In Sakyong Mipham’s book, Turning the Mind Into an Ally, he likens training the human brain to taming a wild horse. Since the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day, it’s no wonder we can sometimes feel as if our minds are under attack, especially when negative thoughts raid the shores of our consciousness. Similar to a cowboy riding a bucking bronco, imagine every kick of the horse’s powerful legs as an equally powerful thought invading the halls of your awareness, nonstop, basically forever.
When the Mind Attacks!
As a stroke survivor, I have experienced this form of mental agony in a way that only a small percentage of the population has. Other than the physical side effect of losing sight on my right peripheral, there were other psychological issues that began to wreak havoc on my mental fortitude as well. At the time of the stroke, I was working in finance in New York City and after returning to work only a couple short weeks post-stroke, I found it incredibly difficult to perform tasks that I was once able to handle with ease.
I found myself thinking crazy thoughts that held no merit whatsoever! At one point I thought that I would be living on the streets because I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job and that no one would want to be around me because I was now mentally challenged and that I should just kill myself so that I wouldn’t be a burden on anyone. Looking back on it now, I’m able to laugh at the absurdity of these beliefs, but at the time they were very real. Truly at this dark corner of my life, my mind had become the greatest adversary I have ever encountered. The details of this story can be found here: CE Article: I Was Living The “American Dream” Then Had A Stroke At Age 30 & It Turned My Life Around
Long story short, I searched for and found a way to regain control of my thoughts so that I could live out the rest of my days in the driver seat of my own life. So much time I had wasted worrying and stressing out about the possibility of worst-case scenario outcomes instead of working to reclaim my power and my rightful position as the architect of my own future.
Insight from Masters of the Mind
Penor Rinpoche once told Sakyong Mipham “Life is more difficult if you worry. It’s better to deal with things as they come up.” This was one of the great lessons for me in Turning the Mind Into an Ally. Spending time dwelling on what MAY be instead of working to create what WILL be is just ridiculous to me now.
For those looking to assist others in developing their minds so that they can work in their favor, think about it as riding a horse.
“We don’t tame such a strong majestic creature by beating the spirit out of it. Instead, we work with its raw power and turn that energy in a certain direction.” ~ Sakyong Mipham
What if we all worked together to offer a helping hand to those in need instead of imposing our will and unwarranted personal beliefs on them? How would our planet change? Perhaps this could turn karma to our favor one day when the timing is right.
“When we live life in service to ourselves, our life force naturally diminishes. Until all beings achieve the level of a Buddha, I hope to be courageous in working for the happiness of others. This expresses the motivation of the Bodhisattva warrior, one who vows to develop his enlightened mind in order to help others. Generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and wisdom keep turning our mind to enlightenment like a flower seeking sunlight.”~ Sakyong Mipham
Make Your Mind A Powerful Ally
In this world moving forward with technological advances at an exponential rate, we too must work harder than ever to evolve at a soul-deep level. We humans are good by nature. The instinct to help each other is hardwired in our DNA, but an injured person cannot help another injured person. For those who want to help others, you must first help yourself, and to help yourself, there’s no better place to start than with your mind!
“The mind can be a powerful ally or your greatest enemy.” ~ Katara, Avatar: The Last Air Bender.
My name is Cristina Marie Navaretta and yoga literally saved my life. I now dedicate that life to sharing the gifts I have been given by my teachers with others.
Born in a small town in Arizona, USA, my adolescent years were rife with teenage rebellion, abusing drugs and numbing myself from emotions.
After college, I traded one addiction for another; climbing the corporate ladder became my new drug, my way to find purpose, identity, and respect. My empathic nature and my tendencies to organize and take charge in group settings helped me to quickly move up the corporate ladder. At 21, I was the manager of a large banking center and by 26 was leading large territories worth billions.
I had done it. I had reached the summit of success; I had more money than any single girl could need: fancy car, fancy houses, luxurious vacations, and any material possession my heart could desire.
I also had a gaping hole in my soul: I was trapped, disconnected, and anxiety-ridden.
This lifestyle took its toll on my health when I was diagnosed with 3 autoimmune conditions: Fibromyalgia, Systemic Lupus, and Schrogren’s Syndrome. I spent many months bedridden and immobile with joints so sore and stiff I could hardly grab a pencil. The traditional solution was a series of very intense medication treatments, which caused major side effects that I then needed more medication to address. After several months of this science experiment, I felt hopeless, completely defined and controlled by my illnesses.
My soul and my body were crying out for attention, but my mind was not ready to let go of my lifestyle; it’s where I had derived my purpose and sense of self.
A friend suggested yoga. Starting with only the most restorative postures and eventually building strength and mobility, I built my practice from the ground up, learning to cultivate self love, acceptance and non judgment.
During a Kundalini practice, I had an ineffable experience where something shifted deep within me and altered the course of my life entirely. I felt a deeper understanding of who I truly was, and what I truly desired.
After this realization, I became the ultimate student, spending much of my free time immersed in yogic and spiritual communities. I simply could not sign up for enough courses, lectures, workshops & classes. I began traveling to seek out various spiritual centers. I was searching to learn about and experience yogic philosophy, but it resulted in me learning mostly about myself.
What I learned was that I was ready to leap. I obtained my 200 hr YTTC at Shoshoni Ashram and later my 500 RYT at Yandara Yoga Institute. I began traveling to, volunteering at, and seeking out yoga communities, ashrams, and spiritual centers around the world.
Eventually I came to run a holistic healing center in Oaxaca, Mexico called The Sanctuary and later became the director of a yoga school in Koh Phanghan, Thailand called Samma Karuna where I managed the development and launch of new yoga teacher trainings and workshop programs; and further, innovated and implemented systems to support the growth they had experienced.
This story, my yoga story, is just beginning. I am grateful to my many teachers and soul tribe who have inspired and motivated me on my journey. My passion now is to inspire others to apply their practice on and off the mat, connect with themselves, and recognize that whatever they are searching for, exists within.
One night in the early days of my six-month tenure managing a holistic healing retreat center in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico, our community gathered as we always do for the evening activity. This evening’s activity focused on a discussion of the ten spiritual realms. The person sharing his knowledge on the subject was a short Italian traveler and devout Buddhist named Lorenzo.
His claim to fame at the retreat center was being voted most likely to be found chanting the mantra: “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō”, which means “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” or “Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law.” In his words: “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō is a vow, an expression of determination, to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their own lives and achieve happiness.” This is the central mantra chanted within all forms of Nichiren Buddhism and Tendai Buddhism. The practice of prolonged chanting is referred to as shōdai while the purpose of chanting daimoku is to reduce sufferings by eradicating negative karma along with reducing karmic punishments both from previous and present lifetimes, with the goal to attain perfect and complete awakening. Sometimes he would be found chanting this mantra for hours at a time. This was his “thing” and we loved him for it!
In the very beginning of his talk he looked at each of us wide-eyed and asked the group: “Has anyone here ever been in hell?” I looked around the room and after a few seconds of waiting, slowly raised my hand. Without hesitation, he looked me directly in the eyes and said “Good! Now you can help others get out.” There are few things that people have said to me throughout my life that I know will stay with me forever; this was one of them. So began our intro to the ten spiritual realms.
The 10 Spiritual Realms as described by Nichiren Daishonin are listed below. Broken into two parts, the first six (Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity & Heaven) are derived from the Indian concept of the six realms of rebirth. Above these lie the four holy states (Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva & Buddhahood)
Ten Spiritual Realms:
Hell or Jigokudō: A state of suffering and despair in which we perceive we have no freedom of action. It is characterized by the impulse to destroy ourselves and everything around us. It is also commonly referred to being in s state of mind completely absent of hope and being unable to construct our future in our minds.
Hunger, Hungry Ghosts or Pretas: The state of being controlled by insatiable desire for money, power, status etc. While desires are inherent in any of the Ten Worlds, in this state we are at the mercy of our cravings and cannot control them.
Animality, Beasts or Chikushōdō: In this state, we are ruled by instinct with neither reason nor moral sense nor the ability to make long-range judgments. We operate by the law of the jungle and will not hesitate to take advantage of those weaker than ourselves and fawn on those who are stronger.
Anger, Titans, Asuras or Shuradō: Here, awareness of ego emerges, but it is a selfish, greedy, distorted ego, determined to best others at all costs and seeing everything as a potential threat to itself. In this state we value only ourselves and tend to hold others in contempt.
Humanity or Jindō (also known as Tranquility): This is a flat, passive state of life, from which we can easily shift into the lower four worlds. While we may generally behave in a humane fashion in this state, we are highly vulnerable to strong external influences.
Heaven: This is a state of intense joy stemming, for example, from the fulfillment of some desire, a sense of physical well being, or inner contentment. Though intense, the joy experienced in this state is short-lived and also vulnerable to external influences.
Learning, Śrāvaka or Shōmon: In this state, we seek the truth through studying the teachings or experience of others.
Realization, Pratyekabuddha or Engaku: In this state we seek the truth not through others’ teachings but through our own direct perception of the world.
Bodhisattva or Bosatsu: Those who aspire to achieve enlightenment and at the same time are equally determined to enable all other beings to do the same. Conscious of the bonds that link us to all others, in this state we realize that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete, and we devote ourselves to alleviating others’ suffering. Those in this state find their greatest satisfaction in altruistic behavior.
