Saturday, April 21, 2007


Do we know how to relax? When we relax, are we truly relaxing or are we merely suspending activity? My first few days back on the trail, and I have come face to face with this question. In my first 48 hours, I was surprised by the cacophony in my mind.
It has been a long time since I read Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. My memory of the exact phrasing is a bit murky yet I clearly remember a thought I had when reading it. He talks about the chatter in our minds and one of the benefits/purposes of meditation is to harness the endless many voices in our heads; through meditation we can clear out the chatter. However, meditation is not something you can do once and expect it work. It takes daily practice to achieve any results. It is amazing how, through lack of practice, I have allowed so many choirs to run rampant through my head. The events which forced these singers from the stage were not planned, yet in the end, I welcomed the shock to my system.
It was my first day back on doxycycline. I had taken it a bit too long after lunch which has a disastrous effect on the stomach. Sitting, sweating, nauseous in the Hippie-Hi bar, I tried to eat, tried to drink but could only manage to recline in an upholstered chair and watch a bad movie about Santa Claus’ daughter, the marketing exec, returning to the North Pole. Fighting with my stomach while disgusted with this rot from Hollywood, I noticed something I was too busy to see only days earlier; relaxation was something I only pretended to do.
My mind whirled. My thoughts, trite and disjointed and endless, seemed like a rapid switching of channels on the television. On one channel I paused just long enough to understand the plot line. It was an infomercial selling the idea that I too have become entrenched in the business of generating pure rot – just like Hollywood. I tried to turn off the set, but the channels kept switching. Doxy pushed me back into my chair until it was time to catch my overnight bus.
Sleepless for two days my thoughts became even more pointless. Eventually, they made no sense at all. As if my thoughts were the sounds of babies screaming on airplanes I tuned them out – only a faint glimmer of hope existed that once we landed, they would resume their quiet gurgling. I stayed awake through the day. In the early evening, I had some crickets and beer on the banks of the Mekong with a friend. I had returned to the land where time stands still, the mighty brown river washes anxiety away, slow this time of year, but just as solid as the monsoon season.
After my friend left, I sat in silence, finishing my beer, watching the sunset. This thought came to me: It takes some time to relax. It is not just an hour in the spa or the decompression tank that allows us to relieve ourselves from the frenzy. We need time to first realize exactly how fast we are moving and then it takes even more time to release ourselves from the bonds we make with our inner chorus. Maybe it takes focusing on something in a selfless way, too. Some time with close friends, a sunset on the lazy river bank and I feel I am getting nearer to relaxation, but I am not quite there yet. Perhaps with some daily practice, I can find a calmness in my mind which I once knew so well.

Monday, April 16, 2007


I once heard someone say there is no such thing as coincidence. In ways, I agree with this; everything is inextricably connected although we may not be able to divine the connection.

Earlier this winter, I was sitting at a café talking to my sister on the phone. At the time, I was struggling with the thought of what to do when I grow up. I had been considering several things such as starting a school, returning to the corporate world, becoming an illegal immigrant in the USA, and other lucrative prospects. The one choice I had decided on that day was to return to Laos

Just as I uttered those words to my sister, a bird pooped on my journal. I laughed and thought “Ok, if that is not a clear omen I don’t know what is”. In Italy it is considered good luck to have a bird poop on you and although I don’t think anyone who has ever worked on a chicken farm puts much stock in this superstition, I like to think it is not completely random – there is no such ting as coincidence, right? If nothing else, perhaps such events prompt us to direct the energy of our subconscious towards manifesting our goals. I’m not sure. It doesn’t always work. Maybe not all bird poop has the same potency. Going on blind faith, I locked in my plans that day and have worked towards my decision.

Over the months of sorting out a myriad of papers and research and maps and such, I felt an uneasiness. No others birds made any deposits on my journal. In fact, no birds deposited on my car, my shirt, or anything else. I began to wonder if I had made an erroneous choice based on a completely silly wives tale. However, not being one to upset old wives, I persevered despite an overwhelming absence of omens. Then, the other day after buying my plane ticket the cosmos winked and grinned at me.

I was sitting in a different café sipping my morning coffee when I looked up to see a sight very unusual here in North America, but all too common in Asia. A young puppy who had been tied to a table leg while its owner was inside getting coffee had managed to climb up on the table to get a better view of the goings on inside the coffee shop. During my last trip to Thailand, I noted the how frequently I saw dogs resting on the orange concrete table outside of homes and I noticed when I returned to Canada that the dogs all slept underneath tables. I don’t think it really means anything yet at the same time it means everything.

I suppose my point is that sometimes when I am wondering if I am completely off in outer space it takes something like that to assure me that outer space is really not so bad. It’s actually sort of exciting, at least for me and the dogs.