"The things you do for love are going to come back to you one by one. - Love, Love, Love, The Mountain Goats
Part 1 – The Stations of the Cross
“And on the third day he rose again from the dead in fulfillment of the scriptures.”
Attending Catholic school from second grade through college, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard or recited this line from the Nicene Creed. And much like Thomas the Doubter, had I not experienced this for myself, I would also not have believed it was possible. I am of course talking about myself, in this instance, and not Jesus the Nazarene. And in this case, by “the fulfillment of the scriptures,” I simply mean the fulfillment of my duties to my work and to this blog. It just so happens that the third day I am speaking of also fell on Easter Sunday.
My Stations of the Cross, again—coincidentally like Jesus—began Friday afternoon. It started off like any other day here in McLeod Ganj, the only difference being that I actually had something to do, which was to interview Zoe. I began the morning by having a farewell breakfast with John and Nate. Jessie had just left the day before and that evening my Seattle brethren were off on an overnight bus to Manila (a town in Central Himachal Pradesh) for some trekking, bouldering, and skiing. The day before when Jessie left, I found myself incredibly mopey, and nearly let the negative aspects of the voice in my head pull me down a small hole as I lay in bed wondering what to do next. But I pulled myself out of it and went and met Nate and John in town that night and had a good time. And now they were leaving as well.
When people asked me what I was going to do in India, I would say, “I don’t know. I’m just going to be like a pinball in a pinball machine, changing direction or course depending on who I meet, what I learn, or where I hear is a cool place to hang out.” Over the course of one night, however, I had become a bumper, and not the pinball. Jessie, John, and Nate had bounced off of me, and I was the one left in town. I suppose I need to get used to this somehow, and instead of being sad when a new friend leaves or moves on, turn the feeling of loss in my heart into gratitude for having had the opportunity to meet and connect with some wonderful people.
What I have learned in the course of my travels throughout my life and was just reminded when these new friends left, is that sometimes you’re the bumper, and some times you’re the ball. And sometimes you have these brief and intense encounters, and the impact of these collisions with a certain few people can forever affect your speed, velocity, or direction of where you thought you may have been headed, or what you thought you knew about someone, something, or your own life. But I guess that happens on every street in every city throughout the world every day. These encounters just seem to be magnified when you’re traveling.
So as I was saying before I so rudely sidetracked myself, at noon I was supposed to meet Zoe Magoany, a French painter from Paris for an interview, but since I had to move my lodging and time was getting away from me, we pushed the interview back until 3pm.
At 3pm, I met her outside of Lung Ta, a Japanese restaurant on Jogibara Road. It was right next door to where my new residence was, the Akoska Guesthouse, which incidentally is run by a young couple from Long Island. Since Zoe hadn’t eaten, we first had lunch together followed by espresso at the Budan Café, where much to my auditory delight, Kid A, by Radiohead was playing. The encounter was, in some ways, the fulfillment of one of my life long dreams, and something that I hope to repeat countless times while I’m here; to sip on espresso in some foreign land with a fellow expat artist while discussing the boundless depths and mystery of the creative force called art that propels us through life.
After sipping on espresso and getting some more of Zoe’s backstory while she puffed away on Marlboro Reds, a gesture both grand and entitled to any great artist, we went back to my room for the interview.
We had a great conversation and I was very impressed with Zoe’s answers, which were straight off the cuff and straight from the heart. Towards the very end, something very unsettling began to occur, however. Zoe left and within minutes the bathroom called me, and it was within 5 feet of that bathroom that I spent the next 16 hours. But this was just the opening shot. For the next three days my stomach sounded like the background soundtrack to Wolf Blitzer’s reporting from Bagdad—the first time we invaded Iraq. The homeland of my body and the invading bacteria were fighting a horrible ground and artillery battle within me, senselessly lobbing SCUD missiles back and forth, while I lay on my back feeling the wave concussions of the attacks in my belly.
I did not sleep at all that night, not only from running to the bomb shelter every two hours, but the incessant barking, barking, barking of the dogs. I needed to find a new place so the next morning I took every ounce of energy available to me and walked back to the other side of town to acquire a room at the Kareri Lodge, the place where Jessie called home while she was in town. I swung by the shop to tell the boys of my plan, and seeing how everything I was doing was a struggle, Gasha insisted upon helping me walk my things over to my new place. I dropped my bags on my floor, hit the bomb shelter, and then hit the bed. And rinse and repeat. And again… And again… And again. There was a window around 6pm that I thought the worst of the fighting was over, I mean—how could there possibly be any more munitions left in me? My friend Tharpa advised me to eat bananas and rice, but why would I listen to people in-the-know? I instead opted for the pizza.
