Posts Tagged ‘harbin hotsprings’

This is a series of entries written over about a period of a month (Aug 4 – Sept 8) when i was at harbin hotsprings – when i remained in a singular place geographically but went to many places within. I post this from outside Yosemite park, at a hostel where i ended up after leaving there the last time as well. There, like here, like the park itself, is located in a valley, and in valleys i tend to turn within. often when i stop for long i do as well.    

I had been hesitant to go there, and just as hesitant to leave. I stayed longer than i planned, in fact longer than the 30 days one is allowed – but managed somehow to be allowed to stay. and while as always i had one foot out the door for there is one side of the place that seems devoted to hedonistic sex that i cannot stand, there is also much that appeals to me and calls me forth, not just the physical things, or the pools or the classes or the land (for the land in and of itself does not speak strongly to me) but many of the people who are so kind, who have a light inside, and i know that i sometimes do or could to. And at times i wanted to stay and apply for residency but then a “no” came up – was it the focus on the body as a temple there – and as i have written before i feel it is misguided, but i also know i wish to learn and get in touch with its wisdom and the wisdom of the energy bodies that we are, but also the soul,was it the “pot culture” that existed on the smoking deck and is endemic to northern california, was it the underside of the place (but is there a place without one) or was it because i was afraid, and truly believed that i would not be welcomed – a fear i have almost every place i wish to join. And i did not know if i could live in community, even a community that seems false – for most do not live on sight – and if i could always be “on” and good, not having a private place to go – to live, play, work, grow in a singular place overwhelms, for although i say i do not wish to hide, i become afraid when i fear there is no place to do so.    

So i went to san francisco finally leaving harbin, to a place where it is hard to stay – another place part of me loves (and part of me does not know what i would do there or how i would ever manage to stay), and to here, a place i know that i am not meant to stay. And i still do not know if it was a real ‘no’ or if it was a fear for i did not try. i did not feel that i would be acceptable or good enough and it is not a place where today you can just slip in (though apparently it was once). there is a formal application procedure, and a trial, and both of those overwhelm for i feel totally alone, that there is no one to say that i am good, i cannot provide the references required – but they are required everywhere. And that is it – the sadness and pain comes up when i don’t have anyone who will speak out for me (but then again, have i asked). And i think of my history, so long since i have been stable – and wonder if i had applied the first time i went – a year and half ago – but then, there were fewer places where i feel that i messed up – where i could not get along with people. but if they were my people, my energy matrix, could i? i want to believe that i could. But since then i have left indralaya, their sister – Sierra Hotsprings, the eugene whiteaker hostel, all without joy – i did good work – i know – but did not belong – and showed the shadow sides of myself. All because at each place i did not feel stable, did not feel like part of the community, and at sierraville, when i tried to make a stand, i was cast out, alone. or did i leave and run? Still, i remember walking down that road alone, not a goodbye, not a lift to town when they passed me by, and the hurt lingers on, but is it a hurt i brought with me, one that i carry around, from place to place. And i left Harbin alone – and i ask myself why.    

So i never applied, and by the time i left i was glad to leave. felt unwanted and like a burden to the place – so many so kind to me for a while – but did i just take and not give. For i want to give, not of the darkness inside, but of the light. But i felt if i even applied, i would be laughed out, who do you think you are that you would be accepted here? Just what makes you think that you would not be just a dark splotch once again? But i can be light, when i feel secure and wanted – or at least i think for i have never felt accepted and i do not know what community is. What does it feels like to belong? And i know there have been place i have wanted to more and have felt cast out, and where i feel that i do not belong, at least without hiding away and trying to become something i am not, i cast myself out.    

I write this entry from a place i do not feel that i belong, where i do not really wish to, for i do not feel the connection in what i value. And it is time to leave. And i do not wish to wander, i do not wish to hide, but i wish to contribute to the joyous dance of life. And as i reflect, maybe i did not belong, or do i tell myself that? Just what is the truth? For i know i need healing but also to give, and is there a place that i can do both simultaneously? A base from which i can grow?    

What is in the mirror that i do not wish to look at? Just what is it that stares me back that i “cannot” face but i must, for it is in my own face. And just what is it that i fail to see? The veils layered deep. 



And i know there is something here, for in my wandering the lord brought me back to this place. a place that at times i yearned for and craved, and at others sought to avoid, but never just let be. and i know it is not harbin per se, but rather harbin as a symbol for something more deep, a manifestation in 3D of lessons i need to learn. There is something about the spiritual path and “alternative” greener life, the self-indulgence, and the social class makeup of this place that i must acknowledge and deal with straight in the face. They are all paths i have been a part of, and need to integrate, but also that have failed me in my quest so as i grab for them, i push them away – and they too have pushed me away – and all are ‘things’ i try to deny in myself. And it is ways of acting and being that have come together in this center seemingly of bliss, hidden away in a higher valley from the world outside and magnifying that within.    

As i sit on the smoking deck- my social office – i look at the mountain across the way, now with dried up brown land under the green oaks and other patched of trees with darker brown leaves, and it stands almost unreal, or surreal, under the bright blue sky – and looks different than it did before, on cloudy days in a wetter season, when i would watch wispy clouds float through it – but it does seem unreal – like a one way mirror – i do not see out of beyond it though the outside (and what is hidden from me) sees in. And with other places, i wonder if this is all but an illusion of the mind – a shared illusion by those who are also here.    

Last time i was here i wrote much of integration, of not throwing away of who i was, but of owning all, and bringing it together in order to move on and through – that letting go was not the same as throwing away – to let it be, to experience life and to neither cling and grasp for something nor to try to force it away or deny it or run away in fear. and has my journey of the last four months been about that – i believe it has – revisiting places and faces of my persona – some that still live in my and others that have faded away. In that process, how much have i done honestly and thoroughly and how much have i shrunk from what i have felt and seen and how much have i been blinded and numbed to still? And there is so much that is murky in my mind and soul, that i need to let out but do not know how and play games of solitaire in between.    

I know i feel judged here – but i also must acknowledge that i do just as much judging myself and often of those i feel that are judging me – and how can i believe that they do not feel my inner critique of them as much as i feel theirs of me? And just as i avoid the judgement and the judgers, how can i expect the judged not to avoid me? But just what is it at the root that i judge    

I see a hard face on a woman, not really directed at me, but i see it and turn my head away and draw my energy inside. but how often so i wear such a face and am totally unaware of it. i know i smile more often than i did, and not infrequently remind myself to, and i know the world responds differently to me when i smile – what expression do i put on here? Is there a reason why i so notice the frowns?    

When i walk down the trail i try to say hi or give someone a smile. sometimes people reply, but other times they look away, but how many times have i done that and just how does it make others feel? And sometimes i feel someone looking at me a if i am in the way, or failing to see that i am there – but how often have i seen others as impediments myself, in the way, making noise, taking “my’ space, or otherwise interfering with my life – or also in competition with me – as if we cannot all be there. but there is more…    

And i have often condemned others for what i sense as a smug superiority, those who look down on others or do not see those of us who serve them or respect us and acknowledge our full worth and ask not how much are we capable of, but set up limit and barriers in our face. But do i now do the same. at times think i know more because i have seen more of the street, led a less sheltered existence so i proclaim (but even that is false for i have always had a buffer, one person to support me which is more than may have – and something i feel guilty about and still wish to hide away – something that others suspect and judge me on i can feel) or have worked bad and dirty jobs (though there are many i have not) and do i really see the whole person who is there – no, for there is much that i do not see. and do i wish to blame them for the breaks that i was not given, though i was given many that they may not have been. and is the blame an excuse to deny the mess i have made of some. No i see them in terms of myself, the same way that they might see me.    


