Resurrection – Life UnMasked

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAThe moment I let go of whatever it was I held onto, the life flow took over and is preparing me for the journey ahead. I feel a shedding of skins, of all the masks I have worn in my life. Some friends have already noticed the change.

In the market a few days ago, a young man called out, “Hey, does the library have a copy of … yet?” and he was looking straight at me. I recognized him as a patron from the library but did not know him personally.

“You have to check on line. I retired six months ago,” I responded.

“Okay, thanks.”

In my mind the mask of the librarian with instantaneous answers died six months ago, but to this young man I was still the same person. That is one of the conundrums with masks. It is not only the mask you create for yourself but also the mask  others see you wearing. No matter how old I get, my mother still sees me as her baby. It is a mask I no longer wear but one she still sees on me.

So now I am off to a new adventure, a place where my former masks are not known. They have no value to me nor to anyone else. No one there cares who I once was, what positions I held, what certificates and degrees hang on my wall. I have the opportunity to be the true me I am. I am excited to see whom that person will be. I don’t know that I will be any different from who I am now but to everyone else I will be seen with new eyes for the first time. This is a powerful experience — First Contact. In this new world of palm trees, ocean, heat and mosquitoes, a metamorphosis is underway. Who I was will no longer matter. The transformation has begun and I’m not even there yet.  It is all happening right Now!

In my new life if someone asks, “Are you…? From…?” My reply will be, “I’m sorry you must have me confused with some else, I am no longer that person you seek.”

But, I will always be my mother’s baby.

When Paradise Is No Longer Affordable

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAWhat does one do when the home you love is no longer affordable or when you realize your time in paradise is running out?

* Get a job so you can afford to live in “Paradise?”

* Max out your credit cards to extend “Paradise” a bit longer?

* Search for a new “Paradise?”

On my return home from one of the required every four months exit of the island, the Immigration Officer said, “You know, you can’t do this forever.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about but I pretended to be uninformed. “What is that, sir?” I answered in a non apologetic voice. My passport pages were filled with entry and exit stamps from Fiji. I had lived on the island now for over three years using only my Tourist Visa.

“You can’t stay here forever on a Tourist Visa. You need to find another way to be here if you plan on staying any longer.” He stamped my passport and handed it back to me.

“Thank you sir.” I took my passport and continued to the luggage trolly. I thought it was somewhat ironic that whenever I reenter the Unites States, the Immigration Officer almost always says, “Welcome home!” In Fiji, a place I consider home, I am told the day will come when I will no longer be permitted entry into the country on a Tourist Visa. I did’t tell him that my application for residency had been rejected because I had not invested at least two hundred thousand Fijian dollars into the economy through the purchase of land, housing, or as a business investment, nor did I have fifty thousand dollars in a US bank to qualify for residency. My income from my pension and Social Security otherwise qualified me under their guidelines.

It was not an official warning. Those, I understand, are sent by post to inform the recipient that he/she has thirty days to leave the country and must remain out for at least one year. I glanced back to the Immigration Officer as he typed something into the computer before calling for the next traveler.

Everything is a sign for something I suppose. Maybe this was my sign to start creating another home or to figure out how to stay in this one. I had managed to pay for my required exists in advance up until now, but my meager savings have run out. It is expensive having to leave the country three times a year. A two month extension is available but it can only be utilized for emergency reasons and not merely to extend my Tourist Visa. No matter where you go from an island, it costs money, and having to leave three times per year amounted to one third of my income.

So how do I stay here? Or is it time to leave? I didn’t actually come here with a plan or time frame, but there is so much I love about Fiji. The sounds of the ocean, the millions of stars in the unpolluted skies, plucking a ripe papaya from a tree in the front yard, and quenching my thirst after working in the garden with the sweet juice from a coconut. It is a simple life I live here, but the required exits have made it unaffordable.

I could marry a local and gain residence, but that option is not one I would consider. I am still an old romantic, so being in love would have to be a huge part of any decision to marry. I could extend my time using my credit cards, but that option would always keep me in debt. I thought I had the issue resolved a few months ago when Jeanette offered me a work permit, but it fell through. “Too much government paperwork,” she said. Besides, I didn’t come to Fiji to work. I came here to live my life the way I dream of my life.

