Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is it Serious?

Brian and I were listening to this Alan Watts talk on our way home from Binghamton today. He poses that there are 5 fundamental philosophical questions:

1) Who started it
2) Are we going to make it
3) Where are we going to put it
4) Who is going to clean up
but most importantly:
5) Is it serious....

I loved this. Is it serious? I loved trying on the thought that all of it, living, dying, it all is just not that serious, that it really is a playful thing if you can change your frame a little.... That we are here to experience not to strive, to play not to grind, and that accepting mortality and the fundamental weirdness/oddity of living instead of fighting against it can be such a liberation. And strangely enough, such a simple mental shift... Look at life as play instead of work. And like we have all heard before, that it is about the journey, and not the destination.

I like this... There is not much place for fear, disappointment, stress etc. if you could fully adopt this view. And I was talking to Brian and said, "what a wonderful thing to strive for!", but I was still framing this outlook as a goal to reach instead of an experience to have now! How set we can become in our approach to living and our understanding of change or growth. This talk makes me think of so many things, they need to unfold more in my belly. Please take a listen, I think you will find it quite profound.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Modern day myths

I can't tell you how liberating it is not to have a car anymore. I don't think I realized how isolating having your own car can be. I have had some interesting bus rides and conversations, and wonderful rides with friends that I otherwise may not have had the chance to talk with meaningfully and deeply for a half hour with. I've walked more, smiled at people on the street, noticed details you would never see by car. I've waited, not had instant gratification and enjoyed the quiet and possibility for reflection in those times. I've read books I've been wanting to read with focus and pleasure. I've spent a fraction of money on my transportation compared to owning a car with a bi-monthly car loan payment, monthly insurance payment, and weekly gas costs.

This experience has started me thinking about the myths we have developed in our modern day American culture that are not necessarily healthy for ourselves or the planet we live on and how some of them are starting to disappear for me as I prepare for our trip.

Myth 1: To live a fulfilling independent life you need your own car.
Mythbuster: Read above...

Myth 2: As a woman you need to buy all sorts of crap for your period that use precious resources and clog up landfills
Mythbuster: There are amazing and environmentally products out there that you can use over and over that work as well if not better then disposable feminine products.

Myth 3: I'm sure I'll think of another one at some point! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Non-Attachment

I am finding that preparing for this trip is affording me the opportunity to work on the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. I will be leaving many things/people/loved ones behind and I am working on recognizing that each of us have our own paths we must follow to develop as we hope to in this life, and that love is not a harness, it is something that is inside you wherever you go, both your love for others, and their love for you. Holding on too tightly to what we love may be an over-attachment to the sensation of love. I want to become more comfortable with a loose and omnipresent understanding of love, not a physical or obligatory one. In reading Remember, Be Here Now lately I am starting to see the many ways in which I limit myself and others with the ways I have “loved” them. This includes judgment of another’s choices, desire for more contact and connection, and a sense of obligation in order to avoid guilt.

To try and illustrate what I am talking about, my cat Biscuit and I have lived together for 8 years. That is longer than any romantic relationship I have ever had. Many feelings arise in me as I think about leaving him with other caring folks while I explore and travel for a long time. I worry that he will feel abandoned or not know that I love him. That he will be scared or angry. But all of this does not matter. For all I know, he could be thrilled to embark on his own new adventure. Loving him doesn’t mean that I never allow our lives to be different. That would be a disservice to us both. I guess what I am trying to say is that we all have a path to follow, and most often it differs from those around you. We are all unique and here on earth striving for different goals in our lifetimes. Maybe or maybe not these are determined at our birth based on our past lives, but either way, we need to allow each other the room to go where we need to go. And try to direct our love light out to each other and out to the world in every moment we are with or not with each other.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Experiences with the bus...

...I was reading "Be Here Now" and a young man sitting next to me started talking about the wonder and beauty of acid and DMT. How he has been working on his spiritual development through careful and structured use of the drug. He even offered me some for free. Then said he wasn't trying to hustle me, he wanted to share the love and beauty of this really amazing batch he had... He also told me he does acid once a week and has a young daughter. I was struggling to be open minded, maybe he really is moving towards enlightenment, but I could feel the judgement welling inside of me. A wonderful conversation though about consciousness and presence that was a lovely surprise on my way to work.

