Category Archives: Personal

Pilgrimage to the Heart of India 2018

19 day pilgrimage to Varanasi, Omkareshwar, Ellora & Ajanta Caves, Maheshwar, Mandu and Indore

20 November – 8 December 2018

Dear Friends,

It’s about time I bring a group of friends to see some of my favorite pilgrimage places in India: Varanasi, Shiva city, the spiritual centre of India famous for tantra and pilgrimage; Omkareshwar and Maheshwar on the Narmada river are major centres of the 3.5 year pilgrimage that sees a steady stream of devotion. Ellora and Ajanta are both ancient monuments of devotion and wonder. We will make a stop by Mandu for a day of cycling, frivolity and wandering thru villages and Mugul ruins scattered across the country side. The final stop will be in Indore to visit a couple important tantric temples and enjoy the comforts of the city before going our separate ways.

The trip will include:

  • Land travel within India, most meals, room, guided tours, yoga & astrology
  • Traditional Hatha Yoga practice including asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation. Bhakti, Raja, Hatha, Jnana, Tantra  and Kundalini yogas will all find expression over the course of this trip.
  • A detailed Vedic Astrology reading and remedy coaching.
  • Six nights in a simple, traditional forest ashram over-looking the  holy Narmada river
  • Five nights in Varanasi over looking the Holy Ganges river
  • A small group of six allows for deep integration of the practices and teachings.
  • Excellent introduction to India for those who wish to continue traveling the country
  • A unique yoga pilgrimage
  • Deep introduction to yogic philosophy and Vedic way of life.
  • Suitable for anyone who is a pilgrim at heart. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Sincerity towards the method is the most important attribute.

Basic Itinerary

20 November – 8 December 2018

20 November 2018: Arrival in Varanasi, rest, short evening yoga and meditation next to the river.

While in Varanasi: Morning yoga, site-seeing tours, boat rides, lots of free time, meeting Shiva devotees, astrology charts will be completed for each person.

25 November: Train to Khandwa; bus to Omkareshwar, take rest and get settled at the Gayatri Forest Ashram, easy evening yoga and meditation.

While in Omkareshwar: Two yoga classes per day. Learning traditional stories, parikrama (walk) around the island,  visiting important pilgrimage sites, pilgrims and sadhus. Spending time in nature, swimming, enjoying.

02 December: Jeep to Ajanta. While in Ellora/Ajanta trip we will take our yoga where we can get it. There is often an opportunity to practice among the caves.

03 December: Jeep to Ellora and then to Maheshwar, take rest, get settled in the guest house.

While in Maheshwar: One to two yoga classes per day, visiting special holy sites, boating, swimming, meeting pilgrims, singing, & enjoying nature.

07 December: Jeep to Mandu, cycling/site-seeing, and then jeep to Indore.

08 December: Visit Mahakala and Bhairava temple before departure. The tour will end on this day and departures will go from Indore.

  • Note: let us know if we can help to arrange transport and lodging before and after the trip.

By the end of this trip participants will have gained deep knowledge of Yogic, Vedic and Tantric practice and lifestyle. One will have gained an appreciation for simple, prayerful living and will have a good foundation to continue a personal sadhana (spiritual practice). You will also gain valuable travel experience and a deep humanistic education as we travel on and off the tourist trail thru the heart of India.

Anyone with a sincere desire for self knowledge thru yoga and traditional knowledge are welcome. Yoga classes are easily modified to be accessible to everyone as well as challenging for every level of fitness and concentration. Much of the philosophical content will be organic (arising from the circumstances and questions) so this too will be both accessible and challenging for most anyone.

India can be a challenging country and we will be living very simply as pilgrims ourselves for parts of trip. This simplicity of nature will hopefully counterbalance the sensory and emotional over-load that Delhi and Varanasi are known for in different ways. Travel can be slow and frustrating (most times) and there will a few arduous days of travel, lots of walking, and a group of eight people traveling and living together for 19 days (18 nights). We hope that lots of free time, optional tours and practices, and flexibility by everyone, will allow everyone to get the flavour they are seeking from life.


This package tour includes:

  1. 19 days/18 nights in various guest houses and ashrams may be shared occupancy
  2. Many meals, lots of chai and snacks
  3. Transportation
  4. Vedic Astrology consultation.
  5. Classical Hatha Yoga classes
  6. Guide fees
  7. Additional administrative fees, organization costs, booking fees, travel expenses, baksheesh & diksha donations to temples, pilgrims and ashrams in the name of the group

Total cost: 

  • $1950. A $600 deposit will hold this space for you

Stipulations

  • Limited to six people. Must have at least 4 people signed up by October 1 for the trip to proceed. Full refunds will be given if it’s cancelled for this reason. I expect it will sell out fast.
  • One place will have preference for someone with knowledge in Ayurveda and/or Jyotish and would like to do a mentorship in astrology over the 19 days of this pilgrimage.
  • Unless your seat can be sold to someone else we may only be able to refund 50% of the fee in case of cancellation. There will be an administrative fee retained in any case, but we look vary favorably upon those who find someone to fill their place for them.
  • Bring a friend and save $100 each (not available for early bird pricing). Bring two or more friends and save $200 while each of them save $100.

