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Looking goooood in Milan

Traveling through a one-way across the world can be a major thrill, especially during the planning stage.  After striking an airfare deal at $168 flying from New York to Milan, then Prague to Hong Kong via Amsterdam, my friends and I have been in planning mode for this trip for the past five months.  But before we knew it, we were landing in Milan.

I was aware that Milan is the fashion capital of the world, but upon arriving I was still alarmed to realize that I was virtually the worst-dressed person in town.  The kids who were coming out of middle school were clad in more fashionable attire than me.  After acknowledging that, we spent our first day shopping for clothing that would allow us to blend in and look good.  Whilst buying a new set of cloths, I finally realized that a sense of fashion is almost an art form; it is a composure of different pieces for one to present oneself.  Too often weve ignore this notion in the United States, where fashion is considered a luxury rather than a necessity as it is in Milan.

On the other hand, we also faced some moderate self-esteem issues being that were were surrounded by so many beautiful people.  While partying at Just Cavali on our second night there, we witnessed some of the most beautiful professional models just constantly checking their appearances in their mirrors.  What supposed to look good and feel good now becomes a liability not only on professional life, but on personal consciousness as well.

Visiting Fernet Branca factory was another highlight of our trip.  Ive only known Fernet as a drink that is  usually taken in shots and tastes like Chinese medicine.  The factory tour did open my eyes to what Fernet is really about.  What tasted like Chinese medicine is in fact Chinese medicine, brewed and extracted from more than fifty types of herbs from across the span of five different continents. Fernet Branca not only gets people inebriated, but is actually extremely healthy too.  I am no cocktail expert, nor an alcohol expert per se, but after seeing the ingredients, as well as the passion and craftsmanship theyve put into their drink, Id say I will definitely be drinking more of it for health purposes.

Another highlight in Milan for me would be seeing the Duomo di Milano.  Duomo di Milano was a magnificent piece from both architecture and spiritual perspective.  Ive woke up early enough for a early visit right after it opens, upon praying inside the Cathedral, it felt as if I went through a psychedelic state without being on drugs. There was no more sense of self, only the awareness.  An hour of sitting felt more like five minutes.

Perhaps the most important part of the trip was “The Last Supper” at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where we bore the vision of a Da Vinci masterpiece and one of the most famous paintings in the world. Not knowing it was even located in Milan prior to the trip, I somehow managed to acquire a viewing ticket right before departing.  Due to the heavy demand, you’re only allotted fifteen minutes with this masterpiece. Once we entered the room the precious clock started to tick.  Although photography was prohibited, the image of the Last Supper will be imbedded in my memory for the rest of my life.

Milan is an amazing city, despite being one of the most expensive regions Ive visited.  The copious supply of culture and art really made me feel the presence of spirituality in Christianity.  Also, there arent many places in the world where the majority is extremely conscious about the way they look and I appreciate that I can get a better fashion sense just by walking amongst them.

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Inspiration | travel

Adventures on the island of Maui

It has been two years since my first trip to the island of Maui, and I’ve ended up coming back to explore some of the things I wasn’t able to experience last time around.  I claimed my stay at the The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort that I booked for a week’s vacation. I originally purchased the package for my parents, but their lack of interest in traveling incited a fun stay for me instead.

To continue the scuba diving pattern apparent throughout my other travels, I secured three days of diving with Lahaina Divers.  After diving at the Molokini Crater and The First Cathedral at Lanai, I’ve realized this is by far the best visibility I’ve seen among all my diving trips.  What continuously amazed me was the abundance of sea turtles that reside in the region; they are such friendly and calm creatures, roaming freely across the ocean alongside curious divers. 

Due to the turtle harassment law, we were prohibited from touching any sea turtles.  During one occasion I was forcefully driven into the sea turtle whilst filming him feast on corals by the current, only to realize he was driven backwards by the current as well.  He gave me a look, almost as if to reassure me, “It’s just the current, just stay calm, there is nothing we can do.”  The moment was special, not because I was able to tape good footage from GoPro, but because a neutral understanding was shared between us with only the language of common civilities.

