The people in my neighborhood


freedom

As a traveler, I’m often asked about life in different places. Some ask practical questions like where I go, how to get a visa, cost of things, how to pay for it, etc. Some want to know about cuisine and lifestyle, curious about others’ beliefs, how others see the world. And a select few ask me how each place has shaped me, what facets of my own character were unlocked in my time there. This last one strikes closest to the heart of how I perceive my journey. For each place I have gone, I have met the unexpected, moments when limited little conditioned me cracked open, and a new branch of my self was born. My perceptions and skills change with the settings i choose. I believe this is true for everyone, but many never change their settings very much, so skills and perceptions don’t develop. This is sad to me, and probably a major reason i write, to encourage the reader to keep expanding.

I’ve always been drawn to things on the fringe. Brilliant ideas, innovation, creativity, authenticity, the weird and extraordinary. As I indulge my curiosity in these things, grown more comfortable out there, I’ve met all sorts of characters, deep friendships, kindred spirits who chose a similar path to my own, away from the culture that raised them, yet plugged into something powerful, a sense of life I often find missing where cultural conditioning is too strong. Some people I meet assume all the vagabonds and expats I meet are bums, lost and out of touch. On the contrary, the tribe I encounter out in the wind are more vibrantly alive than most I meet back in the ‘real world’. So I thought I’d introduce you to some of them, show you how some others exist in the world out beyond the fence.

Steven grew up in the USA. For all of his young life, he played by the rules. He was clean-cut, brilliant, studied engineering and sciences. By the time he was 40, he had a successful business, a nice house, and thought himself in good health. On the outside, life looked picture perfect. Then one day, he felt a bump, went to the doctor, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Doctors gave him 6 months to live. He sought a few opinions in the medical world, but they all offered the same grim news. Steven had always studied holistic medicine theories as a hobby, but decided to trust what he knew, to commit to his body’s intuitive wisdom, and go heal himself. He sold his business and moved to Asia where he immersed himself in the study of energy work, herbal remedies, detox, and adapted to a slower pace of life. Now, 15 years later, he runs a successful treatment center in Indonesia where clients come for everything from optimum health consulting to cancer treatment. His center boasts an 85% overall cure rate for cancers, something no western hospital could dream of. When he’s not saving ‘incurable’ cases in paradise, he’s riding his bike, climbing a mountain, or otherwise enjoying the life doctors told him would end 15 years ago.

Patrick used to write speeches for politicians in the west. At some point, he lost the stomach for the game. His attention turned to integrative medical practices as the concept was first developing in the late 1980s. Studying the benefits of meditation on healing, effects of diet in well-being, he eventually found himself in role of advocate, advising hospitals on how to improve their programs. When I met him, he had been living in Australia, running a holistic health retreat for years. After friends introduced us at an event, we fell into instant rapport. Our discussions always went to our shared love of karma yoga, and how to live it. Basically, a karma yogi is one who serves, sharing something of value with the intention to uplift, but unattached to outcomes. This concept requires a faith that our western upbringing never prepared us for; a faith that is irresistible to the mystic dreamer in us. A karma yogi’s role is to trust the process, trust the world to provide, to surrender attachment to any credit or reward. This all sounds poetic on the page, reading about Jesus or Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, but I have known quite a few in this world. Patrick is one of the most sincere. He’s a few years ahead of me on the path, so I found his account of how it all goes totally inspiring. He’s now at a place where his social network and experience make him valuable. He gets called to places all over Earth to help them set up retreat centers, flown there, well fed and housed. He clearly states his own needs for survival, and receives all that is needed. Last I saw him, he looked totally unremarkable, invisible on the street. As we talked over coffee, he described the school he was building in Africa and a project he was just wrapping up in Hawaii. As always, he inspired me with his youthful enthusiasm, intense presence, and a total lack of external show of wealth.

Ganesha the talented bodyworker from Italy, who makes his living healing bodies and selling vibrant gypsy clothes, wanders all over the globe, engaged with a childlike presence you can feel in his presence. Chandra, the priestess from another dimension who guided me in a mushroom ceremony, spends her time walking the Earth, eyes open to wonder, sharing light with every being who crosses her path. Michael, the retired Australian grandfather who wears all white and teaches energy healing techniques along the Ganges river in India, simply radiates wisdom through his clear blue eyes. Joshua, the 2nd-generation bodyworker in Mexico with a lobby full of patients waiting, fixed my intolerable shoulder pain in under a minute, saying “OK it’s finished” before I even described the pain. Some wander, some stay put, but what attracts me is the rare sense of purpose and principle they embody. Like a moth to flame, I am drawn to those who know their genius, accept their power, develop their craft, and accept grace to guide. A common trait is that they know themselves, and offer it to the world. This is the magic that we can sometimes forget in the monotonous rhythmic lullaby through life. But even in our deepest sleep, there are those around us that catch our eye, shining something we can’t quite describe, dancing to their own rhythm, reminding us to look for our own. They’re everywhere, these people I find living in truth, following bliss, limiting exposure to what insults their harmony.

The truth is I find inspiring friends absolutely everywhere. One quality they all share is an understanding of culture’s damaging effect on their authenticity. They all stay on the fringe, realizing indulging too much in the news or stress of life erodes relationship with self, with soul. I believe staying unplugged, allowing space to cultivate the weird is necessary to stay real, to stay interesting, to know who you are. In my own life, every time I’ve stepped away from the din of culture (media, advertising, values), I have felt a great weight lift, a freedom I wish everyone would explore. So as I wrap this up, I realize I’m writing to remind myself to trust the process, for the truth is I also get stuck in roles, stories, and culture, forgetting who I am despite overwhelming experience that expanding into growth feels more satisfying than contracting into comfort. So here’s wishing we all find what breathes life into your soul, keeps us inspired, and we find the courage to commit to our own genius. Whether you find it in or outside the fence, I hope you stay in touch with your weird:) And don’t forget to dance when you find the music that does it for you…

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

 

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