I came back to my room and struggled to not fall asleep thinking I would then be up all night, but with eyes as heavy as the doors of Fort Nox, I feel asleep. Around 11pm the shelling started again and I made a b-line for the bomb shelter. When I got back to bed I had a fever and chills and put every article of clothing I had on me. For the rest of the night, every hour, weapons of mass destruction came out both sides of me. There was nothing I could do so I lay in the darkness, surrendering to the sickness, and telling myself this too shall pass. (There I go again showing off that Catholic education.)
By 6am, I was actually concerned for my health and wondered if the journey was about to take a nasty turn. My plan was to hold out on the antibiotics in case I got really sick, but I realized that this time, I was really sick. I was completely dehydrated and as a result aching throughout my entire body. To make matters worse, I was nearly out of toilette paper. Gasha, again playing the hero, brought me toilette paper and water in the morning, and later in the day Palla brought me chapti bread and tea. “Man, you gotta eat, man. You’re legs won’t be able to carry you where you need to go," he said. Ram, the kind owner of the Kareri Lodge said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I used to be a pharmacist.” Meanwhile Jessie was texting me all day, as was John and Nate to check on my health. It was not until about Sunday at 6pm (Easter) that I began to rise from the dead—and able to at least make it to the boys’ shop for a few minutes to tell The Good News. I feel incredibly blessed to have these two little guardian angels looking out for me.
Part 2 – What is your secret?
Despite the punishing artillery and air campaign that an army of bacteria waged in my bowels, so far on this trip I have been met with incredible luck, serendipitous success, and spontaneous creations. When I told Jessie about some of the things that have all ready happened to me (many of which you, my dear reader, are not aware of), as well as all of the serendipitous occurrences that are responsible for allowing me the privilege to write to you from from McLeod Ganj, she said, “What is your secret? You’re just manifesting things all over the place.”
“Do you really want to know?” I asked her.
Let me step back a few days for a moment. A joke that was shared between Jessie, Nate, John and I, was how smart it was of me to bring a Lonely Planet Nepal to India. Now in case you’re not tracking here, Lonely Planet Nepal is not doing me a hell of a lot of good or providing me with much on-the-ground, actionable information in India.
This was beginning to weigh on me so I figured it was probably best to have a guidebook with me. I had been eyeing a Lonely Planet India at two bookstores, but it cost more than $35. I was about to make the plunge one afternoon, but then I decided I was going to hold out. I told Jessie that I was going to find a used copy the next day without even trying.
The next morning, which was Jessie’s last morning, Jessie and I had breakfast together at the Green Hotel before she left. On the way back towards our places, I noticed a used bookshop that neither of us had seen before. I said, “Hold on, let’s stop in here.” And right there, on the bookshelf, written across the spine as large as the country itself, was INDIA—for a third of the price of a brand new copy.
Now this may not sound miraculous to you, but this is the same process I used to get the job that allowed me to take this trip, and that allows me to receive an income while I’m in India; the same process that gave me the free MacBook Air I am writing to you from; the same process that got me a free video camera which I recorded A Very Uninformative Video on; the same process that got me two months of free living before I left Seattle; the same process that got me an interview with one of India’s most successful lawyers within 3 days of landing in India, without even knowing I was going on an interview; the same process of how I met Jessie; and the same process of how I met another new friend today named Nate. What process is that, you ask? It’s simply a morning exercise, or perhaps a morning practice is a more apropos way of putting it.
Part 3 - In the beginning of this story I spoke a lot about surrendering.
But I am not only speaking about surrendering in regards to this trip, I am speaking in regards to every aspect of this—my 36th year of walking about on this earth as a human being. On July 17th of this year, my 36th year began my great personal experiment in letting go and surrendering. This may sound easy and it may sound passive, but letting go is trusting, and placing your trust in someone or something, whether it’s a relationship with a partner or a relationship to God, Allah, Ginesh, The Father, The Universe, or Creation, or whatever you want to call the Creative Force of Existence, is a risk. But on the other side of risk is infinite possibility, the foundation upon which which infinite possibility exists is faith. Faith is not a passive thing. It is, in fact, very active and requires one to be malleable in that perhaps you were headed in one direction, but life suddenly switched the road sign on you and you realize you no longer recognize the territory you are in, and so you must place your trust in the signs that are before you, and follow the new path where ever it may lead.
