I started my journey on a sunny Saturday morning, the middle of February on the year I turn 31. I was rushing to get breakfast in before leaving with the 2 small bags I packed the day before. I knew I was going to be gone for 10 weeks; I didn’t want to leave anything out I thought I needed, at the same time I didn’t want to bring too many things.
* This is a repost (originally dated March 28, 2016) from an earlier blog of mine which focused on personal reflections: http://recollectionofbeing.blogspot.com/
I have had times of my life when I lived with much comfort and many material things, but I also have lived times – albeit fewer – when I had nothing but what I could carry in a bag on my back. The former has it’s positive allures, which most will understand, but the latter – oftentimes misconstrued – simpler life kept calling back to me. My soul craved for reconnection with nature and my inner true self and disconnection from all the false identities I have created or have been created for me by all my family and friends, institutions and corporations.
If you are a friend or part of my family, I do not disown myself nor do I wish a separation from you. On the contrary, I wish you all to join me on a journey. I wish for permanent separation and transcendence from the supposed normality of modern-day consumerist life, for me to grow into who I was meant to be. This, I have learned, may come about not by filling our schedules with activities and responsibilities that serve a superficial goal, as most of us have gone through at some point in our lives, but by looking for a deeper purpose in life, by re-evaluating our selves, our wants and needs, our thought patterns and behaviours as well as the re-evaluation of the society we were brought up in (and still live in) and it’s effects on us and the environment at large.
Not all of us fit neatly into these boxes and roles society has set out for us. I am a manifestation of this fact. There is a deep-seated feeling at my core that I cannot shake nor can I ignore that there is something inherently wrong with the way the world works and has been working for the last few thousand years. Beyond my lifetime yes: I feel it as real as you do the grass beneath your toes or the smell of your morning coffee.
One of the first times I heard of permaculture I was traveling South America and was interested off the bat. How it was explained to me was simple enough: it was an efficient form of agriculture which used different plants and animals to create a sustainable system in complete symbiosis. Little did I know this was just the tip of the iceberg and it was so much more than that. I did a little research and after some moments of clarity came upon the decision to be done with my career as a chef and move on to learning agriculture.
I had this dream of creating an amazing hostel with art and creativity flowing through the cracks of the walls, delicious and healthy organic food served at the kitchen sourced mostly by the vegetables, fruits and animals I would have on my the farm in the same compound. Of course, there had to be surf, so this was going to be at the beach, tentatively, Catanduanes.
Now, I wasn’t going to do this right away after this 10 week apprenticeship. I had plans of backpacking the world and working in other sustainable farms while I traveled – to help financially, to learn and to teach what I could. Indefinitely. I don’t want to get ahead of myself so suffice it to say, I still plan on doing this. The already hazy timeline I envisioned only became blurrier as I may have found a much more exciting new adventure to tackle for the time being.
I arrived in Mablad that same afternoon and met the whole crew. Steve was the first; he picked us up on the highway and drove us on his motorbike up a gradual and winding road to what was going to be my home for the next few months. All the locals waved and belted out Hello!’s as we passed by, which made me feel at home in a place I’ve never been to before, with people i’ve never met. The other trainees and students, locals and foreigners alike, were extremely accommodating and emanated this amazing positive energy I could see and feel clearly.
One of the things I dislike about living in large cities is how no one seems to see each other through the thousand masks we wear as we carry on with our daily activities. Have you ever tried to say “Hi!” to a stranger on the street or a fellow you parked beside as he was leaving the car park? Despite your genuine cheerfulness, they will oftentimes give you a weird look or even not acknowledge you at all. The people I have been around for most of my life, friends and strangers both, are largely preoccupied with self-imprisoning thoughts unbeknownst to even themselves.
How can we spontaneously greet one another on the street or in coffee shops if our minds are full of worries for the future or regrets of past mistakes? Neither of which are productive uses of our infinitely powerful and creative minds. Time is a measuring tool created for the purpose of relating to each other and to the universe in quantifiable intervals. It is imaginary – much like how meters and grams are used to measure objects’ spatial dimensions and weight. The problem I see in this concept of time is that most people see it as a linear progression when it is actually not.
That feeling you get when you ride a wave for the first time (and every other time, honestly), when you are swamped with 30 full docket orders at peak dinner time in a restaurant shift and you bust out the dishes with speed and precision, when you reach the peak of the mountain you’re climbing just in time for the sunrise or when you make love with your beloved, are glimpses of the present moment.
Feel the power of the endless moment. Do you ever wonder why there are so many adrenaline and adventure junkies out there, why chefs enjoy the hustle and bustle of the kitchen life – despite the shit pay, physical and verbal abuse they constantly receive undeserved – why everyone is addicted to sex? That is because it brings us back to the moment, minds cleared of the ever-obtrusive ego and it’s endless thoughts. The moment is always there but the mind/ego interferes; it creates problems when there are none, creates duality and separation from everyone and everything else when in fact we are all one, creates jealousy, hatred and anger.
Do you not feel a perfect union with your beloved at the peak of intercourse? What if you could feel this same union but with the totality of the universe, and at all times? If it could happen with one, it could happen with all. And that is precisely what all the mumbo hippies, tree hugging activists, shamans, monks, priests, prophets and believers of various religions and philosophies were on to. That is what some feel in near-death and psychedelic experiences. There is a magic in this world I’ve felt, and you wouldn’t believe it unless it spoke to you. Words fail to describe it, but I like to refer to it as love: this invisible force that connects us all in a way I cannot understand.
The ego is a strange but powerful illusion. It always wants to feed itself and it always wants to be right. It is what fuels our defensive attitudes and beliefs, our pride and our exclusory tendencies towards others. But once you look for it, when you search deep inside in meditation or in a situation of peace and mindfulness, it isn’t there. That is how we know it is illusory. I have seen glimpses in myself as well as in others once the ego is seen to be a fraud. You can wholly bypass every negative and destructive thought that comes into your head as soon as they come when you know that you are not your thoughts. You are the observer, the consciousness that is looking at the thought from the inside or the outside, however you want to think about it. Alas, it isn’t at all perpetual but a fleeting glance until regression reverts you back to the persistent ego.
As children, we see and understand our parents playing this game of material wealth accumulation and the pursuit of faux happiness. It is the standard template we are expected to fill. Then we are enrolled into schools we never asked to go to, for our own good, naturally. If the child steps out of line, “misbehaves” or exhibits different attitudes from what is deemed normal, general opinion and psychiatrists will point towards the child as having psychological problems, ADHD or perhaps repressed traumatic experiences. Among the foreseeable solutions are putting the child on medication, sending her to repeated psychotherapy sessions – which cause stress and give the child a sense of alienation – or taking her out of the already boxed-in system in normal institutions and putting her into an even more repressive institution.
My search for the truth and a higher purpose has taken me down a wonderful road of self-discovery. What seemed like bad things that have happened to me in the past has brought me to where I feel I need to be, a place where I feel home and grounded. A place where my consciousness is expanding and I feel the most alive I have ever felt.
Permaculture sounded like a great thing: a simple system of integrating nature-mindfulness and local community with a sustainable farm, school, office or anything a community might need. The key factors which most if not all large corporations leave out when thinking up ways to make money is their destructive effects on the environment, short and long-term. The permaculture movement has ecological systems and the planet’s good health at it’s focus and not at the periphery. One thing that drew me in apart from other social worker groups or aid givers was their principle of integration with the local community. Others would give aid, yes. But these guys, the so-called Green Warriors as it’s founder Steve dubbed it, give priority to teaching these very poor communities varying skills to improve their local ecosystem and survive in this world, despite the difficulties of the times. In short, they teach them livelihood.
The system is not about taking hold of people – their minds, bodies or money. It’s about lifting a community up to help them fend for themselves by teaching them every single thing we can that is and will be beneficial to them and the environment. The amazing thing I’ve learned is that thousands of people are doing the same around the world at this very moment. It is an autonomous movement that has no leadership and has no interest in creating a dependency in anyone.
Matched with the highest concentration of the most passionate and authentic people I have ever met, I think I’ve found my calling – my place of growth and expansion, purpose and meaning.