Monday, 26 May 2014


I feel… bewildered. As if my life is happening and I am a spectator. Maybe it’s the jet lag. Maybe it’s me. It is amazing how one’s perception of experience can fluctuate. There have been moments in the last six months (or year) where I’ve felt as I feel now: viewing my life as one views an intriguing & peculiar film. Then there are those times where the essence of life is so punctuated that I can almost feel the individual oxygen molecules being absorbed by my body with each breath. The colors around me are vibrant, every sound is crisp & clear, every texture is new. Even each scent and flavour of the moment seems to exist solely to remind me of how alive I really am. The beam of light called life has refracted and every hue is visible in it’s dazzling entirety.

Then the ironic truth of the disparity between being the observer or being the experiencer hits me: I get to choose which one I am.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Man with One Eye

I am pondering yet again the art of presence. Living and breathing the now. Sitting in this coffee shop I try to heighten each of my five senses by taking the time to notice each one, describing to myself the interpretation of my surrounding stimuli. The key is noticing, not analyzing. As soon as analysis enters the experience, so does judgment. Suddenly the peacefulness of simply being is disrupted by the noise of the mind. Anxiety regarding the past, and worry about the future are automatic components of this judgmental analysis of my sensory experience, now clouded by emotion, and I am no longer present —

In the midst of writing this I am interrupted by a one-eyed man asking for directions. Which I am unable to give him, being myself a relative stranger to San Francisco. Within moments we are discussing the philosophy of being, our individual pursuits of meaning, and the conclusion that there is no conclusion.

“Just do your best,” I tell him. He thinks for a second then smiles and says, “Yeah, I s’pose that’s all you can do, huh?”

It is my belief that this brief interaction gives evidence to the theory that our minds emit a kind of quantum energy, with like attracting like. It is possible that my musings on “being” caused this man (who had been sitting next to me for quite sometime) to turn to me and engage in a conversation which quickly went towards the subject that produced the very energy he was drawn to. Or perhaps he’s just a man who needed directions and I am the nearest person to him. Two theories of an endless assortment of possibilities. I digress…

Being present is far less challenging when one’s only agenda is to not have one, leading people such as myself to just go sit on a beach. Peaceful environments such as this were my practice grounds for “the art of the now” these last five months. In spite of such optimal conditions it was still a challenge. The true test will be attempting those moments of timelessness in the midst of resuming a life that runs by the tick of the clock: breeding grounds for stress and anxiety. I realize that succumbing to those conditions is a choice. A daily one. Even moment by moment. We are after all, the facilitators of our own reality.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Poetry on the Road

“…there is poetry on the road, in the heart of everything.” -Phil Cousineau

Cousineau writes this as what defines the difference between a pilgrim and a simple traveler. I found this amusing, because to me, there is always poetry on the road. It never crossed my mind to see it differently. I suppose it is a matter of perspective… but it is always there, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. Take this moment, for example. Sitting in a wicker chair on a hostel verandah with my morning tea. A fairly simple setting to be sure, but one that is absolutely riddled with poetry. Penelope, the hostel’s favorite feline, dozing in the sun. The palm tree that casts dancing shadows on the floor. The Italian swinging in the hammock next to me, reading “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”. The flap-flap of sandal-clad passersby. The cloudless, baby blue sky stretching endlessly into the distance. I could go on.

The point is not me saying, “Look at where I am right now!” The point is actually me saying, “Look at where YOU are right now.” What do you see? What do you feel? What do you smell, taste, hear? “Take refuge in the present moment”, as Thich Nhat Hanh says. Take note of the road you are on. Look into the heart of everything that surrounds you, and find the poetry within it.

She alone is the happy woman who has learned to extract happiness, not from ideal conditions, but from the actual ones about her. The woman who has mastered the secret will not wait for ideal surroundings; she will not wait until next year, next decade, until she gets rich, until she can travel abroad … but she will make the most out of life today, where she is. Paradise is here or nowhere. You must take your joy with you or you will never find it.

Orison Swett Marden

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Full Circle

I arbitrarily chose three different TED talks today to listen to. Two of them, though the topics were unrelated, had very similar thematics. They each spoke of coming “home”, returning, looking into the past; into yourself, as a means of becoming who you want to be, of finding joy in creativity, of bringing things full circle. This is intriguing because as I opened up my computer to write, before distracting myself with TED talks, my plan was to re-read & reflect upon Phil Cousineau’s excerpt of questions. The majority of these questions center around reflecting on one’s completed journey, looking back on past experiences; on who you’ve become, and looking forward to the return journey home, bringing things full circle. A coincidence? Likely, but perhaps not.

