Osho: Uncovering the Essence


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Returning to India was inevitable, like being called back to a warm and loving home. Making the decision to invest in a new career and prolong my return to India for a year, only made the daily passion to be reunited stronger. Mother India and osho in particular, gift me such a juicy and powerful reminder of the vibrancy of daily life. The energy, connection, learning, and insight rich expansion that can be milked in a few short weeks always takes my breath away. I forgot how that potent infusion really feels by missing my trip last year, but was gently and wonderfully reminded.

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Thirty one hours of travel, enough to match my age, found me popping through Dallas on a late arrival, swankily soaring to Hong Kong in first class, and plopping across the stretch to Bombay in one of the last seats available. Arriving late, I found I had an entire van to myself to take me to my apartment at 6am where in the most orderly fashion I have ever experienced India, was shown to my room, all in one piece, fully awake and ready to begin my first day back at the osho international meditation resort.

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This years experince would turn out to be one of integration into daily life, rather than digging to the depths of undiscovered conditioning inside myself or awakening to the potential of human experince. I decided to visit as a guest rather than a worker, hoping to give myself the free time to meditate more, engage in lengthy conversations, and take extended lunch breaks. It seems that the pace of life inside the resort does not care about your work status and I quickly found that while I had a little extra time, all the rest was quickly filled with opportunities.

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I first began to give massage sessions daily to keep up my skills, but also to give back to the community and see how my year of training paid off. Good word spread fast and soon every booking was taken, much to many friends dismay. I was invited to host a New Year’s Eve broadcast of the Buddha Grove dance which went out to thousands of osho lovers to spread the daily joy we all share here. I also got to Dj that dance a week earlier and host/Dj an ecstatic dance party for one of the night events. I was brought into two tantra groups to help balance the male/female ratio and got to spend 8 days going into the heart and experiencing many new techniques and experiences to heal the illusions held between the masculine and feminine. I was introduced to essence work which gave me a key insight to my own inner longing for fulfillment and will be a focus of this years future work. I was also introduced to Trauma Releasing Exercises to help heal old traumas and energies stuck in the body. This and many interpersonal issues, abundant energy, wild dancing, flirting, food, friends, and frolicking made up my first 3 weeks at osho; I was blown away by the abundance and gifts I received in such a short time, vowing once again to never miss a winter in India.

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The first major change that would affect me was so much less desire to do osho meditations and rather just sit in the silent garden with my presence. This was the first sign that this year would be more of letting the pieces fall in place rather than stir more up. I’ve been digging for years and this might be the first time I’ve even accepted the idea that real rest can be a part of the meditation journey.

 

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It was here that I realized the “White essence” issues in my life. My last year in Utah was beautiful, but plagued with a undertone of desiring more connection like I receive here in India. I tried many ways to create space for this to happen even trying to force it at times. This just led to more upset and resistance to it not happening. White essence is about support, knowing you don’t have to struggle to get it done, relaxed confidence, and being grounded. This is the essence I wanted most in my life and I struggled to get it. Obviously I can’t make it happen, but how to allow it was a serious piece of knowledge lacking in my tool kit. I learned I had to feel this lack of support, to feel the pain in me that causes me to strive for it and push it further away.

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I had to experience the “white hole”, to feel how this perceived lack of support makes me feel, what it causes me to do in life, how I change my behavior to try and get the support I fear I need. When my efforts fail to produce the support, I go into distraction; watch tv, movies, or browse Facebook rather than support myself. I distract because I wish to avoid that pain burried inside. I don’t want to feel the lack of support essence or my failure to get it back in my life. But sitting in this garden I felt it all. I allowed all the bitterness to come up, all the blame I placed on others for not “showing up” for me, and all the fear that I won’t ever feel good enough if I don’t make this connection happen. You know what I found on the other side of true feeling?

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Healing: To go into an essence hole and feel the uncomfortableness allows the essence to come back. If a hole exists it is because some hurt or trauma has happened and our ego has filled it with an approximation, a memory of true essence in an effort to bandaid this wound. No approximation will ever suffice for your true essence and this is why we always feel a lack when there is a hole present. We know our essence isn’t being used and the tricks of the mind no longer work. Out of this one experince the start of “drop the story and feel” became my new mantra. Feeling is the key to being present and antidote to a pesky mind. Just try it next time and see how much the mind keeps you from doing anything that could envoke a feeling, a feeling which allows you to become master again.

Over the weeks here the other colored essences would come one by one to show me their wounds and I would feel their pain and move to the other side. This didn’t mean I wouldn’t fall back into a hole, but when I did I could stop my protection strategies once again and feel for my essence to come back. Being one with my essence again feels like being home, like abundance of energy, that there is nothing lacking in my experience of that essence’s issue. It doesn’t mean everything is fixed forever, but it was a major piece I was missing and had been looking for a long time. Don’t be afraid to explore into feeling, the gifts of being present await on the other side.

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With my essence back in place it was suddenly time for relationship work again. Through two tantra groups, a male/female polarity group, path of love, and facing the fear of rejection with some women I shared my feelings with, I came to some hard truths and breakthroughs. I am an extroverted introvert. The best definition of these terms I have ever heard is this: if you gain energy while being in a group you are extroverted and if you gain more energy being alone or 1 on 1 then you are introverted. Likewise you lose more energy being in the wrong group. Thankfully I can do both, but it was hiding an essential truth from me. I grew up shy till the age of 18 when I went to college and like a butterfly did an about face in 3 days and became a wildly social young adult. What came to me was that I used this exteovertedness to cover the fact I am still shy. It became a very useful protection strategy.

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It’s manifestation was revealed to me in my dancing behavior at osho. I dance big, wild, sexy, and all day without end to my energy, as there are many opportunities to do so. Everyone seems to know this and appreciate it at times, but there is a pattern, like a butterfly. I come to various people for a short time, dance how I feel and the moment another feeling comes in which I must invest myself further I flutter away and repeat this process. I never go deeper, I never got invested because I was scared of any steps I would have to take next. Any steps that would involve the reality of the other person. A woman noticed this and remarked to me that I need to be more focused (in relation to gaining her affection) but it soon became apparent to me at many deeper levels the truth of this statement in general.

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In the polarity group I got to explore masculine and feminine energies and I was quite surprised by what I found. In exploration of the masculine I found I knew this energy more intimately, but used its full expression seldomly. Masculine essence is power, direction, protection, and support, but it is also the never ending expression of freedom, and must learn to walk the edge of success and failure; live and die each moment by your choices that you feel will kill you to do. The masculine grows by challenge and therefor must live life in a way that challenges his sense of self to feel alive and free. My masculine however was doing double duty. It had created a faux feminine and was using this in place of the true feminine to feel more safe.

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My first painting ever. Of Tathina at night. Thank you Meera

Had you asked me before this group, “was I in touch with my feminine?” the answer would have been an absolute yes. I would find out that all my feminine qualities I thought I used often, were in fact being approximated by my masculine. A good attempt I must say in retrospect, but not authentic. The feminine is about presence and feeling, always the need to be needed, honored and loved. Supported by the masculine, the feminine can relax. Relax, let that sink in for a moment. Only the feminine knows how to let go and relax, the masculine is always doing. With relaxation the feminine can be free to feel safe in her expression of holding space and life in her hands. The wise earth mother that is grounded in wisdom, but flowing like life itself. My masculine has been intruding into the feminine space for maybe my whole life. The feminine has been waiting patiently for the day when the masculine would truly see her and give her the honored space she deserves by his own free choice. That time was now.

