Amsterdam: unexpected delight and lessons


Oh Amsterdam, city of canals and wealthy merchant buildings, still waiting to offload mysterious  goods from ships traveling far across the world; what took me so long to embrace you?  Your soft lit walkways and silent ripples entice strolling feet at any hour. Candle lit pleasure cruises in your narrow canals spreads mystery except for those on whose lips and soft whispers your darkness embraces. Your plesant gables and the soft glow from apartments brings a measure of homeliness to your streets, the like I have not experienced before. 

In this city of import commodities and business deals it is of course the prostitute archetype that hits me for a new lesson. Every person has this archetypal pattern, it is the lesson of building self esteem and self respect. To learn at what price will you sell yourself, body, mind or soul. Once you build a solid self esteem you will know that no price can ever move you to sell yourself for physical or financial fear of supporting yourself. The new lesson to learn this time is another aspect to this pattern: to release the belief that you can buy a controlling stake over someone else, to be the buyer of someone else’s self esteem. 

Amsterdam, notorious for its red light district is just one straightforward example of selling ones self esteem. It is more interesting to me at this point to look at the one who thinks they can buy another person. The belief that power, money or coercion can buy you something of great value from another human being. This happens all the time obviously because people sell their gifts, time, bodies, and talents for money everyday. Those who buy these commodities must also be in a delusion over what power they really have as well. Which brings me to question where in my life do I try to control another in any form to get from them perhaps something they don’t wish to give away by their own aware choice?

To think that anything you can buy, taking possession and control over it, will ever bring you lasting happiness is absurd. I am learning to let go of any belief that I can purchase my future in any form and enjoy it. Some things will be ‘bought’, but the energy is such that co-creation with the universe is the only thing that will bring lasting meaning to any endeavor. Money can’t buy you happiness. It’s function can buy you experiences which if you choose can turn into happiness. Only a place of insecurity propounds the idea that money can make you safe and buy what you truly want. As I am learning quite directly, whatever you really need will show up just as you need it. Live true to your pure intentions and allow yourself to be taken care of. 

There is a beautiful crispness to a perfect fall morning that brings a certain aliveness to your senses.  Families on their way to school stand out in stark relief and you are able to step back into the shoes of years gone by. Remember being a child and what it really felt like to go to school. Your whole day was a mystery to you and yet you met it with clear cut awareness. Your only responsibilities were relying on your alive senses to navigate you from home to desk with as much curiosity as possible. Noticing every leaf and insect that might spark an infinitude of imaginations on your journey. The adults had arranged the world for you, activities to engage your mind and the meals are all provided. Nothing has changed except your awareness of how things are provided. On this morning I am blissfully aware of how we are taken care of by a thoughtful universe striving to brighten our days and engage our imaginations. It is only our belief that we control any of it rather than participating with it that we call ourselves a grown up. I intend to take my inner child with me and continue to learn how to be in delight and awe with the world. 

When I was 6 years old my parents divorced and consciously and unconsciously I became the man of the house and decided to be grown up. Much to my sisters everlasting chargrin, I was the golden child that could do no wrong. Of course I realize now that I had no obligation to become this new person and forgoe a part of my childhood, but I felt it was my duty to cause no problems, fix anything that needed repair and enjoy the rest of my time playing with Legos, computers and building forts. In understanding the prostitute archetype on my walks here I have to admit that I sold part of my childhood not only to my family, but as all children, to school and the system. 

I asked myself this question, what is the difference between a child living in the world where adults seem to order the world and an adult living in the world where God/Source/Universe orders the world?  To a child everything in the universe is arranged and happens as if by magic, which of course they never seriously ponder because they live in the moment and the adults are taking care of the planning and executing.  Adults think they exist in the world by their own choices and control, but forget that the universe runs along smoothly beyond their awareness and control. The contrast occurs only when something goes the other way of what you planned. Children, bless them, plan less and just go along with the flow of experiences. 

