Monday, February 16, 2009

Amma's ashram :: Kerala, South India

Greetings from the warm beach west coast of India, where the Arabian Sea catches the sun to set every evening. I am at guru Amma's huge ashram. the hugging saint that i spent 3 days conference in Tacoma at last June! she has hugged over 24 million people, donated $23 million to build 100,000 homes in India, started a few orphanages, built a hospital for free service to poor, an engineering college, a biotech college, an ayurveda health college, & many more amazing selfless acts to help out in this crazy world.

The reason millions believe her to be a living because she is! the women is transmitting LOVE x 10,000 or more , unlike most of us that struggle too much with our own suffering. Shortly after birth she was noticed by others to have eccentric deep spiritual yearnings. She would sit & meditate at a very early age (2-5+) & sing devotional songs with great passion. Later in her teens & early 20's she began to heal people around her village. She has brought people back from the dead, healed cancers, etc..

Her parents didn't understand why she was so strange & beat her & made her quit school & do ALL the chores. She just loved them back & kept helping people. At one point she began to live outside & the animals took care of her. A cow would come to feed her milk, eagles would drop fish in her lap, & so on. Now, many come to her to seek to heal their suffering & clear up their negative karma. It is said that in her presence, you have a direct deep connection with Great Spirit/God/Creator & the love light shines so bright that it clears your darker black energy fields.

I can't prove if the above is truth, but i feel it to be. I do feel a huge love wave around her & especially after getting a hug. I sit & meditate on myself being my own guru, healing myself, centering myself in deeper love for all my relations. I am not looking for a guru. I have found many gurus in this life & Amma perhaps is the greatest one i've seen. For now, I will enjoy the next 12 days I get to spend here. And I think I may have to come here for India trip #2 & do the 2 month detox/cleansing/massage "Panchakarma" royal treatment!

Om Lokah Sumistah Sukhino Bavhantu = May All Beings Be Happy!

p.s. meditation she teaches for tuning into Divine Love & Light =

breathe in silently hearing the sound mantra of "MA" (which means Divine Love) breathing out silently hearing the sound mantra of "OM" (the infinite sound of Divine Light) do for 5 minutes or more to manifest peace & deep love in your heart!

______________________ _

Amma's asrham blog #2

Amma. One woman that, like Gandhi, has united millions of people in the name of peace & love. One woman that from early childhood was extremely unique. They say she was born with a blue tint, like the beloved Krishna that Hindus admire so much. She was singing devotional songs & meditating by a very early age on her own. Her family thought she was a nutcase! They were devout Hindu's, but somehow failed to see her eccentricities as a mark of high spirituality. And her strangeness increased. She began to pray so much to Krishna & Devi (both incarnations of God) that she began to take on their personality for all night "bhavans" (ceremonies where Amma is possessed by that God), where more people flocked to be around this up & coming guru. She said it herself, "I'm just a crazy girl." But her humbleness just increased her fanbase. In these trancendental states Amma would literally merge with God-consciousness, & miracles began to happen. She healed lepers of their wounds, and a few times even sucked on their tepid sores with her own lips to do it! She cured many of paralysis, cancers & even brought back to life the dead (people with no life signs for 30min-1hour).

Her parents still did not understand that her daughter had a direct connection to the Divine, & she was therefore treated with less respect, forced to quit school & made to do ALL of the household chores. Finally, her dad was sick of seeing her taken over by Krishna & Devi & one day approached Amma while she was in a trance & demanded those entities leave her body & never return to her. Ammaji answered that she would die instantly if that were so, and her father said for them to go ahead & leave then. Amma died on the spot, and for 8 hours her body remained lifeless while her devotees prayed for her return. Her dad also deeply regretted this & prayed for her life back, & to everybody's shock, Amma was brought back to life. She was so devoted to God & absorbed in God-consciousness (aka Self-Realization, aka Enlightenment) that she constantly chanted Divine Names. In Hinduism...there are many many! Ram, Ma, Krishna, Shiva...choose one. all God. all a way to empty your mind & free your busy monkey mind from all the internal chatter for awhile! Chanting mantras is extremely effective for finding one-pointedness &

connecting with the infinite (if like me, you are too restless to meditate, try chanting out loud, or silent internal chanting of mantras & woo-laa! you will be able to sit & still that busy mind). Amma was so devoted that she would chant while walking & if she missed ONE mantra for that step, she would walk backward & take the step again with the mantra. Constantly absorbed in God-consciousness. This is a true saint. A living saint! Some say she is one of the highest true guru's to walk the Earth in many generations. Perhaps no Jesus or Buddha, but very very high. Many more stories about Amma you can read in one of her biographies.

