A Sudden Couple of Months

There have been many moments I have wanted to stop and write over the past couple of months. (And several times I have started…) But time is passing quickly out here on the road. Aside from the occasional photo posted, I realize I have not shared much of my adventures since the day I left Northern Ireland. So here goes… 

My first stop in Scotland was Roslin, just south of Edinburgh. I caught up with an old friend I had not seen in more than fifteen years, Andy, staying with his young family and exploring the stunning countryside there. I was pleasantly surprised by the geology along the River North Esk. I also stopped in to see the spooky and beautiful Rosslyn Chapel (made famous by The DaVinci Code). Following this visit, my days in Scotland slowed considerably, at times becoming somewhat uneventful. I got sick – a heavy head cold that descended into my chest. Yet I was nonetheless blessed in my recovery. After briefly catching up with family friends in Edinburgh, Bob and Sheila generously opened their home to me as they left for ten days in New York. I suddenly had a base in the same home my family had lived in twenty-seven summers before. It was a walk down memory lane (and up a few familiar hills) in the gorgeous and historic city of Edinburgh. I even bought a phone in Edinburgh, realizing in the absence of one what a support it could be to my journey. I am also gladly taking photos now.

After posting the above panoramic photo online, I discovered that a Swedish friend I had met in Rome years before, Sanna, was now living in Edinburgh, and we had a chance to catch up and hang out a couple of times. That was good fun. Otherwise, I rested a fair bit and tried to get over my cold, which proved especially pesky. A doctor prescribed me antibiotics if it worsened any. Even with a week of wonderful weather, I was often home-bound, watching movies and feeling a bit lazy and low at moments, yet randomly laughing at my good fortune in others. I did enjoy a few quality Skype visits with friends and family, which stand out as highlights.

Later in the week, I got a call from a dear friend, Franz, who had frequently hosted and employed me on his family farm in Tuscany over the past several years. He suggested I join he and his wife, Molly, down in Greece to help them run a few yoga retreats. He offered to fly me down, put me up and pay me a decent stipend for a few weeks work, supporting the yoga groups throughout their excursions and other day-to-day activities. Though unexpected, and entirely changing the course that had been gradually developing, the offer proved too good to pass up. 

I first headed south to London (which I had somehow missed in all my travels) and spent a couple of days exploring widely, often walking with an umbrella and raincoat, the English weather performing as advertised. I caught up with another old connection, Adrian, from my days working at Trinity College School. We shared a good visit and a tasty meal, and I saw another slice of London (aside from the touristy bits I had already exhausted). As impressive as much of London obviously was, it was not doing a lot for me. The weather may not have helped its case (nor the museums filled with incredible artifacts stolen from their homes).

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‘Tourist Proof’ I was in London.

I much preferred Cambridge, where I spent a day and a half before flying from London’s far north Stansted Airport. Hosted by a generous friend of friends, Gwen (whom I had met once before), I was given great guidance and found myself walking all over town, popping into churches, museumsand parts of the University campus, also watching rowers on the River Cam. I even found some fresh homemade hummus in a little local market. 🙂 I absolutely loved the calm pace of life in Cambridge, especially relative to London. I could easily imagine setting up shoin a spot like that. It likely helped that the weather had turned for the better by the time I arrived.

Once in Greece – happily reunited with Franz, Molly and their daughter Giulia – I found myself in the peaceful seaside village of Epidavros. Having passed through only briefly years before, I learned much more this time about the heritage of healing in the region. Myths of Asclepius – a hero and god of medicine, with his serpent-entwined staff (still a medical symbol today) – place him as a local. The sleeping volcano of Methana is also renowned for its healing power. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival, my slowly-mending chest infection seemed to reassert itself, morphing and spreading into my throat and swelling my tonsils. On the first day of our first yoga group, sufficiently aware of the upcoming demands on my energy, I decided it was time to take the antibiotics that had been prescribed to me more than a week before. They seemed to take effect swiftly, enabling me to focus on my work with the group. 

I was quickly swept up into the energy and activity of the ‘yoga vortex’. As smooth and easy a program as we endeavoured to present for our clients, it took a good deal of background work from us. I was glad to be a part of the team. We created an interesting schedule and a supportive space for the twenty-six American college students on retreat, most of them coming to Europe for the first time. We had some truly awesome people in the mix, whom I will not soon forget. (I hope I never do!) We saw ancient cultural and archaeological sites, took dance classes, learned about farming and processing olives, went snorkeling and scuba-diving, cleaned plastic from beaches, and met with historians and mythology experts (also learning of the curious intersection between history and mythology which many subscribe to). I was basically just on board to support a pre-existing framework that my friends had developed over years of running retreats in the area (aside from their other retreats in Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Portugal, Patagonia, Cuba, and Nepal). It was a lively time. With slight alterations to fit each group, we basically repeated the program one retreat after another. Before I knew it, three weeks (and three yoga groups!) had come and gone. I had driven back and forth from the Athens airport (about two and a half hours away) numerous times by then, picking up and dropping off new faces and fast friends.

I also had moments of frustration in Greece, feeling as though I wanted to write something of value, but not quite having the time, energy or impetus. Knowing my body was still in recovery, I usually took spare moments for rest instead of creation. Having set out on this adventure with an intention to reflect on my path through writing, I had thus far felt either too busy, tired, lazy or sick to begin. I sensed there may have been some connection between my illness and my lack of writing, as though I physically had ‘something to say’ lodged in my throat. As I watched my mind frequently composing ‘something to say’, I gradually acknowledged that it was still somewhat invested in becoming ‘someone’ in the world. The effect of this desire was a freezing up of my natural expression, caught up instead in a search for ‘perfection’. Part of me wanted everything to be all figured out before I began. How many times must I face this same hurdle? I continue to remind myself I can only truly be myself, not effectively plan and present myself. In this light, any form of presentation can only reflect our past, not our true presence.

:)

Random stone Buddha.

Receiving a few acupuncture treatments from Molly (a doctor of Chinese medicine), my body began releasing some of the conflict it was going through. My perspective also clarified a bit, seeing that the body – in its own intelligence – was clearing space for purposes of its own. Whether that would translate into some sort of growth or deeper healing, I had to admit I simply did not know. Around the same time, I began reflecting on a pattern of illness arising on the road. Looking back at past travels, I saw a long string of illnesses emerging while I was away from home. It seemed I never let myself fall so fully apart at home as on the road, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. Strange though it may sound, I value these opportunities to fall apart a bit, to ‘peek through the cracks’ and glimpse more stable ground beneath everything else that comes and goes.

I started viewing illness as a storm, realizing that storms bring new ingredients into our environment, ingredients often essential for growth, healing, release, or re-calibration. A storm is not always enjoyable. (Healing often hurts.) But there is something of value to be uncovered in its wake. Aware that storms eventually clear our atmosphere, I figure there is wisdom in weathering them. We can surrender that which is otherwise clogging our space, opening ourselves to receive whatever other elements life may be ready to offer us. However speculative, these images at least inspired in me a renewed commitment to vigilant awareness and a deeper openness to falling into alignment with life’s will. My sense here is that by listening more intently within, I can speak more freely, fully and surely from my very centre, a source common to all. Speaking from life’s heart. Hardly about being heard, this is about sharing what comes from most deep within. The essence, not surprisingly, is love. And it resonates outwardly. 

Amidst this (ongoing) inner work, supporting the yoga groups was an enjoyable and fitting setting. I loved being tucked into such a pretty little aquamarine cove – a slice of paradise – eating good food that I did not need to prepare, sleeping beside the sea, practicing daily yoga and sharing adventures in and around various Greek islands with fascinating people.

After facilitating our three groups in Greece, I took a van-load of fun folks to the Athens airport (listening to the Grateful Dead much of the way) and then jumped on a flight to Naples, set to lead a retreat at a convent in nearby Sorrento. Shortly after arriving at Convento San Francesco, my illness made a serious resurgence. My tonsils swelled up like golf balls. Though I would love to have weathered it without meds, I had committed to more responsibility for this final retreat (Franz and Molly busy leading another retreat in Greece). So I went for my third trip to the hospital in just over a month. I was prescribed a much stronger course of antibiotics than the first, and after a couple of days, the swelling receded. Fortunately, working alongside Franz’s cousin, Mario, the retreat carried on with only a few ‘learning moments’. It seemed somewhat easier on me perhaps because the group was from Toronto, which offered a sense of familiarity. We even found a few common connections between us. It also helped that the structure of their retreat left me little gaps to sneak away and nap during the day.

