Golden

they say distance makes the heart grow fonder

but it also makes the heart slow

to a faint beating

it makes the days seem like months and the thoughts run amuck

and all I can do is look at our pictures and text you “this sucks”

Autumn is the hardest season. the leaves are falling like they’re falling in love with the ground. I keep telling them new leaves will come around in the spring. but they’re like me, they just stand there and don’t listen. 

I can still feel your soft lips on mine. your arms wrapped tightly around my waist as we sail under the Golden Gate bridge. your hand in mine,  I wanted to hold that moment forever. I don’t know why that bridge is famous or why its called Golden but painted red, but I know that I know how I feel about you and it includes a four-letter word that’s been left unsaid but danced around in these big philosophical heads.

 

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The Thailand Chronicles, vol. 2

It’s embarrassing how long it’s taking me to write about you. 5 months and countless hours staring at a white page and a blinking cursor. Some happenings are so grand and sacred that attaching language to them seems to be a grave injustice, a perversion of their true beauty.

It’s unusually cool for a June morning, I’m nested in my perch with the usual suspects – half a cup of cold coffee and a flickering rose candle. It’s just me and you love, rubbing our noses against each other, feeling the softness of your skin brush up next to mine – it’s like slipping into a warm bath on a dreary December day. It’s that first sip of hot coffee, when the earthy richness hits your lips and sends warmth down your throat, trickling into your stomach.

That feeling.

It’s bliss.

Pure bliss.

time slowly rolls to a stop in that moment and if you’re lucky enough, you will too, just long enough to take a deep inhale and commit it all to memory. That stillness is where the magic happens. Where your eyes are open enough to see the Divine dance life is inviting you to. Don’t be shy. Take his hand and waltz.

Thailand taught me about that feeling, showed me the shortcut to getting it and keeping it. Since you are unlikely to fly 18 hours, hop a ferry to a remote island and take a scurvy open-air bus ride up to a mountaintop monastery in Koh Samui, I will give you the footnotes.

Stillness is the key.

It unlocks the door opening to bliss, clarity, peace, resolve, contentment and happiness. The Buddhist call this Sukha, in Pali it means unhindered flow. It is one of the tenants of Buddhism, to be free from desire, aversion, hate, greed, attachment and delusion.

You can arrive at this blissful state many ways. Sex and drugs may get you there, but meditation will keep you there. Stillness and silence are the foundation of Vipassana, one of the oldest Buddhist meditations that means “to see things as they really are”. Vipassana is about moving into a higher state of consciousness, to be in the true vibration of who you are. Being secluded in the forest with no phone, tv,  music, conversation, exercise, or obligations – this ancient form of Buddhist psychological torture- is what it took for me to tap into Sukha.

Being alone (really truly alone) with my thoughts, with no distractions, is the most challenging experience I have endured. At first, I was enthralled with the zen atmosphere, taking joy in 14 hours of daily meditation surrounded by a lush green forest. How lovely I thought.

It’s all fun and namaste until you are four days into this behavioral science experiment and a flash flood of feelings come over, completely overwhelming your being and taking you down like the plague. Your skin starts to crawl and you break into a mild sweat. Your heart beats faster than it should and all that crosses your mind is “I’ve gotta get out of here”. But you can’t. Because you are trapped on a mountain in Thailand with a bunch of Tibetan monks shuffling around like penguins.

So you stay.

You stay in the discomfort. In the agony of being with yourself.

So I did what any rational person would do, ran out of the meditation hall, down to the dormitory and cried alone in the shower. Why am I crying? I do not know. What would remove my discomfort? Better amenities? No mosquitos eating me alive? Music? Books? Podcasts? My car? I quickly realize all the ways modern conveniences and comforts provide an illusion of safety. I crave community, even though just days prior I was in one and couldn’t wait for a moment alone. Now I have it and it’s driving me mad. Day 1 here, I cautiously avoided slippery places and diligently checked my shoes for deadly spiders, it’s Day 4 and I am praying for a coconut to impale my head. Anything for an excuse to escape myself.

The storm eventually passes. It always does. In the aftermath you take stock of what the fuck just happened and revelations make themselves known to you. The greatest being how desire runs our lives and leads to suffering, what the Buddhist call Dukha (the opposite of Sukha). Meditation stops the cycle of constant stimulation. Stimulation begets desire. You feel good, you desire more feeling good. In Vipassana, we sit through all feelings and simply observe them. Watch them come and go like a cloud floating by in the expansive blue sky. Do not attach yourself to it. Do you not hold on, or try to hurry it to pass. Observation without reaction. Do this with life. With jobs, relationships, possessions.

Understand the impermanence of all things, Buddhist call this Annica. When you truly understand this, you move into a more expansive state of equanimity and wisdom. You realize that there is no experience/thing/person that is going to make you permanently sad or happy. Equanimity is the goal, the only yardstick to measure progress. This is meditation. To escape being caught in the flow of reaction,  of craving for the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant.

In Vipassana, we learn to observe everything with an accepting mind. Don’t try to reconcile every loss, every emotion, try instead to adjust to it. Experience every moment fully, and then let it go.

In the words of Yogi Bhajan,

“Your job is to control yourself

Your job is to discipline yourself.

Your job is to deal with everything in life

with affection, love, and kindness.”

