Travel and friends in Europe

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The call of adventure springs upon me again. Heading to Europe for what was going to be a week road trip around Iceland has turned once again into a friend visiting escapade. The joke in Europe is to invite people in neighboring countries to visit because it is so close, but they never come because the distance is too far. Well in the states, an 8 hour drive is a small road trip and with Iceland only a few hours flight away, I accept a friends polite invitation to Germany. Word gets out quick and friends in Paris and Ibiza soon find destinations on my itinerary while only missing an extra trip to London. A fresh reminder of enjoying friends and food and adventure.
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imageSunny and vibrantly green southern Germany is my first destination. Lahmo and Abhivan, dear path of love friends from India, invite me to share their beautiful life in Lindau. Amazing musicians and artisans as well as meditators, my arrival ends up starting a mini vacation from work and enjoying each day by the lake. Lindau is a small island of tourist envy, enjoyed for its history and lake views. Escaping WW2 bombing completely for aiding Switzerland in food delivery, Lindau is architecturally stunning with a vibrant waterfront. We spend our days with local friends playing music, picnicking, light sports, swimming, and playing with the children.
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I get to visit Austria and Abhivans cabin, see a sailboat race, dance wildly in public and practice tai chi. I saw many beautiful green spaces, the view from the mountains, ate cheese spaetzle, saw a hand of God sunset, and tried to change social stereotypes by getting Germans to dance in the street to the live music being played. It was a beautiful week of enjoying the outdoors, conversations with people I love, and a remembrance of how simple and enjoyable life can be settled down in one place.
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I fly off into the midnight sun, Venus and Jupiter glowing brightly out of my window seat, to enjoy a night layover in Oslo. I am heading to Iceland to participate in an impromptu road trip. After having visited Iceland at the beginning of my world tour I vowed to return to the most beautiful place on earth and do it right. Shane, my long time roommate and fellow world traveler is starting his 1 year around the world tour and Iceland is the kick off. Once declared he was going, our friend Jlynn jumped aboard, and in similar fashion to our south east Asia travels I had to attend as this would be a major reunion. Oh twist my arm universe, lets do Iceland!
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Arriving to a radically colder environment I get my layers on and adjust to the beautiful landscape. Rolling up in the rental from a visit to blue lagoon my friends scoop me, hugs and hellos and land ourselves in Reykjavik. We are relying on my expert travel skills and knowledge of Iceland to get us by. It serves us perfectly and helps Shane learn the ropes of traveling in this day and age of smart phones and wifi. We settle in, take a small tour and prepare for our early morning hike by having drastically different adventures. Jlynn and myself retire early and end up making friends with our hostel mates receiving free wine, while in true Shane style he parties all night with local friendly Icelanders. Arriving just in time for a short nap before we head out for our longest day of exploring Iceland.
imageTouring Iceland by car is the only way to really see it. Everything is conveniently off the one ring road that circles the island and breathtaking views come right to you. Every 10 minutes the landscape somehow changes drastically from mossy rocks, to shrubs, black sand beaches and grassy sheep farms, to volcanic steam, all dotted with more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at. Bring extra space for all the photos you will take, being overwhelmed by so much beauty.
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We find moderately priced but memorable accommodations along the way. Sleeping in a 100 year old hospital, two farm houses, a marina warehouse, and a couchsurfer to boot; everything was cozy and inviting. Seeing as the sun never sets, you get a sundip rather than a sunset, your body always wants to be awake. Many late nights were had wandering the twilight hours of Iceland playing guitar and meeting locals.
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Some highlights of Iceland, to be explained fully in its own post, were to walk on my first glacier, visit a crashed airplane from WW2, hot spring cave, volcanic Mars landscape, snow capped fjords, waterfalls you can walk behind, eating fermented shark, picking up hitch hikers, many hot spring baths, jumping into the North Sea, and the many jokes and antics of spending days driving around with best friends rocking to music.
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Iceland was an overwhelmingly beautiful spectacle shared with dear friends and new ones. A good reminder that traveling with friends is hilariously fun and vastly different than traveling alone. Playing off each persons unique personalities and energies creates a new dynamic environment that being with only yourself cannot possibly experience. I am happy for that and all the laughter.
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One long day of driving and fly off to Paris, which seems to now be my old stomping grounds and most comfortable city for me to visit. I know the ropes and speak enough French to sail easily into the heart of this beautiful city and meet up with Robin. He is figuring out professional life of an international lawyer living in Paris. Long hours but delicious food and a city that seems different from the time spent in school here.
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I readjust to the perfect weather and stroll around these familiar streets eating familiar foods. It’s like being at home in many ways. I’ve been to Paris now perhaps 10 different times and know what I want to see and eat with the little time I have. I enjoy my time with Robin catching up and sharing our lives and art. Pastries and walks and poetry is how one absorbs Paris in pieces.
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We thankfully are in Paris for summer solstice which means that everyone comes out to play music to celebrate summer. It seems on every corner there are buskers and performance groups. From marching bands to ethnic song and dance you can barely turn a corner without some new cacophony assaulting your ears. We dance to soul gospel and Brazilian, teenage bands and accordion players, and finish with a major performance by Ibrahim maalouf the trumpet player and his band. Mind blown with the amount of energy and big band music he brought to the palais royal.
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That was a pretty great farewell party as I head to Ibiza Spain. The world famous island for electronic music and parties, as well as a collection of meditative and conscious people living in the north of the island. It is in the more laid back and less drunk group that I find my friends Adam and Kim, also path of love friends, who open their home and life to me. Beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches greet me in this Spanish countryside of purple flowers and white washed walls.
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Adam is my dear soul brother from PoL and spending any time with him is like looking at myself in the mirror. We share on all topics of the heart while enjoying the never ending sun and sea of Ibiza. The atmosphere is light and jovial with people enjoying themselves and the idea of siesta has never been more real to me in the mid day heat.
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We enjoy local paella, the hippie markets, and a wonderful night of ecstatic dance. Walking around for long strolls in the perfect evening weather, life is well rounded and easy going. I suppose I could enjoy myself in these easy days of friends and ocean play. Not sure what I would do with my time that is of much importance to me but a beautiful place to visit. Adam and I share our connection and love in many ways and remind ourselves of the beauty of the world and our connection with Osho.
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We share a special connection in this world of being of the same soul stuff. I say this because never before have either one of us found someone who is exactly like our inner selves. This boggles my mind as we think and experience the world in the same way. Never before have I so truly seen two people cut from the same cloth. For this reason we share and connect on a special level that makes us brothers in every sense that matters.
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Flying out of Barcelona, there is one last gift for me. My dear friend Tate and Ashley happen to be in the airport, in my very wing, at the exact same time on their way to China. We have enough time for hugs and photos before flying off in different directions. I am heading back to the states for an unknown adventure and they are off to the orient. Florida and family here I come.

