Travel Tales on Love and Meditation

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Exchange

Workaway, Wwoofing, the joy of volunteering. What's it all about?
For some reason, working for someone else and earning money is my idea of hell... the exception of course being when I enjoy the work. But somehow I've not yet managed to successfully combine earning a wage with enjoyment. There is something about a volunteer exchange that completely overrides all the misgivings I have about working for a living. It's as if it extracts the shifty middle-man (money), and embraces the act of exchange, a simple trade.
It also works with the law of attraction. You work for someone, they cook you a delicious meal, or at least show they've put the effort in rather than giving you kitchen scraps. Chuffed to bits with the memory of the yummy food still in your mind (though barely in your belly) the next morning, you work extra hard at your tasks, perhaps doing an hour over your allocated time. It keeps building up; both parties do their 'share' with love.
Ok, so this definitely happens with 'real' employment too, but not often on such a pure level. The work you tend to do is meditative - working on the land, cooking, harvesting fruit. Perhaps planting vegetables that you will never eat because you'll be off on the next chapter of your travels. It cleanses your karma.
The problem arises from the 'host' in that they often don't make any money or grow enough food to cover the costs of accommodating the volunteer, such as electricity and of course, meals. I guess the more people put this exchange into practice, the better people get at making it cost effective.
Apart from the love of your work, it's probably much more fun. Either you're working with others like you - each with their own travel stories, background, culture, way of seeing the world, keeping your days full. Or even if it's just a family, they too have much to offer in this respect. Making an impression on others is what's important, not chasing ambitions in the sky, always seeking to be higher. That life didn't make me feel particularly fulfilled. I kept wondering - how can I be higher than nature? It's an impossible feat. I am nature.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Brambles and I

I had a long, hard fight today. Armed with a set of electrical hedge clippers, protective gloves and a hand saw, I hacked my way through yards of thick clumps of brambles, with only one blackberry to show for it. The brambles were taller than me and had a habit of whipping back, scoring me with pink scratches.
I've been feeling a little down lately; what with my 'journey' becoming undefined. Meditation feels impossible, and every time I sit down, tuck my legs into lotus position and try to breathe, a knot the size of a hand grenade wells up tightly in my solar plexus and I start getting really angry. I knew my ego would fight back, but I didn't know it would be this hard. Last night, I utterly despaired at my own dishonesty, pretending I was on the road to becoming centered again, when really I am very lost.
But aren't we all? I gave up.
The brambles presented a problem. They were like the tangled knots of the past, tempting me to try to unpick them one by one. So much work would make anyone's head buzz. What appeared to be a week's worth of labour took me four hours. The slope was pretty steep, so my footing was constantly slipping and I needed to lift the heavy hedge trimmers over my head most of the time. But surprisingly, it was much, much easier than I though, if not a little tough on the arms.
I guess what I'm saying is that we make our problems our own. We complicate everything. We have no trust or belief in ourselves, when actually we can achieve many things. That's why yogis climb the highest mountains and cross the largest rivers - life is a constant test and everyday you can rise to a challenge.
Although I will say one thing. Giving up in trying too hard is definitely a sound move.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Zorba the Buddha

Hangover. A word that translates as: body abuse.
But being drunk is just so much fun.
Zorba the Buddha, the masculine element, represents joys of the body; delicious food, flowing wine, laughter with family and friends, gathering with your sangha, dancing and making love. Zorba sits upon the book of knowledge, reveling in the numerous pleasures the world has to offer.
The feminine element offers us silence and subtlety; withdrawing from excess to humbly honour simplicity.
Last night was about the first one.
I really feel like kicking off my shoes and dancing in the rain. I want to howl at the moon, laugh until my belly is sore and hang from the tallest branches of the tallest trees.
I want to break free of my bindings and free the warm light of true freedom - equanimity - blossom from my core. Bloody hell let's have a party!

Friday, 24 September 2010

A swarming mind: the writer's tool

Something has been driving me crazy lately. My imagination.
When it comes to meditation, the imagination blossoms, much like the body. The deeper I go, the more there is empty space. I'm not sure I want to go there.
My ambition is to be a writer, to publish many novels and follow in the footsteps of my heroes; Roald Dahl, Truman Capote, George Orwell, Stephen King. I want to be prolific, to write stories that capture the imagination, stories about daring adventures and far off lands.
In a spiritual sense, there is a lot that is misguided about the above paragraph. And it bothers me a great deal.
Firstly - ambition. To want to be higher than others, ahead, a leader - in many ways denies the spirit of zen. Everyone is the same, everyone is beautiful. The trick here, however difficult to avoid, is to focus on the stories, not the reward. Create only for yourself. Is this a paradox? Can you truly write with no audience in mind? Is writing really just masturbation of the subconscious?
Secondly - heroes. Walk your own path, don't follow in the footsteps of others. Be an individual. To hone my skill I need to read. To read means joining the plethora of inter-textual meanings, phrases and characters. Apparently it's related to Post-modernism - the collective consciousness. Good for spirituality when you're working on positivity, bad when it comes to original stories that publishers buy.
Thirdly (and most importantly) - thinking. The mind is the primary tool of a writer. Delving into it distracts from the present, the realm of the now, the release of all problems, the abstraction of past and future. Whenever I write, I begin to suffer. Indeed, can writing truly stem from non-suffering. If you don't suffer, what do you have to write about?

