2018 In retrospect, Part 2

Continued from Part 1326e9f23-fe36-4dd7-baf6-ee8464d105ef
San Francisco
The next five months would be a deep plunge into relationship, love, growth, travel, and learning to live with a partner in a new city. I have actively avoided California my whole life. Something about the big energy, the cost, the startups, and the endless activity always put me off. Now I landed right in the middle of it all. The Presido home we began our life in was beyond a dream for SF. A three bedroom Victorian with a garden in the back yard and nature walks around the corner would be our love nest for two and a half months. I was assured that I was being spoiled rotten with this much empty space, but it really provided us a nest in which to explore our new relationship, love, and living together. This house had been a long time coming manifestation for Ayna, and I was super grateful for this gift.

Long talks on the couch, cooking in our large kitchen, slow showers, meditation, walks, massage, pre-sleep naps, and falling asleep every night curled up in the safety of each others embrace were our daily norm. It was wild and unconventional to meet someone and jump into living full on with them. We managed extremely well for our level of intensity and deep inner work happening. Communication was extremely important and necessary to manage our triggers. Ultimately we were preparing for the next step which came in September with The Path Of Love.

Ayna would be participating for the first time in this full on, one week deep exploration into who you are and what stands in the way of your freedom. It would be my second time participating, but my 6th for staffing. We would both be working on ourselves for a week, not communicating with each other, except for longing eye contact, and hoping to find more freedom and come closer together in our relating.

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I ended up working on stepping into my Man. To put down my child as the leader of my life experience and find the Man who has been there, but holding back on stepping forward. Everyone in my group was able to easily see both aspects living side by side where I could not. I had a lot of trouble allowing everyone to help me; always wanting to do it all on my own. That became a big key for trust during the week and the support was beautiful.

We followed the rules pretty well, but enjoyed some conversation sneakily during meals, and once we both soaked in the hot tub after a long day. Once reunited, we had a lot to talk about, but also a lot of issues melted after that week. Taking responsibility is a key factor and when the other stops being the issue, you can take responsibility for how you feel. Our relating deepened and our work continued to grow. I would soon be reflected with some issues I had never investigated, but I think everyone faces in relationship.

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What does it mean to give a partner space? Some issue has come up and there is tension in the air. My normal response would be to check in, to comfort, connect, and communicate until the issue is resolved. Sometimes the other wants to chew on it, take time, and even withdraw a bit to accomplish the inner work and that can be triggering to someone who wants to resolve it now or fix it. I need positive reinforcement feedback. If I try to connect and feel the other doesn’t perk up and pay attention, then well, you must hate me and I’ve done something terrible. Obviously the truth is that your partners withdrawal has nothing to do with you and this is the insecure voice telling you that you are the reason your partner is withdrawn. Like many others I learned, to give space when the other isn’t ready to open up, is to physically give space by leaving the area and tiptoe around till they feel better. However this type of action can be seen as pulling back, withholding love, or changing who you are for the other because you yourself have an insecurity about how your partner handles their inner work and issues.

It’s part unconscious, but this pattern was pointed out easily with a simple question. If you were dealing with something internal, how would you want me, your partner, to treat you? This question produced an immediate and simple answer. To treat me the same as always and just love me through it despite your own insecurities in the moment. This transformed me into being more present to my own insecure issues of needing security from my partner when they are actually processing something and just showing up with love until they are ready to share.

Life went on in our magical SF world, but our love nest came to an end. We moved houses to cat sit for a lovely fur ball who can see ghosts, named pichi (peachy). We had some more difficulties in this new space as it wasn’t our love nest, but someone else’s home. Never underestimate the power your energy has on a space. We did our best and loved our little fur child very much, but we struggled as I continued to be lost in my purpose. I worked each day on the computer for my fathers company which continued to drain me, fighting every moment with my inner calling and my familial duties. I managed a walk to see the bay on most days and that was a welcome respite. I felt the pull to get out of the USA and start my normal travels. The energy was building.