Let’s rewind for a moment, yet again. Some time in mid-August I got my first freelance gig after my mother’s passing, which was a short-term contract where I was horribly underpaid. I wanted to work, however, and welcomed the monotonous routine so as to get out of my own head. I left that contract before it was up for another short-term contract, and that contract wound up being shorter than the term I was anticipating. As it goes in the freelance world, it’s feast or famine and I was getting hungry.
For some time I had been trying to find a job with the qualities of x,y, and z that also paid me very well, but I was tired of the short term gigs, and with India looming months out in the distance, I wanted to have some stability leading up to it.
I found myself back on unemployment in early October for a brief stint, during which time I spoke with Shelia Bath, an intuitive healer and life coach. We had a really interesting conversation where she told me things about myself and my past that she could not have just pulled out of thin air. At the end she gave me an assignment. Are you ready for this? No really—are you ready? Well, lean in then because I’m only going to say it once…She told to buy a small 7.5 x 5 notebook at CVS or Rite-Aid and every morning to write down five things I was grateful for and five things I wanted to create in my life.
“Literally?” I asked?
“Literally,” she said. “Literally write ‘Today I am so grateful for…’ and write down five things, and then write ‘Today I intend and create…’ and write down those five things. Just do it and trust me,” she said. “You’re going to find that the things you create are going to become the things you are grateful for.”
I can do that, I thought, and gratitude sounds like a good practice anyway.
My first task was to create the perfect job for this time in my life. I surrendered pay and any other creative requirements/parameters I may have set (or limited) for myself and lo and behold, within a week, the perfect job showed up. While it didn’t pay what I normally made, it paid plenty and there were numerous other perks involved, including the dream manager and a team of smart, talented, funny, and creative people who made going to work a pleasure. They have also become great friends and are supporting me in this endeavor. Might I also add that I had planned on buying a MacBook Air to travel with. It just so happened that work provided me with one, but at the time I started, I had no idea I would be traveling with it or even still working for them in India.
Part 4 - Conscious Creation
I cannot tell you how many times this process I call “conscious creation” has worked for me since October, and I won’t bore you with every last detail. Many mornings I simply ask for happiness, joy, or to be an instrument of peace, but sometimes I push the envelope and ask for big things like housing, such as when I was going to find myself homeless in February because my roommate decided she wanted to move out three months before we were supposed to end our living agreement. After a day of being pissed off, I let it go and told myself something better was going to come along. All week I wrote in my morning gratitude/creation journal that I was going to create a place to live. That weekend I was at my good friends Phil and Sasha’s house and told them that I was in somewhat of a bind and that I was kind of freaking out because I needed a place to live for two months.
Sasha said in her perfect English accent without missing a beat, “Well you come live with us then. This is perfect. No really, we’re going to New Zealand for 3 weeks and we need a dog sitter. You’ll actually be doing us a huge favor.” So not only did I get free housing for two months, not only did I get Branston, the perfect walking companion, not only did I get a quiet, peaceful neighborhood where I could walk about every night while letting my mind unravel and create, not only did I get my own floor with inspiring views of downtown Seattle, the Puget Sound, and Mount Rainier, but I got welcomed into Phil and Sasha’s family and inherited two surrogate nieces and a nephew, which is something I really miss living so far from my own family.
This morning exercise is also all how I met Jessie, Nate, and John, and another new friend I met today named Nate. The morning I met Jessie, I wrote down, “I intend and create to make a new friend today, someone who I click with and will want to hang out with.” 8 hours later I was sitting across from Jessie in a coffee shop, and not-so-coincidentally, John and Nate from Seattle, who had just arrived in town and who I had never met but had been put in touch with through Facebook, were sitting behind me.
Now I don’t claim to be responsible for any of this. I’m not bragging and I’m not preaching any new age wisdom at you. In fact, I’d love for you to try this yourself. What I’m doing every day is merely putting a thought out into a universe of information, a universe that is very interactive and responsive to our thoughts and feelings. And lets be clear—thoughts are energy waves. These thoughts I put out I attempt to align in intention, feeling, and emotion, with the acceptance that whatever the outcome is, it’s for my greatest good and highest self. This is what it means to surrender I believe, which again, isn’t actually passive. There is much creation in surrender. This is what I also believe it means to be in the flow.
