2018 In Retrospect, Part 1

Its been a long while since I last posted, and the stories below will attempt to explain the last year and the events that helped pull me away from the internet and go deeply within. I am thankful to be able to share all that has happened and hope that it contains some wisdom for all.
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2018 wrapped up and has undoubtedly been the biggest, most surprising, and difficult year of my life. I have not woken up on so many consecutive days with an anxious knot in my guts asking me to investigate deep inner truths. Unbearable emotions come wafting through the side door. I lost all my grounding, and was as vulnerable and wide open as one can be. Inner child trying to run my adult life, grief spilling forth into minor and major meltdowns, stuck in a  job that sucked my soul through a keyboard, and the largest sense of not knowing what to do with my life. I then threw a deeply committed new love relationship on top of that just to make sure I was well covered on inner work.
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I want to highlight some wonderful things I did, before I get into the heavy stuff. I learned how to paraglide and now have my license. My father had his pilots license and flew planes. My personal aircraft is just a lot smaller and cheaper, but perhaps even more fun. I also managed to make it to Harry Potter world for my 33rd birthday. I absolutely love the magic of the Harry Potter universe and for that it really touched my soul. Too bad it never feels like winter in Florida, which I always associate with Harry Potter, or that would have been extra magical. I traveled through India, Canada, Cuba, Ireland, and Scotland. I moved to San Francisco for half a year and checked out the pacific northwest on a long road trip. Everything was extremely beautiful, if not rather expensive, and I made some wonderful new friends along the way.
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My 2018 started out in India as usual, flying into Pune on new years eve, after missing a flight to Hong Kong. The celebration was extravagant as usual, but having just arrived, I didn’t feel quite settled and ready to party at that level. I was in India again to staff Path of Love and continue to work on myself. I arrived this year leaving behind my girlfriend in Canada where she continued her winter work. Pune is usually the place to find a girlfriend, but this year I tried out the reverse, my heart longing to be back with her while exploring my spiritual freedom. Path of Love was incredibly powerful and I learned many new things from watching the facilitators work. Enjoying time with my family and making some new friends as well. I would cut my normal travels short after six weeks to return to her and for a big surprise change in my life.
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I traveled to Goa India for a second try this year. Last time I went three years ago it was an energetic disaster and I struggled so much being in the party atmosphere. However this time I managed to stay inland with a good friend, rent a scooter to commute, and this combination worked wonders. I was able to visit the beach and enjoy for a few hours then escape back to my quiet abode to sleep soundly. I was able to connect with all the Path of Love staff and continue to grow in the work and friendships. I found a nice rhythm to this beach life and came to enjoy it. My next stop would normally have been Rishikesh to sit by the Ganga and meditate, but I returned to Canada to visit my girlfriend.
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Something was not right from the very beginning. We had been conversing very well on the phone and all seemed well, but when I arrived I could sense something deep was off. Over the course of the next rough week, many conversations would be had, and many tears shed. For whatever reasons, I may never really know, she closed off and walled up her inner world to me. My belief is that suddenly the intimacy and reality of a relationship got very real and scary. That to change and grow at this level became too much and she wasn’t ready.
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On my first visit to Cuba

I felt it coming. That familiar experience when my intuition starts telling me that someone is going to leave. I could have just kept quiet and let it be, but I decided to be vulnerable. I decided to share everything like it would be the last time I would ever see her. I didn’t want to leave with anything unsaid. I didn’t want to look back later with regret that I didn’t try everything. I wanted to know that I did everything possible to stay open and connect. It was a deeply humbling experience to share myself that way. To share all my fears, including that I felt she wanted to leave. She wasn’t able to open with me while I shared, but I continued to just share myself, not needing anything from her; this was for me.

When I left, I was a bit lost and sullen. I didn’t know where I was standing in my life with her. She needed some space, which I offered, just that she keep me informed if she was going to disappear from communication for a while. I had planned to be in Canada for much longer than a week, but it didn’t work out. So in my suddenly free schedule, I went for a trip down to Santa Fe to visit my good friends and therapist’s Nirodha and Mushkan.

 

Upon hearing my story, three books where plopped in my lap, and the greatest understanding of my life, about relationships, was handed to me on a silver platter. Its called attachment style and very simply put you are either Secure, Anxious, or Avoidant. In my own words, the question is this: When intimacy gets real, and the fear comes, what is your tendency to do? Anxious people like me feel their love is at risk and move towards the other person. In extreme cases this is the classic needy person. Avoidant people feel they are being consumed and need to take space to feel safe and feel themselves again. They disappear for a while, physically or from communication until they feel safe again to connect. Secure people are able to be with their fears and aren’t bothered much about it. Everyone thankfully is heading toward secure.