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When our cat sitting was finished we took two weeks off to travel the pacific northwest on a kind of scenic vegan food tour. Mount Shasta was the first stop with some hiking, yummy food, fantastic energy, and a special sound healing with my friend Jamie Lu. Shasta was a beautiful first step and the energy there felt like home. I could have stayed much longer with our adorable BnB hosts. Portland came next and while we struggled a bit with our cold and damp accommodations, we enjoyed the city. We totally over ate, sometimes fitting in extra meals just to try out special places. Our favorite though was Common Ground. A communal bathhouse were we got to soak away our troubles under the blue skies with naked people all around. We even went twice as Ayna and I love to soak, and is a passion I’m glad we both share.

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We perused Powell’s books and visited the rose garden, but it was the food that made the city for us. Vegan heaven as Ayna said. Specialty vegan cheese shops and breakfast biscuits were our special delights. Plus we found an amazing chai made with oat milk that satisfied my Indian taste buds and turned me on to oat milk.

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Seattle by way of Bainbridge island was the next destination. We toured the Grand Forest with its magical green moss, and walked the labyrinth. Crossing back on the ferry we headed over to have a special chefs tasting at Harvest Beet. There was too much food, but also everything was pretty amazing. This was our celebration for Thanksgiving which would be the following day. Now since we weren’t especially celebrating this holiday, we didn’t think the whole city would be shut down. After our vegan extravaganza, we were so disappointed in the offerings on hand and even whole foods wasn’t very vegan friendly for holiday foods. This stirred in me so many old memories and longings from Thanksgivings past that I was in a melancholy mood most of the day missing my dad. It also happened to be his birthday.

We were supposed to have been celebrating in Japan for his special 70th birthday. I was going to deliver his surprise gift of the book I wrote him and I had some expectations that it was going to be a good experience. Instead I had a scotch to toast his memory and read to Ayna the first chapter of the book. It was rainy outside and we at least managed to find some pretty good ramen for dinner. It was a sad holiday in many ways, as I was really missing family and the big jovial party that Thanksgiving can be. It was because of this however that I decided that Christmas would be fully celebrated.

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We stopped to visit my good friend Kimberli in Bellingham on the way to Vancouver. Catching up after some years over many cups of tea. Ayna’s old childhood friend also was able to join us from Seattle and the four of us spent hours reconnecting. Crossing the border was actually pretty simple and we were grateful. Our digs in Vancouver were as awesome as seen in the photographs. This city would prove to be an amazing place, even with the rain, and a food city worth many more tastings. We had so many friends in the city we didn’t even realize and manged a few dinners together. This city is certainly on the map for possible living places.

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I had a breakdown however. In my continued work on boundaries and feeling too much, something overwhelmed me. I felt drained and lost and ready to just hand myself over to God and die. Its a state of being that I am not well accustomed to nor like particularly. My mind frantically searching for the answer because I cannot understand strong emotion like this. Its so foreign to me, to be completely sucked into helplessness. I was trying everything to fix myself, I called in others to support me, and I tried to lean heavily on Ayna which would cause its own difficulties. I spent a whole day lost in bed, feeling miserable for myself, feeling like my world was going to end. Samantha helped me get back on my feet in the end. Ayna and I had a deep and strong conversation that also helped move some energy. When I woke the next day, I was again moving in a better direction, but once again realizing that the transformation process can be difficult. (In March 2019 I undergo a workshop and discover whats at the heart of this breakdown which is applicable to everyone and will cover in detail later)

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Mossbrae Falls, on our visit to Mt. Shasta

I lose myself in my partners. Its part of my psychological conditioning. My core issue is that I lose a sense of my Self and then fill it with the strongest person around. That was my father, and now its my partner. This creates a problem immediately depending on how much power I am giving away. Ayna, and all women I suspect, want a partner that is strong and secure in themselves. When I lose my sense of self, if I try to latch onto my partner and find my definition there, she feels this power suck and its terribly icky for her. Making your partner the source of your self love and solid ground doesn’t work well practically or energetically. Coming back to myself which is the correct response for my own conditioning, is to recover my lost power and reform my sense of identity. I am here with myself, now and always. This is the spiritual lesson for me personally. It also gives me a sense of being here and then able to be present for my partner. I believe this was a major component to our difficulties during the last months as my internal identity was in crisis having lost my father, who was my core person to whom I always returned to find my stability and identity. Transformation can be rough, but through those hard days, I was able to quickly and effectively build a stronger sense of my own adult self and step forward as my own person.

