Friday, April 26, 2013

Meaning of Life, Take 2--Live It!

Another blast from the distant past.  Remember before the end of the Mayan calendar?   First draft:  March 22, 2012, heavily edited to bring it up to date.

“How would you feel if at the end of your life you still had questions?”   Recently, a friend posed this hypothetical to me and I shuddered.  The quest for the answer to the riddle of life has been the bane of my life--the big WHY?  For decades I have pursued an answer, as if life was a big game with a trophy at the end for whoever finds out. And like most seekers I turned to the East in my quest.

Ganeshpuri Ashram, India 1981
In July 1983 I traveled to Swami Muktananda’s ashram in India. I had met him a couple years prior at the big tent in Santa Monica.  That day I went to the platform for a personal darshan (blessing), he mumbled in Hindi then whacked me with a peacock feather--his watery eyes drowning me in bliss.  I knew I wanted whatever he had.

Traveling around India severely tested my spirit and body, until like Alex in Clockwork Orange, I stumbled into the ashram at Ganeshpuri--weakened from fighting dysentery for weeks.  The receptionist glared at me and said “Everyone does seva (service)."

Assigned to the kitchen cleaning the pots and pans, I pouted to myself--‘I have two college degrees, I make good money on my job, I’m too good for this.’  Then one of the ‘old timers’ (could have been maybe 50) said, “Pots and pans is the seva of enlightenment."  (Yeh, right.)   The next morning I faced a stainless steel sink filled with pots and pans in a dark basement with only a sliver of light from a window.  Remembering the purpose of my trip, I buckled down and grabbed the scrubber.  By the end of that shift it hit me--Everything was perfect just as it was.  

I got it-- and peace within was mine--and all I had to do was surrender my egoism and do what was in front of me.  Unfortunately, my awakening was fleeting and I soon fell into thoughts of judgment, separation, and questions.   Not present to what is, I lived as most do in the past, future, or distraction.

Recently my handyman tossed me a zinger:  In a rush to finish a remodeling project on my house, I spilled some paint.   While methodically painting the wall he said, “Your impatience comes from not liking what you’re doing and you want to get it over with and make mistakes.”  How true!  (the pots in the ashram again)  He continued, “Impatience becomes a habit, then nothing is good enough for your full attention and you’re never satisfied.”  Bulls eye!

Many years ago in Thailand I encountered the happiest people in my many years of travel.  Everyone from the taxi drivers to the shoe shine guys to the prostitutes were smiling and laughing.  Thais are 90% Buddhist.  In Buddhism the basic teaching is impermanence, the cycle of life and death, endings and beginnings, everything evolving but without a destination—infinite.  Why? Their answer?—Because!

I've finally run out of questions and believe answers are opinions anyway.  So, what is left? Focus on the here and now and act--live in the world.  Sometimes I lapse into futility, cynicism and lethargy, but then I remember it's getting late--mature age adds urgency.  At the same time, patience kicks in--take it easy.  I've got nothing to prove and hold my goals and desires lightly. Once achieved a new one always appears to distract me.

Each day I do my best to be present and give thanks for things the way they are and keep 'why' to a minimum. Tomorrow is another day with mystery, challenge, and experienceI zig and zag toward my visions and goals, but whether I get there is not important.  I put one step in front of the other and pay attention--no questions, just experience...Success!
Wisdom from Ras Marley

Friday, April 5, 2013

Progress Got in the Way of My Adventure


Pablo's Palapas, the old Sayulita
Riding a mountain bike in the hills around Sayulita offers magnificent views of the point which sets up the surf.  The guide for this trail told us told plans for the future of the surf point---Five star hotel with pier for yachts.  When that happens no more surf break.

Surfers discovered this former fishing village over 20 years ago.  In those days, the only accommodations were simple palapas on the beach.  When I first came here in 1995 we stayed in a big room on the beach swarming with mosquitoes cooled only by the ocean breeze.   

It is an often repeated tale:  Surfers or artists ‘discover’ a very cool spot--Isolated, native culture, great scenery, and cheap.   Eventually the word gets out and reports of a secret getaway appear in a surf magazine or the travel section of the Sunday paper, and then a trickle of first adopters check it out.  Soon, enterprising foreigners who want to indulge their surf or art habit set up a small business; a cafĂ© or a small guesthouse.  Pretty soon it gets known as a ‘cool’ authentic spot for package vacationers in the nearby tourist mecca, in Sayulita’s case Puerto Vallarta.  After a few years luxury villas are built and provide all the amenities of home. 
Redevelopment, 2012

During this trip (March, 2012) to Sayulita, the town center was undergoing a major gentrification; new sidewalks, utility lines underground, and new cobblestone roads.  This ‘upgrade’ was a rush order for an upcoming show and tell junket for North American travel agents.  New branding was announced on auto license plates for the state—Riviera Nayarit.  The tsunami is coming and the surf is going.  Not only will most surfers be unable to afford to stay here but the surf will be gone due to a proposed development on the point.

Sayulita, the Nayarit Riviera
That is not the only potential damage to the natural environment.  As I was riding on this back road outside of town, a major stench arose.  Checking the stream bed below, it was obvious what caused it.  Gray water sewage poured out from an eco-resort which shall be unnamed.  I was angered and saddened by this ‘progress.’  Then, it hit me that adventure can't be had in retracing one’s old haunts.  The old saying that you can’t go home again applies places were adventures in our youth.  Some remnants may be there, but the character has probably changed.  

In Sayulita, Pablo’s Palapas is currently undergoing a makeover with scaffolding and boarded windows.  The old beach campground is shut down pending approval of a new luxury hotel.  The town is gearing up to offer the tourist culture of Waikiki beach with a Mexican flavor.  Doesn't sound like adventure to me.

Pajaro de Fuego, the new Sayulita
Sayulita is now a comfortable destination.  I sit there and quaff my latte with a gourmet dinner, after working out in the air conditioned gym. Local culture and novelty?--are down the roadSomewhere over the rainbow. One of the mountain bike riders in the group, intently queried the guide about new, relatively unknown towns along the coast--Places where few gringo explorers have set up homes or little rancheros.  He rode his motorcycle all the way from Canada, so clearly he is not a comfort seeker.

Rhino seeks new horizons in San Pancho
Adventurers like the motorcyclist often share tips of places which haven’t been totally consumed by the flood of globalization and have maintained their character and unique culture.  

Not so in Sayulita, where most Mexicans speak English and are not likely to be patient with stumbling attempts at Spanish.  It is easy. But like surfing, the thrill is in riding the wave and in order to ride it you must be a little bit in front of the break.  It is a challenge and is not easy.  But it is fun.

Catching the waves of the world is an optional mission.  The unknown promises novelty, complete with its doubled sided coin of fun and hassles.  As  Bob Dylan once wrote:  'There is no success without failure.'  The adventure trip may not succeed, but in the long run, boils down to an experience.  And that is more long lasting than that ice cold latte.