A night portrait of me done by Tathina

A night portrait of me done by Tathina

When I saw the power of presence and feeling in the feminine, something I have wanted most sincerely, the masculine also finally saw it. The masculine dropped its double duty and finally knew its purpose. To be focused in its power like an arrow, not spread all over the place trying to hold the space. The feminine needs this concentrated male power to be able to fill the rest of the space with feeling and presence. When they finally saw each other there was a great understanding and mutual respect, which turned into a harmony between their functions. Each aspect can now work with each other so I can be whole. The masculine will keep working to let go and not intrude, but support the feminine space, and the feminine being honored can relax, so I can rest in this presence of feeling life. What a beautiful gift to have received so fully.

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Translating this polarity into the outer world has been a beautiful experince. One major realization came in that there are quite a few aspects to relationships I hadn’t noticed energetically before. The first layer is the physical in which people interact with each other, converse, do activities, and share the first level of connection. The second layer might be called having an open heart to the other. That the space of emotion and love is available to share. The third layer might be the realms of affection or intamicy. This can be physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc but the quality is of intimacy. What I found for the first time is that there is no order to these layers.

I found that my heart had opened to someone in which we were struggling to operate on the basic first level of spending even 5 minutes together a day (both a male and a female, so this applies to all kinds of relationships/friendships). In another case my heart had not opened, but the other layers had. This created much confusion in feeling/desiring until I saw this realization. In the first case I was struggling internally because my heart was open and wanted connection, but the physical opportunity to express it was not available. The person was on a different time schedule or working on their own issues and could not meet. In the second case someone had opened their heart to me and while I could meet them and connect I couldn’t give them what they actually wanted, which was a heart connection.

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Seeing this made me so much more aware of these layers and how interactions occur between humans. Not only am I now more present to my own truth of openness, but honoring how the other might be operating as well. Sometimes these things can be changed and sometimes they cannot. When we don’t align, especially on the heart level, it hurts to not find mutual support of our feelings, but also can be a relief in knowing the reason the other cannot meet us there. This was a mutual learning and gift for me this year and I am so thankful to have spent the time, presence, and effort to discover this, no matter how painful it was to keep feeling and digging down to the answer.

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Path of love swung through osho like a stiff breeze. Whispers landing in many ears before the fateful last day to sign up. We had a beautiful 2 hour taster that really grabbed the essence of pol and suddenly the group was full. Being my 5th experince I felt I was very prepared for this week. This was a special pol for me as this was the place I had my first experince, huge realizations, osho told me to take sannyas, I had a satori, and my life as a spiritual seeker began In earnest after this week. Am I partial to the pol process? Yes, it gave me my life back to live.

Strangely this week went so smooth and strong that it was over before anyone realized. I know the structure and way to work so well that I jumped in with both feet and popped out the other side with everyone all renewed. I didn’t know what would come up and I wasn’t expecting anything for once. A few days before I was all soft and crying due to my own work and then when it started I was all excited and energetic. I think the biggest work for me was with some darkness from my childhood where I learned to hate myself for being sexually curious. Some innocent exploration around age 5 turned into an unexplained punishment for my friend and setup a trauma for me. That got reinforced over life and a fear to be myself got ingrained. I really looked at this voice that said I wasn’t good, that it is still wrong to feel curious, felt it, and after much tears and anger came out the other side. Hopefully some conditioning was broken down and released. I at least have more awareness on this issue now and it’s subtle effects in my life.

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I also enjoyed some spiritual time off with a special experince this year as I went to the sunburn music festival for the day before New Years. Invited by my friends Amor and Madita, but feeling hesitant to go so far from the resort, I finally accepted this adventure and stepped into India. After a long car ride, but with great music dj’d by amor’s son we arrived at the hill side where the music was blasting and lights shining to heaven. Minor administrative issues with tickets and wristbands held up our entry, but finally our group descended into the not so chaotic music festival. Amazing hits were being mixed on the main stage and suddenly we were all dancing to the groove and taking pictures and letting loose. I haven’t had a good party like this because I am always hesitant to be around huge crowds. However I found it quite energizing to be here with a large group of friends just accepting the moment and dancing. We only got to dance for 2 hours due to our late arrival, but we really made the most of it.

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New Years at osho

However the after party was a main attraction and part of the Indian concert experince. Madita ushered in all the men of our group one at a time (1 man per 1 woman is needed to enter a club), and we were blasted with the loudest indoor music I’ve ever heard. Great Dj’s actually and instead of worrying about the eventual ringing in my ears I just went wild in the foreign environment. We danced till 3 am and I felt I really had a good time and that this could have been New Years for me. The following night I also danced, but wasn’t feeling it so much. I felt a little disconnected and that I didn’t need to celebrate New Years as much after such a great party the night before. Who knows how these things go in life? Always celebrate when the opportunity arises.

One final gift was waiting for me in Pune. In my apartment was another room often being rented out. One day the daughter of the woman living there started telling me about Roger Castillo, an Aussie giving teachings in Pune. Coincidently a free day opened up for me and I went. What he said I’ve mostly heard before, but how he said it transformed my life. He puts forth a framework for awareness to automatically land on suffering and stop the process. This highlights that we are infinite source, no one is doing anything and the secret to happiness is not to be found in pleasure or pain, but unbroken peace of mind, which is the end of suffering. The set of concepts he gave as the framework was like a puzzle piece for me. Suddenly I was ready for this teaching and these concepts were perfectly designed for the way my mind works. I had the most profound experince of my minds intellect catching the ego mind trying to distract me and cutting it off completely time and time again for over two hours. I had to sit and laugh because it was like watching meditation happen on its own.

I was able to see that this voice in my head isn’t me at all, but an effect of conditioning to think and put forth ideas like a machine, so that I feel like I actually am doing something and exist. I maybe had heard that before, but now I experienced it, my mind went silent, my eyes opened, and it has been wonderful ever since. Anytime suffering arises, the working mind (not a barrier to enlightenment) cuts off the suffering (suffering is only thoughts) and I fall back into peace. It’s so beautiful and works on its own once the conceptual framework is in place. Thankfully for me, it settled into place after hearing it just once.

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What Christmas looks like in India

All of this work and realizations and gifts culminated over time to give me a wonderful experience of daily life. Inside the resort an often heard quote is that this way of living isn’t real life and one must take it back to the real world where work and family and issues still exist. I often agree with this sentiment except this year I was shown something as close to my daily life at home as possible. Each day I woke in my apartment, went down on the street for my chai and talked with my new shop owner friends. Standing and talking on the street is an Indian national pastime. I would then head off to the resort for tai chi/chi gong/healing sounds or some other morning practice to wake up the body and energy. Breakfast would happen and my personal meditation in the garden. Sounds a lot like my mornings at home. During the day I would get sucked into conversations or dance or meditation before lunch. After which I would go to “work” doing massage for two hours or so. Early evening would be filled with osho and meditation or a personal night with friends, dinner, a movie etc. late night often included a dance party or some musical performance. I would visit friends for dinner parties at their apartments or something happening in the city rather than the resort. This has all the aspects of daily life especially when I included massage work each day. From my outer apartment life to my inside the resort work/meditation life, this year felt as close to fully living as I have known. I still wish to live out in the world and to make an intentional community so that myself and others can live this way, and I’m happy to keep getting examples of how it works.

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I’m so thankful for the story of my life. I am thankful I took off a year to gain a new career I love and now I can come back and recieve so much amazing learning and energy. It’s always available when you know how to trust life and boldly go forward after your dreams. It feels like it is all truly possible. So as I absorb all this goodness I head out once again from Pune to rishikesh, the land of yoga and enlightened masters, to practice all this learning first hand and hopefully recieve even more. India truly is home to this essence of spirituality and feels so tangible that you can just reach out and touch it. May you all come to know the experince of yourself where peace resides and happiness is the way of life.

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Path Of Love: Finding Love Inside and Out (Round 3)

pol seattle“Im driving a really nice car, but im still asleep at the wheel” -Premraj

Have you ever felt like that? Life feels really good on paper, but there are no heart pangs of deep feeling; that a numbness has crawled in. As a birthday present to myself, I decided to jump into the Seattle Path of Love, to rekindle my passionate fire and wake up to my life. Again. I wanted to feel it all, the sadness, the happiness, the presence, whatever could be there as part of being human. Somewhere I fell asleep to the depths of feeling and the fire was building again to clear the dust on my own life.image

In my day to day of school, work, play, business, and friendship, every aspect was going well, but still something essential felt missing. Path of Love is the strongest, most precise method by which I know how to wake up to more. It works every time, on everyone, and each successive time you participate you get even more. In the foothills of Mt. Vernon, on 250 lush acres, lies the TreacyLevine retreat center. 50 years of interfaith community building to form brothers and sisters among all people on the planet is a pretty ideal setting for our work. Beautiful scenery, sunsets, animal life including coyotes, plus all the stars that come out at night.image

I had a goal, as most do coming to The Path Of Love, I wanted to wake up to all of my emotions and really feel life, deeply, authentically, passionately; with an intensity that I had forgotten, but once knew many times over. The beginning of the process started off with a bang. There was a controlled burn of a house on the property as we began our first meditation, quite symbolic of burning down the old structures so the new can have space. The intensity level during that first meditation really set the pace for the week. What took me a few days to feel comfortable doing in Costa Rica last year, exploded out of me within minutes. Perhaps it is getting easier, perhaps 5 planets retrograde helped expose what was hidden, perhaps the energy dynamics of this group helped; no matter the reason, I jumped with a sincere intensity into the work that would change my life again.

In my exploration of my feelings, a few keys needed to be returned to me. I knew these keys, I even wrote them down, and yet I still forgot the experiential essence of them. First and foremost is the presence of the superego, otherwise known as the Judge. This is the voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough. It comes in many ways, many subtle disguises, directed at others, but mostly at the self. It has a purpose, it keeps you safe, but as we grow up and become stronger, we don’t need this voice so strongly anymore, but who has ever trained us to lesson its power over us? Flexing the muscle of control over the superego is a moment to moment practice. Becoming even slightly more free of its masks of deception provides a profound sense of well being and trust in life.image

My superego tells me many things, mostly how to keep myself small, but it also tells me how I should feel. Like others, it confused me by ‘telling’ me how I feel rather than allowing me to feel how I feel. This is the beginning of moving from the head to the heart. My superego told me I needed to feel a certain way and when I did not, it exerted its control over me by saying “look, see, your heart is closed, you don’t feel anything.” As tears were streaming down my face, having been touched by the deep gratitude and love of many people, I could only conclude that I was overflowing with feeling and I needed to change my ideas about what an open heart feels like. I was feeling everything, wonderfully everything, but still the Judge was there trying to tell me I was wrong, that I wasn’t feeling enough, well superego I caught you in your lies and now you can leave this mind once again.image

Once I caught my superego, the real work of stepping into my power began. This week was about feeling and power; masculine power. As many who know me can attest, I hang out in the feminine, intuitive energies because I am most comfortable there. This has formed a pattern through my life of people being confused about my sexuality. Metro sexual, bi-sexual, homosexual, no one can quite pin down a male body, with feminine energy, who is interested in women and can love everyone, male and female. What I discovered this week was the core of masculine power. This is not the aggressive warrior archetype, although that is an aspect, but it came down to one mantra for me “Strong enough to be changed by love”. The feminine is a river being held by the masculine banks. The bank stays strong in what it is, while allowing its edges to be constantly changed by the love of the feminine. No more controlling life, no lack of trust, a constant dialogue between the masculine and the feminine for without both there would be no river and no bank, just a swamp land.image

My experience of this wonderful dynamic came in an unexpected way; her name is Julie. From the start I took a risk to be more outgoing and assertive, this led to a lot of hilarity in witty verbal exchanges, as well as pushing the boundaries with all people. I was thankful and fulfilled by just this verbal exchange of asserting who I was and how I felt, but the universe always brings more than you ask for. In the weeks leading up to PoL the universe saw fit to bring me many examples of male/female relationships to help me better define what my inner landscape looks like. I changed my internal compass from finding a partner who I can work on my inner issues with to someone with whom I enjoy life each day immensely with. This means someone in whom I feel relaxed and comfortable, someone to laugh with all the time, someone who can meet my intensity and then keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible. This has become my new working definition and highest priority: connection. To say that I found a connection in Julie would be an understatement.image

The transforming experience came in a quiet moment after dinner, sitting in a deck chair looking at the landscape. I was feeling centered and complete with everything. Julie came by, sat in the chair next to mine and laid her head simply on my shoulder. The world turned and stayed incredibly still. Like the river banks, somehow I had found my center. No voice arose, no impulse to do anything, in fact I sunk deeper into myself having the feminine drape itself across me. Normally I would have gotten excited, started wondering how do I need to engage this person, what do I need to do to make this better, more, or somehow mesh with this person. Instead I stayed in my masculine center, right where I was and what I was doing, while my edges were changed. The feeling was incredible and will stay with me forever; of being myself and needing not change anything, that I was enough as myself. My hardest aspect of relationships has always been integrating this with women, and here at my deepest opening was Julie, pushing on my edges asking me if I could hold myself as a man. What an incredibly powerful and subtle experience. Perhaps true wisdom comes silently on the evening breeze, not in some flash of sunrise on the horizon.image

After that experience, our energies coalesced and exploded. The connection generated was felt by all and mentioned by many. I was able to practice my new masculine power center in many ways and found that living life from this place is so rewarding. I can be soft and feminine and present while maintaining my solid masculine core of grounded-ness and commitment. It is this power center that fuels the passion of life and is a core principal experienced on the Path of Love. To be able to integrate this deeply and practice it at the same time is what made this experience so powerful.

I was touched in many ways during this process, tears falling in rivers down my cheeks from extreme gratitude, witnessing beauty, connecting with people: their pain and pleasure, and being present to the wonderful space opening in me as I continued such transformative work. Osho certainly showed up for me personally again, reaching out across the years with his presence and power. It was during this process that I received the name of my heart and that connection was not lost on me. Standing next to beautiful new friends who lived many years with Osho himself, we wept for all the gifts that have been brought to us through his life; we wept for the longing in our hearts of wanting to connect to such a beautiful presence, we wept for the courageous people at that moment who were passionately digging to find and awaken their own hearts. It takes a community of people to hold the space of the heart and to help it trust to open. I was so happy to wake up every day to meet each and every one of these people and share some connection no matter what it was. It is a strange fact of life that everyone desires this connection and security, yet we rarely live in such a way as to promote it daily.

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Wrapping up such a deeply changing process is always difficult. Having built such a powerful and connected community through sharing emotions, love, laughter, and tears is hard to walk away from. Perhaps one day we can all just live together and share life in such a way, but for today we all go our separate ways and reintegrate into our societal lives. The pain of separation has always been an unexpressed surface emotion for me, but I know it affects me deeply. I put extra intention into parting with Julie; and our departure was filled with longing and tears, but also pierced by a connection that runs deep with a love mutually shared and experienced. It was a beautiful letting go into the unknown. Hugs and laughter were shared with everyone else and promises to see each other again soon. We all were deeply touched by the experiences shared in this week and I long for a way of living in which everyone can come and go as they please, but still hold this sense of connection through community. I had a reason to wake up everyday that wasn’t work; either a morning meditation or to share breakfast with friends and connect. This aspect of community and being seen continues to fuel my love of creating community. To have people around who can hold space for you, is such a beautiful gift that so many are longing for, I wonder why we struggle as a society to form lasting community.image

In this sense the divine enters into the Path of Love. Through our own hearts longing, and the grace of the divine, we reach all that we desire. Bring an intensity to the search, and the divine will take over and give blessings. Osho certainly found me and brought me to this work. Through what he left behind, I was able to find myself. The deep gratitude I feel for him and all his people is beyond words and a debt beyond repaying. I am so thankful for this life and this community discovered on the Path of Love.

Find out more at www.pathoflove.net

 

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.

  

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.

 

Life with the masters in Rishikesh

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Leaving an Osho community is always a strange and powerful experience that one must inevitably conclude their trip with. Whether you jump right back into what you knew as life before or simply move to another experience on your journey, the shift can be quite surprising. Thankfully this year I have a more balanced plan of action. I will take a pause from life inside the resort to learn Ayurvedic energy massage while still visiting once a week, followed by a trip to the beach in Goa, then to be continued with a month in Rishikesh sitting with enlightened masters in satsang. This feels like it might be enough of a step down to mellow out the sharp effects of leaving the Osho community this year.
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*Got to do a little advertising with my face

 

I take my high on life energy from completing the Path of Love course and gently turn its open heart energies into learning hands on massage. From the first day, first lesson, first touch, I am in love with this practice. I have known my teacher for only a year now, but his presence and energy was overwhelming from the very first meeting. The beauty of Shikha’s massage technique, besides being completely relaxing, is to take the recipient into their own space of inner silence. The first time he laid his hands on me in the middle of the massage and suddenly dropped into a deep space of “I don’t know where I am anymore”, I was hooked. When I asked what he did at that point he only smiled as if to say, “isn’t that magical?”

 

The method of this massage is using Ayurveda to touch the energetic and emotional blocks in the body and gently dissolve them. I felt that I wasn’t really receiving instructions so much as directly receiving the information from the body and wisdom directly from the heart of the master. On quite a few occasions deep energy blocks were touched an healed with accompanying tears, laughter, shouting, or other surprises. The depth of our attention and intention was the most important factor in this learning, as if we were just becoming channels for the healing energies through our bodies and hands. I know that often two hours of time would just disappear into massaging my partner and I would finish with more energy and love than I had begun with. I have found massage to be a healing outlet for my hands in which I can share all my talents in both giving and receiving. Wrapping up training with many compliments and love all around, and after a wonderful day of happy goodbyes at Osho, I left for the beach with a song in my heart and a dance in my step
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Goa rushed into my experience in the dawn light of waves crashing on cliffs. I found accommodation as one does, and began running into familiar faces from my first 10 minutes. Goa is filled with sandy beaches, lively hippies, Russian families, artists and musicians, as well as the yoga and meditation crowd. I ran into my good friends Kimberli and Ben on the main road on a whim. They were meeting me in India for the first time from Europe and of course just bumped into each other on the street. We spent our days watching the waves crash onto the rocks, reading books, mid day siestas, walking the beach at sunset, and long conversations over dinner right on the beach. Somehow nine days disappeared into memory so quickly, but we all had a small issue with the energy here.
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My mornings were the best, waking before the sun and greeting it with my daily stretching. Meditation followed and from here the day went downhill, ending with sleeping the middle of the day away and slowly coming back to enjoy sunset and dinner. I thought this was perhaps my issue having just left Osho, but both my friends were similarly affected. Granted it was hot in the middle of the day, but our energies were just depleted in this lifestyle. There are many people who enjoy the daily pace of drinking, mingling, and generally having less direction as beach culture usually dictates. For me, this was pure torture and I could never settle into aimless beach life. I tried some of the classes there, but only my circus arts, dancing, and good conversation carried the day. I came to the conclusion that the energy of Goa is such that it is very surface oriented. The depth is missing, and for me, the quest for depth is all that matters. I could have continued to live out some more days in this easy life, but that underlying pressure I couldn’t identify just kept derailing me. So a few days early we decided to jump ship and travel north to Rishikesh, my next and final destination in India; the birthplace of yoga and hub of enlightened masters giving daily teachings on walking the path to enlightenment.

 

We took the train. The 48 hour train. Sitting in general seating sometimes, but otherwise getting a real taste of Indian culture. From cramming people in train cars like we were escaping a war zone, to the lack of public sanitation, making friends and being invited over for dinner along the way, we experienced it all. It could have been done faster, but we booked all our tickets last minute and were lucky in this sense. We only had to sit in over packed general seating for 8 hours, sneak 3 people into two bunks for 12 hours, and besides sharing our paid for seats with loads of free riders, chai whallas, and train performers we enjoyed our long journey.
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We witnessed an interesting event of Mumbai guards forcing Indian passengers to queue for the train. Normally in India people have never heard of a line. If you can make your way to the front then you do so. Sort of an external affirmation of getting ahead in life. This also happens to be the most common excuse for why everyone tries to cheat you with a loving smile. So watching these poor people stand in line and board one by one, the agonizing pain in their faces of waiting, the desperate bid to push the guy in front of you, or cut line when no one was looking; just to get seated a bit faster and feel you accomplished something was the most interesting cultural experience.
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We arrived in Rishikesh on a drizzly evening and I knew at once I had arrived home. The beautiful Ganga river splits the colorful village of Laxman Jhula in half with a back drop of tree filled mountains. We crossed the foot bridge and stopping into every place of accommodation managed to locate acceptably unacceptable lodging for the first night. We located a wonderful bakery which became our standard daily haunt and with warm ginger-lemon-honey drinks, breathed a sigh of relief.
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Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, was holding an international festival to this now popular method of self discovery. Besides being home at this time to enlightened masters such as Mooji, Prem baba, Shantimaya, and Swami Atmanada, I felt quite blessed to be surrounded by such a collection of people with dedication and insight into the nature of being human. I would settle into a comfortable schedule of sitting with the masters and listening to discourse, discussions with friends, and enjoying the local food and scenery. I have taken it as a good sign of being in your place when you happily rise with the sun and are energized to begin your day with yoga, meditation, a cup of tea, or any other ritual that brings a smile to your face and heart about the coming day.
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*The real holi festival, celebrating the colors of the heart

It is here, surrounded by many friends from around the world and Osho, that I feel most at home energetically in a long time. I have a purpose in meeting the masters each day. I have found the wonderful practice of kirtan, chanting holy mantras or devotional songs, and often cry with gratitude singing from my heart. The crisp mountain air, the pale blue waters, and the easy life in Rishikesh all appeal to me and is now my home outside of Osho. It feels somehow cleaner here and that may have to do with the mountain air or the recycling programs which were started not to long ago. No one hustles you into their shop, instead allowing you to peruse at your own speed which ironically leads you to purchasing something. There are waterfalls and beautiful hikes to explore and yoga classes everywhere.

