A Brief Encounter

Running in Circles

In the Olympic National Forest, I awoke at dawn before my campmates to sneak in a run along the Hoh River. Cool air lay heavy and damp and thick upon the forest. The light was dim, but growing with every passing minute. I was minding my own breath with each stride on the soft trail when I heard a rumble to my right, growing in intensity. I looked up startled, and behold! A herd of Roosevelt Elk – the largest of its kind – were galloping in tangent with me.

I was so engulfed by the immensity of their sudden presence which so starkly matched my own present circumstance of running in the lush forest, that I reacted with a kind of glorious grace and raced to join the herd in a kind of mania that only a lonesome human desiring to be of nature could accentuate with such prominence. I found myself diverging off the human trail and smashing through the forest right alongside the massive elk. No longer focused on my own breathing, I turned and glanced out my peripherals, as much as a hominid can, to see the plumes of breath in the cold morning shoot out from what looked to be over thirty individual snouts. The sounds of the forest birds seized, and the rolling and rushing of the nearby Hoh river were drowned out by their rhythmic stampeding.

I felt pulled along, swept away from my mere human existence, pushed into the profundity of life, freed from the confinements of my ever-encroaching thoughts. I was truly a man among giants. Alas, I could not keep up any longer with the powerful creatures. My heart felt as if it were to leap out through my throat. I couldnʻt tell if from exhaustion or pure passion to join the herd forever. I slowed to a stop and watched the giant elk disappear into the depths of the forest.

Breathing wildly, I turned around and slowly jogged towards the sound of the river, finding my way back to the peaceful and unbeknownst humans, who still lay cocooned in their tents dreaming of fantastical encounters with the magical unknown…

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A Day in the Patient Life of Tyler

,philosophy, A Day in the Life Of, Running and mental health, Running in Circles
2016 was a year of me confronting what I want which ultimately brought me to the realization that I don’t really know what that is. And so with 2017 arriving I’m accepting that fact as gracefully as I know how, so I can take the next steps towards greater awareness, scraping off the layers of denying my own heart its true desires and begin exploring the world of risk-taking.
I’ve always wanted to rush life’s processes, anxious for change, but I always am expecting to be able to do it from the safety and comfort of my own conservatism. Committing to the unknown has always been a real issue for me, suspending me in what feels like a regressive time-wasting well with slippery moss-dampened high walls. I learned quickly in this deep well how to master self-deception, believing the walls can never be climbed, that I’ll just have to wait in the shuddering darkness for some savior to come rescue me in the forgotten forest. All of this, of course, I have done onto myself.
And so as the years go by, even as I live in the perceptive paradise of Hawai’i,  I have picked up the handy tool of doubting myself through the highly infectious inner spinning spools of the mind, twisting and weaving together threads of domesticated abstract thoughts, only mere reflections of who I am, into a too-tightly knit canvas, smothering the true me.  This blanket of deception- how I see myself, how my mind weaved together a construct of who I am – is now the wholly dominate way in which I have come to know myself. It’s hard to breath under that blanket. It’s hard to find any source of warmth in that well. It’s cold and lonely and I can only hear the echoes of my voice reverberating the doubts I shout so that my doubts in this illusionary well start shouting at themselves. Doubts shouting out doubts. Doubts doubting doubts.
Hawai’i in some ways has become a symbolic plane-field to contain my virtual self, and study it with keen awareness. Nothing really to report, certainly nothing worthy of being published. My life continues on what seems like a meaningless thread of nonsense. It brings me down a lot. I’m afraid I’ve learned to not trust most things, most people, weary of their true unconscious intentions, their unmet needs. But most of all, I have learned not to even trust myself. I’m not sure I have the strength to climb the walls towards the light. I’m not sure I have the the ability to relax so that the grip of my mind’s threads stops weaving its constricting tapestry around my squirming body.
I hunger for truth. I desire change. I pray for progress. I live in angst.
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On New Years Eve, I ventured out to the far reaching coast of Kalapana in Puna to stay with a fellow runner friend, Tyler. He’s 29, been on the island for 6 years and seems relatively grounded (relative to me that is). So I finally took him up on his invitation to dine and dash, in a literal sense. We went out for a 9 mile run on the Red Road, climbed his neighbors coconut tree to harvest the fruits as a favor, and settled into his abode as the sun set, shining its last colors above the jungle canopy.
Tyler bought a piece of land a few years back, and with the help of friend they built a 16×24 un-zoned house with lovely loft, complete with water catchment, a propane shower and composting toilet. Befriended his sweet elderly  neighbor with the mature coconuts, he borrows her electricity and modest wifi. We made a delicious abundance of vegan food all locally sourced (except for the rice). Because it was a special occasion, Tyler whipped out his valued juicer and creamed the old coconuts we harvested from the Tree, mixing it with a delectable tahini, lemon, curry spice, and soy sauce as dressing for the cooked Bananas, Uala Potatoes and Green Beans. On the ground of his kitchen lay a series of banana bunches on newspaper, all in what looked like a sequential order, from freshest to ripest. Tyler  was just going through his life’s routine, and I refreshingly observed the ins and outs of his low-impact, simple yet methodical Puna lifestyle.
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The Humble Abode

The next day we awoke to the new year, and amongst our breakfast we indulged in a digestive conversation about things to come. Tyler does not comment much on his introspective life, instead spending most of his cognitive abilities outwardly. His way of life is extremely systematic. He has only what he needs, and nothing more. He is efficient with his movements and his work. It is a delight to witness, and at times I found myself even humored by it as it creates a concentrative lightness in the atmosphere. I felt so far removed from my own internal burdens that being in his world with all of its intensive intentions somehow made me feel happy and giddy. As I laughed aloud a couple times, I hoped that Tyler did not take any offense. It was too tempting to express my jubilance as he performed calculating squats for optimal leverage while juicing the coconut, or his precise arm-wailing technique while entering his house through the screen door to prevent any greedy mosquitos from joining our New Years party. The beautiful part was that all his movements, his actions, were evolutionary-based. They were all created as solutions to problems. They were creative and effective. And if they weren’t effective, they died, and new methods were born. It is his way of life.

But in this morning-lit conversation, Tyler shared some wonderful insight that struck me like a big brass bell, still resonating through my trembling cells. “I feel there is a change coming soon for me. I’m not sure what it is, or when it will happen. There is a time for rest, and a time for action. The past six years I’ve not really had any motivation to pursue anything, so I didn’t force anything. I just lived day by day, exploring what I enjoyed, and throughout it all I’ve always been waiting with patience for when the time comes to move along. And I think it is soon.”

I looked up from my oats as he spoke. Just an hour before while Tyler was still asleep, my mind was active and buzzing, trying to figure out my life for me. I was looking at Job openings, I was looking at Graduate programs. I was considering this and pondering that. My mind is earnest, it is loyal and well-intentioned, but now, as Tyler finished speaking, I wondered just how much my mind was really acting in the best interest of the rest of me. For a split second I saw that the well wasn’t real. That the blanket was made of nothing. Here stood Tyler, a man who I can say without a doubt is a gifted and talented man, just living a self-proclaimed idle life in the back jungles of Puna, and he’s okay with that. Content with his life as it is, in the now.

I was inspired. Not by his life per se, but his attitude towards his life. His full trust and faith in himself. That what he’s doing now matters, and everything will fall into place as the tides change, as the seasons cycle, as the stars align.
I don’t know how many more cycles I have on this Island. I never really know. But I dream of living here forever. I dream of starting a family, having land, having purpose, having a close and loving everlasting community, where someday I’ll be a grandfather to the whole town. But I also still doubt too much that I’ll ever achieve that. I’m afraid I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I’m afraid we all will be. That the world will end in loneliness.
Or revive itself in togetherness.
That day, as I collected my belongings and said my farewells to Tyler, I drove back along the windy roads to Hilo and started to reimagine myself as I once was, as I always have been: a man of faith exploring that which makes the heart grow fonder.
Here’s to 2017. A new year. Another year. Another chance to wash away the past and be alert to the callings of things to come. All we can do is prepare every day in every moment and act when it is time to act. If we miss the last bus, well then we’ll take the next train…
…as in the words of Julian Casablancas:
I say the right things but act the wrong way
I like it right here but I cannot stay
I watch the TV; forget what I’m told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
Oh, man, can’t you see I’m nervous, so please
Pretend to be nice, so I can be mean
I miss the last bus, we take the next train
I try but you see, it’s hard to explain

“It’s a good day to be alive.” A Mauna Kea Run.

Running in Circles

I slept in. I woke up slowly, nothing really to look forward to on yet another empty day. I made my ritual coffee, read a few pages in the latest existentialist-fueled book, and probably cleaned my room or something mundane to preoccupy my bored mind. The weather had been awfully rainy, but everyone knew that a blizzard was upon the peaks of the two volcanoes.

My phone dings. A message from Billy.

<Thinking about taking work off tomorrow and running up Mauna Kea. Wanna join?>

Thank god for friends who are just as crazy as me. Boy was I needing an adventure.

Billy shows up at my house the next morning. Although I was just getting over being sick from a detoxifying salt water deprivation tank float, and I was mending a hurt shoulder, I couldn’t resist  the chance to join a friend up the snowy slopes of Mauna Kea. The access road to the summit was closed so no one in their right mind would be able to experience the snowy mountain. But we were out of our right minds, and really into our bodies. We parked right at the closed road, change into our layers, strapped on our running packs, gave a nonchalant nod to the Ranger patrolmen and headed into the bushes.

 We trekked up and over and a cinder cone, where we could clearly see the trail on the other side to join up with. We slid down and whooped as we connected with the trail, like passing through a gateway. Our adventure had begun.

We took off at a brisk pace listening to the crunch under our feet. It was an easy ascent at first and we spent the time chatting excitedly, keeping in check our breathing and heart rate. 

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The scenery was dramatic and ever-changing, as plumes of clouds seemed to appear from all sides of the island, converging at Mauna Kea. At one moment it was clear with grand views of the saddle, Mauna Loa and Hualalai, then suddenly it was covered up into a thickness the eye could not penetrate.

It was relatively warm until one of these voids of fog pressed down upon us, then a coldness would set in chilling the bone. I was constantly taking on and off my insulating hoody. Billy just kept rocking his buff and shades whether the sun beamed through or not.

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Billy kept me up to date on our elevation gain, and I was always surprised to hear him call out the next 1,000′ milestone. We started at 9,000′ and it seemed like in no time we had already made it to 12,000′. But this was also where we were met with snow, something we were looking forward to, yet I had never really imagined the challenges that would come with the frozen terrain.

You don’t really think about snow all that much when living in Hawai’i. It doesn’t really come with the the whole tropical experience and although I’ve been in the mountains plenty of times having lived in the Rockies and Cascade ranges, I didn’t quite know how to prepare for snow on top of this volcano.

