased to welcome Author, Ellie Dias! This lady has an awesome story to tell and I am thrilled to share it with you. We get a short Q&A, a glance at the author, and a glance at the book. Get ready to enjoy…
1. Why did you choose to travel to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet?
My passion for Buddhism led me to develop an intense curiosity about the traditional cultures of the Himalayan people where simplicity and content reign. I wanted to see firsthand just how the people in the Land of Happiness fare. Were they truly at peace, totally content regardless of their station in life or lack of prosperity? And what lessons could I embrace to simplify my own life?
2. What’s the most important thing readers will learn from Big Red?
There were several, but here are three important ones.
The first: Acknowledge what you have control over, what you don’t, and the wisdom to know the difference. Every moment spent trying to control things is a moment lost.
The second: Suffering and stress is often caused by a drive for perfection and a desire for more.
The third: Happiness is an inside job.
3. Why is Buddhist philosophy so important to you?
I find the Buddhist teachings at the center of my self-discovery and spiritual journey. They offer me the possibility of a simpler more authentic lifestyle.
One of Buddhism’s key tenets is loving-kindness and compassion for all sentient beings, starting with one’s self. It’s been noted that this belief poses all the Buddha’s teachings in the palm of your hand. Another guiding principle is non-attachment/clinging to persons, places, and things. When I put this into play it helps me navigate through life with more ease, less stress, and less suffering. Another important one to me is the impermanence of everything. This opens my heart to be grateful for each present moment before the door closes.
Hoping to find simplicity and contentment, Dias planned her trip of a lifetime to the Himalayas to the nth degree. Result: everything that could go wrong on her spiritual journey, did.
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Ellie’s trip to the Himalayas evolved into a spiritual journey of self-inquiry and soul-searching. She learned a lot about herself over the course of 15,000 miles, and her best teacher was Big Red. Every step of the way, she kept trying to tell Dias something.
Seeing others struggle to lift Big Red made her painfully aware that her obsessive-compulsive nature, and rigid concept of how life should be, does not line up with Buddhist philosophy.
Traveling in a land where simplicity reigns, Big Red was a symbol of how attached she was to what matters least. With each opening and closing, each lift and drag, Ellie was more preoccupied with how to hang on to her must-haves instead of being in the moment. She almost lost sight of the meaning of her journey.
Venturing into the unknown was not the perfect journey that Ellie had imagined. Despite months of planning, she was frequently pushed off course by her perfectionism. From the moment Ellie attempted to book her flights, she was confronted with obstacles at every turn. From a bankrupt travel agency to a missed flight, from a snafu at a foreign bank that ends in a tense discussion with the Chinese authorities to struggling through her first few days without luggage, each day seemed to be another lesson in letting go that she had to learn. Life became one long trek through a reality that was mired in the depths of a cosmic education in Murphy’s Law.
In the face of intense vanity and obsessions, Ellie also learned a profound lesson or two from the people and cultures she encountered. Their simple lifestyle only leaves enough time for what is necessary. Everything is linked to their spirituality. Compassion, love, and respect for all sentient beings is ingrained in them.
Slowly—very slowly—Ellie began to get the picture. A bag of trail mix here, a Waterpick there, she began to let go of the things that had weighted her down, physically and emotionally, on her trip of a lifetime. But would it be enough?
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Ellie Dias is a devotee of Buddhist philosophy, meditation and yoga. Her career has been focused on health and wellness as a biology professor, pediatric nurse, clinician working with families whose babies were at risk for SIDS, and division VP of a women’s health care company. Her debut book, Big Red, was inspired by a solo journey to the Himalayas. It’s a tale of perseverance and humor as she struggles to jettison her Western ways while lugging a 95-pound suitcase jampacked with her bare necessities.
A watercolor and pastels artist, she lives with her husband Ron, and their dog Roxie in Massachusetts.
