Path of Love: PachaMama

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Welcome to the jungle!

 

Wild beasts, strange noises, burning heat, lethargy, fear, exploration of the unknown, sweat, tears, and breakthroughs. Yes I am talking about the inner landscape of the mind, which is strikingly similar to this beautiful Costa Rican backdrop. Another group of hungry seekers have descended upon PachaMama, an intentional spiritual community, to participate in The Path of Love. I have left the Asian tropics for the Central American tropics to staff this process and remind myself of the love and beautiful essence I carry in myself. Barely having time to integrate all the realizations I carry from my process in January, I am jumping into a strong remembering of the truth I hold so dear.
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Having gotten a little lost in Bali and wishing to return to the truth of my essence, without the minds filtering and lies and masks, I have come to Costa Rica to touch that space again. I carry this truth with me, along with the presence of my ego, which seems to have grown several sizes since my PoL. It hasn’t really grown any bigger, just my awareness of its true size has become apparent. This is my challenge and my mastery: To overcome this harshest of critics and live my life from a place of love and gratitude. At times this takes an extreme physical effort to realize that not listening to the lies of the ego and comfortable habit patterns is the only way to continue moving forward and to inhabit all the beautiful joys of my life. Only this one barrier is left and could be with me in its many ways and forms and subtleties, quite possibly my whole life. I wish to find pleasure in not feeding my ego any more attention and to begin mastering the expansion of my life. This means facing my fears each day, being proactive rather than reactive, no excuses for laziness, and to find the passion for my life each day no matter how I feel or what I think. Choosing to move forward despite every anxiety and fear is the only choice that can heal this wound we all carry.
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*Our beautiful group room & a sample of our vegan diet

 

Having the loving support of PoL members in which to share and deepen your search is the gift of being a staff or participant. The daily reminder of connecting and growing with a beautiful support system helps master the egos presence, which opens the space to find the courage to live your life according to your truth. Often times this very simple issue gets glossed over by the ego and the small truths that should be spoken are left silent. The compliments you wish to give, the hurts you wish to acknowledge, the small risks you could take, and all the times you could step out and be seen for who you are, are simply passed over and the opportunity to grow is missed. It is the courage to know and live your truth, moment to moment, no matter the costs that lets your unique light shine. So many things get in the way of this, particularly old habit patterns and the rules of society and politeness, but the truth is no less real. My whole work this week with the Path of Love came down to these two things. Stay awake, alive, juicy, and passionately on fire for my life while not listening to that liar of an inner judge called the ego. Practicing this, despite all the difficulties and unknowns, I can stay with my passionate self.
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Courtesy of PachaMana and Ankati Day

I gleaned many wonderful experiences as a staff member, where our main job is to hold the space and be present for all the participants. This presence becomes a prayer and I know what angels must feel like. To silently watch a human being struggle through life, and lovingly remind them unceasingly and with great love that they are watched over, loved, taken care of, and going in the right direction. As I practiced this I had to laugh at the perfectness of this situation in reverse. I am always watched over, loved, guided, and cared for. Just as I couldn’t interfere with the participants directly, my Angels cannot interfere in my life. I must make my own choices, but I can trust. In that trust I can know God and silence and be happy without knowing where my journey ends. Choosing to live with ever present guidance rather than despair, struggle, or fear is certainly a more powerful choice to improve how I feel about facing the struggles and challenges of each day.
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I once again have made many deep friendships and connections from across the world. New inspirations and resources in the quest to build a sustainable meditation community and hope that I can manifest it with loving effort. My partner Lindsay during the process became a dear friend and close confidant. She is on a similar path and is starting a small retreat center focusing on yoga, healing, and detox called Samara Soul Adventures. This was such a synchronicity and inspiration to me that I feel my idea is not so overwhelming, but that only the first step is the hardest. I found so much love and support from the staff and community in which we were living. PachaMama is a community based on self development, meditation, and sustainability, and living here has only added to my experience and trust in my own future. Many people here have their own retreat centers or healing practices and the more I travel the more I feel this idea I carry is spreading. One day small centers will just blossom around the world and everyone will be able to enjoy their local sustainable communities and transformational processes without traveling so far.
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Courtesy of PachaMana

The finishing touch of this adventure was an all night forest fairy party. Tyohar, the spiritual leader of PachaMama, is also an accomplished DJ and nature photographer who wowed us for 17 hours of amazing rock music while the whole community danced and brought the jungle to life. Dressed as forest creatures, from children to well advanced souls, everyone dug deep and found the blissful energy to dance all through the night and into the next day. I personally had to find the energy and commitment to have fun rather than listen to my ego who clearly said we need sleep and to retreat from this environment because that’s what we do every other night. Of course I ignored it firmly and managed not only to stay awake for the party, but found so much energy that I continued on for many more hours, 36 in all before a nice night of sleep and arising again at 5 am with the sun for my morning routine of stretching and meditation. New friends were made this night and other relationships deepened. The connections of community and oneness were shared amongst all, in the spirit of dance and love. I can’t imagine a more amazing experience to finish this already powerful process.
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I leave PachaMama with a full heart. One of deep gratitude and joy, but also sadness and longing. To honor the sadness of leaving such deep connections is just as real as the joy of having met in the first place. Thankfully we live in an international world with the convenience of technology and ease of travel. Deepening into the heart, I only find more and more to love in this world and those with whom to share it. May you find your own path of love or just enjoy this wonderful process for all the jewels it can bestow into your life. May Gods blessing and the passion of life be with you always.

 

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Visit PachaMana yourself and experience the transformation firsthand!
They have many different programs and classes to choose from, including Path of Love.

 

Finding Balance In Bali

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Swooping into Bali on the eve of Nyepi, Balinese new year and day of silence, the streets are packed with revelers, smiling faces, singing and loud noise crackers. Crews from local temples have hoisted large daemon statues into the air and are parading on every street corner. For the typically laid back, relaxed Balinese people I would come to know, this was quite the extraordinary celebration. Waking up the next day and being legally required to stay in your home compound and relax, I slowly tasted this new setting.

 

It’s a strange feeling to arrive in the tropical paradise of Bali and receive the knowing that after two years of spiritual journeying the desire to travel is finished. The universe has been mysteriously pulling me towards Bali for over a year now, without a promise of why, but a knowing that something was waiting for me. I have arrived and suddenly I want to run away, I am anxious and scared, and beginning an existential crisis. I want solitude and warm clothes and a cup of hot tea. That is not your typical response to landing in the lush garden of Bali, but for me will be a critical turning point in my inner world.
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After the solid support of India’s meditation, and meeting daily with enlightened masters, I find myself adrift in the laid back waters of this tropical paradise. With smiles and yoga, raw juice and food, techno nomads and water sports at every turn, I find this life of leisure a boring routine after so many months on the road. It’s a beautiful picture of a daily world, but I am lost and must be found. My ego must answer a new question that has been building in me: “Who am I and what am I going to do in this life?” Suddenly the question of practical life has reared it’s head in asking the most fundamental questions. What do I want to do to support myself? What skills do I actually have? Can I take my dreams and ideas and do something practical about them?
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I am living in a beautiful villa courtesy of my new friend Salvador. The wildly charismatic, successful, Ashtonga yogi, and restaurant builder from Los Angeles whom I met in India. He is living a perfect balance of work and play, and is an example to me in this difficult time. After slowing down an 80 hour a week restaurant life to balance his spiritual practice and work, he is flowing in the universal juices more than ever. Watching him navigate new business ideas and deals from conception to reality, making friends with yogis and strangers in cafés, and absorbing the meditation world of Osho, I’ve seen levels of synchronicity I’ve forgotten existed. It’s all just a reminder to trust more deeply, that energy flows, to live a life that you love, and embrace yourself in the mystery of existence.
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It’s hard to know the full impact my new mentor in business will make on my life, but I know that my ego took a rough couple weeks of beating before I found my balance. It’s safe to say that I’ve been living a life focused only on my inner work for the last two years. Suddenly living in this new energy of business, practical life, meditation, and creation begged me to answer the question of what do I really want to build in my life and can I overcome the fear to actually do it? The rhetoric answer has always been my sustainable meditation community and my mind fed this back to me in one hundred different ways. Despite the fact that I don’t think I have the skills needed at this moment to accomplish this entire task, I was counting on my desire and inner knowing to pull me through. I was trying to answer the question of how to do this all in my head. Plans, figures and resources needed, locations and promotional success and again and again I was driving myself into a hole of pressure and trying to answer a question that couldn’t be answered without action.

 

This is the quality of the ego my friends. It will take you to the depths of despair, uncertainty, and fear so that it can maintain it’s power and keep you from living the fullness of your life. Despite battling this exact scenario and foe on many occasions, it still gets the better of me from time to time. You have to let it all go. You have to trust yourself and life. And above all else you have to stop trying to answer unanswerable questions. There is an answer of course in your heart, but never in the vicious circle in your own mind.
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I finally managed with the help of some outside observers and patient support to settle down and put these mental questions aside. I began slowly to focus on the present moment and support myself with positive self talk, meditation, and simple daily goals. Most importantly I just stopped trying to answer these very dear and important questions when they popped up. Wouldn’t you know that a few days later I was calmed down. I could see the beauty of Bali and I could enjoy my life again. I could find my center and my authentic longing to live life once again. I could find my prayer, and my love, so that I could express my unique presence in each activity I did no matter how small. From this place, all those important questions seem so easy and simple. A matter of one foot In front of the other and remembering this is the most important remembering one can have.
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I see many people wrestling with this one issue of trying to answer some deep inner question and never finding the answer. Osho has taught me that there is no answer, but the task is to take away the question. The heart deals with how to love and express and experience life. From this place there are no problematic questions as such. There are questions like how can I be in more gratitude, how can I feel the depths and heights of this human life, how can I better serve humanity, how can I be one with the universe, God, and love? These are also unanswerable questions, but the quality is instead a deepening and expanding of the life force. It makes you feel good to wonder these things. Alternatively trying to answer, what to do, am I good enough, and can I trust I’ll be taken care of deplete this vital source of happiness and energy to the point we fall asleep in life and forget the beauty that surrounds us.
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As I woke up myself, I woke up to Bali. The food was better tasting, the people more loving, the whole situation was a pleasure to find myself in. I promptly took a vacation to the beach to surf and scuba for a few days. Out of the hustle of Ubud and the entrepreneurs, I finally relaxed into beach life and the beautiful meditation that is scuba diving. Spending my mornings exploring a vast, mesmerizing, alien world while floating in three dimensions is nothing short of meditation. Breath in, breath out, float up, float down, repeat. In those depths I found myself again and my efforts of centering were only growing more and more. I suddenly had three days left in Bali and the beauty had just found my heart.
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*Courtesy of Carolyn McDonough
Perhaps it is knowing that something is going to end that helps make it all the more beautiful. We could cling instead to what is departing and suffer the inevitable outcome or embrace the fleeting beauty of experience. My ego has a pattern that has become quite familiar to me when it is time to leave a place. It tries to have every good experience again squeezed into just the final days. This is most often expressed by trying to eat every delicious food I know of. Such a silly idea because you just create a belly ache and then none of the food tastes good anymore. This is the egos way of trying to have everything, and in reality keeping you from accomplishing anything.  I’ve settled on going completely against this notion and try to have an entirely new day of experiences on my last day. New experiences are ultimately the only kind of experience we can have and any attempt at repeating one is met sadly with lackluster results.
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Salvador, Maria, new friend Jamie, and myself took a beautiful morning ride through Bali’s rice fields and palm trees to say goodbye to beloved yogi friends and master teachers. Followed by a trip to puri nugong kawi to sample the meditation caves of monks long past. Our real goal was the secret waterfall behind the temple where we plunge into the cold waters on this bright morning and feel the power of nature and come alive in her magnificence.
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My favorite experience it turns out is the Balinese water temple. You take a prayer Into the waters and before the twelve holy spouts you dunk your head and cleanse your heart. With each successful cleansing the prayer gets deeper and deeper. More longing and truth come out and you end up with the most beautiful process of cleansing your heart and knowing you are one with God. All the things you want, all that you are grateful for, all the love you wish to experience has been felt in that cold rush of holy water. Cold and wet, but perfectly happy, I can feel why ceremony is so important to the Balinese lifestyle.
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We finish this spectacular last day with a long planned visit to mosaic. The most expensive restaurant on Bali and one of the best restaurants of south east Asia. While only moderately priced for western standards, this meal blows me away. Over 40 people have a hand in each dish, with expert execution and an emphasis on local flavors, this is easily one of the best meals of my life. Each plate has so many perfectly balanced elements to delight the senses I am in awe of how much effort went into each plate and there will be ten of them, for each of us, depending on our dietary preferences.
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During this meal a strange thing occurred, but of course was orchestrated by the universe for my benefit. Having 12 people, we were split into two tables and my preference was to sit with my new friends and a particularly interesting gentleman with sufi background that I wished to know better. As such, it turned out I would sit with Maria, Sal, and three new friends, two of whom are from Kansas City. Small talk was polite and semi interesting, but the bomb came when Maria and I finally had a talk about our time spent here and the energetic issues we could never quite talk about with any depth. Often times you need a friend or even stranger to help you see the patterns which are obvious to an outsider yet oblivious to yourself. Thus the crux of my reason for being in Bali was made known to me.

 

I don’t know what the center of my power and identity of self is. Maria, thankfully a master in her own sense of identity, let the axe fall so to speak and gave me a strong dose of truth. It takes a strong person to deliver that kind of truth and be comfortable doing so. It is true that when I arrived in Bali I could not find my support, the base on which I could stand and be relaxed in my self. In India, Osho holds that place of support which I now understand more fully why I feel so comfortable there. This lesson is about being out in the world and finding my own inner support that doesn’t waver. Maria needed support as well and when we turned to each other in Bali and couldn’t support the other, problems arose. Our mutual support turned out to be Salvador who was a rock of joy and enthusiasm for living life each day in paradise. While I was struggling to find myself and battling my ego I did learn a few things.
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Trying to answer a question in your head, for example brooding about something, is useless as the answer cannot exist there. If it did, you would have answered it, but since it isn’t, that is the egos way of running you in a circle to assert its importance and generally just tire you out. Remedy; put aside that thought entirely and replace it with action or positive self talk or prayer.

 

Laziness comes in many forms. If you cannot constantly apply yourself in your own life, slowly a type of sleep begins to master parts of your life. I was living more in thoughts and dreams than being active in creating the life I wanted. I needed to be more myself and take some risks. For fear of upsetting another person or some imagined status quo, I lazily placated myself and everyone by being “the good boy”. Sometimes you just have to stir the pot and be a bit crazy; upset some people, say something daring, be exciting. There is no need to be mean, but without poking people or yourself at times, you become lazy to your own growth and fall asleep.
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What is your base of support and are you in control of it? I mean, is your base located inside or outside of yourself. Mine has been an external support, that of meditation and community. To bring that locus of control inside, to an internal support is a self growth exercise. Finding out what you can stand on is vital to branching out while being in your authentic power. This is where the confidence to support yourself, emotionally, spiritually, and materially comes into play. With that deep knowing, you are able to rest in your natural self and apply yourself in any endeavor.

 

I have struggled with this area of personal identity. With so much meditation and letting go of attachments, my cunning ego also found ways to exist with this new spiritual mindset. When you let go of excitement, curiosity, wonder, preferences, new ideas, and expansion, you begin to live a flat life, not a real life of non-attachment. Non attachment is a very positive state, you can delight in all things, especially the small things. Somewhere I forgot this state of being. The spiritual journey is full of dangers without any guarantee of being found. Which makes the process of being found such a wonderful experience. The more I wake up to the fact I was sleeping, the more I enjoy my own process of waking up.
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That is the whole trick I believe. Once you start on the road of waking up one step at a time, everything will find its own place. Allow the beauty to be your focus and put all the concerns of the mind to the side. Bali was a wake up call, ripe with hidden teachers and lessons. It doesn’t take traveling halfway across the planet to learn these lessons, you can wake up to your life right where you are. It takes a little focus, it takes a little effort, and in the end you keep taking it one step at a time.
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Bali was about finding balance between the internal and the external. It started a new dialogue that will move me along the path. I am thankful to all the teachers and strangers who stepped on my path to show me the way. Those that help remind me to keep waking up, to keep moving forward, to keep shining my own beautiful light, because one day I will realize myself and that will make all the difference.

 

Many blessings to you and your journey. May you find your way happily.

 