....Waiting for the bus in a windy bus stop. Mom comes in with her 3 children. She has too many bags and is yelling at all of the kids with strong swearing. She screams she is going to hurt them all when they get home. She said they all make her fucking sick. She swears and threatens. The children seem unaffected. Numb to the onslaught. There was a moment when I felt like I was getting screamed at, and my stomach tied into knots, and I couldn't imagine what the stomachs of those three children felt like.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The First Time

Tonight Brian and I busked for the first time together in the DC metro. We played about 4 songs and it felt so good. During some notes of some songs my voice rang out and resonated in the tunnel in a beautiful way that surprised me. We didn't make any money, but some folks sat down on the bench where Brian was playing his drum. There were lots of other seats, so that seemed like a good sign :) I liked that we brought music into a moment where people were just waiting late at night in the quiet tunnel... I think I'm gonna like this.....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ups and Downs

As we move closer to our departure date, I am experiencing some highs and lows, the lower feeling is new and I think emerging as this all becomes more of a reality. I have moments when I start to cry out of the blue, thinking about leaving our family and friends and our cat, and trying to come to terms with the real fact that we have no idea when we will return, or even if we will return any time soon.

That makes goodbyes eerie and sort of tough for me. We may not return to the Capital District. We may have to move elsewhere for job opportunities or other revelations that occur due to our trip. We may decide to live and work abroad a while. We may die (of course this is always a possibility!). And I know that all sorts of uncertainties exist on an every day level, but getting on that plane December 21 opens this whole new can of worms for Brian and I which of course is exciting but sometimes difficult to manage emotionally.

I know too, though, that often only big risks create opportunities for big "rewards", and that only I have the power to create a life that is meaningful, challenging, fulfilling, beautiful and authentic.

I got my backpack yesterday. I must say I love it. Here is a picture of my little backpacker guitar and my backpack, what will stay constant for me in the next year...


Tangent - I am in D.C. for work and it feels fitting to visit our nation's capital before leaving the country. Brian got our Vietnam visas today, $140! Woah!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Serendipity

We sold the car! We found Biscuit a home! Our possessions are flying out of our doors with excited buyers! I got an amazing backpack for our trip! We booked our first music gig in Wellington! We are finding homes for our most sacred possessions we must leave behind!

Leap and the net will appear....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"This place sucks the life out of you..."

I was at the water cooler today chatting with a colleague about my upcoming trip (I work for a state agency). He said, “Are you taking a leave of absence?” I said no, and he said “Good, just get the hell out of here.” I was surprised by his response. I had thought this person was a very dedicated employee passionate about the field we are in and his job. He also said “This place sucks the life out of you.” I can’t shake it. If a person who I thought really liked his job here feels this way, how many other people feel this way? How many other people are trudging through like him to support their families even though this is absolutely not where they want to be?


I feel like I am getting away with something. That I am escaping. That I was able to not fall into some sort of pit that is extremely difficult to get out of.


Why can working in bureaucratic offices be so grueling, numbing, uninspiring? When I was studying to get my PhD in Public Health (which I ended up not finishing) I was designing a dissertation to try and understand the effects our work environment has on our health: emotional, physical, mental. This includes the office space, restrictions of hours/schedules, endless rules, lighting, color, interactions with others, culture. This focus was largely inspired by my years at state agencies before entering the doctoral program. I felt like many of the people around me were so incredibly unhappy, unhealthy and just counting down the hours to retirement. Going through the motions each day. Looking forward only to meals or snacks that were strewn about the office. Uninterested in developing and growing professionally/personally…I still feel that way. Many people in state service I have worked with have told me I don’t belong here. That this is not a good place for my spirit. Who’s spirit is it good for?


This trip is opening a door to conversations with others that just may have never been opened. That colleague would never have said what he said if I was staying. There are little performances we engage in with each other to try and make getting through each day just a little bit easier. How do you balance wanting to be genuine with underlying social rules for social comfort? I don’t like pretending. And I feel like I have been pretending for a while. I want to say what I really think and feel, and stop trying to contort myself into social and professional structures that make no sense to me. Saying these things aloud on this blog makes me feel like I am working on that. I’m trying.

Soul Ages

This weekend I spoke to a clairvoyant for a while. I have always been drawn to psychics, tarot and palm readers, etc. I’m not sure why, and I am not sure I believe any of what they say, but I find their interactions with me and their thoughts interesting. This woman strongly believes in past lives and the idea that souls come from and go back to a source energy. That the purpose of life is to all evolve to a higher level of consciousness. And that souls “choose” the hardships they wish to experience in their lives in order to evolve to different soul ages. There are supposedly 5 ages of souls according to the “Michael teachings” that she talked about.

I feel like this really sort of makes sense. I can see infant souls, baby souls, mature souls around me. Their characteristics seem spot on. Why does it feel so silly to admit that reincarnation could be possible? Evolution of souls could be possible? We can’t prove that this paradigm doesn’t exist, so in my mind, I can’t let go of the possibility that it does.