Or, I can take Thoreau’s position, “that I have several more lives to live, and cannot spare any more time to this one.” I thought, for whatever reason, my major life changes and moves were over, but it seems I still have more castles to build in the sky somewhere if not here.

Letting Go

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAI am taking the words of my meditation on my sixty-third birthday to the letter.

“Be sure not to leave anything behind which will cause you to have to come back.”

I am not leaving anything in storage this time. I am leaving the friends who have become my family, the family of my blood and offspring, and the material things whose only value is what price someone is willing to pay. I am leaving a city that some call “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but that too is relative to where you are standing. A city I have left trice before and returned to as often. I am leaving a life which is no longer mine. This time, I believe I won’t be coming back here to live.

My soul is floating over the Fiji Islands exploring our new home and sometimes gently swaying in the hammock that this physical body is left to purchase along with all the other requirements of a new adventure. The packing of a lifetime into 50 pounds. What is sold, what is given away, and what is tossed aside is determined by need or importance. A shedding of skins, a chrysalis! Although my body is paying the physical price of moving with aching muscles and weary bones, the weight and burden of stuff is being relieved.

It is funny, how my choices are made. The rock of a man’s face, I found on the beach after a storm will go to the friend who was with me that day but also because of its weight. Yet my favorite cast iron skillet will be safely packed. I find my decisions are based on the usefulness of an item more than an emotional attachment. That, however, is not always a reliable indicator. An afghan my mother knitted me as a fortieth birthday present will have no practical use in Fiji but will make the journey wrapped around the skillet, insuring the safe arrival of each. My books, my books. They always suffer the most when I travel because of their weight and this time is no exception. Fifteen books. I made a numerical limitation as an emotional one would have had me over the weight limit for air baggage. They will be shipped along with a few other favorite useful items from this world.

I have the collected memories, photographs, postcards, etc., of travels, people, and experiences of my life. Yearbooks, diplomas, certificates. These have no real value and are yet priceless in many ways. These keepsakes are stored in what I call my Rainy Day box. In the past if I needed a little boost, an emotional pick me up, I would get down my Rainy Day box and randomly pick a letter to tell me I am loved, a photograph to remember a person, place or time, some words to inspire. There were times during this life when I took my Rainy Day box down often. Now, I no longer need the physical evidence of my past to travel with me and I have arranged for these keepsakes to remain here to be available for family and friends to reflect upon if they desire. I am making new memories now. They will only be retained until they are forgotten and no longer keepsakes in storage for a rainy day. My boost is waking up each morning, my inspiration is life, and my memories will no longer take me to where it is I want to be.

Although the selection of what will go and what will not is sometimes taxing, I am very aware I don’t want to take too much of this world along. I don’t want my friends to send care packages of American goods because the parts of life I want will make the journey with me. I am already a part of the islands. I will make do with and eat the fruits of availability rather than of habit and of consciousness rather than accumulation.

I am counting down the days to the landing in my new world when this body will join its soul for another great adventure in being alive. I so love this life I live.

Attention

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24I have learned from living that activities of any importance eventually become ritual. This morning I am siting on my verandah. The sun is lazily rising to my left. The morning breeze gently carries the scent of peace, the songs of singing birds, and the soft swirling of the incoming tide. Before my eyes are coconuts, pineapples, lemon grass, breadfruit, the warm calm waters of the South Pacific. A lone mongoose scatters across the yard. Two butterflies perform their midair mating dance. Mosquitoes loiter at the front door hoping for it to magically open and permit their entrance.

“Not today,” I say to them in an unheard mental voice.

A gecko stalks a tired moth, then attacks. The moth flutters. A screen between them delays the gecko’s dinner and ensures the moth a few more moments of life. I sit here in a ritual of total awe and realize I am here for this purpose. I am a witness as well as a part of all this life right in front of me, and right now nothing else, absolutely nothing else, matters.