The 18-year-old version of me went nearly mad filling out notebooks trying to figure this out, trying to figure out life, who I was, who I was going to be, where I was going, why I had come from where I had come from, if I was ever going to achieve my dreams, trying to find meaning to it all, trying to find connections and purpose, trying to figure out why, why, why. I was a question machine, but not made from the parts of curiosity and excitement, but from the parts of desperation and fear. That version of myself swam upstream and constantly struggled against the tides, but the current version of that kid, that kid who has had twice the years and thus a lifetime of experiences since the perspective of that 18-year-old, is finally learning to just accept and be.
If you’ll allow me to indulge in just one more—this morning, since it was my first morning to really venture into town for an extended period of time since my health had returned, I wrote again that I want to make a new friend. And while I was not aware of it at the time, in the background of my mind my intuition was guiding me towards a masculine energy, where as when I met Jessie, I was feeling more that I wanted to connect with feminine energy. Regardless, Nate from Minneapolis wound up sitting on the ground behind me today at Café Budan (Iron and Wine playing at the Café), and since there was no where else to sit, I asked if he would like to sit with me. I was trying to focus on writing, but he sat down and we began chatting and exchanging our travelers tale. At first, before he sat down, I barely noticed him sitting behind me, but when I saw him, I had this feeling that I knew we would click. His hair was disheveled, he wore corduroy shorts, and had many string and beaded bracelets upon his wrists, which while traveling in India denotes either places you’ve been or experiences you’ve had. I myself have one bracelet on, which Jessie gave to me as a sign of our friendship and time spent together in McLeod Ganj.
Nate and I hung out for a while and then came back to my place to enjoy the patio and the view, and we had a few smokes. We made plans to meet up in the evening to hear a Tibetan refugee speak, who was tortured by the Chinese, as well as plans to check out a waterfall I heard about yesterday. Timmy has a new buddy.
I was feeling really good when he left and quite grateful. As is often, one’s internal world is manifested in their external world, and so what the inside of my stomach looked like after going through war, so too did my room. I had no energy to clean up for the last few days, so much like I would engage in “Timmy Time” at home, I threw my iPod on and began to clean and organize. One of the first songs that came on was a practice session of a song I wrote when I played in a band back in Seattle, called “Thoughts of a 17-year-old." About a week ago, while Jessie and I were having dinner at a restaurant, the restaurant turned into an open mic jam session, and so I played a few of my songs, “Thoughts of a 17-year-old,” included. It goes like this:
Soccer balls and shopping malls, lonely Friday nights,
Sittin’ there starin’ up into the starlight
You’re dreamin’ of—who you’ll be tomorrow.
Bongos, bongs, bowls, and beers,
Tryin’ to figure out who you becomin’ all these years –
and who you’ll be—who you’ll be tomorrow.
Cause the future’s so near but you’re stuck right here in the present.
Cause the future’s so near but you’re stuck right here today.
Math and science, English lit,
What the hell do I care, I don’t give a shit
I’m dreamin of—who I’ll be tomorrow.
Who you are and what you’ll be remains a mystery
Only to be unmasked through the course of history
Who will you be tomorrow.
Cause the future’s so near but you’re stuck right here in the present.
Cause the future’s so near but you’re stuck right here today.
(now imagine a sweet-ass instrumental jam here with some really nice guitar work by Ian, some nimble keys by John, Simmons keepin’ it down on bass, and Adam movin’ the flow on brushes)
I have no idea who I’m gonna become
So I’m gonna sit here with this guitar and strum
Strum until tomorrow.
I’m gonna strum, strum until tomorrow.
I’m gonna strum…strum until tomorrow.
Time is skewed in India and not such a precise thing as we have in the west. Time is relative, time is elastic. A few hours could mean a few days depending on with whom you’re talking to and what you’re discussing. I think in a place like India, where you’re senses are assaulted the moment you step off your international flight, it’s easier to see that tomorrow is a tenuously balanced idea and that all you really have is today. Unlike the young kid in that song I wrote, I no longer feel like I’m stuck in the present. I am present, in the present, and I’m doing my best to actively create the future, because there is only one place where the future can be created—from the seat of the present.
Whether you’re a painter or a writer, a CEO or a janitor, a mother or father, no matter what your role may be in life, life is about creation. The way I see it, if you really boil it down and are actually looking, you have but two ways to look at life; You can look at life as the Divine Orchestra of our individual and collective evolution, or you can look at life as a bottomless pit that is empty and meaningless. Regardless, life is blank slate, an empty canvas upon which to paint your picture, and I think if you paint it with the oils of love, gratitude, and intention, there can be no failure, and the algorithmic possibilities for one’s life and community are endless.
As Zoe so eloquently said in our interview, “Everyone, with no exception, used to be an artist when we were children.”
Now get out there and create something from you heart today.