Bodhisattva and the Wailers – thoughts on finding your happiness

In my work I am lucky to meet some amazing people, most of my colleagues are incredibly talented and in my daily routine I sometimes take care of celebrities. However, two weeks ago I had a moment that spoke to me more than most as I spent some time with the venerable Dupsing Rinpoche. Not only did this encounter evoke memories from my time in Nepal it also spiralled my thinking out of control. In particular I found myself looking at his face which radiated a sublime happiness; my trippy wife calls it an aura and in this moment I truly understood what she means. Dupsing displayed a confident contentment and this is from a man whose people have been forced to leave their home. If I look at other disposessed native people this is hardly the look I usually see; that though is another story.

So I have been left wondering what gives a man such an appearance. Over coffee yesterday a friend was joshing me (giving me a hard time for non Brits), that I was obsessed and that he too looked happy. Now, no offence, the thing is I rarely see people look this happy and know that they live it constantly. Yes I see euphoric rushes, moments when people are blissful. This though I feel was a constant. I have seen this beatific smile in one other place recently and that is on a video of the Wailers shot by some friends. http://vimeo.com/35125194 check out the guy in the middle; the thing is I have not been in his presence so I do not know if he radiates happiness.

So back to the question, what allows someone to emanate such a glow, well in the case of Dupsing I think I know. The venerable Rinpoche has always known who he is and was told as much when he was young by people who had sought him out. (Check out his story http://www.dupsing.org/Biography.htm) He has been living his destiny as a result of this. When things are tough he knows that it is for a reason and he knows that his life takes discipline and he is more than willing to embrace it. As a living reincarnation he basically knows who he is.

Just as a farmer in Greece plants an olive tree knowing that it will wait for his grandson to reap the fruit, there is something rassuring in living this concept of impermanent permanence. Knowing who you are allows you to relax and be just that, it removes immeasurable choices that do not really help us and lets us focus on what we can affect. Dupsing is happy because he has worked at the things that he knows will make a difference, he knows he is working towards being the best he can be and he knows he is helping others in this process.

What can you or I do in this moment to know who we are and who we can help? Armed with this thought I look forward to seeing more smiles.

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Awake in a time of slumber

Walking through a mall the other day I was amazed at some of the expressions that I was witnessing. While there were couples and groups that portrayed an image of happiness, the most common condition was a zoned out state. Watching someone with a lifeless gaze following a trajectory through a crowd seemingly taking nothing in nor connecting with anyone en route is both a sad condition and also rife. Why is it something I see in the west and yet while travelling and living in developing countries it did not appear to be an available condition? Living in Nepal I saw people with nothing embracing every minute. Cooking dinner, tending the livestock, washing clothes by hand, tilling fields people appeared present. More often than not they were in the company of others and talking. Without a cell phone or digital connection they were not pulled in a multitude of directions. They were “there” listening to their friend. When I talk to people I often wonder if they are fully with me or in a place with their thoughts. I will be honest, I wonder this because I am guilty of it.

Was I always like this? Did I always tend to my own thoughts rather than being available to those of the person I am with? I like to think that this was not a chronic condition in my youth. I want to believe that I grew to be this way and that I can return to a way of being that allows me to be fully immersed in what I am doing rather than thinking of what I am about to do or what I have just done. What I recognize is that in a world full of distractions and “stuff” then it is going to be a work of resolve to return to my previous behaviors. Being present is a discipline.

Maybe it is time to go off on a long backpacking trip as a kick start. Walking was always the best meditation I knew. What are you going to do to be present?

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” Kung Fu Panda or perhaps Babatunde Olatunji.

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Attractive Images: Finding your way with dreams

Prepare yourself there are a lot of “I”s in this post. Hang on in there though it is a pretty good story. I alluded to the fact in the last post that I never really thought I would live in Nepal; what I did not say was that I dreamed of it constantly. From the days when I first started climbing and even before I was drawn to mountain literature. The stories are all human and involve great courage and endurance, there is a gritty realism where bad things happen and the protagonists have to deal with them. Inevitably there is an exploration of relationships, what makes a good partner, a fine leader and how we define ourselves by the landscapes we choose to visit. The word-smithing is often beautiful too and conjures incredible images. With these filling my mind I was drawn to the Himalayas like a pregnant woman to ice cream.