Being And Nothingness

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24When I left the corporate world over twenty-five years ago, I stopped wearing a watch. I decided then that I no longer wanted to watch my life ticking away on the face of a clock. I no longer wanted to be time’s slave. I also made the decision to do only those things which brought joy into my everyday existence. I did this as much as I could within the social/economic framework of which I was a part. I wanted to have those experiences and explorations which forced my heart to sing because it had no other choice. The joy inside me could not be held there. It had to be released. I found this joy in the everyday, the simple, and the natural flow of life. I find this joy in simply “being.”

On the information page of my memoir I listed my occupation as “being,” but what does this mean? At a recent gathering, a woman asked me, “What do you do?”

I thought of Siddhartha when he was asked a similar question to which my answer would have been, “I read, I write, I think and I dream,” for these are truly the things that I do. Instead, I replied, “Nothing.”

“How does one do nothing?” she inquired.

I wasn’t expecting that answer to come from my mouth so I had to ask myself the same question again. “By not filling my time with things I have to do,” I said. “I put as few requirements on my time as possible so I can do whatever I choose to do at any given moment with the time I have. For a large amount of that time, I choose to do nothing.”

“How does one do nothing?” she asked again.

“One does not ‘do’ nothing. One allows ‘nothing’ to happen by not engaging in any activity which requires action. By not doing but simply being. ”

“Is it like meditation?” she asks.

“For me ‘being’ is what one strives for in meditation. It is the result of meditation but it requires no consciousness of breath, no special pillows, positions, or whatever tools one uses to enter a meditative state. The mind is free of thought, of any requirements, or demands upon it. ‘Being’ is a natural state. It is just that we are so removed from our naturalness that we have to work to get back to it.”

“What about the body?”

“Most often the body is still, sitting or lying, but ‘being’ can be engaged in any physicality. I am ‘being’ when walking on the beach, taking everything in through the senses. Then letting it go just as quickly without thought or judgement but with complete awareness. A similar experience might be the loss of the memory of time. You know you have been walking for over an hour but it seem like only ten minutes. During the other fifty minutes you were in a state of being without consciousness or memory of individual occurrences. There is no recollection of time because in ‘being,’ time literally does not exist and cannot be recalled. ‘Being’ bypasses the filters and prejudices of the brain. ‘Being’ is a total experience with everything that exists in your environment, not a mental one. In today’s language, one might describe ‘being’ as ‘tuning out’ because one looses the conscious sense of self. ‘Being’ is a state of awareness not of consciousness.”

“What’s the difference between the two?” she asks.

“Consciousness requires attention. ‘Being’ is acceptance. There is no conscious attention to anything. It is the peak moment that athletes refer to when running the perfect race taking place in the everyday nature of existence, of being.”

“My husband would tell me I’m wasting my time if I sat around all day just ‘being.'” she says.

“As one becomes accustomed to this state it becomes a natural part of your existence. You don’t roam your home repeating ‘Om’ all day but you are more centered, more even keeled in carrying out and responding to the activities of your life. You no longer react to life as being outside of yourself. You respond to it as all of yourself. Your life is your time. What you do with it, how you live it is your choice but ‘The time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time,’ according to Bertrand Russell. The state of being is one of total joy causing your heart to sing even when no one is listening.”

It’s Fiji Time

Believe in hunches, not opinion polls. You are not your name or your telephone number. At boarding time don’t miss the boat that has your name on it. It sails only once. Head for the deep. Hold your course, even if your vision shipwrecks you. — James Broughton

My arrival in Fiji will be exactly two months to the day  I saw the photograph of a house a hundred yards from the South Pacific and instantly knew I would soon be living there. Just in time for the full moon. The process has led to a total upheaval of my life  but has smoothly moved from insight to takeoff without a single hitch in destiny’s plan. I truthfully had no say in the circumstances leading up to this adventure. Oh, I could have said, “No,” but that would have meant staying put and rearranging furniture in the room I have already lived in.  I clearly remember the words in a dream echoing from the mouth of a sage when I asked  what I should do after reaching the top of the mountain.

“Jump,” he said, “some make it, some don’t.”