 

I came here to spend time with the masters and experience what being in the presence of an enlightened being is like. I wanted to know what it felt like to be near such a person and what their message was. I found out quickly that my expectation was far off the mark, as an enlightened person is as normal a person as anyone. They ride scooters, go shopping, talk with people and share their breakfast table with you when the restaurant is full, as happened with Mooji and myself. They also speak to a handful or thousands of people a day to share one message of unity. Each has their own way of sharing this message that is colored by the life they have lived. Not everyone speaks the same way and I feel that is a wonderful blessing. Just as there are many ways to the truth so are there many teachers who’s message will appeal to certain people. I’ve heard this message, I know this message, Its good to hear it again, but I also know all that is left to me is to find a master to devote myself to and to practice the message each day. I will share a few bits of wisdom gained in my time here, but one incident is worth pointing out.
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Darshan, or meeting with the master, often happens after the discourse is finished. People line up to be touched by the master, or to give thanks, or receive a blessing of some sort. On my first day in Rishikesh I managed to meet Mooji in such a line. His eyes were sparkling, moving gracefully and slowly through this ever thickening crowd, I wondered if he would see me one row back when he turned right to me, placed his hand full on my forehead and then over to my cheek and moved on down the line. I was a bit dumbstruck at my good fortune, but more by the presence of his touch. There was a weight to his touch and hand that conveyed his message as much as his words. He seemed to touch everything, either with his gaze or touch, with the compassion that you were of the utmost importance and worthy of the full attention of the universe. It filled me with the wish that I could touch everything in my life with such a presence, such totality. It was a great gift and reminder of the power of presence and attention mixed with pure love. It was worth the whole trip.
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Most of the teachings I listened to, Mooji and swami atmananda, were of the Advaita school of non duality. A process of self inquiry into the nature of the self to discover the unity of consciousness through awareness. Asking “Who am I?” or “Who is having this thought/experience/feeling?” is a good way to begin this process. If some object can be seen or some experience felt then something must witness it and thus you are not what is seen. This witness is ever present and the realization of such a state is the liberation of the self. These kinds of discourses were somewhat belonging to the mental realm, but effective in their goal. Other methods such as bhakti (love), which focus on loving devotional practices like kirtan, prayer, dance, and pure devotional ceremonies was a new and wonderful experience for me. Embracing my new moniker of Premraj (ruled by love), I found the bhakti practices deeply touching and a straight connection to the divine. I suppose one needs balance even in the way of meditation.

 

Here are a few quotes from my time in Rishikesh along with quotes from Osho whom I was also reading.

 

“The seed cannot relax, only the flower can relax. The seed is trembling, whether it will become actual, will it find the right soil, right climate, right sky, or will it simply die without being born?” – Osho

 

“Your mind wants enlightenment and to feel the experience of it. Enlightenment isn’t a feeling. It is the self before the mind existed and thus can never be experienced or grasped by the mind.” – Swami Atmananda

 

“Lack of attention dies up the personality like a plant with no water. Naturally.” – Mooji

 

“You need nothing to be happy, you need something to be sad. Make space to be happy for no reason.” – Mooji

 

“After a state of tasting the honey of life comes a change and suddenly the taste is gone. Now you must become the honey without the taste of honey. Let go of the desire to experience and taste, just become the awareness. It is a growth. The flower isn’t attached to its own smell. The peace you felt may be gone, but you are that peace itself. If there is one that is still enjoying the experience, even with full awareness, then there is still duality. Try to move to the pure awareness and become that awareness only.” – Swami Atmananda

 

“The bee of life is not attached to any flower. It simply moves where the flower invites it. It has freedom.” – Osho

 

“Surrender and effort. When you see that all effort is in fact an acknowledgement of duality, then non doing happens and surrender begins as the way to inhabit the presence.” – Swami Atmananda

 

“To abide in the heart, the presence, the watcher. If you find a way there, keep it and keep practicing it. No need to keep searching for another method.” Swami Atmananda

 

“Be together with her, the commitment is towards love, not the woman. When happiness is gone say thank you and move on. The moment something is no longer appealing, has lost the quality of allurement, of enchantment, is no longer magnetic, then don’t cling to it. Feel grateful for the past and move on.” – Osho

 

“There are two birds sitting in a tree. The first bird is very busy building a nest. The second bird is above on a branch watching the first bird be so busy. This is the mind and the meditative watcher. Then there is a presence which isn’t a bird at all, watching the whole scene unfold. That is your unified essence, your pure consciousness.” – Mooji

 

“Even once enlightenment has occurred, it can still take time to drop the mind, personality, and habits. You see them as powerless as each arises, but still they arise until full integration happens.” – Swami Atmananda
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These were just a few samples of comments that struck me. Listening to the masters is like constantly being reminded there is more in life and you already have it. There is nothing to do because you are already that which you seek. Only recognizing is possible, only realization of this truth. That is not to say that effort isn’t needed to create the situation where realization can occur, but no work is needed or can be done on your ultimate self. These satsang helped center me each day on the remembrance that I am not my environment, thoughts, feelings, and problems. I am the essence behind all that watching it unfold. Watching is certainly the right word, for when you can watch yourself move through the ups and downs of life and really just watch it happen as if to somebody else, there is a contentment and happiness that arises which cannot be taken away.

 

Abide in the heart and experience the truth. You are the force of love, in this moment and always. Finding and being reminded of the way and truth will always bring a clam knowing that you can walk your path. Rishikesh was a wonderful culmination of spiritual traditions and practice among friends and strangers all drawn to this wonderful community. It has become a must stop on the road to enlightenment with so much packed into such a small shining city. May you be fortunate enough to taste the essence of a living master who can help show you a way to truth.
Blessings on your journey.
premraj

Finding myself in The Path of Love

Beloveds,

I have something to share with you

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I am a self-critical, judgmental, angry, emotionally repressed, pretender. I have lived my life with a mask of being a good boy, peaceful, spiritual, grown up, with an air of having it all together in an effort to keep everyone happy and slightly removed so I would not have to feel any real emotion, commitment, or fear; to live life all on my own without any support. I lived as if this was the truth, that my mind had all the answers, that I didn’t need to change and I conveniently pushed all this to the side and kept it hidden from my consciousness. Until now; the ego can’t live forever after all.

Stepping back in time a moment, we can watch a beautiful process unfold of the universe stepping into my life to shine light on these wonderfully true aspects of myself, then stepping into the space of love, and being reborn into the beautiful essence I have always been, while dropping this mask of a personality.

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I find myself once again in India, at the Osho International Meditation Resort, working as part of the staff to extend my visit. I am struggling again slightly with the money and bureaucracy issues while enjoying tremendously the meditation community of people and self-development. I am having special difficulty and insights about this thing called mind. For the first time I can clearly see the mind as a separate entity, completely it’s own thing, and wildly the most insane, ADD child, I have ever met. It picks up anything it can get its hands on, plays with it for two seconds and throws it in the corner the instant it sees something new. Not only is this really annoying, it is getting in the way of everything I love because I have no control over this tiny monkey.

Flash forward a month and a half into my experience here: I am in a high stress job, feeling burnt out on working, missing out on connecting with many friends due to no time, missing out on opportunities, and I am putting a smile on everything because that’s what I do. Suddenly, Sambhavo walks into my office, a group facilitator and friend who says:

Sambhavo: “I’ve been looking for you”

Me: “I know, you need to pay for your program”

S: “No, no, no, I am holding a spot for you in the Path of Love”

M: shocked a bit

M: “Why did you just say that to me?”

S: “I don’t know why, it just came out!”

My mind was absent, or in shock, and suddenly there were just a few steps before me. The universe just quietly pushed me along without any resistance; check the program costs, check the requirements, see if they will let me off work, fill out the paperwork, have an interview, pack up my room, find a new place to live, get cash, pay, take a breath and jump into a 7 day intensive, super secretive, most money I’ve ever spent on myself in one go process called The Path of Love.

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*That’s what commitment looks like

Leading up to this huge, yet deceptively easy decision were many friends approaching me and sharing their own stories about Path of Love. I hadn’t been inquiring mind you, but many people in just a few days told me how transforming and wonderful the process was. A few good friends of mine were also going to staff on this PoL and shared their input. Somehow the universe just prepared me, without my awareness, so that when the moment came I couldn’t think about it, but rather just act out of instinct. It became the most important decision of my life and I didn’t really have to decide very much.

When you look back at your life, all the most important decisions and events aren’t planned; they just happen. It’s hard to see it at the time, but hindsight is pretty good. I felt in the moment that if I thought about what I was doing I would talk myself out of it. Instead I just walked the path laid before me with trust and knowing it felt right. 7 days later I walked out into the sunlight a new person, quite literally.

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While I cannot talk about the process itself, I can share all of my realizations; the biggest being the birth of my heart centered self. Through the work I came quickly to the understanding that I have been wearing a mask my whole life. A pretenders mask of being the “good boy”, so that I might hide my authentic emotions of being angry or sad, for fear of upsetting others and not knowing their reactions. A mask aimed to keep the status quo and people at an emotionally safe distance so that I wouldn’t have to feel any pain of separation, aloneness or any of my self judgement/criticism. My biggest question going into this process was a distinction between non attachment and being shut off emotionally. I could never find a concrete answer to this difference until this course. I realized that I have lived my whole life without awareness of the depth of my emotions. Surely they exist and I experience them as I am not a robot, but my experience of them, being overpowered by them, using them, allowing them to the surface, really tasting each emotion, was completely shut down. This started as my coping mechanism from 6 years old when my parents divorced. I decided right then and there to be a grown up, to solve any problems that arose, to be a good boy and cause no trouble, not to ask for anything, and to take care of myself. Well all those things are backwards, as no child or even adult knows how to do all that, and yet I lived with this belief and strategy for 24 years, strengthening it each moment.

There came an experience in this process where after accepting these facts at a deep level and understanding how and why I behave like I do, the mask suddenly dropped. I saw myself for the first time without pretending to be something. My face was radiantly alive with joy and tears. My tension was gone. I felt as if I finally saw myself like God sees me; as a perfect creation, alive, good, full of love and peace, and that there has never been anything wrong with me ever. In that moment I knew the mask known as Torey was finished and my pure essence had begun it’s new life. I jumped into a state of newborn ecstacy, where every look, touch, taste, and thought was new. I explored everything with an aliveness and newness I’ve never known. It was so beautiful and transforming to know this energy exists in me always, along with every range of emotion, and that this is what it means to be embodied and what a gift that truly is.

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Through a deep sense of longing and prayer, I also knew it was time to dedicate myself to walking this path of truth. Before, being spiritual was easy, a few meditations, reading some books, acting good and nice, and spouting off whatever lessons I had learned. Walking the path is much more difficult actually. It is a constant re-commitment to truth. To finding out who you are and how to let the divine into you. It is so much effort and courage, to burn with a passion and longing to always know the truth. The mind’s whole effort is to make life easy by putting us into the sleep of comfort. Walking the path is a constant stirring of the pot so that in fact no comfort exists for the mind, no room to take control and become master again. The heart, feeling, and pure essence are king here and the mind a tool to be used surely, but not ruler of the kingdom. To recommit yourself everyday is a true effort, using the intensity of your physical, emotional, and spiritual practices, but one I am happy to make now that I have seen the difference.

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For this reason I decided to take and was given sannyas on the last day of this process to anchor this knowing. Sannyas for me was always a dedication to walking the path of truth, mediation, and awareness, but contained a special emphasis on letting go of the old and starting a new commitment. PoL gave me exactly that experience, as the personality I had carried for so long died, and my essence was born as Premraj. This new name, meaning “king of love” or “ruled by love”, serves as a constant reminder of my true essence, a guide post that will always be a reminder when I do fall asleep, to keep my heart awake, alive, and full of love. To feel the radiant spectrum of emotions that exists in me and keep digging deeper and deeper to awaken the Buddha in me. Both prem, meaning love, and raj, meaning king, would never have been names I took for myself. When I was given this name though, it was like music being played on my heart. I was given this name by someone who could see into my essence and called forth what I am. A wise and just leader, who is strong yet merciful, one who has great treasures to share, and is able to balance himself and the kingdom he overlooks with ease and with love.

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*Pre Path of Love photo

After being out of the process for a few weeks I came to a new understanding of what I really gained. I’ll have to be honest first; coming back to the world from this depth of being with oneself was at once explosively amazing and slightly crushing. I exited my silence and confinement into a world of friends and loved ones who immediately saw a deep transformation in me. My presence, feeling, hugs, power, sexual energy, masculine energy, and open eyes blew everyone away. Sometimes it was too much for them, and sometimes too much for me to take a whole person so totally into my being. The very next day I had my sannyas celebration before the whole community. The crowd to hug and support me was the most anyone has seen in a long while. I had to be lifted onto the shoulders of my dear friend Adam and really feeling like a king, accept all this love and joy, to honor who I have become. This was the high followed by the low of retreating back into myself and my own space. With each new encounter, I was able to explore how I responded to the world and people. What I found, what changed in me, turned out to be only one thing. I learned how to trust myself. Suddenly I found that the fear of living life was gone. Situations where I normally would have avoided, or shut off emotionally, I could face head on without feeling scared. I could step into that space with my power and emotions intact and experience it. All my pretending and avoidance was gone and each time I kept surprising myself by doing something new.

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*Post Path of Love photo

This truly was the gift I received. To trust myself, trust the guidance of the universe, to trust love and the support of all human beings who want only my highest good. A strong realization came to me during PoL, we all have fears, hurts, longings, desires, hopes, needs and while the story might be a little different we really are all the same in essence. The fact that as a species we aren’t openly talking about how we really feel is perhaps the saddest thing I have ever come to know. Such a simple, yet terrifying effort to expose ones true self, and the whole world would come to know that your neighbor is the same as you. That everyone is just as scared as you, as hurt as you, as hopeful as you, as longing for love and support as you. I look now at everyone with such compassion because I know everyone has a deep wound that they carry, and they may not know anything about it, but I do, and I can interact with them in such a way as to share great love and caring and hold a space of compassion for their being.

To be seen is what every human being really wants. To be seen with eyes of truth and be accepted for who you really are is a foundation of love. To see a person at their core and accept them for their humanness and in turn be accepted, contains all the spiritual effort one needs to practice. I saw into people and ended up making lasting friendships because nothing can shake the truth of what was witnessed. We may all slip back into being the personality we have carried for our lives, but nothing can take away the truth of seeing another clearly.

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The depth of being that was experienced, the limitless amount of energy, the overwhelming support of the staff and growth in love was enough to turn me in a new direction. Understanding that this inner place of truth can be called out and touched, I want to dedicate my work to helping bring it out in myself and others. This is what holds value between human beings and has touched me as it touches every PoL participant. The effort is ongoing and once the taste of the possibilities are known, your life is changed forever. May clear communication and love flower amongst the hearts of all, until we realize we are all one essence. Love and blessings on your personal journey.

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Check out the Path of Love for yourself:

http://www.pathoflove.net/

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
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*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!
 