We took our first rest at first sight of snow. I grabbed a handful and pressed it into a ball. Billy took out his new camera and played with the macro settings. The scenery had cleared up again and we took it in before setting off back up the mountain.

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Our trail to the summit

The climbing was beginning to get difficult, as the air thinned. My light body-weight made it easier for me to lift one leg in front of the other, but Billy had a good solid and steady pace that helped me slow down and not get too ahead of myself. We both knew in the back of our heads we’d pay for it later at the top.

We made a good team as the hours passed. The snow was getting thicker and our minds slowed to the pace of our movements and our minds blended with the rocky cinder snowy environment. Our conversations ended. The fog rolled in again and the silence was deadening. This was to be the last time we could see out beyond the slopes of the mountain. Our world shrank to just a few feet in all directions.

I lead most of the way and had to glance up from time to time to keep an eye on the next trail marker which came either as a steel post pounded in the ground, or a cairn of rocks, called and Ahu. We had been walking for a while now in the snow, and my feet were beginning to get cold. It was also much more tiring to trek across snow then the gravely trail. As the conditions thickened, the trail was lost entirely and we relied purely on the markers, walking roughly straight lines from one to the next. We slipped and slid between footings as we never knew if our next step would be upon the sturdy ground or a jagged rock hiding underneath the blanket of snow.

Time kept on passing, and we fell into the trance of our own rhythmic breathing. Our minds were fully present and focused, commanding our bodies up and up and up, until we reached a sort of fork in the road, with no clear sense of which way to go. We saw some ahu to the left through the thick fog and decided to head that way. It took us along the lip of an old cinder cone where the wind picked up from down below, cascading up and over the lip. We were pummeled with icy rain and it was just around that time we both started to get worried.

We kept our cool, I started shivering, and just below us as the wind turned, the sacred lake Waiau appeared as if out of thin air. We took it as a beacon of hope, that we must be close to our meet-up point with the road that would take us the rest of the way to the Summit. Our only problem was we didn’t know where the road was supposed to be in relationship to the lake.

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Lake Waiau revealing itself through the fog.

So we continued to wander through the thick freezing fog, eventually turning back to our fork in the trail. Billy kept pointing to a large pu’u to our right saying, “I think that’s the summit, we must be behind it.” I gazed up at it, craning my neck, the top veiled by the fog. I really didn’t feel like scrambling up that Pu’u. I was starting to feel very cold, and the drunken feeling of the altitude was sloshing in my head.

We kept marching in a directionless direction when the winds shifted and Billy pointed again shouting, “there! the road!” Sure enough, a few hundred meters ahead lay the road, this whole time.

Climbing out of the now deep snow, we slapped the bottom of our shoes on the pavement, glad to be back on flat, relatively dry terrain. We headed up the road immediately, keeping our core body temperature warm, and renewed with energy from finding the road. But as we climbed only another half mile and nearing the last switchback bank, the winds were howling, and Billy, being the sensible one, stopped running and checked in with himself. I must of been too far gone with the altitude because I was feeling steadfast and determined to get to the top. Billy gave me the look, and it was enough for me to understand it was probably best not to push it. We were vulnerable, with minimal winter layers, and sure enough I realized my hands and feet were already completely numb.

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White Out

So, with that, we turned around, but this time continued on the road, a seven mile decent. I kept having the strongest urge to pee, but every time I stopped and tried, I was unsuccessful. The wind died down and with every mile the air temperature warmed. Our feet and hands slowly thawed out, which we were very grateful for, but at the same rate, my head and stomach were feeling worse. My thoughts became extremely foggy, and it took all my concentration to process what Billy was saying to me from time to time. We both laughed at the pounding of our heads with each stride. It was quite amazing how positive I was feeling while simultceanusouly feeling physically wretched. With two miles to go I couldn’t stand to run and had to walk. I could no longer focus my gaze, my bladder was screaming at me, and my head was pounding like Animal on the drums from the Muppets.

Thankfully, with a mile to go, I was able to finally pee, now that we were closer to 10,000′ elevation. And the last half mile, we started running again, I think mostly because I just wanted to get back to the car so I could collapse.

We ran past the guard who just gave us a nod, and headed straight to Billy’s car. Without saying much, I grabbed my dry clothes, headed to the bathroom at the visitor’s center where I met a line of tourists. At this point my conditions were worsening rapidly. Definitely phase one altitude sickness. As terrible as altitude sickness feels, like being drunk and hungover all at once, I was also reveling in the grandness of our time up on Mauna Kea.

After changing, Billy said, “lets just get out of here”. I  nodded my head and mumbled something like, “lower elevation please”. And with that we sped down the road, only stopping once a few hundred feet after departing for me to puke. Billy rolled down the window, stuck his head out and shouted, “nice one!” Always positive that Billy.

I put my seat all the way back, closed my eyes and passed out, only waking up as we rolled into Hilo. Feeling much better, but completely spent, I grabbed all my belongings, said farewell to billy, and crawled up to my house where I immediately started a bath.

One long hot soak and a hour nap later, I felt completely revived, and even cooked up a hot curry and invited my friend over to enjoy a nice dinner.

I am constantly amazed at what the body can endure, and just how quickly it can recover, if you allow it too. Another great adventure. Another test of my abilities, and another humbling experience on Mauna Kea.

The Hilo Marathon: A Rambling Run.

Running in Circles

20 hours before the Marathon. I have a slight headache and a weird spotty rash radiating up my left leg. Yesterday my left ankle felt all sorts of funky during a 3 mile “stretch of the ol’ leg”.

I’m sitting in a freezing cold cafe, huddled in as many layers as I brought, cupping my hands to warm my breath between typed sentences. I’m in Hawaii, for Christ’s sake.

I need to get home, on my bicycle. In the rain. It’s a long hilly ride. Gonna get soaked. Don’t really want to use the energy so soon before the race. But I messed up. Crashed in town last night at a friend’s. Left all my running attire at home. Thinking I’d just bike up there this morning. Great. Gonna catch a cold biking home in the rain, get soaked, grab my gear, bike back to town, get soaked again, and crash in town tonight, when I am supposed to.

I’m not a very good planner. I’m an even worse linear thinker. It just doesn’t come natural to me. I’ve had to learn. I’ve had to train myself. And then before I know it I’m walking around acting like someone else and losing touch with my own self. It’s not easy for folks like me. The cards are stacked against me. I look around and see everyone moving from one appointment to the next, one destination to another. Always preoccupied with the next thing to do. And I either gotta keep up or get run over. Most of the time I just run to get outta the way.

Marathon day. 6:00 am start time. I’m wide awake at 0445. My friend Tyler and I spent the night at a friend’s closer to the starting line. We arrive with plenty of time. It’s dark out, and a light rain is keep things cool. I feel good. Really good. Did everything right the night before. Ate a high-fiber dinner of cooked vegetables, kalo, and sweet potatoes. I had the best poop of my light when I awoke, and another at the starting line. I was well hydrated.

I ran the marathon. I ran it in shoes that felt like dead weight after only 5 miles, soaked through by the rain, my ankles sloshing around sloppily. I could feel a repeat from 2014 when I last attempted the very same marathon course. And sure enough, at almost exactly the same spot, Mile 21, the 2nd metatarsal right at the ball of my right foot begins to act up.

And I’m tired.

I went out fast, because I’ve got some good 10k speed under my wings, but I didn’t have the endurance to keep it up for 26.2 miles. Only about 20 miles. 20 miles. I saw my past self in front of me when I hit that pinnacle mile marker. My past self stopped and took his shoes off and tried to run barefoot to offset the pain. I watched him make it about a mile, limping, then walking, then stopping. Mile 21. I pass the marker where My past self is sitting on the curb waiting for someone to pick him up. The pain is excruciating. I can feel his on top of my own pain.

I’ve slowed down to 8min/miles after running nearly 20 miles averaging 7min/miles. No one has passed me yet. I had been alone in the race since about mile 5. No one in front, no one behind. No one to motivate me, and I kept getting slower and slower. I reached the last turnaround point, fighting hard internally. I wondered what I Looked like to the aid station volunteers as I passed through, mumbling something about being in pain, but too afraid to stop, fearing I’ll never get going again.

The rain had passed and the sun was out in full force. I tried changing how my right foot was hitting the pavement to minimize the pain, but each time I attempted, a muscle in my leg cramped, and I’d let out a yelp and return to slamming my foot back on the balls of my feet. 5 miles to go. It proved to be the hardest five miles of my life. I started talking to myself out loud… “come one Jon-Erik! Don’t you DARE think about stopping. Not this time. Come on! Keep going! Fucking DO IT.”

I trudged through the next mile as the course left the main road onto a quieter street. It was lonely. My body wanted to stop so badly. But I wasn’t having any of it. There were cones along the side of the road, spaced roughly 50 meters apart. I just focused on one cone at a time. I couldn’t think about the 4 to 5 miles left. Too long. The finish line felt impossibly far away. But the cones. I could do the cones.

Another mile down and I joined back with the main road. My eyes were beginning to roll in their sockets. I had a hard time focusing my vision. I didn’t really need it though. I snatched a Gu pack at the next aid station, and cup of water which I barely got down. I still gotta learn how to drink water while running. You’d think I’d have figured that one out.

Right after the aid station my right leg from achilles up through the hamstring stiffened without notice. I stopped in my tracks, shamelessly, and stretched it out, before shuffling along. I checked my watch. That last mile took 9 minutes. Holy shit. I’m not gonna make. Bad sign. When that thought creeps in, things get can real ugly. But I was in luck. I had my past self with me. No, he was behind me. And he was yelling at me from a distance. You can’t give up. You did that last time. No way are you giving up twice. And I also had my friends who I trained with and were in the race. One in front of me, probably about to cross the finish line. And one behind me, probably about to catch me any minute. If it wasn’t for them, I could get away with stopping. No one would know. I could slide away. Just my past self and me sitting on the curb…

2 miles to go. A guy in blue catches me and passes by. My friend Tyler isn’t too far behind. I cross the street at the Ice Ponds and head onto Banyan drive. I try picking up the pace once I can look over my shoulder and see Tyler. He’s with a guy named Michael, a solid runner from New York. They pass by me, Michael full of energy blasting positive vibes at Tyler who’s eyes are dead locked focused on something in front of him. They pass me under the shade of the Banyans and Michael shouts at me to join them. “Now’s the time, give it all you got!” He says something about Tyler kicking ass the whole way; how he decided to stay with Tyler until the end. I’m pumped up by his energy and try to stay with them. It would feel great to finish alongside Tyler and Michael. But my leg cramps up again and instead I come to another screeching halt. One mile from the finish. Half of me feels delusional from the pain and lack of electrolytes. The other half feels euphoric with visions of finishing the race that defeated me last time. I’m standing there. One mile to go, Marathoners and Half-Marathoners are passing the opposite direction. The marathoners still have 10 miles to ago. They are in a very different world than me right now as I’m less than a mile away and can’t get my legs to cooperate, while they’re trucking along slowly and steadily.

I start running again. I pass Suisan, cross over the Wailoa river and coast down to the finish line. 3:17:58. One minute behind Tyler. I can’t fucking wait to get these shoes off of my feet.

I finished. It feels good. Just a couple months of training and a respectable time. I go find Mike who ran a stellar 2:57. He’s all smiles. And so is Tyler. We all finished, and overall ran right a pace we all wanted. See you guys next race.

Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always have a Plan B

,philosophy, Running in Circles

**PT II (a continuation of Wednesdays Training PT I: The Socratic Method)**

My phone rings. I look over. Its my father calling.  I was expecting this call. I knew what was coming. A compassionate concern for my well being. Some fatherly advice. Advice I didn’t want to hear, but I needed to. That kind of advice in the back of your mind you keep quiet and ignore until someone says it out loud. I pick up the phone.

“So how’re you doing?”

“well I’m good. Just uh, hanging in there, you know.”

“yeah. So I’m concerned about your financial situation.” oof. Straight to the point. He’s here to talk problem solving. His speciality. My disability.

“Yeah me too,” I say, “It’s kind of the source of all my stress.”

“I bet. So do you have a plan B, you know, if things don’t work out?” I’m not happy with where this is going. I know what he’s hinting at, but I don’t want to admit it, and I don’t want to hear what he’s about to offer. But it’s got to be said.

“No plan B, I’ve just been hoping I get a job before I run out of money. Sort of racing against the clock at this point…”

“Well I think you should have a plan B, and to me the most practical plan is to come back here, to Seattle.”

There. It’s said. Those words. Come Back home. I’m not sure my father knows what those words symbolize to me. Maybe he does. But the tears start to come. There’s a long awkward silence over the phone. I finally say something, “I can’t afford to do that.”

“Well I’ll help with that of course. We’ll get you back. Look, its just a plan B, but you need to have a plan B. You gotta think about what you’re doing out there, if it’s worth it, if it’s really working out for you, and if not, then you need to figure out what to do. I’m sorry if that’s hard to hear” Another long pause. Now I’m upset. I have a terrible insecurity that my family thinks I’m just dicking around in Hawaii turning into a beatnik.

Some words come stumbling out of my mouth meekly, “Yea no its okay those are thoughts I’ve been having myself. I question what it is I’m doing out here all the time. It’s just…” I try hard to hold back the tears, suppress the emotional release, but some still gets through, “…I guess that means back to the nest.”

“It does, but there’s plenty to do around here. Just remember that it is still your choice. I’m just offering you a realistic alternative.”

I had been denying a plan B because I new what it meant for me. It meant failure. Failure to launch. Failure to be anything on my own. It meant returning to home, where I was just a kid dependent on my parents. I was feeling so ashamed and humiliated having this conversation with my father over the phone. But the worst was yet to come.

“Are you getting enough to eat? Are you staying healthy?” I guess my father is pretty concerned, but I had been alluding to my less-than-ideal situation, and to my pride that might be preventing me from making smart rationale choices in life. But I reassure him.

“Yeah I’m getting by. I’m filling myself up. Been running and paddling and biking lots. I know I gotta eat, and I know I need money for that. I’m pretty much living off of the  money I made selling my bike. But that money is gonna run out real soon.”

He asks if I have friends on the island. I tell him I have a supportive community and am staying active in the community. I tell him I’ve had a number of job interviews, some I’m hopeful about. More reassurance that I have an invested life here in Hawaii. And then  the question comes.

“Do I need to loan you money?” There it is. The question I’ve been too prideful to ask myself. And now I’m too prideful to even say yes, yes I do need to loan money otherwise I’ll be foraging on mac nuts and plucking taro out of the ground. I need the money, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t want help. I don’t want my father to have to swoop in again and rescue me. Pride I’ll tell ya. It’s gonna me kill me if I don’t kill it off first.

I give in. I tell him I could use the money, but that I really don’t want it. I say this through tears he cannot see. I say it with surrender in my heart, with my head hung low. But I know I am blessed, to even have this as a choice. And I love my father and am blessed he is willing to help me, willing to see me succeed.

We finish off our phone conversation in a casual manner. We talk little details about my whole family’s planned visit in April. My father says he’ll transfer enough money to help me get by until then when I should make a decision about staying in Hawaii or returning with them after the trip. I give out a sigh, a release, after having a hard but very much needed conversation.

As soon as I hang up, I get another call from a stranger inquiring about my guitar I posted an ad for online. He wants to check it out and possibly buy it. We set a time and place for tomorrow, and my pride begins to creep back in, maybe I don’t need my father’s money. Maybe I can still do this on my own…

My thoughts start to wander back to my conversation with Taapai, but now my mind is wandering with thoughts of my father, with thoughts of returning home, with thoughts of selling my guitar just to prove I don’t need help, with thoughts of my family visiting in a month.

I wander through the states of emotions I felt while talking to my father, wondering how I might have desired those feelings of shame and humiliation and how my father helped me feel them and overcome or maybe fulfill them by safely expressing my shame to him, and to myself.

I wandered back to the idea of emotional desires and what it all meant for myself after feeling such intense emotions right after feeling that dull depression – my psyche ebbing and flowing through emotional states like a wave. Is this what life is about? Embracing whatever emotions are being requested by my body or soul or whatever is the source of my being? God? Is this what Buddha means by participating in the joyful sorrow of life? Am I on the path of spiritual guidance? Is this the way to enlightenment? To the Tree of Life?

My mind starts to wander far, and my body soon joins in.

Time for a run.

Wednesday’s Training PT I: The Socratic Method

,philosophy, Running in Circles

I know what happens to me when I stop running. I know all too well. Depression. I don’t feel like doing anything. The thought of doing anything even slightly causes anxiety. But when I’m running, the threatening harsh world is smoothed over and doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It becomes inviting. I feel up to life’s challenges. Exhilarated even.

But what happens when running becomes an obstacle? Just a fix, a state of being I become addicted to. Abused. 

I’m making myself a cup of coffee made from yesterday’s steeped grounds. It doesn’t have that same aromatic full-body kick to it, but it’ll do. I just ate a bowlful of millet I spiced up with a left over pack of pepper flakes from Dominos, and fry up my last egg. It fills me up, but I know I’ll be hungry again within the hour.  The sun is heating up the day, but I can see a weather front moving in. It’ll be nice to get some rain.

Gusts of wind are blowing erratically. The tarp of my outdoor kitchen is dancing wildly with each blow . Tiny droplets appear on the screen of my computer then disappear as the wind returns the moisture to the air. It’s a beautiful day. Moody. Nice smooth, filtered light making all the green colors pop out vibrantly.

I’m tired. My legs feel heavy from the past two weeks of running. My arms and sides and butt are sore and stiff from paddling and biking. I’ve been going hard with my body, trying to stay fit and in shape for the marathon. It’s under two weeks away. Finally time to taper and recover the muscles. I can’t rest too much, it wouldn’t be good, but I can sense my body desiring to crumple up and take a break from it all. I’ve been going hard on all levels. Not just with my training either.

I’m staying positive. I’m staying focused. I’m building confidence and averaging a job interview a week. My Hilo Ohana has been so supportive. “You can do this!” they say. “You’d be perfect at that job” they remark. Just yesterday I got called in for an interview after only applying the day before. Encouraging. My phone rang while I was walking up to my tent. I almost didn’t answer, too tired to want to talk. But I knew I couldn’t afford not to. 1 hour later I was sitting at the cafe 5 miles away rattling out answers about my personality and skill traits like I had become oh-so used to doing the past 6 months.

6 months. In a few days The summer team for Kure Atoll conservancy will be embarking on their 6 month journey to the atoll, the very same journey I embarked on a year ago, that I returned from 6 months ago. It’s been 6 months. 182 days. Still no job. In some ways I’m actually impressed with myself. I’ve been able to get away with living without a paying wage. That takes finesse I tell yeah, if you don’t have much money to begin with.  But it also depresses me. I’m someone who needs to be doing something. I need production in my life. I need to be acheiving. And when I turn around and see that since I’ve returned from the far reaches of the Northwest Hawaiian islands, I see a young man who has not been motivated to work. But I’m too tired for the emotional baggage that comes along with that. Depression is a real downer. A real addiction I tell ya.

So instead I choose to rest my weary bones on this Wednesday, and sink into a reflection I’ve been meaning to return to:

I was sitting with my roommate Taapai. It was dark and chilly out. We just finished our shared meal of Poi and and sautéed greens in coconut milk.  As we often do, we were sharing the same physical space but very much involved in our own thoughts; each in our own meditative worlds. Sometimes a bridge is formed between our meditations when one of us feels inspired to share. I spoke up.

“I’ve been feeling depressed.”
“oh yea?”

“Yea. It’s weird though, it feels like I’m coming out of it, like a spell was broken.”
“what broke the spell?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say really. Maybe I got fed up feeling that way… I started writing again. And that felt good. I think it was because I was creating something. It felt good to be creating… the depression, I wasn’t doing anything, and I didn’t want to do anything.”

“Depression. It’s an addiction.”

His statement caught me off guard. I had to pause and process it, but I couldn’t grasp the concept behind it. “How do you mean?” I asked.

“Look at it this way,” He leans in. He’s got my attention, “emotions are different states of being. When you are feeling an emotion, your body or psyche is desiring a certain state of being. Otherwise, that emotion wouldn’t exist, right? At first glance, you would think that being sad is not something anyone wants to be. But then why does that emotion exist?”


“Oh I see. you’re saying that all the emotional states exist for a reason: to fulfill a certain state of being. Being sad is as necessary of a state of being as being happy. Our psyche desires certain emotions to fulfill a state of being that is necessary in that place and time in our lives.” I’m a quick conceptual learner.


“Yes. you got it. But what happens when we feel an emotion that won’t go away? Like depression. It’s chronic. You feel depressed. You go to bed feeling depressed, you wake up and you’re still depressed. This is when your psyche becomes addicted to that emotion. It’s craving something, trying to fulfill something. It’s stuck in a self-fulfilling pattern.”


“hmm I don’t quite understand what you mean.”


“I mean when you say you were depressed, you’re psyche was addicted to being sad. It was keeping you in that same state, with no end in sight.”

“But it did end.”

“Yeah eventually. But why did it end?”

“I got tired of feeling that way.”

“okay you got tired of feeling that way, but did feeling sick and tired of being depressed make it go away on it’s own?”

“no.. I had to do something.”