I am not really all that different from many who surround, for despite the nicer richer veils they wear, they are really people imperfect and often in pain as well, and why have i not truly recognized this before – focused instead on the exterior guise. As a teen and earlier on i would often condemn the rose coloured glasses of suburbia, the place where all was “fine” and another good life was lived – a life whose pain was often hidden away behind the walls people built, not only in 3D but in mentality, hiding it all away – and i think of the mothers of mine and some – alcohol, drugs – though those from the legitimate pushers of the pharmaceutical industry, death, depression and more – the fathers seemed absent, but in my group we knew not all was merry, but we could pretend it was so – keep face – we are not like them – our lives are contained and good – and there were people living their lives fully as well, giving and sharing and creating –    

But somehow the veil descended upon me – and i no longer truly saw through th guise – caught instead in the outside apparitions, the costumes that so many wear. for what helps set this class apart is the denial and the games they play – the all is fine – and the better ability to hide all away – to pretend that we are perfect and to expect others to be. and i somehow forgot that truly the separation is an illusion, and a game we play, a game that is such an integral part to the lives – and a game that i could not play, and was thus part of the reason why i was cast outside.    

or that i could not play with others, though i have played it most of my life by myself, and am too messy, not tight or smooth enough – a contradiction in terms i know.    

And unlike those who live life more in the open – on the streets or in tightly packed neighborhoods, who have not garnered wealth or education or the ability to hide the problems away, we are more greatly able to live in the world of illusion, and in some ways it is that illusion that defines the group, and the ability to play the game. And not to call a spade a spade, but to be so healthy and together all of the time. bounds of acceptability remain, and ways to step outside are just as defined – and do not step too far out. but many do, and then pretend, and it is the game we play.    

i think back to some of the women i have met, on the edge just as me, and we avoid each other and pretend, do not reach out and ask for help or share of ourselves and of our stories and of our lives. For then we will not be acceptable.    

And that is why this group dislikes and judges the lower classes, a mirror of what we try to hide away.    

and the sense of superiority that maintains it all    

3) But is it my own perfectionism that makes me read it in all who are around? Is there a greater acceptance at hand than i can see or am willing to acknowledge? Is it me who feels that i need to be perfect in order to be accepted? and do i expect perfection in others in order to accept them? Can i see the kernel of god in all, the light that exists in everyone. for i say i do but that is a lie, one of the many veils i wear.    

and is that why is see the veils in others and am so quick to jump on them. the “pompous superiority” which is often just pretend, but other times it is based on a belief we hold inside, on how good or enlightened we are. but often we are not. Is that why i was so quick to criticize M. in my mind, a fraud i called him, a pretend visionary, so pumped up and full of himself – and as i was reacting, for the reactions were strong, i knew there was something deep stirring inside, something important in the mirror i did not wish to see. for am i not the same way myself, and also though he is imperfect, is he not trying his best, and helping and enlightening others in a certain way. ans caught in many of the quandries in which i find myself – a hypocrite, but am not i, and are not so many of us.    

do i resent those who have truly broken through – or am i drawn to them and their pure shine.    

here we take off the clothes, the veils which we use to cover ourselves, those veils that exist in 3d. but are there not so many more, the veils of illusion and delusion in the mind.    

with the group i was born into many more veils to hide behind – maybe why i believe those who are raw are more real as there is little to hide behind/    

confession – can i state my case, why do i believe i must do it alone.    

4) today is not a day as planned – a day where i have engaged in very few of the harbin things but also a day where i have engaged more and failed to connect – me pulling back and what does that teach.    

i was hungry so decided to treat myself to a breakfast – but did not end up eating alone – talked and joined with someone more out of compassion or was it pity and broke away too so – opened up to give but he wanted too much. and what does it mean to give to someone that way, and when have i asked others to pity me then asked for more than they can give.    

His name was max – from Arkansas – met him yesterday in the reiki healing class. socially awkward and i felt for him though there was something in his eyes that held me back but i could tell that he wanted to reach out and connect – with someone – and i was the person whom he met.    

5) Many days not written – days of movement within the stillness, and stillness within movement. Processes unfolding, elation and depair, but overall a release and a calm even when all is up and down, a trusting in the process, in life, in opening. and releases and tests and connection and alone – an emptying out making space for what is to come, and feeling true joy at times and new sensations in the body as energy flows within, knots loosening, brainwaves changing and the unknowing of what comes next – yet feeling peaceful overall.    

pure joy found me on sunday afternoon in quantum light breath a smile so wide i could not contain it and then a song and i could hear my voice, unmuffled and loud.    

yoga stretching out places – shoulders, hips, even lower back – an freedom today for just a few minutes – a spaciousness i have not felt before – like the first time the shoulders went floppy for just a minute or two.    

free your spirit breath work – a release deep and intense    

and sleep naps on the couch    

6) I feel sad today and just want to be whole – energy is down and off and i feel alone once again. is it the full moon? processing and delving into the past and imagined future out of the now where i am – wanting to let go but wanting to know what it is that i am letting go of – feeling damaged and broken once again – can i not just let go of having to know, just let it pass out of me, to be free of the blockages – to just let them dissolve – but what comes up?    

i feel depleted – time to move on – like i am sinking rather than soaring here – like i am hiding away from life once again – spending more than my allotted time. I want to be happy and full of light – do i need to pass through this place to remove the darkness – can i not just choose the light? what do i have to gain by being here – or is it just another fancy trick to hide?    

i got up late today – no yoga or intensity – spent much of the day on the smoking deck – lost, outside, not full of joy. i feel so lost – but to explore – as with all – am i truly being restructured or is it a delusion i feed myself – but i do feel different and unsure of how to proceed, like the other day when i said i felt like a baby my body often feeling different to me – unfamiliar sensations – open and closed – not knowing what to feed my body ot what it wants and needs    

too absorbed with the self – to reach out connect to the rest of gods creation and to god.    

7) I must face my fears for i know that in part healing has turned to hiding – hiding from actions i must take not yet clearly defined, but ones that will allow me to build a life instead of just merely wander – yes here can be a place to clear and renew but as long as i stay i can continue to play the avoidance game -and yes, feel safe. but how many times have i said that safety is but an illusion – but can i continue to clear out some of the underlying issues that have paralyzed me for so long?    

a tough day and a half or maybe more with the highs gone and tears and self talk coming in – the paranoia creeping in and then taking over in part and i have watched myself crawl into me and my shoulder seize and me become more lifeless as thought forms of fear and of memories and past and daydreams come into play, when i cam not longer here, not present and hard.    

and it was those feelings – not of memories or places i cannot remember, but the emotions that grip me still that cause that as they arise and take over – emotions and fears that hinder me and block me but are not really me – or are they. of issues i must face not – emotions that lead to paranoia and get me in trouble every time – of aloneness, of having no home, of not belonging, of being unacceptable, of having noone who will speak for me or ssay i am good – so i back away and hide and do not take risks and deepen the ruts even more. and they are feelings i try to push away but do not seem to ba able to push through and i must – can i do so y sheer will or by the grace of god – for i can squirm no longer.    


Why is it that i feel like i am hiding here? the truth is that i am. i come to take a break but then it extends too long – and i feel like it is time to get back out and live in the larger world. to contribute and interact and pursue my call though i do not know what it is. and then the fears come up, those things that take over and pull me back – and how to really move through them for it is those energetic forms that lay a claim on me. and i have written the answers or rather some answers so many times before, but i get caught or back away and am not able to move one through – and then they take over and i do not breathe through them and they become what is real and help create the reality outside reality    


I feel that it is time to leave harbin once again. i almost left today on an adventure to mount shasta but backed down. It felt right saying no to an opportunity that began to feel more like a disaster waiting to happen but it was difficult to do. My body felt looser after i told her no, but now i feel exhausted and depleted once again – biding time, that is what i am doing, biding time, passing it away, letting it pass through, drifting away from my dreams, becoming one of the people just hanging out, just hanging out, like those in the smoking room in seattle or in the back yard in eugene, but here i do not work or work trade, just pass the days away. and is that why those places bothered me so, that my life is really no different, not shining or glowing, but just sitting still, and not sitting in blissful meditation or union with all, but sitting, letting the darkness seep on in.    

And i think some of this has to do with my return here this time, and the reasons why i came, though they were so vaque and unclear to me at the time. or maybe because of that – i did not come here for a reason per se, it was no longer to heal or to let go, but a result of letting go, of letting go of dreams, dreams which have not been replaced by newer, truer ones, but that have died, leaving me empty, and into this empty space pouring not joy and beauty and the word of god, but refilling with imagined (or real?) stories of the past, memories or a story i have written, and with the emptiness the sadness can creep on in. is it too much time on the smoking deck, having familiar conversations, getting into the mundane routine of not living fully, of introspection and staring at my navel so to speak for i never have really examined that. is it the ongoing days of nothingness, the only stability a morning yoga class, and perhaps a soak, rest of the time empty, defined by so little. but how to turn this back into joy, to move beyond and out. for was coming here more than a break but a retreat, not the just stepping back into another zone, but retreating, giving up and hiding away, no longer beginning a process of change but halting one, no longer coming to something but leaving something behind, not listening to my heart or soul or inner knowing, but listening to my fears and voices of despair, the ones that say i am afraid, i can’t, and how often have i made that can’t a reality.    

but today i listened to a “no” – a this step is not right for you, and learned to feel it in my body. how often have i confused the “no this is not right” with the “it is so right, but i am afraid, i am scared” and how often have i said yes to the former and no to the latter. and how has it felt after i have made the decision, how has it felt in my body. can i learn to listen and turn off that chattering in my mind, the chattering that tells me that once i have embarked on a path or said what i am doing, that i must go on, or the one that tells me that i am undeserving of what truly calls, that i cannot make it, cannot do it, so i turn to something else, something that may be second or third or fiftieth choice, but i turn away and then i no longer hear. and sometimes i am not sure, and i let myself be led astray, or stay on something that does not feel right but for the moment gives me the illusion of safety or grandeur.    

And i think or my time out on the road, the way i travel around, camping, walking, hitching, travelling alone, and some tell me i am so daring but i do not feel that way, for what i do there is more within my comfort zone, it is familiar and known, not the all, but the actions, and in some ways i do it because i am afraid, i run, i do not face my fears. but at times i also wonder if some of it is my call, and maybe what i interpret as fears are rather big “no’s” but which is which and what is what for i no longer hear my call. what is it that god wants me to do – can i hear and listen at all, for what are temptations, the devil speaking, and what are true calls, what do i enter into out of avoidance of that negative, gnawing voice, and when am i being drawn towards the light?    

I had an imaginary conversation today, one of the many i have in my mind, those that occur when i am not in the here and now, but in another space that becomes much more real, and can in ways manifest itself in 3D. It was about jumping out of a plane, and how one feels fearful the first time (or so i would imagine never having done it myself) but one does it anyways. yes, one may be afraid, and while we all to often feel that we should not be, we are. and that it ok. yes, when we make the leap out into the unknown fear can happen, but to have faith as well, for faith can move you through. But the point was that while jumping out of planes can be a way to help you overcome your fears, it can also be used to avoid them. if you do it instead of say learning to bake the perfect pie that you feel called towards, to avoid that, it can be just that – avoidance – it may broaden your comfort zone, but it you keep on jumping out of planes because it is now familiar, and you are not passionate about doing it, you do it only because it is there and available, then it is avoidance, or it you then take chinese cooking lessons, food writing, fruit growing etc it can be moving you closer to your heart, but it you keep on skirting the area then you still do not get there (this all seemed so much clearer and more elequant in my mind earlier today, and now as i am typing this, something rings false, my joints are becoming condensed once again0    

If one truly hears the heart and the word of god, does fear truly disappear? what would that be like? Can i imagine it? envision it? or just have faith that it is true. i think of my bodily changes, how over the past several months my shoulders have gone floppy a few times, and i never knew they could, i had learned that they could be stuck, or looser or tighter but never floppy, but now the body knows that is possible though it happens rarely, like the hips floppy, or the sacrum, or union with all – not always, or even often, but the awareness that it is possible. and following the call? how i have said no so many times, until now, and now i feel that i am left with nothing.    

I stop to play solitaire, over and over again, and get into that anxious buzzing zone, and realize how it feels and name it and realize ust how addictive and damaging it is.    

Here i retreat, retreat into myself, into that zone in the mind. i become less at peace rather than more as i am drawn to introspection. i focus on the body, but then become divorced, engage in conversations, but little that is deep, spend time in fantasy land, just as when i was settled in eugene and even seaside, but that was at least a board on the internet. on the road i am more present having to deal with the here and now, but past and future overtakes.    


How many times have i said “i can’t”, and how often do i get in the zone of believing it? When do i say “i can’t” meaning “it’s not for me, i don’ t want to or i won’t” – and i have done that so often that i can rarely tell the difference between the two. But how much have i done – and the answer is quite a bit. And i have ended up places and doing things that i put out there.    


I feel a call – to another land – but is my home really here – in this place, on this continent, but still i feel that there is no place to rest my head. and i see how far i have drifted and have lost my call and connection – my connection to the divine and the source of energy that is light, and i call in the light, and the lord. i sat beneath the falls and prayed and sang today, sang a song of angels, sang the voices through, sang the spirit through and i felt lifted and i felt light.    


I tried to leave for several days – but each morning i would feel sick, cry, panic and i knew my body was telling me no. but i heard the comments “are you still here” and turned and cowered and wanted to run. I just want a place where i will be invited in and invited to join, and i wonder if the kindness of some was a way of doing that and i did not see. Still the “are you still here?” hurt for i now realize that i have learned or come to believe over time that the best way i can contribute is to move on – go away, hide away, keep away. And i just want to be asked to join on in, for someone to say, alice, we want you here, here is where you belong, here is where you can shine.    

and being away i have lost that connection to my body and my soul, but i cannot take and not give in return. and i need to believe that someone wants me to give, for i can no longer sit on the edge. And i do not want to descend further into the darkness, that which i see around, and that which lingers within, but i need to bring forth the light and pray that i am capable of doing so. i need to know what it is to love and to be loved in return, for who i am.    

I stayed at harbin through my birthday, and then another day as well, but i left alone, those who knew me did not really even wish me well. had i been a dark splotch upon the place, overstayed my welcome there. but i am gone, and on the road, the road to nowhere it seems.    

Or is it on the road to somewhere – learning expereinces, and joining in – on a road that will lead me to that place where i can shine my light, and give, and not hide awat.

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I am back at harbin once again and feel like i have entered a different world – one that is more urbane, prosperous and polished. and when i sat in my tent and at my picnic table in that national forest campground outside Gasquet this is what i yearned for. i felt so far removed from the mainstream and that my life was to be on the edge of the road and i would crawl into the forest and reside in there. and i have written about harbin before – but how it feels to you depends on the direction from which you come.
I have previously arrived from the city, twice from the bay, and once after a day in seattle but had been out in small town zone. Now i come from the oregon coast and northern california and rather than being a retreat from the mainstream it is a way of entering back in – cars (mainly shiny and newer) fill the parking lot, i sit in a cushioned chair and earlier sat on a lawn. last night i watched a movie. and there is the kitchen, the cafe, the restaurant and the store so easily at hand. and from my tent site a short walk to the toilets which are individual affairs. and of course there are the pools, a place to soak. And the people seem so well dressed when they are wearing their clothes, cute pants and dresses and tank tops – first hand and quality made. And this is not just harbin, but the california of my mind, that represents this change – though this california is not the whole state, and was not many of the northern towns though i saw it more and more as we moved on south, out of the grey coast zone.

And this morning as i sat in the garden after a long soak and drinking an excellent americano i thought what i different world i was in that where i stood waiting for the bus outside elk prairie campground up on the coast 24 hours before waiting for the bus to pull off the highway in the cool grey morn waiting on the on ramp from the scenic parkway, with very little else around, i had packed up early and walked by the open land then stood on the road saying goodbye to the redwood trees, feeling that it would be a long time before i saw them again. And then i sat on the corner waiting, had set up with del norte transit to stop at the location the previous afternoon before i left crescent city and decided to camp down there.

And on the way down i passed through so many zones – that now seem like a blur – the greyness of northern humboldt, the greyhound bus, the heat and sun coming out near garberville – that strange hippie town that usually agitates me – but this time did not lash out as we passed through quick, the 101 as it becomes a divided highway, mcdonalds in willits as we stopped for lunch, two hours on the edge of ukiah – eating a burrito at a mexican store and resto across the street from the bus stop – lake transit to lakeport which looks like a cute town, then down the west side of the lake on highway then twisty road – so much not written here.

How easily it is to shift between worlds and i feel that this is fantasy land, make-believe, pretend – not only the retreat center per se, but this whole stretch of california extending for over a hundred miles in each direction both north and south of the bay. It is the land of luxury, of the boho vibe, of good living, organic foods and new age thought but of course not for all but that is what i see here.

But back to up the road – and now this afternoon i feel in a different world than i did before yesterday on the edge of ukiah waiting 2 hours for the lake transit bus – greyhound was late, so missed the connection and that felt so different than the same time the day before as i got on the bus to leave crescent city,

and the day before as i sat in the campground outside gasquet, and the day before as i walked highway 199, as the day before when i sat in the sun in the redwoods,

and the day before when i arrived there after a long trip and had just recently set up my tent and the sun emerged and i was so happy to be off the coast,

and the day before in brookings – i think i was heading back to the campground from town, but that day (which was just over a week ago) was not so different from the day before as i had done similar things but felt very different inside)

and that was different than the day before when i arrived in brookings at that time, and the day before at humbug,

and the day before eating fish and chips in bandon

and the day before on the cold cape, and so on, and between each of those moments at around three, so much had transpired. but now i think i will be here through the weekend, a bit of time to live life more slow.

now i have been at harbin for several days and all that seems but a blur – i have more to write about my time here but somehow the words will not come out – i have indulged – soaked in the pools, layed on cushions watching movies on the big screen, lounged in a comfy chair for hours on end, eaten full healthy tasty meals, gone to yoga a couple of times and more, but somehow this seems empty to me and i feel more disconnected than when i was out on the road and here in the coffee shop in middletown i feel more real. And the world of the harbins and the nice shiny vibe does not seem like the world i am meant to live in – though i appreciate it’s comforts and luxuries that abound. But it is a retreat center and feels cut off like a fantasy land, but one where i really do not fit in. And i have felt old emotions and feelings coming back to me – another person arising within.

it is more than harbin per se that produced this change in me – coming here that day on the greyhound bus with the grouchy driver, and the highway that became a divided road, and once out of the grey zone, the buildings and cars that were new and prosperous so it seems – but also the division seemed more real. and i felt a loss of the friendliness of the grey zone though i still encounter it in many places.

And it is a stasis and being where i feel i do not belong, and i feel disconnected and an outsider here. While that is often the case when i am not in physical movement, there is something more going on here – something that i cannot yet write about. but this is a time to process the experiences of the past few months and remove another veil that covers my eyes.

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I was going to write about the decision that brought me here the last time, but there were so many and there have been so many times. For one decision led to another and another and so the story goes. For the last time i was here it was but a waypoint, a stopping over for a few days, a place of convenience because i did not know where else to go. And in that sense i was brought here, in the same way i came in this last forray through, the third in a month. And like this trip here, it was not to San Francisco i came, but to the Bay Area, to California, and to Harbin instead. And as i take a break, i realize just how long this story really is. And i cannot write it all just now.

Before this month, the last time i was here, was for a few days at the end of June, or actually the beginning of July. I remember that now, for that although i did not want to stay, i had to leave for all was booked up for the July 4th holiday weekend. I came in the same way as i did less than a week ago, on the ferry from Vallejo, and again i was greeted by the crowds on market street. I had come from Harbin after a longer time spent there. I lingered on, trying to decide my plans each day, staying longer than planned, my time limit running out. And hearing from a few, who also did not know, “staying another day i see”. I did not know where to go, and the stress of not knowing began to eat at me – so i grabbed on to what was near. still, despite the ride board and all the talks i hitched out on my own, and then began the long bus journey down, back to the concrete world from which i had been away from for so long. Passing through Napa with its traffic and big stores i felt like an alien looking on. I was back down to the city for what reason i did not know – a place to stay for a few days before moving on, before moving on to a place unknown. And i felt sad leaving harbin alone – but that journey is another story to be written, one of so many i have yet to tell. For i felt alive, like something had happened and been lit inside for i know it had, but i also felt part of a dream had died (though i dont think i realized that at the time).

I remember coming here and feeling initially alive and also knowing that i had to leave. At Harbin the temperature had reached 110 and i prayed for a cooler place. the creeks were running dry and i wanted to see the ocean. When i got here the fog rolled in and it was cooler that i remembered it in the winter. and i thought that god had a funny sense of humor in answering my prayers. that’s what my memories say, but as i continue to write, i realize that was not truly the case – the ocean and the coast were fogged in, and the air was damp and cool, but there was also a lovely sunny day, in the center away from the coastal shores. I walked the hidden gardens between the office buildings and discovered several new parks – oasis of green and rest amongst the built up rush. I spent time at the eastern edge of golden gate park. and after passing through the field of the street kids and others who lounged on the grass, and after passing through the tenderloin, i sat on a bench and began to write, a few entries that appear here and in my other blog. It was there that i knew that i needed to shine, that i had to glow in order to live.