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The view from Ayna’s birthday cabin

We headed all the way down to Cannon Beach where I had located the most special cabin, overlooking the ocean, with a wood burning fireplace. This magical cabin would be the site for Ayna’s 33rd birthday. Having mostly recovered my energy and mood, we were able to really enjoy the atmosphere of crashing waves, star lit nights, and once I managed to get the fire going, with some creative ways to light wood, we snuggled into the peace of home. We fluctuate often when there is resistance moving inside us. One moment all is perfectly well, another its all crashing down. To enjoy when you can enjoy and to learn how to enjoy all the rest when its difficult is one of the best keys to life I know. Our troubles weren’t over, but we were able to enjoy a lot. After waking beautifully, we went back to Portland for a very special day of soaking at common ground, enjoying lunch and tea and a friend of mine, and then the highlight was the 14 person, seven course tasting menu at Farm Spirit. Of all the good food we had, this one was the most inspiring, the most creative, and the most technical. It was like going to a top New York restaurant and being bewildered at how they created such flavors and textures. Here however, they answered every question I had, and more often than not, the answer was very simple. Simple good food, sourced from within 100 miles of the restaurant. The flavors shown through, because they were mostly just the vegetables themselves, turned with expert skill into a variety of textures and dishes.

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Sad to leave our most recent love nest, the journey continued down beautiful highway 101, through majestically rich redwoods, and along breathtaking coastal views. We were heading to Stanford Inn, the famous vegan inn in Mendocino. The digs were beautiful with fire places in each room, along with Christmas trees filling the main welcome and sitting room. The pool area was a bit dated, but still charming in a way. Truly looking forward to a wonderful meal at their restaurant, we were highly disappointed. The staff seemed to be made of under trained high school staff, and the food was lacking flavor, complexity, and plating. Its like they had an off day or something we thought. When this was repeated at breakfast, and high tea, we figured out that the world had stepped up its game for vegans and Stanford Inn was left sadly far far behind.

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Exploring the little town of Mendocino was quaint. We strolled along the coast and got promptly rained on, but a few rainbows graced our skies after. Shopping in small town shops and art galleries, we spent the rest of our day meandering the streets and thinking about living the slow coastal life. We located two vegan options for dinner and our choice turned out to be fantastic. Our trip almost complete, there was some tension in the air, things still not settled and both of us feeling it. Frustrated that our fancy inn was not the highlight we hoped to finish our trip, we both left unfinished.

We cruised easily into SF and into our new apartment. It was mostly as advertised and the energy good. With a quick trip to pick up our home stuff, I managed to load the car quickly, to the brim, and deposit it into our new digs. Moving is my specialty and Ayna is always thankful and surprised that I do wonders and work miracles she cant comprehend. I wanted to get settled and the kitchen back in place immediately. This went well and she took care of the bedroom. We were able after two hours to settle into the couch, that would be our final home in SF.

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I got my second handpan!

Just a few days later I flew to Kansas City to arrange some final things of my fathers. Mostly storage items that needed decisions on. I enjoyed very much to go through his things, finding some clothes that actually fit me, and a few pairs of nice shoes. Spending time with my aunt, we played backgammon and talked for hours about life. Her home is always welcoming to me, and her new basement was just the space I needed to settle down and recover myself. She also had just the perfect amount of Christmas decorations around the house and it was just what I needed to sink into December.