In evaluating what has been lost from that magical childlike time I have to admit quite a few important things got left behind. Each and every day had a theme, roughly a loose schedule, meals, school, play and clean up. Between those times your primary focus was to engage the world through learning and your imagination. Everything could be turned into a game and I hope you enjoyed it. We had such immense trust in everything. Look at a child in his mothers arms, or the light in a child’s eyes on the way to school. The world is perfect and something wonderful is always happening. What changed? We learned too many things. We forgot to trust that life provides for us, that playfulness and abundance is the theme for this world. This is why we have lost touch with the flow of life that runs through children, so alive and fresh. We know too much and use it to hurt ourselves. We use it to shape our thoughts and behavior instead of using the wild creativity and fearlessness of the child to breakthrough into a better existence. Learning was necessary, and remembering how to trust is again necessary. 

I plan to take all that learning, along with the mind, and put it on a side table, to be used when needed and left alone when not. I will become the master of my experience and childlike innocence will rule my reality. Knowledge is needed for without it you remain childish, but again to become childlike with wisdom is the goal. There, great masters can behave like children and enjoy this playground that was given to each of us. I implore you all to embrace your child archetype and learn to free yourself of any constraints you may have placed between you and joy. 


Thank you Amsterdam for the wonderful lessons.  I’ll be back to explore the countryside, enjoy more of your delicious cheese samples, and stroll your entertaining canal streets. Who knows, maybe I’ll even want to live on one of the 2,000 cargo ships turned houseboats that decorate your canals. Till next time. 

The wandering monk~

Exploring Bavaria and Berlin


I arrive in Bavaria on a crisp fall day and history has come to greet me. Everywhere are people in traditional clothes, leiderhosen and dirndl, and the mood is wonderful. The people are off to Munich for Octoberfest to celebrate beer and their history while I have arrived in cow country to enjoy some nature. A dear friend Florian, whom lived in Kansas City for a study abroad, has returned home to southern Germany and like our last adventure we are going to climb a mountain. Unlike that trip we will not get altitude sickness, but we will make many more memories. 

*3 years ago in Colorado at 14,000 feet

If the mildly charming smells of cow pasture do not alert you to your present situation the constant ringing of bells will. Every cow has their own bell, a matter of tradition now, and thus their merry wanderings ring across the rolling hills of vibrant green. Green is the grass here, second only to Iceland I think. Cows play an important roll in Bavaria and are a source of pride. The young cows are often sent to the alps for grazing before winter and return to the farmers adorned with a giant bell, flowers and all cleaned up if the whole herd makes the journey intact. It’s a parade where everyone gets dressed up, even the cows, and shows off. 

Florian’s aunt has a dairy farm and I get to experience milking up close and personal. It’s amazing to watch them line up to get washed and milked. Looking into their large eyes, these cows seem to stare back, trying to convey their sense of being.  They are very well taken care of and seem to enjoy a nice country side lifestyle.  The amounts of milk while varying from cow to cow average 22 liters a day. That’s roughly 500 gallons of milk a day for the 100 cows that get milked. Among the young cows, they vary from extremely shy to licking my hand with their rough tongues. There are some barn cats new to life and an extremely agile dog. As a special treat a young lady cow was going to get pregnant today. Florians cousin took special training to be able to tell when an egg was present and how to insert sperm right next to it with a long tool. Pretty interesting, but not so much excitement for any party. I’ll stick to traditional methods. 

His aunt invited us to a simple dinner after having finished their daily work while we watched. A few questions were offered my way, but Florian got to catch up with his relatives in German for the evening. After the initial odd looks upon discovering I neither ate meat or alcohol, and a joke that I should join the cows, we all settled into smiles. This was another excellent experience to practice understanding people without words. I expect more of this as I travel of course and it is quite amazing how well one can communicate with feeling alone. We might rely on words too much sometimes to express ourselves when a long hard look into another’s eyes will do more justice. Obviously when you have no words to offer and the burning desire to express yourself remains all that is left is to center yourself and radiate whatever glow you have. Such a skill is one I wish to practice and hone, so that no matter where I go I can fill a room with my presence and understand all and be understood in the only way that matters: your presence in the world. 