What is not included, and why?

  • Many meals, snacks and chai throughout the day since you will be on your own.
  • Baksheesh, diksha payments, tips to temples monks, sadhus and service people which are best given by your own heart & hand
  • Flight to India, travel insurance, immunizations are all your responsibility.
  • Souvenirs, personal items, personal travel or personal entertainment.
  • No certificates will be available as this pilgrimage is meant to be a personal healing, learning & potentially transformational journey. If you want a certificate, go to Rishikesh.
  • If you are unsure about what may or may not be included, please ask before departure.

Your host and guide:

Mike Holliday has had a deep spiritual and personal connection with Varanasi, Ganga & Narmada since 2007. He has been teaching yoga around the world for almost ten years and offering philosophical/spiritual coaching and counsel for over half that time. He has guided many people thru Varanasi and well as thru Indian culture and a few have even come to experience the magic of the Narmada river with him. He is an engaging teacher and story teller; a very knowledgeable guide thru the unknown; a sincere, grounded friend and adviser & he has a strong passion for sharing traditional knowledge. He is an off the beaten path teacher who mostly follows orthodoxy but does not not believe it is necessary.

For more information:

  • holliday.michael@gmail.com

Healing from Within

I was about 9 years old when I was walking thru a frozen forest, shouldered my pellet gun, and discovered the great transformative silence of death as a chickadee fell from the branch.  In 2003, my father was killed in a work accident. Later in life I came to live and practice in a holy place between the cremation grounds of Varanasi, India; the chosen abode of Lord Shiva. When my grandfather passed away, we shared our fear of death and brought peace to the whole family. That light and purity of a new born baby also shines in the eyes of those who burn for that final release from the wheels of time. All of our lives we seek the flavour that will quench our thirst, but eventually, we thirst for the most unthinkable mystery; death.

The movement of the breath is controlled by the Great Spirit in the Sky of Consciousness and it comes and goes; starts and stops only by that ultimate grace. The power of Great Spirit is raw and pure when we go thru the great transformations of birth and death. Between these two great moments lie all the smaller cycles of the breath and the days and the seasons and so much more that we can experience fully and deeply as we experience that great birth and death of the body. This is the experience of reality.

Yoga and spirituality suggest we can experience a deeper reality  if we look at life beyond our individual experience and experience life in relation to the universal expression of consciousness; of spirit; of spanda; Shiva’s self expression thru his powers; his Shaktis. We are so much more than these limited bodies and the experiences we have in this lifetime; we are intimately connected to the whole span of time and everything that has and will exist. We are not just a part of this universe, we are this universe. The truth is so mindbogglingly beautiful and wonderful that we can only experience it as that…… astonishing beauty, dazzling amazement and wonder. We’ve all felt this as some time in our lives. This is the experience of reality,

There is little difference between letting go of our egos so that we can transform ourselves in this life, or doing so so that we can prepare for the next life. In either case, we want to turn our awareness towards the truth of who we really are here and now releasing ourselves from the past and the future; releasing ourselves from our own stories. Each time we transform ourselves we seek to reach a higher consciousness; we want that positive growth which which will benefit not only ourselves, but our families and communities and the universe as a whole. It’s that universal connection and experience of non-difference that we seek, but which remains, for most of us, just out of reach. Like a shy damsel, ultimate reality casts only the most fleeting glimpse from the corner of her eye. And this is were we must also seek out that ultimate reality: in those dark corners of our mind and along the edges of our breath and our thoughts and between all things which seem distinct.

Between you and me is some chemistry which brings us into perfect and blissful union because it allows both of us to taste the ripened fruits of our individual karma while contributing, each in our own special way, to the collective karma that ties us all together. We call activity karma when we experience it a force of limitation that separates; but when we experience activity as a force of freedom and play arising and falling away from the same place, bringing everything together, activity is then called Kriya (the spontaneous activity of one who experiences life as universal agency (the actor) and preceiving subjectivity (the witness)).  This is the experience of life; reality; divinity.  ​

We are all on this path of healing together. Together we will grow and evolve; find the courage to face our fears and overcome the false limitations we put on ourselves. To do this we practice being open and honest to the reality of the moment while applying our most sincere efforts to whatever activity is at hand. This sincerity is especially important for healing and spirituality, since it provides us with the impulse and the will to gather the necessary knowledge and put it into a meaningful action. Tapping into this personal sincerity for healing is what we mean by healing from within.