Buddhahood: A dynamic state that is difficult to describe. We can partially describe it as a state of perfect freedom, in which we are enlightened to the ultimate truth of life. It is characterized by infinite compassion and boundless wisdom. In this state, we can resolve harmoniously what appear from the standpoint of the nine worlds to be insoluble contradictions. A Buddhist sutra describes the attributes of the Buddha’s life as a true self, perfect freedom from karmic bonds throughout eternity, a life purified of illusion, and absolute happiness.
Be Your Own Guru:
Personally, I feel that understanding the difference between each of these realms and integrating the lessons learned by visiting them all can inspire rapid personal growth. As someone who has set out on a seemingly unending quest for personal and spiritual development years ago, I have learned quite a few things in my travels. One of the greatest lessons was how to truly listen to others, but ensure that their thoughts don’t become my own unless they align with my personal truth. In my experience, individuals who lack control over their own emotions and actions tend to feel the need to push their own ideas, agendas and influences onto others. When it comes to giving advice, I appreciate Tony Robbins’ approach on this subject. As he would say, “I am not your guru”, but if talking with me can help you realize what steps you need to take in order to better your own life without harming others, then great! I’m not you. I have no idea what you’re going through, but if I can assist in removing mental blockages to get you to where you need to become your own guru, then that’s a beautiful thing.
Learning Through Suffering:
It is essential to take some time and look at the positive aspect of suffering. The creative forces inside each and every one of us seem to be activated when we are experiencing difficult times. Have you ever wondered why you prefer the earlier work of your favorite musicians? Did you ever think maybe it has to do with the fact that they were “hungry artists”, channeling their own pain and utilizing it as a source of creativity while desperately trying to make their mark on the music scene? Once I realized this a while back, I always make sure to look for the lesson to learn and wonder how I can use that seemingly negative energy to create something beautiful in times of despair.
We will constantly revisit these realms, sometimes many of them throughout the course of a single day or even only a few hours. Just because we’ve previously attained the higher spiritual worlds doesn’t mean we won’t revisit the other lower ones later on in life. By developing a deeper understanding of these states of mind, we are better equipped to conquer them.
What Makes Someone “Spiritual?”
So let’s say that you meditate and do yoga daily, you pray for the well being of others, you don’t eat meat, you go to farmers markets, buy locally sourced produce, wear conscious-made sustainable clothing, have a vast collection of Lumerian Quartz Crystals for your shrine, have full moon ceremonies with your soul tribe and attend Burning Man every year. Does that make you spiritual? Not exactly, at least not in my opinion. These are however things that many people do as part of their spiritual path. However for me, spirituality is defined simply being someone whose highest priority is to love themself and others. That’s it. If you do all the aforementioned things, but you’re still an asshole to other people, sorry but you’re doing it wrong.
The basic principles of spirituality are at the core of every religion and often referred to as the “Golden Rule.” It has been taught for millennia and is most well known in the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them undo to you.” Nothing has changed from this Golden Rule other than the verbiage as you can see in the diagram below.
At the end of the day, I view truly spiritual people as those who have been through hell themselves and want nothing more than to help others get out because they know what it’s like. These are beings that help others with humility and don’t allow a self-serving ego to subsist within their being. Killing the ego is not a phrase I like to use. The ego is part of our personality and who we are as human beings, however we must keep it in check to ensure that it exists to serve us so that we may serve others. Now that’s being spiritual as fuck!
Apparently surviving a stroke that took half my eyesight and almost killed me would turn out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. Before I get into how all that transpired, I need to give a little background on how it got to that point.
Growing up, my parents took the same approach to life that most people growing up in the United States could relate to. Their plan for my three younger siblings and me was simple: Go to school and get good grades so you can go to a good college. Then get a good job and make a lot of money so you can have nice things and then you’ll be happy. This was the mantra that I, like many other kids in the U.S., grew up with; the American Dream. I followed the guidelines and my years of hard work finally paid off when I landed a job working for a Fortune 500 company in Rockefeller Center, Manhattan.
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a professional businessman. I wanted to wear nice suits, work in an office with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, dine in fancy restaurants, and date women outside of my Long Island gene pool. Each of these I had achieved more and more year after year as I slowly clawed my way up the corporate ladder. One job change, a couple moves from Long Island to Queens then the Upper West side of Manhattan, a few raises and promotions after almost a decade in the corporate finance realm, and I finally got to the point where I felt like I had “made it.”
However, when I got to that point I still wasn’t completely satisfied. In fact, I only wanted more. Then I saw an opportunity to move further up in the ranks when my director informed me that she would be leaving the company. This was the opportunity I was waiting for! I asked for and received more responsibility along with a sizeable increase to my salary. This eventually transpired into a “be careful what you wish for” situation. In the coming months I felt the responsibilities and workload piling up with no relief in sight. So began the silent war within myself that would lead to the event that shattered all that I had built for myself my entire life.
I worked longer and harder than I ever had in order to prove myself. In doing so, my life became completely imbalanced with the scale always weighted toward work. Over the next six months my stress and anxiety levels were higher than ever trying to keep up with my new workload, as the company had not yet found a suitable replacement to fill the empty role in the finance department. My mind began to turn against me and I felt as if I were stuck in the trenches of my work-related stress even when I left the office. Luckily at this point I was about to go on vacation with my girlfriend at the time to visit her parents, who had retired to a small village in Mexico. It was my first time visiting the country and I was delighted by the relaxed and care-free attitude of the locals and blown away by the beautiful beaches and nature that I immersed myself in. This was the vacation I needed! But all good things must come to an end, so on New Year’s Day 2014, we were dropped off at the airport to head back to New York City, or so we thought.
At the airline service counter, I was handed my boarding pass to return home. In that exact moment, I felt a sharp pain on my left temple like I had never experienced before in my life. I shut my eyes, grabbed my head, and let out a grunt. When I opened them, half my vision was gone and everything was blurry. Something was very wrong. I let my girlfriend know what was happening and that I was pretty sure I was having a stroke. I told her to get an ambulance immediately. I lay down where I was, drank some water, and began vomiting as my body convulsed on the floor of the airport. As the paramedics arrived, I began to feel a tingling sensation run throughout the right side of my body and I was starting to lose control of basic motor functions and consciousness. It was in this moment that for the first time in my life I thought to myself, “I might die.” I’ve been afraid before, but nothing could compare to the feeling I had on the floor of the airport on New Year’s Day 2014. The paramedics hooked me up to an IV and took me to the nearest hospital, which was luckily just down the road from the airport.
I was fortunate to survive with only having partial vision loss and no nerve damage. It was only when returning to New York would I realize the cause of my brain injury. The doctors at Cornell discovered a hole (PFO) inside my heart, which caused the blood clot in my brain. Not too longer after diagnosis, I was on the operating table in Columbia Hospital to remedy the situation. I never thought I’d be having heart surgery in my early thirties. My, how life is full of surprises!
Readjusting to city life after a stroke and heart surgery was by no means easy. At first, it was really bad. I had trouble physically getting around the crowded streets of New York City with only half my eyesight. My personality had changed drastically, as I had become more solemn. My relationships with my girlfriend, family, friends, and co-workers had all shifted to some awkward place that I was unfamiliar with, each in their own way. Invoking intimacy was not what it used to be, as my sex drive was stuck in first gear. I was nowhere near as fun and positive as I used to be when hanging out with friends and family. I had difficulty focusing so my performance at work suffered a great deal as well. My weekly therapy sessions proved to help temporarily, but my mind would constantly return to dark places. After a year of living this new life as a man I was no longer familiar with and didn’t even want to be around, the thoughts of leaving the planet began to cross my mind for the first time ever. That really scared me, so I did something I promised myself I would never do: go on medication.
I went on antidepressants and was also given Xanax that I was instructed to take only when my anxiety levels become unbearable. After just a few days, I levelled out. My depression was gone and my anxiety was non-existent. There was just one little problem: I didn’t really feel anything. Everything was just “fine.” If something good happened, my emotional response was “That’s fine.” Something bad happened? Also fine. At first I was so glad to have rid myself of crippling depression and anxiety that I was satisfied with living as a flesh-covered robot. That lasted only a couple of months. After a while I saw that I was rapidly dismantling into a highly functioning soulless drone. Was this better than living as the strung-out anxiety-ridden person I was before? Were there no other options for me to choose for continuing on with my life?
After picking up my prescription pills for the third month in a row, I hit the gym and when I got home later that evening, I realized they had slipped out of a hole in the bottom of my gym bag. I took this as a sign and decided to try going off of my meds cold-turkey. I fought through the withdrawals following the first few days then started to feel really human again. At this point in time, it was a little over a year after I survived the stroke and it became abundantly clear that I had a choice between pushing on with the usual day to day or maintaining my sanity. I chose my sanity. It was early 2015 when I officially decided I would quit my job to travel and figure things out somewhere else in the world. I immediately began downsizing my life. Most of my possessions were sold, donated, given away, or put in storage. With each item that left my possession, I felt physically and emotionally lighter, as if I were dropping off weights I had been carrying on my shoulders for years. That’s when I began the journey that would change my life forever.
In the summer of 2015 I bought an RV and my girlfriend, dog, and I decided to leave the corporate world behind and start anew in Mexico. After three months, a ten thousand mile road trip, and just over a month living together in the foreign country, it became apparent to us that our relationship of over three years was not going to work any longer. After it sunk in that everything we were planning for the future fell apart, I was completely lost. At least when I was in New York I had the comfort and stability of my job, family, friends, home country, and a language I was fluent in. Now I fell into yet another dark place, but not for long! I was determined to make the best of my situation, so I grabbed a backpack and began solo travelling for the first time in my life!