Driving up to Haleakalā and roading up to Hana posed a relatively extensive challenge.  After waking up at 3am, we proceeded to drive up to Haleakalā, or “The House of the Sun.” I never thought I’d be bringing winter apparel to Hawaii, but being at the top at the summit sent chills through me that I’ve never even encountered at ski resorts. The temperature does drop down to lower 30s Fahrenheit, which is cusping the freezing point.  When I return here in the future, I will definitely try to arrange a camping expedition and experience solitude under the House of the Sun.

The other side of Road to Hana was Haleakalā; that most of this road was paved certainly provided a different experience.  Hiking to the Waimoku Falls was one of the major highlights to my trip; standing in front of the waterfall provoked a feeling of insignificance that ran through the core of my being. As the water perpetually crashed against the rocks, the dirt on my body and in my mind were carried away with the movement.

Beyond these adventures, I engaged in a few more activities: surfing at The Break, watching fire dances at a Lu Au, and paying a visit to the Blow Hole as well as checking out different colors of beaches like Red Sand Beach and Black Sand Beach.  Among all these things, what I miss most about Maui is the ensured privilege of jumping in the water at any given moment, and immersing yourself completely in the ocean.  Thank you Hawaii for giving me this wonderful experience, I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before we meet again.

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Hiking | Inspiration | travel

Wildlife of Galapagos Island

Ever since studying Charles Darwins theory of evolution, Galapagos Island has always been on many peoples interest.  This October, I had the privilege of given a sneak peak of what goes on here at these magical Islands for 6 and half days.

Upon arriving, Ive booked my Diving trip through Academy Bay Diving dive shop and booked my 3 day diving trip, one day in North Seymour and Daphanie, one day in Gordon Rock and one day on Florna Island.  This is probably the best choice Ive made on this trip.

Despite the water visibility not being perfect the first two days, we were still able to see eagle rays, manta rays, sea turtles, and many other different schools of fish which I can not even name.  And on the Isle Floreana we were able to see white tip sharks and sea turtles resting in the cave.  Swimming among them makes feel not how vulnerable I am, but also how amazing and friendly the animals seems to be, even the sharks.  There were moments where Ive gotten lost and search for bubbles of my dive master and dive group, the feeling is not only surreal, but it gives me a sense of serenity,  where time and space was completely suspended not only in a figurative description, but in a literal experience in the middle of the nothing but toqtoise colored world.

After 3 days of diving we finally had 2 days of land tour, it was just as amazing.  Our host at  Casa Germania was able to give us a ride to the El Cato on the Isle Santa Cruz, it gives me a great pleasure watching tortoises here roaming freely here, most of them were afraid and stick their head inside when we get closer, but there were a few thats brave enough that our presence were merely a distraction, their tortoise eating business is still as usual.  After all, it is their home, and we are just visitors.

The marine iguanas are another specie thats unique to the Galapagos Island ecosystem.  At Tortuga Bay they rest peacefully in groups until people came too close, then they start spitting salt at them as a warning sign.  The land iguana are suppose to be  bigger, but since our plan for a North Seymour land tour did not materialize, we were only able to see them at Darwin Research Center, it is there Ive learned that they were once extremely populated, and at due to humans distraction of the ecosystem, they were almost on the verge of extinction.  The shape of these magnificent lizard reminds of dragons in the mythical tales, the only difference would be spitting salt instead of fire.

We spent our final day on Isle Isabella, which is the only guided land tour weve taken, and probably the worst choice weve made after coming to the Island.  The feeling of freedom being taken away is nothing short of torture in my travels, especially knowing that I can do it myself without the tour itself.  But we did get to see Galapagos penguins and boobies, two amazing birds thats master of swimming in the ocean.