When I made the decision to spend time in Nepal I wrote so many letters and really had only one response. One line stood out in the missive, “What do you know about Permaculture? If you know nothing about Permaculture you are no use to us!” So off I went on a quest. I started to learn about Permaculture in the UK and when I found out it had its origins in Australia I chose to go there to study. Following courses and a stay with the founder, I travelled though South East Asia, doing voluntary work along the way until I arrived in Nepal.

Arriving with a tourist visa I was expecting a three month stay so I decided to embrace where I was and did all I could to engage with situations and people. In the first week in the office I involved myself with writing newsletters, designing programs and farms and even helped a random stranger with their resume. The following week I attended the first national workshop of regenerative agriculture, I also presented my work groups findings. Even better I was able to tour farms and communities in various settings. After nine weeks I started to wonder if I was going to be able to perpetuate my stay. When I went to my boss asking for ideas I was not really expecting much; I asked anyway. Bhadri’s response was rather surprising. The resume I had written had gained its owner the new title of Acting Director of Imigrations. We went to him, cap in hand, asking if I could change my visa from tourist to non tourist – being typically Nepali he did not want to lift his head above the parapet and was not willing to help unless I had a letter from a government official. I was crestfallen. Bhadri however smiled and told me that I knew someone in government. I laughed until he told me that the quiet gentleman in my work group at the workshop was actually the secretary of the ministry of agriculture. A quick visit there and I was able to return to the Department of Immigration armed with an official letter with a government seal.

All of a sudden I was able to live in Nepal indefinitely, I could buy property and cross country flights cost nothing. Again, I am not sure how this all happened and I never did meet anyone else who managed to pull this stunt off. All I know is that I had wanted to spend an extended time in that wonderful country since I could remember and somehow it became possible. The only solution I have aligns with the law of attraction. By creating a strong enough image you can make it happen.

My time in Nepal was amazing. What are you going to attract?

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Creating your roadmap: dreams and futures

A couple of years ago I was reflecting on the places that I have lived and trying to figure out if there was any reason why I had been attracted to those places in particular. At the time, there really seemed to be no pattern. Each of the places seemed unlikely for different reasons. I never really wanted to spend an extended time in Australia because my mother had emigrated there in her twenties and I did not want to follow in her footsteps. Nepal always seemed to be a hard country to gain a visa for. The States was the place of movies rather than somewhere I was going to end up living even if Colorado has the perfect climate and incredible mountains. Alaska, now there is a far flung frontier, what does anyone want to do moving there?

During our sojourn in Alaska; which really is an incredible place, I wrestled with why. One day it suddenly struck me. On the wall of my room at school I had placed posters and a few pictures from magazines. In particular there were four large images of climbers and guess where the climbs were; Australia, Nepal, Colorado and Alaska. Now I have never done any of those routes but something must have resonated. A seed must have been sowed and nurtured which led to my following through and all this was done at a sub conscious level.

My conclusion is that dreams really are powerful. Creating images of where you want to go is far more productive than looking at roadblocks.

What do you want to do and how are you going to create the images that will take you there?

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Biomimicry, pesticides and emotions: a fairly profound thought (for me)

Al Anbar Province, Iraq (Nov. 16, 2004) &ndash...
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Walking in to work this morning I had an aha moment; I was watching someone spray their yard with Roundup and memories started to flood back. Sometimes Monkey mind can provide a great journey.

Several years after finishing a degree in Environmental Studies I decided to go travel and teach. My goal was to spend time in Nepal and the first organization to respond to my request to do voluntary work suggested I learn something about Permaculture before arriving in Kathmandu. I chose to study in Australia where the concepts had originated and in particular to go and meet the man who had initially pulled the ideas together. Bill Mollison is an incredible person, not so much an original thinker as a watcher of natural processes and a collector of amazing practices and he had created a two week Permaculture Design Course (PDC). This did more to give me a framework for all the random bits of information that I had collected in my lifetime than 3 years in college ever did and also the tools to make the rest of my travels positive for myself and the farmers I met along the way. Something it might help to know is that Permaculture is based on watching what nature does, recognizing her patterns and endeavouring to have her do work for you.

One vivid memory I have sees me in a remote village in Nepal. I am sat on my haunches on the mud floor of a simple straw hut surrounded by farmers and their sons. I am telling them about how the chemicals they have been sold by western companies to help their crops have been banned in the west, in fact they are known as the dirty dozen; there are tears sliding down my cheeks.

Something I learned during the PDC was to ask why things were happening the way they were. If a certain weed is growing it is providing something that is needed by the soil, if I can figure out what the soil needs then I can take care of it, if I poison the weed, then ultimately I am going to poison the soil around it. The bottom line is that things happen for a reason.

I have another vivid memory of a session in a hot, dry Australian classroom that explained natural succession and planting accordingly. Two years earlier I had planted oak trees for an organization in cold, wet Wales, and it did not seem right. Now half way around the world, armed with a simple model I was able to picture the whole natural succession that allows an oak to grow. Firstly, a weed; often bracken, grows, sending down enormous tap roots, deep mining the soil for minerals and then leaving a dense mulch layer on the top. Then a plant like gorse pops through, it is a nitrogen fixer and is prickly and keeps animals away. After a while, birch pushes its way up through the gorse. Birch grows for 30 years, it spaces the oak and helps these big trees grow straight and tall before it too dies out and gives the oak the space it needs to thrive. The take home lesson is it might be more productive to plant one of the earlier species in the succession rather than the tree you want to grow, especially if the soils are not ready to provide for it.

Wandering past this lady with her Roundup, I was wondering what the soil actually needed, I was also debating what the end result of her actions were going to be. She certainly was not solving the problem, even if the symptom was going to “disappear” for a while. What were the side effects? Was her dog going to notice what was happening to his stomach having inhaled the fine mist? I believe we become desensitized to the idea of pesticides because it is now so mainstream. (Red Herring Alert: How sad is it that I have to go out of my way to buy food that is natural and unsullied by human tampering?)

Here though is my realization. If I consider my emotions in the same way that Bill helped me to see nature then rather than trying to deal with symptoms I need to see what is underlying them. For a number of years I have been trying to fix things that I see as problems, basically I have been spraying Roundup. Now I need a different model for dealing with the “issues” in my life. The difficult part is going to be finding a framework that worked as effectively as figuring out the natural succession of a Welsh oak wood while sitting in a room in Australia. Another friend of mine who is the chair of a psychology department suggested I start with Erikson & Maslow – I love both men’s theories however I am looking for something that I can figure out for myself, based on my own observations, in the same way as I did the oak wood.

I do not have a question for you today, I will though happily take suggestions.

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Life Shapers

A friend’s Facebook recently sparked off a train of thought. Stu likes to post pictures, his is a happy Facebook, one where he shares images of a smiling family playing outdoors and also his recent climbing exploits. Of late there have been photographs of classic North Wales climbing, the routes I lived and breathed in my teens. Of note to me a climb called First Slip an E1 (climbing parlance describing difficulty) at Tremadog and a series of routes on Dinas Cromlech including Cenotaph Corner E1. It was the first time Stu had climbed the Corner in 17 years and it reminded me of a childhood promise. I was going to lead it on or before my 16th birthday or come back when I was 65. In the end I stood below it a couple of days before my birthday and psyched out; in all fairness it is an austere place. However, just days before I climbed a route on it’s right wall, Cemetery Gates which now receives the same grade and on my birthday I climbed First Slip. Many more routes of that grade were climbed that summer and I kept my word by not coming back to climb the Corner leaving it as a pensioner’s present to himself.

The thing is two years ago I noticed something spooky from that period of my life. I was trying to figure out why I might have spent extended periods of time in the countries and States that I have been fortunate enough to call home; Australia, Nepal, Colorado and Alaska are a strange cocktail after all. It suddenly occurred to me that there had been a series of small posters on my wall at school and I had spent a lot of time looking at them. Each of these pictures had depicted a climb in the countries I have mentioned. Now I do not believe that I have done any of the climbs (although routes close to a few of them now provide memories & stories), I am though blown away that mental images from my teens can so shape my life.

Here is the thing, over the last 5 years I have let my fitness slip and I am not really on track to accomplish my promise. It is time to do something about it and I am now wondering if they give discounts for airfares booked 21 years in advance.

What strong images have shaped your life?

And here is one for me to shape my 60’s.

Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivorengine/2932113579/

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