Taking that Leap...

"Go Deep
Embrace the unknown.
Changing your perspective
Will Change your mind.
Go Deep”
Earth Wisdom
I will admit that taking that leap of faith of going into that faithful journey inwards was not as easy as one would think. It had nothing to do with my faithful application process by diligently accomplishing all of the tasks like my JET ( Japanese Teaching Exchange Programme) application or telling them at the center that I would go at that very moment. I was dedicated that’s for sure with the several months of continually applying to centers across the country and finally putting the faith into the one closest to home to answer my prayer. As I look back, you could say it had something to do with that initial step into the unknown and knowing that this is what I had to do to move ahead on the path. It’s not like I don’t show up each day doing the work cos I do, it was more of the fact to go deeper into the unknown for me. Each one of us walks a path, but the path is unique as unique to the individual who is walking it.  I have always been attracted to ancient wisdom of amongst other things. I just knew that my heart was guiding me to face my fears and to actually make peace with sitting with myself.
The days leading up to my actual departure were filled with endless sleepless nights, deep cleaning of items that no longer served me anymore, a trip to the foot spa Soakology in Portland, acupuncture at the Maine Center for Acupuncture, reading a couple of Patti Smith books, working on my photography projects and watching Twlight movies on FX. I know, Twlight doesn’t sound like me, but it’s one of those things that will get you addicted to. I much prefer the Harry Potter books or Star Wars to be honest. I was overwhelmed with all of the positive support that I received from the friends that I told and family about my journey.  I knew that it was now or never to take that leap. I was at the point where I had to take control of my mind, throw out the spiritual entertainment and to show up every day to do the work at a far grater level.
I set out on that faithful morning driving out to Shelburne, Massachusetts to the Vipassan Center with saying goodbye to my sister and her dog. I could sense that she knew that I was nervous cos she brought over her dog to say good bye and to wish me well on my journey.  I got in the car with my hands clench to the wheel as I left Maine headed down I95 to I495 to Route 2 to reach my final destination with Siri as my faithful copilot. The day was beautiful and much warmer from the previous one that in fact was snowy and cold. The sun was shining bright. As I drove, I noticed how beautiful it was to escape the busyness of Boston and Worcester traffic, but how peaceful the remote countryside was. I never had been out to these parts before, the Pioneer Valley was filled with gorgeous streams and mountains peacefully welcoming any visitor! I wasn’t really nervous about going, since I had my mind made up for months that this is what I was going to do, it was more with facing the fear of sitting with myself in silence.
I reached the charming town of Shelburne Falls about three hours from when I left my house. The traffic wasn’t too bad after I left I495 since I left later in the morning to beat the morning rush hour. I found the town very easy with one main street that I recognized from the movie Labor Day based on the novel by Joyce Maynard. I had my camera and seeing what would strike my eye before I went into silence. I explored the Glacier Potholes and the Bridge of Flowers before eating a hearty filling lunch at Hearty Eats full of fresh local organic gluten free yummy goodness. After my filling lunch, I decided to make my way to the center. I turned down Colrain Shelburne Road in Shelburne noticing how beautiful the apple trees from the local orchard were along with how gorgeous this road really was. I will admit that David Bowie’s Changes was playing on the radio... “I still don’t know what I was waiting for And my time was running wild” What a perfect song to mark the occasion and I was very excited to be listing to an artist whom brings me great joy. For months all what I can think of is that I’m going to go through some type of Ziggy Stardust transformation. The path of the creative is to get rid of the old to make space for the new to come in. Let the beautiful light unfold.
Fibonacci in Nature
I reached the center, got checked into my lovely single room with a bathroom for the ten days. I was quite impressed on how poshed the mediation center was and very cleaned too, spotless. Once I got sorted, I felt as if I actually belonged to be there and this would ease my comfort for my stay.  I had to turn in my valuables, the car keys, crystals and mala beads. The hardest part was for me to surrender my phone, since I will admit that I get addicted to pressing those apps to see if there's something for me to do to look outside for the answers. I could barely talk during the first day with my throat swelled up from allergies and nerves to the other students. During the light meal at dinnertime we shared with each other why we came and what we hoped to obtain during our time. I was stoked that there were many people like myself looking to find a piece within their own selves on the journey. It didn’t matter how further long the path they were. Everyone has their own path to walk, what really matters is that your wiliness and drive to let go of past conditioning to find the real beauty of enlightenment. After a brief orientation the noble vow of silence took place when I walked into the mediation hall that night. I found my space on the floor with a cushion that had my name marked on it by a piece of paper. My own little space for the journey and there were many moments where I felt like I was kid again playing around with all of the mediation pillows like I was building a fort for comfort for the journey.  
“A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh
The phone, the TV and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell, oh oh oh oh
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang”
~The Pretenders
The Wildflower I Kept on Eyeing in the Woods
For the next ten days, nine of which were in silence of the time I would literally sit or be in meditation for about 18 hours, expect for the five minutes that I committed to speak with the instructor each day for a check in on my progress. I had great validity that my inner work has been working all this time. I kept on surprising myself with my daily check in’s with the instructor. Get up at 4:30AM and retire to sleep at 9:00PM was the lifestyle. I enjoyed the nightly discourse with learning the principles. It’s not like I didn’t know any of the material presented in the talks, it was more of me to rehear it again to deepen my own practice.  