KOJAK ~ FROM BODYBUILDING TO PALMREADING

LAOS ~ JUNE 2013

kojak      I met Ted at the airport heading to Vientiane. He was in his 50’s and looked like Kojak on steroids. Ted was a successful entrepreneur / doctor / author, who was on his way to meet the Governor of Laos for a new venture he’s pursuing in the country.

He invited me out for lunch and had an unexpected visit with this body builder from Tennessee…A one hour lunch ended up lasting the whole afternoon discussing everything from spirituality to the Periodic Time Table. The guy even read my palms! Never ceases to amaze me, the kind of people you run into on your travels…A very memorable day indeed…

Towards the end of our conversation, already inspired by this man, I asked him if he had any piece of advise to give me what would it be. He leaned in, looked me squarely in the eyes and without hesitation he asked:

Ted: Are you married or have a boyfriend?
Me: No.
Ted: Do you have kids?
Me: No. 
Ted: Mortgage or any debts tying you down?
Me: No. 
Ted: THEN SPEND EVERY SINGLE PENNY YOU’VE GOT TRAVELLING RIGHT NOW HONEY!!! 

Just. Awesome.

Ted really surprised me with this answer. From the outside, this guy exuded making money and measuring success by earning it (although I knew he had many different layers to him after picking his brain all afternoon.) It seemed like reckless advice but he lived many different lives throughout his years and I felt that his words came from his heart, after many years of his very own soul searching.

These words had stuck with me upon my brief return to Canada to meet my new nephew. I was trying to decide wether to go back to work or continue travelling…

Ted’s words were the deciding factor to continue this journey.

Thank you Ted.

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MR. KHAING ~ MYANMAR

MYANMAR (BURMA) MAY 2013~

I stayed the night in the sleepy jungle town of Mawlamyne. George Orwell spent time as a policeman here and Rudyard Kipling wrote about it after spending just 3 days. There are these beautiful Colonial style mansions scattered throughout this city. Most of them boarded up, abandoned, covered in vines and worn down from years of neglect but can easily picture how grand they would have been back in their day and the stories they held if those walls could talk… I stayed in one with a long history behind it. Originally built for a shipyard owner in the late 1800’s, later sold to a merchant from India then bought by Mr.Khaing’s father about 70 years ago, Mr.Khaing turned it into a guesthouse shortly after his father passed away about 20 years ago.

Mr.Khaing sitting at the breakfast table after a most memorable talk.

Mr.Khaing sitting at the breakfast table after a most memorable talk.

“I am very greatful to my father for giving me this opportunity to make a living by giving this house to me…” ~Mr.Khaing 

When I checked in, Mr.Khaing was sitting in the lobby chatting with a friend and he asks me where I am from. I said Canada and says “Ah I had an interesting guest from Canada named William. He stayed here 7 years ago at my guesthouse. I have a great story I will have to tell you about William later”. I went about my day and sat with him in the lobby that evening. The story is too long to repeat but I’ll mention that Mr.Khaing like most of the people in Burma are devout Buddhists. In fact Burma is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world. The story ties in with that and the next morning as I’m having my cup of coffee people-watching over the balcony, he sat at the table and motions me to come over. Mr.Khaing keeps a journal of his guesthouse with guests leaving personal messages and he wanted to share with me what William left for him. This one paragraph struck a cord with me:

“Don’t go into the tangled jungle looking for the great awakened elephant,

who is already resting quietly at home in front of your own hearth.” 

He changed the words a little from the original paragraph but I like it. Here’s the whole thing for those who care to read it:

 http://wp.me/p3YxRG-1z

This moment was an emotional one for me. It took me by surprise because the quote above resonated with the current struggles I’ve been faced with and that I still continue to face. We are all ultimately looking for happiness in life and go through life trying different ways to find it. This sentence to me, means that true happiness can not be found externally, it can only be found from within. Temporary happiness can be reached with things like material possessions, earning money, ego, emotional attachment to people and even travel but that will ultimately fade away, leaving us with another void to fill until we find the next ‘fix’. Happiness is already inside us, we just have to learn how to tap into it.

Does it mean something different to you?

FREE AND EASY – A SPONTANEOUS VAJRA SONG

Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already present, in open relaxation and letting go.

Don’t strain yourself,
there is nothing to do or undo.
Whatever momentarily arises
in the body-mind
Has no real importance at all,
has little reality whatsoever.
Why identify with,
And become attached to it,
Passing Judgement upon it and ourselves?