Follow Ellie online…
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The Big Red Suitcase is missing in action, floating somewhere in cyberspace to parts unknown. Unsure when we will meet again, I’m halfway around the world in downtown Bangkok at midnight in the midst of a heated discussion with a strange man over what kind of underwear I should buy. As he dangles a pair of skimpy colored panties in my face, I think, “How the hell did I end up here after all those months spent planning my trip of a lifetime, my spiritual journey to the Himalayas?”
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“With an innovative and creative mix of memoir and travelogue, Dias shares her journey of personal discovery. Big Red is an honest, funny, thoughtful, and thought-provoking look at the way we think, grow, learn, and embrace life. A fascinating exploration of a part of the world many of us have only imagined.”
~ Margot Kinberg, author of Publish or Perish, and B-Very Flat, and associate professor
“Light, frank, yet contemplative, this is a book that blossoms with its rich descriptions. Big Red, the suitcase, challenges Ellie as she searches for simplicity. Their journey together will make you chuckle, groan in sympathy, howl with laughter, ponder with Ellie, and smile in delight.”
~Shireen Jeejeebhoy, author of Lifeliner: the Judy Taylor Story, Concussion is Brain Injury, She, and more.
The long-awaited Elephant Safari Ride
I have a dramatic vision of the elephant scooping me up with its trunk and deftly placing me on its back, just like in the circus. Instead I step onto the platform with the help of my mahout, or elephant driver. He tells me her name is Mumbai as I cautiously step into the basket. He situates me close to the elephant’s head, straddling her with my legs, which are hanging out the sides of the basket. It almost seems as if he is trying to ensure that all 100 pounds of me can keep the entire basket balanced atop this lightweight of 12,000 pounds. Not possible, I think with amusement and doubt, but he is so intent on making sure I am secure and safe that I don’t worry. As we lurch our way into the jungle I have an adrenaline rush and want to pinch myself. I’m riding a real elephant into a real jungle.
Three hours later we head back. I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen any exotic lions or tigers, or anything else of much interest. But it’s not over yet. My guide asks if I want to ride Mumbai back to home base. I assume he means for me sit behind him on the elephant’s neck. Although this isn’t on my bucket list of things to do before I die, being in the moment, I respond with a yes.
I realize my guide is making no attempt to join me. I assume he’s going to use a rope to lead Mumbai back. No. He hands me the elephant goad he used. Unnerved, I have no idea how to direct an elephant, with or without an elephant goad. This was definitely not listed in my travel itinerary under must-do.
I lean down to hand the guide my camera so he can take my picture. The picture taken, I wait for him to lead the way. Instead he jogs a few feet ahead, snaps one more picture, then takes off running, with my camera. Are you kidding me? What kind of guide abandons a tourist in the middle of a jungle, let alone one sitting atop a 12,000-pound elephant? How the hell am I supposed to find my way out? Fear washes over me. I blow out a series of short breaths. My mind is busy cataloging the possible dangers. What if the elephant gets spooked by one of those as yet unseen Bengal tigers or a sloth bear or a jackal? What if I fall off and get trampled? Surely the guy is coming back?
After a while, my so-called guide still nowhere to be seen, I realize I am alone. Totally alone. On top of a huge beast. In the middle of nowhere. Feel free to laugh if you want. Petrified and fuming, I have no option other than to cling to the elephant’s neck. Something tells me sitting upright and maintaining balance is key. Instead I’m half on, half off her neck, grasping her long strands of hair as we go down a steep hill. The basket tilts at such an angle that I feel as if I’m about to be shot out of a cannon.
As we move forward, holding on with a life-or-death grip, my legs flailing against her sides, I pray that Mumbai has the way committed to memory. Elephants never forget, right?
Thank you so much for stopping by for a visit. I certainly enjoyed today’s guest & her post, as I’m sure you did. Please support Ellie with likes, shares, and comments below. And don’t forget to check out her debut book, BIG RED!
Until next time, lovelies………………………Happy Reading & Reviewing!!