The schedule reminded me of my days out in the bush in South Africa where I would wake up bright ‘n early to mediate before the sunrise drive. Listing to the animals out in the far distance was a blessing to hear the sound of silence so early. I will admit that I had Prince lyrics blasting in my head first thing in the morning while mediating; sometimes a Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Queen or Rolling Stones one would appear as well. I had visions of “sugar plum fairies” of the past with the good, bad and ugly all coming up. It was time to really surrender and to let whatever comes up comes without forming an attachment to it. Just feel the sensations of the body and just let them simply be. I had quite the detox symptoms, but oh well I survived; it was all part of the process. I didn’t feel guilty with not saying excuse me for farting up a storm during the mediation hall. Words are just fillers with what your mind and the mind of someone else wants. Mental attachments are a things of our minds make up as some type of “mental drama”, just be an observer and let the moment go with grace despite how “bad” it can be. My body was aching from sitting still for an hour at a time up straight with very little movement.  The first few days I would dose off and be woken up by my head nudging. As death to the ego, more like what Wayne Dyer likes to call “to edge god out” was happening a new way of intense brain surgery was taking place from learning the art of mediation to rewire the brain. You don’t need to take a prescription or get attached to any addiction to take care of your own suffering. You just got to learn how to ride the waves and to be gentle on yourself without any of the vices. I’ve been there with drinking a few too many drinks, to watching the news endlessly, watching the telly way too much and repeating negative thinking to miss out on the beauty of the present moment. But once you can accept what truly is, that is where the real beauty lies. We are all born with love and happiness; it’s our own suffering and the suffering of others, which bring about our own misery. It’s about raising our own vibration to find that place of peace within ourselves and to cultivate our own joy.
I enjoyed walking on the trails at the center during break times. Mindfulness walking in practice with observing what I could really see in the woods. I would often think of the rule of two thirds on how I would compose a photo. I clearly saw for the first time in nature sacred geometry and the beauty of leaves. Often times I looked for it out in the Alaskan wilderness, but couldn’t just quite see what I wanted to. I just took my time scooping out the scene to once when I got my camera back at the end to actually take the time to photograph what I wanted. But then again, I surprised myself with what I found, cos each moment is different. You never know what the light will be doing or what will strike your eye at a much grater level.
 “Every second, every minute
It keeps changing to something different
Enlightenment, don’t know what is
Enlightenment, don’t know what is
It says it’s non attachment
Non attachment. Non attachment”
~Van Morrison
Prayers for Peace
To access the kingdom of heaven, one must go within. What I found in myself is not what another would find cos no two people are identical. The Dharma is found in all of us, it’s an universal truth as with the laws of nature. We are just flowing down the stream the best to our ability. It’s our own conditioning of the mind that makes us suffer. The real beauty lies in the moment and to surrender is what we must do to move moment by moment. It’s all about the journey not the labels that we give or the final destination. Seek out the adventure from within. To form non attachment to things is what we must seek out. Just surrender to the higher self and to trust the process that you will indeed survive, it’s all about sharpening your intuition and to lead with the heart. We must learn how to live with our hearts and to do things out for our own good not what others want you to do. Seek out the unknown.
“And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make”
~The Beatles 
The guru is found within yourself. Teachers and mentors will come and go. It’s all about choosing your own happiness and love to show up and do the work moment by moment. Our own thoughts create our reality. Energy is moving through us, just get rid of the mental labels that are holding you back. A negativity free diet of three days or more can be really transformational.
"You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
~A.A Milne (Christopher Robin, in Winnie the Pooh)
I was quite impressed that I survived the experience. I kept on thinking that I was in the swamp with Yoda learning what I needed to known to move ahead on the path. I didn’t have a Lightsaber in hand, only my own mind and my own deep desire to conquer the storms from within. I knew that I would see the light from the cave or prison like setting. I’m not one to give up that easy. Maybe it’s that “fighting Irish” in me, but yet again that has been part of me from every lifetime. Working on you is an art, but trusting and having faith in the practice is key to optional success.  However, you must clear away the negativity to seek out the real beauty and to surrender to what is. There’s great deep rooted knowledge within. Just listen and trust your intuition to really shine, but shine bright with all of your inner strength.
“The quieter you become the more you can hear.”
~Ram Dass
Once the tenth day came along, I felt relieved that the vow of noble silence was over. It wasn’t an easy task, but took some training to stay focus on being silence and not to disturbed the other participants too. I recall that it was hard to hear at first cos my eardrums were burning with sensations. It was like I was being birthed into a new light and world. The world that I once knew it got change. But to really to make any change one must go within to seek the change that they are truly looking for.  It was nice to be in a communal setting somehow working with everyone in silence to meet our end results. Talking with the other participants at the end was a blessing to hear how my own experience was similar to another. It was nice to be a place with so much positive high love vibrations to grow and to offer growth to others. Keep on shining bright. Turn on your love light and keep it on…
“We think so often that we are helpless, but we're not. We always have the power of our minds… Claim and consciously use your power.”
~ Louise L. Hay
Reflection of the New England Peace Pagoda
I did end up hearing The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon “Hello darkness, my old friend I've come to talk with you again Because a vision softly creeping Left its seeds while I was sleeping And the vision that was planted in my brain Still remains within the sound of silence” while in Shelburne Falls. I knew quickly that I would hear the song for numerous reasons only for me to understand. I took a little detour the other day on my way back home with going to see the New England Peace Pagoda as I slowly reenter the world. It was a beautiful spot to explore and reminded me of being back in Asia. I wanted to squeeze in some camera time and to take advantage of the ruralness of the land. I just hop in the car and drove off not knowing what the moment would bring or where I would stop. I found some statues of Native Americans too and from that it reminded me how ancient civilizations always placed their faith in nature to ride the waves.
“Gotta hold on you
A new sensation, a new sensation
Right now gonna take you over
A new sensation, a new sensation”

There’s a lot of truth in the laws of nature, it’s an universal law! So much beauty is out there; you just have to go past your own judgments and the judgments of others to truly to see what is. The real beauty lies within. Go within and seek all that is. And so it is…

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