Category Archives: Running in Circles

The Pack and the Past

 

I’ve been tying to grapple with the changes that have occurred all through my life while simultaneously trying to catch up with all the changes that occurred during the billions of years that came before me.

It’s a dizzying experience.

Some say knowledge is not discovered. It is remembered. Did someone discover that? Or was it remembered?

When I was a child, I remembered so many more of my dreams. Visions. Then, the swarm of external stimuli ruptured my cognitive world as the modern world I was engrossed in during the 90’s flooded my vision and caught my attention like a moth to light. It was not until in college that I stepped far enough out of this modern entrapment did I begin to have visions again. I went to Hawaiʻi as part of a kind of college abroad program to learn about the field of environmental science. The trip proved to be life-changing. For the 7 weeks our group lived and camped outside, often trekking to the remotest areas on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. My dreams came flooding back, lucid as ever.

As a young male, I was primed for adventure. Leaving the domain of the University campus to explore the terrain of a far away place was a paramount decision in my awakening. To awake to the vision of the dream is the paradoxical relationship between the temporal world and the infinite. Up until this point, my life seemed to be a one track momentum hurdling me forward. It spun me into an existential crisis. I used to think that I was a late bloomer, since I still haven’t really gotten my career off the ground,  but looking back to those days, I realized  by stepping laterally off of the known path, I was descending into a calling that would forever be my guide in life.

We still do not understand where the stuff of dreams and visions come from. Those who approach internal imagery with uncertainty are wise in doing so. The humble way is one of discipline and uncertainty, based on the value of respecting that which you do not fully understand. Another paradox. Only by acknowledging one’s lack of understanding does one gain more understanding.

The fact that my dreams returned with such vividness during my winter in Hawaiʻi, I did not understand, but I did understand that it was something worth paying attention to. I recognized to be skeptical of the messages from the world around me, for they were only repeated messages from one mind to the next, lost in a lifeless regurgitation of jumbled words. I learned that to only trust the experiences I had that were deeply moving. The ones that moved across my skin like electricity. That triggered deep memories, or lit up my dream world.

I once had dream, not too long ago, in which I was not human, but a Cheetah. I was fast, agile, and stealthy. But I had not thoughts. It was a strange experience. Both foreign and familiar. Primal. It was a kind of remembering. A kind of returning. I was looking around, orienting myself to this new environment. It was day, bright as can be, with wind blowing across plains of grasses. I was hidden in the grass. I looked around, smelling, and caught glimpse of one, then two other cheetahs. I knew them. Somehow I knew this. And then I knew what I was doing. I was hunting. We were hunting.

As we prepared to execute our attack, there abruptly appeared another group of cheetahs. My pack froze in hesitation. So did the other. Caught in uncertainty. What were we supposed to make of this? The tension grew. Tails flicked. It was not worth it. You couldn’t have two separate hunting packs going after the same stock. It just didn’t make sense. We knew it wouldn’t work.

I don’t remember the rest. I don’t know what happened after. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I woke up. But when I did wake up, I remember laying there in amazement. How could I transform into a Cheetah like that? How could my imagination conjure up such an experience? I was not merely watching these Cheetahs. I was one of them. I felt like one. I walked on four legs. I breathed through a snout. I perceived with no thoughts.

It is dreams like this, and other like-visions in my life that have swept me into a world of questions and mystery. As I entered my adulthood and with that the anxiety of surviving on my own, my only solace has been to value everything that has come before, that is, to walk forward in life with uncertainty, and pry deep into the source of matter and meaning.

Perhaps then I will remember, and maybe we all will someday, how to properly live with each other, and all life on this planet. But I don’t think it can be done by telling each other how to properly live. I think we can only tell ourselves that, discovered through our dreams and visions ignited  by the deep, deep, primordial past.

 

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A Day in the Patient Life of Tyler

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“Rome wasn’t built in a Day”
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

Life is a Game: The Practice of Non-attachment.

There are many attitudes on life we can adapt that will ultimately dictate how we go about living our individual lives. These attitudes are essentially what we choose to focus on in the perception of our experiences. This is where philosophy plays a critical role in the task of bringing peace and balance into a society; that which provides order to a people.

The attitude of life is a game is a philosophical metaphor  we have all heard. It has many ways of being interpreted. One of the most common interpretations of this attitude is don’t take life so seriously. Another well-known interpretation is  you’re dealt a hand in life, how are you going to play it? 