Mike’s Story: Just getting started

d937d-dsc_0216Many people are interested to hear my stories. I’m one of these lucky fellows who have had the pleasures of travel and the leisure for philosophy. I’ve spent about half of the past ten years in India following pilgrim routes and spiritual places; I didn’t intent to, that’s just the way it happened. I’ve spent considerable time in various destinations around the world that have some connection to healing, spirituality and indigenous cultures.

I consider Varanasi India to be my home and I hope to one day own some kind of home/workshop there some day. Sanjay is my brother, his family – my family. I’m the beloved outcaste brother. This is not a negative designation, but rather the reality of the foreign values and western corruption I have brought into their home. I don’t even write corruption in a negative way; but the individuality, lack of traditional values and other things are a corruption of the traditional life still represented so strongly in Varanasi.

Eden Halt

Varanasi is not just a spiritual city. Varanasi also has a strong culture of arts and entertainment. Worldly enjoyment and deep spirituality in one place makes it the epitome of Tantra. Dark and light are equally present in everything here. Looking at many of the spiritual practices that go one here; one might even think that the light, the pure, the sattvic is better represented in the worldly enjoyments (bogha) than the worship (yagya).

Varanasi is famous for many other things beyond culture and spirituality: garbage, shit, pollution, corruption, poverty, mystery, cheating; it all goes on here. Everywhere Varanasi gives off a dark and disgusting image on first look; everyone looks so poor, just covered in pieces of cloth that have never been stitched together. Tourist often ask: “What’s the difference between a holy man and a bum?” Only when we see more deeply within ourselves can we see within others. If you have a holy man within you; you will find one.

The places we choose to live tell a lot about a person. Home and happiness are closely connected. I’m happy in Varanasi. I love all this filth that keeps people away. We don’t need to clean India, or clean Varanasi, or even clean Ganga; the filth keeps the image conscious people away.

I haven’t had a home in Canada for many years. Even when I did have a steady apartment I was constantly on the road somewhere living out of my car, my tent, or hotel rooms. I’ve spent time all over Canada in the mountains, forests, prairies; small towns and cities; on the rivers, the ocean, and some of the massive lakes we have in this country.

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I’ve traveled hard, I’ve dug deep to find my inner will power; I’ve pushed hard, broken too many bones, explored every kind of fear and too many emotions and too much pain in every way. I’ve cried like a baby in the face of the most trivial fear. I’ve never conquered my fears; not once. When they come, I feel every bit of them, but what choice do we have but to keep going in life.

Many people think I’m crazy, many others think I am freer than most, living the good life. I think many people imagine their two-week vacations and assume my life follows that pattern. Most don’t know what to think: I’ve been years wandering foreign lands; I’ve become as foreign as the lands I’ve been traveling; an outcaste in my own land.

And I have to argue against being any more free than the next person. We are all free; we just need to cultivate the awareness to recognize it. The limitations of our bodies and minds and our place in time and space are incredible. All of nature limits us in the ways we think we are free, and we are free where we think we are limited. But if there was no nature and thus no limitations what would there be?

Many modern people don’t believe in anything higher than nature. I have no difficulty in believing that nature has tremendous power, but if there is only nature, it becomes impossible to express freedom. Nature is well represented by the movement of the planets that are, from our perspective, in perpetual motion due to the complex balance of various natural laws that are the domain of the modern science.

I come at life as a skeptic, doubting everything and always asking: why? I’ve always been this way. I want to know for myself. You could say that besides the question, “who am I?”, the next main question I’ve spent my life on is: “how am I free.” I can assure you I have not found any evidence of freedom in the material world. I’m sure scientist would agree that we are, for the most part, just carrying out the activity of the natural laws. Hormones triggered in the spring become more dormant in the fall. Our attachments and repulsion are merely chemical and electrical signals in our bodies responding to chemical and electrical signals in the world.

So why am I writing this now? Why not wait until I’m an old man and can avoid the criticism of self-indulgence? Who am I to write some story of my life? I’m certainly no one special. I have not achieved anything that is particularly noteworthy; unless you count my joy of living. And perhaps this is enough these days when so many people are unhappy and feel trapped in their situation; unable to do what they think they really want to do.

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Perhaps I’m at a turning point in life. I feel secure in my spiritual life. It’s not something that comes and goes; there is no struggle to maintain a spiritual outlook despite living in the Canadian cities again. I can safely mingle with the material world without it dragging back into its oblivion. There is actually nothing spiritually negative about the material world, it’s the distraction it causes, making us oblivious to our true nature; bringing our awareness up to the surface of things and making us think that “image is everything” (as one young man recently pointed out to me). As long as we can maintain awareness of that true nature then matter is just another extension of consciousness; a power, or a means for consciousness to express itself.

Anyways, you get my point. I’ve done nothing, yet people are amazed. I have nothing, yet people a jealous and want what I have. Everything I have is inside of me; I can offer with my words and my presence; but what people take from this has little to do with me. I don’t take it personally: neither the praise nor the criticism. Whatever they get from me was already there inside the person; it didn’t really come from me. At best, I’m a signpost; at worse I’m a distraction.