In the first month, I was just winging it and hopping on buses to the next stop on the backpacker trail of mid-western Mexico. This was a great experience where I met tons of friendly locals, expats, and travellers from all over the world. For the next phase of my travels, I decided to do a bit more planning. I was still hurting from my break-up and needed some physical, mental, and spiritual healing. So the next phase of my trip included an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Pueblo Mágico of Tepoztlán. My experience with Ayahuasca was very introspective and I kept receiving the same message over and over again: “You are on the right path.”
Next was a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Coatepec, Veracruz, another Pueblo Mágico. This was one of the most difficult yet profoundly enlightening experiences I’ve ever gone through. Ten days of being silent and meditating for eleven hours a day really helped silence my mind and take control of my thoughts and actions.
The last stop in my second walkabout was a month-long work exchange stay at a holistic healing retreat center called The Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Here it took just a few days at for me to realize that the Ayahuasca was right. I was on the right path! I learned new meditation techniques, was doing yoga every day, got a crash course on preparing meals for a high-raw vegan lifestyle, and shared the community house with extraordinary people from all walks of life. We worked, chanted, communed in nighttime ceremonies, shared our most intimate thoughts and feelings, and even cried together. This was exactly what I needed! Not too long after arriving, I ended up joining the team as general manager and The Sanctuary became my home for the next six months. During that time, I helped guide dozens of people through that chapter of their life’s journey, an experience I’ll never forget! It was here where I learned that truly spiritual people are those who have been through hell and have the overwhelming desire to help others out of their own versions of it.
After The Sanctuary, I was presented with the ultimate traveler moneymaking opportunity: trimming marijuana in Northern California, so I took it. I spent the next two months hunched over a table as a pot hairdresser. Once again, it was the people I was surrounded by that made the experience a memorable one. Nothing helps the time fly like sharing stories, listening to our favorite music, and laughing together around the fireplace at night when our fingers needed to rest.
With California in my rear-view, I made a stop in New York to visit friends and family before heading to Puerto Rico. This was the home of a girl I fell in love with during my time in Mexico. The connection we forged during our short time together was different than any other in my entire life. It was based on a love and respect for who the other person was at their core as opposed to who we wanted them to be. Though the relationship would not continue after my visit, she without a doubt raised the bar in my ongoing search for a partner in life.
Once again I was leaving a piece of my heart behind and continued on with my travel journey! I flew into Cancún and worked my way slowly back to the beach city that helped heal my heart better than any other: Puerto Escondido. This trip was more about the journey than the destination for sure. In the Yucatan peninsula I witnessed and scaled massive ancient Mayan pyramids. While in Tulum I participated in a beautiful and emotional peyote ceremony where I took an even deeper look into the inner workings of my mind. In Palenque, I became one with nature after consuming the local magical mushrooms and bathing in the jungle’s mystical waterfalls near the ruins. As usual, sharing these experiences with travel mates amplified my experience. At this point I was a certified travel junky and never wanted it to end! Good thing I was going to nest in a beach paradise and backpacking hotspot.
Back in Puerto Escondido, I stayed in a Vivo Escondido Hostel for a month until I found a
long-term rental. You guessed it… more awesome people!
I ended up at a gorgeous newly-constructed two-story house where I would spend the next six months pursuing passions that I had been neglecting for years. I learned to surf, explored the local natural beauty, focused on healthy living, caught up on my travel blog, wrote a few articles, DJed at multiple venues, and made sure to enjoy every day as best I could. Mexico gave me the opportunity to let me live my life the way I wanted to for a while without any judgment, and for that I am forever grateful.
Just a few months ago, I took a two and a half week visa-run/vacation to Guatemala to visit my friend Luke Maguire Armstrong in San Marcos. He and I met while I was managing the Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido the year before and ever since becoming friends, I grew ever more curious of his work with a school for impoverished children in Antigua, Guatemala. I spent my first two weeks immersing myself in the raw beauty of the active volcano communities surrounding Lake Atitlán where he lived. Here I would partake in yoga, cacao ceremonies, ecstatic dance at the Yoga Forest, and even Bhakti singing at The Fungi Academy. All activities of course were shared with new and exciting traveller friends of various nationalities. For the finale of my stay, I even booked myself a DJ gig at Bar Sublime, a quick ten-minute boat ride across the lake to San Pedro.
After bidding farewell to my new friends I met on the lake, Luke and I headed to Antigua to visit the Integral Heart Foundation’s school. Though I had been helping remotely with fundraising efforts for months before visiting, actually meeting the children I was helping made it much more personal for me. It was incredibly heartwarming to actually see the children in person, knowing the adverse environment they had come from not too long ago. None of them were going to school and many were forced to rummage through garbage dumps for pennies a day due to difficult circumstances. No wonder these were the happiest school kids I had ever met in my life!
A couple days later, I said goodbye to Luke and the kids to return to Puerto Escondido. However, when I got back a shift happened within me and I slipped into another depression. I began to question what I really wanted and needed in my life. I missed my friends and family back home and my funds were starting to run low. After a month of self-reflection, I decided it was time to return to New York.
So now I have come full circle… kind of. Over the course of a little more than two years I have had more adventures and experienced more of what this incredible world has to offer than most people do their entire lives. It’s comical for me to look back at all that happened, remember living in my own personal hell for so long, and to see how far I’ve come since those times of intense despair. It was like a mental quicksand; the more I struggled, the deeper I would sink into it. Of all the lessons I’ve learned, my greatest one is probably this: My mind can be my worst enemy or greatest ally. In the end, I am the one who gets to choose which one it will be. I had to journey into the unknown and experience life firsthand to personally integrate this lesson myself. My experiences and the hundreds of connections I made along the way were what really saved my life. Without them, I don’t even want to begin to think about where I would be right now. I still have no vision on my right peripheral, but I can once again see a beautiful future for myself, something I had lost immediately following the stroke.
In over two years of traveling I have had many revelations, but none more important than this: At the very core of my being, I am a traveler. It is one of the few things in life that makes me feel truly alive. By traveling, I saw for myself that so much of what I thought I knew about foreign cultures was wrong until I experienced them firsthand.
Meeting people from all corners of the Earth gave me a new perspective on life. I realized that although we may have been born thousands of miles away, were raised in completely different cultures, and in many instances didn’t speak the same native tongue, none of us were that different from each other. In fact, many of us were on our own personal quests searching for a deeper meaning in life.
Living and working in New York City for a decade had put me in contact with people from all over the world. This, however, was completely different from my experiences traveling, as most Manhattanites had found their way and were usually more focused on their careers than soul-searching. In my personal experiences with the people I’ve encountered, those who travel are seekers, searching for something that was missing in their lives back home. For me, I was missing a greater purpose, something that my fundraising efforts with the Integral Heart Family in Guatemala fulfills.
The best part of my story called life thus far is that it is nowhere close to being complete. I still have many more chapters to write, thousands of new characters to meet, and countless adventures to experience. In over two years of travel, the greatest gifts I have received were the connections I have made with my soul tribe from all corners of the Earth. I left New York to heal myself and find a higher purpose and I feel that I have accomplished these goals. In my experience living over thirty-four years on this planet, I have found no greater healer than creating deep and meaningful connections with other souls. This lesson I promised myself to follow through with and spread to as many other people as possible. What better place to continue this journey than New York!
It’s been a while since my last travel blog and I’m definitely skipping over months of my journeys in 2017. I’ll get to them at some point, so bare with me.
Fast forward a half a dozen months since I flew into Cancun back in late January and my 180 day Mexico tourist visa was about to expire so I needed to leave Mexico for a bit. What better excuse to go and visit the neighboring country of Guatemala! Luckily for me, my friend Luke lives in a house overlooking the mile-high Lake Atitlán in the active volcano town of San Marcos, Guatemala. It’s good to have friends in high places!
After the 12 hour overnight bus ride to San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, I stayed at the most recommended hostel from my fellow travelers: Hostal Puerta Viaja. It’s basically an enormous re-purposed colonial mansion located in the heart of the city. Every night they have a very affordable dinner available for their guests as well as nighttime musical entertainment in house.
My stay in San Cristobal this time around was short lived as I had booked a 5:30am bus ride to Panahachel, Guatemala the next morning so I could be in San Marcos before nightfall.
After arriving in Panajachel, the main port of Lake Atitlán, I immediately hopped on a boat to San Marcos to meet my friend Luke at his home, Lush Atitlán, on the lake.
SO… WHO IS LUKE?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself since he and I met back in the summer of 2016. I’ve heard and seen bits and pieces of his life and the more I get to know about him, the more interesting of a human being he becomes. He’s traveled to over forty countries, helped with the Founding of the Integral Heart Foundation and written multiple books; one of which is a novel he’s been working on over the past few years and was nearly finished with it by the time of my visit.
Below is a photo of him working on his current passion project, a novel entitled “Jerry the Hamster”.
Needless to say he has a unique writing technique.