Many of these thoughts on life are an attempt to reduce the suffering one experiences through their own interpretation on life. Essentially, life is a game is yet another way of explaining the practice of the non-attachment relationship with life.

So then why is life just but a game? And what does it have to do with non-attachment?

You’re just joining your friends for an evening of board games. It’s a game you all enjoy, and have played often together. You know it well, and have learned your strengths and weaknesses. It’s a bit of strategic game, but like all games chance is involved. You all sit down to play the game. There are some ups and downs throughout the game for you and everyone else. Some players seem to be doing better than others. You get bummed when all your resources are taken, you celebrate when you gain another point. You feel a pang of disappointment when you don’t win, but it soon fades as the game ends and you all transition your evening into the next thing. Those who did well feel a bit more elated than when they began, and those who played poorly feel a certain sadness, but by the end everyone has completely moved on, focused on whatever is happening in the following moments life has to offer.

It’s a cold morning, the coldest of the year, but you’re excited. This Sunday your home football team is playing their rivals in your hometown. And you have tickets. You’re whole day is dedicated to the game. You get to the stadium hours early, all bundled up in your team’s colors. There are thousands of other slowly trickling in, all feeling charged up. The game does not disappoint. It is an especially good game because the teams go back and forth in taking the lead. You’re team doesn’t win, but they played their hearts out, and you love them for that. The day is ending, and its time to get home to your family for a nice warm dinner. The day’s excitement is still buzzing in your head as you drift to sleep, and perhaps it carries into the next day at work. But over time it fades. Just another game.

To practice non-attachment is not to rid your life of desires, hopes, and dreams. It is in no way to live out a life of isolation from reality. Nor is it freedom from pain or some nirvana state. But it is to recognize that everything will eventually find its end, and much of the suffering we endure in life is the inability to move on from our attachment to something that once was but no longer exists.

There was a time when humans lived closer to nature, and our constant understanding of reality was based solely upon the principles of the nature around us. It was a continual change of conditions, a highly temporal world as people’s very survival was contingent on their understandings of these changes and learning how to adapt. Quite naturally, the practice of non-attachment was an essential part of life. If you stayed attached, got too used to one way of living, you would surely die.

Today within the context of what we know as modern society, human populations live far more separated from nature and thus more embedded in a human cultural environment. These modern cultural environments exist in a state that is of great contrast to that of the natural world. Structurally, they are rigid and engineered with a permanence design. This kind of societal infrastructure consequently bleeds into the minds of those who dwell in such environments, i.e. probably anyone reading this blog today, and ultimately as it stains our perception of reality, we then internalize this and project it outwards, as it shapes our very identity, our behavior, and our actions.

It is ironic how through the modernizing of humanity the vast majority of us have come to believe we are closer than ever to living out practical and realistic lives, which in some cases is true, but this truth is almost entirely contained within a human construct. As in, we primarily receive information about the world through a secondary source – from other humans. We entrust the vast majority of our how we “see” the world to other human beings. This practice is just fine, so long as we are aware of this, that most of the information we know about our worl could very well be untrue.

This is the principle of non-attachment. It begins with not attaching to the information you are being fed day in and day out when you wake up, conscious, absorbing and accessing the world surrounding you. It begins with not attaching to your thoughts and ideas, these highly malleable and brief moments that wisps through your mind. It’s the freedom of being skeptical; something that the philosophy of science has made it’s foundation upon. The ending principle of the non-attachment way of life is to release yourself from the attachment to your own life, and sometimes even more importantly, to the lives of others.

This is no easy task. We have been programmed, as I said earlier, to attach ourselves to the physical and non-physical; to the material and the emotional realms of existence. It is intrinsic in the design of our society: that which governs our behavior. But to break free of the chain of attachment living is to free yourself from the draining burden of being stuck in a single state of being: the underlining product of attachment.

On either ends of this spectrum it can look like two contrasting extremes. On one end it is the perpetuating craving of a kind of manic state of being, in which you are constantly seeking stimulants to feed your addiction to achieve an elated state. The other end is that of depression, isolation, grief, and ultimately pain. Much, if not all sickness and disease come from the energetic being getting lodged into one extreme or the other, or, in another extreme, rapidly oscillate between a depressive state and manic: what we have come to know as Manic-depression or in some special cases, Bipolar.