Another highlights would be how friendly the pelicans and sea lions are, at a local market wild sea lions would be waiting for fish heads or other parts to be tossed, it looked like the chefs pet dog, except its a sea lions.  Pelicans on the other hands keeps trying to steal the food from chefs prep table, trying to eat just about anything, including sharpening stone. 

Living among these wildlife made me realize that it is possible for humans to be part of the wildlife ecosystem.  It also made me start to humanize them as well, by putting myself in their shoes.  After all, they just want to live freely and have a place called home, have a few friends they can lay next to when they get cold, have a mate and give birth to the next generation, and have fun during the day while living their life.  But the bigger question is, dont we humans just want that as well?

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Bear Watching: The McNeil River Experience in Alaska

McNeil Fall Bear Catching Salmon

Last year, I spent two and a half weeks in Alaska and was convinced I had seen and experienced everything the state had to offer. It seems as though The Last Frontier has a way of bringing me back-I recently received an email extending my winnings in the McNeil River lottery for bear watching. It turned out to be one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life. 

Upon receiving the lottery results and spending a few days planning out my schedule, I figured I couldn’t resist the proposal to spend four days hanging with Alaskan brown bears (also known as the North American Grizzly) in an extremely intimate setting. The fact that this an off-grid expedition was to take place off the grid was what won me over, given that I have a place in my heart for self-sufficient travels. The permit cost a mere $350, but the planes and charters were both expensive and tricky to book. However, I can now say that the expenses were worth every penny.

The first thing I’ve noticed upon arriving at the McNeil River Game Range was its magnificent and truly breathtaking landscape. The camp was situated by the lagoon, which gave us a view of both the tide as well as the mountain behind it. The rangers provided me with a sense of homely comfort despite being located in what could literally be constituted as the Middle of Nowhere. And after setting up my tent, the bear-watching group returned and introductions unraveled.

Throughout the trip both the adolescent and mature bald eagles were doing some watching of their own (presumably on the lookout for grub), but it almost seemed as though they were guardians watching over their sanctuary.  

For the first two days we were blessed with ideal weather-sunny days, blue skies and the occasional clouds were the norm overhead conditions. 

I learned a lot about how the salmon run works-this migration ultimately decides the fate of bear viewing. I’ve also realized that all the guides were biologists who shared mass knowledge about both the bears and the environment.  It was their passion and love towards the animals that drew them into their careers; by committing to public services, they all live exceedingly frugal lives.

The bear viewing was, of course, the highlight of the trip. On several occasions we were within 10 feet of the bears’ presence. The strange thing is that even being in such close proximity with creatures that have often been generalized as “dangerous” and “beastly”, we harbored no fear, and in retrospect, the bears shared that disposition in direct correlation. Retrospection also reveals that fear shared by both parties will often result in one of said parties getting hurt. By this notion, it can be said that it’s often our own fear we have to conquer in order to build trust with others.

The most rewarding experience came about when two cubs and their mother bear came and parleyed within 5 feet of us right on the beach.  The mother bear was under tremendous amount of stress trying to balance the hardships of fishing for salmon while keeping her cubs safe.  We ended up “babysitting” the cubs when the mother went fishing. When she realized how close the cubs was to us, she rushed back as fast as she could to ensure her children’s safety.  Even under those stress-heightened moments, both the humans as well as the bears behaved in a neutral fashion-this ensured the safety of both entities.

The wild animals roams around free from human interference but it saddens me that animals have to sacrifice so much to adopt a human’s way of living (e.g., destruction of natural habitats, uprising of human civilization in said habitats, etc.) and yet we’ve sacrificed little to nothing to comprise and live in harmony with the animals.  As my trip was coming to an end, I also realized that with substantial appeasement in our behaviors, we might be able to live in a coinciding fashion with one of the most intimidating species in existence. We, as a collective society, often speak of promoting peace and harmony with other nations and even other individuals, forgetting that animals inhabit this world just the same. Maybe learning how to compromise with other creatures of the planet will act as a stepping-stone in furthering the fundamentals of humanity.