Workaway Round 2: Japan

10338687_10100226658336961_6487626720708170609_n My success with workaway experiences is beyond my imagination, and there are still so many opportunities available. It might be a little premature, but based on my track record, workaway attracts a certain kind of individual, both host and guest, that epitomizes the essence of traveling and trying new experiences. I find volunteering while traveling a highlight of every adventure, just like couchsurfing, you are instantly introduced into a new culture with friends and a network that often bring you fabulous new experiences. This time I am helping in a Japanese/Vietnamese cafe a few hours train ride from Tokyo, Japan. Yaizu is a small town in which it would never have crossed my mind to visit, but it isn’t the local attractions that grab your attention, its the wealth of open minded and well traveled Japanese people that will end up making this stay memorable.
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I happen to have hit the traveling jackpot, being dropped into work at a little cafe in which the owner and clientele form a well rounded network of interested Japanese who wish to share various kinds of experiences with me, the foreigner.  Oddly enough, I have met a fair amount of foreigners already in this small town, mostly of the ilk who have married into Japan and now live here as their primary residence. It may just be that I am 8 years older than my last visit to Japan, but everyone seems to take my presence as quite normal, often starting off in perfect Japanese as I should be expected to know the language.  This is quite a difference from the last visit, where being a foreigner was more of a rare experience, and perhaps has to do with a maturity level that shows clearly on my face. This grouping of people however, mostly speak at least two languages if not four, and have traveled about as well as I have. The feeling about the place is like a grouping of friends living the small town life, but each bringing something interesting to the table.
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I recall saying an interesting thing in regards to work versus play when quitting my job two years ago; I would be happy to sling noodles in Japan and not call it work, because it is a new experience for me, and that is play. It’s strange little thoughts and desires like that, which you might only be saying off hand, which the universe always finds an interesting way to answer. I find myself laughing because each day the number one dish being served is pho; Vietnamese noodle soup. While not what I imagined, it is what I asked for.  As for other kitchen skills, I am now a master of spring rolls after having done well over 100 of them. No more the sloppy, lightly rolled behemoths I started with, they are well shaped, firm and dainty.
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While the learning curve for Vietnamese food isn’t very strenuous, due to my love of food and working in the kitchen, the language curve is. Thankfully my host intuitively understands how to speak Japanese to me and also speaks much better English than my level of Japanese. She has me interacting with customers from day one, and after I release my fears of speaking English or messy Japanese, I am getting along quite well. Every day a new friend comes into the cafe for lunch and I get to introduce myself and use as much communication as is possible, mostly listening, but answering when I can. Of the many friends who visit, a few expand my experience by taking me out for various things.
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One day, I got to attend a tea ceremony practice session, kimono dress up and all. Watching a tea ceremony is great, as long as your legs don’t hurt too badly from sitting on them, but watching a teacher instruct students on the proper movements and etiquette is well worth attending.
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I was able to attend an after school program for the ubiquitous experience of playing with a bunch of over interested kids, wearing me out playing soccer and tag.  There was a house party where everyone got to make okonomiyaki, the Osaka famous pancake. There was a ramen fest going on in the next city, Shizuoka, and I sampled these delicious variations.
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I visited a yoga studio for a free class and my first kirtan, complete with a harmonium for the real Indian musical feel. Oddly enough I never experienced kirtan in India, the joyous chanting of Sanskrit, something I feel a bit remiss about and will remedy soon. Along the musical avenue, I was also fortunate to be in town for a djembe concert put on by the owners of the yoga studio.26c7bee0_original
*Photo by Dai via Air BnB, Visit Here
I was also fortunate enough to meet a new friend, Dai, who owns a traditional Japanese home over 90 years old.  Dai is also a world traveler and English speaker, who uses air bnb to rent out half his property to entertain excited guests, and also works in the numerous bamboo forests, cutting 50 foot tall stalks. I was happy to visit his home and experience the beauty of this traditional cabin, if I may use that word. We were also so like minded that we surprised each other by stating we will be visiting Mooji in Rishikesh at the same time this February for the wonderful experience of darshan.
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I was also lucky enough to be here at the right season for something wonderfully fall, and close to every Japanese heart; Inekari, the fall rice harvest. Once the rice has gone through the laborious process of being sprouted and planted, the mature plant is then cut down and hung over bamboo to dry. Traditionally this was done by hand which I experienced, but modern technology has produced the combine which goes to town cutting and bundling together the rice while you walk behind it.  Its a family fun event which makes the work a lot easier with friends. There are all kind of bugs whose homes we are destroying so the kids have plenty to do when helping is no longer fun. Catching frogs, grasshoppers, and playing in the mud seems to be fond memories of many children in this country. With the help of about 15 people we finished two small fields which each produce about 120kg of rice. Each field is enough to feed two people for a year when only eating rice, or perhaps 3 now with bread and noodles included in the diet. It was a beautiful day that truly felt like fall to me and an experience I am grateful for.
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I would be remiss if I didn’t share my honest experience which has made this workaway something truly special. While everything I have done as part of my volunteer experience has been everything a workaway experience could be, I have been gifted something more. There is a special energy about this particular cafe, and in truth, stems from the owner.  Haru-san, my wonderful host, has a special energy about her, one of tremendous joy and mirth, laughing constantly all day with many smiles, even while working long hours.  This is slightly askew from the typical Japanese personality, but like everyone I’ve met through this cafe, people are a bit more open and ready to share themselves. I find myself overwhelmingly excited to wake up each day, not knowing what new experience will be offered to me today, but certain that much laughter, dancing, and smiles will accompany it.  It is this overwhelmingly simple joy that surprisingly catches us both off guard and from which we begin our relationship.
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*Haru is on the right
Having been a couchsurfing host for over 200 people, I am well aware of my feelings about this type of thing in a host/guest type relationship. It has always been my private understanding that as a host I never initiate anything because that would violate the unspoken rules of providing an emotionally safe space for my guest. I am also aware that many hosts and guests end up together for various reasons which rely heavily on their mutual feelings, something I have not experienced till now. However, a guest is free to do as they please and honoring my own beliefs, shared my feelings with my host because they were honest and I would have done so no matter the outcome. Strangely enough this wonderful and busy woman, whom for her own reasons has not had time or inclination to start a relationship in recent years, surprises herself and says yes to me. This obviously changes my workaway experience in quite large terms, but I honor the ways in which the universe works and for the opportunities in which new experiences of all kinds may enter my life.
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Traveling is exactly this experience. Setting your intention to go somewhere and then allowing the experience to unfold before your very eyes. It includes all those little voices of desire in your mind, and with hindsight, find that what you had asked for, was neatly wrapped up in a joyous experience you could not have planned or predicted, because originality is the joy of being surprised. As its been often said, letting new experiences happen is the key to joy. Anyone can plan a perfectly well organized vacation and pull it off, but you won’t really experience something new and worthwhile. This is key for your life lesson, let go of control, be vulnerable, and trust in yourself that whatever happens you can respond with your whole being and it will work out for the best.
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Wandering into uncharted territory; the foreign relationship.
For your very own adventure please visit http://www.workaway.info and check back for more experiences soon.
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Wrapping Up One Year Of Travel and Learning