  

Vipassana take 2

I am such a good meditator!  Look how easy it is to sit for hours on end and be such a good example to all the new meditators sitting behind me.

Says my ego.

3 days into my second vipassana meditation I am tooting my own horn.  Of course I am speaking only to myself, in my head, as we are in noble silence. My daily practice has paid off and I am sliding back into the routine with great ease and pleasure.  I even get to practice my language skills while here in the French country side. Of course, my ego is here to be worked on, and after this little vacation comes the heavy blows.  

I know from the last experience that the second half of the week is where the real work begins.  On day five I feel slightly sick.  Many people are coughing and sniffiling as the weather is cold and rainy or snowy.  I am losing energy and a bit afraid of coming down with something being trapped in here with all these people.  I never get physically sick, but I feel the energy of the room is totally in Blah mode.  The next day I speak up and get my temperature checked.  Ive decided if I have a temperature, all the achy sensations in my body are because I am fighting off some infection and will take the proper steps to manage that, or its simply ive gone deep into myself and something nasty is coming out.  Explaining in pantomime and my simple French I finally get a thermometer and skip the drugs they want to give me for free.  I am perfectly the right temperature; Shit.  Ok mind, this is for real, we are going to war. As Rumi would say:

“Are you dazed from too much meat and wine?  Or are you a soldier on the field of battle?”

Time to own up and stop prattling away excuses that I am sick or the energy in the room is low.  This sensation is inside me, laying in wait in the dark, obscured behind pain and confusion.  No amount of mind chatter is going to solve this for me.  I have to buckle down and face the reality of this sensation that has arisen. 

By the end of day six I want to die.  No energy, depressed, and no hope, I curl up into a ball and have a good cry.  The discourse as always saves me and gives me the courage to go on the next day.  On day seven I hit the wall.  I have reached a place in me that I do not know.  This scares me so completly I run in the other direction, but I cannot escape.  A ball of energy the size of a grapefruit sits right on the bridge of my nose and temple.  No matter what I do, think, rationalize, or try to energetically heal with every trick in my bag I cannot do a thing about this.  It is simultaniously intriguing and confusing. Intriguing I can handle, confusing makes me crazy.  I spend countless hours of my meditation trying to figure out what it is and in the end I can only say one thing; I dont know what this is. To steal a line from Osho,

“If you are confused, be confused, at least that will be the first clear cut thing about you.”  

So I resolve to be confused, to let go of the need to know, figure out, solve, and fix this crazy new thing happening to me and stealing my attention from meditating. Of course, that was probably the purpose of my mind the whole time.  To distract me from meditating and doing the real work of healing and moving forward.  I am so exhaused at the end of the day and drained from the mental circles I ran around my mind that I just pray the next day will be better and less scary.