Florian myself and two friends hiked siplinger hof mountain on an extraordinarily nice day. Through dense woods, across narrow points and with the amazing scenery of 3 different countries we strolled. We stopped for a traditional lunch at the top where there exists a large cross, as is customary for German mountains. This consists of bread, cheese, and sausage and I added some carrots and baby tomatoes to round out my non meat cravings. Florian’s friends were glad I preferred the traditional food to a hamburger and fries. At the end I enjoyed a burst of energy as I ran down the mountain in my toe shoes to great delight. We gathered and enjoyed a radler, a mix of lemonaid and beer. Very refreshing. 

After climbing the mountain we celebrated Florians birthday.  This was the circomstance that decided for me to head to Germany first rather than Belgium.  Of course everything worked out perfectly.  I met many of his friends, and after they drank a bit, the broken english came out and we all shared slurred stories of travel.  The authentic Bavarian dish I was able to try was a wedding/funeral soup with a salty broth and noodles made from a German pancake made the day before and cut up.  It was quite delicious.  

On our last day we visited neuschwanstein (new swan stone) castle. This is the fairy tail castle that inspired Disney’s castle. Built by king Ludwig II to satisfy his romantic dreams and lifestyle. It is every bit the magic castle you could imagine. We had rather a lot of fog on our trip so enjoy the postcard photo. I’ll hopefully be back to see it again on a clear day. After all this excitement and hospitality it was time to head up to Berlin and visit another friend.

Winter is coming and that means 6 hours of sun in Berlin or nostalgic thoughts for me depending on how you count time. Bundling up, cups of tea and Christmas shopping are a few of the warm thoughts bubbling up today, but more pervasively are thoughts of my time at work. The actual work when I think about it thankfully runs from my memory, but the plesant moments and more importantly the feelings have stayed. I’ll always remember my first 6 months of work with my father for the amazing learning experience it was. I had responsibilities that extended beyond myself, I was learning the business and how to speak with people on the phone and get what I needed. I started in October so 6 years later on the mark I remember most the warm feeling of learning from my father, imitating his lifestyle, and learning to drink cappuccinos. That was our midday ritual, find lunch and finish with a cappuccino. I remember those days fondly right now, the warmth of the drink coupled with the warm environment of family and belonging to something outside myself. It is of course the romantasised memories that bring up these wonderful feelings. Those pure moments of feeling that linger over the years is all that is remembered, not the doing and so it is vital to remember that all you do should be done with great feeling and vigor. When action lacks feeling and becomes dull, moments of your life slip away into the ether never to be recalled again. Stay awake and love what you are doing and your days will be filled with joy and warmth. 

*berlin wall
The sounds of winter are the reverberating shuffle scrapes of shoes in empty courtyards and stair cases, with the sniffled overtone of breath catching the shock of chilled air. Sounds and touch are amplified in the chilled silence of winter air asking each person to notice the starkness of change before the impulse to hurry on and retreat into warmth. A beam of sun catches you in mid stride and you can almost agree that it’s not half bad. Then the shade comes back and you shudder to remember it’s actually only fall and winter is a ways off.

Berlin is a unique experience due to its history. Once liberated, east Berlin was behind the times and this made it an idea place for lovers of freedom to congregate. Rarely do you find an authentic Berliner as artists and eccentrics from the world over flock to Berlin to live cheaply and express themselves. The going slogan is “poor but sexy” and it shows. It’s a haven for eternal sub culture, the parents are over in West Berlin perhaps and not wanted here.  