He and I first met a little over a year ago while I was general manager of The Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido. One morning, he walked in to our 6:45am meditation session with an expression on his face that I knew all too well. Without revealing any intimate details of his life, I’ll simply say that he was going through a difficult relationship situation. Over the past decade of my life, I too have visited the same realm of despair and heartache more often than I’d like to admit. We became fast friends and have been following each other’s adventures in life ever since. Seeing his new home on the Lake in San Marcos and his work with the Integral Heart Foundation made me grow curious of who this guy really was and his vision regarding how he lives his life. While exponentially more people have been reaching out to me lately on how I have drastically transitioned from the corporate life to traveling and living abroad, I have been looking to Luke for my own guidance. I couldn’t think of a better way to truly understand a person than by living in their world for a while; so I did… and I was not disappointed.
MY FIRST FULL DAY ON LAKE ATITLÁN
“THE DAY OUT OF TIME”
I woke up early to meditate by the lake before venturing out. Around 9:00am there was a knock at the door. When Luke opened it, he was greeted by his friend Niels who joyfully exclaimed “Today is the day out of time!” Both perplexed, we pushed him for clarification. So he explained:
“The Day out of Time” is always synchronized with July 25th. Based on The Galactic Calendar, this is the 365th day of the year, but this day is no day of the month, and no day of the week. This is a day for sacred pause and celebration before the dawning of The Galactic New Year which is always July 26th!
Obviously the timing of my visit to the lake could not be better. So… how does one respond to news like this? You invite the man in for a joint and a guitar/drum circle of course! Not a bad start to the day out of time in my opinion. The rest of my day refused to disappoint as well.
Afterward Luke and I headed to Circles Cafe and Hostel to satisfy our munchies and my caffeine addiction. This incredible place was the logical next stop in our journey through the day out of time. I love my coffee, so having the below setting as my place to enjoy it only magnified my sipping experience.
After our food and my caffeine needs were satisfied, we wandered through the town meeting Luke’s friends, practiced counting to 10 in Mayan with the local children and catching up on all that’s been happening in our lives since we met last year. While exploring this new city, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the incredible artistry at every turn.
Later on that evening, we headed to an outdoor improv class hosted by a friend of Luke’s.
To end the night, we had dinner at a restaurant that also happened to have a temezcal-like sauna. We went in for four doors, three of which lasted for 108 chants of our favorite mantras.
That more or less sums up the activities in our day out of time.
The following day was more productive and less eventful as I spent most of my time doing work for my recently launched business concept: P2P Puerto Escondido. Being in such a gorgeous and relaxing setting was perfect for me to put all my focus into the finishing touches for the company launch party back on August 12th.
The day after began with a fun twist on two very relaxing past-times/hobbies. It was called “Marijuana Yoga”. I don’t think I need to explain how this works, but just in case, I’ve provided a simple flow chart below.
Smoke marijuana -> Do Yoga -> Acquire food and coffee afterward
Not too long after coffee and breakfast, I received a message from my friend Miguel from Spain that I met several months earlier in Puerto Escondido while staying in Vivo Escondido Hostel. His message was pretty simple. See photo and caption below.
Are you here?
SAN PEDRO (PART 1)
He just left San Marcos and was across the Lake in San Pedro. Being that I planned on heading over there at some point, I figured, why not now? The fun thing about being on the lake is that anytime you want to go to a different town, all you need to do is head over to the dock and wait 20 minutes or less for the next boat to come around. So I took the 6:00pm boat to San Marcos and checked in to Mikaso Hotel y Restaurante. When Miguel told me there was a jacuzzi on the roof I was sold.
Real quick thing to note before I go any further. San Marcos is the chill/hippie/spiritual/mindful/zen town on the lake while San Pedro is the party town. I do enjoy balance in my life. That evening we went for dinner and drinks at Bar Sublime, which is in a gorgeous location surrounded by local flora right on the lake. Shortly after we finished dinner, the DJ started playing. Long story short, I was both buzzed off the beer and displeased with the music so I inquired with the bartender regarding any openings for a DJ next weekend. He pointed me in the right direction and boom… I’m hired for next Friday.
The next day was spent relaxing in the rooftop hot tub and wandering around the city before returning to San Marcos.
BACK TO SAN MARCOS
After staying at Luke’s place for my first few nights, I decided to try out some new scenery… for less than $10/night why not? I stayed down the road in Hostel San Marcos for a couple nights. In a word: ‘meh’. Afterwards I checked myself into Hostal del Lago, it was easy to see that’s where I’d be spending the remainder of my time in San Marcos.
With an incredible staff, yoga available several times a day, fun night time group activities like drum circles, movie night, live music and karaoke, it is clear why this is the best hostel in San Marcos… possibly the best one on the lake. Oh, did I mention the views?
Aside from the place itself, it definitely attracted some incredibly interesting travelers with whom I made fast friends with. One of which was a traveling photographer from Chechnya who I was lucky enough to get some free professional DJ head shots from in an incredible setting.
Another was a traveling guitarist from Detroit. He and another hostel guest had a jam session one night. Good times.😎
The day after checking in to Hostel del Lago, Luke asked me “Do you want to go to a cacao ceremony and ecstatic dance a little ways up the mountain?” Since he has been living on the lake for about seven months at this point, he has become quite privy to the more interesting happenings in the area. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot regarding proper traveling. My preferred method is most definitely having a friend that you met and connected well with in your travels that now lives in the place you want to visit. I highly recommend doing this whenever possible.
The day began with a visually stunning half hour trek up the mountain to the Yoga Forest. I had no expectations on what this place would look like before going, but if I did they would have been surpassed.
Upon arrival, we were each handed our cup of hot cacao and sat in a circle with the rest of the group as ambient music played in the background. After a while, people rose from their sitting positions and started moving slowly to the music. The cacao was kicking in! Soon enough the group of roughly 30 people started dancing in tribal-like fashion to the music for several hours.
Everything was more enjoyable than I imagined it would be. A combination of the natural high from the cacao, being half way up a mountain in the forest surrounded with incredible people from all over the world and views overlooking the lake easily made it one of the major highlights of my visit to Guatemala.
FINAL DAY IN SAN MARCOS: CACAO CEREMONY AND BHAKTI AT THE FUNGI ACADEMY
Yeah… my curiosity piqued when I found out that a Fungi Academy existed as well. Feeling adventurous one night, Miguel and I decided to climb up the mountain in the dark to see what it was all about. When we arrived at 9:00pm the mostly German inhabitants of the Fungi Academy were shocked that we made it all the way up the hill in the dark… and me in flip-flops. We chatted with them to get some information on the academy before heading back down the hill and they let us know of yet another cacao ceremony… this one with with Bhakti afterwards. So of course we got the info on that and climbed back up the mountain a couple days later with our new group of friends from Hostel del Lago.
We had some time to relax and enjoy the views while they were setting up the ceremony space, so we decided to get creative with some panoramic photos.
Not too long after, we were called inside for a quick tour of the academy. I learned more about medicinal mushrooms in the next half hour than I have in all my life.
When class was out of session, we all made our way to the ceremonial space, created another circle similar to the yoga forest and sipped our cacao while we all sang and chanted various songs and mantras primarily in English, Hindi and Sanskrit. It has only been about a year and a half since I incorporated chanting mantras into my weekly schedule. There is something to be said about the resonance and intention behind them that always leaves me feeling like some major shift happened within my body once I am finished. Doing it in large groups only magnifies this feeling.
BACK TO SAN PEDRO
By the time we finished chanting our last mantra in the Fungi Academy, we had about 2 hours to catch the last boat to San Pedro and about 3 hours until my DJ gig at Bar Sublime began. This was the first time I took a motorized boat across a lake in order to get to a gig. This is something I could definitely get used to, especially at sunset.
Before heading to Bar Sublime, I checked into what is known as the biggest party hostel on the lake… Hostel Fe. Before I was given the keys to my room, the bartender poured two shots of tequila, handed me one and said “Welcome to Hostel Fe!” It was easy to see how my stay here was going to go.
Off to my gig… just a two minute walk down the road from the hostel, how convenient. The interesting thing about Guatemala is that all music needs to be shut off by 11:00pm. Yes, ridiculous I know, but those are the laws and they are heavily enforced. Starting a nighttime gig at 8:00pm was interesting… and once the legendary trivia night was finished back at Hostel Fe, the crowd poured in and the last hour of my gig was the highest energy crowd I’ve had since La Piedra de la Iguana back in Puerto Escondido about a month prior.
The next day my new friends and I mostly hung out around the hostel, laughed as we recapped the happenings of the previous night and listened to music on the balcony. Other than that, things were mostly uneventful until the next day when Luke and I headed to Antigua to visit the children and staff at the Integral Heart Education Center.
THE INTEGRAL HEART EDUCATION CENTER IN ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA
So I’ll be upfront. This school was my main reason for coming to Guatemala. Don’t get me wrong, getting my visa renewed, visiting Luke, experiencing Lake Atitlán and connecting with dozens of extraordinary people were amazing add-ons, but I’ve felt called to visit this school the moment I saw Luke first talk about it in a video I saw of his last year.
I don’t believe in coincidences anymore, but I strongly believe in following signs. While I was still in the corporate world, shortly after I made my decision to leave New York and head to Mexico, I heard about a lunch and learn down the street from my office at the CBS corporate office known as “Black Rock“. After reading the communications e-mail from CBS about the lunch and learn, I was intrigued.
Come to a lunch and learn with New York native entrepreneur, philanthropist and author to learn how he turned an initial investment of $25 into more than 200 schools around the world.