Returning to SF I knew I was going to have to make a choice. I was feeling that something was not quite right between Ayna and I. That some differences had been brewing under the surface and they were about to come out. On the long taxi ride home, I decided to center myself and just be present. I decided that no matter what I was just going to continue loving Ayna. Coming home, I was greeted with a long hug and piercing eyes. She went back to work after our greeting and I got cleaned up and unpacked. I made some dinner and she finally took my hand and led me to the couch. She had discovered what she finally needed.

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Ready to travel the world, backpack style!

She decided she truly needed to explore her freedom and aloneness. The original issue we faced had not been silenced, in fact it needed more expression. Our relationship ended on that couch, but our love remained. Our chemistry showed up almost immediately and strongly. It was a surprise to us both. We continued on almost as we had before the conversation; a very loving and peaceful life together. There was more romantic loving expression actually because we had broken up. Freedom is everyone’s right and the highest quality and value. If we don’t feel free inside, then this must be remedied. For Ayna it seemed she needed to feel her freedom which was already present from my perspective. She also wanted to make sure I wasn’t confused and that we were indeed broken up. I agreed with her, and I understood. Yes some part of me could see where we would just continue to travel the world together and love each other, but not be in a relationship. To me this seems as natural as anything else. For her, this was totally new territory and it was important to her. We continued through the month of December like this. Doing more for ourselves than we had previously. Freedom seemed to spill into all the areas of our life that had been stuck. We drove to Salt Lake City to enjoy Christmas with our families. Knowing that explaining our situation would be strangely difficult. I guess we were just very loving friends now.

I would visit her whole family upon arriving and be warmly welcomed. Food and family galore, I was just trying to put names to faces that I had heard about. I ended up playing music and doing some healing. It was kind of like being a celebrity. So in this way I met and greeted her whole family. The interesting guy that had been in Ayna’s life had finally been explained; mostly. I left and picked up Sam from the airport and we journeyed up to the cabin. Full on snowy winter greeted us, but so did a warm home and family time.

Perhaps its uniquely western the psychological depths in which Christmas touches. For me it isn’t about religion, or the commercialization and gift giving. Its a time to be cozy, surrounded by family and loved ones, a time to eat and converse and feel the warmth of human connection in the depths of winter. Yes the decorations of Christmas and the music also touch a place that has been conditioned to feel these things, but it only helps open this space of connection. I am very grateful that the cabin is a meeting place of so many people. Neighbors, friends, and family alike all gather here, to eat, drink, and be merry. As is tradition, we all read Tortens Christmas story, complete with voice acting and sound effects from everyone present to tell the story, a ritual to honor the season and bring us all together.

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Ayna and I had fun in the cabin and exploring the snow. She avoids deep winter like I avoid summer, but a few days here and there are good for everyone. We had a lot of strange expressions when we explained how our relationship had turned into just a loving relating, and that we were still traveling together over the next year. She left a few days early to head back to SF and meet her son for Christmas time there and I continued on wrapping up a few big items. On my way out of town, I left my two precious handpans in the care of a beautiful musician who would put them to loving use in the community. Then, right before heading to the airport, I dropped into the Honda dealership and sold my car. What a strange experience. The vehicle that has gone on so many adventures with me, with the simple signing of one piece of paper, handing over the keys, and walking out the door, was finished. Easier than picking up a rental car. Unfortunately that person who backed into me in Colorado ended up costing me another thousand dollars because it lessens the value when listing it online. I wouldn’t have been able to argue anyway as I was getting on a plane and that would be that. The car served me well for three years and even with the depreciation it really only cost me about seven thousand dollars. Not a bad deal. Thanks for always promoting getting a new car dad.

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We went to the Museum of Ice Cream

I returned to SF and would spend the next few days with Ayna and Roshan. We ate and played board games and saw a bit of the city. As quick as it came, our time in SF would finish. With a snafu of our storage unit right at the last minute (they closed early for New Years and we missed it by 20 minutes) we scrambled and found a wonderful solution. It is always so nice to be taken care of by the universe. To just breathe and know that everything will always work out. Sometimes you need to use your mind to figure out the solutions and other times the solutions will present themselves to you. Ayna called a friend and suddenly a huge garage space was opened to us. A rare thing in SF, so all the more a miracle. Its nice to have that little reminder right before you board a plane to India.