 

The problem comes when an anxious and avoidant person get together. They create a vicious cycle of triggers. The anxious person needs the other to confirm their love and support, and this causes the avoidant to run away, which only worsens the cycle. Even when the avoidant comes back after the natural time, the anxious person may then crave them so much that the cycle starts again rather than becoming secure, and the trigger cycle begins again.
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Traveled to NYC and got a Cronut, Chef Ansel even opened the door for me!

There is much advice in the books about effective strategies to work with a cycle like this, but the authors were all very clear; if you aren’t already committed to a relationship like this, NEVER date an avoidant person if you are an anxious type. Find a secure person instead, because they will be able to offer security when your insecurity gets triggered. This seems to have been the exact dynamic I was in with my girlfriend and seeing it clearly at this moment changed my life forever.
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Ten thousand waves spa, with an amazing soaking tub

After a few days of play in Santa Fe, including visiting Meow Wolf, and Ten Thousand Waves Japanese spa, I went to Florida to visit my dad as per usual when I don’t know what else to do. Florida is not really my cup of cultural tea, but it was winter so the weather was still enjoyable for me. My dad had moved into the home of his lifelong best friends and so would I. I would pick up the habit of having drinks again, since this happy group likes to eat and drink and converse. I would also get to check off a bucket list item and see a rocket launch into space. In fact I got to see three, but the one at night was beyond beautiful.
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That’s a Space X Falcon 9 rocket launching into space with the full moon

As I arrived, my father was experiencing some pretty bad back pain from a few days prior which was now causing him to stay in bed. We went to the chiropractor as he had been doing, but it was getting worse. I was driving him every day it seemed to a doctor or appointment to find out what was going on. I gave my dad his first taste of my massage skills since I became a licensed therapist, but it wasn’t helping either. Eventually we found the right doctor, but with the wrong outcome. His throat cancer which had been successfully overcome had spread to his spine. He had been having his blood checked and scans taken every two weeks and it was completely missed by everyone. This is also why it took us so long to find it as well, because we thought it was being managed.

 

The next two and a half months were incredibly difficult, but also beautiful in a way I had never experienced. I became my fathers full time caretaker, a role I didn’t know I could do so well. I learned what many parents probably already know, how to put someone else’s life before your own. I would end up having some time alone to myself each day, mostly at night, going for endless walks around the apartment complex. I am so thankful for those last months with my dad. We got to bond in an even more special way, and had many conversations while he was still present. Of course talk about relationships was a highlight. In the end my girlfriend decided to ghost me, a modern term for when someone just disappears from all forms of communication, effectively becoming a ghost. Some of my last conversations with my dad were advice about finding a loving partner that is able to form a lasting relationship.
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Harry potter for my birthday, my few days off from caring for my father

After a month of waiting and trying to reach her, I gave up and wrote an email ending whatever we had left. I wanted that closure, just a simple conversation would do, but I felt I had the answer already with understanding attachment styles and the rest was just a painful human experience. I would have loved to have shown my father that I finally found a loving partner that could embrace life with me. Having had three marriages himself, it seems to be a shared topic of how to embrace love and what makes a relationship work. Of all his advice, to find someone who adores you, seemed to be the most truthful and to the point.
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The transition of my father was really the turning point in my year, and life. The end of childhood finally set in. I never realized how much support I took for granted until it was no longer there. It was more than the constant knowing that someone had my back in every way. Energetically I used my fathers base of support to go out into the world while feeling totally free. Without my beloved father there to always turn too, I now have to learn how to create that support for myself.

 

This inner revolution is about consciously stepping away from my inner child and into my true adult. Giving up ones childhood is never done by choice. Either through initiation or by life circumstance do we finally come face to face with what makes us adults: knowing that we are going to die. As Stephen Jenkinson writes beautifully in Die Wise, it is in learning to live with the knowing you are going to die, that gives meaning to living and loving yourself and others. I came face to face with this lesson while helping my father pass through death’s door. I have always been safe and secure in my personal knowing that death is just the next step, but having it open me so profoundly into learning to love myself was a surprise. From death came life and love and I have been learning how to build a container for both. When my child was supported by my father, I could breeze through life without needing this skill set. Now I need to own my inner power by giving my playful child some adult boundaries. It has been the greatest challenge of my life so far. Nothing really prepared me for this, but I have been learning well as they say.
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Relationships became a focus topic for the year. As I learned to live without the longest and most important relationship in my life, I began a new romantic one. The passing of my father coincided with the ending of one romantic relationship, but also opened the door for Ayna to enter my life. As I needed a break from the death studies, I went to Utah two months later to learn to fly a paraglider. At a chance meeting in ecstatic dance, a beautiful Turkmen woman walked in that I had never seen before. I heard a voice in my head say something I had never heard before: “You are going to marry that woman”. Striking me immediately as someone I felt a strong connection with, as if I had known her all my life, I tried to get closer. My invitations to dance were kindly turned down and so I resolved to approach her after so we could speak. Crossing paths in the shoe room, my hello was met with more shock and avoidance than expected. I could have left then missing my chance, but decided to approach her again and properly say hello. Within five minutes not only had I spoken about Path of Love and Fasting for two weeks, but we had a tea date for a few days later.
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The view on my NYC visit to recover myself after my fathers passing with my friend Robin

In the three hours that vanished in conversation, we poured all our stories and hearts onto the table it seemed. I know neither of us intended to do this, but as the words flowed, and as our hearts connected, we both found the mutual recognition and what we had been looking for in a partner. Communication, the desire to work on oneself and continuously grow, and really wanting to know ones self and share that with another were all apparent. She had just left a partner of three years, and I had just left mine. It was a surprise for us both to even be entertaining the idea of a relationship. Tea turned into a sunny hike a few days later. Stopping to refresh alongside a stream, we broached the subject of a relationship. What unfolded was a solid YES, and a beautiful path for connection opened my heart fully toward Ayna and she I. This entailed me moving to San Francisco to jump full on into the most important and engaging relationship of my life.

 

Before we could connect any further, my travels would take me to a weekend workshop in Colorado, to learn about my inner child and what struggles he faces as I begin for the first time to let my adult run my life. My father held such a place of support that I never truly needed to grow up all the way. I could let him cover my back while I traveled the world freely and easily, knowing I would always be supported if I failed. It became time to own that power for myself and as such, my quest to become a Man began.
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The clarity that arose out of this process made it clear that I should visit Ayna in Oakland for a few days before heading to Ireland. It was excitingly wild to honor my feelings rather than follow my linear thinking and continue straight to Ireland. We shared a beautiful three days together, connecting and reaffirming our feelings. To be so spontaneous was new territory for me and asserting what I wanted felt good. We ate and explored and blossomed in our new love for each other.

 

Shane-man, as my father called my best friend, met me in Ireland in the midst of a big football game. We both had never seen this part of the world and had some exciting plans up our sleeves. Dublin, being our first stop together since traveling Iceland a few years ago, was an easy entry back into backpacking. We grew tired quickly of this busy city, but enjoyed the fun atmosphere and of course the Guinness brewery tour. Belfast was more our cup of tea, making some interesting friends for the night and enjoying a full night on the town; drinks, stories, pizza, and much tipsy sauntering through the streets.
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Every so often you get one of those perfect days where everything aligns and you feel taken care of by existence; this was our trip to Islay in Scotland. Islay is the home of Laphroaig and lagavulin distilleries which make peaty and smoky types of whisky (not to be referenced as scotch because you are in Scotland and its just whisky of course). Planning this excursion was endless hours of internet searching. We had the hardest time finding inexpensive accommodation, ultimately securing the last possible bed on the island for $200. The bus that would take us to the ferry had a cool 5 minutes gap for transfer. Then we had just a few hours to secure our spot on a tour and accomplish our mission. The ride back was even more in confusion as you couldn’t even book a bus due to a world cup event shutting down roads in the city. Trust, and with some planning, we set out early in the morning. Everything went on schedule, we hitchhiked easily, got special perks on our tour, accomplished our special mission, found a good dinner, and in the end our accommodation was top notch and felt like pure luxury. A day worth living over again and again. Blue skies, good friends, good food, and feeling taken care of by existence. What more could you ask for?

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Our special mission was to deposit my fathers ashes in the holy land of scotch making. Shane owned one square foot of beautiful Islay property that had come as part of a special with Laphroaig. We printed out the GPS coordinates, donned our mucking boots, and walked out through the golden grass to plant our flag and claim this land for ourselves. I eventually dug up a square foot of grass to place a picture of my father and I, his ashes, and to bless the whole area with scotch. Shane and I said our tearful thanks to a man who had changed both our lives, and were glad to have delivered him to a place he had never reached. For someone who enjoyed at least one scotch a day, for his whole life, I couldn’t think of a better location to leave a part of him, one we can all come back to on pilgrimage in the future.
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My father was known as the MIM (Most Interesting Man)

We rounded out our trip in Edinburgh, right in the middle of fringe month. The city was alive with performances of every kind, posters lining every wall, and tourists cramming into everything. Not really our cup of tea, but the few performances that I managed to see were all amazing. My longing for my romantic connection encouraged me to leave travel 3 weeks earlier than originally planned, and then once we tired of Scotland, I cut even shorter my travels to rush back to my new beloved. This became a flurry of flights and last minute tickets to make it to San Francisco and not waste a minute more. There were canceled planes and stormy weather, but I ultimately flew to London, visited platform 9&3/4 for a bit more Harry Potter magic, flew to Chicago, and then bought the last seat to SFO, arriving just when I wanted, but with much hassle and expense. Not my normal laissez faire attitude to cheap travel.

