In the mountains

March 29, 2020

Eva said I should write. I had thoughts about it,
Should I write? Maybe, a selfish act, or just an opportunity to share in these days of self isolation.  And selfishly, a way to avoid writing the same letter to 10 different people, those who want to know how I am, and what I am doing.

I am in the mountains in the South of Poland. Something that was definitely not in my vision for a destination. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I am staying within a little congregation of homes, not quite a village, there is neither stores nor church. Just a few homes, so close to the road, you can imagine that at a time,only horse and carriage would pass through this agglomeration.

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March ends but there is still the bite of winter in the air, real winter. I am poorly equipped for this sort of weather, most of the last 25 years of my life were spent in mild or hot climates. Last week we had nights around -8, the ground froze, and the days were not that much warmer. There is a wind, that comes from in between the hills that chills you to the bones. Not with humidity, but with real cold.  Thankfully my host has extra jackets, sweaters, socks and boots that I can use.

I came here because it seemed to be the right thing, horses, earth, skies and far away from cities. In the cities the fear is so present, it wraps itself around you with a steel grip and spreads  like a plague, everyone looking  with distrust at each other.  This kind of fear has a very destructive effect on a person’s life energy, the message to the body is one of danger, it destroy lives, destroy self determinism, and that makes that person more subject to being manipulated and abused.

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A few years ago, I made a deal with my body, we agreed that it was much smarter than any doctor, any science, and that this body’s natural propensity is to be healthy. I decided to trust it, and to engage in a dialogue with it, ask it what it needs now. Treat it as a noble, powerful entity that works with me in a cooperative venture, where we all work towards the realization of the purpose of our very being in this world at this time. I came to realize how much I didn’t trust it, how much I have been operating under this idea that it could let me down at every turn. That I needed doctors and tests, and “prevention” the main modus operandi is the idea that all that I could ultimately expect is breakdown and unreliability and that there is always a disaster lurking.  The modern medicine trains us “patients” to fear the future and to trust the ones with white smocks and stethoscopes around their necks. It trains us to fear any reaction of the body, to silence any expression of the body, to fear any sensation coming from the body.

It turns out, my body has been incredibly generous and strong and ready to live and dto give more than I ever could expect. The worst things always came from my own beliefs and fears and if I turned around and changed my attitude to one of love, things would get better. Well, I must say also that the meditation practice, helped my understand that all things pass, so feeling bad or feeling good, that was going to pass too and those feelings are just passing, coming, going.  The peace I got from this likely prevented many ills.

Back to the present moment… Poland, mountains, horses, goats, garden and two wonderful hosts. I could not have been more fortunate. I’ve been pulling weeds these last two days, kneeling in the fresh earth, birds singing, visiting me, I am practicing patience and equanimity. No matter what I have to do, despite being tired, sore, I just work on being right there. My biggest challenge has been to cope with a completely out of shape body… it’s one thing to work on a laptop all day long, it’s another to pick up shit, water buckets, lift things and move around all day.  I am getting a bit better now but the first few days I was ready for bed at 7 PM!

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I see the endless streams of news flooding the internet and that all feels like true insanity. Interestingly, people complain about being home, when only 10 days ago they complained that they could never have a minute to relax. Here it is, you asked for it no?

I wonder about the world and its human borders. Some say this is the beginning of the new age, the liberation from an oppressive, destructive, unsustainable system, others say that this is the perfect moment for the implementation of a totalitarian New World Order where we are all under surveillance, and where freedoms are willingly surrendered for an illusion of safety.  So here we are, observing this historic event, lets see what will happen.

There is no safety, there never was. If there is something that never changed it was that. Unpredictability is built in our universe, the wild gusts of creation from Creation itself changing our little worlds in a second. I guess living as a self employed person I never had such concepts as job security or safe retirement. Life was going to be what each curve would deliver along it’s unpredictable road. We build clay walls all around us, believing that we can stop the tide.

It snows now, I went out to feed the goats, pick up the horse shit in the field. As far as I can see around me are hills, I don’t totally know where I am, but do we ever? It’s a step by step affair. More than ever, it’s about being right here, right now. There is no predicting anything. All my plans, my visions, like gambles on a betting table, it could go in any direction, and, it’s totally OK.