Often in bombed out buildings these people would squat and over time they turned into communities focused in art or gardening and many other projects.  As money flows into the city, these spaces are now worth quite a sum, which leads to many legal problems today settling ownership, and as the city grows the atmosphere is changing.  Money tends to bring with it the conservative touch of conformity. Berlin is perhaps the last modern city where a thriving culture of poor, but free creative people exist in such boundless numbers with such freedoms and space. The people I met look back on prices and freedom of mobility 10 years ago and see that Berlin will be much different in another 10 years as unparalleled growth happens and this city rushes to meet the fate of all cities. 

Sexuality also flows freely as the normal stereotypes of repression have been set free. This was evident on the highlight of the trip. My good friend Shauna whom I was crashing with took me and some friends to Wasteland, an offshoot from the worlds biggest fetish party in Amsterdam. I only knew to expect latex and rubber and keep an open mind. I was prepared for that, but I wasn’t prepared for just how comfortable the whole thing would be. After rummaging through a friends wardrobe, it was decided I would be wearing a PVC skirt, red thigh high stockings and a fishnet shirt.

It was suggested I go in my underware only as it gets quite hot in this place, but I was needlessly hesitant to be that naked as I would soon understand that just underware would be quite conservative. Thankfully the skirt gave me some sort of costume and added a nice flare to my dance style. Besides just being comfortable I totally understand why women wear them now. The costumes at the party were magnificent and I wish I could have spent some more effort on mine, but at least my compatriots had full rubber outfits of the kind you would expect. (In hindsight I am thankful I was not living in a river of sweat)

The club is billed as the place for consenting expression of sexual freedom. The age range was more in the mid 30-50’s, but every age group was represented. Perhaps it was this added maturity that added a pervading calm and easy going flow to the whole place. There were half naked people of all sorts, men, women, tops and bottoms. There were people who seemed they couldn’t decide to dance or masterbate and kept switching between the two on the dance floor. Others were having various types of sex in other spaces. And this was very natural and okay. Many people not used to this may have been gawking and picking their jaws off the floor all night, but being there, seeing people interacting with such care and affection, even when using whips, was the biggest surprise of all. Freedom comes when you express and explore who you are and what makes you feel good. I suppose if this was too much you would have just left and thus everyone here was on the same page. I’m glad I got to see what being open with your body can look like in the extreme. Nudity and sexual expression in Europe has always been ahead of our more prudish nature where showing violence doesn’t make as much of a stir as naked bodies. 

The rest of my time in Berlin was spent exploring a little, but mainly learning Acro Yoga.  I dont know the exact definition, but Acro invoves two people performing a mix of acrobatics and yoga, with one person on the ground as the base and the other supported in the air as the flyer.  I spent 3 of my 6 nights going to practice and meeting people so I would say Berlin was like going to circus school for me.  I had been introduced to this yoga before by a couch surfer in Kansas City, but I really got to learn some things and find my balance.  I was fourtunate enough to learn both base and flying.  Experiencing both sides of this movement cultivated an amazing respect for perspective.  As a base I saw the whole movement and balance one way, then as a flyer as a completly different way.  It was quite schocking, after explaining to my flyer what I needed as a base, to have it flipped around on me and experience the reverse.  A perfect and immediate lesson in understanding that your perspective is not reality, but only your interpretation of it.

I enjoyed my time in Berlin and all the amazing people I met.  Many of whom struck an immediate chord as someone I would continue to get to know better.  As for the city, while providing a context for these personal encounters, I wasnt really moved particularily by its beauty or presence and thinking about spending winter there chills me to the bone.  But like all the amazing people who endure the winter to experience the rest of the amazing seasons, its the community of interesting young people expressing themselves and what they love that gives Berlin its unique charm.

See you next year Germany. 

P.S. I got to do 200 on the autobahn. 