To see the photos, feel free to visit my album



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Alaska | Hiking | Inspiration | travel

Tassajara Work Period April 2014

This is my second time going to Tassajara Work Periods. The way the practice works is that the participant volunteers to work for four days on a tight schedule that demands rising early and sleeping early, followed by one day off. During this trip, I’ve experienced a glimpse of not having any notion of “self” at all; although I still gained some insight on principalities, I would not consider this experience to be one that led me to obtain enlightenment. 

In accordance to my knowledge gained on the first trip, I have constructed three lessons learned from my time spent at Tassajara. The first lesson encompasses the importance of sitting. I’d volunteered to do weeding this time and after hours of crouching to dig the grass, I found myself sitting in the courtyard during my break observing birds and squirrels, two very common findings in nature. However, I didn’t feel the need to talk to anyone, nor did I feel the urge to check my phone for emails and text messages. The act of such a simple physical recess yielded one of the most pleasurable moments, leading me to realize how rare it is for us to acknowledge the simplicity of things that we are inherently entitled to. For a moment, I let myself separate from the hectic entailments of the average person’s worldly consumptions. For a moment, I let myself generate an appreciation for the things that are so simply and commonly present that they are often overlooked.  I let myself feel the immensely gratifying effect of my legs restoring blood circulation as I watched nature be nature; it was an honest state of being that I will never forget. 

My second lesson began with a task that required me to transfer composite that was decomposed naturally back to the plants and ended with me learning a heck of a lot about the importance of decomposition and recycling . The processes of environmental sustainability are always important, but I had been completely unaware of the major role that decomposition plays in our preservation of resources until I began to play a minor role in the Earth’s recycling process. The food we have left over, the leaves that litter the grounds, and so many seemingly excessive products of organic matter actually have some substantial importance to them-the decomposed matter returns to the Earth after a period of time and continue to sustain our planet. During my task of providing decomposed nutrition to the plants, I realized that materials like plastic can be extremely harmful to the environment. Due to the fact that certain products of waste are not capable of decomposing, they can not be recycled through the passage of natural change, at least not for a great deal of time. 

My third lesson was more of a personal revelation: I like vegetarian food. Learning from the mistakes of my first trip, I entered the practice equipped with an abundance of lactase pills because, well, I’m lactose intolerant. Surprisingly, the food was probably the highlight of my trip. I never thought I’d enjoy being a vegetarian as much as I did, but once I began eating I dropped all hankerings for meat. After five full days of being a vegetarian with dairy-eating capacities, I am convinced that there is a very limited range of good vegetarian food from which to choose from. I mean, I had only been on that diet for five days and I was already feeling restricted by my options. I’m assuming that the lack of variation plays a large factor in many people’s refusal to give meat up, myself included. 

The work period is a practice in itself.  Bermuda grass contains a deep and extensive root system: the root can survive without sunlight, and it likes to grow in between rocks to shelter itself.  It is powerful enough to crack its aboding rocks in half and conducts itself in a highly invasive manner. Never had I thought a plant could harbor such an evil nature. Upon digging into the roots, I was overcome with the urge to get rid of them as quick as I could. The completion of one task would immediately lead to another, but utmost efficiency was not of the essence-if we didn’t finish in the given time slot, there were no consequences (someone else would just finish what I’d started). With my realization of the task’s permitted leniency, I went down and unearthed much of the surroundings, including a major portion of the bedrocks that was built for the road.  After two days, my team and I were able to fill four buckets full of the bermuda grass which I assume will not grow back for at least three years.  By not giving myself deadlines and working in a relaxed condition while being mindful of the task’s demands and parameters, I was able to feel satisfied with my work.

Tassajara’s endless supply of great food and great people made it impossible for me not to experience an enjoyable stay. As I was preparing for my departure from the Zen Center and taking a nature spring bath for the one last time, I wrote a little poem to extend a heartfelt farewell:

 

Coming to tassajara with one thing in mind,

To obtain enlightenment that will come in time.