Far better to simply
let the entire game happen on its own,
springing up and falling back like waves
without changing or manipulating anything
and notice how everything
vanishes and reappears, magically,
Again and again, time without end.

Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It’s like a vivid rainbow which you pursue
without ever catching,
or a dog chasing it’s own tail.

Although peace and happiness
do not exist as an actual thing or place,
it is always available
and accompanies you every instant.

Don’t believe in the reality
of good and bad experiences;
they are today’s ephemeral weather,
like rainbows in the sky.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax
this tight fist of grasping,
infinite space is there –
open, inviting and comfortable.

Make use of this spaciousness, this
freedom and natural ease.
Don’t search any further
looking for the great awakened elephant,
who is already resting quietly at home
in front of your own hearth.

Nothing to do or undo,
nothing to force,
nothing to want,
And nothing missing.

Emaho! Marvelous!
Everything happens by itself.

~by Venerable Lama Gendun Rinpoche

TRAVELING AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

MAY 2013 – I’m on an island in southern Thailand called Koh Lanta. It’s quiet, somewhat off the tourist radar which became a welcome respite after visiting the more popular islands along with the tourist hoards. I practically had the entire beach to myself which gave me a chance to recharge. On one particular night I ended up having drinks with an odd mix of people. A journalist from TIME magazine, a photo journalist from the UK and a lawyer from Paris. This circumstance seems like a romanticized story you would read in a book. The likelihood of meeting these fascinating people back home are quite unlikely. Yet, here we are, from different countries and backgrounds sharing some common passions that brought us together. The passion for travel, resisting conformity and following our dreams.

Then it occurs to me that if I chose to remain in the bubble I essentially created for myself back home, remaining within the comforts of routine with work and making social connections with the same circles of coworkers, friends and family, I am isolating myself from the rest of the world and all the life altering experiences that go along with it.

Traveling isn’t just about visiting places. Traveling is also about networking and meeting people who may have the potential to impact your way of thinking or that could possibly open doors you never even dreamed of. You never know that the next person whose hand you shake or say hello to might take you. It could start a domino effect, leading you to an unexpected adventure.

This is another life lesson I’ve been trying to teach myself. To be more open and friendly to people. For introverted personalities such as myself, this isn’t easy, not to mention that in western society many of us grow up learning to keep to ourselves. It has been my observation that people in developing countries seem to have a stronger sense of community than we do. Possibly due to economic struggles, having to depend on other people for moral support. All over the world I see families getting together in the evening at the town squares, parks or cafes to socialize. Our evenings in North America are typically spent in front of the television  or computer. We as an ‘advanced society’ have become so self-sufficient that I think we’ve lost that important connection consequently isolating ourselves.

Is it possible that losing this important social component is one reason why so many people are depressed in the west? Could it be one reason why so many people in western society live a life of consumerism, trying to fill empty voids with material things? I have no facts or educational backing to prove this. These are just some thoughts that have come to mind on my journey. What do you think?

“There is a tree”

“There is a tree.  At the downhill edge of a long, narrow field in the western foothills of the La Sal Mountains — southeastern Utah. 
A particular tree.  A juniper.  Large for its species — maybe twenty feet tall and two feet in diameter. 
For perhaps three hundred years this tree has stood its ground.  Flourishing in good seasons, and holding on in bad times. 
“Beautiful” is not a word that comes to mind when one first sees it.  No naturalist would photograph it as exemplary of its kind. 
Twisted by wind, split and charred by lightning, scarred by brushfires, chewed on by insects, and pecked by birds. 
Human beings have stripped long strings of bark from its trunk, stapled barbed wire to it in using it as a corner post for a fence line, and nailed signs on it on three sides:
NO HUNTING; NO TRESPASSING; PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE. 
In commandeering this tree as a corner stake for claims of rights and property, miners and ranchers have hacked signs and symbols in its bark, and left Day-Glo orange survey tape tied to its branches.  
Now it serves as one side of a gate between an alfalfa field and open range. 
No matter what, in drought, flood heat and cold, it has continued. 
There is rot and death in it near the ground. 
But at the greening tips of its upper branches and in its berrylike seed cones, there is yet the outreach of life.  
I respect this old juniper tree. 
For its age, yes. 
And for its steadfastness in taking whatever is thrown at it. 
That it has been useful in a practical way beyond itself counts for much, as well. 
Most of all, I admire its capacity for self-healing beyond all accidents and assaults. 
There is a will in it — toward continuing to be, come what may.” 
~Robert Fulghum