The Importance of Infrequency in Joyful Effort

Yesterday at the Kadampa Center, Geshe Sangpo’s teaching was about Joyful Effort. He told the story of Asanga (http://www.three-vajras.com/asanga) who was in search of Maitreya Buddha, and went into a cave to meet with this Buddha. He would give up every 3 years, and out in the world something would inspire him to return to the cave to practice. At first it was a man who was going to turn a metal rod into a needle by rubbing it with cotten; another time after feeling demoralized Asanga was inspired by a huge hole made by a tiny dripping of water. We discussed as a group the ups and downs of enthusiasm in any spiritual practice or any effort to “change our minds” so that they may become more peaceful, clear, and happy. An important insight is that these times of “leaving the cave due to frustration” were not negative but a natural and essential part of the cycle of effort.

Later while teaching at Chi Kung Class, I felt inspired to teach a more traditional and linear form of Chi Kung called Ji Ben Qi Gong, as taught by Damo Mitchell. A series of 8 moves of 8, it moves energy through the entire system and is a very balancing and empowering practice. I teach it occasionally to people that I feel it is suited for, and also as a simpler practice (half the moves of GoT I) for beginners or people looking to use Chi Kung for their health and preventative medicine.

The effect was beautiful in that I was able to contrast how the moves felt the last time I had done the practice and now! I was really happy with how my forearms felt more relaxed and certain hand positions felt more open and gentle.

Connecting the theme of my day together, I saw the importance of having side practices or experiences that one can “return to” to reflect on changes and find inspiration in one’s own growth. Due to my particular path and emphasis of cultivation of the Body, I return to Body based spiritual practices like Yoga and other Chi Kung forms.

To notice the subtle changes in one’s own system doing the same form every day (Gift of the Tao in my case) is difficult and not always apparent. Sometimes there is a huge shift, especially when practicing with a group in a workshop setting where the energy is easier to access. However in solo practice I believe it is beneficial to return to another practice, when the timing aligns and it feels right or perhaps as a conscious choice when one is feeling dissatisfied with their daily practice. I use these other practices as a way of reflecting on change-not as a change of vehicles.

The metaphor for the week has been trains, so if I equate my regular practice with a particular train I am always progressing along the track lines of the point of view that track has. Every once in awhile I’ll get off at a station and take a ride on another train, and it is from that track I may view better the progress my original train has made and appreciate my discipline in staying with it! This encourages me to return to my original train and continue on my path.

A concrete example would be drinking smoothies or juices for health: the first time I did it my body had been craving those nutrients and I felt amazing! The routine of making juice/smoothie can get tedious, and maybe two weeks in the tedium and the fact I don’t feel as amazing adds up and I grow lazy about this healthy habit. However if I hang in there for a month or two, and then say get my blood sugar tested and see how much I’ve improved I’ll be happy to commit to the daily juicing ritual! Likewise the effects of a spiritual practice are often cumulative, and its important to take time to restore one’s own enthusiasm.

This return back to the daily is important: do not confuse the progress you realize you’ve made with the side practice as “ah! Yes Yoga that’s what I need to be doing right now, look how good it feels” as this mindset is a trap to fall into. I have seen plenty of people abandon a main practice because “it was no longer working for me”-while this can be a valid insight it should not be made hastily due to the benefits of returning to a different practice. Rather, reflect on what are you doing to work for it! Rote memorization and “being asleep on the train” is missing out on the aliveness of the practice. Each day there is a subtle difference in the world, the sky, the atmosphere-however you may view it. By having a consistent practice (or one with a few different sets for some variety/adaptability to the flux of life) we can tune into these subtle differences and enjoy the process of change-the Tao.

Enjoy your path!

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

5 Elements and the Organs – An Experience

I’ve had a whirlwind of adventures the past two weeks, from Terre Haute Indiana to the NationaL Qi Gong Association’s yearly conference in Asheville. I enjoyed countless insights, immigration, and sharing deeply with my qi gong family.

I learned a lot about Chinese herbalism with budding master Ben Rosenthorn, and enjoyed the Sunrises of Lake Sullivan whose turtles and herons had much to share:

I’m focusing on the culimation of these experiences, and the last day of the Asheville Conference: Mingtong Gu’s (a Qi Gong master based out of New Mexico. Find him at chicenter.com) Inner Emotional transformational healing through sound.