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I find myself where I started one year ago. Looking at the same Kansas City skyline that I left after selling everything I own and heading out into the world. The view may be the same, but I have changed and along with it my interpretation of even that skyline. I touched down in 11 countries, made countless friends, deepened my understanding about myself, and learned lessons that will shape the course of my life. My understanding has shifted and thus I view the world differently, yet, I am still uniquely myself. This is perhaps the great conundrum that all world travelers experience. We go out and are literally changed by our experiences, see everything differently, and still the essence of who we are remains. You can come to a deeper understanding and acceptance of that essence, but no experience is going to just up and change you into a different person. I always thought there was going to be something out there that would flip a switch and I could become that person I envisioned inside my head with all the perfectness. The truth is much simpler, you are already that perfect person and only our thoughts and beliefs hold us back from breaking our boundaries and living the life we wish.
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*Iceland was by far the most beautiful place I visited and will be visiting again.
This was a year to find myself again. I didn’t know that I even needed finding, but when faced with daily experiences of discovering your authentic self, it becomes clear exactly what you don’t know about yourself. Meditation was a prime focus of this travel and I spent 10 silent days in a Vipassana retreat, twice, and 4 months in India with the teachings of the enlightened mystic Osho. If I can boil all the meditation down, it would be enjoy your life every moment, celebrate, be present and  alive no matter how you think you feel, learn to live with your inner silence and uncomfortable feelings moment to moment without running away. The essence of all the teachings is actually the practice in reaching that state of being, and then learning to live there. When you can stand in the place of silence and just look at yourself, you can see a body having experiences and thinking thoughts and still that isnt You. Then it becomes perfectly okay to have experiences and not cover them up or distract yourself from them. They come and go and still you remain just a step outside of it all; happy and aware.
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*Traveled the Swiss Alps by scenic train
I came home to an exciting burst of energy, seeing old friends and making new ones, wedding events, and family time, but what surprised me most was the lack of reverse culture shock. Unlike going to a new culture and being surprised by the differences, reverse culture shock is returning home to find that the world you thought you knew looks very alien. Instead, on this trip I’ve had a reverse personality shock. I don’t know where I belong anymore or what I should be doing. There is no home or job to anchor me, no meditation practice or community other than my friends, so I find myself in a city I’ve lived in for over 4 years and have no idea what defines me anymore. I attend the same events during the week with the same people I knew, but somehow this shows me most how this last year has changed me. I am looking for my place in the world and I know I can never settle for something less than what I’ve experienced. At the moment that is the delight of living in a meditation community, which I plan to return to before the year is over. In some ways it seems like I haven’t achieved much, because there is nothing to grab onto, but really the differences are all on the inside and those are the ones that really matter. Upon returning to Kansas City, everything here has moved along at its normal pace, but it is no longer my home.  I see clearly there is nowhere to go back to, only forward, to find the right place and way for me to live. After all this traveling, and traveling I am certain to do in the years to come, I am even more dedicated to finding my place and developing something amazing.
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*Climbed mountains in Germany, and could see the surrounding countries
What strikes me most about the changes in my life is the difference between what I have to call normal life and the new way of living that I’ve experienced. Normal life is perhaps the daily routine of waking, eating, doing the daily work or effort required of one, participating in your hobbies and entertainments, and just the general things that make up life on this planet.  Almost everyone lives their variation of this pattern that hopefully brings them great contentment. I used to be content and fulfilled by my normal life, waking most mornings glad to be alive and even excited to just have a cup of tea, embrace the day, and take a morning walk before going to work. Somewhere on this journey that changed; no longer having a home I wasn’t in my groove doing those simple things that brought me great pleasure and contentment. I have and enjoy even more simple pleasures while traveling, but no routine that brings me joy.  Even now, still living a life of ease, I am missing that feeling which embraced me each day. To the best of my understanding this is the result of not having or being challenged and missing my connection to something greater than myself. Without a goal to work on, such as a job or project I care about, there is no push to grow, to learn and better myself each day. Likewise I find that without my daily personal development or global development of community and the bettering of humanity, I equally am not challenged to grow. I found a bigger expression of myself in Inida that required of me to participate with all of the people involved there. Before I could go about my day alone and was content unto myself, but once this experience of community and connection was established, going back to something less just doesn’t give me enough anymore. This is why I want to return to India so much, to grow and feed myself in this area. Then it is my hope to be able to expand this experience and grow it into my own dream of living a connected life. All human beings I think hunger in some way for this connection and we are just waking up to the fact that with our new societal development we have forgotten for a time what real connection is and the joy that comes with it.
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*Meeting beloved Osho friends in their home countries, Norway
Hindsight is a wonderful teacher, which today teaches me that the simplest decisions and the reasons for making them can change your whole world. In essence I made a simple decision in India and I am living the consequences today. One month prior to leaving the Pune Meditation Resort, I agreed to join my friends for a month in Dharamshala. This created “The Plan”, which after Dharamshala would take me to Germany for two months with a good friend of mine, then two weeks travel in Northern Europe. All of the plan was decided in roughly one moment and when the actual moment to follow the plan or change it came, I just stuck with the plan. In that moment of decision, at the end of my three months in Pune, not only was everyone and every experience telling me I should stay, my own inner voice and gut feeling was that I should stay. For fear of changing the plan and following my heart, which would have cost me money on plane tickets and a prepaid meditation program, plus the gut wrenching feeling of bailing on my friends and partner last minute, I ignored how I was feeling and followed a decision I made a month prior. Had those other considerations not been present,  the decision would have been easy, but the lesson was, can I follow my inner truth when it is going to cost me something? The answer at that time was obviously no, but now looking back over what unfolded I wont make that same decision twice. Following your energy and power is so important because it leads you to the right places and experiences that you can thrive in. When I said no to that inner voice, I lost my power and over the following three months ran dry, and life eventually became a little flat. I still enjoyed the experiences that I had, but I could have really enjoyed them with my energy intact. It is so clear to me that I was afraid to do what was best for me and energetically I paid the price. So I am headed back to Pune and I am moving away from plans, and if I do end up with a plan, I will trust that I can change it in a heartbeat without fear. I have given myself the freedom and time to honor what I feel and follow that direction. Everyone can look at their life right now and see places where they avoid what they really want. I am asking everyone to start doing what you really want, even in small ways, because the alternative feels pretty flat, pretty lifeless, and once you are there, getting back to ecstatic takes some work and effort.
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*First sun seen in Iceland after two days of rain which setup my favorite day of the year
I’ve concluded there are two types of travel experiences, loosely called 1st world and 3rd world because that is where they occur. A 1st world experience is generally Europe, organized, clean, expensive, historical beauty in buildings, and whatever experience you wish for generally is going to cost you money, from entertainment to food. A 3rd world experience is generally a bit messy, cheap, naturally beautiful, and the thought of money barely crosses your mind. Both are equally wonderful experiences, but the difference between them is vast and gets right to the core of expectations for levels of comfort and the psychological effects of money. For those with a more limited budget for travel, they find their dollars stretching farther outside of the 1st world countries and from their perspective perhaps live in a level of comfort unaccustomed. This can be a huge psychological experience, because for the first time you are allowed the freedom to experience all that you wish. If you want to eat this and that, taxi here and there, buy gifts and clothes, it doesn’t cost you mental anguish to add up the costs and then balance that against how much work you have to do to pay for it.  You might for the first time experience money as an energy source, instead of a commodity, and using it like any other energy source for the betterment of your life experience. Likewise, traveling where your dollar goes for less, has you scrambling for the cheapest options, making sandwiches at home just so you can spend another day in the 1st world experience. Both are needed to understand the effect money plays on our perception of happiness in doing the things we want in life. Personally I like a mix of both experiences, but prefer on the whole the relaxed attitude of 3rd world living, with beautiful surroundings and no stress about money. There is just as much culture, and many more smiles while interacting with the locals, and when you train your eye on how locals get by each day with so few material resources, but so much happiness, you can really experience the freedom of money and learn to enjoy every day in a new way.
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*The best apple pie in Amsterdam, a new favorite city of mine
While traveling with a lot of free time, you can always find something to do, but just being present with yourself is a wonderful gift. On the many trains, planes, and waiting rooms I found that I wasn’t putting in my headphones for music right away or checking Facebook. I would just sit and be patient and enjoy my own presence; not needing something to do or a distraction just to “kill some time”, instead enjoying just being alive in that moment of waiting. The interesting thing is the correlation between how present you are and the urge for distraction. I notice most acutely when the time to meditate arises and some urge also arises to check anything on my phone for any distraction. Why this postponement? A surge of anxiety arises over being present with myself as if the ego knows its being removed from its throne. It is a battle with my mind each time, and the more present I am, the easier it is to take a few moments and reach that place of joyous centeredness. The paradox is that meditation brings the real joy, but the hurdle is to forgo the distractions and entertainments that falsely promise happiness to simply reach it. Upon reaching that presence, you can enjoy those distractions even more so, if you choose, because you come from the place of presence and not of using the distractions to cover some feeling of emotion. Vipassana taught me that when we desire something, it usually isnt the object itself, but we desire the sensation of desiring itself, and we think the object will bring it to us. So when a feeling arises we chase after the externalization of that feeling to satiate it instead of seeing the truth of just being with the feeling and seeing it for what it is. This is the hurdle to doing almost anything in life, be it meditation or going to the gym. So more than anything, I’ve learned when this feeling of not wanting to meditate exists, I am overdue to sit down, meditate and reach my calm once again to see the world clearly. There will always be a multitude of interesting and entertaining things vying for your attention, but it fundamentally comes down to how do you wish to spend your time on this earth? Once you taste the beauty of your inner world, any worldly distractions begin to pale in comparison to really living life. Just like cutting sugar out of your diet leads to everything else tasting incredibly delicious, removing these other distractions leaves you with more time and space to enjoy your own delicious presence of being.
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*Meditative dancing in India, also used for a promotional photo seen by thousands of people, which surprised me
I have had to remember this myself after leaving India. After a daily schedule of meditation, going back to doing it all on your own takes some serious discipline.  Traveling once again brought many distractions and riding that excitement I left my meditation practice a bit behind.  This led to a bit of confusion and feeling lost in my direction of life which is one of my biggest challenges.  As I find myself a bit of a fish out of water, I have to trust that I always carry the keys to my own happiness and they are but a few silent moments away from being with myself. It is a lifelong practice to be who you are and do what you love. Finding out what really excites you is the first half, then learning how to live that life each day is the rest of the task. The more truth we can experience about what really speaks to our hearts, what really lights up our faces, and makes us jump for joy, the closer we are to living a meditative lifestyle. I hope everyone has found at least one thing that has that flavor for them, because once you know the taste, there is no going back to a bland life. Blessings and joy to everyone on their journey and may all beings be happy.
 