Paris: World of Imagination


“Come with me 
and you’ll be 
in a world 
of pure imagination”
 – Willy Wonka

Stepping foot into Paris is like getting the golden ticket. Your dreams are about to come true and everywhere you look something has been created to delight your senses. The night air is alive, the lights, the stones, the smells all transport me back to my first experience of the world; Paris at age 16. The world was so mysterious and vast, where anything could happen right around the corner and my imagination was ripe and fresh. To my inexperienced youth, a foreign language with no responsibilities was enough to lock Paris into a pure playground of sensations. The world seems to have gotten smaller as I easily manage my way around and use simple French, yet the awe of stepping into these vaguely familiar streets fills me with joy to explore the city of love from this totally new self. Walking the night air, seeing fashionable people having drinks on the sidewalk, the familiar subway air smell and cigarette smoke, this is the Paris I remember, whose feelings are etched in my memory. 

I have traveled to many cities and countries and with each I have developed a relationship. Some were brief and memorable, some fail to make a lasting impression.  Japan left deep and profound changes in our ongoing relationship, while others like Paris, while she may not always be on your mind, can with one look, one embrace, cause all time to be forgotten as you fall back into the arms of a trusting and comfortable lover. 

As luck would have it, our apartment over looks the ever present Eiffel Tower and I am graced with laughter at the pure perfection of our situation. I am rooming with my best friend from college and unofficial adopted family, Robin and his wife Gabriella. Despite the late hour and the 10 hours of travel, it’s time to eat. My trip has been likened to the movie Eat, Pray Love in the sense that I plan to eat in France, meditate in India and well I may not be searching for external love, but I am going to Bali and I may find love. After stumbling in and out of brasseries trying to find an open establishment we land ourselves a table and a few entrées.

Ah Paris, you never fail to amaze the senses. The food that arrives knocks me flat: A Classic French onion soup (funny how the best one in the city always arrives on your first meal), a pair of toast points with bubbling fresh goat cheese melting on top, and a tower of sliced vegetables with marinara and mozzarella glowing all colors of the rainbow. Even the table baguette has more flavor and snap than most breads I can remember and I finish everything in sight. This begins the journey to eat my weight in bread and cheese; and I think I’ll throw in French pasteries to finish the job. 

I awake to the smells of Paris. The din and excitement of morning traffic and stalls setting up for the weekly open air market waft through the windows. Hallways in hotels and apartments have a unique smell to them only to be found in Paris. It’s a slightly musty, yet comforting smell the hugs you in the narrow passageways and stairwells of this well worn city. A memory of the ages and people that have passed into antiquity. Ground floor presents a new barrage of olfactory assault. The fresh seafood and meat vendors have on display their finest cuts and catches. I wander through the market with people bustling to and fro with their purchases and rubbing up to the display cases to make their selections.  I pass whole displays of fruit and vegetables, more cheese varieties than I know exist and bakers with that delicious French bread and glowing flaky crust that accompanies every croissant and pain au chocolat.  Giant figs and nectarines fill my bag as I navigate the French language for the first time and realize I don’t have all the words I need, but I overcome my hesitancy to look foolish and pointing helps. I find out later it happens to be nectarine season which is why they are bursting with flavor as juices run down my face with each bite.  Robin saves me from my fromage incompetence and nabs us quite a few delicious selections to round out the breakfast feast. 

Robin is attending sciences po to finish his law degree while Gabriella is studing for the LSAT which leaves me to wander the city aimlessly everyday. I’ve seen the main sights of Paris and wish to remain out of the circle of tourists and blend in as a local just going about my daily business.  I will walk in upwards of 10 miles a day crossing ever farther from my home base in the 15th arrondissement to discover much by accident many famous sights, movie locations, and local happenings to attract my attention. As the weather clears from cool and gray to sunny and warm over my 2 weeks I enjoy my strolls and comfortably find that miles disappear beneath my feet without even noticing. An hour walk is just the start of a daily routine which is probably why I’ve lost weight rather than gained any. I have time, so I leisurely wander and my wanderings find me so much beauty and activity I never once feel I am missing out on anything happening in the city. Obviously more is happening than I can ever comprehend, but I find street performers, art walks, local food stands, free concerts, mesmerizing sweet shops, famous buildings, beautiful parks and more stunning architecture than I can gawk at. 