When we begin to see life as a game, it is not to see life as any less real, it is in fact to see life for what it is. It is to take something that we have ironically labeled as “unreal”, a game, and project it onto our reality. When you can agree within yourself, changing the programming of your inner representation of reality, that life is just a game, then you will begin to sense within yourself a lightness. That feeling is the flowing movement of energy that you allow to move freely, for you have begun to remove the blockades, the “attachments” to one belief or another.

But the difficult task here is not creating that change of existence for yourself. That actually comes quite naturally when put into effect. It is the “believing” part that is the daunting task. You have to believe for yourself that content and freedom are states of being that do exist. So how do you unlearn what you have learned? How do you tell yourself to stop believing the ways of attachment, and start believing in the ways of non-attachment? Because I can tell you that right off the bat, you won’t want to believe what I’m saying.

And that’s a good thing, for you should be skeptical of anything and everything that you are told, that is a practice of non-attachment! But you also need to learn how to listen, so you can discern, and make truly free choices based on your ability to listen and discern the information you are receiving from the seemingly endless sources and resources available to you in this modern human world.

But let’s get back to this idea of life as a game, because I believe it is within this metaphor you may find some assurance, something that deep down inside you relate to, that you agreed with way before human society began to take its toll on the domestication of your being.

To return to truth, we must return to the beginnings of life.

Childhood. Play. Games have always existed inherently within us. We learn about ourselves, our world, and our place in it, through exploration and play. We observe the world around us, and our parents or guardians provide a safe-feeling space for us to play out what we observed, as well as provide a safe environment for us to reach outside of our comfort-zone and grow int0 our full potential – just like a well nurtured plant.

It is all too easy to forget the blissful state of a child raised in a safe, loving, environment. But it is not to say that these children are without emotional ups and downs. A child goes through an entanglement of emotions from screaming and kicking and what looks like absolute terror, to laughter and euphoria, all in a single day, sometimes even in a single moment. These children are not sick with manic-depressive behavior, they are merely not attaching to one form of being or the other, they are dancing through life as their operative selves were natural designed to do. Parent’s of these children often perceive this behavior as a kind of wildness, laughing off jokes about their child being a menace or little beast. And these parents I would argue aren’t too far from the truth, when calling their children such names. They are wild, they are beasts. But the understanding and interpretation behind these labels can go one of two ways – if told directly to the children with a negative connotation, as a form of putting down, it will steer the children away from such behavior, domesticating the child into a series of behavioral patterns which leads to attachment, for a children learns from the parents that their wildness, their playfulness, is not the correct way to act, and thus separates play from life. 

This is a from of growing up all too common in our educational system during middle childhood: the developmental ages of around 6 to 11 year olds. It’s not to say that a structured environment where a child learns discipline is not of value, on the contrary, it is about under-valuing the role of play in the early developmental stages of our younglings.

When we grow older and learn that there is a time to play, and a time not to play, we believe we are learning when certain behavior is acceptable, and when it is not, which is true, we are learning this. But how we are applying it to the greater aspects of life is  where I believe there are dire consequences that lead to a kind of collective dependency on attachment relationships, fear of loss/death, and thus an internal suffering.

When a loved one dies, there will be grief involved. When your partner breaks up with you, you will feel grief, and possibly anger. When you lose your job, or you’ve been unemployed for months and you begin to view yourself as unworthy, you are participating in the very self-destructive practice of attachment.

For all of us, we must go through life feeling the hardships and the loss, as well as the ease and joy and gains. These events in life are a natural process for the living. Death and birth, abundance and scarcity exist continuously throughout. When we accept this as natural, unavoidable, we can then open ourselves to the full process of living, and find bliss within every state of being, for bliss is the experience of life coursing through us.

As Master Qui-Gon Jim once said, “Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts. Your focus determines your reality.”

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

To Vote or not to Vote, that is the question… I could care less about.

