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.

Room With A View

I woke up early this morning because a procession of church school students were carrying a cross down the road singing hymns in Fijian. I have no idea what the words are but the voices are beautiful island gospel. They are carrying a large cross to their village church seven miles away. It is Good Friday.

There may be other places in the world where citizens sing while walking down the road but in Fiji the practice is very common. There is a joy of being alive here. The ocean is loud this morning because of the approaching full moon but beautifully chimes in with the choirs’ hymns.

This is the place I love waking up to each day. I love the experiences and the people. I love being alive. Here I experience the realness of simple everyday life without the complexities of want, desires, or choices unfulfilling to my soul. I often see life through the framed picture of my everyday world from the window in front of my desk. Life comes into and passes through the frame as the shadows in Plato’s cave except this life is real and not reflected. I am a participant not chained to a wall watching shadows of life pass before me.

I have not written for a while because I wanted to have the experiences of being here without putting those experiences into words. I wanted to see if my experiences were the same if I didn’t think about recording them. The experiences without the thought process of interpretation. My life experience simply for the direct experience itself and not for a photo, poem or essay of the moment. I wanted to see if my experiences were the same if I didn’t think about recording them. In truth, they are better. I am 100% into the experience of being here in each moment and trust if it is to be recorded later, I will remember and find the necessary words.

I am often asked, “What do you do each day?” Well, I do not do very much in Fiji. I live with joy, the ocean, the people, the critters. I read, I write, I think and I dream. I have friends here but I prefer to share most of my time with solitude.

In these chronicles I wanted to share with you the joy of being alive without scaring you off. I am not a prophet. I believe I am everything and nothing. I am a part of the cycle of life and death. The words I sometimes use to describe me: poet, philosopher, writer, reader, and dreamer are confined to this physical being and life is so much richer than the definition of words. All we have to do is let it happen and trust ourselves.

Out of fear we try to control things, the events, and the happenings of our lives. We create a visual picture of how we want things to be before they happen, hoping to reduce the fear of the unknown. So, when things don’t happen the way we envision, we stuff another “thing” into what Robert Bly refers to as “the Little Back Bag” and carry its burden until the bag becomes too long and too heavy. If things happen exactly the way we dreamed, we thank an invisible God and not our own ability to manifest our reality.

“Our Things”, material or otherwise, don’t define us. They merely establish some status line between those who have and believe they need more to those who have very little and believe they have everything they need. The latter group is getting smaller and smaller. Our world is changing more rapidly. Technology expands our recorded factual knowledge every day but it does not record the loss of cultures, languages, ancient wisdoms, and beliefs.

I came to this island over twelve months ago and I feel as if I have lived here all my life. This small house has always had my presence. The South Pacific has washed away my footsteps from the sands for centuries. The night sky of the Southern Hemisphere has shined upon me throughout all of time even though I am unable to recognize the patterns in its darkness.

I am more alive than I have ever been. The physical confines of this body no longer hold all of who I am. I have outgrown its physical limitations. I keep thinking this must mean I am about to die but I go on living, expanding, and being alive. Does anything ever have to be resolved?

I know it is easy for me. I am retired, single, living on a pension, and in Fiji but I have also had moments much different from this one. I have lived high on the hog for some parts of my life but today I have nothing to show for that existence. The material things are now in landfills, sold, or given away. The everyday experiences, the people, and the places occasionally pop into memory but only in the telling of the story and because I don’t want to forget. I have not done anything in my life which could not be duplicated but I don’t want you to follow me. I want you to follow your heart. It is an ageless instinct that guides you through this existence. Take the gifts life presents you without fear. And when you get to the mountain top – jump! There is always another mountain to learn from and to love.

I spoke this message before. It feels important to share with you again.

Live your life the way you want to live it. It is yours. It is a gift you will only receive once. Don’t miss the boat…the price of the ticket is Your life.

How Did I Get Here?

When my Passport expired two years ago, I decided not to renew the costly item as I had no intention of traveling after my retirement. I did all my traveling during my youth and early adulthood because I didn’t want to travel with an old body. The parts of the world I wanted to see were mostly seen from the seat of a loaded touring bike and as a four year tour guide for Backroads Bicycle Touring. My traveling days were over. There was no place I wanted to travel to or visit. I no longer cared to experience the airport lines, the baggage hassles, and flight delays.  My expired passport had matched my lack of desire to see any more of the world. I was content to live out my life without travel of any kind.

So how is it now I am getting rid of everything I own? A new Vespa 300 Super I purchased only three weeks ago as a birthday present for myself is sold and I am moving to a place I never thought of visiting or moving to? Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “We live life forward but understand it backwards.” Looking back I see how all the events of the last month (April 2011) led to my current situation. A dream, a meeting, photographs, new found cousins, and a new home in Fiji.

I could share with you the facts and details but it would read like any short story string of events. What I want to talk about is life and how sometimes it moves with a soft gentleness and other times it takes a slap to the head to get my attention. It is important to be aware as life happens around you and to learn to completely surrender in its arms. “Opportunity only knocks once.” If it takes the slap to the head, it means you are fighting your life’s flow, your chi. Your resistance is due to fear and fear freezes your flow of life energy.

So what are you afraid of? I know, everything, but more than likely it is change. The unknown frightens us and locks us in indecision. My rational mind tries to talk me out of this leaving. After all, I live a comfortable life and there is no reason to upset the apple cart. Sometimes a choice must be made and I believe the only free will we have is the choice of allowing our fears to rule us or not. So my choice is to choose between loving the life I live, which is safe and requires no change, or living the life I am drawn to, still an imagined unknown requiring a number of changes.

During a morning meditation on my birthday last Sunday I asked if I should go to Fiji. I did not receive the usual yes or no reply. Instead the message was, “Be sure not to leave anything behind which will cause you to have to come back.”  It was clear and direct. I am supposed to be in Fiji. Everything is working toward the beginning of a new adventure for me. I just had to get me onboard with life again. Although the slap to the head was not needed, that afternoon my landlord told me my home for the last five years had sold and is in a 45 day escrow. It had been on the market for three years without so much as a nibble.

Bula is the greeting used in Fiji. Bula means life and life happens for us in a way which continues to make me realize over and over that I am not in charge. As much as I like to believe in free will, I know from every experience in my life the influence and undercurrents of forces over which I exercise no control whatsoever. Whenever these forces come into play, my life is completely and totally transformed.

Bula, Bula. I’m going to Fiji to continue living this life I love.