“Exactly. You only became aware that you were depressed. That awareness alone did not change your state of emotional desire. You had to  force yourself to break out of it, right?”


“Yeah I guess so, in a way. In the only way I felt I could, and that was to write about the depression.”

“Right. So somehow while your psyche was still in that state of depression, addicted to it like someone is addicted alcohol, you saw yourself in a different light, and you wanted to get there, but you had to somehow break this immediate feeling you were stuck in… and you did this by – what did you say – writing about it?”


“Yeah I got out my computer and started typing away about how pathetic my situation was, and when I was creating those words I was then immersed in the activity of creating a story, and I looked back on my words and saw how that actually sounded good, and next thing I knew I was in this state of being satisfied by what I had just created. It was like I had dislodged the depressive emotion and replaced it with something else. All of a sudden I was no longer desiring to be sad and depressed, I was desiring to feel good from creating something of quality.”

“Yup. you got it. You see, our emotions are as much of a desire as the substance in our lives we consume to feel a certain way. You can become addicted to feeling bad just as much as you can become addicted to feeling good. You can become addicted to being alone or become addicted to being among people. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just a state of being in which you are desiring.

“In this world, this life, our entire existence is made up of desires. And society judges which desires are deemed good and which ones evil. Religion loves to decide this for us. But in truth, it is the very act of desiring that causes all conflicts. People desire control, people desire clean air, people desire happiness, people desire sex, people desire war, people desire peace, people desire to love, people desire solitude and on and on… we come together and we share our desires with each other, we find those that share the same interests with us, but those interests are just desires. We relate with our desires and if there is enough of us who relate, those desires become a collective desire,a social movement in which all who participate in that movement are fulfilled by its cause. But one desire always conflicts with another, by definition. If we desire to be happy, than we cannot be sad. But sad exists for a time and a place in our lives.”

“yeah I suppose you’re right… I don’t really want to believe that though. I want to believe that there is always some unifying truth, like on a spiritual level, that drives our motives transcendent of desire. Desire just seems so primal to me.”

“Well there is a unifying truth of course, but it exists outside the plane of our physical reality. That’s what spirituality is… it’s that very unifying force that directs us as physical beings towards righteousness. But we often confuse the morals and ethics taught to us from an external source with the divinity that speaks through us; the internal source.”

“So what are you saying, that a heroin addict’s desire for a dangerous drug should keep on desiring heroin? That they are actually going through with a spiritual fulfillment?”

“No you misunderstand what I’m trying to say. But I can see how you came to that conclusion. What I am saying is that all desires – whether it is that person’s addiction to heroin, or whether it is that other person’s addiction to feeling sad – all those desires are dictated by the very root source of our physical existence: emotions. That in fact, our whole physical selves is directed by our emotions; what we feel in turn motivates how we act, or do not act. This is the very essence of being alive in our plane of reality. Acting bodies of life influencing one another. Every thing else is secondary to those emotions. But emotions are secondary to the collective spirit we all share, what people might call God. It is when we align our emotional state with that of God then we are not acting out of our personal selfish desires, but out of a deeper soulful place. You may still feel sorrow or overwhelming joy either way but those emotional states are no longer full-filling themselves, they are full-filling something else. something greater than yourself.”

“Ok wait, your saying that if I go out and call people to encourage them to vote for say – Bernie Sanders, I’m really just doing that for my own selfish needs?”

“Yes, in a way.”

“But I don’t agree with that. I believe it would be selfish if I just worried about my own vote, or didn’t vote at all.”

“Well yes those would be selfish too.”

“But by trying to get more people involved and voting for Bernie Sanders, and sacrificing my own personal agenda because I believe in this movement in our country, isn’t that a noble cause? Isn’t that fulfilling something greater than my own emotional needs or desires?”

“It is a noble cause because you and the people you surround yourself with believe that. It only seems like a selfless act because you are participating in a collective movement. But like I said before, if enough of the same personal desires come together in mass, then it becomes a collective desire: the desire for a political revolution, the desire for free education, for universal health care, for tax  revenue to be distributed equally among the american people through social services; whatever it may be that all of you stand in solidarity for.”

“But how can that be an addiction? I believe in these things because I see a lot of people suffering unnecessarily, and their suffering because of other peoples desire for power and money and control. This whole political movement if anything is a movement away from desires.”

“So is it a spiritual revolution then?”

“I don’t know. maybe. I don’t think people see it that way. Most people think spirituality should be separate from politics or government.”

“Then what’s guiding the politics of a people?”

“Well the people are! Moral principles, economic policies, cultural expectations.”

“Let me ask you something. Where did you get your morals? How do you decide between right and wrong?”

Like many of the stimulating conversations between me in Taapai, this one was evolving fast, like a young tree flowering for the first time in its life. I wasn’t expecting such a philosophical discussion, but I was so very intrigued by all of this, more infatuated with the engagement our conversation was creating than actually taking a stand point on any single argument. We were arguing in a sense, but we weren’t arguing to prove a point, or maybe we were, but we were doing so more to arrive at some point that lay ahead of us. The conversation had a life of its own, and we were the breath, the air or substance giving it life.

I thought about his abrupt question –  about where do my morals come from- and was beginning to understand what he was saying this whole time. I thought about my last blog post about being raised atheist but still indoctrinated with christian values;  how we are all just raised to think and act in a way that is best suited for our environment – whether those years of development were influenced by our parents, or someone else, or some events. Don’t leave your hand over the fire, it will burn you. I learned that. But I also learned not to fear fire because of it. I learned to admire it, worship, see it as symbolic as a giver and taker of life. A source of warmth and safety and protection. A source of danger and death. A symbol of origin. A symbol of creation. Like our Sun. The giver of life. Were these lessons in life shaping my morals? I somehow sensed through these lessons that I was a single being participating in a greater act of life on this planet in this universe, and I was learning this as I exposed myself more and more to Nature and it’s complex diversity of organized and cooperating life.

But what of my moral compass? How do I distinguish between good and evil? How do I as a conscious self-acting agent make decisions for myself to better my life? And is that any different than how we do that as a Society? I meditated on the question in silence after Taapai asked it. It was the first gap in our conversation since it started. A welcomed one. I needed time to reflect on all that was said.

to be continued…. Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always Have a Plan B

 

Wednesday: We Run On

Running and mental health, Running in Circles

I walked into Starbucks and ran into my friend lindsey. Last time I saw her was at Starbucks. We saw each other and smiled that wide goofy smile of irony, connecting at a coffee shop packed full of people minding their own exclusive digital business. I sat down with her and we chatted across our silver screens like a game of Battleships.

“If you could do anything, what would it be?” She asked me.

Our answers were surprisingly similar; both desiring to work for ourselves. Owning a business that cultivated communities. I wanted to start a bakery/cafe with venue space, freshly baked bread, and a bicycle community hub space attached that could also be used for meetings and activist movements for encouraging bicycle transportation needs and awareness. Her’s was a cafe space with a conference-like room where businesses or organizations could meet. Simple ideas make all the difference.

We chattered away like social butterflies sharing a moment of warm sunlight. We talked about sensory deprivation tanks, how much our own minds dominate the show, and how we both enjoy that aspect of running where the “I” becomes a passive observer of the mind’s thoughts; the thoughts pass by just like the body passes by the scenery on a run.

I said my goodbyes and coincidentally went to join her boss for a 12 mile loop run in the soft rain. There were 4 of us all together, and it was the first time in many moons where I found myself running along side what I guess you could call a gang of runners.

We were all excited to be there, and to share our joy of running. I felt a little giddy, a bit of a chatter box. “Ya’ll ever seen that movie about the poor boy who ran a foot race to win a pair of shoes for his sister?” I started off the conversation of many to come.

We spent the first couple miles along the scenic route, adjusting to each other’s pace and rhythm. It’s a beautiful miraculous thing: syncing up your pace and stride with three other running bodies. You become this one organism, more powerful than the parts that make it up. We became kings of the road. Cars were at our mercy. Passerbys were at our glory. 

The four us sometimes chatted all together, then maybe two of us would break off and have our own conversation. We rotated and blended our talk organically. No one was really paying attention to how fast we were going, even as the gps watches ringed each mile split.

I was caught off guard by a heckling women (“run faster!”) working at the Botanical Gardens we passed by, and nearly tripped over my own foot. She called out something incoherent. “What did she say?” I turned and asked Billy as we turned the bend and started climbing up the ascent. He shook his head and burst into a rhythmic laughter. He kept laughing, couldn’t stop, messing up his form. I’d never seen someone laugh uncontrollably while running like that. I never found out was so funny. I didn’t need to. On that run, we were purely human, nothing more was required.

“You know runners can be a curious bunch,” I said to whoever was closest to me. I reminisced about my race from last week, and how everyone stood around afterwards in this awkward stance of wanting to relate but failing miserably at doing so. “It was like they had this eagerness to relate through running, almost frantic about it. Edgy. They were all talking heads hurling all this running jargon at me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love running too, but… I’d rather just…—“

“—experience it.” Billy finished my sentence.

“Yeah. Exactly. Just share in the experience of it. That’s all you need.”

We ran on.

Mike the ironman guided us onto an old sugarcane road from the milling days. It was quiet, narrow, and deserted. Old date palms and guava trees arched over the road enclosing it like a  tunnel. Tyler shared his past story being runner in college and dropping out of school in Oregon. “I wasn’t running much. I was a bit depressed. I didn’t really want to be in school. I was lonely. Wasn’t my scene. It was just what was expected of me at the time. You don’t really know these things then. You just sort of sense that somethings not right. That’s what the depression was telling me I guess. I started going to the community college instead. Joined the club team. It was something. Sometimes I wish I had followed through with something. I could have a working wage by now you know? I’m 27. I’m almost past the accursed age of 27.”

Mike chimed in, “ yeah but you know all that stuff was meaningful, from your past. You’re where you are now because of it. You can’t regret any of that. It’s meant to be.”

The rain subtly increased its precipitation. Our four shirtless bodies gleamed in the rain. Our hair collected the rain and our heels kicked rain back up at the clouds. “Yea you’re right. I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.”

We ran on.

The small road was ending. We turned right and began another ascent. I automatically changed my breathing and shortened my stride in response. We strides across an over pass. We passed through an orchard farm of Ti plants that stretched for acres across both sides of the road. Billy had stopped for a pee and was steadily catching back up.

“Mike, remember that time you were running up here alone and you came across that tourist?” Billy remarked as he rejoined us.
“Oh yea, gotta love those tourists. It was a perfect situation. Beautiful asian women in her flashy mustang rental car. Totally lost. And here I am all on my lonesome way back on this road where I never see anyone. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario” We all breathed out a laugh as we climbed the hill, imagining Mike’s surprise and excitement at the time.

We ran on.

“Hey what’s the workout called when the guy from the back has to sprint up to the front of the line?”
“Oh I dunno, indian something?”

“I really don’t think that’s it.”
“yea definitely not the politically correct name.”
“oh I think I know what you’re talking about, we do that while cycling sometimes.”
“yeah but with running. Is it the same?”
“maybe”

We ran on.

We crossed the highway again, returning to the scenic route. This time Mike drops off to pee. Our conversations have entered a life of their own. No one’s thinking about what to say, it’s just said. There’s a freedom involved with that and running. It’s like we all stepped down from this tower in our minds that is constantly looking out and analyzing our own behavior. We stepped down in to the center of our being. Unconcerned. Liberated. Free to just run and breathe and relate.

We came up around a bend. A lady was standing at a view point admiring the grandness of Onomea bay. She turned around as the four us went whizzing by and quite impulsively expressed her pleasure over her new view. “oh oh oh oh!” were but all the words she could utter through the ecstasy.

“I think we just made her day.”

We ran on. We ran in a wide row, covering the whole road. We ran single file hugging the curves. We ran criss-crossed weaving between each other like water snakes crossing a river. We joked with light hearts. We reflected with deep thoughts. We shared wisdoms of science and nutrition and training and awareness. We sprinted short gullies, cooperating in competition. We slowed and relaxed, allowing for compassion. We covered it all, in those 12 miles.

And none of it was expected or planned. Just born from moment upon moment. One stride after another. Nothing more.

We run on.

Tuesday: I Was Raised an Atheist (but grew up Christian).

Opinion, Running in Circles

We went to church a handful of times. I recall the the usual holiday traditions involving scattered visits to that indoor space where organs blare holy tunes and voices echo in chambered ceilings. I remember talks of Jesus, palms and candles, crackers and grape juice, a book of hymns, and always that man standing in front speaking about god knows what.

But I had no relation with God. Or Jesus. I never read the Bible. My mother never shoved verses down my throat.Sometimes there was chocolate involved usually around the same time as my birthday in April. Church didn’t make sense to me, but then again at the age of 5 there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t make sense yet. It’s all new, and you’re sort of just going along with it.
I was okay with it. I was a polite kid, I knew my manners. I knew how to behave well and  behaving well pleased my Mom, and there was nothing better in the world than pleasing Mom. I guess she was my God. But why did she take us to church 2 or 3 times a year if we weren’t Christian? It was like we were vicarious spectators of christians. Traditions die hard. All of us want a sense of our past, something to anchor us during hard, tumultuous times. Maybe it reminded her of her childhood. Maybe she felt connected to her deceased parents. Maybe she secretly believed in God. Maybe she just liked the peaceful atmosphere. I’d like to think it was because she was deficient in spirit and christian churches were the only spiritual supplements she knew of.

I was raised Atheist, but I’m missing that flab of skin on the tip of my penis. Old traditions die hard. I can remember in the 1st grade at school peeing in one of those elongated sink urinals and my friend was peeing right along side me. I looked over and saw his penis. It looked totally different than mine. I  thought after that penis’s were different on everyone. I had one kind, he had another. I don’t remember when I asked my parents about this, or when I found out about circumcision, but whatever I was told was explained as a hygienic thing; it was a convenience my mom or dad or whoever decided so I didn’t have to worry about infection. It wasn’t until much later I learned about the religious rite behind the practice, and then it wasn’t until maybe a year ago I first heard about psychological trauma instilled by cutting off the foreskin of an infant’s penis. Religious acts often justify violent acts.

Old traditions die hard. The effects of religious doctrine created over a thousand years ago is now inherent in our moral codes and beliefs today, no matter what your affiliation with the church is. These moral codes we live by today aren’t our own free thoughts. It’s programmed, passed down generation after generation. The semitic doctrine has had a hold on western societies for over an era and a half, and in recent history spread like wildfire through colonial missionaries. It’s a human program. And I’ve been trying to free myself from this program, and I’m discovering just how incredibly deep the program runs, and how bloody hard it is to rip it out. We see it in our politics, our government, the way we sacrifice our personality to the appeasement and conformity of education standards or servitude in employment. Our very patriarchal-structured society is none less than the works of religious teachings. Even our science has a somewhat christian agenda; the idea that we are outsiders; objective observers of nature separate from it just as god is somewhere separate from us in his own all-powerful realm looking down on his experimental creations.

Programs aren’t evil. They’re not bad. Without them, there would be no organization in life, and organization is key to the cooperation between life forms so that we may all life. There is a code between the deer and the wolves and beavers and rivers and the mice and the trees and the microbes. Programs are important and vital. It’s what ecology is; that in which life participates with one another.

The people of a culture, as Joseph campbell puts it, “gets their messages from their priests and visionaries and the priest and visionaries may manipulate the myths to their own political advantage.” When our program is manipulated by those in power for their own self-interest, well then we have evil.  And with evil comes pathology. And currently we live under two pathologies instituted by our very own religious predecessors – the first being that we are to direct and control nature instead of placing ourselves in accord with nature and – the second being the political interpretation of myths to the advantage of one group within a society, or one society within a group of nations.

Here I am, 25 years old, feeling that myself and nearly every person around is me living a lonely and unfulfilling life because we might just be living a pathological lie, that is, we are being guided by a deeply engrained program in our behavioral thought patterns of our psyche that says: “worry about yourself and the self-interest of your group and seek to control and manipulate your life by controlling and manipulating all aspects of life around you.”

I’ve got my own issues. We all have our own issues. But it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve even discovered what my issues are, that I’m learning to accept them and invite them to the table of conversation. That I’m learning my issues are in essence what has been called sin, but that sin is not synonymous with evil. That sin is what makes me unique and special and gifted. That my sin is my gateway into the realm that exists outside of the confinements of a society. That I must leave the tiny itty bitty realm of society through the exploration of my sins venturing into the greater realm of the wild and nature, find my connection to it, and return to society fully grown into my self and ready to serve that society in my own way in my own time and in accordance with nature. For so many years I have been trying be a well-behaved human being. I’ve perfected the art of pleasing others so much so that the only way I really know how to receive gratification in life is to please others. And so I get people to like me not because I am being my genuine self, but because I learn what others like and give them that. I was totally out of touch with my own self to serve the pleasure of others, whether they asked for it or not. Good Christian doctrine.

Religion is supposed to be how nature speaks to society; through the shamans or priests or holy ones. Those priests are the members of humanity who sit on the outside edge of society; One foot in the human world, the other foot in the wild natural word. Religion popped up as soon as humans became conscious, as soon as we stepped out of the wild and into our own conscious minds. We have always needed religion to keep us connected as participants to the nature in which we still live inside of and always will. It’s where our morals and values and ethics are derived from.

Nothing has changed since then. The only thing that has changed is that religions popped up that now serve only themselves, and have manipulated whole groups of people to serve them. It’s a pathology. It’s a misinterpretation. It’s a massive psychological brainwashing. It’s slavery. It’s the grandest form of slavery that has ever existed. And many many people saw this, and still see it and then want nothing to do with religion and so they become atheists, and sever themselves from spirituality. But the unintended consequence of this is now we are a nation of people who are still servants to the religious doctrine, but no longer serves the spirit of our planet and our universe.

HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT?

Saturday: A little Dense on the Running

Running in Circles

I sunk into sleep just past midnight after enduring the last attempts at cohesively writing about Barhma and spirituality. Sleep took me quickly. My alarm rang out in what felt like only moments after.
I did not want to get up. It was cold, and I was mighty snug and comfortable under the sheets. The night was dead silent. Why in the hell did I set an alarm to disturb such peace and tranquility? Oh yea, I forgot I convinced myself the night before to go on a little adventure: a 21 mile bike ride to a foot race starting at 7:30am.


My mind interjected with surprising haste and authority

Nope, you’re not doing it. Courageous idea, but not practical. You’re tired. It’s cold out there. Go back to sleep. Enjoy the rest and serenity and safety of your warm bed. There you go. Just like that… ease back on your pillow…

I closed my eyes, obliging to that voice inside my head. But before I could fall back to sleep, my bladder also had something to say.
I got up and told my mind I’ll just have a pee then return to bed as per instructed. I relieved myself then found myself standing in front of my pre packed bag for the planned trip, complete with steamed sweet potatoes, a ruby red grapefruit, leftover lentils, clothes for town, and my Lono Kukini head band. It was all there. Bike was was ready to go, my safety lights were set. I slept in my clothes so I didn’t even have to spend time dressing.

Damn it. I did everything possible to ensure I had no reasonable excuse not to go. I checked my watch. 0450. Plenty of time to get to the race. Yup. This was happening.

Committed, I snatched an old jar of brewed coffee, downed it, zipped up my coat, tightened my straps, grabbed my bike by the handlebars and walked out into the night sky.

The air was cool. Delightful. The moon was lighting up the sky, and the most steadfast stars filtered through. I walked past Aunty’s house and heard Beebs the dog get up from her lanai to investigate. It’s only me Beebs. I walked up to the long driveway and made my way to the paved road. The wet grass dampened my shoes. I heard the sound of scattering hoofs all around me and watched a few dark figures scamper across the driveway, dashing between moon shadows of the mac-nut trees. The late night was alive with activity and I felt my body awaken to it.

Pavement. Feet hit the pedals. Hips swing over the saddle. Legs crank and bicycle glides down the hill to the highway, guided by the silver light of the moon. I reach the intersection at the bottom, a dim yellow streetlight buzzes softly above me. I unclip my pack to check the rear solar light. It’s not flashing. No charge.

Shit. I’m about to bike on the main highway up the Hamakua coast and my red rear light isn’t working. Not a good omen. I was troubled. Now I had a good reason to be hesitant about making the journey. But I also already biked 4 miles down a long hill. I committed my mind and body to this. I didn’t want to give in.

I quickly check in with myself. I have a lot of reflective gear on, and so does my bike, so at least the light from cars behind me will light me up. The sun will be coming up in about an hour so it won’t be the whole time biking in the dark. And I’ll just have to be extra careful and make sure I’m way over on the shoulder. That does it. Good enough for me. I turn on to the highway.

It was hell. It was the highway of hell. Apparently this is the hour of the day all the trucks are driving around the island. Truck after truck blew past me. I could hardly see in front of me. The sound of the monstrous vehicles was excruciatingly loud and disorienting. Knowing my back light wasn’t working, I felt extremely vulnerable. The worst were all the bridges I had to cross. I lost my shoulder lane on these bridges, and there was only a extremely narrow pedestrian raised path where I had to dismount my bicycle and push it in front of my with one hand as I used the other to hold myself to the bridge, hitting my shin every few strides with the pedal.

I had never cursed so much in my life. I cursed the highway. I cursed the cars. I cursed colonialism. I cursed my idiot self for putting myself in this position. I cursed the sun for taking so damn long to rise. I cursed my bike. I cursed my bowels. I cursed the gods. I continued on.

Every time a car or truck roared past me I shouted at it with the rage of 10,000 wild beasts. But I edged onward, not willing to be conquered by this nightmarish scenario. The steady climb from Wainaku to Papeeko gave way to a decent into Hakalau where I gained speed riding along the shoulder. It was still dark, but it felt good to be going fast. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to get to my destination as fast as possible.

I tensed up trying to focus on the pavement zipping past in front of me, looking out for any debris lying in wake while simultaneously paying attention to any traffic that might be passing me by. At first I was frightened, but then I convinced myself I was in an x-wing fighting tie-fighters and implementing evasive maneuvering tactics. The force is with me, I found myself saying.

An hour later the sun had risen. I calmed down a bit. I pulled out a sweet potato to munch on as I pedaled the last few miles. Relief settled into my shaky bones when I turned-off the highway onto the Old Mamalahoa Highway. I was greeted by a yellow sign that read: caution, runners on the road.

I pulled into the parking lot of Waikaumalo park where a number of people were already standing around. It was 0700. I had 30 minutes to spare. I signed in to the 7 mile race, paying the 5 dollars in all quarters. I got some comments but promptly ignored them. I was feeling shy and a bit tired but warmed up from the bike ride. I kept my distance from everyone, nibbling on my remaining sweet potatoes.

30 minutes later, my shirts off, my sandals and Lono headband are on, and it’s time to run. We take off and within the first 100 meters it’s apparent to me that no one here is going to take the pace out. So I take off. I’m feeling good. It’s still nice and cool out, and my muscles are loose from the stressful bike ride.

The race is on the old highway, following the natural contours of the Hamakua coast which is basically a number of watersheds connected by a myriad of streams and rivers that have carved out steep gullies. The road ducks down into a ravine, then ascends back out, over and over again. It’s a fun course made up of these curvy ups and downs. We hit our first descent into the gully, shade and dampness prevails. I cross the small bridge over the stream and kick into a higher gear to climb out on the other side, reaching the exposed sunlight and cresting point of the road before dipping back down into the next gully. I feel relaxed going into the first mile. I check my watch, 6:15. Not bad. Faster than I wanted, recalling my 1 mile intervals from a week ago were at about 6:15 pace, and that was a distance of 5k. This was roughly a 10k with no rest.

I slowed a little, relaxing more into it, feeling alive and good. It was quiet up front. I couldn’t remember the last time I lead a race, and probably never by this margin, although I didn’t bother to look behind me for anyone. I didn’t sense anyone so it wasn’t really on my mind. I just kept running.

Mile two came up quickly. 13:10. I had eased the pace down to 6:55. Now I was going too slow, or the mile sign wasn’t accurate, which could be the case. It didn’t feel like I had slowed down that much, but I decided to pick it up a little bit anyhow. By mile three my pace had gone back down to 6:11. These splits felt really inconsistent. First time back in a race environment for over a year. I was okay with it. And since I was leading I didn’t really have anyone to help regulate my pace, which by the way, running consistent splits is as any runner knows a talented and intuitive skill to have.

I was starting to feel tired by the time the turnaround approached. My chest and shoulders started to get tight, and my breathing had become more erratic and less controlled. It looked like the 2nd place runner (a fellow named Alan who is an excellent long distance runner, beautiful to watch. He runs with very controlled and comfortable form. Very graceful), had gained on me, although this is always deceptive at turn around points because it looks like they are moving twice as fast as they actually are. But even so I started to worry he was picking up speed and would eventually catch me. And when I worry I get stressed and when I get stressed my body tightens. The next mile was no fun.I tried to maintain a pace that didn’t feel comfortable. It was too much work and I could feel the energy draining from me. My heart rate went up and my lungs gasped for more oxygen to keep up with the rate of combustion required of my muscular tissue.

I battled through the anxiety and fought hard to control my breathing to help relax my upper body. Running is so beautiful because in order to do it well you HAVE to be in tune with the various systems communicating and interacting inside of you. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning for a long time and only now beginning to get in touch with. Running is the practice of making constant micro adjustments here and there to maintain efficiency and harmony between energy input and energy output. It is essentially the art of transferring energy into a forward momentum and using every aspect of the body’s mechanics and energy systems to accomplish this, which very much includes the mind’s will on the autonomic nervous system through breath control. Pranayama. The control of Prana; subtle life-force current.

For example, by mile 5 in the race, my right shoulder froze up and my form got all sloppy because the range of motion in my shoulder seized. I started to move my body laterally; less energy was being directed in a forward momentum, which then meant I had to burn more energy to maintain the same pace, which meant sucking in more oxygen for combustion. This isn’t very comfortable, and is the very reason a lot of people don’t like running. It doesn’t feel good, people say. Running never gets easier, people say. My body just isn’t meant for running. Wrong. I see all shapes and sizes running. Even ultra marathon distances. That’s not why people don’t like running. They don’t like running because to get to a point to enjoy running you first have to learn how to run and that takes time and patience and listening to your body. It takes constant adjustments and people just don’t want to be mindful while running.

Yes. that’s my opinion, and I’m aware I am piling everyone into my bias and that’s okay because I’m just trying to illustrate a point. Of course there are many other reasons people don’t like running. I’m just stating one major causality that often goes unlooked.

Back to the race. My form is all messed, I’m no longer running efficiently. It’s uncomfortable and I’ve got that death feeling. Well then let’s do something about it. So here’s the beauty. My shoulder has already acted up and if I was a really mindful runner, I would have prevented it before it got to this point. But I didn’t, and the consequence is that there’s only so much I can do while still running. I start putting my attention back into my breathing, and then my breathing into my shoulder. I imagine pushing that air into my shoulder and creating space for the allostatic energy to be freed so the muscles can loosen up again and move in accord with the rest of my body. It works, to a degree. I can feel my body aligning. I begin to pick up momentum. In total it took about a whole mile for the results of this breathing technique to kick in, but it was enough, and my last mile turned into my fastest at sub 6:10.

I’ve never been a great runner. Never been all that fast, and definitely not consistent. But I have been running since I was 8 years old, and every time I go out for a run I am thankful I have something in my life like running, something that never fails to teach me something new about myself, life, and the universe.

Friday: Ah Christ, You’re telling me God IS real?

Running in Circles, Uncategorized

The wind had calmed down since the hours before when I drifted asleep in my swaying hammock underneath a bustling tarp. I could just hear the grinding and rolling of large smooth stones being pushed and pulled by the constant turbulence of waves mingling with the shore. A rhythmic constant penetrating my ear drums and reverberating in the cavities of my body. The stars were brilliant speckles piercing through the Ironwood and Kamani canopy cover. The dark loom of the steep valley walls enveloped my peripherals. Two words dripped from my lips in a steady repeat, “Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma.” I caught myself uttering this strange chant coming into full consciousness, shaken awake by the verbal resonance.  And in that moment a vivid memory of my dream came flowing through the ether, passing through my vision like light projecting through rolling film.

I’m standing in the middle of some bazaar. There is business and commerce happening all around me. I feel like a passive observer. Not quite “there”. Like its just a hologram. I’m trying to see if I recognize anyone in the crowd, my curiosity about this unfamiliar place is growing. It doesn’t take long before I spot my father standing out in the open, and next to him is my stepfather. I cock my head. Huh, that’s strange. I never see them together. But it feels good, seeing them standing next to each other, my two fathers. They smile warmly and beckon me to join them, I do, and soon it’s apparent I am to follow them. They are taking me somewhere.

My fathers lead me down into some underground passage. It’s dark and damp, but it doesn’t feel scary. Water is dripping from the tunnel’s ceiling. We come out into a basement. On the other side of the room are two old women with white hair and gowns standing in front of some stairs leading up from the basement. It looks like they are guarding it. I look to my fathers. They nod their heads and the guardians step aside with grace. We head up the stairs into a well-lit room. It looks like some kind of workshop, unfinished projects lying everywhere covered in saw dust. A very old and ancient man with the widest smile and deep rosy cheeks is present. He turns to me and says, “Now,  you must meditate on Brahma.”

Mid life crisis. The little Death. Initiation. Rites of Passage. The Belly of the whale. The Night Seas. The abyss. Cocooned. Metamorphosis. Mythology. Dreams. Symbology. Meaningful suffering. The significance of life. Participation in the sorrows of the world. When I dreamt that deeply symbolic dream in the Valley of Waimanu, I knew I was being sent a message. And I was excited, for messages are signs, a direct communication, a guidance, from nature; from the soul, the subconscious, to the cognitive prefrontal cortex in which I measly go about living out my limited days.

The soul communicates through our dreams in the form of images, an expression of visual dram images of the energies that inform the body and when our conscious self is particularly open and aware of the deeper existence of our whole being, those dreams become powerful messengers of divinity.

Yeah. You bet I was stoked. I did a little fist pump slumped back down in my hammock fell back down into sleep muttering the words remember Brahma…

The morning came, the wind was back, and my companion friend was already up, meditating on the rocky beach. I waited for him to finish, like a dog on it’s best behavior. I was eager to tell him about my dream. Especially because I knew nothing about the word Brahma, except that it sounded familiar, yet foreign. It reeked of spirituality. Daniel would know. He is well versed in spiritual thought.

“It’s sanskrit. From the Vedic texts. Brahma. Brahma is God, the creator, the destroyer. He is sort of the source of everything, and everything is an expression of Brahma.” We sat down to break our fast. “Here this might help. This is a prayer I say silently before every meal I eat. I’ll say it aloud this time…

Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir 

Brahmagnau Barhmanaahutam

Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam

Brahmakarma Samadhina…

“It translates to this, ‘The act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God. God is That which is to be attained by him who performs action pertaining to God….’ It’s a powerful concept. It’s said to believe that the very cosmos evolved out of his being, Brahma, and that atma, your soul, is the expression of Brahma…” He drifts off, as if he’s not sure how much more he can really say about this Brahma deity, diving into his own contemplation on the matter of Brahma.

“I see,” I said, wrinkling my forehead, trying to grasp what Daniel just shared.

“You said you dreamt this?”

“yea… I was told by an old man to meditate on Brahma.” I related the rest of my dream to Daniel. Afterwards we continued on with our morning routine in silence, cleaning our camping dishes, packing up our hammocks, scraping the fungus out from between our toes. 

“That’s a powerful dream, whatever it means.” Daniel finally said.
“yea,” I replied. “I think I’ll let it sit for a while.”