Folks, brace yourself for strong consequences, regardless of the presidential outcome. Be prepared for suffering and struggle to emerge even for the privileged. It is time. For too long have we hidden away in comfort. For too long have we ignored the tensions of this country’s past. For too long have we blocked the rivers of truth with dams of denial.
Great internal conflict will be released from the floodgates, and I for one welcome it, not out of joy, but out of long overdue sorrow.
 This country is already divided, not since what was felt leading up to the Civil war. The difference today is that the divide is virtual, not geographical. Your neighbor is living in a different reality than you, and you don’t even know your neighbor’s name. This divide has been slowly splitting open like an infested wound from past histories of violence. I do not feel it is my patriotic duty any longer to vote for one candidate or another, but rather it is my patriotic identity to envision a new nation of people determined to alter this path of destruction and revitalize an economy of well-being. This will take pain. This will take doubt in  your self because of the outlandish shaming criticism of conservative preservatives desperately grasping on to failed system. This will take suffering. This will take sacrifice. This will take confronting death.
I am an optimist. I believe that all that is happening is for greater reason than we can comprehend. I believe in hope. I believe in righteousness. But I believe that The Path, God, Darhma, Taoism, is only achieved through accepting that which is happening and unfolding before your very eyes. Your body is the best sensor of reality. Listen to the grief percolating through the boiling blood of your ancestor’s genes expressed in your present existence.
The world is in turmoil. And that’s okay. But the more we deny it, the less of a chance we have of making it through this stage of humanity. The more we accept it, the greater the odds we will pursue right course of action. Karma. Whoever you vote for, will have consequence, because both sides, sadly, represent a spectrum of living that fall similarly close in relationship to the expanse of perception: nihilism and narcissism. We all feel it. We all fall under that mode of existence. It is part of our national identity. Don’t deny it any longer. Accept it as part of your current self. Personify it so you can converse with it, build a relationship with it so that you may ultimately put it to rest and say, “thank you super-ego for your time with me, but unfortunately now that we’ve danced together I’m feeling a bit dizzy and distant from my true self and am quite ready to return to my soul and nature and all of that.”
An empire is falling, collapsing unto itself like a massive star that grew too big. It is natural. It is bound to happen, predicted by the prophets of those devout to the observations of the universe and the realms beyond. And through this threshold of chaos comes opportunity and order. We have much to look forward to. Although you and I may never live to see future balances in harmony once again…. our successors will. Our lives are never to be lived merely for ourselves anyhow, what would be the point of living if that were the case?
Time to sacrifice your own life for the betterment of tomorrow. Follow whatever way FEELS right. Let your true self guide your actions. Your nature – not the belligerent logos of a failing social system. If it falls, so be it, why support it any longer? What’s the responsibility in that? Let if crumble like the stale bread it is and decompose into new organic matter rich with infinite possibilities, no longer rigid and flaky.
Celebrate the fall of your society, and witness your imprisoned self fly free into the open sky. There is much to look forward to in the birth that comes after death.

Lingering Undercurrents

Suddenly, optimistically, I plow through spinning thoughts and clench the excitement permeating through my hot skin and jump down off the ledge of the front steps of my house down to where you stand next to the flowering gardenia bush. You draw near to show me a flower, and I inhale the blossom’s scent mixed with your own delight. I linger. You probably notice. you say something about loving flowers and I say something like I know. We’re trying to have a conversation but our bodies’ are shouting for each other so loudly, we can’t really hear the words coming out of our voices.

You hand me the flower from my own yard and I thank you. You smile and walk back to the car where you are about to step in and drive away. But you linger. And I again lean in. You fiddle with your hair and tell me you’ve decided not to cut it. I say I’m happy because I think it is beautiful as it is. You tell me you just need to take care of it, and tell me to feel the ends; how brittle they are. I hold a bunch of your sun-kissed hair in my hands and feel the brittleness, but am not focused on this. I’m focused on my beating heart. I’m focused on the rush of warm blood filling in my cheeks. I’m focused on your perfumed scent, your dark eyes. I’m focused on the constellation of moles along the left side of your nose. I’m focused on this moment knowing its all I’ll get before you enter that truck and drive away.

You step inside, and I close the door for you. Our friend steps into the driver’s seat as our lingering was supported by our waiting for her. The truck reverses and I’m left alone with a lingering scent and an attraction I’m trying so hard to bury and pretend it doesn’t exist because I’m afraid. I’m afraid what it will do, that this life I’ve worked so hard to control will come crumbling apart. I linger in the driveway. As you disappear from sight I linger in my thoughts of you. I linger in the breadths of time now stretching between us. I linger in the passion coursing through my body now settling like the moments after a passing storm.

