Archive for June, 2007

Cycling along the Danube fully present in the “NOW”

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Well, again…. it’s been quite some time since I’ve had a chance to blog my mental perspectives.. but the past couple of weeks have brought me an interesting opportunity to travel meanwhile the books I’ve been reading have also had me thinking err.. more aptly..NOT thinking and just “Being” in the “NOW” and witnessing “my” ego as an object of Awareness.

To begin…I have now confirmed my trip and I’m starting to get excited about it.  Long story short, a good friend of mine from high school is doing some bicycle/train tourism research and wanted someone to join him in his adventure …and who would rise to this occasion?  Yours truly (that is, the ego that is manifesting “Sebastian” along with the unconditioned ground of all Being too of course). 
So we’ve selected our destination.. we’re flying into Munich where we will adjust ourselves to the time difference while injesting copious amounts of German beer and dining on German cuisine.(I sure hope they have vegetarian wursts or I’ll be living on sauerkraut..mmm.. sauerkraut, but I feel sorry for the people that wind up biking behind me).

From Munich,  we are hopping on a train to Linz in northern Austria where we will travel towards Vienna along the well established bike route which traverses along side the Danube River.  Small towns, wine country, valleys, mountains, monastaries, a good friend, excercise, Nature and of course yoga  (I’ve even bought a little travel yoga mat/towel so I can get in some asana practice to open up the body during our breaks and after riding). 

It sounds wonderful doesn’t it?.. but wait, there I go, identifying with thoughts of the future and craving. I should just BE this consciousness that is aware of the thinking and the typing of this sentence.  The future does not exist as there is only the ever present NOW.

Non-Dual and Power of Now jokes aside.

Travelling is truly a spiritual experience and opportunity for growth. 

Most of my friends, if not all of my friends seem to share the same sentiments…but what is it about travelling that is so inspiring and often so spiritual?

Well, I alluded to it above… there seem to be moments of  No Ego, No Past, No Future… only NOW. 

I’ve travelled quite extensively through Europe and also good little bit in Central and South America, and so I am using these experiences for my examples.

First of all, I feel that with travel comes a total warping of time.  Once we get over the intial jet lag and start to let go of all the “stuff” we left behind at home, “watch time” becomes less and less important (except on those days you need to catch a train or a bus of course:) 

The past and future become smaller increments of time. You’re not thinking about next week, or “is it Friday yet?”.. you are living more in tune with the body/mind in the Present.  Instead of thinking about the birthday party two weeks from now, your thoughts just naturally turn to finding something to eat.. why? because your stomach is rumbling.  You start to feel tired, you begin to think of where you can rest or sleep. Other than that, your thoughts are absorbed in the experience of that moment.

You realize you don’t have to be anywhere but where you already are.  If you’re on the beach reading and two hours go by, so be it.  If you are walking through the main town square and happen to get somewhat lost, so be it.  We keep walking, looking and somehow almost intuitively we eventually find our way. The path we took may not be the most logical, the fastest, or the one that most people would take..but aside from the sore feet it’s usually very rewarding.

side note: In the case of actually getting lost..this can get tricky and admittedly if this happens it takes longer for men to figure it out.  It’s probably safe to say us men don’t have a map and even if we know the language we probably won’t ask for directions).

Secondly when travelling, we pay more attention to our environment,  We are more mindful, alert and watchful. 

Out of the confines of our regular morning routines, the “same” old sights and sounds, food,  travel routes,  family and job functions, we start to notice the little things. The flowers, the laundry hanging off the balconies and the intricately carved frames around the doors.   We spot the differences in the way things work, the way people walk and talk.  We start to become aware of our own cultural conditioning and  the culture surrounding us.  The old adage “when in Rome” starts to materialize in this openess. The uniqueness of the experience allows us let go of regular conventions, habits and conditioning or in the least, we can begin to recognize what those habits are.  

Of course, a healthy portion of this mindfullness is also a survival instinct..if we’re not sure what to do or how to do it..we copy the people around us.
 ”Oh, I see that they use this electronic ticket stamper when getting on the bus, hmm, I’ll do the same.  2 seconds later.. sheesh, I’m glad I did that since ticket checkers or ticket control are coming around”

I also think that an intuition or our “spidey sense” becomes a little bit more pronounced here and starts tingling when it should.. “Hmm…this area of town seems to carry a little bit of an energy that I don’t feel comfortable with, I think I need to head out back this way”

I enjoy this type of stimulation as my mind can then be used as a tool for dealing with a specific situation the way it was meant to be. Instead of this dull, heavy thing that just seems to kick around the same old thoughts and images, it becomes sharper, faster.. and at the same time it’s presence is not so overbearing allowing the intuition to speak and to be heard. 

What about the interpersonal experience? Our cocky ego tends to leave us high and dry and often feeling very vulnerable when we encounter strange situations without the use, or minimal use of language.  Again, this is also a very profound experience as we realize how much Language constructs the nature of our “reality”  and yet, once that reality is diminished what takes it’s place?  A common human experience maybe?  Here, subtle body language, energy, compassion can help us navigate our way through.  The connection that can occur between two people that transcends words is very touching. Perhaps, I have just been very fortunate in my travels, but I found just exchanging glances, smiles and basic sign language with the “locals” to be so enlightening.  The lines that are so often clearly drawn in many societies starts fading… rich or poor, country or big city.. it doesn’t matter.

I won’t lie though.. especially when travelling alone.. there were moments that seemed quite intense,.. rather scary to be honest.  I wasn’t sure where to go, what to do, I basically thought I was  F*&%d. I remember one moment in particular, I won’t go into details, but I was getting quite concerned that I was going to be trapped in a foreign city, with no money, no transporation, no food, etc..  But what happened? I  surrendered.. I gave up.  I was tired and hungry and I just didn’t have the energy to think of any other alternatives or worry about any more worst case scenarios.

It was at that moment that everything took a strange turn….I happened to come across some good samaritans disguised in wolf’s clothing (two young, loud,  American frat boy types ;). They all of a sudden took on the form of Buddhas with something special to offer.  But they didn’t appear as Buddhas just because they wound up helping me get some food and a much needed train ticket.  No, they became Buddhas because they helped me realize that just moments ago I was feeling despair but in letting go things changed.  All things change. Obnoxious young American tourists one second little Buddhas the next.    I humbly accepted their charity of food, beer and some cash without feeling the egoic sense of pride. 

As karma would have it, I was also able to offer them help too.. my basic understanding of the city, the language, plus overall travel experiences helped them find a place to stay, some fun things to do, and a good connection to their next desination. Hopefully, I also imparted a bit of travel common sense that despite being Buddhas they seemed to completely lack.  :)
Speaking of Buddhas, perhaps the notion of Reincarnation (in it’s many forms) can also be looked using the insights gained from from travelling?
It doesn’t have to be about a transmigration of some soul or energy or karmic habits, after can just be the incarnation of a new perspective or worldview right here and right now.

This brings to mind a quote that I really like…

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Auf wiedersehen!!

May all beings be happy and travel well!!