Deeper, Richer, More Expansive

Its been 365 days

since the sting of betrayal shocked me into silence

a mind-numbing paralysis

i vividly remember the pain

of my heart crumbling to the floor

a boulder of questions and sorrow

crushing my chest and stealing the breath right out of me

and I as lay there, begging the earth to swallow me whole

my beloved friends and family quietly crawled up next to me

and slowly rolled that boulder off

I remember the tenderness in their eyes and the truth in their words

as they gently picked me up and pieced me back together

I carry that memory with me,

I carry it in my heart.

A testament to the strength and grace and resilience of the human spirit

one year

one degree

a dozen trips

a few cries

and a million laughs later

I can honestly say that I’ve never breathed more deeply and fully

I’ve never experienced such an expansiveness in my heart and lungs

such clarity in my mind

and richness in my life

and the only words that come to mind

are thank you thank you thank you

The Thailand Chronicles, vol. 1

I’m still reeling it all in. processing the depth and variety of experiences and accompanying emotions that carried me through southeast Asia.

I kept a daily journal of my experiences- which range from obligatory itinerary documentation to intimacies unbloggable. Scrolling through my picture blog will do more justice than any poetic ramblings I muster up.

I will say this. Royalty and religion are the fundamental elements of Thai society. I have never seen so many tourists and temples occupy the same space. The devotion to King Rama is incredibly public and pervasive. Statues, buildings, and murals in his honor pepper Bangkok streets and homes but lack reverence and is nothing short of political propaganda. My friend Daniel and I became increasingly suspicious of our tour guide’s defense of the Thai government as we pressed her for answers as to why democratic elections had not been held in years. Our inquiries were largely dismissed.

We met so many fascinating people and shared some of the most unique experiences of my life. One of my favorite things about traveling is how quickly you become integrated and intimate with strangers. Kerry, Daniel, Sabrina Nate and I became a little family of American vagabonds – we stash snacks from buffet’s, lick spoons clean and dress wounds for each other.  At dinner in a cuisine alley Kerry and I spotted a cute tattooed fellow – to which I invited over for a shot of Thai whiskey. Sweet Andrew is a Hindu from Eastern Europe who just moved to Bangkok. He has a large Lord Shiva tattoo and a gentleness to him that pours from his eyes. He made me a drink at the upscale saloon he bartends at. We held each others hands and eyes for a moment before departing for our lives. Those precious moments of connection and transparency are the threads that connect all human consciousness. Those are the moments that make travel one of the most valuable commodities known to man.

bathroom confessionals

the same week I completed my master’s program, I was offered a full-time policy analyst position with the organization I had been interning at. I held my composure as I absorbed the offer and position details. Then I went into the bathroom, locked the door, propped myself up against the stall and cried.

I sighed

and I cried

it was like I had been existing in uncertainty for the past 6 months and this was that long, deep breath after forgetting to breathe.

I cried because this has been the most challenging year of my life. Because on several occasions I have begged God to spare me from the whipping heartache, despair, and pain that accompany being in this world. I argued with the Beloved, pleaded my case – that this was unnecessary suffering for his humble servant. He closed his mouth and spoke to me in a hundred silent ways.

It helps to see the Creator’s kind face before he rolls up his sleeves, and starts pumping the bellows and cleans off his wire brush and works with his other tools he eyes you up knowing how much this is going to hurt to make you perfect. -HAFIZ 

And so life goes on. I continue to be wrapped in the warm embrace of good friends and family that never leave even when you want them to. A friend gave me the sweetest meditation beads with a little lion guru bead on it. He said we come as lambs but leave as lions – a testament to the strength and perseverance we cultivate through our meditation and yoga practice.

I’m still sighing and crying, in awe of Life’s unyielding ability to abide by karmic law. I bow down in reverence to my experience – all of them- and offer nothing but these two words whispered over and over again like a prayer: thank you, thank you, thank you.

when keeping it real goes wrong

another Friday alone with my beloved thesis

a friend invites me to watch game 3 of the world series at a local wine bar

I ask him if it’s a fancy place, because I’m wearing a Canadian tuxedo and a messy bun.

he thought I was joking.

The bar tender is a kid I went to high school with. Cute Jewish guy with a decent sense of humor. I ask what he’s been up to since then. He said

a lot of video games and trying to stay out of jail. 

I laughed and threw my wine back, unsure how to respond.

I’m realizing now that he was serious.

We laugh with a plump elderly regular at the bar as I notice a handsome man eyeing me from a few seats down. I’m reconsidering my androgynous attire as he walks up and taps me on the shoulder. Excitement and regret mix with wine and rush through my veins.

He immediately ID’s me from high school soccer and notes that he’s been in Folsom ever since.

I’ve gotta get out of this town.

thesis ramblings

I’m not even hungry, but I’m stuffing grapes into my mouth, numb to their taste

cleaning the keyboard on my dads computer, and reorganizing the shoe shelf

all pathetic attempts at distracting myself from working on my thesis.

i stand in the driveway

watching families go by on bikes,

cars zoom by, presumably off to a fun adventure

even the leaves trickle along in freedom.

but me … no. I am a slave to a blinking cursor and a deadline

what was life like before I arrogantly took on this challenge?

did I laugh freely and often?

did I spend saturdays basking in the sun enjoying the company of loved ones?

i can’t recall.

all I know is dread and academia.

two sides of the same coin