I am humbled and grateful for the five-day stay,

May the dust from everyone be washed away.

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Inspiration | travel | Zen

My TEDxAdventure: Jungle experience

Photo by Oliver Wolfe and TEDxAdventure

Perhaps it is because I’ve grown tired of partying that I try to avoid the over- commercialized New Year celebration and instead felt drawn to the uncomplicated grounds of wilderness. I appreciate being surrounded by an atmosphere where I can feel the touch of nature that will provide ultimate healing towards one’s soul. 

As I was on my way to plan my itinerary for solo hiking Torres Del Paine in Chile, my friend Nate Mook posted the information about TEDxAdventure.  Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s fate, or maybe it’s just another one of these hints that life provides you from time to time; there are things in life that will lead to more self-discovery. We gravitate towards the events that will alter our self-healing and further our worldly endeavors. After all, it was my first TED event back in 2010 that ultimately changed my life.

This was definitely a memorable trip. I find that as I grow older, good memories are harder and harder to come by; what was once extraordinary now becomes a mundane act that we are too accustomed to. This trip was different, though. It provided me with not just a glimpse of the jungle life, but also many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.  The understanding of jungle farming, skinny dipping with thirty other people, horseback riding in the jungle, rock diving in paradise hole, and a sweet ending that took place on a rooftop party on New Year’s Eve with friends that I’ve bonded over past week was nothing short of an amazing time.

The lesson I’ve learned from the trip is that inefficiency must often be present in order to find real connections and a genuine experience. Unlike many other TEDxAdventure attendees that post in the group, I didn’t really build up much anticipation for this event.  My life had been too efficient and redundant to the point where I simply have to get up and finish my work on time, and all the other hassles in life such as laundry and cleaning life will be taken care of.  My food intake mainly involves blending fruit and vegetable shakes, so that I can provide myself with more nutritional meals in a shorter period of time.  After our first night of arriving at Kalu Yala Camp, I’ve realized that a routine lifestyle can be counter-productive in life, leading to a void that can only be filled by genuine contentment. I continue to harbor the belief that in order to obtain friendship and human resolution, you must save yourself time to do things you love rather than become swept up in having a corporate conduct in all aspects of life. We live in a world with so many stories to reap, so much knowledge to absorb, so many people to genuinely bond with, and so many memories to live.

The experience I gained at the TEDxAdventure left me with memories to last several lifetimes. As Salman Rushdie once said, “Memory is a way of telling you what's important to you.”  May this adventure be a marvelous memory for all those who took part in it.

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Hiking | Inspiration | travel | Zen

Alaska trip, a peek into Mount Mckinley and catching up with friends

Mount Mckinley

Mount Mckinley has been on my to-do list ever since I picked up mountain climbing.  This year, the mountain has been very kind to climbers, allowing over 83% of its mountaineers to reach the summit.  Although I am out of shape due to lack of exercise and the time I’ve spent in preparation for my new startup, watching the mountain itself gives me inspiration for the future.

I had always wanted to visit Alaska, to enjoy its beauty and feel the untouched wilderness around me.  Life finally gave me a chance to explore the wilds while at the same time catching up with my college friends - both my friend Hong and former co-founder Kash came with me on the trip.  The tales of Alaska’s “midnight sun” had been just a story to us, but daylight at 2am truly shocked me into an understanding of the actual situation.  It is very hard to fall asleep when the sun is out for pretty much the entire day.

There were many highlights on that trip to Alaska, but there are three amazing experiences that I will forever remember.

Denali National Park was one of the most impressing features of the trip.  The bus system that travels through Eielson visitor center runs every hour or so, and at the visitor center you can see the north face of Mount Mckinley.  Animals roam freely through the park, without any fear of human beings.  It creates the feeling of humans being the visitors, and the animals being the hosts.  