After the group fanned out in various directions (some bound for trains, others planes, and still more hanging around the area for further exploration), I picked up Franz’s son, Gabriele, from the family summer home up in the hills overlooking Sorrento and we headed north to Ebbio, the farm in Tuscany. We, of course, stopped for lunch in Naples, enjoying a couple of ridiculously delicious pizzas at Antica Pizzeria da Pasqualino. It was a perfect day for driving and the journey was smooth (though not quite as fast as if Mario had been behind the wheel). We reached the farm as the sun was about to set and I was grateful to be back at a place that feels a lot like a spiritual centre for me. I greeted several friends, human, plant and animal. The horses and donkeys seemed pleased to see me, as I was them. I visited a few of my favourite trees, walking the grounds and stopping to soak in the views. I even saw some day old puppies. 🙂 But after a month in the yoga loop – spinning in Franz’s orbit – I was feeling keen to keep moving, so my stay this time was brief. Franz found me a ride north to Milan with a friend of his and I hopped at the chance, with just under an hour’s notice.

Like many of Franz’s friends I have met before, Angelo was quite a character. Our journey to Milan was full of fascinating stories from a life thoroughly lived. I stayed a quick night in a youth hostel (realizing I was pushing the boundary of ‘youth’ now, as 35 is often a cutoff in some hostels) before hopping a bus to Munich, riding for the first time through Switzerland. I was excited to be dropping in on three good friends in the Munich area, catching up after a few years.

I spent a few quality days with a friend from Toronto, Win, who was now living in his wife Julia’s hometown about an hour west of Munich. They have a sweet setup in the countryside there, and a happy dog, Blue. We walked around and talked about a lot, listening to good music (mostly the Grateful Dead) and eating well. One afternoon, they took me on a ‘health’ walk inspired by a famous local priest named Sebastian Kneipp, where you walk through a circuit barefoot, encountering various elements intended to balance your health. I especially liked the mud pool and the multi-textured labyrinth.

Win drove me to my friend Bart’s place in Wörthsee, where I got to meet his fiancée, Hannah, and their beautiful baby girl, Emma (just freshly one year old). Sweet, smiley little Emma did not take long in warming to me. This was a very meaningful stop on my journey. Bart and I, since we met cycling in Spain in 2011, have a strong bond that calls for little maintenance. We pick right up where we left off every time we connect. I loved my time staying with his family in picturesque Wörthsee. Both nights I spent there coincided with World Cup matches, where we gathered in the beer garden with many from the village to cheer on the underdogs.

Heading into Munich to see my friend Robert (who, coincidentally, also met Bart while cycling in Spain), we similarly carried on without missing a beat. I spent a quick couple of days with him, getting into deep conversations as we always do, having plenty of laughs, and enjoying a bike ride around town. We also stopped into Tollwood Festival to drink in the summer fun of the popular local alternative to Oktoberfest. We also ran into Win’s wife Julia and her friend, also named Julia. It was a nice way to connect the dots and sew up my Munich visit with the same thread it began with. Though the time with my Munich friends flew by, it felt great to share energy with each of these old friends.

Arriving in Salzburg to our dear family friend’s home, no sooner had Edda welcomed me than I headed out to Mondsee to join my friend Ralf for a sunset sail. (Edda had told me she would be leaving right after receiving me…hence my other plans cued up.) Getting to know Ralf when I lived a few months in Salzburg years before, we also have a strong bond that suffers nothing from years between visits. Ralf and his friend Christian, both capable sailors, tended to the needs of the vessel while I enjoyed the breathtaking views, savouring the wind, the clouds, and the mountains surrounding the lake. I also chipped in with a bit of musical support, cheerfully strumming away on Ralf’s mini Cordoba guitar. As Christian prepared to head back to Salzburg later that night, I could not have been happier to hear Ralf suggest we stay at the lake and spend the night on the boat. After the stars came out and the air cooled, we cozied into our bunks below deck and shared tales of the life we had each been living, eventually falling asleep to gently rocking waves. A quick, brisk morning dip woke us up and following a bit of breakfast and writing, another day of sailing began, this time just the two of us. Ralf had me helping out as much as I could, even trying my hand at sailing for a stretch. The conditions could not have been better. This brief window together at Mondsee was an amazing way to reconnect with a dear friend.

From Salzburg, I moved quickly to Bratislava, staying only overnight before hopping a bus for the day’s ride to Krakow. The annual European Rainbow Gathering is happening in south east Poland and I am eager to drop in and see what is going on, connecting again with some friends I got to know when I joined the 2012 summer gathering in Slovakia. That was a potent and positive experience, which was at least thoroughly affirming if not somewhat formative. I am only about 200 KM away now and intend to leave either tomorrow or the day after.