My experience at Amma's ashram is as follows. I arrived at 3am February 12th, a day after Amma returned from her

touring, & I stayed 2 weeks. The price for all 3 meals & a nice room is only 150 rupees ($4). This place is 200 meters from the beach, but unfortunately, not a swimming friendly area. There is a very nice swimming pool in the ashram that I used a few times! While there I enjoyed the space & freedom of not having a strict schedule, like most ashrams. There are no enforced routines that one must follow here. Amma encourages people not to freeload & to work towards their Self-Realization, instead of just coming to lounge. From the early days, people would come to Amma just to be around her...for that high feeling that one gets from being around a true guru. A realized master radiates love & peace energy so much, that it puts others into that state. I felt this everytime I was in the same room as Amma! While there, I went to 5 darshans, & received 5 hugs from her. Darshans are where Amma gives hugs, advice, & even gives you a mantra or spiritual name if you ask. I got my mantra from Amma. I wanted to do this in Seattle last June but had to leave the night she gave them. Now I have one, a secret mantra of my own! And let me tell works! Physics & metaphysics have proved what mystics & yogis have known for millenia - that the power of sound vibrations can altar human emotions, & even altar material reality (watch movie "What the Bleep" or read about about Dr. Mitoto's studies of words effects on water molecules). Even saying the mantra silently, which is done in this kind of mantra received by initiation & kept to oneselve, puts out thoughtwaves that produce vibration & link one to the guru & therefore Divine Mother (GOD). Amma uses the word Divine Mother alot. I like that alot better than the G word....GOD. GOD has a negative connotation to it from the ties with Christianity & it's holy inquistion bloody past. Besides, it feels better to call the Creator by a female name, since females give birth to everything, wouldn't Creator be the mother of everything & not an old white man with a beard? In Hinduism, Divine Mother is seen as everything. Everything & everybody are GOD in Hindu (same with Sikhism, Native American spirituality, etc..). Krishna, Shiva, Laxmi, Saraswati, and the thousands of other Hindu deities are just aspects of Divine Mother, and not to be confused as multiple Gods. They are divine incarnations that came in ancient history to show humans their own divinity. The Bhagavad Gita, one of India's main holy texts, shows us a way to guide us to this Divinity in find God-realization, or what has been called Self-Realization. As for the spiritual name, I like my birth name Adrian & will keep that. I think spiritual names are great for devotees that truly live the monk path & need to erase past ego

identification. I used to think it was cheesy for non-Indians to have a name like "Saraswati, Shiva, ...", but some have become

devout Hindu's & believers in these deities, so why not? Names & holy mantras are powerful, that's for sure, & you can easier

align yourself with high vibrations by taking on a spiritual name or mantra, especially when given by a real guru.

Although not required to have a strict schedule at Ammas ashram, there is one that people are encouraged to practice.

Getting up at 4:50am-5:50am to chant 1008 holy names, followed by meditation, breakfast 8-9am, seva, & darshans on

those particular days, which go from about 10am to 5pm on a slow day, midnight on a busy weekend! When I went to the darshans, I sat very close to Amma, & just like thousands of others, I too felt that LOVE pulse very strong. It is easy to meditate when in her presence. Ya know...they say Buddha put out an energy field of peace/love/compassion that was 40 kilometres radius! Now that is presence!!! Amma is without a doubt charged with an ego-less deep connection to Divine Mother. She gives these hugs 4 full days a week & during this time does not drink but a few sips of water, no bathroom breaks, & usually a few bites or no food. She just constantly pours out compassion & feels that only that will satisfy her appetite! She is known to sleep but 2-4 hours a night, most of her life!