A friend told me about a deep meditative experience he had where he started seeing all of these faces flash before his eyes and he could feel within that the images were himself in all of his past lives. When he described the faces he saw, the ethnicities, I got the chills. I could see what a powerful vision it was for him.

When I met Brian, on our first date there was a moment when I looked at him and he felt so familiar to me. I really felt like I had known him before, that I had a strong love for him already, even though I barely knew him in this life. The psychic said that was because we have been part of this cluster of souls that move away and back to the “source energy” together. That we pick each other often to help us through our life journeys. It feels so easy with Brian every day. Maybe we have known each other for lifetimes and that’s why? Why not?

So what does this have to do with our trip? She told me that some of the specific areas we will be visiting will have strong/tough energy for me because of difficult past life experiences. That I suffered in certain regions and will feel that energy coming back to me when I am there again. I find that interesting and am curious what my reactions will be.

I used to dismiss the reincarnation idea entirely due to mathematics. If souls keep returning to earth, but the population keeps growing, aren’t then humans only fractions of the original souls? If you don’t consider earth as the only place for souls to explore, then those mathematics go out the window. I think we can often become earth-centric in the way we become America-centric. And maybe only a few souls came from “the source” at first to test the waters, and more and more then came… Wow, I sound very new-agey!!

We watched “Fierce Grace” recently, a documentary about Ram Dass post-stroke. A powerful film that moved me in many ways. I highly recommend it…We have also been listening to Alan Watts.. I love thinking/talking about these spiritual questions and letting the thoughts that develop because of these conversations, incubate inside of me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaping

As we work to prepare for our trip, there are many unknowns that trouble me from time to time. Are we going to be able to sell our car? Are we going to be able to find a home for our cat while we are away? Are we going to run out of money too soon? Will Brian be able to find a job when we come home? In our lives there are always unknowns, but our choice to leave what is secure adds a few more to our plate. For me this is intentional. I want to work on how to accept and embrace the unknowns of my life with grace and confidence. Celebrate them in fact. Be present and accepting of all that is now.


On the wall of my cubicle I have a little note that says “Non-Resistance, Non-Judgment, Non-Attachment” and another that says “To complain is non-acceptance of what is. Either take action, or accept the situation”. Both of these thoughts were garnered from this book. I think this book changed my life. It really did. Now Tolle didn’t necessarily share original thoughts and ideas on spirituality and presence, but he explained them in a way that resonated with me powerfully. The concept of your thoughts not being you, that the voice in your head is not your spirit, but a monotonous phonograph replaying all of the thoughts that limit you, hinder you and stunt you from growth and presence really started the transformation that has been happening inside of me for the last 2 years. I’ve re-read and re-listened to the book a number of times. Being in the now is a muscle you must continually exercise to have it be prominent for even just moments a day. It is worth it. Those moments are the best moments I have experienced in my life. Present with the world, with a loved one, with a pet, etc. and not worrying about the future or past whatsoever. Giving my full and active attention to one moment as it unfolds. What a beautiful thing. I am hoping to create a life that encourages the emanation of these moments more often. Tolle would maybe say that I don’t need to do anything, just “be” in whatever situation I am in. That may be true, but when your life is full of hectic activities that you don’t necessarily want to be doing, maybe the chances of hitting that “now” are slimmer?


I have a dream of working part time when we return to the states and spending that extra time doing activities that help our family live more sustainably. Gardening, cooking, canning, sewing, etc. Living on less so we can enjoy our family more. Using this trip as a springboard for transformation. Leaping into the unknown with no parachute and feeling the wind and air tickle our skin as we descend into something different. Waiting to see what the universe has to offer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our carbon footprint


I am aware that Brian and I's round the world trip is not very environmentally friendly. We are taking many plane rides, many of them quite long. Today I bit the bullet and looked up what our carbon footprint would be for the trips we have booked so far for the two of us. For plane rides from:

Albany, NY to San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA to Wellington, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia
Brisbane, Australia to Bali, Indonesia
Bali to Bangkok, Thailand
and Bangkok to Osaka Japan

The 2 of us will use approximately 15,000 lbs CO2. That does not include any busses, trains, etc .
This website allows you to invest money in green practices to help offset the cost of your carbon footprint. I was shocked at how low the cost was for both Brian and I for our trip so far by plane.

In many of the books and blogs I am reading now about urban homesteading and environmental responsibility, they mention over and over to consider only traveling locally or regionally to avoid making such a huge impact on the earth. I have been struggling a bit with this quandary.

1) Explore the world to help develop a more evolved/diverse worldview or
2) Stay close to home to contribute to your local communities and to protect the earth.

Paying these small fees helps to assuage the guilt I have for taking these plane rides, but there is still the philosophical question hanging in the air. Your thoughts?