 

A whole new chapter was about to begin in my life. I arrived in a new city, with a new love, in a totally new place in my life. Everything felt up in the air and moving along without my needing to do anything. I felt to be in the right place and knew some deep transformation was coming for me. The next half a year would certainly bring many surprises, but much love and connection too.
To be continued in Part Two.

Transformation of the Self: when life has lost its juice

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Beloveds,

Have you ever woken up one day to find your interest in life lackluster? Have you looked around and found the feeling that there is nothing worth living for? No passion to do anything, no life force left to fight, a numbness blanketing everything and a burning question of what and why is this happening to me again?

Personal development isn’t always the bright light we find at the end of the journey. Often the biggest changes and growth come through the pain of resistance. We long for a change to come, even understanding sometimes what is blocked, but for the strangest reason some piece of our being just won’t let go and move into love. I have always been interested in this process because it affects me so often and somehow I never remember what’s happening to me until I remember what’s happening. I hope you may benefit by my experience, sparking a remembering and alignment, in your time of need.

Pressure. Overwhelming pressure. Blocked. Strained. Drained. Resistance. Lethargy. Lost. Up, down, and sideways. Confusion. Depressed. Feeling no juice in life and that it may never be bright again. No reason or energy to do anything. Just plain dead, before death. Hopeless.

Take a deep breath, you have been through this before and even though it feels like the first time, like it won’t end, like you will never find anything worth living for, you still know, at least intellectually, that it will pass and you will be better for it. The feeling however is very real and no self talk, cheering up or distractions are going to fix this immediately. To quote rumi:

“Hold me in the fire,
And although I die,

I know for whom and why”

This is the physical transformation experience. After the decision to change was made deep inside. After the conceptual ideas and feelings about change happened. We have reached the last step, the slowest and most dense plane, the physical body, which now must catch up with the faster energetic plane. These changes may have been from months ago which explains the disconnect from your thoughts and the physical changes taking place. The need for the mind to understand what is happening is so strong, but so useless, that we fight this process to the bitter end and wonder why this misery has befallen us.

This is the epitome of spiritual practice, and a perfect time, in light of this formidable resistance, to discover more about yourself and your ability to transform. This is the moment when all those spiritual self help books and blogs are needed most, but least likely to be heard. The question is “can I embrace and make friends (become neutral, resistance free, dis-identified) with this pressure, this anxiety, this fear, and ultimately a feeling I don’t want to be experiencing?”

This is time for trust, for patience, for deep breathing. Ultimately this is out of your control, like a roller coaster that just crested the top of the main climb, there is no turning back; only how much you want to fight the ride. Once you realize you are on a ride, at least you can stop wondering whats going on. Try to find that comforting, because at least you are no longer lost.  Like birth, you decided many months ago to bear a child and now on one day this incredible pressure and feeling is in you. You must finish this decision for there is no turning back. In an instant a transformation of self will be and everything will change. You will give birth to your new self, but you must go through the trial first.

It is this very trail by fire we call suffering. Human nature is to suffer, but we don’t have to get upset about it. Once this process has happened a few times, it is likely that you know at some point it will pass, as all things must, but of course the immediate feeling is something we humans dislike greatly and depending on your inner level of calmness, perhaps hate and rage against. You can literally fight this transformation process until it finally finishes and suffer greatly or in an instant of true realization help the transformation take place and viola! You pop through the other side.

The steps for this process are generally similar, starting with your inner awareness and communication. The feeling that shows up is generally the same but a different scenario each time and thus confuses us greatly until we identify what is happening. The first few days something just feels off. Perhaps less energy, an un-explainable lethargy while feeling physically fine, accompanied by a growing desire to know and figure out just “what” about this feeling is off. If you are coming up with continual new ideas of what It could be and not settling on one, it is probable you are in the middle of a transformation process. Another signal could be a slight nagging somewhere in your body with a sore point, like an ache, to which no physical counterpart actually exists. This signal is often the clearest yet most misunderstood device. Something from your unconscious depths is rising to the surface looking for the light of day. Often a knot in your back, shoulders, chest or neck, although it can show up anywhere. You may rub this point as much as you like but it never eases the source. At this point you can begin to make the connection. This is energetic, something trapped inside is ready to release and is climbing the metaphorical hill to ride the roller coaster. Whether you catch on here or when you crest the hill, you will only realize when you realize this transformation process is what’s happening to you.