I believe I am now the object of a different type of dream. I am not dreaming it, someone else is. I never had a dream to live in Fiji and yet everything I have experienced these last two months is taking me there. I am an active and very willing participant in a dream not my own. A step like this only requires the courage to trust the unseen forces acting upon our lives and to surrender to that trust. Consciousness is an unseen energy and it has worked to make destiny’s dream my own.

The ocean and its creatures are planning a celebration for my first baptism in the South Pacific. I can already hear the rain triumphantly sounding my arrival  upon the corrugated steel roof of my new home. I can feel the sun’s heat beaming joy through the coconut trees in the front yard. The beach patiently awaits the first of my many impermanent footprints. The hammock hangs in anxious anticipation of my body’s lingering in its open comfort for hours on end. The geckoes chirp in unison to the bright, full face moon.

This is not a dream, I tell myself. This is my life!

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin! It’s Fiji Time!

Free To Be Me

If we were to take the Tao symbol, put a pin at its center and spin it. We would have neither yin nor yang, but a whole, a new image as a result of the blending of the two. When you blend the good and the bad you learn to dance and flow with both expressions…No event is all black or white. — David Paladin

Since my arrival in Fiji, I have kept pretty much to myself, choosing my solitude to the company of others. I remember the words of Henry Miller during the years he lived in Big Sur. “Be still and let the world come to you.” And the world has come to me in the guise of many wonderful and beautiful people and extraordinary experiences.

I have, however, purposely avoided joining any groups and particularly the  expatriates who live in the complex where my home is situated but who consistently drive by me as I wait for the bus. A Fijian or Indian will almost always give me a lift if they have room in their car or truck. One kavavālagi, as the white expats are referred to by the Fijians, told me he puts on blinders when going past the bus stops so he doesn’t even see them. I know this to be true because he drove past me one day until his wife noticed me and they turned around and gave me a lift into town. Members of this community have assisted me with immigration issues and other Fiji related matters for which I am very grateful but I am still an outsider with them. I am still Black and even though the kavavālagi are greatly in the minority, living in someone else’s homeland, most still see the world here as ‘us and them.’ They fail to see the Fijians as neighbors, brothers, or equals.

There exists here an opportunity to overcome the old fears, prejudices and ambivalence and to interact with the inhabitants on a different level. We can leave the old ways of thinking in the countries we left in order to be here. Yes, there is a definite financial imbalance between the kavavālagi and the Fijians but we do not have to bring the social and racial differences of our old worlds here. On this island paradise we have an opportunity  to create change regarding the social and racial divides of our world.

On Friday evenings, I usually go into town and treat myself to dinner at the Copra Shed. I have become friends with the waiter staff there as I once patronized their establishment almost daily to use the internet before having service at my home. To their credit, the expats have asked me to join them but I prefer to just hang out at the bar, eat my dinner, share time with the staff or tourists and go home.

It is a small community where I live so everyone knows I am here but they are curious as to other matters. Did you buy property? Are you renting? How long do you plan on staying? What do you do? Do you know what the property sold for? There is no real interest in knowing who I am, only in gaining the facts to share with the other group members I suppose. I am somewhat of a mystery to them and if the truth be known, I prefer it that way. I am always amazed at the stories I hear going around about me but I have also learned to accept the human nature of western society for what it is.

No Fijian, on the other hand, has ever asked me how I am here or what do I do. Those issues are of no importance to them. They are perhaps curious as to how a Black man is living in the kavavālagi concave of Oneva but they do not ask. They are more concerned with my being single as Fijian life is very family oriented. Who cooks for you? Who cleans your house? They are very proud of their homeland and will almost always ask if I like it here. When I tell them, “I love it here. This is now my home.” They beam with great joy and welcome me.

So, I find myself once again on that bridge between worlds, a now familiar place for me. Although I am welcomed and feel accepted by the Fijians, I am not Fijian, nor do I see myself as part of the white expatriates community and I am no longer a tourist or visitor. I am  the pumpkin growing in a papaya tree far removed from his native soil, learning to live in a new and different environment. And like the pumpkin, I am happy where I am but most of all I am free to be me.