In any case, lets go back to 2007 when I found myself buried in debt and facing a work lay-off with a Canadian winter quickly approaching. I thought about several options: wintering in the back country, throwing away whatever I had left on a week or two in Cuba, living out of my car and perhaps heading to the southern USA. At some point I decided on Cuba and actually made it all the way to the travel agency before suddenly changing my mind for India in the moments I waited for the agent to get off the phone.

I had already managed an Indian restaurant, loosely followed Buddhism, and had dreamt of going to Asia, so, why not? I gave myself five weeks to prepare. These days, five weeks preparation for a trip would feel like a lifetime, but for my first really foreign travel it seemed like an insanely short timeline.

Laying pipe. 2005

Anyways, I was fed up with Canadian culture and society, and I certainly felt like I had more to offer than the physical effort of my construction job. The romance I was involved in was completely dysfunctional from the very beginning, and the truth is that I didn’t know either what I wanted, or what I had to give. Life was pretty much lived without vision. I was mostly too exhausted from work and worry that I didn‘t even have a concept of awareness. Chronic pain was still a serious issue for me then. At the time, I felt more like a passive agent only able to react to what life threw at me. But I can see how it all arose from me. It helped me to forge this sense of personal identity that I am now projecting onto the page and use daily in subtle ways to fulfill all my material and social ambitions. Life is not actually as complex as we make it out to be: our egos are useful in the material world; even the most out of balance ego completes its task. Like children, we don’t have to worry about the many things mother is taking care of, yet we do worry all the time.

So, off I went to India in 2007. It really did blow my mind. It shattered my dreams and made me realize just how small my vision of myself was compared to what it could be (or compared to who I really am). How small was my vision of life?

“When a yogi walks; behind him is nothing, before him is the infinite.”

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How often do we hear people say, “I’m only human,” and then insist on their free will? Can we choose for ourselves or can’t we? Are we free or are we bound? Are we personally responsible, or are our actions the result fixed laws of the universe?

Thank god Indian logic allows us to accept both propositions. We are free. We are bound. We are free, but due to incorrect knowledge, we have, as it seems, chosen to be bound. Too much freedom can be a dangerous thing.

Letter to the Past

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Sometimes we think about those people we once loved but who are long gone from our lives. I wrote this letter during a Mercury retrograde in the spring or early summer of 2015 when I was staying neat Kasar Devi, India. Perhaps, if I would have had an internet connection where I was staying, I would have sent this letter to it’s inspiration in the spontaneity of the moment, but several days passed before I walked up the mountain and by then I had lost my nerve. I never did find the required nerve, but recently, as I sat in the boat too many miles from shore, my memory once more turned back to those lost loves and this letter I’d written in the spring. Of course, I once more thought to send it, but as I searched for an e-mail address to send it too I came across some fresh wedding pictures and lost my nerve once again. In any case, it’s written with such sincerity and touches on some grand themes that have been guiding my life for so long that I feel it should be shared with whoever feels to read it. I doubt if there is anyone who can guess who I wrote it to (and that’s just as well); it’s really just a letter to my past self.

Dear past self,

Since you still come to my thoughts and dreams (lately) I have to write you a letter regardless of time. I’m not sure when the last time was, certainly I wrote you since I’ve been coming to India. I’ve seen you a couple of times over the years. Once was at Khazana when when I was there with my soon to be wife to show her where I wanted to have the wedding dinner. It wasn’t the time or place to say anything. The other time was last summer (or perhaps the previous one) just after I’d arrived back to Canada. You were leaving the downtown farmers market just as I was arriving. I was was too stunned or too shocked to say anything this time.

It’s likely that I’m writing this because I’ve been too long isolated in the forest. I can see my mind starting to wax nostalgic. But you’ve been coming to me in dreams rather than in reverie. So, considering everything else that is going on in my life, I suppose I have to listen to these dreams and say my hi, hello, how are you?

If you ask me this question: how am I? I don’t really know how to answer. I’m not really sure where I stand these days. All this being away in foreign lands is taking it’s tole. I’ve been traveling continuously for since 2007. I can’t say that I really even wanted to travel all this time, but often felt I had no choice having chosen to be landless and poor rather than continue construction which wasn’t doing me much good anyways. I’m often pushed to move by the seasons: Canada’s cold, India’s heat, the movement of the tourists. I’ve been doing acupuncture, teaching yoga and doing astrology for a few years now. This gets me by, but it certainly doesn’t get me ahead.

For years I didn’t think much about getting ahead, but something happened this year that seems to have lit a fire under my ass. Maybe it’s a progression of the same thought that led me to India: “I’m almost 30,” but now I’m almost 40!