I strap on my shoes and do the only thing I can imagine doing. I run, hoping that all I felt will seize to exist while at the same time yearning for more and more, like my life woke up and seized me by the shoulders shaking me shouting: carpe amorem!

The Mythological Pastry

The days roll over each other like buttery layers of a croissant, congealed into weeks and months, together like flaking goodness of sweet and fat fused just perfectly imperfect by the blazing oven of creation.

I sat outside the Laundry Express on one of these particularly buttery days trying to use the space between loads as an opportunity for pastry reflection. Three weeks ago I lay curled up on the floor boards of my tent confronting the delicate edge between life and death, not necessarily suicidal per se, but certainly not filled with the will of life either. And now I’m sitting with my legs crossed down town with damp feet, with one sultry croissant in my hand, wondering how I picked myself up and  began to rediscover the source of life; my source for life. The journey to that source certainly is not over, most likely has just begun, but enough time and events and experiences have passed that I can split open that croissant and feel the soft steamy innards against my taste buds and salivate over the digestion of this little package of experience.
My newly acquainted friend slides through the sliding doors of the laundry center and sits down next to me on the firm plastic bench outside. A waft of detergent scent follows her out, mixing and dissipating with the ethanol infused vehicle emissions from a herd of cars passing by us in circles hoping to find an open spot in the parking lot. Laundry Express is one of the most popular destinations in Hilo.

I barely know this women. I just met her that morning. She just moved into the vacant tent up at our place the night before. We  shared coffee and bananas and pineapple for breakfast and somehow with the help of the buzz of caffeine and my nervous energy upon having a new junglemate, we found ourselves knee deep in one of those conversations that is real hard to find a way out of. Philosophical. Political. Moral. Spiritual. It was messy.

But at the end of it we discovered both of us were in need of washing clothes and my was I relieved to find that out cause I was dead out of clean clothes with a couple more job interviews coming up and no way of getting my heap of possessive attire to town. But she had a car. A Cadillac. I think it was my first time in a Cadillac.

And sitting there on the firm plastic bench surrounded by fumes we also both discovered our passion for writing. She had come to Hawaii originally to hunker down and finally complete a book she’d been writing for 5 years, a collection of over 2,500 pages by now. A bit of a nightmare, if you ask me. I didn’t tell her so, but I did tell her how I so admired her for attempting to write a book, and even such an epic as that. I myself, I said to her, could really only handle writing little blogs, but wished that some day I’d write a book. Something that involves Mars perhaps.

When I asked for the premise of her book she asked if I knew what ‘M Theory’ or “String Theory’ is. I said I had heard of it and she went on to explain the 11 dimensions our universe is made up of and that her book is essentially 11 different stories all intermingled in a structure much like that of this ‘M Theory’.

I got all excited because it reminded me of how classic tales and ancient stories were told in a convoluted ‘more than meets the eye’ type of circular ‘ring theory’ way in which a hidden message could be found in the depths of the structure of how the story itself is told. One of my favorite examples of this is George Lucas’s creation of StarWars which is arguably the greatest modernization of myth to date (you can see what that’s all about here).

And her struggle to complete this story of her’s that seemingly turned into some kind of monstrous monstrosity with its massive accumulation of pages upon pages, weighing down on her pushing her ever so slightly further away from obtaining the ultimate goal of completion reminded me a bit of what my life was feeling like; this life in which I felt this enormity of potential pulsating from every cell and fiber of my being and trying so hard to work on the small things in my life so that I could realize that potential and become this greatness, this grandiose grandness I’ve always felt but could never find… in me.

She said, “I’ve been here for just about a year now and my book has made no progress. And it’s funny, because you know just 8 days ago I was just about ready to give up, and not just on the book, but my life. I couldn’t stop crying. For days, I just cried. And here I am now. I just bought a car and moved to a new place and am picking myself up and I’m okay with where I’m at and in fact I feel like somehow I’ve let go of control a bit and am allowing things to just happen, allowing my days to unfold, just as this book is unfolding. I do my best writing when I don’t really think about what I’m writing. It just comes out, layer upon layer.”

“Like a croissant.”

“What?”

I point to the glazed flakes of what remained of my croissant sprinkled across my lap. “A croissant.”

“Oh. Yea. I guess.”

 

 

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

**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

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

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.