Leading up to this celebration of love and light, it felt somehow fitting that I visited Auschwitz today, reflecting on humanity’s capacity for darkness. It impacted me more than I could have anticipated. It was as though I could feel tiny waves of the suffering echoing there. Seeing the potential for such madness still alive in some corners of our globe today motivates me all the more to share widely the love I feel so clearly.

This is what brings me to writing now. This is what I wish to express from most deeply within. On what has become very much a circuit of visiting friends (and unfortunately missing out on catching up with several others), I can see my core drive at work – sharing love. This is all I want to do here in this life. I hope you can take a moment to stop and breathe it in. 🙂 It is here in abundance, if only we can allow ourselves to feel it amidst everything else that so easily captures our attention. It is so vital to prioritize this love, this peace within, thus strengthening and enabling us to share it more freely in the world. We are capable of creating a unified, loving world, but if we fall blind to our role in this process of co-creation, fear can take control and sweep us up in dreams of division – nightmares of us and them. Understanding our true ground is a clear path to radiating peace in the world around us. We cannot try to control much beyond that. I pray we have the courage to lean out love anyhow and trust its transformative power.

I suppose I will sign off there. I could go on. But silence has far more to say than I could ever put into words, so I will return there for now, from where I came. 🙂

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Rainbow Gathering Theme.

ps…I will likely be offline for a couple of weeks while I am camping in the woods. I look forward to catching up with you once I return! Until then, be kind – to yourself and others! 😉 

How the Time Flies…

It’s hard to imagine that a month has passed since Easter, when I moved into my new flat. I kicked into gear as soon as I got here and have been putting in 30-hour writing weeks since. That may explain my recent online silence. I notice I am doing less writing ‘on the side’ after I put in my daily hours, even simple e-mail correspondence.

But life continues to open up in beautiful and mysterious ways. Even in the midst of what I might have previously called ‘mundane routine’, the stunning gift of simply being here is so clear. It’s crazy that we ever pull ourselves away from this simplest of truths, our very presence. We can never acquire more, nor accomplish anything greater than our own being. It’s already here – the true ‘juice’ of life. It’s completely free. Unencumbered. Unimpressed with our efforts and successes. Yet ever-willing to hold our ‘failures’, softening our hearts into their natural openness.

***

Last week I felt the earth move. Within the relatively small South American nation of Ecuador, I was about as far as possible from the epicentre of the earthquake, but it still shook my home and my body. I scurried about my second-storey apartment wondering where the safest place to stand was. I pulled on some pants and ran outside. By the time I got out, it was done. But it was a humbling experience. A valuable reminder of our tender place on this planet. I can’t imagine how intense the earthquake must have been for those closest to it.

Many people have died. Others have had dreams, plans and properties ruined. But life carries on. The support effort is in full swing throughout Ecuador. All around I see people collecting supplies and others heading for the coast in an attempt to rebuild. I see, once again, the gift of life at work in this. At once subtle and stunningly obvious – the connective fabric of love is driving everything, stirring each of us from the very heart of life. We want to help others in pain. It’s so natural. We want to help others survive, to rekindle their health and hope.

I suppose this is what drives my writing, too. Certainly at the depth level – just love expressing itself. But as it filters through my heart and my life experience, I want to support people on their journey through the mystery of existence. Having trudged through incredible density and darkness (all self-created), I want people to see that we can become free again (realizing we never left) and that we can dance anew in the land of our birth – pure levity and light. There are no lasting walls – they are all imagined.

By entering our softer spaces, by honouring our uncertainty, we can open into ourselves more honestly, seeing this ground to be firmer than all the concrete on earth. This is where life arises from. But we cannot hold it in the way we are used to clutching our ideas and experiences. This ground calls for a continual opening, a blossoming, stretching us out through our hearts.

I am grateful for the freedom to express my heart so casually here. As I move through my daily writing, I am often brushing aside these more ‘esoteric’ stretches, keeping things more ‘grounded’. But even this ‘grounded’ work is only a bridge into the spacious mystery of the heart.

It sometimes feels funny to be pouring myself so earnestly and with such discipline into something that I know doesn’t matter in itself. Like anything else in existence, my story is a vessel at best. Perhaps its lone purpose is growth – a snake-skin to be shed once exhausted. I simply don’t know. But the freedom from any need to know spurs such trust and peace that I can continue pouring love into the project daily without worry.

