freedom

"Shiva meditating Rishikesh" by Iqbal Mohammed - http://www.flickr.com/photos/blaiq/75116239/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg#/media/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg

Shiva’s Freedom

Death is the ultimate freedom. This is Shiva’s gift to all of life.

Mahadeva, or the supreme deity, also known as Shiva is the destroyer and transformer of all of life. He is limitless, unchanging, eternal, formless, and the ultimate yogi; one who has joined with the death of all things.

Shiva is often displayed slaying demons with his trident. When not in battle, he is practicing yoga alone on Mount Kailash in his ascetic lifestyle of renunciation. His third eye sees all and the Ganges river itself flows from his hair.

Shiva is quite possibly the oldest god in history, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization; however, his worship has lost none of its potency and he is worshipped across southeast Asia.

Shiva is joined with the supreme self, the Brahman.  Shiva powerfully deals destruction and death to make room for Brahma to create in the world. He smears his body with the ashes of the dead representing the impending death of all beings. He dances to his drum bringing fiery and fierce death to all whose time has come to pass from this world.

Shiva is a very fierce representation of what will eventually happen to all of us. A precedent to the grim-reaper, he represents what comes for life eventually and acceptance of this is the greatest freedom. Fear of death.

If we can see past our own ego, we can realize that we never really existed in the first place. It is an illusion to think that we matter more than the matter we are made up of. Even our idealisations of past figures in history are false representations. No one that is alive now actually knew who Jesus was. Nor Moses. Nor anyone else that has died over a hundred years ago.

It is important to remember that life is short. Make the most of each day. Gratitude for challenges, lessons, and difficulties that force us to grow. Once you let go of your ego, you can be free. Shiva, yoga, and ascetic practices will help you to let go. Freedom is in your mind, no one can give it to you or take it away from you. Everything else is just an illusion.

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Mysore Streets

Breaking Rules

I do love it when someone tells me what to do. It such a great opportunity to show them how powerless they really are over you. Or to show respect by asking no questions and simply acting.

In India there are no rules. I was told that a bus driver can keep his job, even if he kills 11 people a year. If he kills 12, he gets fired. This is what happens when 1.25 billion people live together in a country. India is the second most polluted place I have ever been after Beijing, and let me tell you, the effects of climate change are all too apparent here.

I can’t believe that there are still people who think that cars don’t do anything to the atmosphere. My first question would be, ‘where have you been?’

It’s unfortunate that only about 30% of Americans have their passport. Most of the people I know have barely left the country, maybe to Mexico or Canada, which really share very similar lifestyles to the states. This leads to a very narrow, narcissistic, and selfish mindset; that America is right and everywhere else is wrong, or just doesn’t know better. You see it constantly  in the news and in nearly every medium that you consume in the states.

The truth is, American might be leading humanity to its end. America consumes 25% of the world’s produced resources, with only 5% of the population. One America consumes as much as 128 Indians. More than 50% of American farmland is used to produce beef. There are more malls than high schools. If everyone in the world consumed as much as an American, we would need four full planets to sustain the human race.

The real problem is that the developing countries in the world see American lifestyles and want them. India, China, all of the Asian countries want the royal consumer lifestyle, where they can do anything with the flick of a plastic card. It’s easy to see why, to the untrained eye, convenience looks like happiness. But rest assured that it is not.

Life should be a struggle. Easy lives breed stagnation, fat-ness, lack of creativity, blockages, laziness, depression and inactivity. And I don’t blame a single American for their lifestyle because how could anyone know better? Challenge breeds strength, scars, and failure, these are the things that make us powerful, that give us perspective and teach us about our limits, our shortcomings, but also our strengths and gifts.

You see it in a zoo, where the animals are not fully focused, not fully present. The same thing is happening in the human race, we are caging ourselves for mass production and there is no reason for it. Humans of all ethnicities are creating system all over the world that are completely unsustainable. And America has led them there.

Honestly, if it wasn’t America, it would have been China. It’s silly to blame anyone or a single group, because it has been a progression. The only thing we can do now is try to rebuilt our societies in a way that creates abundance for the planet and therefore, ourselves.

Going vegan or vegetarian is not the answer. It is completely possible to eat meat in a sustainable way that actually benefits the environment. Same with fishing, or culturing cheeses, milking cows, or keeping a chicken coup. And in reality, eating vegetarian can be extremely resource intensive.

Ok, rant over, story time.

I arrived in Mysore via a taxi that I paid too much for. I don’t regret it, because it was 3 in the morning and I would have had to wait until 9am for a bus. So right off the bat, I was skeptical about people trying to take advantage of the me as a foreigner.

So the first night, I got into a rickshaw and the driver pointed me in the direction of ayurvedic oil. I didn’t realize he would be taking me to his friend’s shop and trying to sell me weed at the same time. Suffice to say that it was an interesting night. All Indian’s try to make plans for the next day, but rarely do they follow through. They are just so present to the moment that they really are somewhat incapable of planning long-term.

This makes for a very interesting culture for me to interact with, because I prefer to be a bit uncomfortable. I try to avoid taking the easy way. This baffles most Indians and while I walk, I am constantly harassed or called or honked at by drivers that are looking for customers. Being detached gives me a power of their consumer mindsets.

Every time I want to challenge myself, I just head over to the city, walk in, and try to get lost. When I am good and lost, and I mean, I have no idea about some of the places I have been, I find some food. This has been great to far, I have eaten food that I will always cherish, and always avoid in the future. Finding my way home without paying too much is always the challenge.

There is an easy way out of paying too much for a rickshaw. You make the driver use the meter. It’s funny that when they say it’s broken, I just walk away. Then they yell after me for a bit and I laugh to myself. I say that this is the easy way out because its much more fun to bargain with them, to push them, see how much they push back. To see where they are willing to go and then to leave when it’s not far enough. It’s almost like putting people into poses and seeing how long they can breathe before waiting for you to say something. or putting someone into chaturanga then making a nice long joke while telling them to hold it. Just testing the limits to see if we can expand upon them, growing comfort zones, getting comfortable with discomfort.

So I have become friends with 4 rickshaw drivers now, just because I enjoy their company and I am pretty sure they enjoy mine, especially because they are getting paid. I’ve found the best rooftop restaurant this way, 80 rupee ($1.30) for mushroom masala, 20 rupee for water. I don’t drink, so I don’t spend much more than a few dollars when I eat. If I do, I am eating like a fat-ass.

The latest man was very interesting, through him I met a woman from Paris that has been living in India for years, she had some great things to say about the culture and I got to speak with her in French for a couple of hours while enjoying the view. She talked about how the pollution gets really bad in March, so I am probably going to write more about the air quality, deforestation, and sustainability then. I am saving up a big photo bank for it.

I have to be constantly aware here, of myself and my surroundings. If not, its easy to get hit by a car. Buses have no mercy here and for some ridiculous reason they have the right of way in the streets. Its a jungle of people out here, and its easy to make a wrong move, though I have only seen one accident so far and it was right in front of me.

My focus on my breathe has been constant lately. I breath through my nose because of the pollution, I learned in Beijing that the nose has a better air filtration system than the mouth because you can catch large particles in your nose hairs. So my meditation is becoming more and more constant, ceaseless, unwavering. And each person that I’ve met has taught me a lesson, every single one.

People stare at me because I’m white and American with long hair and I probably walk differently or whatever. I like to break the ice and smile, say ‘how are you’, ‘watsup man’, ‘Namaskar’, ‘hello’, or whatever. I think its important to be friendly, this world is too impersonal, too disconnected. Walking around and saying hi makes me feel connected to the people I meet, because in reality we are sharing a journey. Comparing ourselves only disrespects our unique individuality. Its like looking at other people’s Facebook and being jealous, or asking yourself why you haven’t done the things that person has done. It’s so irrelevant, your complexity cannot be contained by a mere web application, let alone one so focused on materialism, advertising, and appearances.

Indian people are the same as Americans. So are the French. So are Chinese. In each place, there is a spectrum of diversity and experience and if you are open, you will always find people who resonate with you in different ways. We see ourselves as different because of our ego, our need to feel valuable, necessary to the world and therefore worthy of survival. But in reality, I am the same as the rickshaw drivers. You can bet that I would be taking advantage of every American I met if I was living here to feed my children. Or justify it in whatever way possible.

This is why rules don’t apply to humans. We can justify anything, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink said that prisoners will always justify their actions and it always makes complete sense to them. We will break the rules as fast as we make them, when it suits us. And no one can blame us for this, we are animals after all.

So my point in this article is that we are all the same. And we need to start to see this, because we are starving, over-worked, and toiling for no reason. What is the purpose behind all of this progress if we have to leave the Earth, the most precious planet we know of? It is time to start thinking about things globally, and apply them locally. I think this was the original idea of state and local law organization that America’s founding fathers setup, which has now deteriorated into an oligarchy. I don’t believe in any of that illuminati bullshit, but I do believe that very few are in control of the economy.

So let’s get into trouble. Fuck the rules, they are made for sheep and cows and zoo animals. If you want to be a lamb or a caged tiger, fine, go ahead and wait for your turn, sit in your square car, cubicle, or boring job and believe the nonsense you are fed. But if you choose, you can be free! Ride the line, do things that are illegal, expand what you think you know. Learn the system so that you can break it. Talk to strangers, smile at people who stare and whose brows darken as you walk by. Make them uncomfortable, ask the hard questions, don’t take maybe as an answer, make them tell you no.

Maybe we can find something that is worthy of respecting along the way.

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