The next step is to acknowledge the pressure, energy, stuck-ness, and make friends with it. This is where all the spiritual self help comes in handy. How to see this unwanted feeling and be friendly with it? We don’t question joy when it visits us; asking why has it come and when it will kindly be on its way. But for pain and suffering this is the only question we repeat over and over. What did I do, why is this happening, how can I fix this, how do I get rid of this, okay if you go away I’ll do this, if I could just figure this out ill be okay! But none of these questions will ever resolve it, but only make it stick around because it is not a question and there is no answer. You are fighting with your self, your ego, and that is a circle that can continue for as long as you have energy to fight. We have become so identified with the physical feeling that we have forgotten a simple truth: we are not this feeling. We are the inner awareness that is watching this feeling and process unfold. Being friendly means stepping back into our centered awareness and just watching the feeling be there until it leaves on its own; rather than madly questioning why we have become this overwhelming feeling.

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”  – Rumi

A different approach must be taken. This is tricky because human beings want to be cunning and cleaver at this moment. We devise some method of bargaining to alleviate the pain. A this for that strategy which is really telling your unconscious I don’t have any power, but please be merciful as I still fight you. We have one recourse, friendliness, non attachment, neutrality, let go, compassion for the self. These are all the same thing in respect to this phenomenon so choose what feels best. We acknowledge that this feeling is present. Perhaps with playfulness say “Oh, isn’t that interesting. Look what showed up today”. Tell it that it is a welcome guest as long as it likes and to do whatever it needs, because we know at the end of their stay our life and feeling will be better for it. To do this truthfully is the only thing you ever need to learn. This is the same knack in every spiritual practice on earth. To honestly befriend the reality of life with no restraint, no cunningness, no bargaining and just let it be there with you. To watch with awareness while not becoming identified with the feeling. In that exact moment, a switch flips and you are on the other side. Pressure gone or on its way out. You are transformed.

Learning how to truly let go, to be honest, is very difficult and yet the simplest thing. It happens all the time, but to participate with it knowingly is a different task altogether. You can’t deceive your own inner self. Next time you can’t just say “oh let’s be friends”, I’ve done this before and don’t have time for you now, and wonder why it didn’t resolve itself and get upset. The true let go is a subtle and fine art of embracing the suffering and even finding joy in the process because conceptually we know it’s for the best even when everything tells us we feel like we might be dying.

Even if you honestly let go early on in the process you may need to ride the metaphorical bus for the duration and reach the destination. Of course it will be an interesting ride all the same, but as we ride that bus from the beginning to the end many aspects of your inner being will try to drive the bus. I like to have my spirit as the conductor. He knows the destination and will lead me there gently and without delay. However when my fear gets a hold of the wheel, this bus be rocking left and right as fear tries to flip the bus over, turn it around, or do anything to not reach the destination. It is in this moment, when some aspect wants to hold us back that we kindly acknowledge that we have a new driver and ask our spirit, or whoever you like driving your bus of transformation, to step back in and take over. Trust once again that we are headed to a destination of our choosing and that we will reach there without that other idiot crashing the bus.

Coming out of the transformation process is a beautiful thing. Either suddenly or gradually you begin to see beauty again in the world, a passion and energy for living again. You begin to wonder why you ever felt life to be so dull and lifeless when this new thirst for feeling alive is growing. Just as you can’t see the beauty from the depths of resistance, you can’t see the dullness from the energy of being alive. We go back and forth as humans on this pendulum, unless we learn how to stop in the middle; which is enlightenment. Try at this point to remember that just recently you felt so alone, so tired, so out of juice and that life was almost not worth living anymore. So when it visits you again you know how to come out of it quicker and easier.

To truly take the time to invest in your self development, and grow your awareness of yourself around the healing/growing process is a sincere undertaking. It means putting everything aside, sometimes utterly stopping your world, to address the most important and life changing experience that is happening. Waiting is utter foolishness, for in the end, postponement is to continue to suffer. It’s often a challenge to pit the importance of our inner world against that of the outer world and it’s requirements or distractions. At the end of the day though we will still be living in our bodies and every moment given to cleaning house will lessen that anxiety and ultimately lead to a more joyful life experience. I wish upon everyone the awareness to watch this process when next it springs upon you and to traverse it with grace. Make friends with your new strange guests and they may just leave you with the greatest gifts of all.