1 year and 4 months later, I’m sitting up late into the night, wide awake and I can’t stop thinking about the dream. Tomorrow I plan to wake up at 5am and bike 20 miles to a 7-mile running race. But right now, at this moment, there’s a symbolic dude with rosy cheeks smiling in my head telling me to meditate on some personification of the entirety of the universe. Well fine. Lets do this.

Time to research.

I type in “Brahma” on Google, and read the subsequent Wikipedia article.  I write some notes down:
Brahma… gender specific…masculine…emerged as a deity, the conceptual personification of Brahman, a visible icon of the impersonal universe… Brahman is the ultimate formless metaphysical reality and cosmic soul in hinduism… from the Bhagavata Purana: Brahma is drowsy, errs and is temporarily incompetent as he puts together the universe… he becomes aware of his confusion and drowsiness, meditates as an ascetic, then realizes Hari (vishnu) in his heart, sees the beginning and end of the universe, and then his creative powers are revealed… Brahma thereafter combines Prakrit (nature, matter) and Purusha (spirit, soul) to create a dazzling variety of living creatures and tempest of casual nexus… he is attributed with the creation of Maya…wherein he creates for the sake of creating…perpetual cycle…on going… imbuing all things with good and evil… the material and spiritual…a beginning and end…Barhma is depicted with four heads looking in the four directions…creator of the four vedas…mounted on a swan… is of the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.

Pause. Pen taps the notepad. I bite my lip in contemplation.

Contextual information. Nothing more. This isn’t mediation on Brahma. This is meditating on thoughts and ideas representing the concept of Brahma. I’m just researching Brahma. This can’t be what my dream message means me to do. I’m supposed to be Searching, not researching. But researching is what I know how to do. It’s a good skill, it’s just…limiting. But it’s all I have to go by. My intellect. My supple, yolky, tangental intellect. Oh Intellect, how thee connects dots and organizes patterns. How thee extracts reason from rhyme. Lets see what sense you make from all this. Lets see what conclusions you come to. I bet, my sweet sultry Intellect, that you’re going to arrive on the other side of analytical attempt dissatisfied with the answer you find. Here it goes.

Time to process.

I hope you’re ready for this. It’s a special invitation into the greased mechanics of my mind.

To start, the masculinity aspect seems significant here. Connection with my two fathers in my dream and Brahma being associated with the masculine energies. For me it seems masculine energy is a invitation into the descent. Okay let’s put that aside for now.

Moving on, what’s this Brahma/Brahman relationship? Gotta zoom out and do some theological/metaphysical didactics. Might get stuck on this thread for a while. Bear with me…. So Brahma is a God… ok what is a god? Well if we look at the majority of religions (not including Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, they’re the exceptions, funny enough), the commonality is that a god is some kind of personification of an energy form. Essentially, god is the collectively agreed upon imagery of a culture for the individual mind to grasp. It’s a metaphor to describe something actual. It’s not the actual, because the actual transcends our mind and the thoughts stored within. It’s just a model to help explain this transcendental thing we cannot apparently see or sense.

If God is human’s interpretive tool to help perceive different kinds of energies, then what are these energies and why create these allusive and mysterious mythologies surrounding them?

Ahhhhhhhhh. This is a good question is not! No this is really good. I think I’m starting to get somewhere. But before we move on, let’s distill this down just a little more. We’ve now learned the distinction between Brahma and Brahman. It’s the same distinction as Metaphor and Actual; A representation of a thing and the actual thing. Take that cup of coffee in front of you. The cup itself, on it’s own, is a just that: a cup. That’s Brahman. But the word “cup” that you attach to the actual object, that’s Brahma. Okay now let’s synthesize that with what Daniel told me a year and half ago. He said atma/soul is the expression of Brahma in each of us. The cup in front of you is the object. The concept attached to the object is the subject. That subject doesn’t exist in any means that we can see, it exists in our mind, a.k.a the ether. But it’s very significant. Just like you yourself are significant, right? Your body is the object; matter existing in nature, but you, well you are the subject. You are the soul. That’s Brahma. Your body belongs to Brahman, your soul belongs to Brahma…. you are the creative expression of Brahma, in your own way, an unraveling unique story with your very own plot; your own life.

Now here is where things start to get real interesting. Brahma was a concept created much later in the whole history of the Vedics; the ancient texts explaining the universe and how it came to be. The sanskrit verb root is Brih: to expand, conveying the Vedic concept of divine power of spontaneous growth bursting forth into creative activity. What this boils down to is that the universe continues to exist only by means of lifeforms appropriating energy to further create life. That’s why we’re god’s children. Think of your kids, or future kids, as an example. You create them, and thus their existence is the continuing evolutionary cycle of perpetuating life! It’s why phallic  and vaginal symbols are prolific in many cultures, because fertility as regeneration is the only thing that keeps our temporal universe in eternal existence. 

But none of that matters. None of that means diddly squat to hear nor to understand because get this – the essence of who we are, what we are, does not want to be handed the answers. This extinguishes the flame of life. It removes us from the Maya. Life is a mystery for a very important and vital reason: to keep us alive, to keep us living. And this so called God wants us alive because without us, God has no means in which to express itself. And religion and mythology and stories and songs and art and poetry, all these things that represent the truth behind the curtain, behind the illusion, that realm beyond the enclosure of maya, that’s all here to motivate us to keep on living, to keep searching, to keep creating. Whether you’re a monkey or a human or a polyp.

Just look at a good story. A well told story does not tell you straight up what the story is about. It doesn’t sit you down and spell out what the character’s qualities are, their flaws and faults and gifts and strengths. No. As the viewer, you have to go on a journey and discover it for yourself. You have to earn it through the guidance of the telling of the story by means of its structure and form. The structure and form are the symbology; the secret hidden meaning only to be revealed as it is expressed through the telling of the story. We hunger for these stories because it gives us flashes of insight into our own story, our own life. For a moment we see a greater truth, and we’re tricked into thinking we found it ourselves, and it is that moment of gratification from watching or listening to a well told story that parallels our own puzzling life. Our life tiny lives are placed in a  greater realm of existence, one not bound by the physical confinements of a body in space and time. That experience is healing. It motivates us to continue to pursue our own life; our hopes, our dreams, our purpose.

So my psyche told me a story. I don’t know where my psyche got it from. I don’t know where it extracted the symbology of Brahma, or why it decided that would be a good symbol to use for me in particular. That understanding is beyond my intellect’s computational powers (Sorry old pal). I don’t know what all the parts mean, but I’m starting to grasp the overall message. It’s something like this:

It’s time to become a man. It’s time to come into my full being. To do this, I have to jump into the void of life, the underground. All I have to do is face all that I fear, all the pain and suffering and sorrow, I must use my creative energy to see past the guardians of the gate to the tree of life; the workshop; and embrace it with a rosy cheeks and joy and wonder and a cosmic desire to be closer with God – those tiny invisible particles and waves of energy informing my life of its nature and purpose. Now I just have to do it. I must participate in the sorrows of the world, as Buddha eloquently puts it. I must sacrifice the safety of my nest and go out and create a life for myself. And by doing that, I will be enacting the divinity in which our very universe is comprised of. Brahma. Not to shabby yea?

May I rest soundly, indubitably knowing that no matter how much I crave the truth, I will not find it by meditating on the concept of Brahma… only by meditating on Brahma himself… not the idea of god, but God itself.


And in the wise words of Yoda, I bid you good night

Premonitions, Premonitions… these visions you have…Careful you must be when sensing the future… the fear of loss is a path to the dark side… death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Sure, I believe in ghosts.

Running in Circles

I once had a dead cat tell me I need to be more in touch with my feral side. That cat has been haunting me ever since. Ghosts, they’re real, stop denying it. Everyone has something from their past that haunts them. Mine is a dead cat. It’s also a break up in high school. That ghost is the ghost of guilt and regret. Another ghost is a friend who I worked with for six months on a bird colony island sanctuary with 7 others. Thats the ghost of shame.

There’s probably other ghosts in my life too, one for each fault, for each buried issue. But that cat, man, that cat just keeps going on haunting me.

Feral. Ferus. Wild animal. Untamed, escaped from captivity. Free from domestication. Feral is the hero that leaves home and never looks back. Feral is the Sheep herder in southern Spain who sells all his sheep, his only measurement of security, and crosses the great desert of Africa and transforms into the wind. Feral is the freedom and liberty we all value so much but fear even greater. It’s the human nature we left to die and turn into a ghost, that haunts us every day, every time we strap on our shoes and walk across concrete and feel absolutely sheepish in the wild.

That ghost haunts you every moment you start functioning more like a complex design of parts acting in expected, mechanized, two dimensional ways. It haunts you every time you encourage your baby to stand up and walk for the first time like that’s some sign of it’s progress, like you’ve got some agenda you know is best, like crawling is some primitive savage way of moving that only beasts of the wild do and we don’t want to have anything to do with them. Like speeding up the crawling phase somehow makes your kid smarter when in fact it is those essential exploratory kinetic lateral movements  that allow the two sides of the brain to get to know each other intimately, married in holy matrimony. We’re creatures of the wild, we always will be, and until we we accept that, we are going to continue to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead oceans and forests , the exctinct buffalo and tropical birds, and even those kitty cats who tell us to get in touch with our feral side.

It’s dark out, but the birds are awake and the Coqui frogs turn to slumber. The time between night and day is an exhilarating transition. It’s when the Mountain Lion hunts, it’s when life is most vulnerable and death is most vibrant. I’m laying in bed but am surprisingly awake. I wonder what’s woken me.

 I’m having a particularly hard time raising my head. In fact, I can’t do it at all. There’s a numbing pain coming from my right shoulder and neck. Woah. That hurts. I roll over and try to lift myself onto my side. I grunt. A sharp pain slices up my spine like a spray of hot grease. I’m definitely awake now. No chance of falling back asleep. I guess it’s a good a time as any to start my day, but I can’t seem to get out of bed. Usually it’s mental. You know, like those online questionnaires to measure your depression symptoms, “do you struggle getting out of bed each day?” But this is physical.

I manage to swing my legs around to the edge of the bed. I forget my mosquito net is there, and my feet get caught in an already large gap in the screen. It’s dark out. Now I’ve trapped myself in my own protective screen and the left side of my back is out of commission. Maybe I’m not supposed to experience this day.

Then I remember I’m supposed to meet Rich the prospective bike buyer in town in an hour. I do a little fish out of water maneuver to loosen my feet, grit my teeth and slip down on the floor. My feet make contact with the rug. I’m standing. The rug feels particularly damp. I smell rat piss. I’ll deal with that later. For now, back to the basics. Gotta make it to my yoga mat. Gotta get down in child’s pose. Gotta sell this bike.