You have my attention. This man turned out to be Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise and he is 5 months younger than me. On my 12,500 mile road trip through North America back in 2015-2016, this was the first book I read and I loved every page and chapter/(mantra) of it. Where did he get his original inspiration to begin this global organization? You guessed it: Guatemala. That’s when the seed was planted in my subconscious. Now let’s get back to our visit to the Integral Heart Center in Antigua.
Luke and I stayed just a few minutes walking distance from the center and when we arrived, the younger kids were in the middle of English class and upon entering a dozen or so of them began shouting “Luuuuuuuuke”. It was easy to see that he is popular with the kids here.
I was given a quick tour of the school, sat in on and participated in some of the classroom games and activities then was told the story of some of the kids. Hearing the story of the Hernandez children really hit me in the heart. Below is the video I made that helped to raise over $1,500 during my visit.
Though we’ve had support from a little under 200 individual donors throughout the world, we are nearing the end of October and are a little more than $21,000 short of our goal for 2017 to keep the school going. We’ll be doing some very hard pushing to get the money needed to ensure that these kids have a chance at life. It won’t be easy by any means, but we do not see failure as an option.
I’ve asked before. I’m asking now. And I’ll keep asking until we find sustainable funding and don’t need to ask individuals any longer. Anyone who has the means to donate, knows someone who can help or has any input on how we can achieve sustainable funding to give these 80 kids a real chance at life, please, please do so. Donate, share or reach out to me, Luke or Mick with any way you think you can help.
At the time of this article’s publication I have been out of the corporate world for just over two years. I’ve traveled extensively throughout much of North & Central America and have learned more about myself and the people that inhabit our world then I have in the 32 years prior. I’ve learned some of the greatest life lessons in my past two years and one profound lesson during my time in Guatemala that I’ll share now.
“Bucket lists” are not for me. I don’t have a list of places that I need to check off some imaginary list in my mind before I die. I started doing that while traveling and found it to be immensely unfulfilling. Looking back, the most memorable moments I’ve had in my life wasn’t witnessing the power of Niagra Falls, hiking through the narrows at Zion National Park in Utah, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland or camping out on the cliffs of Meat Cove in the northern most point of Nova Scotia. Don’t get me wrong, they were all incredible experiences, except maybe the Blarney Stone… I heard the locals get drunk and piss on it at night. Sorry for ruining the magic for anyone reading this.
What I’ve found in over two years of traveling is that creating deep lasting connections with some of the most incredibly inspirational people I have ever met in my life is what has filled my soul more than anything. I’ve left places on my journey that didn’t resonate with me and stayed longer at those that did. Because of these intuition-driven choices I’ve built deep purposeful relationships with the people who live there and now feel as if I have many places on this planet where I can call “home.” I now see home as a feeling rather than a place.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
From the time of my visit to Guatemala to this post’s publishing, many things have happened. I have returned to Mexico, test-launched a business concept (P2P Puerto Escondido) and abruptly left for central Florida to help a friend settle insurance claims after Hurricane Irma rolled through the middle of the state back on September 10th. My path has taken plenty of unexpected turns and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned it’s this: Life has some crazy yet exciting plan for me and my only job is not pay attention to the signs, stay on the path and not fuck it up.
Having faith that everything will work out for the best even in my darkest moments has proven to be the greatest challenge thus far. I would without a doubt be completely and utterly lost without the help and guidance from those I have met along the way. They have been the ones to help me open up to the beauty of the unknown. I am beyond grateful that I made the decision to take the road less traveled; there is no doubt in my mind that it has in fact made all the difference.
It all began while I was trimming weed in Northern California last fall. When you’re at a table for 10-12 hours a day armed with nothing more than scissors and a pile of pot you have plenty of time to discuss your future dreams with your fellow trimmers. Lucky for me, I was teamed up with two of the most incredibly giving and talented manifestors I’ve ever come across in my life. The greatest gift I took away from my time with these two was not the money earned, but rather the life BLESSons that I’ve integrated as a result of spending almost every waking moment with them for three months.
If daydreaming were a paid profession, I could probably start an empire that would make the Rockefeller family look like peasants. I’m always in my head thinking about the endless possibilities of life. When I learned to pivot my thought process from fantasy into reality, that’s when the magic finally started to happen.
Around the trimming table, the three of us would discuss what our next moves would be when we parted ways. Mine was to head back to New York for a bit to visit my family and friends, go to Puerto Rico to visit the girl I fell in love with that past summer and then fly into Cancun and backpack my way back to Puerto Escondido. There I would find a beautiful house with a balcony above the palm trees so they wouldn’t block my view of the ocean. Just like my mantra back in Tulum, I made sure to “Dream Big”.
On several occasions the three of us would have nighttime ceremonies to give our manifestations a helping hand. In the coming months, this would prove to be a cornerstone in achieving everything I was aiming for and so much more!
If you’ve been to Puerto Escondido in the past year, primarily the “La Punta” area, you’ve probably had the pleasure of ingesting some of the best fish tacos you’ve ever had. The man behind these delicious taste creations is my good friend Pepe Morgan. I met him as I was walking down Alejandro Cardenas Peralta street on my way to get a cup of coffee at my favorite cafe in Puerto, Cafe Ole.
Immediately before popping in to the cafe, there was this loud mouthed Mexican shouting at me from across the street. He said that I should come and try his fish tacos as he assured me they’d be the best I’ve ever tasted. This man of course was Pepe.
After hearing several rave reviews from friends and co-workers, I decided to give them a try one day after my coffee. So I sat down, ordered a couple to start and yeah… they were even more delicious than everyone said they were. I ended up having some beer and staying for a few hours that day as I wanted to get some writing done. Needless to say I ordered several more in my time there. My personal favorite are the coconut shrimp tacos with lime, cabbage, guacamole, pineapple pico de gallo, chipotle and Pepe’s Mom’s special sauce. I made sure to return at least once a week to get my fix during the remainder of my 2016 stay in Puerto.
After I left PE for California, we kept in touch as I traveled over the next five months. Not too long ago, when I was in Palenque this past February, he reached out to me and asked me for a favor. Due to issues with the owners of the property, he was in a bind financially and needed some funds to get started at a new location for his restaurant. So I went to the nearest OXXO and transferred him some money in order to get things sorted out so he could open up his new location. This was by no means a large business loan, but it made all the difference to him in helping him start anew.
He was so grateful that he wanted to do something for me to show his gratitude, so he said “Bruddah, whatever I can do for you, please just let me know! OK, thank you I love you bruddah!” So I let him know that I was on the lookout for a 2-3 bedroom house or apartment in Puerto Escondido to move into when I return. As divine timing would have it, his friend Luis had just finished building a house that he was looking to rent out starting April 2nd. And now, a little over a month after returning to the city that I’ve decided to make my new home, I have found the perfect place to nest thanks to my good friend Pepe.
As mentioned earlier, I wanted to manifest a beautiful house near the beach with a balcony above the palm trees so they wouldn’t block my view of the ocean…. and that is exactly what I would receive.
I just had no idea it would be as magnificent as this!
At the date of this post, it has been one year, eight months and thirteen days since I left my NYC apartment for the open road with the intention of settling in Mexico with my girlfriend at the time. Things didn’t go as I planned, but as I have said before, time and time again situations have proven to work out so much better that way… at least in the end.
Living this new reality of trusting in the Universe, God, Great Spirit or whatever you want to call it has instilled within me a new sense of trust that everything is going to work out as long as my intentions are pure. I can only wonder what else the future has in store for me. For now, I’ll take some time to enjoy my new home in the city that has captured both my heart and spirit.
On weekends over the past two weeks, I’ve been working behind the bar and waiting tables at Pepe’s Fish Tacos in La Punta in order to help him out and get a first-hand perspective on what changes he needs to succeed and help improve his business.
After all, what better way to protect my investment than actually working at the place I put money into? Just the other day he was so pleased with how smoothly the restaurant was running since I started working there that he offered to make me his partner. Time will tell if I take him up on the offer. I’ve got a lot of great things in the works and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to give him the time he needs. For the time being, I will be there every Friday and Saturday from noon til close making margaritas and slinging out the best fucking fish tacos your taste buds will ever have the pleasure of salivating on.
In my free time, I’ll be working on my surfing game, enjoying the natural wonders of Puerto Escondido, beautifying my new home and assisting the Integral Heart Foundation in their fund raising efforts for their school in Guatemala.
The future has endless possibilities and I am ready for whatever it has in store for me. I’ll be sure to stay true to myself, follow my intuition, live my life in my heart’s highest truth and of course never forget to
The week I spent in Tulum was one of the major highlights of my journey through this region of Mexico. Not even getting bit by a stray dog on my first full day could ruin all that lie ahead of me. Exploring the natural wonders and participating in an inspiring plant medicine ceremony in this gorgeous coastal city with a bunch of new friends from all over the world can help you get over just about anything.
I arrived in Tulum late at night and was welcomed to the hostel by a couple of friendly Argentinian guys. Quick travel note: When traveling in Mexico be prepared to meet a ton of people from the following countries:
Australia (This also goes for the rest of the world. These people are everywhere. There is no escape.)
First thing after breakfast the next morning I hopped on my complimentary rental bike from the Lobo Inn Hostel and headed into town. About five minutes into my journey I heard a dog barking behind me. Then it got closer… and closer… until the poor hungry bastard bit my heel.
Thankfully he found the stench of my feet unbearable and walked away immediately after the attack. I didn’t incur any major injuries or get rabies… I hope.
After drowning the wound in antiseptic, I then headed to visit my friend Rodrigo’s gallery, TAI Gallery located in downtown Tulum on the corner of Chetumal-Cancún/ Mexico 307 & Acquario Sur.
He and I met at an Ayahuasca ceremony in Tepoztlán back in February of last year. After the ceremony, we began to chat and he told me that if I were ever in town when he had a peyote ceremony I should join. Obviously I agreed and here I am in Tulum for a ceremony. That story I’ll save for the end of this post as it served as the grand finale of my week long stay in the area.
When they are at the ceremonias, they see what they have to do in their lifes, so kauyumari (the blue deer) gives them all the tools to keep walking and leave offerings.
One of these tools is the ability to make beautiful jewelry, so they have an income to buy food and a roof to live under.
All the jewelry is inspired directly from visions they have during ceremonies. The colours to put in, the history and prayer that goes into each bead they use is a gift of patience, love, and talent.
My ceremony would be at the end of the week, so I had plenty of time to explore in the meantime!
Tulum is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in all of Mexico, so I made sure to explore them, along with the ruins, right after meeting up with Rodrigo.
After a couple days on the soft-sand beaches amongst the coconut palm trees I met up with my friend Finn from Germany. We met back at the Mezcal Hostel in Cancún and decided to go exploring the Ruins and cenotes of Coba just an hour north of the city.
After exploring and scaling the ruins of Coba, we rented some bikes and took off for the Cenotes just a few miles away.
Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.
Come join me on my descent into the Earth in the time-lapse video below.
Once deep inside the Earth, we were greeted by some of the freshest groundwater we’ve ever encountered. What better way to cool off after a day of scaling ruins and
I’m not gonna do what everyone thinks I’m gonna do and just…. flip out man!
Some live music at Batey in downtown Tulum after our adventure.
The next day I headed off to the hostel where the German girls I met back in Cancún were staying before we headed to what we were told were the best cenotes in the area.
But first I had to get a photo with the biggest dream catcher I’ve ever seen.
The term “dream big” became the recurring joke of the day.
We headed off on our 20 mile bicycle journey north of Tulum to the Dos Ojos Cenote.
Biking that long will work up a hell of an appetite, so before diving into the caves we made sure to order a ton of fresh ceviche.
Now we’re ready for our descent into the caves!
The cenotes Finn and I swam in in Coba the other day were no way as fun as the cenotes of Dos Ojos.
Of course we had to get a group shot before heading back to Tulum.
And of course someone’s bike chain had to fall off every mile or so on theway back.
Later that night we said goodbye to Yannick and Florian who were headed to Merida. This would not be the last I saw of these crazy Austrians.
To finish off my time in Tulum I would participate in an incredible peyote ceremony administered by my friend Rodrigo and a few others.
No phone usage allowed during the ceremony to allow deep introspection. I did however snap a photo of our Shaman guide the morning after the all night ceremony.
After the ceremony we gathered our offerings of fruits, vegetables and flowers and headed to the beach to watch the sunrise and gift them to the ocean. I’ve had many plant medicine ceremonies over the past year, but this one was very special and I wanted something to remember it.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a plethora of this jewelery available at Rodrigo’s TAI Gallery located in downtown Tulum. After browsing through the shop and seeing the gorgeous bracelet below with a vision of a bird weaved into into it, I immediately knew it was made for me.
The person I’ve been evolving into over my past year and a half of travel values the lessons and the experiences we take with us when our bodies die and are returned to the earth and our spirit returns to source. In my new way of living, material objects serve little purpose unless they act as a reminder to the aforementioned.
As of very recently, I was glad to hear that thanks to a little networking, my friend Lee was able to arrange an Ayahuasca ceremony at the same location we had the peyote ceremony the previous month.
It is one of the greatest gifts in life to play even the smallest part in the divine timing that helps connect others through ceremony.
Next stop: Merida.
My visit to 🇵🇷Puerto Rico🇵🇷 was driven by my desire to explore a connection with an incredible woman that I fell for back in Puerto Escondido in the summer of 2016.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while traveling, it’s this: Nothing ever works out exactly how I plan, but more often than not, things usually find a way to turn out infinitely better that way in the long run.
During my 40 day visit to La Isla Del Encanto I was delighted to have experienced so much more than I had originally bargained for.
What I have come to realize is that one of the greatest personal benefits I receive from traveling is the deepening of my knowledge regarding the history and anthropology of each region I visit from the people who have lived their most of their lives. That said, I was delighted to find the Puerto Rican people to be among some of the friendliest I’ve come across in my travels throughout Latin America thus far. At every stop in my tour of the island I was greeted with a smile, open arms and a plethora of food… usually in the form of pork and plantains.
However, when it came to conversing with the Puerto Rican people in their native tongue it didn’t take long for me to realize that Puerto Ricans speak their own unique brand of Spanish. When attempting to speak their language, I was told that I talk like a Mexican. Well… at least I’m doing that right.😊
Besides the people, the gorgeous landscapes and natural resources of the island have proven to be one of its most exquisite assets.
El Yunque Rainforest:
El Yunque is a sub-tropical mountainous rain forest located on the eastern end of Puerto Rico, where the trade winds first meet the island and dump the rain.
The Puerto Rico rainforest is a unique part of the U.S. National Forest System.
Christmas this year was spent wading through the drowned forests of La Parguera in the southwest coast of the island.
El Rincon, the surfer’s part of the island, hosts beautiful coastlines and many beach-side restaurants.
ART & MUSIC
It is now incredibly apparent to me that art comes in many forms and I recently had to rethink the way I encapsulate it. If you asked me how I would define art, my answer would be this: Devine love transformed into a tangible gift for the senses of others. When a musician performs from their heart, those lucky enough to bare witness feel it stir something deep within themselves. This was a pleasant surprise for me on more than one occasion during my time in Puerto Rico.
Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar aka ILE (of Calle Trece)
After hearing recordings of her angelic voice fill the halls of the Sanctuary back in the summer of 2016, I moved my arrival date to Puerto Rico up a week so that I’d be able to catch this incredibly talented and beautiful artist perform live at Teatro Tapia in Old San Juan. Although she’s only 27 years old, she has an incredibly mature talent with a fan base that spans several generations.
Lucky for you, I recorded a portion of my favorite song from her performance that night back in December 2016.
Roberto Roena (The Puerto RicanGodfather of Salsa)
When it comes to salsa music, it’s not usually my go-to genre, but I will say this: Roberto and his band know how to absolutely rock a packed club!
Claudi of Pinc Louds
One Sunday morning we went to an event, Hangover Brunch, where her friend was performing and I was surprised to find the artist, Claudi of Pinc Louds, from New York City was also performing in the hipster region of Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The arts district starts at ‘Stop 12’ in Miramar and continues for approximately 4 miles with the largest concentration of arts, culture, nightlife and entertainment in the Caribbean! We made sure to spend some time in this area to behold some of its breathtaking street art.
I just wanted to add this little tid-bit regarding men’s fashion in the Caribbean as I find it to be fascinating. Being considered a stylish man anywhere in the Caribbean is actually quite simple. All you need to do is wear a short sleeve button down shirt with four pockets on the front. Make sure there are FOUR pockets! I cannot stress this enough! That’s it. You are now a Carribbean fashion icon!
CULTURE, HISTORY & POLITICS
Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian
As divine timing would have it, the final weekend of my visit just happened to be the biggest party weekend in Puerto Rico. That’s right, I was there to experience the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan. On this long weekend in mid-January from Thursday to Sunday all the roads in Old San Juan are closed off to motor vehicles. Over 200,000 people were shuttled in by the busload and the entire city becomes one giant festival filled with music, dancing, food and of course drinking.
For those who don’t know, San Sebastián was this bad-ass from the third century AD who was crucified by the the Roman emperor Diocletian’s reign during the persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Despite this being the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian, he was, according to legend, rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Shortly afterwards he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death. He is venerated in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and celebrated in the streets of Old San Juan for one weekend every year.
Promise Law: From my understanding, Promise Law in Puerto Rico can be summed up like so: Seven people from the United States come to the capital of Puerto Rico to decide what is best for it’s people. The governor basically gets their coffee and/or any snacks they require and then proceeds to tell the Puerto Rican people that all is good.
I would like to point out two things regarding Puerto Rico’s economy. First of all, Puerto Rico is in serious debt. Secondly, one of the major catalysts for this are taxes that the United States imposes on them grossly outweigh the financial benefit they receive in return as a colony. The American Revolution was started because of taxation without representation, so it’s no surprise that many of the Puerto Rican people want to either be their own country or become the 51st state.
Whilst in a bookstore, I happened upon a book entitled “Free Puerto Rico”, so my curiosity got the best of me. I flipped to the first page and this is what I found:
The Pardon of Oscar Lopez: For those who don’t know, he was one of the leaders of FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional). His Presidential pardon occurred during my visit in the twilight of Obama’s presidency. Oscar Lopez is to Puerto Rico what Guy Fawkes is to England and the rest of the world.
I feel this is an important part of history to reflect on to better understand how imperialism, colonization and policing the world have proven time and time again to be major catalysts in the rise of radical terrorist activities worldwide.
One artist in a gallery I came across in Old San Juan had an interesting take on American foreign policy in a vivid portrayal shown in the painting below.
It’s incredible how perceptions change when you look at something from the outside rather than from within. This holds true not just for nations, but for relations as well.