India, The Meditation Experience

Welcome to Travels in India: Meditation and the Crazy Enlightened Mystic, Osho

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If you are going to learn one thing at the OSHO International Meditation Resort, it is going to be dancing.  Wild, ecstatic, flowing, celebrating, at all hours of the day, dancing is happening, begging for your participation.  The lesson here being, if you can celebrate life and dance, then you are alive in the moment. Most dynamic meditations here contain some form of dancing and the highlight of the day, evening meeting, begins and ends with dancing.  Osho created these meditations to help people create space between the body/mind and your watcher, otherwise known as your intrinsic Buddha.  With this space, one may experience their authentic nature, of silence, happiness, and being centered.  One does not need to go anywhere, only turning in, realizing your own self, taking just one step and you are there.  We practice the art of living, to see our habit patterns and how to live with our watcher intact.  This creates the gap, the experiential wisdom of knowing you are not the body or the mind, and thus transformation, inspiration, and all sorts of emotions can come forth and leave you feeling peaceful, happy, and above all else, alive.

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I jumped into resort life with both feet, 8 months prior to arriving, when I decided this was the decision that would help me quit my job and give me the next step.  I had no idea what really went on here, and I wanted no information either.  To come with the least amount of expectations so that I could experience what is, instead of what I wanted it to be in my mind.  The first hurdle for my self transformation was actually getting the desire to go to India.  My fears of this famous country, known for meditation, always held me back, but they were unfounded. There is extreme poverty and trash everywhere, but also beautiful landscapes, perfect temperatures, many smiles and friendly people.  I decided to join the Work as Meditation program for 90 days and just give it the best go.  I work for 6 hours a day to receive a lowered price at the resort and be part of the staff.  Like everyone else here, visitor, worker, and teacher alike, we all pay to be present and experience the magic of this place.  This was the first hurdle for my western mind, I am paying to work. I can rationalize it, knowing I also get to live at a resort and meditate the rest of my day, but money, money, money were my thoughts.  Of course this is part of the work as meditation purpose, to watch your mind, and my mind couldn’t stop calculating prices and value. For the first days I was plagued with these kinds of thoughts, trying to turn this beautiful experience into dollars per hour.  In the end, relaxing into the  daily life of work and meditation healed me of all these woes and the real priceless value came shining through.

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The greatest realization I’ve had during my visit here is what living in a community of meditators feels like.  Beforehand, I didn’t even realize that I would be practicing part of my future way of life while being here, and what ive found confirms my beliefs: This is the lifestyle for me.  Unlike daily life in the modern world, everyone here understands the basic principal on which we all operate.  It matters not where you come from, what you believe, or even what you know; everyone understands that we are all developing ourselves.  If you are having an expressive joyous day, someone is there to support and join you.  If you are having a silent day and really working on something personal, everyone allows you your space to discover yourself.  It is a unique experience to know who is here, but never know if and how you can interact with them each day.  Perhaps you had plans for lunch, but you find your friends are all wearing silence badges on that day without telling you.  You really learn to focus on yourself, on being total in expressing yourself and your desires, moment to moment.  Every day brings something new and you practice not planning for the future or some daily habit pattern.  Even though I work 6 hours a day, I can’t tell you with any certainty what the day will bring me.  Often I am roped into something fun, there is a taster class to attend, lunch with different people, and the best part is that I never know how I will feel when I wake up, but whatever that feeling is, I have all day to fully express it, because tomorrow it will change.  There have been days of laughter and days of silence, days of peaceful awareness and days of rushed anxiety.  Learning to really embrace whatever shows up, in work, in friendship, in community, and in your heart is the root of the biggest realization here.  I know now that living in this way, from moment to moment with a group of people who all desire at the basic level to develop themselves is the answer to what I am looking for in a lifestyle.

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The next major realization is the new meditation techniques I have been practicing here.  Having done mainly silent sitting meditations over the last 2 years, I was in for a shock at the OSHO Resort.  Osho created many meditations and meditative therapies, but the 3 daily core meditations are Dynamic*, Kundalini**, and Evening meeting***.  I had just finished a 10 day silent Vipassana course before arriving here and I couldn’t have prepared for a more abrupt 180 degree turn.  The meditations here are designed to do what Vipassana does slowly and with awareness, abruptly and directly.  What I learned and discovered is that both techniques use one basic principal: The body sensations and the sub-conscious mind are linked.  If you feel something coming up from the sub-conscious you will feel it in your body, and if you feel something on your body it will go into your subconscious. This is called the bodymind, which is one thing, not two separate things.  This explains the celebratory dancing here.  If your dance is a celebration, your inner being becomes a celebration.  Dance when you don’t feel like it.  Smile when you don’t feel like it.  This will change your inner being. I stopped a 2 year practice of daily silent sitting to see what being total in this experience could give me.  What I found is that the meditations which often look like exercise or wild dancing, if you peek from your blindfold, are actually deeply working processes transforming the inner world.  Learning to express yourself in Dynamic though wild catharsis, starts to break down the walls of suppression in a quick and real way that transforms many people instantly.  I feel that if I have learned one thing in the physical realm it is how to express myself better.  This doesn’t mean just through my words, this means expressing my authentic inner self in all dimensions.  If anger is there, if happiness is there, sadness, laughter, joy, tears, anxiety is there, express it, look at it, examine it, but just don’t suppress it.  So often in our society we learn from childhood to present ourselves in a certain way, to create a personality.  We are not allowed to yell at other people and then be friends again the next moment; or to laugh or cry when we feel the urge, but society deems it inappropriate. The need to express is still very real, but we just tuck it away for later.  But later never comes and years later you find yourself a mess of confusion and emotions with no exit valve.  This whole experience is learning your natural exhaust valve and how to come back to your authentic self.  To see your conditioning given to you by society and family and choose consciously what you want to carry and what you want to drop.  I struggled at first with dropping my silence, and habit pattern for the last 2 years, but quickly learned that I didn’t know how to really express my true emotions.  Silence is fantastic, but it needs to be balanced against emotional aliveness.  Osho taught a mixture of “Zorba the Buddha”.  Zorba the Greek knew how to enjoy the pleasures of life, and Buddha knew how to enjoy the silence of your eternal centeredness.  Osho teaches that both are incomplete, both need each other in one being, that is the whole Man/Woman.

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The next realizations are all a mix of personal work done though the lens of being at a Meditation Retreat.  Every day is a day to work on yourself; every moment and interaction is a time to develop yourself.  As long as you keep looking back at yourself and embracing any uncomfortable feelings, progress is astounding.  At first I started manifesting connections to people, to make some friends and have conversations around meditation.  As I found my first friends and began feeling very comfortable and available to open myself, I then decided to manifest more experiences containing flirting.  I had been in a state of introverted silence so long that to think about flirting with anyone, was something I actually needed to work on. I didn’t want anything other than fun, playful, cute, and connected flirting and for this reason the manifestation was fully welcomed and explored.  All the cute ladies, older women, and male friends flocked to my new desire instantly and hugs and kisses abounded.  To feel loved every time you encounter someone just makes your day.  The quality of flirting with people and life itself is such a beautiful experience that to carry this quality of aliveness with you is a blessing and a gift.  Then New Years arrived and things changed.  While I was holding my energy and desire clearly, the effect on others was not so contained.  So from my fears of moving into a sexual relationship, a wonderful Chinese girl by the name of Sangeetam became my partner. We moved seamlessly into relationship as if this had been arranged.  It had been a long standing intention to manifest a partner in which to grow meditatively and lovingly.  I knew something was arranged for me at the OSHO Resort, and I can clearly say this was it.  We met with the same kinds of knowing about meditation and relationships, understanding we are both here to work on ourselves and see how we can develop.  The precipice of our bond was not physical attraction, but the calm knowing of two quiet souls meeting and knowing this was not the first time. What came next was an expedition into the fears I hold around relationship, boundaries, responsibility, and most importantly opening to love.

