Caught between worlds, I gaze out the window – lights climbing the cold, steel Bosphorus bridge. Winter has fallen upon Istanbul. Voices rise from the black night, blending textures and tones – the quivering call to prayer. Is this the fourth of the day? Fifth already? I heard that each one sounded unique. Uninitiated, they all sound the same to me. Piercing yet peaceful. I wonder if anyone still hears them, Muslim or otherwise. Perhaps, for some, they have become empty echoes of a story they never knew, issuing now endlessly from dozens of lonely white towers, five times daily. Had I been raised under five Adhans shaking the sky every day, silence might frighten me. I wouldn’t know anything else. As the stream of vibration hits me now, I sense the stillness around it – untouched – and I am moved to consider my own prayer, emptying my head. I long to feel that expansive void taking me over as it has before – the sweet peace of spaciousness, unknown and growing. Slowly, I let go.
As I slip inside myself, I see flashes of the journey behind me. Nearly two years of travel unravels. Suddenly, I am back in Spain. Sweat falls from my brow and onto my glasses. I watch it descend to the edge of the lens. It gathers into a drop and is taken by the wind. I look up and find myself surrounded by mountains and golden light. I ride over a crest and bring my bicycle to a stop on the edge of a silent highway. Rich red soil stirs in the distant wind. I can see forever. Olive trees lay long shadows beside a faraway town, quiet and shiny white in the setting sun. How did I end up here?
My journey began on this bicycle, in Madrid. I was scared, but I didn’t care. I was out looking for a noble death. A breath of air. Life had not occurred to me. I rode and I wrote. Just about 7500 km around Europe before I had my ribs and teeth kicked in at Oktoberfest. No more pretzels. On to soup and Salzburg hospitality. Beer bridged the gap. I wrote words and I sang songs. It burned to breathe – hurting and healing spread lessons in surrender.
I got off the couch and tumbled through Italy. This is where it happened. I saw the light reach through the atmosphere and peer into me. It appeared to me. Seaside in Salerno, I watched the sunset playing on waves, paving a way. I met a Polish physicist and we talked about light. Energy. He figures the universe will implode, once it grows to know itself. Kind of like us, I thought. Frankl held that “what is to give light must endure the burning.” It seems so. But hinted in the mist, a rainbow led me to wonder, ablaze in beauty and balance, both radiant and gentle.
The scent of the sea stirred me from my musings. Four fishermen walked by with smiles, no apparent catch. They had had their rods out, lines in the water, taking a shot. Maybe they had a few bites, maybe even a fish on the line. But they seemed satisfied, as though trusting the sea to provide another day. It made me want to take a chance. Catch and release. We’re not supposed to know what we’re going to get. Right?
I moved on, the road open before me. Broke, I traded my bike for a guitar and busked in city squares, on buses and railways. I met a guy on a train who owned a farm. I got to work. Time now split my trip in half, as my heart, when I heard the girl I left behind was with my old roommate. One of my oldest friends. He knew she was the only one I had ever loved. I still did. I wanted to die. I imagined beating him to death with a bowling pin. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I saw my ego up close, filthy beast. In pieces, I excavated my life. I began meditating. I learned yoga. I fasted. I breathed healing into the anger and jealousy. Waves reached and receded – a shore restored. Peace replaced rage. With patience, I faced the same spaciousness that had once filled me with fear, but I embraced it. It embraced me. And it does still.
Between geese and chickens, I was right where I needed to be. Nestled into a few folds of Tuscany’s endlessly undulating hills, I was cradled and raised from my own ashes. A cocoon resumed. New wings wet on the wind. An act of balance. A paradox adopted. Dense and simultaneous. I read and I wrote. I rose early and dozed in the midday sun. I played guitar, drums, and backgammon. My days were filled with freedom, friendship, and flashes of anguish, great insight sneaking between the cracks. And donkeys. I drew from mystic wisdom and let it mingle with quantum theory, integrating of its own accord. Among countless souls inspiring mine, I am grateful to Osho, Emerson, Chopra, Thoreau, Rumi, Lao Tzu, and Maharaj for shining the light. Mining the Buddha’s wisdom, alongside the Upanishads and Jesus’ teachings, I saw obvious correspondence; an ineffable essence overlapping. As Neil Young said, and I feel deeply, “it’s all one song.”
I came and went from the farm frequently, freely, zigzagging through Europe like a blazing pinball, steady centre unaffected. Life was happening. I hitched north to Lake Como, staying with friends in a lakeside villa. I hitched south and stayed in a yoga centre on the cliffs of the Amalfi coast. I hitched more than 700 km in a single day from Budapest to Venice, landing at a friend’s meditation centre. I got a sunburn, and a new scar, now stronger than the skin around it. I swam in seas, lakes and rivers. I soaked in sulphurous thermal springs, hot and often, sinking into naturally expansive trances. I let go, and watched life unfold, holding me as a babe in a vast bassinet. Releasing fears and desires, cutting through unconscious conditioning, exercising all-encompassing gratitude, I saw my path unfurl perfectly.
I met an Amazonian Shaman. He invited me to a sacred ceremony. We drank tea. I became pure love. Pure light. I melted into complete unity with all life – energy aligned – vibrating in harmony with the air supporting me, suspending me, my ‘self’ porous and empty, overflowing. I arose knowing something I had always known, but had been hidden: We are all a part of one becoming. One being. All judgement is misjudgement. Fear and separation are illusions, projections into restless futures from imagined pasts. The only truth is unity. Love is the bridge, the quality of light. Wider than the spectrum of all that is seen, light is flowing through all life – a rainbow of choice, bright and right now.
I slipped out of Italy by sea, toward gorgeous Greece. The isle of Corfu. Cliff-diving and sun-soaked sports on scorching sand. Then off to Albania, a warm heart in a worn and dusty shell. I traveled north on bumpy buses through the breathtaking Balkans bound for the middle of nowhere – the woods of central Slovakia. I camped five weeks with beautiful sisters and brothers, the all-embracing Rainbow Family. We were three-thousand souls strong at full moon. The love and light I felt defy description. Simply, the experience was an evolutionary boost.
I left and met three brothers on the banks of the Danube. We set up camp and built a raft. Scrap wood and ropes. Fallen logs and water bottles wrapped up in chicken wire. A few weeks of peaceful river living ended abruptly when police demanded we dismantle our precious craft. So it goes. Life was easy on the river. It stayed with me. We are always on it. In it. It’s a river of light, and it’s tending itself. Now settled back on soil, the tender drift of the river still rises up occasionally – a reminder of the steady, effortless flow. Never-ending, the light denies arrival.
So here I sit at the centre of the world, split in two. Literally. East meets West. A captain and a passenger. Ships slice up and down the sound, neither in Europe nor Asia. Foreign and homeward. From a friend’s window, I look out over the murky Turkish strait, its curves holding everything together. I can see that every point of division is truly a union. As within, so without. As above, so below.
I watch the dark waters swirl beneath a sea of shimmering lights, reflecting into the black night, as the clouds allow. I hear the fifth and final Adhan cut through the air and I close my eyes. I fall into the emptiness of prayer, infused with unseen light.
As the journey which drew me here obscures itself – recovering and resolving its footprints, blurring any trace of existence – I stand at the precipice of forever, flooded by blinding light, radiating beyond sense or sight. Absorbed by this very moment, I have no idea what lies ahead. And I am grateful to feel so good about that.