Tag Archives: travel

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.

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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.

A Hard Traveling: A Path of Worship

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Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m walking thru some known past or walking into some unknown future. The people I meet along the way all appear to me as dear old friends rather than people I’m meeting for the first time. I become familiar fast, I tell people what I want and expect it with the same ease with which I give what is asked of me. The demands are not unreasonable or unexpected, just what the situation demands. We’re all just fulfilling our duties to the other; to humanity; to ourselves; or, if you like, to God.

I’ve faced some hard traveling in the past as I faced off against the scorching hot winds of the Indian plains, or the cold isolation of the Himalayan mountains, or perhaps even when I walked in my vain attempt at hitchhiking thru the nomadic lands and salt flats of western India. The Narmada valley kicked my ass and so did the Naga hills, but none of it so hard as Canada’s west coast.

Over the past few months, I’ve been from Edmonton to 180 miles out on the North Pacific, I’ve walked, trekked, hitch-hiked, bused, flew and boated uncountable miles; moving far too frequently, ready to give up time and time again but unable to stop due to some invisible hand of fate. The isolation, the untamed nature, and the magnitude of accidents and incidents has challenged me on every level stretching my emotions thin (sensitive as a champagne glass), sharpening my instincts so that they cut like a razor without hesitation, and, of course, breaking my body with frost bite on my fingers, cartilage torn in my ribcage, and infection setting into even the most insignificant cut. (I found out after writing this that I also crushed three vertebrae in a ladder fall a couple of days after I tore the cartilage in my ribs.)

The bear that was foraging on the beach where I camped in Winter Harbour came to give me a sniff at night. I know how these weak dogs feel when they decide to crossing thru another packs territory. At least I didn’t piss myself. I was camping/hitch-hiking on the edge of town for three days before someone came along who was heading back towards civilization (if you can call Port Hardy civilization, and it seems you can only call it that if you’re coming from Winter harbour, otherwise you still have a long way to go before you can make such a statement). It’s not a matter of cars driving past you and not stopping, everyone stops, but they’re all locals, nobody is going back to civilization. And when someone did finally come along they had to honk and call me up from the beach because the last thing I expected was a ride. Speaking with the locals I was expecting to be there for another three days.

I remember when I was going up to Nepal to trek the Langtang valley in January so many years ago. A Brazilian girl was in the jeep with me and she spoke of her fathers belief that Nepal was like going to the end old the world. The cold, she said, exacerbated this feeling for her. Dante, after all, portrayed the lowest levels of hell as a most frozen wasteland of demons. I’ve been out past Winter Harbour and I can say that it really is the end of the world. There is nothing beyond except wind, water and waves. The people of the town frozen in some time long in the past making it feel less like I’m traveling thru space and more like I’m traveling thru time. But perhaps this is the effect of a Ketu pratyardasha during a Mercury retrograde.

Ketu, the dragons tail or south node, is known as one of the shadow planets. He’s a mysterious mystical planet that brings our past life karmas to the fore. He is one of the great balancers of our karmic debts. He works in the most mysterious and unpredictable ways. In a flash he can raise one to the highest status or bring them crashing down to the lowest. Ketu usually shows us our most natural talents that we’ve brought with us from previous lives. These being areas of our lives that we’re already comfortable with, we rarely have have the sense of challenge it takes to stick with something until we master it. With Ketu, we’ll pick something up because it’s there and drop it completely when we’re finished with it. Mercury in retrograde also bring us back to our past, so that we find ourselves thinking about past lovers, past mistakes, or any other unfinished business. During the last Mercury retrograde in the early summer of 2016 I edited over 70 pages of past writing and wrote two unsent letters to girlfriends from far in my past. During the retrograde that occurred last fall I was saved by an ex-girlfriend who suddenly thought to repay a debt that I’d long since put behind me. I was hoping this current Mercury retrograde would allow me the time to finish my editing task. Unfortunately Ketu’s strength had me out on the seas pulling in tuna on hand lines and slicing their throats: brutal, blood soaked work. Ketu has long since suggested to me that my past life followed such a brutal blood soaked path. This is perhaps why I feel so blessed regardless of the Saturneous difficulties of my current life: no matter how hard things may seem, they could be a lot worse.

I started moving back in May when the heat of Varanasi started to rise well above 40 degrees. I headed north to the Himalayan Mountains, wandering villages for a couple of months until I found some nice place to rest. By then it was time to leave India and come back to Canada where I’ve been wandering for about 10 weeks.

