Saturday, June 17, 2017

Entropy and the Importance of Ritual

The vision came to me in midst of chaos--the pieces of my current life tumbling every which way. It could have happened while in a deep Tibetan singing bowl meditation or during a late night Tarot reading practice. Or perhaps while chasing a 10-year-old around the classroom trying to take the mop away from him.


The vision was of this Dali Salvador painting of a melting watch--all the numbers and hands floating away from it in a surreal dreamscape by an unseen force. I had used the image once years ago in an old tumblr post along with a Stephen Hawking quote on entropy and the arrows of time.

"...disorder or entropy always increases with time. In other words, it's Murphy's Law--things get worse. First, there is the thermodynamic arrow of time--the direction of time in which disorder or entropy increases. Second, there is the psychological arrow of time. This is the direction in which we feel time pass--in which we remember the past, but not the future. Third, there is the cosmological arrow of time--the direction of time in which the universe is expanding rather then contracting."


When this image came to mind, I couldn't help but think about how entropy had set into my life here in Chiang Mai. It was as though when I physically stopped all motion everything else kept moving outward--scattering into an ungraspable mess as I stood back exhausted, worn thin, and at a loss on how to get back what I had worked so hard to attain over my 9 months of travel. Old themes were beginning to haunt me, and I was regressing into old habits and thought patterns that I thought I had left in Santa Cruz 16 months earlier.


This is why the Universe sends us teachers, why it puts the most baffling things in our path, rips things from our lives, and why it is so important to always be aware. I've never been a very grounded person to begin with, but when I find myself "caught in the washing machine" as Gurmukh so perfectly put it, I can't just step out of it onto solid ground. I need something to help ground me to the center of my world. And because I also need a good push off the ledge in order to act, I lost my voice and was forced to stop almost everything in my life so to re-prioritize and somehow reign in the entropy.


I knew without a doubt I needed to reintroduce rituals back into my life--rituals that I've let slide since living in Chiang Mai, rituals that will keep what is important to me tethered right in front of me and let all else fall way. So I've put together daily yoga rituals and writing rituals that start my day and end my day. Weekly rituals and monthly rituals. Rituals with friends and solitary rituals. Rituals that involve kundalini practice and kirtan. Rituals that involve journaling and novel writing. Rituals that involve Tarot and crystals. Rituals that involve self care and turmeric drinks. Rituals that keep my curiosity alive. All spiritual, all sacred, all divinely timed.


And over the past couple weeks a few rather shocking facts came barreling at me full force. There are things I'm involved in that I thought were beneficial to me, but turns out are actually stopping my growth. And things that I thought were slowing me down are actually some of the most inspiring. And of course, there are those things that are perfect just as they are.


What do you do when you feel entropy seeping into your life? Do you practice any rituals to help reign in the entropy? Tell me about them!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A New Kind of Unknown

I. San Jose, California
Nimi sits on the yoga mat next to me cross legged, hands resting on her knees in Gyan Mudra, eyes squeezed closed, still. I peer at her out of the corner of my right eye in amazement. Sat Nam, she says at the end of class and bows forward. 

Nimi is 3-years-old. Her brother, not yet a year old, never cries. Does he ever cry? I ask. Very little, Maria says. That's incredible, I say. I sat in silent meditation for 10 days at a Vipassana retreat when I was 8 months pregnant with him, Maria tells me. Children absorb everything.


II. Kelseyville, California
I stand in the center of the small classroom as the kind, grey-haired astronomer unlocks the dome room. When I emailed the observatory, I hadn't expected a private tour. But here I am. I was last here 6 or maybe 7 years ago--sitting in this room, listening to a lecture on the Keplar Mission, anxiously awaiting for the sky viewing to begin. And it was here in this room that my four characters began to take a more defined shape. I saw them in this very room--all for different reasons, their lives revolving around each other, gravitating slowing toward a common center where all logic breaks down much like how a black hole slowly pulls everything into its gravitational field toward the inevitable.


