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.

  

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

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!
 

On the Train to Tarbes

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

 

Switzerland: Traveling the Bernina Express and Fondue with Friends

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I like riding trains, and find that the time slips by quickly as I traverse Europe.  Today I am riding a train for the sole purpose of riding a train.  I am traveling over the alps on the UNESCO world heritage site, the Bernina Pass.  Built at the end of the 19th century this rail covers some 50 kilometers, 196 bridges and 55 tunnels.  Besides all that amazing engineering, its stunningly scenic.  From quaint towns, through fall foliage, around lakes, over snow topped peaks, tunnels, bridges, and valleys, we slowly chug along for 4 hours and I just stare out the window, between running from aisle to aisle to capture pictures on both sides.
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This whole adventure reminds me of the first trips up to the cabin in Park City each year.  The weather has turned colder and as you leave the valley, the seasons magically change and you get to experience a new climate without the slow natural acclimatization in between. I certainly was trying to avoid winter on my travels for I did not pack appropriate clothing, but a quick dip into some snowy mountains with the warm sun shining on you is the perfect magical experience.  Ive only found this experience near the mountains.  From riding snow mobiles in swim pants to hiking in spring when the snows are still melting, nowhere else can you change season so easily with a little vertical difference.  I thrive in season change, always on the border and never solidly in one season.  Some people live for endless summer, but I live for change.  I question for a moment the whole skipping winter idea, with its warm clothes, fires, skiing, snowfall, etc and then quickly remember how long and cold winter is.  Ill take cool spring and autumn and be just fine.  Both sweaty hot summer and cold dark winter extremes, neither appeal to me, but I certainly find enjoyable moments in both.  As I embrace the nature of impermanence, I will be an ever changing season, blossoming new shoots into existence to watch them transform in their multicolored decline.
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I ponder the nature of my diet on this slow trek across the mountains and decide my body is telling me to slow down on my food rampage and eat healthier.  Tonight I want only a salad and I hope my host will be gracious enough to accept my lack of wanting to really eat. 
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I arrive in Zurich and make a short trip to Wintertour where I will be staying with my friend Chipsly Shlipsly.  Her name is really Michelle, but while visiting me in the states, we played one of those games where you combine the name of your first pet and your first street name or some other category to get your “porn star name”.  My fabulous name happens to be Blacky San Angelo and dont forget the sass.  It turns out her sister and family are returning from a trip to Tunisia and have invited themselves over for dinner.  Guess what?  All they want is salad!  Since fresh lettuce and fruits are unsafe to eat there due to water contamination and washing, they are dying for a salad.  We all laugh at the coincidence, but I know I helped create this experience and love watching the delicious expression of my manifesting appear quicker and quicker.
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On my sightseeing day, Michelle and I visit the Rhine falls. The spectacular power of water rushes over the edge and reminds us of the forces of nature. Ever present and supremely powerful, to think that we humans have a degree of control over the earth seems laughable. We play along with the natural forces and rhythms of nature thinking everything to be in order until some hurricane, volcano, tidal wave, or rend in the earth opens up to remind us of the living and changing nature of this spaceship we are riding on. 
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We continue, visiting a castle to look out over a quaint town and vineyard. In the basement of this battlement I am in photography heaven with this spectacular lighting and capture this amazing new image. 
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I get to visit the lovely hillsides where Michelle grew up and a town center where all the buildings are painted and look immaculate because every year the whole center is transformed into a giant stage to enact a play. 
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I get to explore Zurich on my own today and have no idea what this town is about other than it is situated on a beautiful lake, had lots of banks and is home to the worlds 3rd most expensive street to live on. The rate for a square meter is ten thousand euro. That figure alone boggles my mind that anyone has that much money to waste, second that they do waste it and third that it’s only the 3rd most expensive street in the world. There are other crazy people and places out there.  I’m certain people can figure out more creative ways to spend money. 
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On the train ride in I meet my new friend Marcel.  We strike up a conversation when he mistakes me for someone else. Zurich isn’t the largest city and my social butterfly seems to see someone he knows on every street. He tells me his interesting coincidence that for the last 3 Mondays he has somehow fallen into showing a traveler around Zurich. Offering recommendations for food and drink and shopping and music I find a great friend and guide to speak with and show me around. We actually spend all day sitting by the lake drinking tea and having conversations about life and spirituality. It’s amazing that the types of people I want to meet keep showing up in big ways.  We end up spending the next day together as well as traversing Zurich and just chatting. I didn’t really have plans for exploring this city, I was going to practice my circus arts, but as always I must allow the universe to offer me new experiences. 
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I arrive at the train station to meet Michelle and her best friend Manuela, who also visited me in the states, because we are going out for dinner and to catch up. Fluxly salami or magic Manu as we call her is just as lively as I remember. She is also willing to accept my request to cut my hair. While catching up over dinner and drinks we all decide to get together at Michelle’s tomorrow and do something uniquely Swiss; fondue!  
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A bubbling pot of liquid cheese and a few ingredients await the ends of our delicate utensils. Bread and potatoes are our dipping foods with a few spices and deep guilty pleasure for eating at the holy pot of cheese-us, all praise his cheesiness. I take the plunge to finish the whole thing and take my food coma into the bathroom to be sheared. I’ve hit that stage where my hair on the sides make any look unmanageable so we are going to shave them off. I’ve seen this look everywhere in Europe in my travels so what might be slightly on the edge in the states is run of the mill here. After a lot of mess, laughs, and a few slips of the shaver I come out a new and lighter man. Ready to finish the night with laughs and head off to Italy. 
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Before I make that adventure, I must comment that I didn’t have any plans after Venice.  I know I’ve had enough of big cities and it is time for some nature.  Thus I checked workaway again.  This time I found it simple to locate a host, a retired couple from Kent England who used to run a spiritual retreat.  Now they are in the south of France and need a bit of garden work.  Not 10 minutes after applying I had my enthusiastic Yes.  Now I will spend 10 days in the country side doing whatever is needed and spending time with probably a very spiritually enlightened couple.  Chalk another one up to the universe for putting us together at the exact same moment.
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The angles guide me as the next step keeps falling into place.  Wandering off to Italy