Between traveling and working out of town before that, I don’t have a lot of friends left in Edmonton. This past summer (summer 2015) was the first time I can remember having a fairly idle summer in Edmonton. Other than teaching a morning yoga class and a few astrology charts I had nothing to do all summer in the city. I was staying with a friend downtown spending much of my time in the coffee shops. I’m used to idling away my days this way. Reading, writing, studying and just putting myself in the way so perhaps I can meet someone new or see someone old. It’s been a little like being retired thru my 30’s. In any case, I wasn’t really doing what I hoped to be doing in Canada, which was more acupuncture.

So I came back to India and opened my clinic/studio and continued with my purpose. An Indian clinic/studio needs nothing but my presence to be open. People come to my room or I go to theirs for treatment, and the yoga is on the rooftop overlooking Ganga. It’s easy and effective. In Canada I didn’t even have a room of my own as I was sleeping on my friends living room floor. I gave several treatments here too but Canadians don’t have much appreciation for floors or simplicity.

Anyways, the heat (44 degrees) chased me out of Varanasi about a month ago. Varanasi was the only tourist destination I know in India and it appears I’m not too anxious to discover other ones. I like these peaceful little places without many people or much infrastructure. Where I am now is a one hour walk thru the mountains for food or a two hour walk for a wifi connection. Of course they are in opposite directions.

I’m writing what looks to be a book. I only realized this about a week ago. Wow can this boy write! I don’t suppose you ever get bored and or curious enough to look at my blog. Maybe you don’t even know I have one. It could use an editor, but professionalism isn’t really the goal of the blog; I just want to share my writing, my studies, my thoughts. It’s fairly popular among strangers. Indians seem to love my blog; seeing their country and traditional knowledge thru the eyes of a westerner. They like the idea of some white guy being Baba in Varanasi. I have such devotees online as you cannot imagine; I can’t even imagine! I’m not sure if they are crazy or if I’m crazy, but they keep me busy. I’m even asked to give blessings from time to time. The desperation of people to see hope in me astounds me. But this is what the world has become, there is so little hope left that people will find it anywhere. In any case, these people have kinda convinced me that I am, or can be a beacon of hope in this world, but of course I also have more work to do.

Though I struggle with it, my heart has always been with Canada. As soon as I started learning in India I have wanted to somehow bring my learning back to Canada and Canadians. I have always wanted to be one of those people who make a difference. My problem is that I currently have such a small scope and I’m generally preaching to the converted. My goal of course has always been the poor and downtrodden and those people who cannot afford or have no notion of things like acupuncture and yoga.

In any case, perhaps I’m rambling…. I don’t really know what to say. Really I just want to ask, how are you? What’s new in life?

I’ll be back in Canada soon. I don’t know what soon means: in month maybe. I’m planing to take a big step back into construction and material life to try to make enough money to study more acupuncture this winter. I assume this means I’ll be back in Edmonton or at least Alberta, though I could end up back in Kenora, Ontario, where I last worked. It would nice to see you again and perhaps catch up over a cup of tea or something. Maybe then my heart will not leap up thru my throat when I see you and I’ll be able to at least manage a hi, hello, how are you?

I just took a break and made some tea. It occurred to me why you may have come to my mind just at this point. I met my one foreign neighbour yesterday. She’s a western astrologer from Israel and we somehow got talking about my lack of home and lack of community and of course all of this is related with my fathers death, which I don’t generally associate with our relationship, but I suppose the two endings (at least) are woven together in my life. It was a busy time for me then. I started studying writing and then went all bohemian and lost control of everything before going to work out of town. I’ve never really been back even if I have been there. I’ve called (or denied) Edmonton my home since 1998 and the only connection I really have there is for work. Even the couple friendship I have left are fading though poor Chris knows he is the only person I really have in Edmonton. I met Chris in those old apartments on Jasper ave, but I’m sure you were long gone from my life by then. I’m lucky to have him in my life like a brother.

As I write I feel myself warming up and getting comfortable with your familiarity. I want to ask about your mom and your dad and your sister, a couple of your close friends at the time were nice girls, do you still talk with them? You were doing some leadership coaching or some such thing when we spoke last. I think you were working somewhere near my hearing aid place on 124st. I’ve come to understand how deaf I am without my hearing aids, maybe it’s gotten worse with age, but it must have been tough being with someone so deaf and not even realizing it. Anyways, it’s kind of a blessing for an Indian traveler: I can sleep anywhere and take peace whenever I want.

My memory brings with it a sense of our youth and our fears of facing the future. I can remember having these kinda of conversation where we would say that we don’t want to end up like this or like like. I don’t remember too many details. We were both living drinking culture then and didn’t want to end up like our parents (whose sins seem to have gotten dissolved with experience and the passage of time). In many ways, I’ve never felt as grown up and stable as I did when we were together. Perhaps I’ve been getting this sense again over the past couple of years, but it’s the only time in my life that I feel like I lived the way I think Canadians generally live. I’m talking about average upright Canadians, not the bohemians and artists who are living on the edges of Canadian culture, but those who have done something with their lives. As I write this sentence it occurs to me that I don’t know many of these sorts of people. My brother took this path and stopped talking to me about five years ago; he hasn’t spoken with my mother for longer. A couple of my cousins also seem to be going that direction, though we still talk. In any case, that year I spent with you in that house with the garden and all that was the only glimmer I’ve ever had of such a thing; settled life. I’m often just a curiosity when I’m in houses like that now.