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Goodbye San Francisco, India here we come

So still a little in shock and awe, tried from packing and moving everything, we settled into the airport. Barely any time to let the realization sink in that we were headed to India. We both had just quit our jobs, we were going to staff Path Of Love in ten days time and this would be the moment our lives changed from living in the daily go to work culture, and a year of travel and exploration would begin. All our dreams of travel, the shift in energy that always comes with change, and the unknown mysteries of the path would unfold before us with a simple one foot in front of the other attitude. We got onto the plane that would take us to the next step. Ill tell you now, Its all just been a preparation for the next step.

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Lots more to come…

2018 In Retrospect, Part 1

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

India: A way of life

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As I enjoy wonderful first world amenities aboard Turkish airlines I find it interesting to ponder what awaits me in India. Out of the window, as we fly around the Middle East no fly zone, I can see the oil refinery fires lighting up huge tracts of open land with their glowing magnificence. Someone too has a green laser pointer and is targeting our plane. An ominous thought crosses my mind for a moment, but then remember how fun laser pointers are. 
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I arrive in India without much incident going through the normal airport checks and duties. The immigration officer forgets to stamp my passport, but begrudgingly fixes his mistake. I negotiate my first haggling of a taxi when my new friend tries to get me a whole 6 person for myself which is beyond expensive. I locate a normal taxi man for all I can tell and still get taken for a ride, but what a great ride. I am in a shoddy little metal box and driving through the amazing traffic of Mumbai. India is just what I expected of a third world country and my fears dissipate. I need to learn the ropes, but today I have only one task. Ride my first day high all the way to Pune where I will reside for 3 months and figure it out. So I don’t mind when I overpay for my taxi, or when it breaks down 5 minutes later. I am smiling and enjoying it all. His friend picks us up and takes me not to my desired destination, but a bus station to Pune. The price for the bus is correct, but now I super overpaid for my taxi to a far away destination, but oh well. He asks for a 50 in tip and I just have to laugh at India. I’ll get my chops quick enough and I’ll enjoy doing it. Meditating on letting go of the few dollars wasted I realize that all my desired experiences have occurred and I must thank the universe. Above all else I wanted to easily, quickly, and with great joy secure passage to Pune. Well accomplished indeed. I’ll manifest cheap later. For now I am intact and on my way to Pune for 4 hours. Within my first day I will discover just about all I need to understand India.

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There is trash everywhere and while it assaults my mental concepts of aesthetic beauty, I find it almost to be more honest. The world is full of trash, more being made each day, whose fate will be the same. At least the Indians have the truth staring them in the face and are resolved to its presence. Perhaps this “in your face” approach would spur western public opinion to consider more our mass produced and disposable way of life more critically. We can keep putting it out of sight, but it still remains. This leads to the first realization, that the east has put more emphasis on developing the inner world than the outer beauty.  Each person is very friendly and has a peace about their life that isn’t found in the west despite all our outer appearances.

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Layers of beliefs are shedding as they come to the surface. Are these people suffering? What is daily life, work, the point to anyone here? I know nothing, but looking at anyone they seem to be in their place, doing whatever they are doing and not resigned with an air of defeat at their fate, but rather embrace it as life. I struggle with my conceptions to place this way of being. What drives it? Is it even real or an outsiders quick understanding?  To sell chips and chai on busses all day, can one really enjoy that life? I look around at life and it’s multifaceted functioning and the beautiful mess of it all. I see people totally fine with the way the world is here. I was told to not try to change India, but embrace it and that’s the approach I’m taking. I look at the world and remember this isn’t the world. This is what man has made, the world is nature. So to ask myself the question of “could I find contentment in this system?” This question shows that we forget that this system is a choice and the natural world still exists. I don’t have to choose between this society and that society.  I am choosing to live life rebelliously and choose something different and authentic to myself.