About a month ago, I thought I was done and finished. I thought the highways and forests of the interior had finished my off. I though that I couldn’t possibly go on. And then I got the call to go Tuna fishing. It’s often like that, just when you think you can’t go on, just when you think that your heart and soul has given all that it has, just when you think you’ve lost everything, there comes some fresh spark from god only knows where. I’m amazed time and again how much spark, how much illumination is within me even when I think I’ve spent it all. Such will to live. Now, once again, I honestly don’t feel like I can continue any farther.

A few nights ago I was sleeping in my tent when the breath of a bear woke me up. I could smell him and hear him as he sniffed at the tent. I dreamt about him the night before and thru my dream I knew somehow that I was welcome to pass thru the territory. He left when I spoke to him. I’d seen him on the beach, I knew he was in the neighborhood.

“Life,” a wise man once said, “is mostly about wastin’ time, and I waste my share of mine.” Sometimes this seems like all I’m ever doing is wastin’ time. I’ve gathered up all kinds of knowledge that I could not have imagined, I’ve had experiences that are quickly fading from this planet, and I’ve loved and lost so many times that I don’t know the difference any more. But all of this I keep within me. When I start to put my experience and knowledge to paper and print it sounds like some stereotype that cannot possibly be real. How can one man do all of that? Perhaps I’ve taken my memory from books and movies or merely dreamt it.

On the other hand, few of my stories have the sparkle and shine or the outlandishness that people seem to associate with my kind of travel. This search for freedom has not been an exploration of the drug culture: I’ve managed to avoid the coke in Central America, the Ayuasca of the southern shamans, the ‘shrooms of the west coast, the acid of the cities and all the rest of that mind altering experimentation. I’ve done my best to maintain what I consider a certain level of legitimacy in my quest. Many people seem somewhat disappointed that I haven’t explored this drug fueled consciousness. It’s like my legitimacy is lost by not having gone thru this drug fueled route to higher consciousness.

I cannot say that good old fashioned meditation has brought me here alone, just like I cannot deny living in a world of altered consciousness. Experience has been just as important as meditation and fate has done most of the work for me. This path is written in the stars, this consciousness has been a gift of God. If any one little thing was changed then it would all be changed to such an extent that I would no longer be me, but someone else with a whole different set of knowledge, skill and experience.

Sometimes I wish I could view my life from the perspective of my friends and family who see me as a great adventurer, mystic and yogi. Of course my pride has elevated me to Baba with so many clients calling me doctor and guruji, but this very pride keeps me quite about my travels and these people who come across my path.

A wise man said that there’s no use trying to figure it all out, it takes the time that’s needed for talkin’ about the places you’ve been and the faces you’ve seen. Perhaps I waste too much time trying to figure it all out; trying to see how one piece fits onto the other and what piece will come next. So, perhaps it’s time I speak, or write a little more about the places I’ve been and the faces I’ve seen.

A truck driver picked me up somewhere around Mount Robson. He told me that he stopped because I was wearing a cowboy hat rather than a rag on my head. I felt lucky for a moment that I happened to be wearing that hat that was plunked on my head by a friend as he left me to seek my fortune on the side of the highway; it’s more common for me to have a rag on my head. By the time I shared this news with the trucker we had already established a friendship and he was no longer in the mood for insults.

I sometimes come across these big burly manly men who wrestle bears. Of course they don’t really wrestle bears so this little adventure that is my life seems to threaten them as though my meager existence somehow knocks them out of the alpha-male seat they are so accustomed to. Perhaps they could handle it if I was competitive and boastful about my adventures, but the truth is that I never seek out adventure, adventure just seems to grab a hold of me and drags me thru the mud or the sea and then spits me out in some strange place like Winter Harbour or Port Hardy. All I can do when I come out the other side is marvel at my surroundings and wonder just what it is I’m doing here. I ask this of the wind quite a lot: What am I doing here?

As a philosopher I’m used to asking questions of myself. I used to always ask and wonder, “who am I?’ but now that I seem to have that figured out to some degree, my question is more often: “what am I doing here?” It’s a fair question. I have no reason for being here, I’ve never even looked at this part of the world on the map, but yet here I am in Port Hardy putting off my bus ticket one more day over and over. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll go somewhere. I’m too far away from everything to get anywhere in a day.

I was in this situation a few months ago in India. There I was in the village Tatapani which had been mostly flooded out by a dam a few years earlier wondering to myself what I was doing there. As is often the case, I was just wastin’ time. There was nothing there to see or to do, and as usual it was the people who touched me in a way that the land out here touches me. Sometimes these touches burn a hole so deep that the mark will never go away. Sometimes it’s just a gesture; a sentiment.

How often have I made it thru someplace that I’m sure has changed me forever only to run into some old friend who reminds me that I haven’t changed one bit. All the scars are internal. All the perception arises from within. We cannot even imagine what it must be like to see thru another’s eyes. How often the vision changes; that inner vibration seeking it’s harmonious match. Every note is beautiful on it’s own, but it takes a certain degree of magic for harmony to arise from a whole cluster of notes. We often forget this when we’re in conflict with others. We point our finger at the other person throwing blame upon them and challenging them to change their inner music to match our own.

But even in conflict there is some match between people. I’ve seen this in astrology charts when people clearly do not match with each other. Although their personalities may not match, their karma matches; their miserable time together matches. I’ve seen horrible relationships come in front of me and I’ve had to say that yes, there is an astrological match in the charts. Soul mates do not only come into being between butterflies and rainbows; everyone we encounter is a kind of soul mate fulfilling some need in our lives; fulfilling some vision we have of life. Sometimes we need the conflict to feel fulfilled; that duality of righteousness that bring some tension to life.

Some people say this about astrology: “I don’t want to know, I’d rather it comes as a surprise.” But even knowing what I know, life always comes as a surprise. Reading a future in a chart and experiencing that future are two very different things; two very different ways of knowing. When I see an accident coming in my chart it never occurs to me to try to avoid it. One always tries to be careful, but such is the nature of an accident that we never see it coming until it’s already upon us.

A wise man once said that: “We all got holes to fill, them holes are all that’s real. Some fall on you like a storm, sometimes you dig your own.” To this I could add that we usually know when we’re digging a hole for ourselves even without predictive astrology, but this does not keep us from digging the hole. Actually, I’ve written before that most people know their future without seeking out astrological advice. Just as something deep inside myself knew that I was facing the Saturn effect on my luck long before it became as apparent as it is today. People mostly know if they are going to be successful or miserable, rich or poor. Of course crazy things happen some people worry about everything while others worry about nothing and who can say what will come of them. Strange luck strikes from anywhere when the time comes.

I’ve always had high hopes for myself. I certainly never expected to be living on such an edge of existence; clinging to the edge of world wondering where my path will take me next. Venus will soon be giving influence where Ketu has been for the past month. I pray that she will be kind to me, and embrace me with the kind of love and luxury and creativity that she’s famous for. I’ve noticed in the past that her location in my third house with Saturn and Jupiter looking at her often influences this very traditional art of astrology that I’ve been practicing. I remember years ago asking my teacher about this combination as I wondered why I was not using my hands for art and design as I expected from Venus. One look at the charts covering almost every page of my notebook laid my questions to rest.

The difficulties of these past months has left me wondering if things can get any worse, though of course I know that they can. I have a not on my own astrology chart that Venus should bring both a relationship and some writing which sound quite pleasant, but of course I cannot ignore Venus’ rulership of my 12th house of loss and the 7th house of the loss of longevity; both of which are obviously quite ominous. Since she’s living in my third house of effort it makes perfect sense since I don’t feel like I have any effort left in me and if this continues it’s sure to be the death of me. But I don’t suppose death in in my cards just yet either as my previous figuring should give my at least another 15 years in union with this body. My teacher assures me that I have even longer than that.

Speaking of astrology, I’ve had some wonderful clients lately as well as some disastrous feedback. This great intimacy I feel with my clients, although wonderfully touching in a familiar way, occasionally gives me a kick in the ass since I share their pain as readily as I share their joy. And of course regardless of what I do, I cannot change anything for them (and lucky nobody expects me to do this), and still there exists suffering and confusion in this world. Patience and awareness seems to be the only remedy; but such remedies are only bestowed on those of us who are fated for such patience and awareness.

In any case, I’m merely writing for the sake of writing; singing for the sake of the song. I’ll continue to walk in this world between the past and the future, between heaven and hell and all the rest. Non-duality and non-difference between the poles. This fleeting stillness being the only real reality. It’s been said that when truth descends upon us, the only response in worship. So please accept this writing in the spirit of worship, just as I pray each step I take in this life continues to be taken in worship.

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.

Path of Purposeless Existence

Most of the other travellers I know have some purpose to their travels: musicians, photographers, artists, writers, and healers. They’re passionate about what they do, they’re driven and ambitious, they have purpose. I envy this sense of purpose, the creative process that drives people and affords them a love that is greater than them selves, be it for their family or their art. I’m not talking here of the tourists taking a few weeks to see something different; tourists travel, but travel does not make up a huge part of their lives.

My own travels don’t stop for more than a couple of months. From one place I get the urge to go someplace else. No reason really, it just becomes time for change: for new surroundings, new people, and perhaps a new pastime, of just to find a nice place to go for a walk. Perhaps I’ve become addicted to the fears and thrills of change.

I dabble a little in all things, wandering, my destinations changing with the landscape. I have neither a path of love and passion, nor a path of responsibility. Almost every time I land somewhere I ask myself, “what am I doing here?” I rarely go someplace to do something; I rather go, and than I ask. It’s tiring. It’s often isolating as I’m continually leaving behind friends and family and the familiar.

I’ve tried inventing some reason behind my travels (photography, holistic courses), but it never lasts, before long I find myself wandering aimlessly, leaving everything I was doing to go on to something new. I have nothing to hold me where I am and nothing except the weather and whim enticing me to go anyplace else.

At times I tell myself it’s because I don’t want anything, I’m happy with what I have, but mostly I see the truth that I want more. It’s like an underlying drive for more without any overlying destination. Sometimes I am perfectly happy, but then the underlying desire begins to simmer and then boil and before I know it I’ve done something rash and I’m on the move again. Some people go shopping and buy pointless shit, I buy plane tickets or spend days driving across the country.

It’s unsettling, and I mean that in every sense of the word. There’s no ground but myself and mostly as I travel I’m asking myself, “who am I?” Now I ask you, what kind of ground is that?

Artist and muscian travelers have some kind of outlet for their crafts. They easily come together from shared interest and often draw people and fans towards them. And of course they all have their craft fill their days and their career to drive them. I write; sometimes. I take pictures; sometimes. I take courses; sometimes. But I have no thing I do, no deadlines; no expectations coming from anywhere. I don’t even know where to begin to turn whatever it is I do into a business. People ask me what I do when I travel. I don’t know what to tell them: I do a little of this and a little of that. I’m usually busy, crazy busy for a guy with nothing in particular to do but that’s just it: I ‘do’ merely because I have to: with a body and the march of time doing is all we really have. Broadly speaking, I do philosophy (whatever that is exactly).

I feel the same confusion when people ask me where I’m from. Where am I from? Canada is the only clear answer I can give, and this is a big country. I was born in Calgary and then I moved around a lot. Then I moved to Edmonton and kept moving around a lot, but kept going back to Edmonton. I have nothing in Edmonton though, except work that pays well and doesn’t expect much commitement. (I don’t wish to alienate my Edmonton friends, I love you guys, but Edmonton is no home for me). I wish I could at least say that home is where the heart is, but I rarely feel at home for long and my heart is always with me.

And just as I keep asking myself who I am, the question of what do often arises in my mind. That s right, not only do I not have a clue who I am, I don’t even know what I want. What do you want? Some people just seem to be born with some destination to go with their drive. I have not had this honour. But not knowing what it is we really want is a hallmark of our age: vague unfocused and unconscious desires.

I’m not saying desires do not arise in me. I wouldn’t want to leave that impression for a second. I’m full of desires and a glutton to them. I tend to give myself everything I want and I’ve received more than I could have imagined. But I’ve also lost everything I’ve ever wanted. Sometimes it’s taken away or inadvertently lost, but most often my achievements just fade away like a child bored with his new toy. I just leave things and move on. I often feel a little lost afterwards: My heart broken at the end of relationships; my sense of purpose uncertain at the end of some intensive course or work season; and my very being shaken from intensive practice or experimentation or just by the happenstance of fate. My god how many times do I have to feel the death of some old life followed by the naivety and confusion of a re-birth. Things can never be the same as they were. Experiences so great that you simply cannot see life the way you did before. Everything changes. All the time. And what a rush it can be to fall into the abyss of the unknown.

But I do know that somehow something will happen, from one change will come the next. I don’t know if everything will be ok. I’m not even really sure what that means: That I don’t get injured ill or dead? These things will happen and I’ll still be ok. This is the nature of things: everything will be ok.

Every time I feel like I’ve been left with nothing; weeks later I look around me, knowing I’ve acquired nothing, but feel as though I have everything. The many injuries I have sustained in my life likewise have led me to this path of knowledge that I am on. Knowledge of what? I don’t know. Knowledge of what I need to know.

It’s madness!

You can’t imagine how isolating it is to travel alone. 90% of the time I live in just my own little world. My thoughts, dreams and actions so bundled together so that I can’t tell one from the other. And what is the difference? In regards to their effect on me their reality is equal.

But that leads my to another question that’s often passes thru my mind: “what is real?” Seriously, what is real? Do you know the difference between real and not real. Hind-sight is wonderful for distinguishing, but in the here and now, what sort of test is there to know the difference. Approximately half the yoga community believes that there is reality and illusion, the other half believes merely that there are different worlds, all of with are real.

But lets go back to those times when I’ve felt like I’ve lost everything. It all seemed real enough to me at the time while I was plunged into my own sorrow, but months later I look back and see that nothing had really changed; nothing had been lost and nothing really gained. What’s the reality? That we make our own reality? Then what happens to the objective observable reality we’ve become so familiar with? Considering the limitations of our senses (we don’t smell as good as a dog or see as an eagle), we have to admit that there is much more to the world than what is objectively observable. Why should we rely on just our senses to determine reality when we see the effects of so many things that many people would say are not part of reality.

My mother spent of most her life working in forensics as a psych. nurse. She often wonders aloud if I’m going (or have gone) crazy. I can understand this from her perspective. I don’t know who I am; I don’t know what I want; and I don’t know what is real and what is not. From the perspective of western psychology all these traits point to insanity.

But from my perspective, I see most people pretending to be someone they are not; if I ask them who they are, I will likely be able to point out to them why they really are none of what they say. If I ask people what they want, they will likely share only the basest of human desires with me. And their sense of reality will likely stop with their senses, which would, quite simply leave of most of the phenomena that drives the world. The point is, no one knows who they are or what is real or what they want, they just don’t often stop to wonder about these things, and it’s certainly not considered polite conversation to bring them up at dinner parties. So, we get a world like the one we have where wealth and power and lust rule simply by default. People go on defining themselves thru or living for their work, their family, their possession’s, or their reputation. Personally, I think these people are closer to insanity than I am, they have merely learned to wear acceptable masks. But that is the secret to civilization isn’t it: it’s all in the mask.

It’s no secret in this new age age that we are mostly disconnected from our emotions. I would say also that we are generally disconnected from God, but I don’t want to loose my atheist readers, but even they’ll agree that there is a mass disconnect happening in the world. We know about this because it’s the age of Auqarius; a time when we begin to reconnect. But if this is the age of Aquarius, that means we just advanced past Capricorn: a dirty old goat of a time. But Aquarius and Capricorn are both ruled by the planet Saturn; a kind of dirty old man him-self. Saturn doesn’t like your normal every day people. He doesn’t care much those who are energetic or overly whitty, nor any other who have anything to do with authority and power. He likes to keep to himself or spend time with older people, cripples, the disadvantaged, hermits, or even those who are especially close to the land like gardeners (farmers today are closer to their machines than the land); anyone who is isolated from main stream whether by choice or circumstance.

Asrtrologically speaking, I’m currently in my Saturn period. This is not the same as the dreaded 7 ½ year period when Saturn will affect my moon, but rather Saturn’s opportunity of 18 years to exert his influence over my life. Saturn is the fellow who makes us experience our karmas. Karma can be a bitch, or we can accept it and embrace it. We have no choice but to experience our Karma and we should be thankful to have the opportunity to experience it. In many ways Karma is the fuel we have to burn in this life; the action we must take and the actions we must experience.

When someone harms us and we have no recourse it’s natural to think that Karma will get them, but few people stop to think that Karma has just gotten them. We are all instrumental in affecting each others karma. In other words, we have to dish it out as well as swallow it. Accepting our karma is accepting our own actions as well as the actions of others and the universe at large. Karma isn’t all bad though; actions that produce joy and please are also karmas.

What most eastern thought seems to suggest is that Karma is Karma; it’s neither good nor bad; in this we must find equanimity. We each have our own karmas to experience and we must accept that in ourselves and others. This is one of the main indicators the general disconnection most cultures are experiencing: the level of emotional attachment people have to their karmas. This attachment is taught to us by television and the like in particular and the culture of consumerism in general. Change is presented as such a fearsome exchange that each new thing has to be hyped. The middle path is completely ignored, leaving the people bored

Thinking of Saturn reminds me of my own pointless wanderings. Saturn has taken over my life for the next 18 years. When I look around at my surrounding I see my tent, some old four-wheeler trail, the forest a stream, an over-head power line going thru. I hear the odd car drive past. I’m only as far back in the bush as my Volkswagen Rabbit will allow me to go. Even then I’m only a half hour from town; the nearest house can’t be too far away though I see no sign of it. But isolated enough without cell coverage or other hallmarks of our civilization.

I’m here because it’s free. One of the main hallmarks of our civilization is that it costs money to be a part of. You pay for parking, for sleeping, for news, even for water. Nothing is free in civilization. If anything was free you wouldn’t have to keep working to keep it all flowing. Maybe it’s time to get back into the flow of things.

Price of Defeat

What is it that causes so many people in their thirties to suddenly contract unhappiness. They look back on the whole of their life: their achievements, their relationships, their careers and their training and suddenly they decide that none of it is enough. Something vital is still missing. While they were building a life they somehow missed out on life, and at Some point in our thirties we decide that we must go looking for it.

This desire to go searching for that something more is often powerful enough for people to uproot their lives: careers that many only dream of get left behind, marriages come to an end, and many possessions get sold, given away or thrown in the trash-heaps they are for.

We usually don’t know what it is that is missing or to where we must go or what we must do to find it, but suddenly we discover that we must begin listening to our intuition. Or perhaps all the years of repressing our intuition causes it to begin asserting itself through life changes.

YOU ARE THAT! NOT THIS NOT THAT!

Knowledge has bounds, intuition does not. We are much more than the sum of our experiences. We are like a vessel which contains all manifest possibility; infinite potential; a mass of energy conscious of being a mass of energy.

Who we think we are is not who we are. We are beyond our own comprehension.

If this is the case than what is this popular idea of true self? Authentic self? The real?

I hear many stories about lovely successful people who I always thought had it together suddenly breaking down and realizing that they do not at all have it together. Their happiness was a sham, their smiles and laughter masks to cover all that they did not know. Their days, organized for completeness were days of mental chaos, felling success only when triumphing over others and being left forlorn when they must cede success to someone else. We’ve heard it in the movies countless times: “My whole life is a sham.”

But what is a person to do?

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over: “We can’t all just go off to travel India for half the year like you do.”

India has been my path, kindly find your own! I’m not saying that India is not also your path; it is the path of millions of western people (and over a billion Indians). But once here we all have our own paths. None of it would work if we all followed the same path, we’d get in each others way.

And this is much of the problem, we’re all trying to conform to the same path and we’re all getting in each other way. And all this getting in each others way is starting to cause tension and anger. And by the time we hit our thirties we’re completely pissed off, frustrated, and exhausted by life; and now we are ready to listen to our intuition.

An old man once told me that disappointment was a better starting point for the journey within than dreams.

So here we sit in our thirties feeling completely disappointed by life and wanting more. This can’t be it, can it?

A very close friend once confided to me that no matter how much she planned and prepared for the future, she could not feel secure; she always imagined the worst. Above every mutual fund, every dead-bolt, every alarm system and every insurance policy hung a black cloud of “what ifs?” that left her feeling as vulnerable to the future as though she’d done nothing. She knew that the fear was her own burden, but she didn’t know how to drop it.

And then one day it happened! She left her car door unlocked and she came back to find many of her possessions had been stolen. She dropped her guard for a moment and paid the price. But she also realized that she could not be vigilant 24 hours a day; she could not guard against everything. Her fears just dropped away. She didn’t even get angry over having her things stolen; instead she felt only the peace that comes with complete defeat.

Varanasi, India. 2009.

November 2009
Varanasi, India

In a cold guest house room beside the Ganges. Me and Joseph the Swede are wrapped in blankets, playing chess, smoking charas.

“I can’t keep going on like this. broken heart after broken heart. it’s not fair to me or to them or to anyone that has to listen to me.” I said with a smile. “I figure there are only three choices for me when it comes to love and relationships: I could become a monk and lock myself away somewhere, hide front the women of the world; or I could just get married. Make a pact with some woman to make it work. Maybe some simple Indian girl to make a life with, I could marry that girl in Delhi I told you about. Or, I can just keep on keeping on repeating other maddening waves of love and heartbreak. This is not what I want, but becoming a monk and suppressing all that passion isn’t the way either, and first I have to find a woman to marry me; which is kinda what the whole cycle is about…..

“…… Maybe that’s why I get so upset about it all: because I realize I have no control over it. All this love and loss is out of my hands. But there has to be something I can do. Some way to make it all flow easier……” I was exhausting myself with my monologue.

Joseph was staring at the chess board.

He’d been all over the world loving and leaving women. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. Trying one thing and another and going back. His girlfriend had just left India to go back to work, he was staying on for a couple months. All was good between them, but the future of course was not at all clear.

He was (still is) into meditation. Silent retreats, morning routine…… Cursing himself always as he tries to get something more from meditation; always rating the meditation abilities of the meditator: himself and the others in the groups he partakes in silence with.

All these comparisons are the hardest things to drop. Imagining the inner life of another person and longing to have an inner life comparable.

Most of us just want the kind of house or car or job or lifestyle or friends or lovers or wives that other people have.

Others want the peace and tranquility they see in others, or the assertiveness that they admire, or the creativity that allows some to shine.

We are rarely good enough as we are.

Joseph stayed on for about a month and our conversations and chess playing continued. I had kind of isolated myself aside from him and the the guest house and a couple restaurants. I was just keeping to my practice, studying the Gita, and beginning to strike upon a deeper understanding of duty and sacrifice. After a couple months I was like an old man sitting at my desk studying, reading, writing for most of the hours of a day. Shawls wrapped around me to protect me from the cold damp fog of Ganga in the winter. I was as focused and monkish as I’ve ever been. I was even practicing postures to promote celibacy and restraint.

And then Claire arrived at the guest house….

She arrived and took me away from everything I was doing. It was about three days later before I noticed. It was festival season in Varanasi. It’s always festival season. We were running around town like children: taking pictures of Muslims butchering buffalo for Id, watching as midnight pashmina deals turned into opium deals. I remember the bells ringing that never seemed to stop, everyone celebrating and praying and coming together to fill Kashi beyond its holy domain.

We came together in strange way. After being inseparable for a few days. The youngest brother of the guest house came to me and said that they’d overbooked and asked if Claire and I could share a room for a couple days. It was a crazy thing to request. I asked Sanjay about it and he didn’t want any part of the request, but he admitted the were over booked.

This was the strange sort of ‘set-up’ that brought us together. A few days later we were heading west on the train.

She had energy this girl. She wanted to see everything, explore. We would wander thru neighborhoods and the people would be out of their homes laughing like crazy at the way she played with the children and her camera. Her smile and joie de vivre was infectious. I was certainly infected with it. I’d almost completely forgotten who I was. I was following under her spell. It was wonderful.

But it was also too much for me. My energy was sapped. We got to Bhundi she fell ill first and spent an couple days in bed and I followed right behind her, sinking into the large comfortable room we’d found. And then, as if all of a sudden we were going to the door together and I was giving her a passionate kiss good bye. She returned the kiss, but none of the passion, ran down the stairs to the rickshaw the was waiting and flew back to France.

Three weeks had passed since I met her, I found myself completely at a loss. Heartbroken. More than all of that, all my focus had been kindof geared towards knowing better than to allow this to happen to myself. A three week affair ending in my broken heart couldn’t have been a starker reminder that all this talk and thought and suffering I did about my fate with women was just talk….. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to do anything about anything.

Prayer

This morning, as I watched the clouds lifting ever so slowly from the mountaintops I began to pray:

“Please God…. Dear Lord, please have mercy. Carry me gently across this bridge. Please give me the insight Grant me the….

Help me….

Please Lord, grant me thy grace.”

And the moment I asked for grace the prayer changed; my whole thinking changed:

“Thank you god. Thank you for they grace. Thank you for your light which is always in the darkness. Thank you oh lord! Thank you for guiding me across this perilous bridge gently and with grace. I am your perfection…complete….whole. Thank you.”