Anyways, even if I haven’t matured in my relationships, at least my healing and my practices are maturing. Experience comes whether you seek it out or not. But I’m getting tired. I just want to go home and stay there and not go anywhere. But I have no home. Construction was a kind of home for me for several years: it took me in and fed me and gave me everything I need when ever I ask for it. It’s been a few years since I’ve gone that path and even then it was a couple of years of only working a few weeks each. I don’t take to well working for others anymore; I’m much better at giving the orders than taking them. Perhaps I’ve become a little prideful in my independence. After all these years I’m still struggling with my relationship with construction. This too began with my fathers death. His death never leaves me when I’m on a construction site. Maybe nothing has really changed.

The marriage ended in Guadalajara, Mexico three weeks after it began. The divorce dragged on for another two years but was relatively painless. She stayed with her parents in Guadalajara, I went to Nicaragua and then found a Turkish girlfriend in Guatemala. I told her I wanted to have a baby, she told me I was a married man. The divorce came thru about the same time I broke up with the girlfriend. Perhaps it would have worked if we would have stayed in Guatemala together. But an India trip together took it’s toll and then visa restrictions finished us (she was trying to come to Canada with Turkish visa while the Canadian Foreign Service was on strike). That was the last time I worked construction with any kind of intent. I ended up quitting after a couple of months to go to Turkey and see that relationship to its conclusion.

I’m a very emotional man, I don’t remember if I was this way then, but I’m very sensitive to the shades of passion within myself, what my acupuncture teacher called sudden hits of heat. When I was a child it came out as a temper, now that I’m a free man I’m free to express what was pent up then. These hits of heat often push me to travel and push my own bounds now. It was a hit of heat that brought me to acupuncture. This spontaneity has opened unimaginable doors for me in this world as well as others. I’m actually a very lucky person. I’ve been mostly happy for most of my life, even in the depression of my drinking days I had this happy-go-luckiness to my life. I suspect I was a happy fellow in our days together, until I fell into chaos at the end. But I think even that period I handled with a certain degree of equanimity.

I still remember your smile; it still makes me smile. I can hear your voice too now that I listen. It’s been a lot of years but your image seems to have stayed in mind. I can’t imagine what it would be to sit with you again.

Anyways, I see I’m coming to the bottom of the third page on word, so I suppose I’ll bring this message to a conclusion. It’s been nice thinking about you for this past hour or two I have taken to write this. I certainly hope your happy and healthy and with reason to be in good spirits and all of that.

I send my love and a hug and great peace,

Sincerely

Mike

 

Canadian Current Events Commentary

The following is an edited response to some questions asked to me by Andrew Sorge as we chatted on line about the recent shooting in Ottawa. We were discussing The Great Game (a book he is familiar with but I know little about). I don’t follow Canadian news so much, but of course

I did notice that the Canadian govt pushed thru a new surveillance bill at some point between the army guy getting run over in Montrael and the parliament shooting. But of course the news has no more time or space for this controversial bill as everyone turns their attention to mooring not only the loss of a couple of soldiers, but also the loss of innocence of our parliament building as it host it’s first gun fight. We should be mourning our loss of freedom and humanity by our own government as we mourn those other losses. Someone wrote a great article chastising people who are shocked this could happen after so many years of being at war. This is what war means. It wasn’t an act of terrorism but an act of war. Do people really think we can go around the world blowing people up in other countries and be free of the consequences. Shoot at someone long enough and they are bound to shoot back eventually. Whoever this guy was was very clear and deliberate in not killing any civilians (unlike the Canadian and other western armies as they pursue the global enforcement of their ideologies). I read that the shooter even forced someone out of his car at some point. If he was a terrorist he could have killed the guy. I think of his act as more of a violent protest than terrorism. He was quite specific in his targets. And now that the shooter is dead we will never know for sure what his motive was. Case closed. Personally I find it all rather boring.

In regards to the great game analogy, the audience will always demand a winner and a loser; and games are always more exciting when played before an audience. But who wins and who looses? And perhaps more importantly, when does the game end? The west thought they won in Iraq but their puppet government lacks the strength to defend against Isis.

And now that someone has shot back in Canada it’s now clear that we lost the game because that was after all what we went to war to avoid. And now that the government can spy on us we, the people, have doubly lost by losing the freedoms that so many soldiers have gone thru war after war to protect. But considering we’re still supporting the hi-tech terror in the land of the bad guys, they have not yet won either. No winners, just a bunch of fucking losers.

Politics never makes much sense. And it is just a game. Everyone takes it so seriously thinking that there can be a winner or a loser. But once this is declared everyone just sets the pieces up again and starts a new game.