I drive up Konocti Road and look down on Kelseyville nestled at the base of Mount Konocti, separating it from Clear Lake. Vineyards stretch out in the opposite direction beyond the town. The small dome of the observatory sits inconspicuously in a field--the elementary school on one edge, the high school on another.

Mount Konocti looms over Clear Lake--volcano, mostly inaccessible, full of secrets. I think of my characters and the secrets they carry. I couldn't have picked a more perfect setting for this story.


III. Santa Cruz, California 
Everything will fall into place as it is meant, I rationalize. Nothing about going back to Santa Cruz is rational.

I lie on the floor, my eyes transfixed on the watery colors dancing across the ceiling and the over-sized house plants. Sofia reaches down and picks up my ankles and pulls hard nearly dragging me. Voices float around the room. Conversations lost in the dark, swirling chaos.


I stand in the lobby of the rustic, candlelit room. The familiarity astounds me--the mesh of lavender, eucalyptus, and every tea made that day, the watercolor paintings, the old wooden benches, the soft music, the sound of water, the serenity, nothing has changed.

The stories these walls could tell--life altering and life shattering stories, stories told over and over until they become urban myths, stories only spoken in hushed whispers between certain people--the violence, the secrets, the betrayals, my lost trust in security, in friends, in most everything--unless you were there living them as each unfolded, you'd never believe any of them to be true.


Giant bubbles float through the air and all the kids go nuts chasing them. I stand in the backyard as cold rain begins to pelt down on us, and I think of all the things I would have never done or become or written if it weren't for my connection to these people, this family. Some of the bubbles escape the children and float up over the roof of the house and disappear. We laugh at what the neighbors and folks driving by must think--the giant bubbles, a mystery floating through the sky on a cold, rainy evening.


I don't see the girl enter the venue until it's too late. She approaches us without as much of a bit of apprehension. My two companions leave the table, the other two are on stage, and I'm all alone. I am so sorry, she says and takes my hands into hers. Of the five of us, I'm the last one she should be apologizing to, but I'm the only one there to accept it. I haven't spoken to her in over six years, and now she's in my present talking and talking. But it's in the past she stands--forever living in a distant memory, fictionalized in a short story I once read to her just after I finished writing it. She had listened to the story with fierce intensity then fell to pieces in giggles. 

The past will haunt you this month, I had read in a horoscope article just before I left Chiang Mai. Funny how it did in the most unexpected and fulfilling ways--seeing all this past sneak up on me through a distorted rear-view mirror.


IV. The Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico
I walk along the upper deck of the Very Large Array's control room and see one of those big, green inflatable aliens sitting in a window. A hand written sign around its neck reads: Who's yo daddy? I'm yo daddy. I lean in closer almost pressing my face into the window when I notice a guy sitting at the desk where the alien is perched. He is staring at me over a computer monitor with a bemused look. I smile and back away quickly. I live for moments like these.


An array of 27 massive radio telescopes stretch out across the desert plains of central New Mexico. Every few minutes the dishes all shift slightly in a synchronized movement that is both exciting and chilling--collecting invisible information about our universe and transforming it into the visible, uncovering pieces of a fragmented story of our past spread out across time and space.


How do you process your past that brushes up again your present? How have you been able to see your past as something unknown and new to you? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Grounded in an Etheric World

I.
Three years ago or so I went to my first hypnotherapy session where I was told to close my eyes and envision a staircase either going up or down. And where did this staircase lead? My staircase appeared to be translucent, glassy, crystal. It wasn't until I began to ascend that I realized it was made of water. Each step I took I could see the ripples it made though it was solid under my feet. When I reached the top, nothing came into full focus, everything appeared to be shifting. As my eyes moved across my surroundings nothing remained, and each time I let my eyes linger, everything became hazy like a dream just before you fully awake and forget. 



II.
Erica sat on the edge of my bed and handed me her phone. "I'm ready," she said. With only 15 minutes until her shuttle came to whisk her off to Bangkok, she began to tell her story, her mission as a mermaid, a water fairy. The message had come to her in a cave in India where she was introduced to a magical stone. When she touched it the only thing she could hear was a voice that told her, "I am the water that flows through all things." And in that moment, time stopped and she knew.