And as i write this i help rekindle a dream of how i was meant to live, the dream that this place had meant to me many years before. A dream that had died, and as i looked at the others, empty souls wandering and sitting on benches, and i saw the figure that i was going from park to park, sitting on benches, staring into space and something came alive. I sat in the botanical gardens in golden gate park, after blindly strolling through, the place not as alive as my first visit here, and disappointed by the cold foggy beach. i sat in another corner with a large lawn, and a poem came to me. I walked the parks and my hand did write, the beginnings penned in Alamo Square as i sit on a bench, dogs running all around. Another park seen in the distance, and there i was soon found, I saw the beauty of the parks, and the squares surrounded by steel and concrete, but my time here was short and i had to move on. A holiday weekend and all was full. For along with the calm and the joy that grew there was the stress of having to press on, deciding where to go, circumstances limiting the duration of my peace.

The day i left the sun did shine – for my journey to sierra hot springs, a place i had not been, harbin’s rustic sister in the mountains, that was certain to have a camping place. I had thought about going there while at Harbin, but i had delayed, in procrastination and uncertainty and by the time i put up a note on the board, the few rides there had gone. So i headed out from San Francisco to Sierraville after playing that game, to a place i knew i was going to. Still, i guess now in reflection, that i had to come through, for that breakthrough that i was looking for.

I sat waiting for the bus to emeryville that would take me to the train, and yet another bus to truckee sitting in the sun. Three women with big hair from southern california sat on the bench beside and i listened to their speech, glad that i was leaving the city, still unsure of what was to come. And that time, as with many trips to the city before, i found myself alone, just talking with my pen. I lit a smoke and a woman asked for a light, we joined in conversation and connected as we rode. And in Sacramento we got off the train, she stopped there, but i got on the bus and rode on to another chapter of my life.

I did not know where the road would take me, or what path that i was on. It has been a long journey in between, so many roads taken, but i see maybe why i came back here – it is not the place, but the dream, and the need to shine on through. Still i wonder as i write this, if i again can come alive, or is the place right here a vision of dreams that have died? And can i kindle new dreams here, bringing in old parts that are still alive, but let those parts that have shown to be illusions drift out into the sea?

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I should have left yesterday when i felt nice and calm, deeply rested and released. The sun shown brightly, the bed called me forth and i did not want to go. I felt unwound and so clear and believed there was more to learn. Where i was going i did not know, but i heard the call of Sacramento.

It’s true i was unsure the day before, when i found my request for a ride answered on the board. I’d been inside for two nights now, sleeping on warm soft bed after five nights out in the cold with my hips digging into the hard wood platform below. I slept and i slept and i felt something go, the push and striving and so much more. I did not want to leave, or was it that i did not want to go, out into the unknown and the life that i knew all to well. Could i go back to the roller coaster ride, thrust back into frenetic movement, and the buzzing mind? What was there that was not here, and why did i feel called to go? No clear answer arose and so i stay put, and now wonder if i missed my chance and turned my back on what i was meant to do.

I answered the note, my ride coming through, she wrote back and i missed our meeting. But i walked to her door, she had left me her room, secretly hoping she would not be there. I passed the window and there she stood, waved at me and opened the door. I felt a connection, a nice giving woman, the rounder face filled with calm joy, and a groundedness and earthiness i felt inside. We talk, an early ride, back to Sacramento airport to catch her flight, to florida where she lived. But as we talked i wondered if i would bail.

I had wanted to wait until after the osho meditation until i replied, felt that some clarity would be reached there. I had thought of the meditation and this place when i had been in the hustle of the Central American towns and felt overwhelmed with the traffic on the narrow streets full of life bouncing off the bricks and cement. The practice is divided into four parts – the first is shaking, feet firmly planted on the floor, to frenetic techno-like music, that you cannot escape. It was how i felt pacing the towns and brought forth images of industry and city like – the constant buzz you cannot escape, and want to, just shake, but you cannot go, stuck, trying to find your way through. The second part is dancing, the music calms, an eastern indian feel, no longer intrusive noise, how free it feels to move your limbs, to dance and swirl around. The third, is sitting, watching the thought. Though music plays you really do not take note. then you lay still – until the talk and i want to leave. I felt relaxed, and how i left the first zone behind, and wanted to lay for a while.

I went to the pools, playing and dancing serene in the jets, the motion massaging my soul. The hot pool left me soft, and i lay down for a while. I looked at my bags and began to pack all that was now dry from the rain. My groundsheet and tarp drying under my bed were still damp, so i turned them to dry some more. I stuffed my junk in but decided to leave my yoga pants in reach out on top. I set my alarm for early the next day And at 8pm i drifted into a long deep sleep.

I already knew decision – do why do i play the game, and delay -I know what i will do but don’t admit it even to myself – just like i often know where i will go but move around before. I do not listen and i doubt and prolong the process and the agony of not knowing, when in truth i knew it all along. And when a voice is not listened to, it shuts up, at times it screams and then gives up. So i guess i did have something to learn. And the time i spent questioning i was not really here. As i am when embroiled in decisions to leave. Though i still wonder, if the voice of indulgence led me wrong – the appearance of safety and of comfort. For the calmness quickly disappeared during the day.

i had known the night before when i inquired about space in the dorm. I made a move, but not a decision and the opening was there. Life was open in several way and this is the choice i made, not because one door was blocked and i took the only one that was open. and though i fear the cold i realize the choices i have made, was offered a cheap tent but turned it down, the belief it would tie me to the road. I was offered a place to stay for a night or two my second day here, the day i ran into many i knew, but i listened to her story and pulled away, not wanting to give or take any more, and because i closed the cocoon around, i slept out in the cold. Still, it was temporary, and i needed space, and clarity of mind (or did i – did i pass up possibilities)

But with the lift i wonder if i buried myself for i put out energy and requests and did not follow through. And how many times have prayers been answered but i did not see, or i turned away from the gift. And when you refuse a gift, how many more will be given. I saw Bonnie in the changing room, i looked and she was there, i told her i’m sorry, i just can’t go and she understood my call,. I wish you well she honestly said, and was not pissed cause an offer was refused, or some plans had changed, just went on with her day. And how many times have i tried to hold others to scripts, even when a change does not set me out.

But after she left, my ride was gone, i felt the energy change. Clouds covered the sunny sky, with the possibility of rain, The bed that seemed clear the night before was still there, but confusion booking it in the morn. I went to yoga and then into town to buy food and connect to the web. The skies changed from blue to grey and i almost got caught in the rain. In the coffee shop as i sit focused on this screen, thA 8 month pregnant woman who had been in my dorm came in and told me she went too late, there no beds for her that night. And i felt bad, she had a car, but should i sleep out in the rain that night. She said she would ask about a basic room and I did not offer to give up my bed. Still i began to feel guilt and wondered if it were a sign that i should not have been there that night.

I hitchhiked back up the hill, walking past the school where i normally stand, parents were pulling in and out picking up kids and i almost caught in the rain. I went to feldencras which left me unbalanced, movements mainly on one side. How quickly i can get thrown off and my frustration rose inside. For i have felt the separation of part of me and my sides, and at times in this year of energy rushes, a difference between the left and right which has hung on for days at a time. So i felt off balance, and then i said should i have left that morning when all felt right. I went to the pools, and a creepy guy crowded my space, and then began to exercise shoving his butt too close to my face.