This city of stone sprawls ever farther from the steps of sacre couer. Taking in the awe inspiring scope of construction from this lofty point I am filled with a sense of dismay for this endless stone jungle that has replaced all it’s greens for beige. At the same time zooming into any one of these buildings and I am enamored with its individual beauty and uniqueness; every one a work of art. It is much the same view when looking at the earth from space, seeing the damage humanity has caused across the planet and yet everything when viewed up close has its own beauty and place and I am reminded to not fall into judgements, that each moment is a unique moment to be cherished. That everything is perfect, the creation and even the destruction.  It is all a unique example of each persons desires rolled into reality and could not be any other way.  I take these thoughts into the church and meditate into the high domed ceilings of this grand work of human achievement adorned with loving gilt and decoration until I reach a place of peace and wander back into the jungle with love and appreciation. 

I wonder who lives in the penthouses of the special buildings that end in the rounded classic V intersection like two lovers crossings paths. These finely dressed people sipping tea and gazing out the window as their building unwaveringly plays match maker to pedistrians who seem happy to never walk on parallel streets but to arrive in a puff of smoke, enjoy a drink on the ground floor then continue on their way.  The beauty of the buildings everywhere is astounding. The massive stones and archways of every façade make wandering the streets such a pleasure. Despite the fact that something is happening everywhere in Paris or some historical location lurks around the corner, walking through the streets is interesting enough just to look at the architecture of common apartment buildings. Whoever dreamed this wonderland up from their imagination and got an entire city to play along, I am thankful for their imagination. 

On a day trip to Versailles I get to experience the overwhelming luxury of royalty. After 10 minutes you go quite numb to the grandiosity of it all. The paintings and gold leaf and the history of it all. It’s not quite my taste truthfully, but interesting to witness and maybe have a ballroom party there once. I have to take stock at one point. I am in the museum hall with giant paintings and realize that one painting is the length of my old house. I quickly pace the width and discover that 8 of my 2200 sq foot homes will fit inside this single hall. I think it hits me then at the real size of this palace, which you can’t comprehend while being inside it without reference points. I escape to the gardens which are massively huge as well and quite by happenstance discover my favorite part of Versailles 

In the summer palace the queen had a hamlet built to educate the young aristocrats on the workings of daily life for rural France. The amazingly styled buildings here with their gardens and picturesque landscape immediatly identiy with my plans for a community living space. I take my lunch here and just imagine what it would be like to live here and enjoy such beauty every day. I am so excited for my future way of life as I experience examples of it in this moment. My travels are already paying off well I think. 

Back in Paris I pop out of a subway station into my own world of imagination. I rarely take a train on the outward journey so I am disoriented to my surroundings when I emerge in a new magical place. I am here to visit Robin’s favorite writing shop with leather bound journals. The smell of paper and the beauty of writing stare at me from every object of a time long past when the letter was an intimate treasure to give and receive. I still find handwriting and letter craft to be incredibly alluring and a moment to pause and contemplate life and the beautiful complexities of communication. Despite my romantic tendencies towards this art form I rarely partake in its pleasures. The digital age has taken the subtle art of waiting for news to arrive and replaced it with instant gratification and the accompanying magic, taken for granted,  of communicating with someone halfway around the globe. 

I return from my reverie to notice the magical state of affairs I find myself in. Every few shops is an artisan chocolatier and patisserie with their colorful gleaming displays and delicate creations which beckon my taste buds and curiosity. Since making friends with a local raw chocolatier in salt lake city I have had a healthy interest in artisan chocolate making from bean to bar. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding this to my list of hobbies if I find myself near the equator in my travels. Thus every shop has a new story for me to explore and subtle flavors to try. Had I the coin, I could happily spend days sampling every delicacy within sight. I even found a chocolate museum on my wanderings which contained some of the original recipies for chocolate, always consumed as a liquid for the high priests, and some historical ads for chocolate bars from France. While I have not broken down and tried every colorful pastry to catch my eye, when I try to grasp and explain my childlike joy at just viewing these treasures of culinary artwork, no one seems to appreciate them with me.