Day eight I relax and back off from trying to figure out this place of confusion and focus again on meditation.  A slight repreve as it is a hard day, but doing better.  Day 9 I get a little gift of being totally in my morning meditation and feeling quite buzzed throughout my body.  Yes! I made it through and today is going to be great and blissful like last time.  Wrong.  The fear and the energy come back in full force stealing my attention again, but I manage to face it and go deeper, no further than day 7, which leaves me feeling a bit of a failure at the end, but at least I found something in me that was new.  A place that was dark and sad.  A place where I could honestly say I dont know who I am.  For that alone, all the trouble was worth it.

Despite the personal struggle I faced, I was really blown away during this course with an abundance of thoughts about appreciating the people in my life. I am always wanting to give more compliments and do special things for people, but in the moment it never occurs to me; only afterwards or in periods of meditation where I cant do a thing about it. For some reason the Christmas season came up a lot in my feelings. The desire to be in that place of warmth and let go with family and friends really kindled the fire in me to find a way to appreciate my loved ones on a daily basis.  It is important to understand that when we are unaware and unmindful every moment slips past us uncounted. When there is some occasion to be more mindful, such as holidays, we are provided an opportunity to be present and really enjoy the richness of life. When you are really present and aware the memories you make fill you with happiness and can be recalled later. Therefor resolve to share wonderful company, to put loving and creative effort into your dress and foods, and to cultivate the awe and joy of remembering that you belong to something greater than yourself. All the memories that surfaced were not moments of something planned or daily tasks, but the simple moments of consciousness when you felt something special, that magic that is really the touch of existence. Of course, this sensation is available every moment and that is the work of meditation to bring it forward to the surface.  

I struggled a bit with the idea and performance of being a meditator.  I have spent the last two years going inside myself, while also retreating from the world.  I was trying to follow the ultimate truths shared by many enlightened persons. I am having to face the fact that I probably missed something important.  Vipassana and all meditations are meant to be techniques to be used in the world; in your daily life.  As a friend reminded me, in the ultimate truth we are existence itself, but until you reach that point, face the reality in front of you; that you experience it as a seperate being. It does no good to hide away in a cave and practice meditation only to find out as soon as you get back to the commotion of life that your silence and inner peace was false.  Meditating by yourself (in caves too) has its purposes for deepening into yourself, but ultimately learning to meditate in the middle of the marketplace is the true test of progress.  When all of lifes struggles spring up before you, and still you remain aware and equanimous, then you have found inner peace. I struggled with the idea of needing to become a monk to find the buddha and remembering to actually be in existence and celebrate it.  Thankfully I am headed to Osho’s Resort in Pune India next, and although I have no idea what to expect, I do know that Osho is all about celebrating life and bringing meditation to every moment of your life. Often through dance and more dynamic active meditations he brings people to their senses and at least livens up the place.

I am on the path and have learned more about myself.  May your journey be blessed and may all being be liberated.

On the Train to Tarbes

A kiss from a little one. How rare this seems in my life and yet how touching. The pure innocence and smallness of those tiny lips on my cheek impart all the radiant glow of this divine entity. Children are closest to God in nature, pure feeling creatures who act in the moment with their whole beingness. Pain is the greatest pain, joy the greatest joy and they can change in an instant. This is the beauty of Children. I managed to spend most of my day on late trains traveling the width of France across from a mother and her two daughters. I embraced these deities for who they are and what I once was, delighting in their games and noise. I watched as others inwardly groaned at this disturbance of civilized silence and clearly forgot that they once occupied the other role. I shared these wonders with two older women and we formed a small train family, laughing and playing in the aisles. My renowned fish face made a spectacular appearance and children don’t care if you can’t speak French. When the older daughter gave everyone the traditional French cheek kiss goodbye I was surprised to be included for my small part in the day. That little kiss, which I’ve only every recieved from my nephew, sprang on me the wonder of having children. I certainly don’t want any in the near future, but I assume if time does come for creation, that it will be out of the blue like a ghost kiss on the cheek to call forward the presence that wishes to express itself. 
 
I think the European way of greeting also helps to break many barriers of social space and connection. Just as the Japanese bath house serves to level the playing field in the corporate world, something personal is transmitted in a kiss. This isn’t an intimate kiss between lovers, this is the kind of intimate connection between family and friends. Perhaps the French are slow to make friends because they understand the level of commitment required to form a lasting friendship. Something special too is transmitted in a handshake, a bow, or any embrace and greeting. Trying out another cultures greeting feels odd at first since habit has locked in one kind of pattern. I am used to handshakes, but prefer to hug, even new acquaintances. There is always an odd moment when unspoken communication about the greeting gets confused, but even that tells you something about yourself and the other. For our prudish tendencies about kissing, which get put on a pedestal in childhood, the European greeting presents a special boundary to be broken. Having years to practice being close to another’s face must help build the foundation for intimacy and close ties. I don’t think you can kiss another human being without feeling some connection to another.