That night was the new moon and i went to the ceremony, a sound healing and felt wonderful at peace as we toned the directions,and warmed up moving our spines called energy forth. The temple felt sacred and i was there. Then we formed a wheel – i lay down when it was my turn set an intention and integration called to me. It popped out of nowhere, and i tried to call instead purposeful direction(or i want to find a home. it not peaceful for me as my mind raced, did i give the wrong intention, not speak my peace, and now i hear different sounds from all directions. I wrote earlier that it said to me integration was necessary but now as i edit it showed me again what happens when i question a decision and play it over and over in my head. I need integration, and that i realized, but i also see how i played the old game, and got tense inside. I was there in body, but my mind raced all over the place – was it right or wrong, caught in a flux, for it does not matter i was there.

Still i asked myself when does self care become indulgence, and had i stayed too long. the peace that i felt went awry, and i felt that i abandoned my call and opportunity.

The next day the sky shifted back and forth between sun and rain and my sleep was light. I went to fantastic yoga and reiki that night, still i questioned and questioned and felt it my due, when the pregnant woman, who had gotten a dorm bed afterall for those nights, said she was driving to Sacramento the next day, but left ealier than planned while i was in the pools. I felt it was my due, my karma coming home, had a sleepless night, bad dreams got me up a few times and awoke in a fret, bad energy emanating from me. I felt weak that i could not give, she needed time by herself, not knowing her course, and though we were in similar boats, i did not have the joy she needed.

I got a bed for the night and felt myself stuck, wandering lost, wondering what if. I was ready to leave, in some way i had left already, feeling what i needed had been done. Ran into a man i had met before, he now solo, we talked and hung out for a long while, and i spent too long in the pool, still withdrew my energy and had a 12 hour sleep.

I left alone, as i arrived, no lift found its way to me. He had offered me a lift if i waited a day, but i felt sure it was time to leave (a decision i havent questioned). Still on my journey to San Francisco where i now find myself, away from the retreat and small towns, i wondered what i had done. By abandoning what i had put out to go to another place, i find myself back in the familiar, to a zone i did not want to go. I took the busses down and the ferry from vallejo, When i got to market street i cried inside, and spent the night at the downtown hostel which buzzed and i knew i could not stay (that will be a separate entry).

 But as i write this at the hostel in fort mason, i feel drained but calm, and wonder if this were the plan all along. will i remember to trust in the decision i make the next time around? To live with one it has been made – without regret. For going back and forth moves you in no direction but in frenzied zags inside. what has been done has been done, you cant make things unhappen and the best you can do is keep going and trying (and smiling).

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I spent 10 days at Harbin Hotsprings, a special place, but posted so little of what i wrote. I wrote and felt so many things while i was there, thinking and feeling more than actually writing – so what follows was written over many days and has been pulled together and is somewhat contradictory. And it is unfinished, but i feel that it must go out, so that i may move forward, and leave the need to finish this writing and the focus on my time there.

Then again, Harbin hotsprings is in many ways a contradictory place, like the new age movement as a whole. A place apart, and yet so intertwined. A place that has called me, transformed and this time i believe brought me down. This was my third journey there, and it had been calling me for a while. I felt the waters in my imagination long before i arrived, pictured myself in the big pool, all the stress inside letting loose, that rushing that i felt on much of the journey for the past while. But once i was there i realized, that for me, they are only a small part of what calls me there.

But they are so much a part of the place, the central locale, and may be part of the reason i fail to write. For the relaxation that i imagined went too deep. They pulled not only the stress and tension from my bones and soul, but something more. Something more vital leached out, the intensity and drive that pull me on. The intensity and drive to write. Perhaps it is because the place is more unplugged, with few laptops to be seen. Maybe it was because i started to look inside, and became oblivious to that which was around. And maybe that is what it is best to stay only a short while. But as i write this i also see, this calmness that has come over me.

1) I am back at Harbin and in some was it does not seem like i had ever left, though at the same time i know that i am not the same person that i was the first time that i arrived, the first time that i stayed just over a year ago. And people see it in me too, my face has changed, and my body too but i do not ask how. And my feelings about this place are as mixed as ever.

My thoughts change as i enter a different place, those of yesterday seem far away, and many that i have had here before and have forgotten return to me. To be processed once again or just to float on through. To dance on the spiral for i know that i have changed, and remember the condition i came here in, the same condition i was coming back to in myself.

This place called me and i hesitated to return and almost did not come. hesitated on my return as well and wondered if i would be let in after my time in sierraville. But i was, and welcomed by some, my name remembered, and i felt good.ran into one from the other place, the conversation continued as if it just were yesterday. On the way up, at the bart station in the early morning, i met one who had left, a resident no longer. In this chance crossing of paths, I questioned what i was doing, if i needed to come back to this place.

Though in some ways it is like a return – people greet you, people you know and catch up with, people you recognize and who remember you. And in that way the place holds energy, of yours, of theirs, of relationships, and of place. And it does not feel that i have been gone so long. And i realize that it was not the introspective nature of the place that brought me alive, but its sister in connection, for when i first arrived, i spoke with some, and connected more, though on a superficial level, than i had in a long time.

And that how it is when you go home again, or return to a place. And it is a return, to similar conversations, activities and thoughts and a return to old habits, at least temporarily. It is like the labyrinth i have walked many a time, spiraling in and back out again, the centre remains but it changes. I have not walked the labyrinth this time here, there are many activities i had not done – not hiked the spirit path with its views down below, feeling less restless than before- or is it more tired and worn.

Harbin is a place i have been, a place where i grew and was transformed. Although i have only visited twice, it has a sense of home. but like the return home, it will also be different, for i have changed, and time has passed, and you can never expect all to be like when you left, and you cannot expect your reactions to be the same to what seems unchanged.

I have seen those who are giving, those who live here and give it all to those who come here in need of healing, for there are many, or just as a form of release. Yes, the devil does his dance here but there are angels who shine, and i feel their shine, many of those who live and work at this place. Those who heal not only with their touch, but with their smiles, who accept what comes their way, and who take care of the place. Who make it possible and who make it happen.

the place has changed, i hear them say, it’s not like it used to be. And how many of the people are new, of a different ilk, and how much is it that he people have changed. A bit of both i believe

Used to be a place of volkswagons buses, and now it is more BMWs i hear them say but i wonder how much of an exaggeration it is. And the place feels rich on a Saturday night at people from wine country come up to play, the people from marin and the tonier, but greener, places around the bay. The place where life is good, the land of the bohos. And i feel it here, like a poor cousin, looking on from the edge.

In the pools we are the same, the differences created by the clothes we wear have disappeared – or not. It is an accepting place as people of all shapes and sizes and ages enter in, and are welcome there from the twenty-somethings with perky breasts and butts, and firms skin that glows, to those beyond middle age with skin that has begun to sag, from the buff and toned, to the truly obese, we all gather in the pools. And you can see some differences in the styles of the hair, both on the head and down below, the tattoos, and where the signs of wear might be. And you can feel it in the energy too.

But still there are some who wander, who make their way here, stay for a while and some for a lifetime, The residents here have limited income, just getting by on the money plane. And before i connected with more who wandered, it seemed like more of us here – camping outside, cooking our meals, and taking avail of what was free. And there i shared my stories, with those in transition, for it is a place to be for a while.

now i feel the need to explain the vagaries of my journey, I feel so poor compared to those who say i am lucky to be here so long, But i think of their warm rooms, the meals at the resto and the home they go back to. And i know im not fair, for many struggle by, and this for them is a cheap retreat as it is for me – a place to go, to unwind and refresh, before they go back outside.

Some come to recharge, some come to escape, some come just to be. Some come to heel, some come to indulge and some come just to play. Some come to run away. Some come for time alone or with that special one and others come to connect and reconnect. And yes some come to get laid. And there are many communities here. It is a microcosm of the world outside, or certain segments within.

How the place has changed
i hear you proclaim
you have not been up in several years
life gotten “in the way”
maybe you still come often enough
but the tone to your voice has less regret
the beat old vans are gone (look around there are a few, and some of the new looking SUVs are really not so new)
replaced by BMWs (and exaggeration but..)
and you regret the loss
of the place i never saw
of what was
the loss of your youth
and has it changed
or have you

You pick me up hitching in your nice new car
or i talk to you on the deck
and you tell of your restaurant meals
and the comfort of your room
and you talk of the days
you almost lived up here
your second home
summers camping on the beach
a long time ago
when you were younger and free
the days you no longer live

it is still here but maybe more lowkey
in the campground and on the sleeping deck
so many wandering, lost, found, and transforming
so many on the path
But if it were only like that
full of those who wander on the path
dropped out, the “hippies” of today
the kids you see on the street
and those who live in beat up old vans
if that were the dominant vibe
would you be here?
Have you outgrown those days
a brief trip on a vacation from your career
that may be your calling, involve ideals from your youth
but maybe never quite lived up to the dream
tied down to the responsibilities of home
or has that collapsed
and now you journey back?
In search of something
that you no longer find?

And i see the wealth, the rich who come to play
to be pampered for a while
and in some ways i wonder if that is what the movement has become
integration in a strange way
and what ideals have been compromised
as the symbols fly in your face
the clothes you wear and food you eat now status symbols
proclaiming how enlightened you are
as spirituality is for sale,
and in the domain of those with the funds to buy
But there is much here,
and those who have managed to live out the life
and those who seek it pure
and those who give to help others through

Where do you look and what do you see
for all is at play
ill never know how much has changed
and what has remained the same
but the people here are still people
with all that entails.

4) For as there are angels here, and those who share and care, and they are truly special and shine a light, and i have felt that light lift me up and seen it in the eyes of so many. i also feel the devil at play. The focus on the body, from acceptance to indulgence in all that feels good. The workshops on tantric sex and ecstasy abound, by outside organizations it is true, but where does it slip over the border. Where does the healing stop and turn to indulgence, when does babylon replace the temple?
When does self-care become self-indulgence and absorption. There is a delicate balance between the self-care needed for health and the inward motion needed for quietude, and that which becomes self-absorbed and indulgent. When does the bubble that is created at times for the centre you need, begin to cut you off from the world outside and you no longer see or acknowledge those around. When does a place where like minds and kindred souls are valued become an insular crowd? And when does an opening up to the body and the messages it holds, releasing what was held and repressed turn to a focus on the body alone, and a hedonistic play of sex?

I look at one side of the board with harbin events – yoga, and movies, meditation in the morning, sweats, sound healing and more, and then at the other with the workshops – a list for the school of shiatsu and massage, but also those with photos of couples engaged in coitus or more.

5) I have now been here for a few days and it seems different that it was before. How much of it is i who have changed, and how much of it is the place. Or am i just processing through it more quickly, feeling now like i did when i left, when i was read to leave. The bliss has past, and the critic in me comes up.

The focus on the body turns from healing to mere , ecstasy and indulgence, from a healthy relation to one where the body takes hold. The body is our temple, and to care for it, but not lose sight of what lay inside, not lose sight that there is so much more – yes, the great cathedrals are to be admired but no matter how ornate or splendid they are they can be destroyed by a crisis of kind, one that takes you by surprise, and shakes you to the ground as i learned visiting the ruins of central america. What matters most is that which lives beyond and yes it needs a home on this earth and plane, a home that is healthy and lets its life flow. One that does not constrict or constrain, or take up all ones concern and time, No, the home should not be neglected and needs to be maintained, honoured and built, but as castle is empty if there is no life inside.

The last time i was here i was so out of touch with this body of mine, as i had been for so much of my life. Through yoga and soundwork and breathwork and soaks, i learned to open up and release some of what was held for the body holds emotion frustrations and more, and i began to open and release what was there. The home i have for my soul i began to clean and then felt i was neglecting my soul itself.

And the focus on the heart, opening to love, has shifted to a focus on sex alone – it was here before and has not changed, but this time i see it most. i feel my heart opening a bit, and see connection on many planes, the conversations and more, the caring around, but then with some i back off, what is it that you want from me?

6) I look around and i do see that god has answered my prayers. i wanted a place where i could feel safe and that i have found here. The mountains around this narrow tight valley, a valley above the town below, acts as a cocoon and insulates me from much of life outside. I walk the trail alone in the dark from the pool back to the platform by the creek where i camp alone, I walk the roads, and go to town by sticking out my thumb. All feels safe. The waters to soak, the temple where the ceiling spirals up to heaven, yoga and more.  A livingroom where i sit and write, and diversions all around. I have food to eat and still can see the stars that shine at night. I am out in nature but with creature comforts and there is nothing i need to do. Still i have time to write and write i do, but often i just sit. I have the safety and the peace, a place where it was safe to let go, and lord i pray i continue my journey home.

7) But i feel alone amongst the crowd and today i wander lost. I was glad when i came and i met some i knew, who welcomed and greeted me by name, and i have talked to some others on a regular basis but there is no one with whom i share. And in that sense of god i feel alone, though i know that it is i, in some part, who holds others at bay. I wish to connect, to let down my guard and to open to those around.

I also feel, as i did last time, that i am on the winds without a role – i come here to be, but i need to give, let energy flow the other way. When i left here the two previous times i also felt that way. To go hand in hand, to give and take, and both are needed for me. I would like to give, i would like to share, but again feel so out of place.

8) But this valley of green has drawn me in and i know that you look over me. i feel energies flow and i am grateful. I walk along the spirit path and look down at the valley below. and feel the spirit within me move, and the energies that are here. I turned inside and now i move without

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new age kitchen

I avoid the kitchen during its busy peak. It is not just the crowd, chaos and confusions as many try to cook often gourmet meals. It is not just that i feel overwhelmed as people gather in groups, claiming the space, sharing a meal. It is one place where i have met others on my visits before, sat down and chatted over what we ate.

The kitchen brings up feelings in me that i do not want to admit, challenges to who i am or was that are difficult to process. It it not just my judgement as i look at the sink and the dishes left behind, of at the dishrack piled so high that it is hard to balance one more cup, but still someone finds a way – rather than put away what is there. I shut my mouth, clean sometimes and know that there are others who do the same. And i try to put my judgements to sleep, but at times they still come through. It is nt my job, not my problem i know, let it be i say to myself, not worth getting put out by, but then i think of the kitchens i have had to clean so i try to do my part – but out of love and not resentment. I take a pause, and ask myself, how many symbolic unwashed dishes i have i left behind, letting other tidy up my mess.