I hear the world over that spend enough time in one location and you go numb to the scenery and local flavor that was once a great joy. I am certainly a victim of this as well, at home I did not thoroughly explore every aspect that a visitor would find interesting, but I never once got bored with knowing and appreciating where the best food and delicacies where located. Perhaps since shops are located on every corner no one is concerned since the standard of quality is high across the board. Being from a smaller city, the selection wasnt so varied and the differences in taste were great. For now I am happy that everything I find is delicious and I could spend years here and not eat it all. 

I must be exuding a comfortable sense of belonging because I get asked for directions about 3 times a day, by Parisians. It might also be the beard. I usually understand what they are after and the map on my phone shows them the nearest station. It’s also fun when Americans ask me directions in broken French, and I answer in French, then calmly ask them, “Do you speak English?”.  Sometimes I leave out words to keep the wonderment in their faces alive and pretend to be somewhat of an oddity if not a local. Many travelers comment that their English gets worse as we drop words when speaking to non English speakers to get the meaning across because less is more when people are not fluent. It’s kind of fun, but I usually just slow my speaking down and everyone benefits. I really felt I had my basics down when an American started ordering her bread in English and the man behind the counter had that “I don’t know what you are saying look”. I happened to know a simple translation and offered it to the situation and felt pretty happy with myself as everyone got something they enjoyed. Communication offers so much enrichment to our lives and it’s not always the words, communicating the meaning to another and being understood is what’s important. 

Of course there is no avoiding museums in Paris and many are worth seeing many times over. The musee d’orsay is a fine example of a permanent collection that covers many ages in history and one I find great value in seeing. Not all pieces moved me, but many went far beyond and I had to stare transfixed at the magnificent works. I struggle with art at times. If a works beauty doesn’t grab me upon laying eyes on it, it probably isn’t for me. That said, I have found that statues on their own for some reason escape my glances, but put that same statue in context, such as a church or in a garden and I will appreciate looking at it. Not every style or piece is my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the effort and vision that went into it. 

That being said, some new works of contemporary modern just boggle my mind. I am often moved by a deep feeling of frustration, bafflement and then anger at some pieces being displayed by museums, decided upon by minds steeped in the art world and works presumably worth a lot of money. I think you perhaps know these works. They look like Sunday art projects thrown together by just about anyone who can devote a modicum of effort and the vaguest idea of a purpose. I saw 30 pieces of work, each a self portrait of the artist, made of a bit of plywood and pieces of computer parts and wires arranged haphazardly together. Of course I had to read the sign to know they were self portraits. To me they were a few hours and a spare parts bin thrown together that anyone could have made. A whole room was devoted to this prominent artist and my mouth just hangs open. Next to this was a whole room dedicated to a checkered floor, 2 half inflated crayon blowup toys and a metal frame square suspended from the ceiling. I couldn’t stand to read what this was supposed to mean because my brain cells hurt too much and I needed to escape from this world where people find this pleasurable to look at. This is a museum and the effort put into this looks like it took 10 minutes and the beauty or an interesting factor isn’t self evident, it needs to be explained to you and that I just can’t take. 

This however leads me to the subtle work on myself I have been undergoing. To release the ego and it’s judgements. These works affected me, and thus to find the place affronted within me and become at peace with it is to encounter works like this again and remain at peace and go on about my day. I got seriously worked up about this at some level. Feeling like a bunch of kids got together behind closed doors and said let’s see what we can get away with calling art and displaying it to the public as some giant joke. On the other hand applying this ego clearing to the works I declare I like is also to be released. All judgements must be dropped and what will remain is what is and I will see reality as it really is. Catching the mind as it makes instant judgements about anything you encounter is the first step. Once this process is understood and stopped I can encounter anything and without judgement be in relation to it as it truly is without declaring it good or bad.

On the bright side I almost skipped the modern art museum Pompidou and I would have missed out. Almost everything here really had substance and a special exhibit took my attention with its focus on interaction with the viewer through sound, touch, and movement. Some of the films even came to life as actors moved about the exhibit bringing the experience into the moment. This exhibit and the permanent collection had pieces I even loved that took real thought and while expressed in a modern way were very effective at their message and beautiful in their own right and without explination. I am thankful for this learning experience to see into myself and what subtle tricks the mind can still get up to. As I move through my journey I will try to remain judgement free as new experiences show up to shine on my inner world.

I was graced with a few other learning experiences in my time here. In my effort to live life as a local I forgot the benefits of living like a traveler. I read once to treat everyday in your home city as if you were on vacation there. Laugh at the traffic, explore around the corner, and open your eyes to the majesty of the moment. No matter where you go I find that the newness wears off when you start to treat that place as routine. It is all a mindset and you can chose a more alive one anytime you want. I do think that it takes a certain kind of innocence and a child-like playful attitude to achieve successfully. I found myself one day counting beans and talking myself out of spending the extra money on enjoying some fine French macaroons. My goal is to live directly, in the moment and here I fell into the trap of just living out my days. Be a traveler and eat out everyday, have two ice creams, try everything, because who knows if tomorrow is coming. Also listen to your body when it comes to eating obviously and don’t overdo it.  I am trying to live each day fully, with great feeling and vitality, and I found myself attempting to be extra thrifty and skipping opportunities to try new delicious foods because of what? Trying to get through my time in France affordably?  As if that was my main intention and I had fallen back into the dull routine of daily life whose focus is money. It’s a question that will continue to follow me I think. What is the goal of a persons way of living? What do you get out of each day?  Is that exactly what you want or just a means of delaying some greater dream? My dream at the moment is to eat delicious foods and visit my friends around Europe. I have the funds set aside for this within reason, but the intention and direction is important. I had lost the intention to old habits of denying myself in the moment for some lower desire to hoard and secure myself from future experiences or hardships. To free myself to express my intention in the moment and live a life of authenticity is the practice of this first portion of travel. To eat and fill myself with freedom and joy, then to go to India and meditate until balance comes between the two. Never forget the direction you are pointed, and if you are lost, be still until you know your direction, for aimless effort is bound to be in the wrong direction. 

In discerning my direction and selecting a plan I’ve learned something. Given that I can go anywhere and do anything, (this is true for all people) figuring out what to do and how to go about it can seem complicated. Often it boils down to a simple decision, this way or that, north or south, Germany or Belgium. How does one decide?  And when trying to plan around finding trains and places to stay, free opportunities, planning around friends schedules, seeing cool things, and your brain starts melting with all the planning between just two choices. I go for a walk. If another person might be involved in planning I shoot them a message to see how my ideas work for them. By the time I get back one person responds or one choice feels easier and that becomes the course. That settling in feeling aligns the universe to your decision and thus a course of action unfolds while all others fade. When I try to force a direction rather than let one unfold, madness ensues, like swimming against the current. I trust that I am always being guided to experiences and situations that allign with my way of being. This has not failed me yet. But letting go of the need to plan and choose, when planning does save you money on tickets, is tough. The particulars do sort themselves out easily and I’ve met great experiences when I finally relax, and just put out the word on where I want to go and see what comes back to me. Whether on Facebook or just stating my intention to myself and the world. Declare what it is you want and let the rest come to you!  There are always little signs about going with the flow and when you are flowing all things can come to you. In the end, no matter where you go, there you are.
And it’s always perfect. 

Eating well and off to Germany~
-The Wandering Monk