Italian Magic

Maska

There is no mistaking being in Italy. You can feel it in the air, it’s almost buzzing. Like everything here, Italy is in your face. Not in an affronting way, it’s just the life force of Italy. You speak with your hands, the language is a no holds barred expression of feelings and the food speaks to the heart. There is a look in the faces of people and the stone that declares “we are Italy!” and we know who we are. Not every culture steps up and proclaims itself so easily.

Red trees

I spent a few days in Milan and it’s impressive duomo. The financial capital of Italy and fashion doesn’t disappoint if you are interested in shopping. I managed to find many churches tucked away on my walks and often very beautiful. Milan isn’t somewhere I feel the need to return too. A nice city in its own right and once explored leaves only the daily living experience to appeal to the senses.

me n canals

I move on to Venice and the difference is immediate. Upon stepping foot in Venice beauty surrounds you. The canals and houses are in various states of beautiful disrepair. The random trees that are somehow out of place and yet treasures to look upon. The grand works of stone construction on these little islands, often leaning suspiciously to one side. It’s all too much to comprehend how this got built here in the middle of the ocean; so you just enjoy it.

Angel canal

It strikes me at some point that there are no cars or bikes here. Everyone walks or takes a boat ride. What an odd thing in such a famous city. Other forms of transport is one of the charms that goes unnoticed for a while. The noise and pollution are so far removed you feel as if you are squeezed into a rural village. There was never any development of roads for horses or cars, only human traffic through the ages. Everywhere you turn there are wonderful little bridges, crumbling facades, and colorful laundry hanging from windows. There is a fair share of tourism as well, but go off exploring and it fades in the narrow alleyways.

canal bridge

I’ve just poked my head into another stunning church. They wanted a fee so I left. With those few glances I saw what I would comprehend. Master works of painting, skillful stone work, and years worth of prayer and ceremony. A short stroll further and I found myself at the open ocean. I looked down and found my hands in prayer and found it odd I felt more at peace with the sounds of the ocean softly rolling onto a stone shore than in another church. I have been stopping in many on my travels and praying or perhaps rather meditating and positive thinking, which amounts to the same thing. I have the time and I like to see how the church feels for me. Often the high domed ceilings offer more wonder with eyes open than closed. Perhaps that was their purpose, for God is only found inside, but these masterpieces must somehow try to glimpse that inner wonder and convey it to the material world. I think the ceremony and singing are an Indispensable part of feeling a churches presence, but most only hold tourist hours these days. I have been finding more questions and answers watching the natural world than I could imagine. Just now it is the ceaseless caress of water on stone, but just the other day it was watching a duck clean and feed itself. You could see there in that one duck the answers for all of life. Just watch how any animal or plant lives it’s life with ease and you can see that all is provided for it. Food is available, shelter if needed, it has the tools available to live in its environment. There is no desire to be other than what it is and be in harmony with everything else. Only man has somehow separated itself from that harmony and desires to be other than what it is. With my long hours of silence I have come to desire only this, to be in harmony with all, to know that all is provided, and cease to struggle for more than that. It seems so simple, perhaps even boring, but a great peace arises and I find myself slipping ever more into a state of happiness that cannot be achieved, only experienced when one is closer to harmony with the natural order.

cnal cloudy

Venice has treated me well. The weather has changed from rain to sun for me and has stayed warm all day. Even today the fog is wearing off and blue skies are about to greet me where only gray used to be. The nights in the streets are ripe for pleasure strolling and mysterious alleyways call from every direction. I decided to spend some time performing poi on the streets for the first time. Once the initial interest in old buildings and crossing canals on bridges wears off one has to enjoy their life just being in the city. Thus I got over my initial hesitation and ended up performing for around 2 hours each night. At first I forgot my speaker at home, so the music was only in my ears, which leads to a striking light show only to the backdrop of conversations. Many people stopped to watch or talk to me. I even made a Japanese friend who is a fellow performer and magician. He shared some new juggling techniques with me and showed me his amazing skills. I wore myself so tired that my arms were dead and the skin missing from my fingers, but I felt great. It certainly taught me that I am ready to learn a few more tricks and put out my hat and see what happens.

Roof experience

*Best hostel experience yet!  Rooftop kitchen/patio

The synchronicity keeps happening. My roommates change from a Japanese trio to a PhD philosophy student from Pune India. He is impressed with my commitment to yoga and meditation as his studies have taken him in a more academic approach to religions and philosophies. He is here to give a lecture and shares the headlines with me in our talks. It is exciting to keep watching these perfect experiences continue to show up.

Gelato

I’ve been accepted to my first workaway experience, where you volunteer your time for food, shelter and experience. I was in need of some nature time and a more steady pace of life other than traveling every few days. I think I have absorbed enough new lessons about life and need to sit and absorb them. After these 10 days on a rural estate I have 10 more in meditation then 3 months in India. Certainly my fast paced travels will be slowing, but I felt the call by my body and it all worked out so perfectly. I was accepted 10 minutes after sending the email and the older couple are retired from running a spiritual retreat in Kent England. They also hold a weekly meditation at their home and need help in the garden. It is conveniently located just north of Lourdes France where I wanted to visit so what couldn’t be more perfect? I am trading exploring Marseilles and Provence for this experience, but I think it’s worth it. I will be back and that leaves something to explore. Time to recharge and integrate all this new information before doing another serious round of meditation.

Amsterdam: unexpected delight and lessons

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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. 
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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?
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 

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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. 

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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~