Still, I'll work it out. Eventually.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Fig and Jam. Fig Jam.

Fig Jam Recipe.

1 lb sliced ripe figs, picked from a tree in the mountains.
Note when figs are fully ripe, their bottoms burst, splay out in three fronds to display their wound-like centers.
1/2 lb apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
Note The rosey variety are best
The juice of three lemons that have not been sprayed or manipulated so that they appear lumpy and most un-lemon like
The grated zest of one lemon
1 lb sugar. No comment.

Simmer the figs and apples very slowly. Add juice and zest. Let the fruit get tender. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Boil hard, and I mean hard for fifteen minutes. Leave to cool.
Decant into jars, tighten the lids and leave to set in the fridge.

I am the jam queen.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Great Beetle Relocation

After two hours of mowing the lawn, I chose an easy job to finish my day. There is a little set of steps to the rear of the building that connect the garden to the kitchen door. In between the door and the foot of the steps is a patio, with sloped sides for easy drainage and a large plughole at its center. Large black beetles live under the leaves and pine needles that have collected there. They are odd insects - the elephants of the insect world - who appear to have high family values, are entirely harmless (unlike elephants I realise), and move very, very slowly.
My task was to sweep up the leaves blocking the drain without causing a bug massacre with the brush. Anthony suggested collecting the debris in a box and throwing it in the garden, so as not to harm the beetles. I found a box and set about carefully sweeping the bugs up into the box, creating an artificial environment for them, similar to something you might find at a zoo behind a glass wall. I was surprised at how many there were, scratching at the dry leaves in panic. I could almost hear them calling to each other Save yourself, we'll find you. Watch out, here it comes as I lowered the brush towards them once again and they scattered in slow motion. There was a fly who kept dive bombing me as if caught in a strange cross-species allegiance to the beetle clan.
It got me thinking. Should compassion cause you to put yourself in their position, or simply not kill or purposefully hurt another living creature? Should you have empathy for the insects, imagining which ones belong to which family, or distance yourself from your actions, viewing your Godzilla-like presence as a necessary evil?
I guess it's all of the above. Know it or not, we must all play God at some point in the day.
The Great Beetle Relocation seemingly concluded with the contents of the drain blockage safely in the garden. I went back in the kitchen, careful not to tread on the remaining beetles, who were clumsily re-orientating themselves after my 'attack'. I willed the beetles I'd removed to find their way back, as if parted from their families by the Berlin wall, or miles and miles of hazardous terrain.
I shut the door behind me and announced the beetles were all alive but relocated. 'They'll probably all be eaten by birds the minute they set foot out there' Anthony said, 'they like the patio because it protects them from predators.'
My heart sank. Well, at least I didn't accidentally break any of their legs or behead them I thought.
That night I had a dream. A large black beetle was sat across from me in an armchair, smoking a cigar. His mouth was a set of pincers that opened and shut mechanically, and his antennae clicked with a restless air. He puffed out a plume of blue smoke, regarding me.
"You are here because you have violated our trust." He said with the composure of a dangerous gangster, about to pull a torturous implement.
Something shifted either side of me; there were two larger, and equally menacing beetles holding my arms and legs, their spare limbs clicking in all directions. My head began to spin with fright.
"That trust," the head beetle continued, "was sacred." He leaned forward with the agility of a fully grown man with murder in his past.
"You are the last human who will ever pervert the life of the beetles. It is time for our revenge."
A sea of pincers disjointedly approached me through the smoke, the scent of hunger on their sharp tips.
I woke up in a cold sweat.
I made a decision in the dark: Karma is not about superstition. It's about good intentions.
I slept soundly for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Life Begins at Two Thousand Feet

Since spring when something unusual happened to me, I've been slowly unwrapping. Six weeks of work painfully unraveled inside me, like a fraying cloth. Loose, limp, unnecessary. Picture cards have aptly reflected this back like a mirror; guilt, mind and compromise.
In Spain, where a kind family have taken me in and feed me delicious homemade apple pie, I am once again faced with tightening the delicacies of inside, where imagination and simplicity sit quietly, humbly waiting to be discovered.
Meditation alone appears to be unable to stimulate this growth. It's giving things up. Things you never thought you were attached to, like sleep, or judgmental thoughts that pose as intuition.
The adventure has begun, a whole world of possibilities opens up, dawning in the night.