Another fantastic experience was interacting with the Native Alaskans.  I've always been interested in different cultures, and learning about Native Alaskan culture was no exception.  As there seem to be no restaurants that serve their food, finding a place to taste dishes like moose, whale, or seal meat (black meat as they call it) seems virtually impossible.  In Fairbanks, we met a woman named Pixie Alexandar, who was the director of the Athabaskan cultural center.  The visitor center was intrigued by our genuine interest about learning their culture, and also provided a very hearty home-cooked meal where we got a taste of moose soup as well as beluga whale.  During the dinner we also learned the history of the Native Alaskans and were impressed by the way they can live off nothing but the land around them.  In their hunter-gatherer culture, nothing is wasted, and everything goes back into the ecosystem.  During the winter there isn't much transportation to the outside world, and so they must live off the land to survive.

I always enjoy visiting a port town, and Seward is exactly that.  My friends were hoping to enjoy the fresh fish of Alaska: salmon, halibut, rockfish and many others.  But I didn't care nearly as much about the food, mostly just enjoyed the experience.  We also took a one-day guided tour to Kenai Fjord, where we got to see the glacier.  Sea otters, whales, puffins and other animals roamed freely in the ocean.  The glacier in this area isn't retreating nearly as fast due to global warming as some stories say, but each glacier seems to have its own personality and is affected differently.

There isn’t really a single take-away message from the trip.  The only real challenge we had was finding Native Alaskan food, which we managed to acquire through the hospitality of the locals.  I'll be going back next time to watch the aurora during the winter.  For those who are seeking untouched nature and pristine wilderness, Alaska is definitely one of the best places to find it.

 

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Hiking | Inspiration | travel

John Muir Trail Lessons

I’d like to share a story with you guys.  Last year about this time, my life devastating, my career wasn’t working out, the company I started wasn’t going anywhere, and most important of all, and my 4 year relationship ended in gruesome breakup.  Nothing was going right, and I was experiencing some of the hardest time of my life.  I felt depressed, hopeless, like a failure, disappointing the very people whom I loved, my parents, my peers, the people who looked up to me, and my best friends who quit their full time jobs to start a company with me.

So one day I decided to change my perspective, I realized that I didn’t have any kids, didn’t have any addictions, in fact, i didn’t have any responsibilities at all.  And the best part is that I’ve saved up enough money for me to last a year or two without working.  So I’ve went into the wilderness and experienced some of the best times of my life.  Out of all the experiences I went through, the one that affected the most was a solo journey of a 240 mile hiking trail, the John Muir Trail.

I don’t have a lot of time, so I am going to tell 3 lessons I’ve learned from that trail.  First lesson, I’ve arrived a beautiful lake named Squaw Lake, surrounding the lake there was 4 mountain tops.  Upon sitting by the lake I felt the mountains were alive, almost as if they were gods, I kept trying to get it’s attention and yet the mountains stayed still.  And looking down I’ve seen a couple of ants, trying to get my attention and I simply could not care.  I felt insignificant, just like the ants in front of me.  And if I was insignificant in front of eyes of gods, then my problems are not really problems, and I felt relieved all of sudden, that I am no longer center of the universe, I was merely an ant in eyes of god.

My second lesson is by a place called Muir Hut, the King’s Canyon have not received rain for months, but that day it was rolling thunder.  Coincidentally, just by the time I arrived at the hut the thunderstorm started and I was the only one in the hut.  It is a historical tournament and you can’t stay in the hut unless you are avoiding the thunderstorm, and that’s exactly what I was doing.  At that moment, I realized that there are so many random factors in my life to happen for me to be in that hut at that time, the situation presented itself so perfectly that I felt that I am suppose to be in that hut at that specific time.  Therefore when things are not meant to be, they are simply not meant to be, and when timing is not right, we’d just have to be patient to see what life has to offer for us.

My third lesson.  I was alone throughout the entire trail but I didn’t feel lonely; the wilderness can be scary but I was not scared; the hike was the most exhausting trip I’ve ever had but I was not exhausted.  I was out of food, and when a trail maintainer shared some of her food with me I’ve cried, to truly experience the generosity of human nature.  I was so tired sometimes,  that simply sitting down became such a luxury.  After finishing the trail on the summit of Mount Whitney, I’ve finally understand the meaning of “appreciation for life”, that best things in life have always happened in front of me, that I just chose to ignore it, but no more.

While I was on the trail, I remembered of a quote by John Muir “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” And I hope the nature will help you as it has helped me.

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Hiking

Tassajara Work Period Sept 2012

Tassajara has always been on my List of Places to Visit ever since I started practicing zen. In addition, knowing that many of my idols like Steve Jobs have practiced here before furthered my interest in being a part of the practice.  The trip was undoubtedly worthwhile, albeit some very unexpected twists stemming from the self-discoveries and universal understandings I experienced.

I gathered three very important concepts of knowledge from this trip.  The first is my realization that some things are just meant to happen. On the way to the zen center I made a quick stop at the gas station, and indulged in a hot dog composed of questionable ingredients. I contracted food poisoning shortly after, and my decision to trust that a gas station would serve decent food haunted me for my first two days of practice. My stomach was anguished and the fact that many of the foods in Tassajara contain dairy products did not make my lactose-intolerant condition any more tolerable. However, after partaking in several meditation exercises, I was overcome with the epiphany that maybe I was meant to endure this trial. I began to alter my perception of the nature of random occurrences: my newfound belief is that people are not always victims of coincidence. It is possible that in some circumstances, the order of events are set up to be experienced in order to further an individuals being, whether that be tested in the form of knowledge or patience, and in my case, possibly my ability to accept a circumstance without judgment or complaint.  

My second lesson was brought on by my constant expulsion of diarrhea. I volunteered to dig the septic tanks to ensure that I would always have access to a bathroom in proximal range. After almost two days spent digging out all the tanks, I was assigned to clean the restrooms. I began conjuring up negative thoughts about the demeaning task: I came here to meditate and obtain enlightenment, not to take up a janitorial position. But within these thoughts grew one of a more modest nature: I realized that for the past two days I had used the restroom more than anyone else at the center, and if work were to be distributed by utilization then I should be the designated person to do it. That simple rationality permitted me the knowledge of the difference between my ego and me. It is easy to get caught up in the whims of our egos, but I have learned to understand that we must be wary when the ego speaks because it does not represent who and what we truly are.

I spent one of my mornings preparing cauliflower in the kitchen, and when dinner came around I realized that the same cauliflower was being served in the soup we were having for dinner. This made me think about how the restrooms I cleaned the previous day were being utilized by others in the practice now. It was during this reflection of my tasks that I realized the full extent to which actions influence the people around me. In a small community, everything we do has some sort of effect on others. In a larger society our actions permit the same effect, but we are almost always unable to perceive this impact due to the larger scope of the project. With this understanding of the degree of my influence, I simultaneously acknowledged the individual potential that we each hone; I am my own person but I am also an influential entity to others.

As winter is approaching, only the resident monks will stay for the season.  I’ve learned a lot about myself during this trip, and I hope that I will come back sometime in the future to further my practice.

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Blog | Essay

Spreading love

 

I was watching my Facebook and the subway ad in New York City really caught my attention.  It seems to be very easy for people to spread hate, to draw attention upon our vulnerable mind.

We all claim that we are able to love, and yet we always put hate in front of us.  There are so many ways to love, love for humanity, love for nature, love for perfection, love for innocence, love for joy, love for intimacy, love for appreciation, love for the freedom, love for just being in the moment, and many many more.  Love can be spread endlessly, just by giving homeless people some food you'd starting to appreciate life more; love can be contagious, by smiling at a baby, everybody around will be smiling too; love is mesmerizing, the moment you are zoned out into a piece of art of the sound of music, you have just been seduced by it.

We were built to love, from the day we were born to the day we die.  And it's from love that gives us the creativity and courage to protect this world and to build upon this world.  So next time when you see something hateful, just remember that who you hate has a mother, a father, and was loved by someone in this tiny little world.

 

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