III.
Chiang Mai has me bound to its surreal and ever shifting magic. Grounded here in this etheric world where uncertainty is the norm and where if you can't let go and surrender to the constant flux of life, you'll only suffer. The present moment is the only place to exist. Each time I try to step one foot into the future, something shifts and nothing is there. It creates discomfort, of course, but in time, as I've been reminded again and again--if you have a question, just sit in the middle of it until you're living the answer.

And so I've sat. And the answer I've gotten is that when something needs to change, I'll know. I'll know when it's time to move on, I'll know when to make important decisions. I'll simply know. In other words, I need to trust my intuition and the process, the flow now more than ever.

But isn't that what's gotten me here? Yes, of course it is. But the trick is to keep trusting now that I've gotten here. Divine timing is everything.


I walk through these small lanes linking one place to another letting the pre-monsoon heat seep into my skin. And much like my visions in hypnotherapy, everything is becoming hazy like a dream just before you fully wake and forget. School is out for the next couple months, and all I have is time again. Time to sit in this present moment.

And in these present moments I find myself re-reading the Bhagavad Gita, watching a variety of fascinating documentaries and interviews on Gaia, teaching yoga to my friends on Saturday mornings, seeking out new yoga classes and crystal shops, and cafes where I can spend the day reading and writing.


And in the present moment there is no anxiety, there is no worry, there is no overthinking, there is only the stillness that settles into peace. And peace has no defined edges. It has no beginning, it has no end. Like the water that flows through all things, it just is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seeds (or the Power of Creation)

About two months ago I sat down at a cafe and a wrote a short script for my class to perform. It took me about 2 hours to write. Perhaps it was a bit ambitious for a group of hyperactive 3rd graders, but I moved forward with it anyway. We worked on it everyday for about a month or so, and last weekend I got to watch it from the audience in a large banquet hall at a hotel. Something I created from scratch, out of my imagination, came to life before my eyes. Much like how the intentions I set forth back in October 2013 came to life before my eyes throughout 2016.


In both instances, I had a vision, I gave it direction without being too ridged, and watched as it took on a life of its own and came into being. Like planting a seed and giving it space to grow. Or like the concept of sankalpa in many ancient Hindu texts. I had the intention to move toward, to resolve, to create something--and I did.


Several weeks ago, still at a loss on what direction I wanted this year to go in (not because I didn't have any ideas, but because I had too many) I began to ask for signs and guidance. How can I express in words the connections and conversations that have unfolded over the past couple weeks? How can I express in words the power of sitting still, clearing your mind, and asking for guidance? How can I express in words how much I don't believe in coincidences? Simply, I can't. It's something you need to experience yourself.


Though it's as simple as stumbling across a youtube video and having multiple lives altered by it two years later. It's as simple as a being introduced to a very special crystal and a children's book, and years later on the other side of the world have that crystal and book ignite a string of wild conversations and memories that only reinforce the idea that there are absolutely no coincidences. It's as simple as taking chances and ending up in places and situations where you meet people that open magic doors that would have otherwise remained unseen. The spider webs are invisible, but they are there.


Erica and I sat in front of my apartment building waiting on her shuttle to Bangkok, talking about all the amazing things that came about because we were brought together here in Chiang Mai.

"It's kind of exciting not knowing when and where our paths will cross again" I said.

Erica looked up and nodded. "You know you've come along way when you can talk about the unknown as exciting instead of something to fear."


I have no idea how this year will unfold. But as long as I plant seeds and allow room for growth I know something amazing will manifest.

Have you ever had an idea or vision that came to life before your eyes? What helped bring it to life? What is your sankulpa or intention for 2017? Tell me your stories, tell me your visions!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Uncertainty & the Power of Stillness

I sit on the floor in the middle of the crowded little room. Candle light, harmonium, guitar, chanting--Ganesha, Ram Sita, Hare Krishna, Om Namah Shivaya. Memories of India trickle in. Stillness. Gurmukh's voice echos somewhere in the back of my mind, "Don't get caught in the washing machine." And all else washes away.