The Indian head wobble is a very amazing and astoundingly confusing motion to a western mind.  As they stand there shaking their head no, they are completely agreeing with you.  You know they are saying yes, but still the conditioning of a yes being a forward nod, instead of a side to side no, is hard to let go.  You also learn right away that if they don’t know what you just asked, the answer is always “yes, yes”.

Is this food vegan?  
Yes yes.
So does it have any milk in it?
Oh Yes! (This is India you idiot)

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I remind my friends that they probably have no idea what the word vegan is.  So everyone learns to ask simpler questions if they really need to know something. Everyones english goes down a degree, because less is more and you just want to get the meaning across.

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Begging is a profession here. It seems a necessity as well for many people, whom have horrendous injuries or missing and twisted limbs. There is the magic show men who have a special flower that opens at your touch. There are the maimed and old sitting in the street. There are the street venders selling all manor of things that seem useless to me. There are the thin ladies who all look the same, carrying a small child in their arms, miming the movement for food or grabbing onto your shawl. Forever conditioning their young to be beggars their whole lives as well. 

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*credit Nicholas Powel & Adriana Le Blan
There is another group of beggars, that includes the various animals that share the streets.  Along with the packs of dogs and holy cows eating the daily garbage, i’ve seen camels, horses, donkeys, cats, rats, elephants, and monkeys moving through traffic and stealing oranges from street venders who don’t have a keen eye. Its quite a zoo at times, but always interesting.  However, you do always need to watch where you are walking as there are no zoo keepers cleaning this cage.

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Then there are the countless little shops everywhere that all sell about the same things every block.  There are also people selling fruit and vegetables on the street every block it seems.  How can this system work?  Who goes to these people to buy their oranges?  I suddenly realize this is decentralization.  In the west we travel many miles to visit a supermarket to buy all our foods and items; by a reputable source and as far as we can tell. In India, you have to walk no more than a few feet and most of what you need is there. Today its this man with oranges, and tomorrow it may be someone else with papaya. You go into the little shop and perhaps they have 1 of the item you want, and like mothers pantry will fill it again with what seems like odds and ends when they get around to it.  Surprisingly, I find everything I need easily and so does everyone else, otherwise this system wouldn’t work.  The ideas of east and west are so different, I am sure when I step into a western supermarket for the first time, I will be appalled once again at how many useless things there are in 10 slightly different variations all competing for your attention and money. This decentralization is also the reason that you may leave a bus station heading toward a major city, only to be dropped off at an out of the way parking lot with hoards of taxi drivers jumping for your business. Everything from fruit and household goods to finding taxi drivers is setup to support hundreds of middle men all making their daily wage. 

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Then there is the haggling of course. Most things are negotiable except for items with the price stamped on them. Rickshaws charge the day price and the night price. Anything you want is always marked up for the unknowing person to overpay.  Somedays you just don’t feel like fighting the whole system and just want to know the damn price so you can plan your life and shopping. If you don’t know what number to fight over, you feel so lost and wonder if your number is insulting or just part of the game. Walking away instantly drops the price, but even then you never know what bottom dollar is. I figure out the prices for rickshaw rides without ever turning on a meter, and once I know that, I know exactly how much to haggle and stick to my prices when someone wants to charge too much.  This makes life easy and fun.  Give me a few ground rules and then ill have a good time.

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I can say without a doubt that India teaches you how to live life.  Life goes on and with a few social skills you can achieve just about anything. From housing and transportation to food and entertainment, while having some good laughs in between, India is an experience in what constitutes daily life without all the gloss and glam covering the person to person interaction that turns the world one more day. It may look very different (and smell very different), but India is a unique experience in the world and despite all my fears before arriving I have found the ground beneath my feet and everyone can learn to stand up here.  Blessings to everyone on their journey.

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