I stretch a little bit, breathe into the tight muscles surrounding my shoulder blade and rib cage, trying to explore my body, discover what’s acting up. What went wrong? The theories start whirling. Probably when I tried to make a weightlifting workout carrying two, five gallon water jugs down from car port. That on top of carrying 5 gallon buckets of water to water the new beds of Taro. Probably all the pounding from the increase of running mileage. Probably the hunched over posture biking up the hill.

No time to waste sulking in where I might have neglected my body. Gotta hunch down on that monster frame bike and zoom down the hill. T-minus 20 minutes. 

I throw on my rain coat. A a coqui frog  throws itself out of the sleeve. Territorial bastards. I fly down the road, dropping into the cloud cover over the bay, feeling the cool drizzling particles kiss my face a million times. I hit the base of the hill, swoop through a couple intersections and coast into the coffee shop. I get in line, looking for the cheapest thing on the menu, small drip by the looks of it, when lanky Rich stands up from his lookout spot behind me and lingers in his American Apparel hoody and the latest trendy framed glasses.
“Hey, are you Jon -” He hesitates, “Erik?”
I’m a sensitive guy, I get intimidated easily. But his hesitancy is reassuring. This guy is  approachable. Reminds me of Portland. There’s a lot of that in Hilo. I like it. I show him my bike, he’s pretty sure his friend used to own it, typical small town symptom. I show him the works, and being my too-honest-for-my-own-good self start pointing out the kinks. Dammit, I’m thinking, The guy’s not gonna want to buy my bike at this rate. Gotta switch my game up. Don’t have to lie to do it. Gotta be business like.
“…But it rides real smooth. Solid bike for sure. All tuned up and everything. Got some new tires, derailleur is in good shape. .”
Rich seems nice, he’s eyeing it over. I think he likes it, aesthetically. I tell him to ride around the block, warning him the frame is deceptive in size. He hops on and circles around, dismounts and says he thinks it can work. He slaps some bills in my hand, I shake his – and boom – I just tripled my finances. I’m gonna treat myself to a mocha today. No small drip for this guy.

My feral side starts acting up. Woah, feeling social all of a sudden. Next thing I know I strike up a comfortable conversation with Rich. We talk about his punk band, scavenger hunt bike rides, an ’83 Raleigh, how much we like Portland.  I like the guy, and I think there’s more to him. Turns out he works for the Forest Service. I let him know a little about myself; from Seattle, currently unemployed… I drop the and I’m looking for work seed and he says, “well hey I’ve got a lot of scientist friends involved in the rapid Ohia death project, they’re about to get massive State funds and will be needing some technicians. Send me an email and I’ll get you in touch.” Germination station. This seed might bear fruit.
Bonus. Nothing like a profitable transaction followed by a job opportunity. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a bagel and cream cheese with that Mocha. I feel rich, a business man. Roots in the community. Santiago. Siddhartha.No ghosts are gonna get me down today. No shoulder ache is gonna keep me in bed. Today I’m known. Today I’m somebody.  A hui ho Bitcin’ Blue Bianchi. So long. Here’s to dead cats.

Wednesday: It’s not me, its the Vog

Running in Circles

They say a pearl is formed by a single irritating grit of sand or maybe a parasite that gets lodged into the soft tissue of an oyster. The oyster begins to cover it with deposits of smooth liquid nacre turning a once irritant into a beautiful, shining pearl. We all have our own grit of sand, that one thing holding us back. That parasite sucking our energy. That aspect of us we’d rather pretend didn’t exist. But that grit is just gonna keep rubbing us the wrong way until we acknowledge it. It’s not going to go away, it’s a part of us now, and always will be. Mine as well turn it into a pearl.

Today’s a big day for me. Job interview, first one since December. Entirely my fault. Not aggressive enough, not motivated enough. Probably not mature enough. Remember that ideal life I live over in paradise? Yea, well, it sort of keeps me from caring about living a responsible adult life. A bit of a catch-22 isn’t it?

I’m searching for the right clothes to wear. My two pairs of shorts aren’t really going to cut it, my corduroys you already know about, and the other has a blasted bleach stain on it. My only pair of pants I wore too many times during land work and now they have mud stains. Jesus, I’m like some weird forest creature coming out of the woods into civilization for a job interview. I better shave.

I got up extra early for this. My nerves already running hot. Good thing, because I haven’t been able to afford coffee so I’m running on pure anxiety this morning. I stepped out of my 10×20 tent and planted my feet into the wet grass as I took a large relieving piss over my new Taro patch I planted yesterday. The urine helps keep the pigs away.

Something irked me to spin around.I turned to find the recently full moon looking back at me shining that fading blue like it does when the first light of the day shimmers across the atmosphere. She stared me down. Or as Tolkien would put it, he stared me down. I wavered for a moment trying to catch its details with my less-than-perfect vision before walking down to my outdoors kitchen where I get hit with a blood-red sunrise peeking through the hazy filter that has settled around Hilo. The sun rising in the east, and the moon setting in the west. I need to wake up at this hour more often. This is magic.

The haze is from the volcano, Pele, if you want to be personable about it. We call it Vog. People don’t like the Vog. It’s full of toxic fumes, chiefly Sulfur Dioxide, which cause anything from mild allergic symptoms to loss of consciousness to crashing your car while driving to work to simply making poor nutritional decisions like eating a whole bag of chips. Fuck it all.Good thing I can’t afford an over-priced half empty bag of processed corn. Good thing I don’t own a car anymore. Sold that Subaru to my roommate who now drives me around. I used to drive him around.

But this morning I’m riding solo. I’ll be on my bike. My favorite thing to do these days. Coast down a four mile hill into town. There’s only one part where I have to pedal. The rest is just me and the wind blowing past each other. Me high-tailing to town, the wind high-tailing to Mauka.

The job is working at a mental health resident program. I’d be a relief assistant, hanging out and supporting adults with various mental health struggles. It’s one of those jobs where some days are quiet and calm, and others involve intervening in a crisis situation, and you never know what you’re gonna get walking in that day. I can handle crisis situations. It’s the anticipation that kills me.

This morning I’m on fire. I even did a couple head stand sets and even more impressively brushed my teeth. Things are looking good. A guy texted me this morning saying he wants to look at one of my bikes I’m selling, which would be abso-fucking-lutely perfect. I could really use the cash. That bike is so goddamn big though I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it from my grizzly mountain-man of a friend. I guess I was doing him a favor, and I did think I could make a profit on it after fixing it up. It was in sad shape. Now it’s sitting in my tent upside down collecting crab spider webs and slug slime. Who the hell on this island is gonna fit that bike frame? I have to row that steel monster like a boat and pedal it like a ballerina on point. But maybe this guy is big enough. Maybe he’s my man. My saving grace. My Virgin Mary. I’ll throw in a Shark Bite milk shake to sweeten the deal if things start going sour.

The running has been good. I impulsively registered for the Hilo Marathon, cutting my savings in half by doing so. I cursed as soon as I hit the payment button. What an idiot. Who registers for an $80 race and can’t even afford a new pair of shorts for a once in a blue moon interview? Me. But at least I have a focus. 26.2 miles.

I signed up late, and started training even later, and now the race is but 4 weeks away. I’ll do what I can. 35 miles last week, 40 this week. Throw in a three mile tempo during a long run, and maybe I’ll be set to run a 3 hr marathon. Maybe.

I’ve never actually done a marathon before, well, never finished one. In 2014, I ran this very same race in Hilo, and had to quit at mile 21 after my right foot started acting up. I wore shitty shoes. I was an idiot, and now I want to redeem myself, and run it again, finish it this time. But I was in better shape back then. I was averaging 6:50 miles during that race. I’ll be happy to average 7-minute miles this time around. And I want to do it in my sandals. I’m an idiot.

But I’m an idiot who’s taking care of the grit. The world is my oyster and I am the oyster and this is my world and that fool that I am is going to be the pearl of my future. Time for a job interview.

February 21st 2016. Where to Begin?

Running in Circles

The world is your oyster. I don’t even know what the fuck that means anymore, but I use to say it all the time all nonchalantly to whoever floated alongside me in stride down the sidewalk during a run or perhaps after a marginally satisfying burrito at Lucy’s.

I just got home. Pedaled four miles up a steady paved road that looks out above the town Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii. My head is dripping sweat and its steaming hot in my crotch. Too much friction. Shouldn’t have worn my corduroy shorts. One of two pairs of shorts I own. They need replacing. Worn out in the crotch.

I strip off my outer-layer clothes and am left with a smelly pair of running shorts around my waist I’d been wearing since yesterday after a 14 mile run. I sat through a two and half hour movie in them. I ushered in them at the local Vagina Monologues that night, a delightful performance of all women reciting fantastical interviews of other women talking about vaginas. I even tried to sleep in them but decided naked would probably be cleaner since I was crashing in my friends bed. The lesser of two evils. I wonder if she’d appreciate it if I told her my consideration. She was gone dancing all night at some zoo party or something exclusive like that. 

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My Tent of a Hut

And now I’m home. Finally. Alone in my little tent of a hut. Finally. Gone a day and half. Too long. Finally the running shorts come off, feels like some kind of ritual. I stand there naked for a while. Not out of freedom but out of a total lack of motivation. The day’s half over, tomorrow is Monday, and I’m still a broke, single, frail, jobless, prideful young man in his mid twenties who’s invincibility cloak, left over from the high chool days, is slowly degrading into a shallow pool of self-pity that I’ve been standing in for far too long. It’s all swampy. Stagnant. I’m all pruned, just a butt-naked pruned swampy kid living in a tent with a laptop and a work-trade lease on a mac-nut orchard on a tropical island hiding from my past and too depressed to put clothes on for my future.

This is my life. I eat soaked and boiled lentils with millet and avocado and taro. I eat the occasional satisfactory grande burrito from the Lucy’s; the sister taqueria of Gorditos in Seattle. I run. I run in sandals made in Seattle and sometimes I run in shoes made God knows where. I don’t ever run in a shirt because its too hot and god the whole point of running is to be minimal and pure and the feeling of a shirt rubbing across a large surface area of my body just makes my nipples turn all purple. Sometimes they bleed. I drink turmeric and ginger tea grown in our garden. I sometimes bike to town to convince my ego I’m doing something productive like applying for jobs. I’ve been applying for jobs for five months, kind of.

My life is simple and poor and pathetic. To many its an ideal situation… living on whole foods in a beautiful quiet getaway in Hawaii. And, you know, it is great, and I give my appreciation everyday when I wake up and watch the first sunlight hit my tent illuminating the new day. But if it wasn’t for running, I might just curl up and die in this safe-haven, this sanctuary this… idling life.

I’m still naked. I’m still standing here, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life, wondering what direction I’m headed, wondering how many more days I can survive with only 150 bucks in my account, wondering if I should break down and cry or go plant some Comfrey. I blink. The bugs buzz, and I head to the garden, nearly forgetting to put any clothes on.