Month: June 2017

Waves of Nostalgia and Fear

As wave after wave crashed into me on Copacabana beach, I remembered that as a kid I would always play a game with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in which I would stand up again and again each time the waves knocked me down. Despite the inevitable defeat against the Ocean, I found a liberating ecstasy in my Sisyphean effort.

I felt the same way on Copcabana, as the waves took a lot out of me. The realization dawned on me of how this completely contradicts a supposed Wu Wei go with the flow lifestyle! This time I watched other swimmers go under the waves completely as they swam farther out to catch some nice waves. I rode a few but found myself afraid to venture to deep into the waters… The metaphor was not lost on me, and this fear is something new for me.

A more familiar fear I experienced was that of heights. When I last visited Sugarloaf and the Chriso the Redentor statue, I stood trembling as close to the center as I could with an immense unease. This time I was able to stand at the edge and appreciate the magnificent views, I’ve come a long way.

A friend once told me “fears are never conquered for good, they have to be revisited time and again.” I experienced this truth on the top of a mountain hike in the Tijuca Forest, where it had rained recently and we were on top of a large boulder that had shear cliff edges. I began doing Qi Gong movements with my Brother, and found that connecting with energy intensified my anxiety and I felt it very hard to make my movements large and relax. Several times during the movement set I felt like giving up, and I did step back a few times further from the edge. I am proud of my brother who stood confidently still right where he had begun just a step or two from the edge for the entire movement set. His courage inspired me to make it through to the end where I felt a deep stillness as if the entire universe was holding me and reassuring me that I was safe. I went in and out of this state, as it was difficult to maintain this trust! Sure its easy to trust the universe inside of your room on a meditation cushion, but when you’re on the edge of danger letting go of control becomes a real challenge!

I sat by the edge later, and the vertigo was eased by an immense cloud cover below us. Several times the winds would blow and I would have literal shocking views!


Rio continues to be a wonderful place for anyone with an open mind to learn to open their heart. I am grateful for the new friends and family I’ve met along the way.

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Brazilian Freedom, Self-reliance, and Sifu Kelly

This is what I love about Brasil: No guard rails.

Let me back up, as the culture immersion began as soon as my brother mother and I landed in Brasil.

In the center is my cousin, who is on holiday the whole month from her job with the airlines. Turns out getting through customs is pretty relaxing when your cousin has a badge!

The culture hit me when we were outside loading up our car with all our luggage. A genial valet approached my mother and cousin, after reading the situation, and asked if we needed any dollars exchanged into rais. We had just forgone a few chances to do so given the terrible exchange rate found at the airport, so when this valet offered more than 3:1 rais for dollars we were ecstatic to do a deal.

We went back inside the airport and took the elevator down, and my cousin explained simply “no cameras downstairs.” The atmosphere of the whole affair was very casual, given its apparent illegal nature! The entrepreneurial valet apparently used his cash tips to have a side hustle where he had a currency exchange business.

Ah Brasil, I missed you.

A few days of visiting family, seeing the countryside of Rio, and an amazing trip to the new museum Rio built to impress the world during the 2016 Olympic Games.

I’ll write about that trip in another post, but for now let’s get back to the guard rails:

We had gotten off a train in Rio and I asked my brother what he thought I liked most about the scene. It was a trick question, because it was what was missing: those red and white arm guards that come down to prevent people from crossing when a train passes. Having lived in Japan last year, ths contrasting aspects of Brasil is what stands out the most to me: the lack of structure on all levels from social interactions to car traffics. Red lights are optional, motorcycles have the liberty (arguably the responsibility to ensure better flow) to use the between cars as a lane, and sparse social norms allow for free flow of emotion and passion.

Most importantly the lack of guard rails signify to me how people are given responsibility for their own safety. It feels nice to be trusted and not hand held through every aspect of common sense, doesn’t it? The Daoism in me feels the need to give credit to Japan though and the other point of view: it also feels nice to not have to think sometimes!

Speaking of Daoism, meet one of my revered teachers for my stay here:

Her name is Kelly, and I talk her on walks as often as I can. I met Kelly almost three years ago, and she was quite passionate then! She slipped off her collar at one point and I had to chasing through the streets of Rio until I cornered her with one of my cousins. These days she has been cultivating for 3 years in her little piece of the world, and she is much calmer and gentler than I remember (without losing any of her heart!)

She teaches me a lot on our walks. For one, I get into a kind of harmony and understanding with her where she is not tugging at her leash and I am not tugging at her. We fall into sync and I let her lead a bit and I gently turn course with her as well. Its dancing in the wu wei practice for sure. She also earns my trust more and more when I take off her leash and let her roam around a bit outside in parks. She wanders around, but I’ve noticed as long as I remain calm and don’t go chasing her down she returns back of her own will.

I should also mention that she’s incredibly adorable sweetheart who jumps up to hug your leg!

I feel that’s enough for one post. I’ve got more content coming so stay tuned!

Future topics: Beach adventures, Jeitinho, Museum of Tomorrow

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

A Trip for the Heart

It’s been a long winding road to get here.

When I was sixteen I took a trip to Rio de Janeiro with my best friend and immediate family. However what could have been an amazing week in paradise mattered little to my depressed, jaded teenage soul.

I did my best not to bring everyone else down, but on the inside I was barely keeping my head afloat. We took a boat ride around the bay of Rio, and all I could think of was falling into the sea without a trace, letting it all swallow me…

That’s when my cousins intervened. Like two angels out of the sky, my twin nine-year old cousins (they’re Gemini too!) came over to me while I was staring at the sea lost in my head. I didn’t speak much Portuguese then, but they were fluent in the language of an unconditional love that I had not experienced before. Smile by smile, they opened my heart and taught my that Love was the meaning of life, and on the Full Moon that trip I swore not to live a conventional life. I promised the Moon to only follow the path of Love wherever it would lead me!

More than anything I wanted to embrace my Brazilian culture and live for a long time in Brasil. Life had other plans, and that dream had been buried under so other ambitions and relationships.

Until one relationship encouraged me to reawaken the longing I had to fully immerse myself in Brazilian life. She had a dream that I should go to Brasil and “have no thoughts of ever coming back”-her intuition was that it would be really good for me!

Due to visa constraints I do have to think about coming back-after 3 months. However I am sitting here in the Houston airport before I depart, reflecting on all the wonderful souls that have helped me arrive at this point and realize a long-held dream of mine. The gratitude for everything on my path-that’s why being grateful for Spirit is all-encompassing and saves space- swells within me as I look forward to reuniting with my cousins and my inner child who wants nothing but to dance in tune with the heartbeat of the Brazilian way of life.

What I am most excited about is that I will be on this trip with my brother, who I have not spent more than a week with since he joined the Coast Guard six years ago. This is his first time to Brasil since he was 4 years old, and the first time he’ll be meeting our wonderful twin cousins.

That winding road makes this all the more worth it! I’ve got plenty of memories to share and plenty of heart to experience savor this trip!

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Categories: Adventures and Insights