I love to travel, and have gone a fair number of places in my life. Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Chile, Nicaragua, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Holland, Hawaii, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bahamas, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, St. Lucia, Anguilla. I might be missing a few, but you can tell it is a pretty good list.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is going to a place where your expectations no longer apply, and you walk into the world fully aware that each moment is new. This can be a physical revelation . . . like the luminescent microorganisms in the waters in Puerto Rico, that sent off waves of sparkles in the dark waters as I swam at night. Or like the amazing heaviness of life in the Amazon jungle, where the air was so thick with nutrients that trees’ roots hovered three feet off of the ground. The shock of life can also come as a social revelation . . . like in Vietnam, where on a river-boat cruise to Cambodia I waved to people living in stilted houses on small patches of sand. Or in Brazil (ahh…Brazil) where I attended a neighborhood African-Brazilian spiritual ceremony, and the kids, and grandmothers, and fathers all gathered to drum and sing the ancient Yoruban gods into their cement-floored living room, with the TV pushed to one side.
This is the first year in a long time I cannot take any extended vacations outside of the United States. It is all good though . . . as much as I want to be in a tropical location sipping rum out of a coconut, I can still expand my mind at home. The truth is that the world can be as small or as big, as boring or as crazy, as I let it be. As my Tantra teacher Charu loves to say, “Stop being clever. Accept the fact that you know nothing.” If I think I have already discovered all there is to know at home, then I have. If I accept the hypothesis that the world can blow my mind, then it will.
Case in point at the Tantra workshop this weekend. I had watched Charu demonstrate some of the exercises, and part of me thought: “Well that is great for her, but that will never happen for me.” I didn’t think it was “possible.” So we start doing one of the breathing exercises, and my partner and one of the teachers are telling me to let go, to stop trying to make sense of it, to let chaos control. And I hear myself think: “I can’t do it! It won’t work.” I heard that voice, remembered what Charu said, and told myself: you know what: “What do I know? Why not just see what happens?” And the moment I gave up my idea of what I thought was possible… I had an amazing experience of kundalini energy snaking its way through my body. It happened in a big industrial loft in the middle of Culver City, right in my own backyard. And it was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I do not understand it. I am humbled by it. And I am alive with the idea that whatever I think life is about is much, much smaller than the truth.
That’s a big jump into the world of the possible. But there are small jumps too, that can be just as important. For example, this Monday I went down to my favorite neighborhood cafe to grab a quick breakfast. I was alone and I brought my book. While I was in line waiting to order, I saw two guys that I thought looked interesting. And I thought, I wonder what their deal is? My usual expectation was that I would walk out of the restaurant never knowing. But a part of me said: I want to talk to them, and I believe I can. Next thing you know, the only open seat is at the table next to them, and they end up asking me about the eggs. I used that chance to start a conversation. Turns out one of them is a poet, and the other lives in the neighborhood. So, two new friends. In the end, I walked out of that cafe having had a totally different time than what I expected when I first walked in with my book, because I was open to the experience.
So I am going to keep on practicing to stop being so clever. Remember that I know nothing. (Yes, back to Buddhism… in the beginner’s mind there are a world of possibilities… in the expert’s mind there are few.) I look forward to amazing travels close to home. I have no idea what to expect.