While at Amma's, people are required only to do volunteer work for 2 hours a day, called seva, or self-less devotion. This seva is known to take your mind off your own egoistic attempts at striving forward to gain more material goods. It is a service meant to bring you into deeper states of giving, for giving's sake. I got put in the kitchen weighing & washing vegetables. Although I did not feel attached to the outcome, it was an extra bonus to get free coconut water & pieces of coconut meat now & then. :)

And this turned out to be an easy job, sometimes only half hour a day. It was the perfect job because I signed up for 7 days of Shirodhara treatments, which demanded that I stop doing yoga, relax, & not work too hard. Shirodhara is an ayurvedic technique of receiving many litres of good oils (picked for your body type & condition) heated & slowly dripped onto your third eye to bring deep relaxation & concentration. I found myself so relaxed that I was able to fall asleep 4 out of 7 treatments. I usually am so mentally active that it is only 1-2 days a year when I can take a nap (usually when i'm completely exhausted). These treatments have helped me to come down off this anxious phase & enjoy relaxation again! I was again reminded that doing a self-massage

every night is also a great way to get deeper sleep & way to relaxation. Just a little massage oil & your own two hands

on your head, face,neck, shoulders, arms, legs, & feet...places that YOU can reach! At the least, the head & feet

can work wonders! Another Keralan ayurveda special treatment is called Panchakarma. It is usually done in 7 day intervals,

with 2 months being the full treatment. It is a complete detox, rejuvination, & relaxation treatment that was invented

for royalty in the ancient days, consisting of daily massage, shirodhara, sinus cleansing, herbal supplements, & other

methods to flush the body of toxins. In Kerala you can do 2 month treatment for about $1600, which would cost $10,000 back home. I feel very healthy for the most part so will maybe try panchakarma later in my life? I did see an ayurvedic/naturopath

doctor at the ashram to get some second opinions on health issues I am working on totally healing (allergies, anxiety,

digestion, diet). I got some very good advice and bought some organic ayurvedic supplements to aid in coming into

even greater health & balance. Am I a health nut or what? Feels good to feel good, ya know?

Since I couldn't do yoga most of my time at Amma's, I got into doing japa (mantra meditation) quite often. I felt really peaceful & clear after doing an hour or so of this in the morning & evenings, but unfortunately, my anxiety kept returning in waves, & it wasn't until the final days of the Shirodhara that I was not 'cycling' back & forth with.....relaxation... .then....nervousness.

One of the highlights of my stay there was hanging out with a new friend Rebecca, from Ashland Oregon, whom I had met

at Arambol. She & I watched many sunsets, ate together, laughed together, & took a 3 hour imfamous Kerala boat ride up

the canal. We went to this very cool pagoda style ancient temple - looked like it would be in Japan, Korea, or China with the dark wood, red tile roof, stone wall. Only this was Hindu & there happened to be a 10 day festival of some sorts during our brief

visit. Good timing again! To enter, guys had to take off their shirts, which i thought was odd in this sexually repressed country.

It was a short, fun visit full of many stares, bows to the gods & goddess statues, & a happy departure from a group of curious

kids. When I come back to Kerala I would like to take a one week boat trip up the many canals...what fun!

Amma left for her north India tour on February 25th, & I left the day after feeling complete there & thankful for the

time spent near Amma! Next stop, return to Arambol Goa beaches!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Goa 2nd visit & Mumbai :: dj gigs, laser eye surgery, meeting another guru & the usual tourist stuff!

Goa 2nd visit & Mumbai :: dj gigs, laser eye surgery, meeting another guru & the usual tourist stuff!

I went back to Arambol, Goa for 6 fabulous days back on my favorite beach. My main mission was to have Enrico finish my tattoo, pick up my passport i forgot in a xerox machine, & manifest another dj gig at Pyramids. And all that was unexpected surprises! On the bus heading into town I met two young Russian women that were very socialable & wanting to be friends instantly. We ended up hanging out on the beaches sharing massage, eating coconuts, & good times! I organized my 4th dj gig at Pyramids, the grand finale for my Goa gigs, & the show was an incredible success! I had a fiddler & flutist play on a few tracks, but then some surprise performers showed up which included a tight rope walker (he actually came & put a rope between two trees & walked it!), a crystal ball juggler, & little kids on the microphone. Oh and about 150+ people having a jolly good time (see pics!)!!! This was one of my funnest performances to date! I showcased two new original songs as well. After many more swims in the Arabian sea & the freshwater lagoon, & more time here ran out. I'll miss Arambol. I want to do like some I met & come rent a nice room here for 3-4 months & just stay put! Record

an album with some of these amazing musicians that flock to this scene!