We went on an inner journey through the 5 elements and the different organ systems they represent. We felt deeply the function of each on the physical, emotional, and mental levels. The process was in activating these systems to transmform emotions into their higher expressions.

I can talk theory here about what they all represent and do, but the experience is much deeper and personal. Anyone can set aside time, and I mean really set aside time: Don’t have any engagements or anything afterward that your mind will keep pulling you toward. Take time for this process, you’re getting to know your own body and organs! See it as a way of giving thanks and acknowledging how they’ve supported your life this whole time-this in itself is deeply healing.

Breathe into each organ system and feel its function, one at a time. I won’t go through the transformative process and sounds we used because that’s best done in person (and from a qualified teacher to teach it), but getting in touch with the elements is fine:

Fire- Heart and Cardiovascular sytem: breathe in and feel how it transforms emotions into joy, contentmeant, and inner peace. Get in touch with your heart space, what’s going on? What sensations or feelings arise that we can embrace with compassion?

Water- Kidneys and Reproductive system: feel your kidneys, adrenals, and base of your spine for your reproductive organs are. The emotions associated with water are fear. Get in touch with your Fear, what’s shows up? What sensations or feelings arise that we can embrace with compassion? How can we release fear to be more present for life?

Earth-Stomach, digestive systems: feel your stomach right under your ribcage. How do we digest experiences and emotions? Are we running from one thing to the next without processing what we just experienced? Anxiety and worry come up with this system, and this can be transformed into an openness and trust-faith for what is and will be.

Wood- Liver and Purification system: this organ system was very palpable for me. My spleen felt a bit sluggish and my Liver a bit overworked-and when we worked with the emotional level of this sytem- tranforming anger and jealousy into positive anger and courage-I felt a deep release. Hold both sides of your lower ribcage and breathe into the organs to get intouch with this system, and how we can purify ourselves of toxins on all levels.

Metal- Lungs & Respiratory system: This was a powerful system to work with, as I personally have this element for a lot of my composition. Breathe into the sadness stored in your lungs, the grief the we do not fully release on each exhale or give ourselves time to process. In a world of “up up up, and lets feel good all the time” we often don’t sit with our sadness and grief to fully clear space for new experiences or to learn compassion for all life. Take full deep breaths into your lungs and invite in any memories or loss that haven’t been fully felt. From there find a place of compassion for yourself and others knowing they too have experienced countless losses in their lifetime.

Even done at this level with only the breath this can be a powerful meditation: so allow time for integration and grounding afterward. Feel your feet on the ground and bring your from above your head down through your center while visualizing a clear light cleansing and dredging all the qi through your system and down through your feet. Do this a few times and perhaps journal any experience or insights from the exercise.

Enjoy your organs and your 5 elements!

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

Embodiment – Practical Mysticism

“It is not enough to open our minds to new dimensions… behind and beyond all that there must be someway of brining it all to Earth. Of Grounding it.”- Alan Watts

The unique approach of Healcyon is that we focus not only on the endeavor of transformation of consciousness and all the mystical adventures that comes with it. The point is to “bring it back,” and to have it come through and expressed to others-to be shared in practical means. The definition of practical is broader here to include art as well-so don’t get the wrong picture.

Art and things that evoke the feeling of being alive are essential to life and very practical. A better word than practical may be the expression of the mystical in our day-to-day world. I have choosen embodiment and the human body vehicle as an expression for the mystic due to its immense practicality: nothing else is so constant and immanent to our lives than our body. It is the vehicle through which all other experiences are had, the container for our human experience.

Another layer of this which is important for anyone who works with others is the body as the most effective means of communication. The way you say something, your body language, and all the non-verbals make up more than 80% of communication (from Verbal Judo). Having your body express your truths accurately will prevent your message from being lost and allowing you to effectively communicate your message with others.

Moment to moment pleasant awareness is my vision to “be comfortable in my own skin,” so that I may be fully present and awake for the beauty of life as it unfolds. To “ground” all the various mystic dimensions that are experienced through the body; to “feel” what it is like to be a Jaguar on the hunt. To embody or channel the freedom of a Condor in flight.

Embodiment to make a part of a body or a system incorporate, integrate, absorb, assimilate, intermingle, merge to become with

The key words here are integration- that we become whole and not fragmented beings on the path. Touch and bodywork therapy are effective at this process because of the undeniable truth they offer: If I pull on your leg and you feel it all the way to your skull you know you are interconnected. This translates to all other planes and aspects of ourselves-such is how powerful touch is as a forms of communication and healing.

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

Non-Linear Growth

 

To go along with our first New Moon Newletter, I want to write deeper on what I mean when I talk about the Spiral path of growth, non-linear growth, and the flux associated with the Moon cycles.

As a heads up: I do not claim either approach is better than the other. They both come with their own advantages and pitfalls. I am drawing from Paulo Coelho’s Brida for the Sun/Moon path referenes, and in that book he says “The Paths eventually become one in the same anyway” (I’m paraphrasing). Indeed the Sun and Moon are both tied to larger circular cycles, so its a matter of taste which rhythm you follow and resonate with (and to eventually dance in All as One Path!)

The point is to raise awareness about the more hidden, less prominent and walked (in the West) path of the Moon.

First Linear Growth: The Path of the Sun

In the physical and human world we see a lot of linear growth patterns. Humans grow from babies ascending in height until teenage-early twenties on average. Trees often grow straight up over time, building their years as rings of wood. Careers build on experience, tools, workshops, and knowledge gained over time as one reaches for the peak of their career.

Then we either fight against, or submit to the decline from the peak. Descending in health, height, vitality, productivity, etc. down toward death. This is a grim picture, but many accept it, or refuse to accept by fighting against nature-which still accepts the same picture as the framework of truth.

Their is indeed truth in the rise and fall of all things, and anyone who has climbed a mountain is well aware of the path upward and downward. However there is a danger if we apply this as the complete truth to our spiritual growth: the issue of backsliding, aka not constantly improving, as a huge issue that is difficult to process.

Some defense mechanisms around backsliding include: Switching practices or growth paths (the “It didn’t work for me” mentality), defeatism (the “I’m not good enough, I’m a failure” mentality), and false expectations (the “I’m better than this I’ve grown past it, I WILL make it work” mentality) to name a few.

Backsliding is not uncommon or to be avoided, as it is represents that you’ve actually taken steps forward on your path in the first place! We’ll get back to backsliding after we cover non-linear growth:

Non-Linear Growth: The Moon Path

I use the Spiral as a symbol so that we can see the circular rhythm to the 30 day Moon cycle (and larger replications of this) clearly. If you visualize the center of the spiral standing up, you would also see a mountain in which one walks round and round the spire to reach the peak.

In life we see this a bit more intuitively: how many things have you “come back around to” in your interests? Guitars put down at 15 show up as a renewed interest at 24. Arts and crafts long abandoned as ‘something I’m not good at’ after age 6 show up when you pick up coloring books or doodle self-help art manuals.

Professionally as well, coming back to something when you’re on a “higher level” of the spiral is can be more productive and insightful than trying to segment “ok I spent 4 years straight in Medical School I’m set.” This was the advice I was given when studying abroad in Japan: better to go 6 months, come home and integrate, then return for another 6 months than to go for a full year. Part of the non-linear path is understanding we as humans get “saturated” from any experience and can no longer go deeper (or grow higher) without the corresponding integration and application outside of the learning environment. This is not to say that people do not or cannot learn spending 10 years straight in another environment-everyone is different in their growth which is why I added the preface to this post.

There is an advantage in a fresh way of looking at backsliding on the Moon path.

Using Backsliding to our Advantage: Eliminate the Stigma

The saying “two steps forward one step back” comes to mind. This common sense actually is stressful when it lives in our bodies. There’s a Qi Gong move from GoT 4 that embodies it which is how I came across this feeling, but try it for yourself: Go out into your yard or the longest stretch of open field near you. Walk across it, with two steps forward then one step back. Let me know how you feel during!

What I’ve begun working on myself is how to value the backsteps: turning it into a dance. When I no longer have that goal I’m trying to get to, its easier to get into the rhythm of the Moon Path. Life becomes a celebration and the backslide, the backstep-is a God send. A break from the winds that came at you head on at times in the path of change.

Another metaphor is to think of yourself as a building, building one layer at a time. However no layer is every really complete, since you are an organic house! When you re-decorate, do you want to update the whole house or only one room or floor?

Let’s say we’ve got a solid foundation: now we’re building levels 4 and 5 of our house. Now we go up to where 6 is, but that’s very intense-its high up there after all. We come back down from 6 and work on 3 a little bit more because that’s the room that needs a bit more development. In working on 3 we remember there’s things in the foundation that are unused-forgotten in the dark. Those things turn out to be exactly what we needed to finish  up level 5, which gives a solid stepping back point when we want to explore 6.

In this metaphor the “backslide” is when you retreat from a higher level. Its a retreat made out of wisdom- not fear. You got a taste of that brand new level, so now its back to the comfort zone to mull it over. In Astrology this tension is seen in your North and South Nodes. A VERY important set of points that will help you understand your own “backslide” rhythm.

For example, my North Node (or “Stretch Goal” as Phillip Young calls it in his Astrology Unlocked Book) is in Aquarius. My South Node is in Leo. My path is called the “Way of Freedom” in the Secret Language of Birthdays (by Gary Goldschneider). Every time I reach deeper into Aquarius energy I at first experience a greet flow of being on my Path, of making progress. I experience that beautiful freedom that makes my soul sing-but then turbulence happens. This is not my comfort zone, not my area of familiarity. When things get rocky, abandoning Leo energy and pushing in a Linear way deeper into Aquarius has gotten me into a lot of trouble. During this times, its been wiser for me to step back into my Leo as a resource. A safe haven where things “make sense” again and I can gather my inner strength for another sojourn into Aquarius.

When put in terms of Astrology it makes a bit more sense thatn the 1-4-5-3-1-6-3-4-2-6 sort of dance that the building metaphor had. However which one more accurately represents Life I’ll leave up to you. This sort of “what sense does that make?” navigation through your own “levels” is exactly why its called non-linear growth, and why rational models and mindsets are only so effective.

One thing is clear: Using the backstep as a respite, and seeing life as a dance allows us a lot less pressure on ourselves. A lot more room to grow!

Thanks for reading,

Link

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

Sunset on Rio- Shock, Flight, Cleanse, and Saudade

I return to Rio under the Full Moon, and it hasn’t quite hit me yet that my brother is gone. Our heroine Kelly returns. and I realize a new depth to her Daoist mastery: on her back is a crescent white moon within her gold fur,  and within her white underbelly is a gold patch. She is the embodiment of the Taiji!

As I write this now, with one hand, as she continually nuzzles my other arm away from me to have it resting on her. Now, I can choose my words more carefully. My first day back in Rio we had a great shock with Kelly. I was out with her at the park as usual, and she was roaming around free in the grass. My cousin waved to me as she was walking to the bus stop, and I decided on a whim to accompany with her down to the bus.

She was a bit worried that Kelly was off the leash, but I assured her that I put her back on as we get to more traffic areas (nearer to the bus stop), but I ignored her concern down the flight of stairs to the road below the park which I had been several times before with Kelly safely. She was on the other side of the road smelling homes and gates where dogs were when she locked eyes with us and started to trot over. In that same moment, a motorcycle with a car behind it was coming down the street. Time slowed down as I watched the scene unfold and the motorcycle did not see Kelly until it was too late and slammed his brakes as he collided with her. She was pushed and dragged by the well a good 5 meters, and images of her being crushed and killed flashed in my mind.

 

When I was younger, the only dog I’d own- Kaloh a half yellow lab half huskie mix-had been hit by a car after running away one night-I was the one who had opened the door and let her get past me as well as the one who had given up after a few hours on the search. I’ve carried that blame a long time and watching Kelly get hit in front of my eyes was a living nightmare, my cousin was shrieking as well to add to the horror.

Kelly didn’t get crushed, and scurried off faster than lightning back up the stairs to home. I chased after her and let her back in the house before doubling back to make sure the motorcycle rider was ok. He had already left and my cousin had as well, so I wandered the empty street for awhile in a bit of a daze. The guilt and sorrow washed over me for the rest of the day, especially since we took Kelly to a Vet to be examined for her injuries and had to leave her over night in a lonely cage. My cousins worked on grounding me that everything was ok, it wasn’t my fault, things happen, and Kelly had already forgiven me.

Forgiving myself was a longer process, and all I can do is etch a lesson deeper into my heart to be more careful and more respectful of the circumstances in this world. Just like they had said, when we picked up Kelly the next day she didn’t have a trace of a grudge on her heart and loved me as unconditionally as she always had. Since then her injuries, all surface scratches and bruises, have healed and she is still her playful and loving self.

Flight

After recovering on all levels-I had cold-like sickness for a few days after returning from Sao Paulo as well to add onto matters-the next landmark was a Hang gliding tripped I had promised one of my cousins. In the days leading up she was so excited she couldn’t sleep, whereas I kept the reality of it pretty far from consciousness given my fear of heights and not wanting to steal away from the energy of the experience itself!

This is the same ramp my cousins took me to 3 years ago in 2014, and I never even dreamed that I would be running off it at top speed 3 years later. My tandem partner was Luciano, or Popo, and is very reputable and popular among the locals at Sao Conrado:

http://asadeltapedradagavea.blogspot.com.br/2012/06/voo-de-asa-delta-no-rio-com-luciano.html

He’s very experienced, speaks decent English, and was able to say all the right words to calm down my cousin’s bundle of nerves!

The flight was beyond words, as I etched the feeling of freedom into my heart. Relaxation at that intensity with such a gorgeous scene of nature around us-simply exhilarating.

As we approached the beach he began preparing me for landing, but the sudden dip was like a roller coaster ride that caught me off guard! My legs were running in the air like in those old cartoons for a second there before he calmed me down again and prepared me to hit the sand.

My other cousin was waiting at the beach and I spent the rest of the day relaxing and playing in the ocean and sand.

Cleanse

A good friend of mine spontaneously recommended that I lay down in running, clear water to clear out the pain in my heart. This was the exact same method for clearing energies used by the Q’ero Shamans I encountered in 2014, and when I mentioned that to her she downplayed her wisdom as common sense that had been forgotten!

My cousin’s friend group is a bunch of good-hearted Christians that I have been connecting with during my time here. For this last week in Brasil they arranged a retreat at a Sitio- (farm like property out in the state of Rio). When we got there and they took me to a river with the perfect depth for my friend’s advice I was overjoyed at the synchronicity. The cool running water cleared a lot out of me, and the verse of the Dao de Jing “Water nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them” floated to my the surface.

I waded down the river a ways where a tree taught me the meaning of letting go of control and trusting in the unfolding of Nature. That’s been a common theme this whole trip, and I was glad to embrace the wisdom on a deeper level. That night the atmosphere of the group was a bit tense, as people went off and did their own thing and I was moved into action when the words of my cousin struck my heart “I just want this to be over and to go back home for us all to go our own ways.” I had been a bit of an outsider of the group, and had not fully opened up about my spiritual experiences or life story. I saw this chance as a way to open up in front of everyone-as terrifying as that was. Lucas, the man on the far right of the bridge, translated for me as I shared my painful experiences with mental illness and my desire for everyone to appreciate the gift of this present moment and to love each other. Things shifted after that, and everyone came together putting aside their surface level frictions. My heart felt infinitely better after that, and I had a deeper gratitude and understanding of my own history.

Whether I believed in a greater plan or not, I could no longer argue that my experiences had no use when it comes to affecting positive change now. I feel honored to be able to share my story, have it listened to it, and see people letting themselves be moved by it. I’m in the process of writing about them into a story in the hopes that more people can begin to understand what we call insanity and those that are going through their own processes of change.

I look forward to Peru, and continuing this process in a safe setting where I can face a lot of those deeper fears that have been hiding in my unconscious, driving a lot of my impulsive emotional reactions through life. Who knows what adventures await?

As for now, thank you Brasil. Thank you all the beautiful people I met here, because you are the ones I am here for. Until next time,

Saudade

-Arthur, “Rolozeira” Freeman

 

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

The Yin the Yang-São Paulo

The largest city in the Western Hemisphere. That’s what drew my brother to check this place out, and I was happy to tag along and meet a cousin of mine that also appreciates motorcycles.

We arrived at 6am and had one hell of a day. After meeting my cousin and having breakfast, we were told the bus to take to the popular Avenida Paulista. My brother and I opted to walk there and take in the sights, and an hour later we were enjoying a Japanese museum with lots of bamboo.


Now before coming I knew that Sao Paulo was supposed to be the largest community of Japanese outside Japan, but for the first thing for me to experience was a musuem of Japanese art, Mitsubushi propaganda, and woven bamboo took me back a bit.

We traveled onward, enjoying the beautiful street art that covered entire sides and local street entertainers painted as clowns. After relaxing in the park, we decided to amp up our next ambitions and walk to Liberdade- the Japanese neighborhood. Perfect place for the Freeman brothers! The ambition part was that my cell phone had no battery and had to rely on our limited Portuguese to navigate ourselves there. An hour or so later we arrived, and I tried inquiring about the Daoist Society I wanted to check out. No one had heard of it, and my cell phone didn’t have enough battery to look up the address. We gave up and returned through the Metro to my cousins, only to discover we were only 100 meters away from the destination! Exhausted, it was for the best that Fate didn’t guide us there. We rested up for an early rise to check out the beautiful Ibirapuera park.