I keep hanging on to my guitar practice, even if my hands, arms are so tired from the unusual work. Somewhere, somehow, this music thing was always a part of me, I did not play for the last 2.5 years but somehow, now it’s been calling me. I had a surprise invitation in January to go play an open mic in Bucharest,it was the trigger that pushed me to practice, man, was it hard! I could not remember anything and my fingers were so stiff. My voice, gone. The fingers gradually came back, to the point where I felt quite good about my renditions of some classical guitar pieces, the voice, not so much but at the moment I don’t feel I have so much to say,  so it’s OK not to have a great vocal instrument for the moment.  but I do want to play, feel the guitar’s vibrations on my body, put some emotions into something. Exist on that plane, even if it’s to be by myself in a room or a park somewhere, it all goes into infinity anyways.

As I write this the night is coming, the trees are strikingly dark against the gray and white background.  This might be the last blast of winter, it will drop below zero, maybe a chance for a day off tomorrow. I  do need it.

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Every day is a new day, every day brings it’s wonders and challenges.  Today brought surprises and a complete change of direction.  The times, it seems, are a’changin’.

I was sitting in a Vipassana meditation retreat in Poland, it was day three of the 10 day course.  I had served the previous course, being kitchen manager… one of the toughest 10 day period of my life, Vipassana, no matter what you do, serve or take a course, always brings new learnings, new teachings and personal growth.
This morning, as usual, after the gong sounded, we silently walked to the meditation hall, sat down, waiting for the daily instructions when our teacher said, “We have an announcement to make…”  He explained that the management was forced to close the center as the corona virus spreading through Europe had reached Poland and that the government demanded that all group gatherings and public places be closed.  There was also the matter of borders being closed in many countries and because many of the students come from many different countries, closing early would help them reach their respective homes.

I gasped.  “No!” I thought.  I really wanted to get this course done… then the next thought was… uh, what do I do now?  Where can I go? I had a vague plan of slowly heading towards France, I had thought of going to Normandy if possible to see the land of my ancestors… but, can I travel there?  With closed borders, cancelled flights and interrupted international bus travel…. My mind was kind of frozen for about one hour…

We all gathered in the dining hall, handed over our locker keys an got our phones back, in a matter of moments everyone was on their device trying to contact family and friends.  A woman was trying to find a way to Russia as flights were cancelled and the  border closed, another small group going to Estonia left in a hurry as they were told that  there was the possibility that the borders would be closed.  It was a strange sight.  Only 20 minutes earlier all of us in silent introverted meditative state, were now negotiating the current situation, the bizarre new reality that was now ours.

I went to clean my room.  Pack my bags, I realized as I was removing the bed sheets from my mattress that my anxiety came from the fact that I didn’t know where I would sleep tonight.  Where will I go?  Many were going to Wroclaw, but that city is expensive…

OK,  I thought, first I will head back to a familiar place, back to Poznan and from there I can get up to date with the situation in the world and be able to make a more informed decision.
I managed to find a ride directly to Poznan, we rode three of us in Arturo’s car, a Polish man, a Russian and a Canadian, sitting in a car on a highway, I burst out laughing, to the incongruence of the moment, the wildness of life, this strange sense of the multitudinous possibilities life holds.  Every micro moment, every single factor can change, and we change along with it.

In Poznan, upon arrival it was eerie, my hostel is situated right in the center of town, on a Saturday, that would mean streets filled with pedestrians, stores running swift businesses.  I got out of the car, said my goodbyes and loaded my bags on my back and started to walk towards the hostel. The streets were empty.  A few people, most stores closed.  I walked to my favorite coffee shop: closed.  hmm no espresso to be had.  I realized it may be a good idea to buy some food for a couple of days.  I went to Biedronka, a grocery store, there too, it was eerily quiet, some shelves were empty, as if the store was going to close.  People stayed at a safe distance from each other, the clerk at the self check out was slightly freaked out, pulling a mask on her face every time someone addressed her, reaching with her arms out in front of her as if to put an invisible barrier between her and her interlocutors.  I asked her if the store was going to be open tomorrow, she got angry blurting things in Polish at me, a man turned around and asked in English: is there a problem?  I asked him about the store, he said: “yes, they will be closed for 2 days”  “Oh!” so my hunch was right, I bought food for a few days.  We will see.
What to do?

Annitcha, annitcha,  this too will pass.  It is time to practice the tenets of my meditation practice.  In  physical world, all arises then passes away.  The consciousness remains, the physicalities, the emotionalities, the conceptualities, rules and civilizations come and go.   The blessing of life and wonders of this world are there every moment to be appreciated.  Deep breath.  So I guess I will discover more of Poland than I had planned.  It’s time to sit at the computer and see where I can weather the next few weeks, let that wave roll and crash on the shores of life.
I’ll keep you posted.