Torey
The Wandering Monk
 
A special thank you to everyone who hosted me in their homes, couches, hearts, and lives.  Without your support and encouragement I never would have had the year I did and all of the new experiences. I love you all and it still brings tears to my eyes remembering what it feels like to be so taken care of instead of the other way around.
 
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*Being silly with my best friend Tate in Germany, “Up all night to pet puppies!”
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*Amsterdam round two with friends this time
me and david
*Met Mo and David on my first workaway experience in France, a new beloved mentor
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*Seeing good friends and new loves in Belgium! Plus waffles and frites
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*Our beloved cheese master who treated us like family and introduced me to my new favorite cheeses, bare kase from Switzerland
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*Went under the knife of brave friends in Switzerland when my hair got unruly
1467470_981566286421_920741569_n  *Explored the beautiful canals of Venice, and checked off the first part of Eat, Pray, Love10177435_10100144038717341_8551906736441433225_n   *Visited the Taj Mahal at the end of India, and another check for Eat, Pray, Love10406955_10100170838470421_2633856899521643109_n
*Jumped into the freezing waters of Norway!
 

Travels in India: Food Edition

imageIn case you haven’t noticed, I like food, all aspects of food; from thinking about it, making it, eating it, dissecting a dish to recreate it, looking at it, trying new tastes, and sharing it with all. It is my most accessible creative art form, and I like to care for people by feeding them. So when I get dropped into a vegetarian’s dreamland of flavors and new tastes, I’ve reached nirvana.

A little back story on the many stages of what can be called “diets”, I have gone through to arrive at this now interesting mix of healthy vegetarian. Of course I started out eating meat and thankfully I’ve tasted that delicious culinary world, but my body asked me to change directions into vegetarian.  Thankfully I still have no qualms about skipping a whole category of meat inspired flavors and if my body decides meat is back on the menu, ill listen. I’ve been pescitarian (veg + fish), vegan, juiced, raw, and even skipping food all together for two weeks to try fasting. All of these experiences and seeming boundaries have only added to my love of food. The quest to eating healthy has added new foods and creativity into my diet and I’ve arrived with a good foundation of what my body wants and many delicious ways to get there. The only key to eating healthy is to listen deeply to your body (not the mind), each one is different and no set rules will always apply. How to listen? See meditation.

On my most interesting food journey, fasting, I happened to attend a feast and just watched everyone consume every delicacy. Food went in and conversation came out, but I can’t say anyone was more present than I, to appreciate the smells, looks, and possible tastes. I had an interesting perspective on that particular meal and I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed food more than being present for that experience in which I couldn’t use taste. Its the fabled popcorn down the hall smell. Never does it taste so good as when you know you wont actually eat it. Of course actually tasting food is generally more enjoyable, but learning to really be present with your food, to enjoy all aspects of it, even the mental aspects is a lesson well learned. I use a good adage “Eat every bite like the first”; Don’t rush through the meal, explore each bite with your eyes, then your mouth and taste buds, be present with each bite and be careful to watch when you eat for enjoyment or when your pleasure center in the brain takes over and eating just becomes routine, another pleasure button for lab mice. My original adage was “eat every bite like the last”, which helped me slow down, but then the meal is always over, instead of a new adventure beginning each time you lift your fork. This helps with enjoyment and portion control and never leaves you wishing for more, because each bite was a lifetime.

imageSo enough about eating in general, the Travels in India: Food Edition can officially begin and what could be better for a vegetarian foodie than traveling to India? Not only are the menus extensive and different from region to region, but you just can’t beat the prices. I thought I liked Indian food before going abroad, but after eating my fill, I honestly only want more. Thankfully I have been able to sample most of the world’s cuisines, but I must say I could eat Indian food every day.

India is known for their curries or gravies and masala. Curry, being an English word to describe every sauce that comes out of an Indian kitchen and masala, an Indian word meaning every spice known to humanity. So when you read the words ‘masala curry’ you couldn’t be less descriptive. Thankfully the Indians have color coded their gravies as white, brown, orange, red, and two descriptions on consistency being thick or saucy. They kindly also tell you what main vegetables (or meats) are included being aloo, mutter, paneer, gobi, and palak (potato, peas, cheese, cauliflower, and spinach). So armed with this colorful array of descriptions you spin the wheel of deliciousness and see what comes out.

imageI had the unique food privilege to be located in one town for 3 months and thus worked my way through most of the menus at my favorite places. This became a challenge and a goal because almost everything new I tried became my new favorite dish. Once I discovered a new delicacy or sauce, I tried the same at the other restaurants to see who made it best. Many times I was surprised that it could be better, but often I found that the same dish could vary widely in flavor almost making it something completely different. Already at a disadvantage at figuring out how to recreate these masterpieces I had to settle for pictures and names and hopefully find recipes later.