LOVE❤️ & LETTING GO😢
Distance is an interesting thing. The well-known and somewhat trite saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has time and time again proven to be true throughout my life.
My favorite 19th century poet and writer, Kalil Gibran, paints a much better picture with his words when he speaks of togetherness in his masterpiece, The Prophet:
Let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each others’ cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other’s shadow.
The time I spent in Puerto Rico was without a doubt one of the fastest 40 days I’ve lived so far on this earth. I now have a much deeper understanding of relativity after my visit.
It’s a beautiful thing to be lucky enough to have someone in your life that you can miss when they are not in your presence. It’s even more beautiful feeling as if they are right beside you even when you are thousands of miles apart.
My appreciation and understanding of art has grown exponentially in recent years. If I had to choose my favorite medium, it would be the ephemeral human being as it flows graciously through life.
I see art in watching someone lovingly dance through the kitchen as they prepare a delicious meal. There is art in transforming the tears of screaming toddlers into smiles and laughs through song. Art can be stepping into a house full of strangers from all corners of the world and immediately inquire if those preparing dinner would like any help. And of course, it truly is an art to breathe new life into the heart of another that lost its way not too long ago.
I’ve experienced so much from so many different relationships in this life to perceive love the way I used to. The most profound lesson I’ve integrated is understanding the difference between love and co-dependence. The easiest way I could exemplify the difference between the two is thus:
Co-dependence says “I need you and can’t live without you.”
Love says “I want you in my life but I wish you the the greatest happiness possible in yours, even if it isn’t with me.”
It wasn’t that long ago when I mistook co-dependence for love. I was however lucky enough to discover the remedy for this common misconception; that being self love. It is only when I learned to truly love myself that I was able to fully embody the love of another.
Now I have no intention of bestowing upon you all the juicy details of my love life, but there some less intimate parts that I am more than happy to share.
There was one thing she said to me last summer that still rings true in my heart today and I’m sure it always will. Six little words that completely changed the way I look at love and relationships in general.
I don’t want to own you
After hearing that, I took some time to reflect on all of my previous relationships and had a major revelation as to where they had all gone wrong. Each and every one, in its own way, felt like a mutual ownership of the other person’s free will. It was almost as if I signed up for some form of consensual slavery. Whenever the relationship ended, after the grieving portion at least, I always felt a deep sense of freedom wash over me. This major realization changed everything. I have the utmost of gratitude for the opportunity to break free from these mental chains I’ve carried with me throughout most of my life.
Though our time together was short-lived, having it come to an end hurts in a new and beautiful way. It was the first time I shared a mutual love with someone where we could appreciate each other for exactly who the other person is at their core. The major reason for this being that I only recently figured out who I really am.
It was only when I started to understand, appreciate and love myself that I was truly able to welcome the same from another. Reaching this milestone in my ever-expanding emotional maturity has forever changed me and I am eternally grateful for the experience.
So what’s next for us?
Facing the fact that we would once again be separated for another extended period of time, we both decided not to continue the same long-distance relationship path that we had for the 5 months before my visit.
Living this new reality hurt us both deeply, but we welcome the pain with all its intensity. What better way to grow and evolve than to allow all the feels to wash over us.
A dear friend and one of my life’s greatest teachers once said:
Sometimes it really sucks being a human
I couldn’t agree more. The bright side of the less desirable moments of life is that the pain we feel in the wabi sabi of life helps us grow, evolve and make the pleasurable moments that much more enjoyable.
Though we are no longer together, I have absolutely no regrets regarding the time we invested in each other. In being with her, I gained a much deeper understanding of what love truly is.
In this particular case of love and letting go, I plan on taking the alchemist’s approach to coping with the pain.
So, what will I create? I have a good idea thus far, though I’m not yet ready to share it, and am always open to new avenues of inspiration. Lucky for me, my third backpacking trip through Mexico has begun. What better way to heal a bruised heart and find the missing pieces of our soul than to travel?
And what better next stop after a break-up than Cancún?
I’ll leave you now with a few select lyrics and a link to the video of a very special song that I’ve had on repeat for some time now. No other lyrics at the moment more accurately capture my feelings and state of mind after leaving La Isla Del Encanto.
The road will teach you how to love and let go
It can be lonely but it’s the only thing that we’ve ever known
I’ve traveled half way across the country and back
Only to find love undefined and I’m okay with that
After my break-up, Cancún and The Island of Women were the logical next stops in my journey.
The day after the end of my relationship, I hopped on a plane from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Cancún to begin my month-long backpacking trip through Mexico that I had been planning for months. As you would imagine, I was by no means in the mood to travel… not yet at least. Luckily I had my spirits lifted by many other travelers along the way, but it all started with the two women that I met shortly after arriving back in Mexico.
Here are brief summaries of our interactions.
Immediately after touching down in Cancún, I hopped on a van to take me to the water taxi to Isla Mujeres. The moment I sat down in the last available seat on the van, I was greeted with a smile from a lovely woman also headed to the same destination. Her name was Wendy and she is a grandmother from Wisconsin. We talked the entire way to the island about life, traveling, relationships and of course… politics.
During my two day stay on the island, we coincidentally ran into each other twice at the same breakfast place. There we talked some more as she showed off pictures of her daughter, her son-in-law and grandchild, you know… grandma stuff.
Throughout our talks, we kept coming back to the same topic regarding how so many people on this planet have such an obscure view on the rest of the world and live in their own little personal bubbles or alternative realities.
In her spare time, Wendy enjoys drawing and bestowed upon me this masterpiece she created as a reminder for herself.
I am very grateful to have met her and to have run into her on several occasions on that crazy little island off the coast of Cancún.
Before arriving in Isla Mujeres, a friend from back in Puerto Escondido said to reach out to a friend of his that lived on the island. So I did and we met for coffee and a walk on the beach with the dog she was babysitting for a friend.
After talking with her for a short period of time, I learned some things about our mutual friend that I never would have known had we not met. Apparently this friend of ours convinced her to follow through with a yoga teacher training that proved to be a life changing experience for her.
I learned a very deep lesson in our exchange. That lesson is this:
My judgement of others has usually been rooted in my limited personal experience with them and doesn’t take into account all the other factors that have shaped their character. After all, what are we but a makeup of all that we’ve experienced throughout our lives? Being quick to judge someone based on our bounded knowledge of any person is not just ignorant, but lazy.
I’ll be sure to make a better effort to try and understand more and judge less.
Movie star and internet meme sensation, Nicholas Cage, once said:
Understanding is deeper than knowledge. There are many people who know you, but very few who understand you.
So Lee, thanks for helping me stumble upon that lesson, even if done inadvertently.
She and I would meet later on in my backpacking journey for a plant medicine ceremony on the beach in Tulum, but that story that will have to wait for my next post.
Sunset @ Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
Even after a good start in Isla Mujeres, I still felt like I needed an extra boost to help get myself back in the right mental space to really enjoy myself.
Luckily for me, not too long ago I was informed of a brand new start-up company called “Happy the App“.
It has a similar business model as Uber where you can access on demand emotional support with a few taps of your smartphone. Several months ago, I was interviewed to be a part-time “Happy Giver”, got the job and am currently part of their beta testing while their launch date is slated for March 2017. Through this testing phase, all Happy Givers are encouraged to log in to give or receive “happy” in order to practice our skills in holding space for others going through tough times. Needless to say, I was in need of receiving some happy so I decided to call in a couple of times. On one of those calls, I was lucky enough to be connected with a woman named Nancy who stayed on the call with me for nearly two hours as I unpacked all my newfound emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying around the past few days.
There are times in our life where we get stuck in the gutter of our emotions and just need to talk it out with someone who is gifted in the art of listening, compassion, empathy and understanding that can ask us the questions necessary to assist us in drawing out the feelings blocking the flow of love from our hearts.
For anyone adverse to seeking a therapist to remove emotional blockages and feel that all they need is someone to listen, hear their story and offer compassion, I highly recommend giving “Happy” a try. My two hour vent session with Nancy more than helped me jump-start what would prove to be my most life-changing backpacking adventure to date.
As most of us know, Cancún is known for its beautiful beaches, wild nightlife and is synonymous with Spring Break. Due to recent circumstances, I still wasn’t exactly pumped to partake in any of the aforementioned activities.
Buuuuuut, when you are staying in a hostel full of interesting travelers from all corners of the Earth and a cute blonde Brazilian girl asks you if you’re going clubbing with the rest of the crew that night, well…..
How about that… I actually had a great time! Nothing like a night of clubbing at The City in Cancùn to shake things up a bit and give me a chance to let the beast out of its cage.
The next day, most of the hostel was in fairly bad shape primarily due to the copious amounts of rum and tequila imbibed the previous night. So we took it easy and stayed at the hostel bar for dinner.
Thanks to Nico, our Argentinian bartender at the Mezcal Hostel in Cancún, for helping us nurse ourselves back to life with the same poison from the night before.
That was also the night I met two lovely ladies from Germany that were on holiday and doing a bit of traveling in Quintana Roo and the Yucatán as well.
Mary & Nina
The girls next stop was Holbox and then Tulum while I was heading directly to Tulum. So we exchanged info and made plans to meet once they arrived.
Tulum is where my journey started to get really interesting, but that story will have to wait for my next post.
Over the past two years my life has gone through a dramatic change. I have been involved with development work for the past decade, but only in the last two years have I begun to truly understand what it means to live in the heart. The full story of this is one I am still living, so do not yet feel called to tell. I have only just begun and re-blogging on my own blog after a one-year hiatus during this dramatic transition my life is undergoing.
In many ways I started living the dream early on. I finished my undergrads in Chile and then I started hitchhiking north with the plan of making it all the way to Alaska. I made it as far as Guatemala, where I started work directing a health/education charity. When I left that job in 2012, I went full nomadic and tried to make it as a traveling writer. It’s five years later and I’m still out here, so I guess I was successful. But I feel the change in the air. Do you feel it too? I felt that while I was looking for meaning in the world. The meaning I am searching for is somewhere within—yoga, meditation, devoting yourself to unconditional love—these are all ways of exploring this path andI strive every day to renew myself and dedicate myself to seeking inwards while giving to those around me.
I met Joe in Puerto Escondido, Mexico when I rolled up to the holistic living center he was managing. We didn’t need much time, nor have we had much time, to become friends. Kindred spirits recognize their own. People on the path recognize those on their own path of seeking. Later when I returned from a shamanic mushroom journey in the mountains, I was walking home thinking, “I’d love to chill out with a joint and work on my novel,” and boom, Joe appeared in the street and sated this longing of my heart 😉
LUKE’S STORY OF HOW GIN IN GUATEMALA LEAD TO CRACK IN SAN FRANCISCO:
When I’m in Guatemala, I drink gin. On one such night, sipping my gin at The Snug, I met the musician Corissa Bragg, who was drinking next to me. We made tentative plans to jam in Antigua, Guatemala, but nothing ever panned out. Her baby was to blame, since every time we were about to play music he would get sick and vomit.
In San Francisco, where Corissa is based, she invited me to join her at “The Circle” jam session at Mission and 16th Street Bart stop.
As the listing on the Bay Area Open Mic Calendar, it sounded pretty awesome: “This is San Francisco embodied: an unorganized, impromptu gathering of folks to spout off, sing, dance, shout, play . . . whatever. There’s no organizer, no stage, no PA – whatever happens, happens. There’s a chalk circle drawn to invoke the creative space; jump in or jump out.”
Earlier that day, Corissa messaged me and informed me that, surprise-surprise, her littlun was sick and vomiting. She would not be making it to “The Circle.”
Like U2, I had already decided to go with or without her, so I set off with my guitar to the subway stop to see where my six strings might take me. If fun correlates to the amount of crack being smoked in one’s vicinity, then a good time was had by all.
I came upon the subway station and approached an area with two guys and a girl all dressed like Sid Vicious drinking malt liquor out of paper bags. One of them was wearing an army helmet, and I took this to be a good sign I was in the right place.
“Are you here for the circle,” they asked me.
“Yes,” I told them.
They asked me where I had heard about the circle. I told them, from someone I had met in Guatemala. All three were quite pleased that word of the circle had spread to Central America. I asked them if it was okay to drink liquor in public like this.
One of them raised his bag of malt liquor and said, “Oh yes, as long as you’re not a dick about it, the cops don’t care.”
They asked me if I was going to play my guitar. I told them that first I was off to buy a tall-boy and a paper bag. At the grocery store the guy in front of me was buying two tall boys, but he only had money for one. So I spotted him two-fifty and he also seemed quite pleased with his night’s prospects.
When I returned to the subway stop, all three people dressed like Sid Vicious were being booked by the cops. I sat down next to them and asked the police if it was legal for me to play in the streets. They told me it was as long as it was not amplified.
So for the third time in my life, I found myself playing guitar for the police and people being arrested.
I have been on a Joe Purdy musical binge ever since Pandora injected his tunes into my ears, so I played about showing the police Paris in the morning and London in the afternoon. Neither the cops nor the kids being given minors seemed to enjoy the music very much.
Soon, I was left alone and I continued to play. It had rained all-day, so maybe nobody else was coming. Maybe everyone in The Circle but me had already been arrested. In which case, it was my responsibility to hold down this fort. So I was happy to play and sing and be that guy with a guitar in a heavily trafficked metro area singing for the love of it.
A few people of Asian descent came up with confused dollars that they tried to give me. To each I smiled and waved it off, “I’m not playing for money,” I said, “I’m just playing.” One young man hesitated with a dollar in his hand, reluctant to put it back in his pocket. After vacillating between decisions, he set the dollar on the ground next to me and said, “Just take it.”
There had been three black men at the other end of the tiled courtyard that served as the entrance to the Bart station. The sight of the dollar attracted one. He came over and said, “I’ll take that dollar.”
“Take it,” I said. He took it.
Then a man in a wheelchair wheeled himself over to me and threw me a bag of corn chips, “I don’t want em,” he said.
“I don’t want your corn chips,” I told the man.
“Well, I don’t want em either.” He laughed.
To the rescue came the man who had taken the dollar. “I’ll take those chips,” he said. He took the chips.
Then a man in a Jamaican beanie, who looked he might be a sage, came over and gave me a Street Sheet. I have just learned about Street Sheets. As our friends at Wikipedia sum it up, “The Street Sheet is a street newspaper published and sold in San Francisco, California which focuses on the problems of homeless people in the city, and on issues of poverty and housing. The Coalition on Homelessness publishes the newspaper, and vendors distribute the paper on the streets of San Francisco, usually in exchange for a one-dollar donation.”
Jamaican beanie and I chatted for a bit. He told me a few memories from his younger days, when he was just arrived in San Francisco from Texas. I sang him and the two other men a few songs. Around this time, at the other end of the station to where my back was turned, some sort of spoken word was erupting. I listened, and decided to stay where I was. The spoken word were frantically yelled accusations that seemed more cathartic than constructive, more keening than verse and I was happy where I was even if The Circle had re-formed angrily behind me .
After a time, the three men went off in the corner of the station park and smoked some crack.
I drank my tall boy in the paper bag and watched them. When they came back, I gave them a single serving of wine I had brought just in case the jamming at the station got real crazy.
While everyone at some point should have an expansive discussion on crack and the problems it poses to society, on this particular night I enjoyed these men’s company for a time and from where I sat on that night their crack smoking was one of many attributes, not their defining characteristic.
At one point the man in the Jamaican beanie told me that he wished he had another dollar so that he could get a McDonald’s sandwich. Feeling gastronomically decadent, I too felt that a McDonald’s sandwich would hit the saturnalian hunger spot growing inside me. So I gave him $5 and asked him to get me a hamburger laced with extra pickles. McDonalds is dirty food of orgiastic origins and a vegan will never understand what glutinous pleasure it is to occasionally take this filthy culinary dive.
I noticed after the man disappeared to get our sandwiches that the McDonalds across the street was closed. Perhaps, he was going to another one I hoped, fairly sure from even before I gave him the money that he was not going to return.
Some readers might not find this feeling comprehensible, and I don’t really understand it fully myself. But I was kinda rooting for him to steal my money. I get scammed often for small amounts and it never really bothers me. In Belize, I gave a guy $5 for a fish dinner I think we both knew he was never going to cook me. I find that offering yourself up for petty scams is a win-win scenario. If the person ends up coming through, it is a wonderful surprise of finding honesty and integrity amid poverty—and isn’t this a value Americans hopelessly cherish?
Sometimes, a guy comes back with a hamburger. Mostly, you are scammed. When I am scammed, I feel like it’s a victory for the underdog. For me the headline, “Crack Addict in San Francisco Tricks Privileged White Man Out of $5 And Buys Crack” will always be more hopeful than “Wealthy Banking Executive Exploits Dubious Loopholes in Finance Law To Pay for his Fiji Estate.”
At some point, I left to find some tacos and enjoyed speaking in Spanish to the Mexican guys running the shop. Each had been in the US for around ten years. I can’t be helped if I love surprising Latinos in America by being able to fluently converse in their language. I doubt the dopamine of this thrill well will ever run dry.
When I came back to the station, I joined the poets who had stopped shouting and were now mulling about. I’d had a few beers with my tacos, so this is the point where the memories of the night are more disjoined. I know at some point a new crack smoker, much higher than the previous, began alarming two young women seated near me. I struck up a conversation with him in order to extricate them from it and they seemed grateful.
The conversation began tense and confrontational, but eventually it settled into deferential dialogue that yielded to harmless banter. Some people came, others went. A crackhead knocked over my guitar, and now it has some new dings.
At the end of the night, I took the Bart one stop back to my barrio and remember enjoying a conversation with an intoxicated woman who waited with me at the station platform.
I left the night feeling I had gotten something out of it. It was not independently remarkable, but I think that if I’m lucky enough to one day fade away in a death-bed scenario, will be these many independently unremarkable nights that will make me wish life did not have double bars at its last measure.
If I were pressed under oath to tell a judge what the night felt like, then I would have to say it felt like we were all characters on Sesame Street. Everyone was a character and some characters looked like they lived in trash cans, but everyone got along okay. There were the kids all dressed like Sid Vicious. There was the guy smoking crack in the wheelchair and his gift of corn chips. There was the guy smoking crack in the Jamaican beanie who likely bought crack instead of my McDonald’s sandwich. There were the angry poets. The friendly police who had to do what they had to do and pleasantly handed out citations to the minors. If I was forced to explain under oath, I would say,
“Judge, isn’t it wild how a gin in Guatemala can lead to such serendipity in San Francisco?”
For more on Luke or if you’d like to follow his adventures through life: