The Wanderer, Part 8

village wanderer part 8

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7

Tas rolled over; his pain returned in full force. His head was throbbing and his mind was lost. He opened his eyes sometimes, but would shut them immediately because of the throbbing pain shooting from the side of his head. In the depths of his agony, he could see the smile of the man with the razor teeth grinning in between bursts of pain from his spine and head. His body was useless.

For two-days, he simply sat and recovered in a small hut, the village women brought him food and water and they arranged for a few new cloths for him to wear. Occasionally, they would bring him a coconut and it seemed to make everything feel a bit better.

He didn’t leave the small space that was allotted to him; he didn’t think he could even if he wanted to. The pain in his head was overwhelming.

Tas was happy to eat and drink his fill after a few days of nearly starving in the jungle. The women brought him bowls of rice and noodles and vegetables and some fruit to match. But their tea was absolutely intoxicating, Tas must have had 6 full cups throughout the day. He also had a bowl of soup each night for dinner, which was a delightful mix of squash and lentils. He slept on a soft fur that one of the women had given to him and as he recovered, he couldn’t help but feel very lucky to be where he was.

On the third day he woke with his spine still in pain, but his head felt better. It was still a bit hard to breath because his ribs were bruised, but he could stand without too much pain. There was still a dull throbbing, but he soon found himself stretching his spine. It was painful at first, but as he warmed his body slightly, the tension faded. He was still very sore, but he was ready to be out and about.

He walked out of his little hut and immediately was surrounded by people. The villagers acted like they had never seen an outsider before and their eyes were on him everywhere he walked. He was pulled this way and that by a small crowd of children, until one of the women shoo’ed them away. Her body was tattooed, but her face was relatively free from ornamentation.

She took him by the arm to an older man; on his head was a crown of feathers and carved wood and his face was painted to look very important, red bolts of lightning on his cheeks and vertical lines of white on his forehead. His eyes didn’t leave Tas as the boy approached. He seemed to look at him like the old wandering man did, piercing through his skin to something deeper. Only this man had spear surrounding his chair, long knives and arrows laced the background menacingly.

The old man looked at Tas for a moment, then called him closer. The woman pushed Tas so that the older man could examine him. He spent several long minutes examining Tas’ skin, then his head, then his ribs and spine. He looked at Tas in the eyes and seemed to have decided something. He called out in a loud voice to the entire villages and they roared and applauded as one in response. Tas wasn’t sure what was happening, but the entire village seemed to come alive at the old man’s words. The men began to organize to leave, grabbing weapons and painting each other with face paint. The women began to prepare food, Tas began to hear them chatter and heard sizzling in the background and could smell their fires being lit. In 20 seconds, the entire village had roared to life.

The woman took Tas back to his tent, where he remembered his throbbing head again. The pain had come back, though not as strong as the day before. He spent the rest of the day resting and listening to the village prepare, but had no idea what for.

When the shadows of the afternoon became longer, Tas was yelled at to come outside by the woman who was tending to him. He couldn’t quite figure out what they were saying at first, but once he had left his hut, three women grabbed him and pulled him towards a fire that was roaring in the center of the village. The men had returned with various game, a few chickens, but most notably a boar that was being skinned by the vicious man who had struck Tas. He felt his blood boil as he watched the man tearing through the boar’s flesh with his knife.

The women led him to a seat beside the old man, then began to feed him. All kinds of drinks and different vegetables were placed before him and he couldn’t help but devour them. He had never eaten so well as the past few days, but this was different. He felt like a king with servants that were continually arranging his food for him to eat, bringing new dishes until he couldn’t eat anymore. Once he was done, he realized that the entire village was waiting for him to finish.

Something was very wrong here, Tas thought to himself. The words from the villainous man days before rung in his ears ‘no friends here’. He couldn’t help but feel that this was not in his honor, but for something else entirely, but he had no idea what.

After everyone had finished eating, the sun began to set. The men began to pull out pipes and pass them between each other, before passing them to the women and even some of the older children. Tas had smelled tobacco before, but this was different, a skunkier smell. He felt a bit disoriented after a while and could tell that the smoke was strong. The villager’s eyes turned a dark red as they digested and smoked. Finally, Tas was offered a pipe, but after one pull found himself coughing uncontrollably. He felt a strange peace begin to settle over him and he almost felt as he had with the old man in the last days in the desert. He thought back grimly at the old man’s final prank.

The men began to scuffle about and soon a big wooden bowl that was cured for fire was brought into the center of the fire. The old man rose from his chair to the silence of the village and began to put ingredients into the bowl, some that Tas could see, some that he couldn’t. He could make out various roots and leaves and other plants of various sizes and shapes. He added some dark green and black liquid into the mix and set it over the fire.

A few minutes later, when the sun was just setting down on the horizon, Tas was led to the bowl. He was given a ladle and told to drink and he did. It was a nasty taste, but they gave him a bit of fruit afterwards. The old man drank longly from the bowl, as if relishing the taste, which Tas found unbelievable. It tasted like a mix of cow dung and overcooked vegetables.

Once the old man was done, the other men in the tribe took smaller portions of the strange liquid then the remains were passed to the women and finally, a few of the eldest children.

Tas returned to his seat and after a time, began to feel very weird. He started to see lights that couldn’t be there and the whole world seemed to come more alive. He couldn’t stop staring at the stars and the setting sun and felt his entire being start to melt away. The entire world melted away and all he could feel was the nothingness inside of himself, a void that grew larger and larger until it was overwhelming and he felt a burst of light come forth from his chest and illuminate the entire village. He saw his mother and sisters dancing at their own village fire and felt an intense longing, time seemed to pass so slowly. He opened his eyes to look at the stars again and found himself floating amongst them, a light inside of him was burning bright. He felt as if the stars were his brothers, though he had forgotten them. His vision became more and more in control and suddenly, he re-realized where he was. The old man was right beside him and he seemed to be inoculated, looking up at the sky with closed eyes.

Suddenly, seemingly in response to Tas’ gaze, the old man looked over at Tas and yelled loudly, so the entire village erupted. He took Tas by the arm and then slapped him to the floor. Pain flared in Tas, though it seemed to be distant in a way. He could still see the old man in perfect detail, his skin seemed to hang like a bag around his body and it swirled and magnified as he stared. He was brought to his feet again, and was bound to a tall pole. Tas finally knew that this was a tribe of the sort that were in children’s stories in his village. He knew immediately that these men planned to eat him. As if in response to his thoughts, the grim man who had injured him before came to the fire, licking his lips. Tas began to struggle, but it was too late.

They brought him to the fire and he knew it was over. He thought back to the old man and wondered how he could have gotten so lost. He walked slowly with the men surrounding him until they dropped him with a yell, close to the fire. Tas fell on his face, but could hear the cries of the villagers, screaming. Hell itself seemed to break loose from the lips of the women..

Tas tried to roll over, but couldn’t and found a rock to untie his hands from the pole. As he finally was able to look up, he saw a flash of darkness moving against the fire, seeming to dance with its flames. He finally broke the bindings of his hands and used them to raise his head to see what was happening.

A group of villagers were backed up against one of the larger huts, one shorter looking man with a large spear threatened them. Tas would have found this comical in any other situation, but the villagers seemed terrified. He smelt burning flesh and turned to the fire to see the body of a headless man singing in the flames. He looked on the floor to see more bodies, at least a dozen men, most of the them dead. The rest would be within minutes because of their wounds. Gashes, cuts, and blood decorated their bodies, giving signs of the battle that was continuing now.

The fire just barely illuminated the short attacker, who seemed to fly through the villagers while tearing through their flesh. The cries of the villagers grew less and less until only a dark silence remained. The fire was growing softer and Tas was still having visions of his family, of the old man, and of the stars and the life around him. But this was interrupted by his thoughts of the attacker that he watched flow like a swan with his movement. Who was this godly man who could kill a dozen ferocious villagers at once?

As if on cue, the attacker approached Tas and to Tas’ surprise, gently untied his feet from the pole and sat him up to look at him. When Tas could finally see the man’s face, he gasped.

It was the old man from the desert. He seemed to know that Tas was out of his mind and left him for the time being, but Tas sputtered and tried to speak to no avail. He was amongst the stars now, feeling the eternal energies of the cosmos flowing through him as a stream through a valley. He wondered if the old man was a hallucination and if perhaps he was dead. What a curious thing, life. Tas thought to himself.

He came back down for a moment to see the old man again, whose gaze hadn’t left Tas’ face. He helped Tas to his feet and brought him to a nice place to sleep. Tas cried the whole way, not knowing if he was alive or dead, but knew that this man, who had saved his life and viciously slaughtered 20 men in the process was a part of god. He felt it as strongly as he had ever felt anything in his life. As the visions began to fade, so Tas faded into sleep, the world forgotten and blackness overtook him.

The Wanderer, Part 7

work from http://www.aboriginalworkshops.com/

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6

Tas rolled awake in the midst of a hard rainfall, his canopy was beginning to flood because he hadn’t angled the roof properly. He had been alone for longer than he could remember, though he knew it had only been a few days. He had eaten well the night before; he found a mango tree and caught a wild chicken in the jungle. The old man would have disapproved, but he didn’t care. The chicken had filled him up more than any meal ever had. He salted some of the cooked meat from the night before and began to eat.

After his breakfast, his mind turned immediately to his surroundings and seeing that the rain was worsening, set out into the jungle.

His shoes were soaked in minutes so he replaced them with large fan leaves that served as a sort of boat for his feet as he waded. Tas soon learned to stay up slightly in the trees to see any available fruit. It also turned out to be a bit faster than walking on the mud. He spent an hour wading towards the south, he wished to see deeper into the depths of the wild. He could go home tomorrow.

Tas hadn’t seen a tiger since the day Vesu died. He still felt the fear in his body, a shaking that woke him in the night sometimes. He continued on his path for a bit longer, wading through mud until he fell over a tree root and was covered in filthy mud from the forest floor.

He groaned with displeasure as the mud slipped from his skin, his face was completely covered. He used one last clean spot from his shirt to clean around his eyes after using his fingers to remove most of the muck. Then he grabbed his water and washed his face. It was getting low, his original supply for a week had dwindled down to just a few days. He would have to find a waterhole, or some coconuts soon, which he had scarcely found in this thick jungle.

As Tas finished wiping his eyes, he became aware of a man standing directly in front of him. This man had hole in his ears and they were filled with wooden carvings, his face was tattooed with dark symbols of colored birds and some creatures that Tas had never seen, but seemed ferocious enough. He seemed to loom over him as he approached menacingly. The man seemed to move with pure muscle and in a short step took out his bow to aim it at Tas. He laced it with a long arrow and pulled it back, ready to split Tas’ head open.

But Tas stared back at this man, hard determination seemed to sizzle on his skin, a fire began to burn in his belly. Had he come this far to let this man end him here?

He rose and walked over to the man with his head bowed and moved the arrow away from its original target. The man whistled and four others moved from the shadows. The rain was still pouring, splashing all around and sometimes bouncing right up to splash Tas right in the eyes.

The men moved towards him and he kept still. He simply looked up for a second, put his hand on his heart, and said, “friend” with the same hard determination that he had met the gaze of the first man. These others were even taller, stronger, and more tattooed and ornamented in strange ways. One had holes in his cheeks, another had the skin of his hands missing and tattoos over the visible veins in his legs. He looked up to see the warrior’s face, a scar laid over one eye that was still functional. The scar continued down to his lip, forming a mean and permanent grimace.

They grabbed Tas by the shoulders and bound him, taking him through the jungle, further in the east. He struggled to free himself at one point, but the grim-looking man hit him in the back of the head, just soft enough not to knock him out. He remembered the sage in the desert and thought back to their last moments together. The old man did not seem so crazy now, compared to this madness. Tas knew of the eastern tribes, men who ate men, sometimes women and children. Some smoked all variety of herbs and plants, others spent days in silence, similar to his own master. He wondered where these men were taking him.

When they stopped at some coconut trees to refill their water supplies and take a short break, Tas waited patiently for the permanently frowning man to leave him. He couldn’t help but stare at the scar and wonder what it was from. After a bit, the man went into the jungle, probably to relieve himself. Tas immediately got up to talk to the first man who seemed to be in charge. Tas saw the dark tattoos around his eyes as he walked closer, until the man saw Tas approach and gave a quick whistle. Immediately, Tas was thrown to the ground and restrained. He looked up at the man and was immediately forced back down to the floor and bound. As he rose from the much he could just make out the tatoos of the grim man, felt his harsh laugh pierce through him as he swiped with his spear in a motion Tas couldn’t see, but all he felt was pain.

Tas fell to his knees, the air was knocked out of him so he could barely breathe. He looked up one last time at the man with the ornamented ears. The man smiled for the first time, a wicked smile of razor sharp teeth, red and bloody stained teeth, and two gold noserings. It was truly terrifying and Tas couldn’t help but show his fear. The man moved closer to Tas’ ear and whispered, “no friends here.” And then he bit off a chunk of Tas’ ear. He howled with laughter as Tas howled his pain; Tas was shaking and began to struggle ferociously against his captors. A moment later, the grim man approached Tas and smiled with rotten teeth that were as sharp as knives and now fresh with blood. He took the end of his spear again, this time swinging wickedly and knocked Tas to the floor and down into the depths of the dark.

The Wanderer, Part 6

Jungle_Wanderer Part6

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5

Tas woke up in his small bed, laying flat on his stomach. His back ached from the day before, he had slightly tweaked it when throwing a box aside. He was full from the night before, having eaten two dinners to make up for the long work week. Today was sunday, his day off.

The sun was high in the sky before he got out of bed and he took his time to wash and dress. Not that it was much of an event to begin with considering he wore one cloth during the day.

He set out into a hot day, broken by mists and gusts of wind from the ocean. He went to the center of town, by the fountain and wells and bath houses to meet Annu and a couple of other coworkers from the port. They would spent the day outside of the city, pulled by a cart that Annu had arranged earlier in the week.

He arrived to see them already departing. Tas realized suddenly that they would not stop for him and ran to catch up, sprinting on the cobbled roads. He jumped from a risen rock onto the side of the wooden supports and found footing. He climbed up and swung his leg over the side, tumbling onto Dill, who then shoved and rolled him into the center of the cart.

Tas rose immediately, sensing no injury and shook the dust off his body then rearranged his hard and sat. They all laughed together as he did this, first Annu howled, then the rest followed.

“We thought you had forgotten us!” Annu exclaimed in between waves of ravenous shaking laughter. Tas couldn’t help but keep a grin for the next fifteen minutes while they reveled in the morning’s events. They left the city walls and forgot the city behind them as the moved south, into the jungle.

It grew warmer and warmer as they went deeper and deeper into the semi-dark, canopy of trees. The cart became rather rickety after a bit and so Tas left the cart to walk. A few minutes later, the cart-wheel snapped and they were forced to continue on foot, taking their food and supplies with them.

Annu seemed to be extremely frustrated by the breaking of the cart, but he kept to himself and helped to portion out the goods so they could take what they needed. “They journey home will take 3 extra days,” he said as Tas collected his portion. After they had distributed evenly amongst the six of them, they ate.

Annu pulled out a surprise of beer and some other rather harsh liquid. It was after mid-day and Tas had often seen the older men drinking at night. They called it boozing. Normally, he didn’t waste his money, but today he would drink with Annu. They clinked glasses and then took huge gulps, exhausted from the long haul from the city.

“You see my friend?” Annu asked, impassioned. “This is where you can truly find god.” He hugged and tree and then soon found himself covered in ants. Tas and the other howled with laughter as Annu’s cries of passion became cries of torture. He found his way to a large puddle by the base of a tree and then ants left him with countless red spots and bites. Tas truly felt bad, but let a last chuckle escape his lips before helping his friend.

“Careful,” Patel said sharply, looking straight at Tas. Don’t let yourself be overcome by the jungle. He looked off seriously as he finished, “I’ve lost a few friends out here… and I have a bad feeling about this.” He looked behind and all around, then moved his gaze up, into the trees.

Annu, finally recovering, said swiftly, “you think we are being tracked?”

“Yah,” Patel said. “My gut tells me yes.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do. He pointed towards the thick of the jungle, “we have to head towards the temple. There will be a clearing, and the ruins we seek there. Though, we will have to travel into the night. Which is not advised.” He looked harshly into the thick of the trees, his machete readied.

For the next three hours, they cut and hacked their way through the thick jungle brush, stopping every hour for a minute for water. Tas felt as though he had sweat every inch of his energy onto the forest floor, but kept finding more and more energy. He thought back to his days in the desert and found that this was not so hard in comparison. It made him smile to think of the old man and his teachings.

Every day, the lessons seemed to make more sense, but he could not say why. Everything else seemed to be more shallow and difficult at the same time without him. Though he was still angry about his last antic. Tas’ head still hadn’t fully recovered, though he felt that eventually it would.

They came to a clearing at last, but before entering the ruined temples, Patel stopped them. Ahead, through the last of the brush, Tas could see two white tigers, huge, roaming outside of one of the ruined structures. And when the second tiger moved away from the entrance, they could see three cubs, all very small. The mother seemed to have a roaming range, but Patel turned them around.

They were lucky to have seen the tigers before going any further. The entire crew started to move further north, towards the road, until suddenly Nilesh cried from behind to run. Out of the corner of his eye, before he could start sprinting, Tas saw a flash of white leaping towards them, far away but moving so fast. He turned and ran, as fast as he could. He saw Patel in front slashing through the jungle, and trudged through the thick mud and endless brush after him. Eventually, Annu caught up to them, and so did Nilesh, though Nilesh wouldn’t speak. Having called the alarm he had been last.

That meant Corle and Vesu were lost, or injured. But the other didn’t want to return and search for them, for fear of the tigers hunting them. Annu looked very sad for the rest of the day as this had been his idea. Tas tried to cheer him up, explaining that no one could have foreseen tigers in the future, but Annu would not hear it.

They spent the night further north towards the main road, paranoid and with little sleep. Tas could see Annu in torment and began to realize that Corle and Vesu had been his friends.

Tas supposed that he felt sad, but he also felt very lucky. He had survived a beast that would no doubt kill him at a moments notice. So strong, so powerful, pouncing towards them faster than he could look. He dreamed of its prowess and felt drawn to them in a way that he couldn’t explain.

In the morning they set out to leave, but Tas did not want to. He felt that he liked the wildness of the jungle, the loud noises and the endless brush. Annu looked at him like he was crazy. How would he eat? Tas replied that he did not know, but that he was sure he could find a way. Annu scoffed at him and left without a backwards glance.

Tas couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at his friend. He would not stay forever. He was tasked with returning to the old man, but he felt as though he should stay for a small time, to learn the wild ways of this place. He could hear the voice in his head, let go. And that night, he slept like a child after his meditation that was both louder and more peaceful than any he had ever experienced. But his stomach grumbled as he moved to sleep and he knew that in the morning he would find his food in the wild  and so he grinned, unseen in the dark and noisy night.

 

 

The Wanderer, Part 5

Van_Gogh_brothel

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4

Tas woke in a small bed by the wall. His shoulder was asleep, so he took a few moments to roll side to side and stretch his legs, still very sore and tired from walking the days before. It had taken two to arrive in the coastal city and another to find the inn called “rest long, eat lots”. He had been disappointed to find that the inn did not have much food, had a curfew, and let the light in as early as the sun rose.

He met a man named Shatar. He told him how he had come to arrive and of his mentor, the old man who wandered aimlessly. Shatar laughed when he first heard Tas’ description, but hadn’t laughed since. He was a serious man, concerned with running his business well so that he could feed his dozen or so children, who helped around the inn. Most were boys, which seemed to be rather unfortunate, as the inn seemed to lack the proper care that a good resting place required.

But he was in no position to complain and was given a small room with a bucket, drain, and small living area. He was told he would be given water to wash in the morning. There was a small bed, barely raised off the floor in the corner with soft blankets and sheet and a few cushions underneath. So this small room was his home for the time being and he quite enjoyed being able to sleep on a cushion rather than the hard wood of trees.

He woke each morning to work. He woke when the others did, no questions asked, and left with the group to head to the docks.

He spent the days loading and unloading cargo from ships, while the taskmaster barked orders and generally harassed the lot of them into moving slightly faster. Tas wasn’t sure if it worked, but he kept up a fast pace so that he was never punished with the whip. Occasionally, it seemed that the taskmaster just didn’t like him. At the end of each day, he was given 4 silvers and he would give one of them to Shatar each night for food. But it was a perilous job, full of surprises and occasionally he would be forced to stay later, say if a ship came in a dusk. It was hard enough work during the day, so if they worked into the night they were given an extra two silver.

Soon, Tas began to spend two silver a day on food, one during midday when the sun was too hot to work, and the other at night, when he was done working. He would save usually 2 per day, sometimes only one because he had to clean his clothes or buy something new like sandals. He had bought a good pair on his first day and his feet had thanked him ever since.

The days were long and hard, but he could feel his body adapting. A large bag of rice cost 35 silver, and the spices and nuts that he needed were another 30. He knew that he would spend a month then return to the wandering sage he had pledged himself to.

But in the first week, he found himself out at night with a few of his coworkers and they walked to a dirty and lowly place with men out front smoking all sorts of contraptions, a rickety porch, and a crowded entrance. The four of them walked inside to see several women serving men drinks, as well as several other who were sitting and some that were even kissing.

Tas had never encountered such a scene in his life, as his village had been quite tradition. He stormed out of the lowly and dirty place in a hurry, and he went straight to his room to lay awake on his bed for several hours. For the next few days, he went to work without talking to his friends, but on the fourth day, they invited him to come with them once again. He no longer felt the same revulsion as he entered the rickety old body filled hut. His curiosity had taken control.

Again, as he entered he saw a man and woman begin to kiss, long slow kisses like he had never seen. He stared for a moment before Annu, his favorite coworker, pushed him forward. He nearly tripped over a broken stool and continued by a bar, replete with all different colors and sizes of concoction and labels that he couldn’t understand. He waved for one above, a luscious brown color with hints of amber. The keeper made a motion for 2 silver and so he obliged. Upon opening and sipping the liquid, he felt a fire and spit. His friends laughed and Annu bought one of the same. As he drank it, he coughed as well, to the enjoyment of the older members of the crowd. Then, a woman took notice of them.

She first caressed Annu face, pulled it to her own, then kissed his lips with a ferocity that Tas had never seen. Then she turned, seeing his staring eyes, and moved towards him faster than a bolt of lightning and their lips danced for a moment before they parted. Tas could hardly move, let alone speak. He felt something pulling him from the small shack before he could think and eventually found himself being pulled to benches near the water by Annu. The others were left behind.

“You would have given her all your money,” Annu said slowly, as if answering a question. “I know you keep it all with you.”

Suddenly, Tas became extremely self-conscious, in a way that he hadn’t been since he’d left the desert a week before. He didn’t know what to say.

“Come. We should sleep to rest our backs for tomorrow. God knows they need it.”

Tas looked up with a sudden remembrance and gave a hearty chuckle. God indeed! He supposed god was the reason he was here in the first place. But the old man had left him. What was he pursuing now?

“Yes, they do.” Tas would keep to himself for now.

“What do you save for?” Annu asked him, a strange veil had taken his eyes and blurred them.

“I save my silvers so that I can follow a man to find god.” Tas said, realizing for the first time the ridiculousness of his quest. What was he thinking? Was there any purpose at all behind what he was doing? What was the old man up to anyways?

Annu did not laugh. He looked solemnly at Tas. He seemed to decide something, then asked, “What is this man like?”

Tas laughed, “He is the queerest man you might ever meet and nothing he does makes sense. But he laughs at everything and smiles all day long.” Tas looked out into the horizon, waves moving seamlessly into the oblivion. “I don’t know why I follow him.” He admitted, “except that there is a certain curiosity that I have that I cannot explain and that tells me to learn from this man.”

Annu looked at Tas long and hard, and again, seemed to come to a decision. “Well, you are my friend now, Tas. If you need anything, ask me and I will do my best to help you with what you need.”

Tas took a long moment to reply, “can you get me another kiss?”

Annu laughed, this time in a heart-felt chuckle and rose, slapping Tas on the back. “Probably not, but we can try can’t we?” He grinned slyly at Tas hinting at mischief.

“We sure can.” and with the remaining 11 silver in his pocket, Tas began to walk back to the inn but stopped as he had a thought.

“Do you save Annu?” He asked, turning towards his new friend.

“Yes.” Annu said, a distance returned to his voice.

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Annu said with another grin, and he disappeared behind a moving cart.

Tas grinned as he turned to walk home. Tomorrow indeed.

The Wanderer, Part 2

desert_wandering

Please read the first part of the story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

There was once a boy, who decided that he would follow a wanderer into the desert to learn about god. The boy’s name was Tas. After receiving the approval of his parents, he travelled into the desert in the apprenticeship of a wandering wise man to find perfect bliss, realization of the divine, and to learn god.

They walked until the small town  once a few hours had passed in silence, the boy began to ask the sage questions. However, the desert man did not respond. At first he listened, but upon hearing the boy’s questions, the teacher dismissed his words. The boy fell silent, angry that he had been duped into following an old man who wouldn’t talk.

Finally, they came to a tree, alone in the vast expanse of desert, rising into the setting sun like a monolith of entangled roots, branches, and a thick trunk supporting a massive web of leaves fanning out in all directions.

Upon arrival, the old man seemed to inspect some different areas of the tree, then he hit some things, moved some rocks, then he grabbed under a protruding root for a small sack. Inside, Tas could barely make out some old and dusty looking jars and a few scrolls. The old man grabbed one of the smaller jars and a small but very sharp knife.

Then the sage, slow as usual when not walking in the hot sun, took his time to uncover a hidden pot and then gathered some stones to place in a circle for a fire. The grass was a dead golden brown, and the sun was setting down into the horizon, purple and pink streaks of light shone through the powerful clouds illuminating the sky. Tas’ stomach rolled on itself; he was just starting to realize the effects of walking all day without eating. He clutched his stomach.

“We can eat now?” He said simply, not wanting to offend the sage, fearing that his meal might depend upon it. The sage looked at him for a long moment and waited. Suddenly, he laughed.

Tas was confused. Who was this man who had led him astray into the desert and seemed to know the way so well. He thought the man was holy and knew of god and that sort of thing, but he was beginning to think that this man was simply insane and very poor.

The old man laughed again, as if he knew what the boy was thinking. “You don’t think twice about god now. Funny, how easy we forget.”

The boy had no idea what the man meant. Yes, he was on his journey to god. What was the old man talking about? Surely he didn’t need to focus on his mission every moment of the day.

“I don’t think about god because I am hungry.” Tas said slowly, uncertain of the old man’s eccentric responses. He looked up from his arranging of stones, which he had been finishing for the last 5 minutes. He began to use the knife to cut wood from the tree for the fire. Tas wondered how long it might take.

The sage seemed to move even slower. He made no response to Tas, which just proved to infuriate him further. Tas’ stomach was beginning to really hurt now, he could not remember ever going a day without a meal.

He watched as the old man slowly started a fire, using a flint and tinder that he carried with him. Tas was preoccupied with his stomach, it was really starting to growl now. The sage heard the low rumble and laughed. He asked Tas with a freshly curious tone, “you are hungry, yes?”

Tas responded, “Yes, of course, can you not hear my stomach?”

“Yes, of course I hear. You are the only sound here for many steps,” he laughed to himself, Tas had no idea what the joke was. He only grew angrier each time the old man laughed.

He began to take out some rice, and some water from his pack and heated the water in the pot. He was in a jolly mood indeed, seemingly more so each time Tas grunted with pain from his stomach.

Finally, the rice was finished, the old man added some spices, some nuts, and some dried vegetables that he stirred in with the rice. A couple of minutes later, the old man finished splitting the second half of the rice and placed it at the boys feet. The boy moved to eat…

“Wait!” the old man exclaimed, pushing Tas’ chest up from the floor. Tas groaned furiously.

“I cannot wait! I have never been so hungry in my life!” the boy said, now beginning to feel the pain subside a little less than it was before.

“You want to know god?” The old man looked directly into Tas’ eyes, they seemed to see right into him, and Tas couldn’t help but shiver. Goosebumps lined his hand and legs even though the night was quite warm, but the old man continued to stare. He looked into the embers of the fire and remembered his father, his mother, and the suffering they endured. He remembered his grandfather, whom he had just barely know, but he knew from his father that the man was great, honorable, loved by the whole family.

“Yes, I want to know!” The boy’s anger seemed to spill out, all of his rage accumulated in the words and he couldn’t help but feel the quiet breeze settling around him. The night seemed to grow quieter and twilight was in full bloom, a nearly full moon bright in the sky.

“Good,” said the old man, slower than before. His eyes were closed and he seemed to sway in the breeze. “Then we wait.” Tas stared at the old man for a moment before realizing that he was not going to open his eyes.

“What do we wait for?” Tas said, agitation lacing his voice poisonously.

“Until you are the wind, you wait. Close your eyes. Listen. Breathe slowly. Listen.”

Realizing suddenly that this was his first lesson, Tas immediately shit his eyes and began to listen. But he soon found himself adjusting his sitting. He found that he could not stop thinking about how hungry he was no matter how hard he tried to listen. He started to play with his fingers, waiting for the old man, he couldn’t listen with this hunger in his mind.

The old man, without opening his own eyes, said, “Close your eyes. Do not think of your stomach. Think of god.”

But this only served to perplex the boy more. They were out in the wilderness, under a tree, in the middle of nowhere. How could he think about god here? So he decided to try one more time. He closed his eyes, and this time, took a big breath in. As he inhaled, he could feel his chest expand and as he listened to his breath, he could hear the softness of the wind playing with his breath.

Immediately, the old man laughed, and said, “Good! You know already to learn. This is good. Tomorrow we learn more. Now we eat.”

The boy had forgotten about the food, just for a moment. He had forgotten about everything. He could still feel the breath, but never in the same way. He re-realized his hunger when he began to eat, then almost immediately fell to sleep. He did not think of a blanket, or even of his home, only that one moment, where he had felt so free.

Taoism in Modern Yoga

Tao_Painting

It has recently started to become more and more apparent to me that Zen Buddhism, Taoism, yoga, Hinduism, and Jainism are all very inter-related, and that the western teaching of yoga is in fact much more than traditional (Krishnamacharya influenced) yoga based in Hinduism.

The definition of the Tao is a great replacement for the idea of what people really mean when they mention god, or the universe in modern context. The concept is almost completely equivalent to the Brahman (unchanging reality, universal life-force energy) of Hinduism.

A great definition of the eternal Tao:

“Look at it and do not see it: we call it invisible.

Listen to it and do not hear it: we call it inaudible.

Touch it and do not feel it: we call it subtle. . . .

Infinite and boundless, it cannot be named;

It belongs to where there are no beings.

It may be called the shape of no-shape,

It may be called the form of no-form.

Call it vague and obscure.

Meet it, yet you cannot see its head,

Follow it, yet you cannot see its back.” (chpt. 14)

As you can see, this fits perfectly as a substitute for Brahman, even the Zen concept of Nirvana. The eternal nothingness at the core of the somethingness of all of nature. They say that the normal human faculties are just not equipped to deal with this, very parallel to the Hindu idea of Maya, the illusion of consciousness. Buddhism just does away with it altogether and describes everything as illusory.

Really, the icing, cake, and decorations are all about forcing the body to breath in different ways, with gymnastic exercises for strengthening and purification of the body’s energies. Advanced techniques in all practices advise a lifting of the pelvic floor during breathing exercises. Mula Bandha. All focus on breath retention, seamless breathing, as well as forceful breathing in order to sit still and meditate for longer and longer periods of time.

Each has a medicinal system that compliments the physical practices of gymnastic and demanding physical posture, movement, and full body movements. All are focused on restoring the balances of energies in the body and aim for longevity, in many myths and legends giving rise to divine beings with superpowers.

All place emphasis on learning your own nature, learning how energy flows in the body, and aligning with a greater, universal nature. All place emphasis on detachment, especially from desire and quelling the senses.

All have very simple teaching that can take a lifetime to understand.

I don’t believe any one system is better or worse than another. They simply have different ways of teaching and expanding knowledge within the body and the mind. I know a lot of Ashtanga yogis want to believe that the six series ‘ARE THE ONLY PERFECT’ Series, but I find this to be a load of crap. The same crap Catholics spew when they tout the necessity of communion and how you need communion, reconciliation, or some other traditional method to be cleansed. There are always other ways. So maybe the primary series is great for learning, but like the bible, it is one source that we draw from when formulation hypothesis, or formulating our ideas about how things tend to operation and function. To view one path as superior is the only way to be wrong, because surely, an alternate path has the possibility to be better for a different person.

So I don’t drink cool-aid. If it seems to easy, then it is. Once you think you are right, you are wrong, so I stay skeptical because I haven’t been convinced by evidence yet. And the evidence would be the person in front of me.

This is why I think I came across the world to practice with a traditional guru in a traditional system (75 years old). Because I wanted to explore the experience and I knew that I would learn more about myself and my world in the process.

I’ll conclude by showing you a couple of ritualistic preparatory exercises used by Taoism and Ashtanga, which I find to be incredibly similar and yet depicts some of the different approaches to the same problem.

Translated opening incantation for Taoism:

“In my room, the seven jewels come together,

Doors and windows open of themselves.

Utter in my purity, I strive for deeper truth,

Riding on bright light, I ascend the purple sky.

Sun and moon shine to my right and left,

I go to the immortals and find eternal life.”

Opening chant of the Ashtanga Practice:

“I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru

which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,

which are the refuge, the jungle physician,

which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).”

 

Maya | माया | Illusions of Reality (Cartesian Skepticism)

Maya_padayoga_GatesofHell_rodin

What is Real?

Maya is the concept of illusion. Mostly this pertains to consciousness, and it’s limitations. Consider that everything you have ever known or seen is only a half truth, if that. In reality, you can see far less than half, smell far less, and hear far less than what is really in your environment. Luckily we don’t need to see more to survive on this beautiful planet we call home.

I hope this title doesn’t turn you off, because I my own mind this will be the most interesting article to date. This is a way for me to talk about mind and matter under a reasonably explicit title, together, with lots of philosophical nomenclature.

I have recently come to the conclusion that it does not matter whether or not god exists. Whether there is an extreme nothingness at the source of the universe, or an extreme somethingness at the core of the universe, it doesn’t seem to matter. I have obtained this belief from the contrast of Hindu and Buddhist believe systems and learning how both are supported in my own experience in different ways.

Maya’s Source

My personal definition of god is the pulsation of the universe, the energy behind the sustenance of existence, if you will. The reason why there is something, other than nothing. The closest religious depiction of this is Lord Vishnu, who is the protector and sustainer of the universe, from Hinduism, though his cosmic form isn’t talked about often in the Ancient Indian texts.

After studying Jainism and learning more about the eastern religious concepts of God, I have concluded that there cannot be a creator “god” behind the creation of the universe. It is an illogical conclusion, because even if this “god” created the universe, something would necessarily have to create “god”. If you want to consider “god” as the creator, you have to address the creation of this “god”, that super cedes universal existence. And for that, we need a bit of evidence, which no human has ever been able to provide. So I say, god or no god, the universe exists and to my knowledge and in the relativity of my current existence, it is infinite. I understand that there is a lot of evidence to support a beginning of the universe, but I do hypothesize that we are looking at only a small, imperfect picture of the universe’s history and that it could be far vaster and more complex that humanity can even imagine at this point in our evolution. So I choose to believe in thermodynamics and unknown compressive forces behind black holes that seem to be at the core of existence.

The Dream of Consciousness

I hope that explained a bit about my stance entering the conversation of what reality is. The possibility that we live inside of a dream, or an alternate reality, or the matrix and what we, as individuals, experience.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of philosophical talks, to aid in mediation and generally to learn more about eastern philosophy, I do have to thank my friend Kyle for telling me who Alan Watts is and I have listened to him, Osho, and a few other philosophers over the past couple of weeks and their talks on consciousness.

I am very luck to have been educated by Jesuits, perhaps the most philosophically inclined religious sect in existence in the Western world.

It is important, when discussing consciousness, to bring up the idea of subjectivity, and the infinite randomness of the universe. We have created, for our own benefit, systems of knowledge that can accurately and precisely categorize, therefore, predict future events in our relative sphere. However, this overgeneralization is an illusion, as is the illusion of a “normal” or undeviated being.

Maya in the Modern World

The United States does not really exist, it is simply a collection of people who live in an area that are grouped together for administrative purposes. Just as the human race does not truly exist, it is simply a way of identifying our own species. So to understand the variances of consciousness, we must view it as a spectrum, as infinitely varied as the human species itself.

In this world, there are many illusions created by the subjectivity of our consciousness This illusion is the same as the illusion of separateness. Humans share 99.99999%, yet all we see is diversity. In truth, the difference lies in our path, the journey we are pulled towards, and our in own interpretations of how the individual interacts with the world. So I will attempt to explain how this illusion seems to function, in its most basic of forms.

You only know you exist because you are reflected by the external world. If you had no effect on the world, you would not know, or have any credence to support the idea of your own existence. You see this in a mirror, in your best friend’s perception of you, of the opinion of your parents, of the way you are treated by strangers. You begin to learn more, at least about how you as a person are perceived by the other humans around you. We see this in a crappy movie like “ghost” where the hero doesn’t realize he is dead until enough events pass, and eventually finds a mentor to teach him how to interact with the world in his present form. He learns his own existence from the external environment. It is why we feel fast, or strong, or confident, because we have had significant experience with our environments, in the case of fast and strong, our muscles, and in the case of confidence, our past dealings with other humans.

It is the opposite when you explore the external world, you find different aspects of yourself that you did not know existed. This occurs because you are pushing the limits of comfort, or normalcy, and are expanding upon your prior experiences. So we cannot truly know about how we would act in a situation unless we are put into that situation, because everything else is idealism. The environment forces us to comes to terms with our humanity, our limits, and our exceptional qualities. Indeed, if used often in the external world, our human capacity seems to have a tremendous potential for creation. However, that is a different argument all together.

But what does Consciousness really do?

Consciousness seems to function optimally in the state of learning, or at least adjusting to the external environment internally. This is the reason why consciousness seems to have come about to begin with; to fine tune the functioning of life to the sun, essentially. It is why all mammals have a pineal gland, to regulate the resting/waking cycle of the being’s existence and to keep the being in a rhythm that corresponds to the rhythm of that being’s relative cosmos, in our case the sun. So we can establish the consciousness exists because of the external environment. To perceive and interpret, in whatever limited fashion it can, the electromagnetic spectrum of energy and its effect on the being. So from the beginning, we must accept that consciousness is extremely limited in its perception, if it can indeed perceive anything at all.

Life itself, is a process, a constantly evolving thing that cannot be defined by a state by itself. The qualities change over time and therefore, even in the individual’s lifespan, there is a tremendous amount of change in the individual. We learn through the patterns, through the causes and effects that we realize and know as conscious knowledge, and the things we learn subconsciously as a part of the unconscious mind. But our own view of life and our experiences are the result of experiments and predictions and observations that we have taken from the outside environment and taken to be a repeated pattern. So we start to see the world in sorts of patterns and that really is the nature of consciousness, at its essential functioning, even cognitive neuroscientist will agree with me, in essence, the way the world changes, shifts, and the patterns interact in the world around us. This is, in essence, the way the entire universe functions, in patterns and changes and constantly evolving changes and fluctuations of energy.

Karma in Maya

I will hypothesize that the only true way to know the world is to act upon it, in it, as a part of it to see where your ripples effect that of the entire “pond” of the world. This is the essence of Karma, or existence in the world. No animal was ever fed by thinking, “I want eat.” It requires the physical act of eating, if nothing else.

You cannot use the language of the illusion without getting into confusion, for it is ever paradoxical. This is why reality, enlightenment, and the illusion (maya) are so difficult to grasp. They are the different sides of the same coin, and to the unseeing eye, they are parallel and exist as the same.

Humanity is a part of the cosmic nature of things, rather than some being that was kind of plopped here and told to make due by god. This assertion, in fact, becomes completely ridiculous in the eyes of a skeptic, because there is no evidence.

We question the true unity of the universe is a function of the cosmos. If we are all one massive collection of energy, simply broken down into electrons and quarks and all of those subatomic particles, then again, we are missing something. The idea that I am, as a separate function that of the universe, that I can realize that I, in fact, do exist, even if it is true that I do not exist.

Either nothing exists at all, or its all one big massive collection of energy that we categorize with the feebleness of our own consciousness. But there is still this issue of the separateness of consciousness which doesn’t seem to make sense if we are all the same.

Our understanding of the functioning of human consciousness will change drastically over the next thirty years as alternative forms of consciousness are explored in greater degrees, mainly referring to that of our primate cousins and the large mammals that live in the depths of the ocean. Their conscious functioning in combination with increases in the field of neuroscience, particularly imaging, are really required to know how the spectrum of conscious experience varies on the planet. But if you don’t believe other animals are conscious, spend some significant time with an intelligent animal, such as a chimp or a dolphin. Their ability to interact with you is proof enough that they can at least predict and analyze your own behavior, let alone adjust their own behavior according to yours, which is an extremely intense conscious experience of learning.

We have to resolve separateness by consideration of subjective dimensions, which is again, part of the illusion. We are separate because it allows for the compartmentalization and therefore specialization of energy. It is how complex organisms evolved from single-celled organisms, and eventually led way into the human being, one of the most complex beings on the planet (it depends on how you measure complexity).

Maya Tricks us into Separation

So in reality, everyone on earth is really a part of the earth. To think we are separate is a part of the Maya, the illusion of consciousness. If we humans destroy our planet, we are inevitably committing suicide. Unless we become a part of another planet before the extinction date, or event horizon, or whatever. We contribute to and fluctuate with the planet, the waves, the sun, the sky, the trees, the wind, everything really. Reality seems to be the recurrence, the constants, the things that are unchanging and always seem to exist; however, there is a taint, and that taint is your self and the culmination of your prior experiences and genetics and anthropological background that has led you to now. Reality is the present, tainted by the lackings and shortcomings of the human’s limited perception of his world (consciousness), which without illusion (maya) of separateness, has glimpses of awareness of the constant fluctuations of energy and form and nothingness. This is consciousness, to know and enjoy the limits of perception and to be constantly pushing them, exploring and playing with all that you can while on the planet.

Always remember, people will show you what they feel they are lacking. It is the nature of the ego. The teachers and people who talk about love, light, peace, etc tend to talk about it so much because they feel they are missing something, or lacking in some way and therefore have to make up for it by being perfect. But in fact, the human is already perfect, already lovely, already beautiful. So saying these things is an affirmation, something that the ego needs to feel validated. Goodie goodies are the thieves of virtue. To be perfect is to be something that isn’t human, so beware of anyone that does not show you their humanity. The true teachers have the most awkward senses of humor, have an attitude about things as being the way they are, and is a bit of a rascal, or a bit of a motherfucker, if you will. Just a few notes about from the Dao that rang true for me.

Breaking Rules

Mysore Streets

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.

The Responsibility of Ashtanga

Ganesha Temple, Gokulam

I love being able to learn yoga from multiple sources, multiple teachers with subjective and unique viewpoints. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I have been able to progress through various yoga traditions without injury.

Lots of the yogis here are injured, in one form or fashion. I’ve seen taped toes, adjustments, heard about knee tears, ankle injuries, wrist pain. This is the pitfall of advanced practice, injury is more prevalent when you are exhausted, too tired to breath, or simply disconnected from your body. I notice this almost exclusively with my breath, it is what guides my practice.

Using breathe to guide practice is the only way. I am extremely fortunate to have learned this from Rusty Wells, Bryan Kest, and many of my other teachers before arriving here. It is how I stay sensitive to the soft spots in my body, the places that are not normally touched. It is how I open my hips, by drawing my breath deep down into my abdomen and activating my lower abdominals to twist, open, and externally rotate. I can feel what is too much, or not enough because I am in tune with the fluctuations of my body. Each exhale is pushed out with ease and each inhale fills my torso and lengthens my spine. When there is too much pain, I can feel it is too much, but when it is good pain, I can breath through it, feel my body opening and making space for less. The power of the primary series and the Ashtanga practice is undeniable, no matter which series or whatever you are on.

I can’t imagine doing Ashtanga then resting for the rest of the day. I walk heavily and practice Yin, as well as static Hatha style poses to compliment the imbalance of the primary series (there is no doubt that it is powerful, but it is not necessarily optimal for a 25-year-old. Why? My knees need to be strengthened simultaneously, my hips need to be stabilized, and my mind needs the softness of moving slow. Forwards folds, child’s pose, lunges, Baddha Konasanas, happy babies, goddess poses, half pigeons, and cow-faced pose are all a part of my practice outside of the studio and they are absolutely allowing me to go deeper, faster, but honestly I don’t care about where I am in the series anymore.

Over the past week, I have talked to many people about the politics of the Jois Shala. Of course there are politics, these are humans we are talking about; however, it does seem that there is a certain mindlessness about the Shala. My personal observation is that the art is quite as respected as it once was and it now mass-produced so that everyone can experience the Jois Shala. Apparently, this morning there was fighting at the gate to get into the Shala because people wait outside for hours before the class starts to get a good spot. So it’s a lot like the freeways in America now.

I always remember Rusty saying, “try not to act like you are the only one.” And its true, there are more people in the world right now than there ever has been, so we all need to act accordingly.

Last night, I met a man from Israel whose name I can’t remember, but he practiced with Patthabi Jois and we got into a lively conversation about the ego and what series you are on and what yoga is truly about. Happiness. He said he had met zen Buddhists that had never even practiced yoga and were the happiest men he had ever met. We also talked about how silly it was that the primary series is the point of focus for the Ashtanga tradition, because it is an anatomically imbalanced sequence that was designed for Patthabi Jois as a young teen by Krishnamacharya. He assured me that the sequence is not important and I can’t agree more. But by the same token, I didn’t necessarily come to India to learn the primary series, I came to India to deepen my Samadhi, my mindfulness, and to detach from the world of my birth. To meet people as a fresh unknown person, to learn more about myself, my tendencies, and most importantly, my flaws and strengths. And maybe, somewhere along the way I can find this thing that some call Nirvana, others call Samadhi, and most refer to as god.

The day before, I met someone who had only great things to say about Saraswathi. So far, she has done a great job with being personal, telling me what to do, and letting my practice my own yoga. on day 2 she told me to do head stand and I was very happy to do some inversions. Her assists have been great too, we got the point where I was bound in half-lotus, but there was too much pain and she let me adjust in the way I needed to adjust. That said, my lotus hip openings are moving along very well here because of the repetition of the primary series. You are welcome to your own opinion, but I believe that the physical body is something that contributes greatly to our mental state, especially the openness, flexibility, and strength of joints and limbs. I mean, 90% of the happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin, is in your gut. The body certainly is the overarching reason why we feel the way that we do, because the body is a system and the mind is what allows us to operate the body in the ways that are available to us. So by opening the body, I believe I am opening my mind.

I realize this may contribute to a sense of having to be somewhere, like there is a destination besides your current location, but the opening process is enlightening in and of itself. I am trying to focus my mind on gratitude for each day’s new sensations, new aches, new pains that I move through. And my Samadhi continues to deepen so I will continue to strive along the path that I have found. But I want to try to enjoy each step of the path, rather than just the major destinations call asanas, or sequences, or series, or styles of yoga.

Tomorrow, I will practice the whole primary series and begin to embed it into my body. When I come back to my own practice in the Shala on Monday, I’ll see how far I can go on my own. I am excited to practice with everyone, I always love the group energy. Plus, the main Shala is really cool and decorated and I don’t get to spend much time in it.