I fell in love with one sauce at my favorite place, the “Yogi Tree”. They serve this sauce in a variety of dishes so I could vary the contents. The dish I started with is called “Malai Kofta” which are basically veg meatballs drenched in sauce. This dish is served all over, but nowhere else did I find the sauce to be better than here. Over the many times I ordered this dish I befriended my waiter and he tried to sneak the recipe out of the chef. Not being a chef himself, he came back with a basic list of ingredients and no cooking instructions. I think I shed a few tears over that sad development, which only means I have to figure it out on my own. The problem with making your favorite Indian restaurant dish at home is technique and the masala spice mix. Everyone uses a different mix which is near impossible to make exactly again and thus every dish will be different. Many restaurants even use premade boxed masala mixes which can help the home chef, but only if you can keep on buying it!

Other favorite dishes that soon came forth as clear winners:

1 The famous Malai Kofta, slathered in sauce, topped with ghee and cream for good measure. Best served with naan.

Torey Malai Kofta 12 Masala Dosa. A very thin pancake made in part with rice batter, served with spiced potatoes in the center. Can come as big as 1 meter long.

Torey Dosa3 Various sauces of spiciness. The green one is spinach sauce, which is always fantastic.

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Torey Mix plate 24 Tali. Served home style with a couple vegetable choices, dal, rice, and chapati. Real home cooking

Torey Tali5 Masala Papad. Unleavened flat bread topped with various goodness, tastes a lot like a mexican pizza

Torey Masala Papd6 Cardamom Parantha. Like a European pancake with a delicious layer of caramelised apples and onions in the middle topped with fruits and cream.

Torey Parantha7 Fried lotus root in a sweet and sour sauce. Not Indian food, but this was so good I went out of my way several times to eat a whole plate of it.

image8 They even serve a pretty good pizza

Torey PizzaIndia also has its own category of bread called naan. There are other similar choices such as chapati, roti, parantha, and papad; all of which are used to scoop up sauce and deliver it to your mouth instead of your other choice of flavored rice or the old standby of using your fingers. India also like the rest of the world has croissants, generally more like a roll in the shape of a croissant. They do their best to copy the french delicacy, but I think they missed the memo that more butter is the key.

“There is no cheesecake in India!” – Torey Julian

This quickly became an inside joke as many places served what is clearly labelled as cheesecake. While it may indeed contain cheese (among who knows what else), these dense dry cakes clearly cannot be compared to cultures that actually have cream cheese, which is what is used in making the famous New York Cheesecake. So whenever India served us a western cuisine dish with what we would have expected to be of a certain texture and flavor and which had been clearly Indian-ized, all you could say was “There is no cheesecake in India!”

Torey Sizzle Brownie

*Sizzling Brownie

I did find some wonderful desserts though. I managed to try every apple pie and brownie in town and happened upon a really good carrot cake. Some places knew how to work with chocolate and some clearly did not. Our favorite was the sizzling brownie served on a hot plate with chocolate poured over the whole thing. It sizzles, it smokes, it makes chocolate lava and melts all the ice cream as you dig in trying not to burn your mouth too much.

Torey Popo brownie face

*After consuming your brownie you may be possessed to attack your neighbors brownie.

Both contenders for best apple pie

Torey Apple Pie 1

imageIts always sad to realize when you leave a place that you forgot to take pictures of the most routine things. For instance my favorite breakfasts have been completely forgotten, even though I ate them every day for 3 months. This includes:

Poha: A delicious yellow rice with lemon and spices with potatoes.
Sago: Tapioca pearls sautéed in sesame oil with peanuts and curry leaves (this is a very chewy dish, which I called the most meditative to eat).
Idil and Sambar: Little Indian rice buns served with a coconut gravy and sauces.
Uttapam: An Indian pancake with onions, tomatoes, and fresh herbs on top.

As I sit here salivating over my own memories, I can already taste my next trip to India and the wonderful tastes ill encounter.  Blessings to your own culinary adventures and may you be lucky enough to visit India (or try your local Indian joint).