It is not just the bags left behind, full of food rotting in the fridge or on the shelves – though that comes closer to my heart – or is it my ego. I think not of starving children in africa as i look at the waste, but of myself, peering around and desiring what is there. I look at the bags, from whole foods, trader joes, the food co-op, full of organic produce, quality sauces and oils, wholesome grains and the latest trends and the jealousy monster rises inside. I want what they have, and i look at my own bag, simple foods which i eat, rice, lentils, some veggies and more – not all organic which is the best that i can do. I look into the free food bin – for the pickings that are there, and feel myself on the margins of a life i once wanted, and maybe still do. I feel my poverty as i open a can of non-organic tomatoes, and the food that i have, and the way that i travel, cannot carry so much on my back, and definitely no liquids. And my self perception changes too – from that as healthy foodie to one who does not eat that well at all.

For around me are no longer the meals of ramen noodles, pasta and peanut butter that i see in the hostels, but of stir fries with sauces and nuts galore, the latest grains, juicing and raw food delights and the pasta is fresh and stuffed served with an organic pesto and fancy mushrooms and more. And i listen in to the merits of diet, raw foods the only way, the best oils to cook with and for health, and how many nuts and of what type you should have each day. I listen to the talk of herbs and cooking and more i see and feel the judgements upon me. Or is it merely that i judge myself. As i listen in and look around, feeling on the margins outside, i see some glances over to me, i know that some judgement is there – but i notice it and feel it hard because of the judgements i make. And how many times have i judged others by the food they usually eat – the fast food product, processed food and more. And here, it slams in my face the judgements i have made, and still, though less often and extremely do, but i’m the one who eats poorly here and cannot beef up my ego by comparison, and here i notice what i do not have.

And i should not care, be content with what i have, and that i have food to eat. And decent food to. And i see how it has been part of my identity as it is for them and the mirror shines back to me. There are others i know, who eat like me, who eat simply and shop in a regular store, and some who have never cooked the food whose aromas swirl around. Generally i am content when i sit down to my simple meals eating what is available to me – it is in comparison, when i see that which is out of reach, that the envy reappears. And the voice inside still cries, wholesome, healthy, real food that is grown and cooked with love is should be for all, not for the privileged few. And for so many it is out of reach. And i smell the aromas that waft around, and look over and see another who eats regular canned soup. And i talk and share with some others, and see the joy that is here.

But it makes me think of the changes in my life, and how far i am from the person i once imagined myself to be, and how much of that person i still am. And how i struggle with this image inside. At times as i hear how proper it is to eat a certain way, necessary for health and enlightenment and of the others who just dont know, i think of the times i have been grateful for food to eat. I listen to the raw food diet, and think here it is fine, but what about in colder climes, in areas without abundance of food the whole year round – and i think of some of the farms i was on a few years ago, in the spring, before the crop had come due, and of the veggies that had been put away the year before, carrots and beets and potatoes now limp, as you waited for spring, and i thought of my arrival in alaska that week before i got paid, camping in the damp cold trying to keep warm, and craving calories in any way – living on peanut butter, bread and carrots. And camping on the oregon coast, or living in the sierras, so far from a store that had real veggies and you ate what was there, and were thankful for that. And i think of all the places where you need to eat fish or meat if you ate a local diet, and the places where good food cannot be found. And people around the world who eat rice and beans or corn and beans every day. And the places where people are thankful for a belly full of food. And i become self-righteous in another way – internally proclaiming opinions in the same intensity as the others i hear and feel. So have i really let go, or do the thoughts around swirl uncomfortably inside like the stomach after a heavy meal?

I listen to the talk of fasting, and the different types of fasts there are- – but there is a difference i think of going hungry when the choice is yours and you know where the next meal will come from, and the hunger of uncertainty and not knowing.

And in the kitchen i question my beliefs and the image of who i am. I once was like that i say to myself, in my early veggie days. But when my belly is full and there is food around, and a choice in that i still identify myself by what i eat, and yes, i must admit look down on those who fill their bellies of candy, and soda and fast food and more. For food is an issue with me and the kitchen brings it home. for here, i am do not maintain my sense of superiority by the food i eat. I know to be thankful for what is provided, but i am reminded that i have truly not let go. And say grace before my meal. As Jesus once said it is not what goes into your mouth that is important, but what comes out.

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I find my way back to the smoking deck. Once again. Drawn there not only by the craving for nicotine, but for conversation and a familiar place to sit. I thought i would quit smoking the first time i arrived, reading of a smoking area off of the parking lot. But it looks down not only over the cars, offering a view of who is arriving and who is departing, and with whom, but of a mountain, lush green right now, and in the rains mists form and float overhead.
The smoking deck, a place i return, its cast of characters, some regulars and others passing through. The covered deck, the first place many people pass, some with looks of disdain and others just curious. But like smoking zones everywhere, they are a place for conversation and here, one of the few places people truly interact and talk. And it is the place where i met many of those i know here now, and a place where i am recognized when i return. A mini-community among the larger whole.

I wonder if it is just our “outcast’ status or our addiction that makes us bond, something in common that is known right away. Or is it something about the act of smoking and taking a break that leads people to engage. Or something with filling our mouths, throats and lungs with smoke, that makes us want to exhale words along with the smoke. A common topic of conversation is smoking itself, and how the hardest thing is the social aspect, one of the great difficulties of quitting, now longer joining your fellow puffers. And how you meet so many interesting folks, a wide array of people, how in workplaces the one place of talk across departments and levels, a place of “gossip” of just knowing what is going on. A place where people are equal and where you feel free to just sit down in any open space.

But not all areas are created the same. i think of outside the hostel in San Francisco, smoking on the sidewalk, sometimes in the rain, One evening people talked there, a nice night, warm and people lingered, but generally people do not, come to get their fix and go back in, not acknowledging the others who are there. And maybe that is it – people do not linger. And can feel cast outside.

Here it is different, the deck is a special place, a place to relax and enjoy the view, letting the smoke curl up into the mind. for some, the first stop on the way in and the last coming out. And i have met a few that only smoke here. Is it because it is the only place, and draws people together? Is it because some view it as special, and value it that way, that it becomes so? But other places are similar. Was it the legacy of the cat, who made it his home, and though he is gone, his energy lingers? But i have met others before, when there is a nice area to smoke – something to break the ice.

The conversations range – from meet and greet, the how long are you here and where are you from, and the issues surrounding smoking, to stories of travels around the globe, of philosophies both profound and shallow, ancient and new, to psychology – expanding consciousness and whinings about life, to stories of lives lived and complaining too. you can learn about tools, meditation, bars in a given town, healing techniques, and someones innermost problems in daily life. And of course, at times there is chatter about nothing.

I came this morning onto a bitch session and wondered if the place drew some of the darkness in, some of the darkness of this place, the whiners and those who will not live the healthy way. but you also meet much joy, and up by the pools and in the kitchen i heard the bitching too, So it is not just there.

Smoking areas can form a community, and when you smoke alone, sneaking puffs on the sidewalk or where the smell and smoke is unwelcome you can feel like a leper, but here we join in in our addiction. The smoking deck, my refuge and my place of connection to others around.

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