The park is often compared to Central park, and it was the perfect place to do some morning Qi Gong. The modern art museum is truly recommended, they had an an interesting exhibit designed to change the way you approach food- there was even staff that would perform a shamanic egg healing! Stuart was not up for this experiment, so I let myself gladly be the subject as the xama traced the egg around my channels to suck up all the bad energy, stress, tension, and worries. The ritual is finished by breathing out three times the rest of your struggles into the egg, and the egg is thrown away not fit for consumption!

The Afro-brazilian museum was also wonderful, with the layout being pretty unconventional as far as buildings go. They let us take pictures so you can see some of the pieces on display on my instagram.

 

Next we took a bus up to the center of town to get an Eagle’s eye view of the city. I nodded off half way through the bus ride and when I came back to my senses we were a few stops later, but I saw on the map a place called “Jardim do Luz” and knew where I was headed first!

To our pleasant surprise there was a cave! A cave within the light…doesn’t get better than that. The vibes of the cave were pretty awesome and in the center there you can see a natural sort of stalagmite altar, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s looked at it this way.

After heading up to the highest point in the city and having some champagne, we go to the Mercado Municipal-famous for its giant meat sandwiches and hundreds of market stalls.

From there we walked south back to Liberdade to re-find that Daoist Society. Even when the Mercado was closing down, the rest of the city was coming alive with lots of hustle and bustle of street vendors opening up. We came across a magnificent cathedral that towered up into the night sky, all under the Full Moon of course.

We make it to the Daoist Society and they are very happy to allow us to join their Baquazhang class. After a good warming up and moving my shoulders in ways I didn’t know they could, we learned Circle Walking and the first Trigram Palm Strike: Earth- Embracing the Moon. Its a pure Yin palm and was perfect for the atmosphere of the trip and my own growth in learning to let go and surrender to the beauty of each moment. I applied this while eating dinner with my cousins that night, appreciating their company for what it was despite our language barriers.

The next day our cousins had gotten tickets to us for the 20th annual Festa do Japao. Hah! A year ago I was in Japan learning Capoeira, a Brazilian art, and now here I am in Brasil spending a day immersed in Japan! I was in a very playful mood as I spoke Japanese with some of the calligraphy presenters, and enjoyed an Okonomiyaki that was nowhere near as good as my host mother’s! Watching Aikido, listening to Taiko drums, and painting bamboo… what a surreal day!

We finished our trip leisurely exploring some more of the city, and seeing that cathedral in the daytime (this time with a political protest added in at no cost!)

My brother was at that end of the trip “ah, well now that was well and good. I’m glad I got to reflect and explore, but now I’m ready to go home and live the rest of my life!” I am truly grateful for the time I got to spend with him. I had been looking forward to it for so long, and now that it’s passed by what seems from this moment a blink of the eye… Saudade. A word worth committing to heart, as I’m sure your heart knows the feeling better than any words can describe.

Until next time, brother.

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Categories: Adventures and Insights

Colorful Salvador

We spent a few days in Salvador, the third largest city in Brasil. A wonderful beach town filled with Afro-brazilian cultures. My brother Stuart was drawn to this place because of his time spent training as capoeirista. Our journey from Rio was a 33 hour bus-ride, which took us through the rolling landscape of Brazilian countryside through safari like landscapes and shanty tin-roofed towns.

The first impression of Salvador came from a beautiful half-moon that filled the sky! This is the closest I’ve been to the equator, and seeing the Moon from this angle. When you are south of the equator, the Moon waxes from left to right-opposite of the northern hemisphere. There seemed to be some deep symbolism in the Brazilian way of life and how it approaches fullness from the opposite direction-both hemispheres growing to the same completeness from opposite sides.

Our hostel was in the historic district of Salvador, and we were greeted by David. I was surprised immediately at the tempo of his speaking speed. I had all but given up on trying to understand multiple cariocas speaking at once at the speed of sound. David’s speech was like a soothing melody, and at first I guessed it was because of his experience with tourists. The next day, as we took in the vibes of Salvador, we learned that the city had a laid back tranquilo atmosphere. Well-except for the protests that left the museums we were looking to explore closed, but the street art was phenomenal! The level of quality and respect that street artists had for each other’s art (read: they didn’t graffiti on top of nice works):

https://www.instagram.com/healcyon_way/

(I haven’t figured out how to download photos from instagram, but the whole process of downloading then uploading then embedding was getting cumbersome. We’re in the 21st century so it’d be easier just to follow me on there and have access to the full album of each place I visit!)

In the evening after a delicious shared pot of seafood moqueca, we had the good fortune of seeing a meeting of several schools of Capoeira play together in a roda. This is a circle that is formed by the participants, where many will be playing musical instruments-the most famous being the berimbau. Funny story-I joined the Capoeira club while I was in Japan-and had the chance to play a berimbau. It is not easy, my hand went numbs several times just trying to hold it, let alone keep up with the rhythm and the beat of the group! Much respect to Stuart who had made his own out of piano wire and bamboo back when he used to practice this art.

The moves they displayed in the roda were astonishing, I got to see true mastery of this art. An elderly man (my guess 50-60s) had an excellent flow and precise control over his body. In the game, because capoeira was designed to disguise martial arts training from slave owners, the elements of dance are mixed with fighting and in this way you do not ever attempt to injure your opponent. The fascinating thing is how clear it is who the ‘victor’ would be as the two players face off in the ring, kicks flying centimeters away from faces and sweeps that knock opponent’s off their center. We were not allowed to participate without the right outfit, but this may have saved us some sore bottoms.

What we weren’t aware of before leaving for Salvador was how rainy it is during the winter season. This kept the tourists crowd away, but it dampened my hope for a nice beach day. The best chance we were going to get according to weather reports was a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. We set off, because hey if you’re at the ocean and you’re in the water the rain doesn’t change much then! We set off in the opposite direction of the historic district into the so-called “dangerous” part of town to catch a bus. The hospitality at the street stall we had breakfast in was beautiful, and I was filled with joy at seeing a mother working with her daughter at their own little shop.

First thing was first at the beach: I drank from a fresh coconut and we went up to the Jesus statue that looked out over the sea. It began to rain lightly as we enjoyed wind and the view. Like out of storybook we descended the hill where Jesus was on toward the beach and the sky parted and the Sun began to shine on us. I immediately was drawn to the sight of bodyboarders! I was hungry for some waves that could be ridden after the frigid waters at Copacobana and the aggressive riptide at Barra. We walked the length of the beach, and Stuart checked out the lighthouse while I relaxed with the waves. We made our way back to the surfers, and I tried out my new “go with the flow” technique of not fighting the waves. I faced that fear of going deeper into the waters, a man with a Black t-shirt that had the number 13 guiding my path (away from the rocks). I had a trans-formative experience when I let the waves take me and I curled up into a fetal position-completely relaxed in the flow-feeling reborn as I was carried to shore.

We recharged for body-boarding when a happy musical man offered us grilled queijo coalho on a skewer with his portable coals. His happiness was so infectious, basking in the moment was effortless. The bodyboarders were getting ready to leave, but they agreed to rent me a board for an hour or so. Getting past the breakpoint of the waves was the hard part, but navigating the turf of other surfers and when to catch a wave was much harder! They didn’t have fins that fit me either, so I spent most of the time working up courage to let a wave crash down on my head.

I let my brother have his turn with the board, and lived vicariously as I saw him catch a wave. It slammed down on him but his grip on the board kept him out in front of it. During the bonus minutes we had it, I paddled out again with the determination. Well, not so much determination as it was an acceptance “so the wave  might crash down on me and I go for a tumble, so what?” I also was eavesdropping on my renter who was instructing a girl on how to bodyboard, and tried to copy the angle at which to catch the wave. I caught one wave for a little while, and then found I was at my limit for pushing past the where the waves broke. I used the board as a bed until it was time to go.

We walked and found a beautiful place with a view of the ocean to eat some octopus risotto and a shrimp salad. My brother confessed that if  money were no object this would be the perfect place to have a second home-to dodge the winter year round. I felt incredibly blessed as the sunset, and to add onto that the fare taker for the bus gave us a free ride because he didn’t have change for our bills!

The last day in Salvador was the Festa da Bahia, and you can watch some highlights from the great parade on my instagram. With only three days, we didn’t get to experience too much of the rich spiritual practices of Salvador, so this post definitely doesn’t do justice to the depth of this magical place. Check it out for yourself (during their spring-summer months!)

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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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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