Divine encounters and workaway

lourdes
There is a great opportunity going on in the world and I would not like anyone to miss it. Volunteer your time around the world doing various work experiences and earn a free place to stay and food to eat. Sound like a good trade? It did to me, and I have gained more than I expected. In my three years of travel around the world I plan to utilize this method to extend my time and experiences in the world while costing me only travel expenses.  Experiences fall mostly into the gardening work, nannying, or handy man type, but can vary into marine biology scuba diving  and chocolate making. For five hours a day you get a wonderful experience and can really take time to explore the local culture.  You also get the added benefit of living with a family and can practice another language.         France house
Getting started on my first experience was difficult in the sense that I couldn’t decide where I wanted to apply to. There were so many opportunities in France alone, I could hardly decide on one to add to my travels, so I didn’t. However, once I had traveled for two months, I was ready for some quiet life and being in touch with nature.  I looked up some hosts again and one immediately popped out. Close to Lourdes France where I wanted to visit, was a couple who had retired from running a spiritual retreat and needed a bit of help in the garden. Not more than 10 minutes after sending an email, I had a reply and a destination, where once was only the open road. The universe had stepped in and answered my request in full.
 chestnuts
I spent 20 hours on various trains over two days traveling from eastern Italy to western France. On the mid point in Nice, my roommate for the night was Chris, the first traveler I’ve met on a two year journey traveling this volunteer lifestyle. He had just finished work on a vineyard harvesting grapes and learning about making wine. Admittedly hard work, but he had loved it. A teacher and chef, on break from working life, sitting in my room to encourage me on the eve of my first experience. The universal positioning of this meeting is incalculable, and thus is a perfect sign that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment. We hit it off and swapped stories about how great traveling like this is and our perfect encounter. I pull myself away to visit the ocean, watch the stars and love how perfect life is right at this moment. I am reminded that I asked for all this and I am grateful to recognize its arrival. Watching it unfold, having let the universe drop all the physical pieces into place, even I couldn’t have written such a perfect script.
 me and david
The moment I meet David at the train station and step foot into their lives, I know this meeting was scheduled. It looks like I am here to help with the garden, but I am really here to meet David and his wife Mo. When a complete stranger steps into your life there is usually a small or rather large adjustment period. No such thing was present, I seamlessly stepped into daily life as if a son coming home for holiday.  A wonderful life of gratitude, blessings, mutual understanding, spiritual work, and work in the garden awaited me. It seemed to be that a gathering, lunch, party, or other event was always happening and that I had come at the perfect time to enjoy the last of an Indian summer and meet this wonderful group of people. For what I consider a small French town, I was amazed at the diversity of interesting people and English speakers living here.
 France garden
We started our days with family breakfast and a blessing over our meal. Then proceeded to read a chapter from “A Course in Miracles”, followed by a group hug, which officially began our day. Garden work and large lunches were the theme. Mo is a potter and I got to see the kiln be fired twice. She started her spiritual journey in India by jumping in the deep end. Joining an ashram and shaving her head, she experienced her transformation moment to moment and it gives me great excitement to hear her stories. David does wonderful work with wood and examples of both their works adorn the property.  Before retiring from their spiritual retreat they taught sacred geometry and the flower of life courses. David and I broach a wide variety of spiritual topics and conversations about the spiritual journey which keep us up most nights with eager enthusiasm.
David’s spiritual path looks so similar to mine it almost stuns me in the simplicity of story line. Young man becomes disillusioned with life prescribed by society, seeks spiritual path, is called to start a center and teach from the heart, lives this way and finds great peace and joy. David is the first male role model in my life to have done anything similar to what I am trying to attempt. From the general vibe of daily life and being 40 years my senior I am in for a wonderful ride. The fluidity of changing minds is so much easier today than it was 40 years ago. I can only guess at what leaps of consciousness and love can be achieved during my lifetime. It is such a pleasurable thought to have been called to this path, and while I don’t know the particulars of how my story will unfold, I trust in the same source that brought me this far, and to this experience, to provide the rest of the amazing story line.
 Vesica Pisces from Space
*A 55 foot Vesica Pisces cut into their grass as seen from satellite, sacred geometry
David’s passion is the theme of sacred geometry, in that all of life is connected. After having been exposed to the material it is quite amazing how all of life comes out of this simple and powerful principal. From plants and flowers to fertilized eggs, all of life works with these principals and follows the patterns of sacred geometry. There is also a meditation associated with this knowledge that sets up an energy field around you so that you may interact and experience your connection to the oneness of life. It may just be that I arrived here under such perfect conditions just to learn this one thing, but I would say that I learned and experienced so much more.
 france garden 2
The loving compassion in which David and Mo welcomed me into their lives and shared all that they have goes beyond words. The pure feeling of waking up each day, knowing that I was taken care of like a young child with loving parents is indescribable. I have been working hard to allow myself to be taken care of, whether by friends, strangers, or the universe itself. I have always been happy to take care of others and in the end I turned it into a shield against experiencing the same in return. To return to the knowing and feeling of being totally safe and with loved ones is a remembering of our true nature. We are always taken care of and this flow comes to us unrelenting and in abundance if we but learn to allow it. The shape and circumstances may always be different, but with the loving intention to flow with life, is to experience the love of life. I will be forever thankful for this gift and seek to be an example of it so that others may know this feeling.
 castle kitchen
The coincidences during my stay are beyond number, but one must be mentioned. I got to visit a real chateau and was amazed in the beauty and charm this building, older than the United States itself, held in its walls. During lunch in the village though, everyone greets fellow customers, and I made the acquaintance of Robin, a local healer and I am sure a very interesting person. In our short 3 minute introduction he gave me a litany of recommendations for India and offered to put me up in a house of his in northern India inhabited by Tibetans. I just have to laugh at how easily opportunities show up where available to help you along. It had been my strong and hourly intention to bring amazing experiences, people, music, resources, and food into my life. Of course it’s going to show up and sometimes what looks like a dramatic and wild offering seems simply perfect from one seeker to another. Releasing the resistance to universal source showing up in your life allows strangers to offer you what you desire. Only a short time ago this scenario might have been met with hesitation from myself, but I am in gratitude that I am evolving into a receiver of the intentions I make no matter what form they arrive in.
 mo and dacid
10 days have disappeared in a blink and yet each moment was lived fully and with great joy. I have a day at Lourdes for prayer and meditation, followed by my second Vipassana course and then off to India. As David confirmed, I am not going to India to learn anything, just to experience a way of living so that I may better manifest into my life that which brings the greatest joy. You reach a point where you don’t need to learn anything anymore. At first you pass a stage of gathering as much information as possible. Everything is novel and excites that deep place of knowing within you that recognizes truth. Another stage arrives where one goes quiet and must practice and experience this knowing. When something is needed you will know it when it is needed or be led to the knowing. One need not strive anymore to gather knowledge around oneself, but understands that all things  show up at exactly the right moment. I am entering this stage and I must say from the few experiences of this principal, it is true and beyond amazing. The stuff magic and dreams are made of, but accessible at every moment. We truly live in a miraculous reality
 france barn
I finish my experience in southern France with my trip to Lourdes. This was the source that set the previous experiences into motion and it doesn’t fail to delight either. Upon reaching the church grounds I can already feel my vibration raising to the level of healing. Old patterns forcing their way to the surface to flee this pureness. I arrive at mass and participate, even taking the body of Christ as I learned as a child. A symbolic act of aligning with the vibration of experience. I meditate and pray for around two hours as peoples faces and words of blessing form easily in my mind. I am alone in this great cathedral and the silence is amazing. I explore my interior space as well in light of my new merkaba energy field that is energizing me and my intentions.
  spring
On my break I stroll the grounds and find that the grey rain clouds have turned to sunny blues. How many times will I write about such experiences before they begin to bore my readers I wonder? I find the famous grotto with the healing spring. I pay my respects with the few others here on this perfect fall day. I then wash my face, jewelry, and fill my bottles with this holy water. It tastes fresh and crisp when I bring it to my lips and radiates a pleasant vibration from my stomach. I continue my leisurely stroll sipping holy water and relaxing into the peace of mind and body I have come to know as my daily experience. As my vibration continues to rise to match this water, I am healed. Healing being a state of being that expresses itself without resistance. I watch as little unconscious thoughts or habits come to the surface and are washed away without a second thought. Just being here is enough, the experience of a higher vibration is the healing, and above all else I choose to see things differently. Bless you all and may you find your way to perfect peace and harmony.
 france buddha
Resources for traveling:
Workaway
Also
Woofing: only for organic farming

 

Paris: World of Imagination

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“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. 

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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. 
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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.
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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 
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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. 

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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. 
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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.
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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. 
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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. 

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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.
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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.

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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. 

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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. 
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Eating well and off to Germany~
-The Wandering Monk