***

I also feel grateful for friendship here in Cuenca. Since I have been ‘working harder’ and writing more consistently, it has been important to be out and about around town, bumping into friends here and there. I appreciate my weekly writing group. I am grateful to have had the chance to share yet again at the Spoken Word event last week, and another chance to sing songs with friends at Open Mic. And I am grateful for the full house I had here at my place last night…hosting ten for a meal, six of us staying for games night. Cranium was so much fun! 🙂 And of course, lots of music carrying the evening along.

My dear friends, Zach and Kristen, are a wonderful couple that have connected me with countless other good people around town and I am especially grateful for their friendship. And there are always fun people passing through town for a month or a couple of weeks, and it is great to connect with them too! I love the community life here in Cuenca, even as I continue to value my solitude, mining it for its own treasures.

On a semi-related note, I think I can admit (with sufficient humility) that my guacamole is getting pretty darn good. I am looking forward to taking my recipe and patient approach home to Canada in the summer and sharing it with family and friends! Keep your eyes peeled for me, and have your taste-buds ready!

***

I guess that’s about it for today…  As ever, here are some more photos from around town, and out my window, and one from the couch upon stirring from a siesta just about an hour ago… 😉

Panorama from my flat...

Panorama from my flat…

Ever Unfolding, Life Carries On…

It has been almost two weeks since I last posted and I am feeling like whipping through some of what I have been up to. Folks seem to enjoy hearing that sort of thing and I am happy to share of the life I am living down here. But as interesting as any of the events or connections may be, I feel it is important to honour the silence and spacious emptiness at their heart. These experiences call for no greater investment than a simple passing smile.

Similarly, we need not aspire to be more than we are nor acquire any more than we have. We are already maximal, both in terms of experience and stuff. Our lives are spilling abundance, usually in unseen ways. To simply honour our hearts and be fully ourselves is the highest good. The ‘joy of being’ spreads effortlessly, igniting others. We need not manage or manipulate it.

***

I had the pleasure of sharing a small portion of my memoir with a group of writers and other keen listeners at a Spoken Word event a couple of Thursdays back. I met some great people there and I was happy that my work was so well-received. I was invited to another writer’s group (which meets weekly) where we share feedback on whatever we may be working on at the moment. I enjoyed my first session with this group and look forward to attending regularly while I am down here.

A young couple I met at the Spoken Word event invited me for dinner last night to their gorgeous property just outside of town. They live on a small farm-like patch of land by the mighty river and we enjoyed good company and food mostly plucked from their garden. Zach and Kristen, both from the United States, are living on the property with a few good friends. I look forward to future visits with them.

It was great to connect with them at just the same time as my friend, Keith, headed south for Vilcabamba. We had been running mates for the month of February (which was wonderful) and I have been spreading my social wings a bit more widely since he wandered on.

I promptly moved into the charming (and very affordable) flat where Keith had been living atop our Spanish school. I found out a day later that Zach had lived here for about 6 weeks a couple of years ago. Another curious alignment. 😉

I have been invited out for a variety of lunches and tea visits over the past weeks, connecting one-on-one with various folks from writer’s groups or meditation circles. My hosted meditations continue to move along smoothly and quietly. I will host another one in English here at the school tomorrow evening.

Living where I study and work is certainly convenient. And it is absolutely quiet in the mornings and evenings, allowing me to write in peace. The work carries along steadily, pleasantly uneventful. I am grateful for the beautiful view here, always able to glance up from my writing to the surrounding green mountains. It is a big step up from my last flat which was essentially a basement with no windows to the world. Of course, there’s always a window within… 😉

***

After posting an ad offering at-home-meditations, I have had three private sessions and I am enjoying sharing in this new way, taking the practice of group circles and personalizing it as best I am able in each context.

I also attended my first free symphony this week and I was rather impressed with the quality of the musicianship. Apparently there is a free symphony nearly weekly here in Cuenca. I am looking forward to attending this Friday at a theatre very near my flat.

A young Chilean traveler named Rodolfo was welcomed into the spare room here at the Spanish Institute, my teacher (and the manager of the school) Mariana, taking him in off the street where he had been performing circus tricks for a few coins. He is a pleasant young fellow and we enjoyed a film night together on Friday (we watched The Revenant), first making some delicious guacamole to enjoy with locally-made organic corn chips. They are so crispy! Rodolfo will be on his way to Peru tomorrow.

I am settling nicely into my new flat and I am enjoying better Internet access also. After a chat with my Nanny earlier in the week, I was able to Skype my parents earlier in the week. We had a lovely face-to-face visit. It felt great to see and hear my folks (as well as my Grandma and Aunt Lynne).

I would be remiss if I didn’t also send a quick little ‘shout out’ of love to my dear (great) Aunt Irene and all of her nearest and dearest. Aunt Irene was set free from her wonderful journey on earth this week, now mingling with the stars and other loved ones in the great beyond. I don’t know how ‘beyond’ it is…as I sense everything is so deeply connected. Either way, I have a lot of love for my ‘wacky’ Aunt and all of her immediate family. I hold them all in my heart! 🙂

And, come to think of it, that goes for all of you, too!

Keep breathing and enjoying life, appreciating that all the friction is a necessary component of growth. Life just wants to blossom, and it needs to do so through you! So let go and embrace the mad mystery of it all…be torn open if need be…let the love flow.

***

And, as usual, here are some photos from the past days…including more street art!

Getting Settled in Cuenca

I cleaned my new apartment this afternoon and it feels great! I gave a thorough dusting and sweeping to just about every surface and then took the mop through every inch of the place. It is feeling especially fresh. I had a shower afterwards to top it all off. Now I think I will have a spinach and avocado salad (with some peppers and olive oil) and settle in for a relaxing evening.

But first I wanted to send a quick hello to anyone who might come upon this. 🙂 Hi! Life in Ecuador is unfolding fairly smoothly so far. Aside from a serious sunburn up at Cotopaxi (reminding me of the necessary respect for the sun at altitude) and a wee bout of Montezuma’s revenge, I have had rather good fortune.

Sunrise at Cotopaxi

On my first day here in Cuenca I not only found a great Spanish school but also the flat that I moved into. It was an unplanned day that opened up effortlessly. I walked from my hostel and dropped almost all of my laundry off to be cleaned (for $2.60!), wandered on and then bumped into The Spanish Institute of Cuenca where I was given an hour-and-a-half free lesson and put in touch with a woman who had a vacant flat. I met with her about an hour later and rode the city bus (for 25 cents!) up to her place to have a look. We are on the northeastern edge of Cuenca and it is rather quiet up here compared to downtown. There is a eucalyptus forest just behind my house and I tend to go out and sit there after my morning writing to enjoy a banana for breakfast. (Is a three-day sampling pool enough to indicate tendency?  Why not?) I saw some cattle grazing there this morning. It is a peaceful spot overlooking the city.

Eucalyptus

Cuenca is a gorgeous city. It is very safe and quite friendly. I can see why there are so many ex-pats down here. The climate is ideal. It is usually about 22 degrees Celsius in the afternoon (occasionally a bit warmer, but not much) and things cool off at night. I can comfortably wear a sweater once the sun goes down, though I have survived without. The cost of life here is obviously a lot less than in North America, though I hear from some of the older ‘gringos’ that the prices have been climbing a lot in the last years as more retirees (both young and old) catch on to the place. The downtown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the colonial architecture being a big draw for tourists. There are several incredible cathedrals and a handful of other impressive government buildings standing out from the already charming standard structures throughout the city. It certainly has character.

View from Spanish School

I have met a handful of folks already and joined many for meals here or there, whether connecting through hostels (before moving into my flat), buses, or Spanish school. It seems like a very social city. The other day I bumped into an American guy I had met at a country hostel near Cotopaxi Volcano a week before and we sat in the town square playing guitar and harmonica for a couple of hours, being joined by a few locals and passing the guitar around to share songs. It was a lot of fun and we moved through a lot of different styles. Pedro, one of the locals, had a hankering for Cat Stevens and John Denver. We obliged him.

I have arranged to get my teeth cleaned next week and I am actually rather keen. It has probably been nearly ten years since my last proper cleaning, ever since my insurance knocked off after graduating. I heard from a friend that they speak terrific English there (although my Spanish is progressing) and that it only costs $15 US. And it isn’t the hygienist who administers the cleaning but the actual dentist! Imagine that.

So, I am only just getting settled into a routine but things are moving along nicely and I imagine I will be down here until sometime in mid-summer. I hope to have mostly productive mornings and then enjoy the culture and life of the city and surroundings in my afternoons. I have already found a great vegetarian restaurant (Govinda’s) where I get a hearty and healthy lunch for $3 flat – soup, salad, rice, veggies, beans and juice!

There is a lot of interesting music and street art to be found here as well. Though I  have yet to check it out, I hear there are a number of nice hikes in nearby Las Cajas National Park. I am told there are thermal baths not far away…and some Incan ruins to look through too. So I am sure I will have lots of exploring to do…

Curious Street Art

I guess that will do for now…enjoy life everyone! It’s free.

🙂

I Almost Forgot

I almost forgot it was Monday. I have had a day of activity, albeit modest. Now back at home and winding down, it occurred to me that I almost missed my Monday post. I have been doing it consistently for just about a year now. Aside from one missed Monday (December 15th) I have been posting every Monday since late June or early July of last year. I have found it a valuable exercise. Even in phases when I have not been writing much I can still sit down and churn a little something out for Mondays. Occasionally these posts end up being thoughtful reflections. I have often learned as I have written. Sometimes I am taken with the turn of a phrase that pops up on its own. At times these posts are nothing more than a brief rundown of a given day, or week. I won’t predict much about this one. Other than its brevity. It will likely be brief. And unedited.

I saw my folks off to the airport this morning. They are off to California for two weeks with some friends. I returned home to pick up our Austrian houseguest (and dear friend) to turn right around and get her to the airport. We had a full car on the first run and her flight was a couple of hours after my folks and their friends. I almost sat to write my Monday blog post when I got back home but I got caught up in a few other jobs I wanted to do around here.

After a bit of grocery shopping, I took a bunch of things down to the locker in the basement in an effort to de-clutter cupboards and storage spaces up here in the condo. I made a run to the beer store to return a collection of bottles and cans, tucking $10 in my pocket for the deposits.

Now that this condo is almost empty of people (just Grandma and I for a while now), I tidied up the condo next door and moved my gear back here. I had been based there for about a week as my Aunt and Uncle are away on an Alaskan Cruise. They are due to return on Thursday. After a few loads of laundry, hanging out and chatting with Grandma (and getting her lunch), and a quick nap, the time came for me to head to the church for a meditation.

I have been offering meditations there whenever I am in town and able to do so. I did one last week and will do a few more in June while I am around. I have been offering them here at the condo also, on Tuesdays. We had a great group out and a nice quiet meditation. Though it took me a little while to settle into it, I found it to be a beautiful sit.

Once I got home I sat down to check a few messages and almost dozed off before realizing that I ALMOST FORGOT TO POST! So, this is it, I guess. I will mention that I may not be posting with consistency throughout the summer. I have a summer job starting next Monday which will see me traveling across Canada with an awesome group of youth on a Pilgrimage. I am excited to be adventuring with these brave souls and I look forward to the fun and growth we will all share together. We are going all the way from Vancouver to Newfoundland – coast to coast! You can follow our progress here. Though the journey is not until July, my contract starts next week. There are plenty of final details to organize. I imagine my post frequency will fluctuate along with the journey. I may well be able to maintain some consistency but I am relinquishing certainty in order to let everything unfold as it will.

So that’s it for today! Maybe see you next week. Thanks for reading!

canada

🙂

The Beauty and Wonder of Being

It’s quite a gift just to be here. I am blessed to frequently find myself ‘stunned by wonder’. I have surely shared that before and I trust I will do it again. But it’s pretty wild just to be alive. In the midst of whatever the world may hurl at us there remains this incredibly calm centre – a spot to set up shop and just watch it all, even while apparently partaking.

It’s a party, this life. We’re all invited. None are judged. Nobody will be turned away from this door. It’s inside, so to speak. But all such distinctions fall apart here. Inside or outside, up and down, far and near – all of these words will be seen for what they are – just words. They are symbols. They attempt to express feelings. But we can easily become encaged by these words. Even enraged. When we take them too seriously, definitions will wrap us up. We choke ourselves for nothing. But I digress.

Though who doesn’t? Maybe I’ll carry on. Couldn’t life itself be seen as a great digression? So many of us get distracted from the simple truth in our hearts to chase trails of memories and expectations, reaching out for approval and acceptance, instead of just enjoying what we already have – everything! That feels like a digression.

But we can always come back. To where we never left. To where we already are. Though so many don’t see it. It takes time, it seems, for some of us to step out of our stories to see how free we have always been. And it can be an enjoyable journey, for sure, this life. But when we start pressing and squeezing it – scratching at the very heart of life itself – asking it to be something else, we are wrestling with what simply is. How can we fight reality? It seems ridiculous to even ask. It’s been said that the ultimate truth of life can neither be courted nor shunned. We can’t pursue it any more than we can avoid it. Consider that. How might this understanding lead us to live?