While it may be altogether egocentric to believe that random occurrences are inherently meaningful, and that they were specially placed into your life by a higher power to benefit you, specifically, one soul on this planet of billions, I still like the idea of coincidences being mythical. It is much nicer and much prettier to believe that every part of every moment is a stitch in the perfectly designed tapestry of your life, but it is my opinion that this belief cannot exist without a substantial amount of pride. I must admit, I do succumb to this pride in particularly magical moments when coincidence seems impossible.

Pride. The sin that begat all sins. In the second TED talk, David Brooks encourages his listeners to look into their past, seek a poignant, pivotal moment in their life and reflect upon how that has shaped them. He said the best way to do this is to actually think of a shameful moment, to think of the “signature sin” that has become the foundation for all other sins in your life, and how you can grow from it. (Keep in mind he is using the term “sin” generally, not in a religious context). He listed some examples. The one that highlighted itself in my mind as he spoke was “people pleaser.” Always making sure everyone else is happy & comfortable, meeting other’s needs before my own to the point of not meeting mine at all. This is also known as martyrdom. I’m not talking about when people die for something they believe in. That is often very admirable. I am talking about the martyrdom that is saturated with a “woe is me” mentality.

At one point in my life I was sick with this “sin”. Truly, I was nearly physically ill because of my dedication to keep the peace at the cost of all things related to self-care. Therefore, I feel I can say I know it well. It comes from an innate insecurity. A belief that “I am not good enough” and the idea that if we just set aside our own needs long enough to meet the needs of others, perhaps this will somehow earn us some value and establish our worth. What is the root of this and where does it come from? A prideful refusal to love yourself. This sounds oxymoronic, but it is not.

The more you set aside your own needs for the sake of enabling someone else’s happiness, the more bitter you become as your needs are not met. This bitterness leads to resentment, and you resort to random acts of selfishness, almost as a subconscious attempt to balance the scales. The vicious “woe is me” cycle continues. What’s the common thread that runs through each of stage of this cycle? I believe it is a reverse form of pride. A continual, anxiety-ridden focus on yourself; on striving to be good enough. In other words, while you’ve been so focused on everyone else loving you, you’ve forgotten to love yourself.

Some people are afraid, as I once was, to love themselves, believing that it is self-centered and lacks humility. Having come from a place of self-loathe to self-love, I now see that this is not true. (My disclaimer is this: When I say “I now see” I do not mean that I have arrived at a state of ultimate knowing. I have simply experienced a series of realizations. I am always growing & learning & seeing). The first task of learning to love yourself is self-examination. Raw, honest, stand-naked-in-front-of-the-mirror self-examination. Feel free to take that literally or figuratively. What is inevitable is that you will see flaws & failures, and you will also see virtues & successes. You will see that there are people you are greater than, and there are people you are less than. You will see yourself as the world sees you. You will see beauty. (This is very difficult at first. I found it helps to ask those that know you what they see in you.)

The next step is acceptance of what you have examined. Accepting fully that which you have seen clearly in the mirror. This does not mean that you like, love or admire everything you see. It simply means that you notice, acknowledge, and then accept what is true. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Herein lies the humility in this process of self-love. You are not only focusing on the admirable qualities, you are seeing and accepting all of yourself with honesty.

Then say thank you. No matter what the quality or characteristic, take time to be grateful for each and every one. The more you repeat this process, the more you will grow to appreciate those things about yourself that you’ve observed. Things which you once ignored, or didn’t even know existed. The most rewarding part about this, is that as you grow to love yourself more, you actually take delight in loving and pleasing others. The actions may look the same as they did before, but now they are rooted in love, instead of feelings of worthlessness.

This was not the original intent of my writing today. In a surprisingly wonderful, unexpected way, I accomplished what I wanted, but not in the way I had planned. I began by discussing the “coincidence” of coming across my intended theme of “looking into the past” in TED talks that I never meant to listen to, and in doing so, I digressed into a conversation about pride and self-love. Subject matter that, interestingly enough, can only be discussed by looking into my past. It was not what I wanted to reflect on, but turns out it was what I needed to reflect on to prepare me for my journey home and to get my creative juices flowing. Now that’s what I call coming full circle.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky