Last Word from the Road (for now…)

It has been a great last week (and change) here in Europe. I have been blessed to reconnect with a number of good friends up in Munich and Salzburg, then rolling back to my European home base in Tuscany for a few days. Now I am down in Napoli, one of my favourite cities, and I just felt like one final post here before my wee European jaunt draws to a close. I will be home for Christmas in two days now! I doubt I will have any better chance to put up a quick blog post.

I connected with eight different friends up in the very Christmas-y land of Munich and Salzburg. ‘One’ of those friends was a family of five…so it was actually twelve old friends that I got to spend time with. I was very happy to enjoy their company and catch up. I even had the chance to ride my old bike (the one that carried me nearly 7500 km around Europe a few years ago). My friend, Johanna, who now owns Yoshimi (the bike), loaned her to me for a day and I loved zipping around Munich on this familiar old friend. It felt so natural. She has hardly changed. Many warm memories flooded back.

I also got to spend time with Tiago, who I first bumped into in Madrid, at the beginning of my first European adventure. He then lived with me at Ebbio for almost two months as I rested and healed in the Tuscan hills. We grew close there. Though we only hung out for a day we had a great catch-up. Within moments of reconnecting, we were juggling and playing a harmonica (he juggling, I on the mouth harp) in the crowded Munich Central Station. We earned a few coins before heading off to a nice little Indian restaurant. He stayed with me at my good friend Robert’s place. He and I always get on well. He hosted me for three nights in all. It was fun to introduce him to Tiago. I like seeing friends from different parts of my journey connect.

I also got to introduce Bart and Felix, two friends that I met at very different points in my journey. After staying three days with Bart in a beautiful village outside of Munich, Felix picked me up and we spent two days together. He is always very interesting company.

I was also very happy to catch up with dear friends in Salzburg. Our time was brief but meaningful. I even met Krampus, Santa’s Austrian side-kick, who frightens (and maybe even beats?) the kids who have been naughty. It is a lot worse than just a lump of coal. I will include a picture below.

Salzburg seems such a natural setting for Christmas. I spent a Christmas there while I was traveling a few years ago and just wandering through the Christmas markets last week with the backdrop of mountains felt about right for the season (even though no snow had yet fallen).

After my ten days or so up north, I dipped back to the farm in Tuscany for a few days to gather my gear and get ready to head home. But I couldn’t rightly leave Italy without a little visit to Napoli. Naples is such an incredible city. There is an authenticity here which seems to attract me. The city isn’t trying to impress anyone. It is raw, dirty and very gritty. But there is such beauty. You have to watch your ass (or wherever you keep your wallet) but somehow this alertness can open you to appreciate other surprises.

This morning I noticed a lot of love in the air; couples kissing at cafes; families holding hands and window-shopping; street musicians sharing their gifts. I even bumped into a spontaneous choir singing ‘So This is Christmas’ in a large Plaza. There were a lot of cameras (pretty decent ones, from what I could tell) and I wonder if it will soon be posted somewhere online.

After perhaps the finest pizza of my life, I strolled one of my old favourite paths through the bustling city, down via Toledo toward the sea. I sat in the surprisingly warm sun on the seaside and enjoyed the scenery floating by. It has been a delightful day.

Now I am catching up on ‘housecleaning’, doing various things online that needed attention, and preparing to head home. I am off to Rome tomorrow morning and will spend a day roaming about before flying Tuesday morning.

It has been a great adventure here in Italy (with a brief jaunt north) and I feel so blessed to be alive. What a gift life is. So simple. I have surely experienced what it can be like when we complicate it…but even in the midst of our dreams and drama, life remains what it is…a beautiful invitation into our hearts.

This has felt like a very quick, tumbling, rather journaly blog post, but I hope it can bring a smile. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas season and I hope you can find a pause once in a while to breathe in deeply and appreciate the simple gift of existence.

Here is a scattered array of photos from the past week or so:

🙂

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Christmas (markets) in the Air

As daylight fades behind the crisp outline of visibly distant snowy peaks, the twinkling lights of Munich’s Christmas markets draw us in. People gather together in circles, smiling and laughing, sharing good cheer. What better time for some hot wine and sausage…maybe some french fries and chocolate to follow? Big pretzels and beer always seem to be in season here. Sounds like a bit much, doesn’t it? Hot wine? Really? But everyone here seems to be eating it up. Drinking it in, too. 🙂

I have shared in it as well, of course, minus the beer and sausage. And I have to say that it is all rather charming, especially through tourist’s eyes. Almost everyone’s eyes are lit up, whether from the booze or the beauty. Hand-crafted Christmas trinkets seem to be available from every wooden hut that isn’t selling food or drink. Roasted nuts fill the air with a special scent. Folks are out shopping in droves. They seem to come from everywhere.

Munich has been hosting Christmas markets since 1310. That’s more than seven hundred years! The locals call it a Christkindlmarkt – Christ child market. And not all of them are crazy about it. My friend Robert was happy to break free of the crowds and head home after visiting two different markets with some of his friends. But even he would have to admit that we enjoyed ourselves. As we left the last market I was taken over by all the simple joy of communion, wonder and anticipation. I felt so much love as I looked around, being washed by this beautiful and fundamental feeling as we made our way out.

But there is a flipside, too. I woke up feeling pretty flat the next morning. I had eaten a lot of bready and cheesy foods and felt sluggish and heavy as I arose. I hadn’t even been able to finish my little mug of glühwein (hot spiced red wine) but I felt the glow…and its after-effects. An early taste of the Christmas hangover. It just feels like balance doing its job.

So maybe I won’t get too caught up in the Christmas chaos. I can enjoy the twinkling lights and excitement as it passes without investing in it all, hoping it will bring me something more than the joy that is already here. There is already a fullness here – this love feels maximal. Why hope for more? What if doing so plants a seed of lack in our minds?

Of course it is beautiful to share our gifts with one another and to enjoy the presence of our loved ones – and anticipation can surely be a part of that – but there is a risk of getting caught up in ‘want’ this season. I won’t point a finger specifically at the capitalist/consumerist model of Christmas, but it seems well wrapped up in it all. So perhaps just being aware of this element of the season is enough to not let it take us over. We don’t need to go over the top. We can just enjoy watching it all unfold.

And this ‘watching’ can include pain and struggle. We don’t need to look away from it. There is no shortage of pain to see in our world. Walking the streets of Munich I notice a lot more beggars than a few years ago. They seem mostly like recent immigrants or refugees. Their pain is our pain, too. And we need not avoid it, nor judge it. But we can grow simply by observing it. We need not despair. We can feel the feelings and let them pass. This can be a bigger hep than we will ever know.

The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the pleasurable and the painful, alternate in equal measure in this life. But this need not discourage us. It can inspire us to be more honest with ourselves and to share our hearts with those now in need. We can realign our lives with the natural lightness of being, even during what seem to be dark hours.

We can come to recognize that there is a bliss beyond all that changes. It is our very being. All true celebrations of spirit – of any path, any person, or any religion aimed at righteousness – are pointing us to this very being. This purity. It’s right here – even closer than in our hearts. Everything else is temporary.

Let the light of Christmas guide you back to yourself. Don’t get so caught up in what the light seems to shine on. See from where it shines.

***

I will be home in less than two weeks now, and happy to be with my family and friends there. I am off to Salzburg in a couple of days and then back to Italy, perhaps as far south as Naples. We shall see. I have been visiting several friends from the road here in (and around) Munich, including two cyclist buddies I first ran into in Spain…and here are a few more photos from the past days.

🙂

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On the Move to Munich

After a quick week whipped by hosting a beautiful yoga group at Ebbio, I am back at Pignano, spending a few relaxing days with my friends here. In a couple of days I will head north to Munich. For a while there I didn’t figure I would head up into the wintery north but now I am glad to be making a move. I am keen to see a few friends in and around the city. I will wander over to Salzburg also. I even found a super colourful ski jacket from the 80s to keep me warm – and very stylish. Lots of zippers. And it’s reversible! I will have to get a picture of that up at some point.

The yoga group was small – just eight women – but their energy was very focused. It felt great to support them as they dug in and did their deep inner work. I could feel it. I kept several fires alive, as the house had been quite cool, and I played a good amount of guitar. I even wrote a couple of new songs, which I hadn’t done in quite a while. One came out pretty well finished and the other is still gestating a wee bit.

After a few weeks of routine on the farm, life shifted with the arrival of the group. We hosted a band (folks associated with Osho) just a couple of days before the group arrived and it was fun to dance and sing and meditate with them. Good energy. Then the preparations began for the last yoga group of the year. It is rare to host folks so late in the season. We had to keep a lot of fires burning to keep the old stone house somewhat warm. But we all managed to make it through the week in one piece and almost always in good spirits. I was smiling steadily.

I was rising at about 6:30 most mornings and stirring the previous evening’s embers into a fire, feeding some scraps of cardboard and bits of kindling to encourage it to life. I had fairly full days, with reasonable windows of rest, and usually got to bed around 10:30.

It was great to have Luca the chef back in the kitchen cooking at full gear. He works such wonders in there. His onion soup one night nearly knocked me off of my seat. Incredible. Cooking with love really does something to the food…I am amazed anew with each meal he serves.

I also fasted a couple of days in the past little while – both of the last Sundays, I suppose. Nothing extreme like past fasts – just a day here or there. I enjoy the chance to clear out and process anything that may be lingering within. It makes me think of self-cleaning ovens – we often have plenty of things ‘stuck to the walls’ that we don’t burn off because we are constantly filling ourselves. But that’s neither here nor there.

I spent a lot of time just appreciating the animals and the land as I roamed about Ebbio. It really is a little slice of heaven. I have been blessed with some very powerful moments of incredibly pure presence (totally spontaneous ‘meditation’), some sitting still with eyes closed and others while strolling about the grounds. Stunning silence and spaciousness. Lots of spontaneous laughter recently. Life is such a gift. And it guides itself. I love seeing so clearly that we need not wrestle with anything. Everything is tended.

Here are a few shots from the last couple of weeks:

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You get the picture.

Well – I think I will keep it brief today. I just wanted to put a quick word up here while I had better internet. Hope all is well wherever you are.

Also, I am sending love and healing vibes to my cousin Gordie who is in hospital in Pennsylvania with infection after brain surgery. Send him some love if you can spare. It will come back to you when you need it… 🙂

Ciao. Next update likely from Munich (or Salzburg).