I blink. I'm sitting on another floor in a large circle. We all hold hands and squeeze. I open my eyes and look to my left, and there she is, in person. I know far more about her than most people I've never met, and she has no idea who I am. We eat fruit and talk about travel and life. Our energies drawn together here in Chiang Mai, Thailand on the floor of a dance mandala class. A scenario I don't think I could have made up if I tried.

I blink. Another night, another hardwood floor under me, this time for my first Tarot reading of 2017. A handful of the same cards appeared as my last reading and in many of the same positions. A reminder, a reinforcement of who I am and my direction--because what are the odds, really? Because that's how it works.

Practice noninterference was Gabby's lesson this week: "There is a time to slow down, to surrender, to trust, to rely on the Universe....Be receptive to the guidance that comes and be at peace. Create the connection, stand back, watch miracles unfold."


Uncertainty can be an adventure or it can cause suffering. Those last couple years I was in Santa Cruz I lived in an uncertain world that left me sleep deprived and anxious all the time. I needed certain outcomes and not knowing left me in a constant state of suffering.

In 2016, I stepped into another kind of uncertain world all together, and because I put no expectations on it, it was the best year. It was magical in ways I couldn't have possibly planned. This year is full of even more uncertainty.

It all comes down to one question: do I want a year of suffering or another year of magic? I think the answer is obvious, but of course, it's not as easy as it sounds. It takes discipline and practice to slow down and listen.


It's in those moments I've slowed down and stood in the middle of all the chaos and uncertainty that these synchronicities come through, these messages, the magic. Like all the times before on this journey, I'm reminded that in order to move forward, I need to be still. At the heart of all uncertainty lies an opportunity to turn inward, to trust, to listen to the calmest voice amidst the whirring.


How do you deal with uncertainty? Do you have a tendency to turn it into suffering or magic? Tell me your stories!

**By the way, if you're curious about the girl from the class I knew so much about, she writes one of my favorite blogs out there. I've been following her inspirational journey for well over two years. I discovered her blog right around the time I started hardcore research for my own travels. And just by chance (or not), we happen to both be in Chiang Mai and ended up sitting next to each other in a class at a yoga studio. Check out her blog: This American Girl

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

One Year Gone

One year ago today (on January 4th, 2016), I boarded a plane at SFO with a one way ticket to India, and I'm still moving forward on this nomadic path. I ended this epic year and started this new one here in Pai, Thailand--a small, mountain village 3 hours north of Chiang Mai near the border of Myanmar.


I came here to clear my mind of city life, reflect on 2016, and set intention for 2017. On New Year's Eve, I walked down to the Pai River and watched as fireworks exploded all around me and lanterns were set off into the night sky--releasing the old to make room for the new--much like Loy Krathong back in November.  As I took in my surroundings, a few things about 2016 became clear to me:


1. This year was not a vacation from life. This year was all about creating a new kind of life--a curiosity driven life that I'm excited about living. I set off on this journey with questions and intention and goals, and I watched in awe as each of them manifested.


This year, I've lived ashram life, beach bum life, mountain life, island life, and city life across 6 countries and over a dozen cities and villages. I have experienced so much I can't even begin to recount it all, but when I close my eyes, I see each moment so clearly. It's as though each moment never really ended--much like the event horizon effect I wrote about back in India.

And let's not forget about all the amazing, incredible souls whose paths crossed with mine along the way. They have each helped make this year what it was--magical.


2. When you leap into the unknown--unless you fall through a hole in space/time--you will land somewhere, and when you do, it's all about your reaction to where you land that will make it what it is.

I had no major expectations for this year except to keep an open mind and allow it to unfold. And that is where I found magic, that is where I found the secret to allowing miracles to surface.


I am incredibly grateful for this year and all the ones that came before to make this one possible. I'm looking forward to what 2017 has in store. Much like 2016, I have questions and intentions and goals--more places to explore, more curiosities to follow. And as long as I keep my heart and mind open to the magic around me, miracles will follow. And I look forward to sharing it all with you as it unfolds.


How did you close your 2016? How did you open your 2017? What are your intentions and goals? What questions would you like answered? What curiosities would you like to follow?