It’s all so simple that most kids already get it, only because they have yet to be convinced otherwise. It’s not to be figured out in our heads. It’s so natural. It pours out of our hearts. It’s just life – play – lila, some say. Yet so many of us are running around wildly bumping into ourselves, or walls we have imagined into existence, you would never know how fun it is. Just being here is a gift. Existence is inherently positive. Yet so many of us live in hiding, waiting and wondering why. It’s as though we’re hoping to break through to somewhere else.

It’s already all here. Patience and process is a part of that, too, mind you. So we can be very forgiving with ourselves as reality becomes clearer and clearer to us. A tree doesn’t struggle as it grows. It may lean and creak in the breeze, but it lets life unfold. A river rolls along as it is allowed, as it is able, demanding nothing. Whether growing wider or deeper, or once in a while running dry, it goes with the flow.

Our intellect, seen as such a gift (which it is), comes with a flip-side; it is an unruly master. Much better to let it serve. Come back to the centre – our heart-centre – and let everything stored up pour out. Then the silence can guide us forward. It may be wise to stop once in a while and check in. But know that life is supportive. Trust it and you will be shown the way. Humility is unavoidable on this path. Walking without it leads to a fall. From there we can dust ourselves off again and carry on.

Walking toward the light, we can set everything else down. Love is tending itself.

Light

Expectations

DANGER-expectations

I have likely spoken of the dangers of expectations before. It is something I am well aware of, having learned time and again (often the hard way). And yet I continue to catch myself building expectations fairly regularly. Fortunately, I tend to choose gratitude over guilt or anger these days, glad to at least catch and discard them. But I still get side-tracked now and again.

Even with the best of intentions, I find I can build up a subtle narrative and then watch myself slip back to reality with a hint of disappointment. Last week, for instance, I wrote what I felt to be my best blog post in months. Having followed my blog’s recent traffic trends (encouraged by steady growth), I was excited that several new readers would get to enjoy the wonderful piece I had put together. Excitedly, I imagined the wave of peace and love that might spread out from my inspiring message. Instead, readership dipped down to the lowest I had seen in a LONG time – many months. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as my expectations were exposed. The high I had felt came crashing down to the ground. I didn’t feel discouraged or anything, but just humbled again. Back to reality.

All I was trying to share was a bit of wonder at the mystery of life, encouraging others to honour life’s balance and beauty, accepting little miracles and big obstacles alike, growing in spite of uncertainty. I figured that would be something to spread. I hadn’t been particularly proud of my recent posts, having rattled them off the cuff rather quickly and without much thought. But this one came out with a feeling of purpose and clarity, expressing my feelings and ideas in what I felt to be a beautiful way. So it seemed natural that others would engage with it also.

I don’t pretend to know why the post went largely unnoticed (generally speaking, I don’t invest energy in assumptions), but I immediately saw an opportunity to practice what I preach and simply let it be. I could accept it and move on. A couple of days later it occurred to me that I might use it as an example for my next blog post – THE DANGERS OF EXPECTATION. So here we are. I admit that a hint of my bringing it up today is a hope that some may be curious enough to look back and read what I am referring to. HERE’S ANOTHER LINK TO IT! 😉

But whatever it may affect on the surface – enabling some to trust their lives more deeply, empowering others to step up to face a challenge – I know that the real value of life, the quiet space we share in the depth of our hearts, remains untouched. This is a good thing. Honouring this pure, untouched part of ourselves can free us to be who we are and to express our hearts more deeply. Granted, it can be tricky to lean back on the ineffable, but in time we may come to see that it actually holds us up, along with everything else. By exercising courage in the face of doubt we can create habits of faith and bravery, paving a way to living lives of substance. Paradoxically, this substance often enters our lives via a realization of life’s impermanence. What is there to hold on to?

We are here. It is now. This we know without ‘needing to know’. This is too true to break down. This is where to invest our attention. No need of endless cycles of expectation and disappointment. Of course we can continue to learn and grow, letting mistakes inform our continuing attempts to connect, create and express, but we can become freer to lean out and make mistakes in the first place. This is a sign of a healthy heart.

So that’s it for today, I think. I’m ready to rest.

Happy Monday all! 🙂

Catch you next week…  Any topic suggestions?