I do to know what Canada is so worried about. Sure the enemie has possibly made a weak pawn attack on us early in the game, but we still have all of Europe and the Atlantic Ocean between us and them. It will be a long long time before Isis is rolling their tanks on Canadian soil and demanding our submission to Allah (if that’s what people are so scared of). If they were such a threat all of Europe would be thrashing them along side Turkey.

I actually appreciate Turkey’s stance in this. Though I’m also sure Erdogan stance is somewhat influenced by his own issues with the Kurds and support from the more fundamental Muslim majority in Turkey. Besides, if two enemies want to kill each other, then let them. In any case why are we so worried about what’s going on on the other side of the world if out allies who are neighbouring the war don’t seem to be too concerned. It has nothing to do with our freedoms and everything to do with being to scared to do what we all know is right anyways. “Our Freedoms” is merely jargon for “our oil rich way of life.” The average day is filled with reasons why we should become less dependent on oil, every sector of thought and academia agrees on this, but yet we fight continue to blow people up on the other side of the world rather than face our true fear which is just doing what’s right. It has nothing to do with war and everything to do with common decency, or the lack there of. People frown on smoking in public but drive their cars everywhere and lay down miles of tar to do so. It the mean time we head out to the Middle East and kill people for the privilege of driving those cars and laying down that tar. It’s our way of life and we won’t let anyone stand in our way.

This is nothing new, we all know better. We are loosing our way of life, but our way of life comes from freedoms that are being eroded by our own government. Nothing thats going on in the middle east can make that happen, but as long as we keep looking there for the enemy, our own government here will do as it likes.

Fear is our greatest enemy along with our reactions to fear. There is certainly no hidden master at work in our houses of parliament. Everyday some new thing comes up and “oh my god, we have to make a new law,” or “we must strike back,” or “we have to spy on everyone.” These are not the reactions of a confident nation and such reactions will only draw us further and further away from what we really want. And I think what most people really want is peace and freedom.

Identity

I realized something the other day. For a man on a spiritual path, it was a solid realization like running into a wall. The realization came about thru practical analysis of my will and desire as well as thru acknowledging my fears.

By mind and by impulse we want many things in life, but we only follow some of these mental promptings. We can know our true desires by the path we consistently follow. This is why people generally begin to know themselves better in middle age; we have some history to help guide us into the future. We begin many things only to have them fade away, other things that we do just seem to be a natural part of who we are. If we look close at the things that have faded from our lives, we can often relate them somehow to the more consistent path we are on.

Most of the time, most of us take action with hopes of some beneficial reaction. We give money, we get candy. We give our time and energy to work because we want money. We put our time and energy into meditation because we want peace. We want something in return for our expenditures of time, money and energy. But the truth is that most of us don’t know what we want and we wouldn’t know how to get it if we did. In the mean time our actions are often counter productive to attaining the higher goals of our life.

In our actions is everything: knowledge of ourselves, our abilities, our desires, and even our luck. But we have to look at our past actions without judgement or attachment to really recognize ourselves.

“Loose yourself and you will realize that there was no self to loose.”

This is a powerful spiritual statement. Loose yourself. Detach from your ego. Cease identifying with all your ideas of you. Imagine this scenario for a moment. Imagine yourself on some other path; perhaps the path of some rickshaw walla in India or some simple beggar in Canada. Some whole new you in some radically different situation with a radically new direction inn life. It’s quite an uncomfortable thought: disappearing from friends and family, not striving for name or fame or wealth or relations or anything at all.

I can honestly say that I’m not ready to give up on my ‘self.’ I have been cultivating myself and following this particular path of destiny for almost 38 years, I’m not particularly ready to throw it all away. This is the first wall I hit in my spiritual path. Or perhaps it’s more of a door that has opened in my spiritual life. I can never really tell. What I do know is that I’m happy with my life and direction. I don’t want to lose myself.

My sense of self is what it is. I’m not frightened or in conflict by what is inside me. It will all come to the surface when the time is right: the bliss, the pain, the fear and the courage. It will all dissipate too when the time is right.

The philosophical path I’m on started to become noticeable to me in my early twenties. Young and full of hope and optimism I began studying philosophy. Most people laugh at such idealism and remind one that there is no money in philosophy. Philosophers laugh at such people because there is no humanity in money. But they were right, I don’t think I’ve ever made a single penny with philosophy. But I have come much closer to humanity.

For a long while I turned my back on my own philosophical foundation and sought to identify myself as someone with more fiscal hope in life. Admittedly I didn’t raise the bar of fiscal hope very high. I changed my studies to writing and began identify as such. Later I dropped writing and dove into acrylics and canvas only to later switch to photography. I knew I’d never be an artist but I did have some small success in these areas.

The thing is, I never liked being identified as a construction worker; it was too base for my intellectual pride. I enjoyed the outside work, the hard labour, and the easy comradery with the crews, I just didn’t like the identification. The most humiliating question a person could ask was, “What do you do for a living?” Once the hours and the labour and the lifestyle started deteriorating my body, I knew I had to get out.

My luck took me to India eight years ago. I immersed myself in the various aspects of yoga: the asanas healed my body, the meditation helped me find calm, the lifestyle changed my own permanent behaviour so that many bad habits dropped away naturally and the philosophy and astrology have richly fed my mind. I began to see my own new lifestyle practices boom in the marketplace and I thought perhaps luck was leading me out of construction. Yoga and philosophy and holistics have simply become a part of my life; but the market place has not. It’s a dirty place this marketplace. Much dirtier than the shit smeared streets of Varanasi and the petty corruption that is part of my life here.

I’m not one to sell myself to the masses. To be honest, I don’t think I have much appeal for the masses. Perhaps it’s the years of construction that instilled such practicality in me. Working with people who were generally quick to accept but slow to judge makes me too honest and practical for the marketplace. In absence of office politics and mutual friendships honesty can flourish.

I don’t try to sell people their hopes and dreams. Everyone has to take care of that for themselves. I won’t hyperbolize my skills and knowledge and I won’t speak, practice or  teach beyond my own knowledge and experience just to impress. And I’ll do my best not to repeat in my own words something someone else has said with crystal clarity. This is why I have not written a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita despite several suggestions that I do so; all I can do is complicate and already clear and simple translation.

I was thinking about my own social identity when the ideas about the separations between internal and external came to me; the spiritual and the physical you could say. I often struggle with my social identity, and struggle with this struggle as well. I feel l like I know myself quite well, I’ve stretched myself beyond many limitation and recognise some of the ones that continue to hold me back (social identity being one of them). I’m comfortable with my contradictions and I know that my true self goes beyond words. I suspect it’s the social media aspect of identity that causes the most turmoil, but it’s the same when I’m asked by some new person what I do. What do I do?

I do so much, but yet I do so little and on the outside it seems to change so much month to month, year to years. Inside, these changes are small things, I know my path even though I can’t describe it. My path is an spiritual one until I come sit at my computer to use it as entrance into into the marketplace. What you’re reading is the only publicity I have. But in doing so I have to create an identity that I know only scratches the surface of what I’ve actually done while not even scratching the surface of who I really am. It causes me untold misery.

My desire to enter the market place of yoga and esoteric practice is not fed by a desire for money or fame, but merely to remain independent in my spiritual practice. My fierce independence and wandering ways have been both a spiritual blessing as well as a curse. If I could submit to an ashram or some such thing I could have an easy spiritual living, but this is not a long term solution for me. Neither, any longer, are my short bouts of construction work. The only next step I can envision in my physical as well as spiritual evolution is sharing some of my knowledge of yoga and healing and other esoteric subjects. The other problem I face is that many of the practices in these fields demand a kind of secrecy. They’re custom made for the time and place I find myself in and taking them out of that place and putting them into the marketplace or some blog post depreciates their value.

But as long as we go into society, we must identify as something. Our clothes and hair style and even the places we go are clues to our identity. In my case, I write and blog and have desire to bring my knowledge into the marketplace somehow. It’s perhaps this need to identify as something that is the dirtiest part of the marketplace. Or perhaps it’s just my own desire to be a part of it that I find so repugnant.

I have several identities actually. There my internal spiritual true identity. The one those I see in the course of the day experience; this one too arising quite naturally, and then there’s the one’s that are haphazardly crafted on line thru Facebook and WordPress and social media. I try to keep the online identity as close to reality as possible, but you know how it goes, you just can’t describe a full person in a sound bites. Internal identities are expansive while the external ones contract and limit.

And this is one of my greatest fears, that my online identity will not be authentic, but of course it won’t, it’s only a couple kilobytes.

Ashes to ashes

I was reminded of a time in Varanasi, sitting at the burning ghats, watching bodies burn. Everything is happening here. The whole city goes by, nay, the whole world! Seasonal festivals pass thru, all the animals of the city are represented, except they’re bigger stinger healthier and more menacing somehow. Aghora tantrics sit around. Madmen come to extort money for you. Families mourn and carry out the last rights. Morning and evening everyone gives and recieved blessing from the river passing thru and the light that’s is Kashi…. Prakash.

On this evening I was sitting with a long time friend. One of those people you have such varied experience with that he’s more like brother. In any case, one of the mourning family members took offence to having a couple western tourist gawking at his burning relatives body and he chased us away. We left easily, we weren’t there to offend anyone.

He didn’t ask us why we were sitting there. If he did, I would have told him that my father burned, but I didn’t get to see it because of Canadian law and policy. He was killed by fire and then about a week later I gave his body over to the fire. Ashes to ashes… His ashes didn’t go into ganga where she passes thru Kashi, but with the lords blessing, someday his son’s will.

OM NAMAH SHIVAYA