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Ah, relationships, I can’t even say I know what I am doing because I don’t.  Generally my relationships last a few months with wonderful growth which then leaves someone behind who didn’t continue to grow fast enough. As I’ve gotten older, navigating the entry and exit has become much smoother with both people knowing our purpose was completed. However, my knowing of love is only from what the masters have said on the subject.  That you can only love yourself, and when that becomes enough you overflow into the world and can shower it on another.  I know this to be true, because when I am in flow with the universe it is a state of grace that I can hold for myself and share with others.  To be honest, i have never felt that I’ve known love growing up.  I look at other relationships and I see what society tells me should be love and know that this has not been my experience. I am working on opening my emotional body and heart because I didn’t know how to be open, and thus, never could give myself totally.  I could act totally, and DO things for the other that looked like what society told everyone lovers should do, but actually feeling it?  I can’t say that except for a few moments in my life, I’ve felt the totality of LOVE.  Love, which is this overwhelming merging of being one with the universe so totally that you forget yourself and know instantly that all is one, life is perfect and then you shower that bliss of existence on all.  I have been plenty good and happy with people, even overcome with great joy and caring. I have even felt that something special you reserve for your intimate lover, but this actual truth of Love that the masters speak about, I have to admit I don’t know it, and ive never been shown it.  In knowing that fact, I can at least now invite the experience to come to me as a realization and a breakthrough.  As I work on myself, clearing the old debris of fear, I am making way for love to come through me and to experience whatever shows up.

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From my moment to moment perspective this seems to be the major work for me here.  Nothing else seems quite so hard, quite so big, or quite so rewarding.  I have opened myself to a mixture of meditation and celebration, that was needed, but the deep work of opening my heart will be the greatest gift I can give myself here.  Being in a relationship I have been given the perfect opportunity and partner to show me my weaknesses and also support me through my rapid growth in this area.  I can clearly see the fears in my mind and instead of putting them aside and letting the relationship ultimately suffer and die, I face the uncomfortable feelings and embrace the work of changing and facing my fears and old patterns.  I have seen clearly now that I have never let anyone into my emotional world before.  This is partly because I don’t know how to go there myself and partly because ive been lied to and kept that lie as the truth.  Due to my upbringing I never experienced what the energy of a relationship between two people really feels like.  My parents divorced when I was 6 and this began a subconscious learning process of individuation that just happened to be for this lifetime.  No blame to be dealt, everyone grows up in certain conditions, whether from family or society that we don’t get to control, but we do get to choose if we wish to carry it once we become conscious of the patterns.  I am aware that my relationship patterning was flawed, only seeing separation and becoming an island unto myself. I kept expressing the same lie of separation over and over again, telling myself that this is just how I am and my authentic emotional connection to people was just missing.  Well, now thanks to this patient and strong woman, I can look at that patterning and instead of accepting this pattern as my natural way of being, I can drop it and see what lives underneath.  As I keep stirring the pot each morning in dynamic, I can feel the layers peeling off.  What is beginning to shine through feels so big, so exciting, so much needed, and I am ready to welcome whatever it is.  I am beginning to feel into my heart space, I am becoming softer, and while I am nowhere near the end, I have at least started the process of something I have long questioned and long desired.

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I have been hugely aided in this endeavor of self realization.  Firstly, the energy of this place pushes personal growth forward at an accelerated pace. The encounters with other meditators and adhering to a daily schedule of meditation aids in the quick pace of self realization. In my own energy work, I’ve begun to work with some masters by accessing a place called the Akashic Records.  This can be thought of as a giant book of everything ever done from every lifetime.  In a sense it is very much like collective consciousness.  In this way I have called upon the energies of Osho and Rumi, along with other masters as I see the need, and have access to their essence and energy which still exists in a very tangible way for me and the universe.  Having opened their essence, they are with me through this work and Rumi is teaching me how to be transformed by love, while OSHO is working with me to realize and clear the layers of fear and conditioning that are not part of my authentic being.  In conjunction with this I have set a new intention for my daily experience, “I intend to constantly bring realizations and new understandings to myself”.  I had a realization that I cannot manifest or intend an experience I have never known into my reality.  For instance I cannot intend the experience of enlightenment to show up tomorrow, because I don’t know what the experience is like; therefore when I ask for it, I really don’t know what I am asking for.  However I do know what the experience of instant realization or insight feels like.  This I can totally ask for, and since I have been asking for it, realizations have started showing up every day.  In this way I can reach enlightenment or many other things on the way as I progress from the known into the unknown.  So working from these three angles, this meditative environment, the wisdom and energy of the Masters, and my intention for instant realization I am reaching a new level of self development that is astonishing.  It is exciting to look at yourself and realize all of a sudden that whole aspects of your self have been hidden and with a little work the door can be opened for discovery.  It is an exciting time to be a meditator.

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Thankfully during my visit to the resort I was able to meet and touch the lives of many people visiting from over 100 different nations. Every type of person from around the world and with many different backgrounds and stories arrived each day to try this wild place and experience first hand the crazy genius of Osho. I would love to recommend a visit to every person I meet, but the truth is that there are many pathways to the divine and I only urge each person to find what works for them.  Keep a burning desire to find your truth and discovering the path is inevitable. I have been transformed by this place and my experiences over the last three months.  Thankfully I am also happy to call this place and the people here my home. I will be back many times and soon, because having tasted once again the daily lifestyle of the old routine, living in a city and just going about ones daily business, I can clearly say that I would rather not waste another moment being outside of the delicious process of developing oneself surrounded by the most astounding people and environment that one can call home. A truth has been learned and can never be forgotten. I thrive in an environment of conscious meditators and now starts the long road of developing a sustainable lifestyle that enjoys this connection as its core. Blessings and happiness to all beings and may you find your own light that never falters.

 

In Love and Truth,

Torey, the Wandering Monk

 

 

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*I got to be the official photographer for a while!

www.osho.com

*Dynamic Meditation: 1 Hour, 5 Stages

Stage 1: 10 Mins: Deep, chaotic exhaling breaths, building energy. Stage 2: 10 Mins: Explode! let your body and emotions take over and express anything that you feel. Sing, shout, dance, cry, roll around anything that you feel. Stage 3: 10 Mins: Jump up and down with arms raised overhead shouting “Hoo” each time your feet strike the ground. Stage 4: 15 Mins: Freeze! Dont make any conscious movement. Witness your inner world. Stage 5: 15 Mins: Dance. Express anything that is left and carry your aliveness with you for the rest of the day.

**Kundalini Meditation: 1 Hour, 4 Stages

Stage 1: 15 Mins: Shake. Allow your body to vibrate and shake with the energy coming up from your feet.  Allow this natural shaking to occur, dont DO anything. Stage 2: 15 Mins: Dance. Allow your body to dance and move anyway it feels.  Dont Do any particular dancing. Stage 3: 15 mins:  Stand or sit silently and just watch your inner world. Stage 4: 15 Mins: Lie down and let go. Maintain awareness, but dont do anything, just allow.

**Evening Meeting: Various time, roughly 2 hours, 6 Stages

Stage 1: 20 Mins: Dance by yourself and celebrate life. Stage 2: 1 hour +: Listen to a discourse from Osho. Listen to the gaps between the words, not the words themselves. Anything you need to hear you will pick up on. Stage 3: 5 Mins: Laughter. Osho will tell some jokes, enjoy! Stage 4: 2 Mins: Gibberish. Speak in a language you dont know to clear your mind of rubbish. Stage 5: 10 Mins: Let go. Osho will guide you deeper into yourself to find your buddha. At one point you will “Let go” and fall over dead like a tree falling in the woods. Stage 6: 3-5 Mins: Dance and celebrate being alive.

 

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).