Mumbai madness. 16 million people, give or take a million. A city where people are constantly on the move. The traffic

just keeps on flowing past you & crossing the street becomes a big goal involving a test of patience, courage & determination! At least the air seems cleaner than Delhi due to being near the ocean winds. Still, I found myself with my bandito bandana covering my nose in the back of taxis, listening to the horrendous neverending honking that you never get used to in India. My first day in Mumbai I payed a taxi driver the 800 rupees to go around the city & check out a few sites. First I went & visited Mumbai's favorite guru, Ramesh Balsekar. Formerly a president of the Bank of India who later became a disciple of "I am That" author Sri Nasargaratta, & later become enlightened himself. He has written over 30 books & now, 89 years old but still full of energy he gives talks everyday from 9am-11pm at his flat near the Haji Ali temple. He asks & answers questions, which generally get one hour answers! Ramesh follows a different path of yoga than Amma. Amma follows the path of bakti yoga, or self-less service & devotion, while Ramesh is a jnanna yogi, following the path of knowledge. I didn't feel a big energy shift or easy mediation in his presence, but did see quite the cosmic sparkle in his eyes! The sparkle of one who has figured IT out, ended their suffering & merged with God-consciousness or unity! What an interesting guy! I was one of 2 out of 25 people that asked him a few questions. My question (the one i've asked a few masters on this trip) was ..."If the way to be happy is to be fully at peace in the present, and not desiring more, how can we rest & be at peace when the it seems like the world has begun the prophesized World War III, a long holy war where nuclear armegeddon seems probable. How can we ignore this & feel happy?" His answer was that there is nothing to be concerned about with mass destruction because there was never a creation. That this is maya,

the great illusion, & if a world war III were to happen, it would just be more illusion. Destruction is part of the process

of new creations & in the bigger view, it is all one process & all under Divine Mother's control. I had recently come to a similar

conclusion myself...that there is nothing to fear because all is unfolding as it should. Trust. Trust in the process. This is all

we can do! If the world is devastated & 90% of the population killed, it may just be for the better? We can learn from our

past & begin a new civilization. This is hard to accept, really would be better for the planet to have our population

lowered. We have become a big burden on mother Earth! A big virus really! Sad but true. Humans are just sucking

the last of the oil, gold & resources & making a huuggggge mess of things in every sector. The global

warming/climate change & the bigger natural disasters that happen as a result are just another impending 'process' that are leading us into a major planetary change. Whatever happens in our lives, i've come to accept any of the paths that manifest in this lifetime. Total annihilation from WWIII does not seem so scary anymore. Natural disasters mentioned in "An Inconvenient Truth", major cities covered from ice melting/water rising - with the outcome of millions displaced & countries economies crashing...not so scary anymore! Change is good! This form of

extreme capitalism has proved itself to be an ecological & mental nightmare! What is scary is to think of 'business as usual'

continuing, the population continuing to increase exponentially, & the corporations/governments /militaries increasing. These

would be darker days with increasing fear & destruction, rather than an archaic revival that disasters would bring which would take us back to non-industrial living, a chance to start over & heal the Earth from it's previous damage. Well...these thoughts are surfacing again as I sit here in this massive city pondering my six months in India & the year to come traveling abroad.

Oh yeah. Practical tips for Mumbai : Hotel New Bengal - a gem for budget travelers as this is not in Lonely Planet (all those rooms were full!)

285Rs single room, cheap cheap & not a bad place! very central location, short walk from Crawford Market & CST railway station. 3 restaurants on premises, but the Shanti Bhavan next-door is even better! Taxi from CST railway

should only cost you 20-40Rs for the 2 minute ride so don't pay 80Rs like my friend did. If you can, walk the 5 minutes (towards Crawford Market, on right side, huge billboard in sky & everybody knows this place).

Bollywood extras :: to be one, either go hang out in Coloba & wait for the inevitable person to approach you with

an real offer to be an extra (don't worry, there are no scams going on with these offers, & after traveling i'm sure

your apprehensive about being approached on the streets, but this is how it's done in this biz). a pic to Reetu at : & let her know how long your in town for.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

:: India :: conclusions of 9 months on the subcontinent


India Conclusions ::

That ole classic spiritual book "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda planted this seed 12 years ago for my desire to see the ancient & magical lands of India. I spent 6 months there October 2006-March 07, and another 3 months September-November 2007. Incredible country with so many mystical temples, mesmerizing cultures & enchanting lore. I traveled around testing out different yoga teachers/schools/ashrams & beaches.

Cultural shock waves continually flowing through my mind-body-soul. From the Arctic North to the South Pole. Like a black hole, fully in control, consuming lightwaves until I feel full!

We are light beings dancing with our shadows of samsara in an eternal cycle of harmony & chaos of the Kali Age. The ancient Indian holy texts of the Vedas state that we are going through a long dark age of humanity called the Kali age, where fear & suffering seem to be increasing. India, the place where Buddha himself found a way to end this suffering & cultivate deep lasting inner peace. India, the land of Hinduism & it's massive temples & many deities. India, the land of the yogi's! I came to India, partly, to learn more about the spiritual history of yogi's, guru's, & enlightened ones that have given India & the world the jewels of enlightenment. From the times centuries before Christ to NOW, these saints have showed us a scientific path, logical straightforward techniques to end this darkness inside & manifest a lighter way of being. This is the path of self-realization, through daily medtiation, devotional ceremonies, pujas, chanting, intentions, internal cleansings, yoga & constant prayers to Divine Mother. This is a culture where people don't just go to church on Sundays for an hour, but life becomes their church & prayers roll off tongues during their daily routines. You can sense it everywhere in India...these

people are somehow closer to God & 'the goal' than us & our Christian/Catholic /Puritan cultural programs from the West.

I saw more people here smiling than any other place i've been to. Everyday....big smiles! Good energy! Innocence, playfulness, curiosity. A people ready to make new friends, "Hello friend! What is your good name?" they asked (about 10,000 times!).

I have to say that I came to India as one of these so called 'seekers' that come for the yoga, ashrams, gurus & to be around the

happy smiling Indians! I have never been comfortable with being a 'seeker'. Now, I feel that with what i've 'found' & discovered,

I am no longer a 'seeker'. What did I find you ask? I found a yoga school that is fulfilling with a five year program I intend

to go to throughout the next few years. I found a few retreats & ashrams that I can come to throughout the years when need be.

I was reminded that..."there is nothing to seek, nothing to attain." simple. be here now, & be here with gratitude! keep life simple. this is it!

But as many others have already said about India, I have to agree that it is most definitely a LOVE/HATE relationship!

What I love: The people have big smiles, open hearts & a genuine friendliness that I have not seen elsewhere!

The food was almost always delicious, and cheap! (of course, I was mostly eating non-Indian international food at touristy places). It was sooooo cheap to get a hotel room & meals! 6 months in

India for what some spend on 2 week vacations! The cheap yoga schools & massage courses that can teach you for one-fifth the price of back home! The Tibetan community of McLeod Ganj & the little I saw of the Himalaya's! Rishikesh, the holy Ganges, & many Sadhu's & yoga community there. Beaches of Arambol Goa! The people of Goa, Kerala & Tamil Nadu (they didn't seem to stare as much as up north & i felt they were more relaxed due to the beach lifestyle). The people wrapped in saris, dhotis, & turbans of every possible color....soooooo colorful India is! The live Indian music available often, & also a bargain price for admission. Taking trains to travel around, much better than the ole Greyhounds back home!

What I hate: The people were too friendly! Over-friendly to the point that you got harassed so many times EVERYDAY,

and do not have much personal space in this country. Being a foreigner, you are approached many many times, with

the same questions "From which country do you come?" & it just gets tiring over the months! It gets very tiring!!!

The staring problem. Why or why must they ALL stare so much? A completely different concept to our culture where staring

is very rude - here it is very much accepted, normal & you will get stared down like Bruce Lee about to begin a fight! Intense gazes that seem hostile at times, emotionless, black/brown dark eyes locked on you. You feel as you

are being judged (and maybe you are? maybe they are thinking "ugly stupid foreigner. why do you have money & not I? go home foreigner! go home infidel!"). My last days here after 5.5 months & I am still not used to the annoys me!

From the amazing book Shantaram (which i am excited to hear is being filmed now & Johnny Depp is the main character), Gregory Michaels says " "Foreigners were stared at in India. Somewhere in the five or more millennia of its history, the culture had decided to dispense with the casual, nonchalant glance. By the time I came to Bombay, the eye contact ranged from an ogling gaze to a gawping, goggle-eyed glare. There was nothing malicious in it. The staring eyes that found and followed me everywhere I went were innocent, curious, and almost always friendly. And that intense scrutiny had its benefits: for the most part, people stared at what I was, not what I did. Foreigners were stared into invisibility." It's true, they were almost always

friendly stares, and often...if you just did the Indian head wiggle or said hi, a huge smile would appear from their formerly-perceived-as -serious faces!

The noise pollution! Honking cars in every city, every highway, honk-honk-honking & LOUD horns that somehow get turned up past maximum volume (beyond any honk you have ever heard....somehow?).. .very bad on the nerves!

Also, in the very early mornings around 4am-8am, and also sometimes during the days at many small village temples throughout the country modern music, Hindi pop or new religious music, is played at this same volume setting - turned up so loud, beyond belief, to the point of distorting horrendously! Guess they want to wake up devotees & all signs of life in a 10 mile radius.

Perhaps what I hate about India the most is the way they treat our foreigner women....grabbing their bodies at times= mass sexual abuse! This is happening everywhere, everyday, & needs to stop! The theory is that Indians have seen Hollywood movies often showing women in mini-skirts & seen as promiscusous compared to their non-traditional ways. If I was a women that got groped, I would be breaking some noses! Totally unacceptable! You can look, but don't touch!!!

The post offices! Too many rules! Takes an hour to mail a package! You have to get it specially wrapped by a tailor. If it is books it has to be only books, and the package needs to have a hole on the side. You have to fill out FOUR forms for customs that are identical. Sometimes you have to photocopy your passport, sometimes you don't. And the packages don't always make it to their destination, as they probably make good presents for the dishonest employees.

Having to bargain ALL the time...for taxis, shopping, even hotel rooms. Rarely prices are fixed. It takes so much energy to do this all the time. If you don't, you get charged the tourist price, 2-10x more the regular local price! We'd tell them sometimes, "this is racism? why do you do this to our people?" But really, this is the asian way & has been since time here really don't think it will change soon. Good thing I went to so many garage sales & learned how to bargain back home!

But........Love conquers all. And...

Sometimes curiosity is greater than fear. I came to India with deep curiosity about these ancient civilizations, religions, people,

& places that make up this subcontinent. I admit that I came here with much fear as well. Fear of letting go of what I had back home :

good meaningful jobs doing social work, making music events, writing & performing music with a career starting to lift off, many good friends & family, and a beautiful room in a lovely big dream home that I was uber-comfortable in. Fear of traveling alone for many months in a strange new region where I knew next to nothing, did not speak any of the 300 dialects, where diseases run rampant, professional thieves & con-artists on every block, & of course fear of the unknown. I am glad I conquered these fears & jumped into this Indian abyss. I have learnt much & am grateful for this experience.

Trip mishaps :: dog attacked me & I slipped & fell & scraped up my lip & gums (nearly knocked out teeth), monkeys attacked me because there baby was scared of me, almost had a motorcycle accident in Rishikesh, but I got off 5 minutes before the driver crashed, Furuncle nose infection in Goa, allergic skin rash on thighs in Goa/Tamil Naud for 10 days, big bug bite on thigh that got infected & had to take

antibiotic & apply creams. All part of the adventure , huh?

How did you like India I am asked? I agree with Amy from Auroville who says, "I have immeasurable admiration & respect for the ancient traditions here but I find the external environment very challenging. Sometimes I literally feel like my brain cells are boiling with the heat." the Indian Hinglish (Hindi & English mix) saying goes...."What to do?" "What to do?".

Portugal :: 1st trip to Europe

Finally made it to Europe for my 1st trip. Portugal for 1 month. not your usual tourist trip. did psy-crisis work at drug emergency tent at Boom Festival for 9 days. Lisbon & south Portugal for the rest of the trip- about one month total. Loved walking along the cobblestone roads of Lisbon - my first time wandering around a city of the Old World. Went to the bar/club district & had a rare Adrian getting drunk night. good times!

comments after returning home ::

i'm back from Portugal 3 weeks of fun, adventure, hard work, sun, & new friends! what a trip. the Old World. finally!

things i liked ::

- the fact that you can drink in public, and even passengers in vehicles.

- Bairro Alto club/bar scene with 1000's hangin out in the streets

- the streets! so tiny, cobblestone, ancient labrynths of Lisbon that i got lost in many times. lost in a good way!

- the people. except for some Portuguese people (who i won't name) that were overworked, stressed, & therefore rude. or maybe they always are?

- Boom Fest. 50% was trance. the other 50% was very inspiring theme camps, art installations, huge bamboo hut for movies & workshops (my friends from Sunshine Coast actually organize this), a 24 hr. 7 day Chillout Zone for downtempo music (my fav), and a world music live band stage! this made the festival really cool!

We all worked real hard at the CosmiKiva Sanctuary psy-crisis tent & that was good experience. We are proposing to do this work at many other gatherings around the globe!

- the ancient Moor Castle, National Palace, & other things in Sintra (half hour from Lisbon). this place has been compared to Lord of Rings because of it's elfin mountainside charm.

- the beaches! Portugal is like the California of Europe. West Coast, baby! Hot sun, beautiful beaches, surfing. the good life!

things i didn't like so much::

- Europe is so expensive compared to Canada/US. eating out at restaurants 3x day didn't help i guess, but we didn't have a kitchen. i was missing all my favorite North American health food & home cooked meals. Plus, being a pescatarian (only fish) that eats mostly vegetarian was challenging. And...they don't eat breakfast in Portugal! just wine, pastry, espresso & off to work!

- The vibe in Lisbon feeling too cramped, dense, less space than my open young Vancouver or other North American big cities i'm used to. I hardly saw any houses in Lisbon. mostly ancient 1800's apartments & narrow streets. no backyard luxuries here, unless your one of the few lucky rich folks that own a castle or to up in the other side of the hill near Sintra.

- Driving like a maniac. People drive way too fast for comfort on the highways! Very dangerous, but it kept me awake & alert!

- Not knowing Portuguese sucked. Language barriers suck. Can't wait til we can download language software for our brains. I want to speak them all! Or maybe English should just be the Universal Language & to hell with the rest of them! They're all dying languages anyway, right?

Overall :: The trip was fantastic. I can't wait to go back to Europe & spend time in each & every country there, & find faults in every single one too!

1st trip to Asia :: 2 months Feb-March 2002

Bangkok. Wow! A huge metropolis that somehow seems relaxed & laid back. maybe it's the buddism (95% of Thais are Buddhist)....all the daily buddhist prayer & mediations must keep the road rage & anxiety at bay.

I finally made the dream a reality & made it to Asia. For 2 months I enjoyed the buddhist cultures of Thailand, Laos, & Cambodia. This was a trip i did for my 4th year at college majoring in cultural studies. I went with the group Village Studies and had a great adventure. Even though I prefer not to travel in groups, this went smooth & proved helpful for my 1st trip to Asia. I did a homestay in south Thailand with a pro Thai kickboxer & his family (this one makes an interesting story...later!) , was an english teacher volunteer at a large elementary school in north Thailand, spent 2 weeks in Luang Prabang, Laos , and did the tourist path of 4 days in Cambodia for Angkor Wat.

Had a wicked fun time!

Mexico & Central American journies ::

I've been to Mexico about 5 times (4 months total) & Guatemala 2x (2 months total), Honuras 1x (2 weeks), & Belize 1x for 2 days. And i'd go again at the drop of a dime! especially want to go Costa Rica!

Timetravel back 200 years?

I liked the vibe in San Cristobal & Chiapas Mexico state in general. Native tribal people everywhere that were wearing their colorful traditional clothing & living the simple life. Big smiles from these modern Mayas!

So....i travelled their trail down to Guatemala which is even more indigenous & 3rd world at it's best! It's like time travelling back 200 years where Native Americans are everywhere, only it was 1996 & there were hotels, ATMs, & pizza for me, & even the natives were drinking Coke & Pepsi & changing with these drastic times. Nice to see so many Indigenous people that were not how i'm used to seeing them in the States....drunk, homeless, etc....These are descendants of the Maya & other tribes, still very grounded in tradition & simple lifestyles. I could feel there vitality from living so close to the Earth. The beauty in there smiles & glitter in the eyes from knowing that closesness to Gaia. A way of life modern humanity has lost touched with...

A real sense of pride, family, & love here that has kept their traditions alive, even through some of the most horrific civil wars & American foreign politics that lead to many many thousands of brutal killing in the not too distant past (80's?).

It was exciting being in Lake Atitlan, a lake with 3 massive 10,000ft+ volcanoes surrounding the proximity of the water. I stayed at a place called "Los Pyramids" - a meditation retreat where I rented a pyramid shaped hut for a few nights & days of silent meditation. Interesting place. I remember the herb garden they grew had sacred geometry images formed by the plants.

This 3 month trip to Mexico, Guatemala (1.5 months), Honduras isla Utila (2 weeks) & Belize (traveling through a day)...was my first journey outside of the USA. it was a BIG eye opener. I love Latin culture, history, spanish & would love to go back for more trips in the future.