A Life Worth Living

Aguas Calientes

Begging Among Beggars

Sep 3, 2013

A few days ago, I took an afternoon stroll through the Plaza de Armas. In front of one of the Cathedrals was an old blind man perched on a tiny stool. He had one hand curled into a bowl inches from his face. It was turned upwards a bit, unlike the usual fixed, receiving posture of a beggar. It’s as if he had grown weary from holding it out for much too long. He was sobbing humbly and murmuring Spanish words, almost under his breath, to no one in particular. I stopped in front of him instinctively and placed my hand on my coin purse, though my hand never made it into the purse and no coins made their way out. For about 30 seconds I stood there, about a foot away from him, and watched him weep. Then I walked away. I looked back once. He looked the same -still murmuring, still weeping. Last night I dreamed of him, of that moment. There were no modifications to the plot line of the experience. It happened just as it did that afternoon, but those 30 seconds were stretched out and every detail of it -what was happening in our shared physical space & what was happening with me internally- was available for more slow paced reflection.

I’ve given to street beggars before and I’ve walked away from some as well. In the past, a choice was made in the moment and the moment was left to pass. This particular instance haunts me. It isn’t as clear as your usual brand of regret. There’s no specific “should have” that my mind has assigned to the experience. It’s the sight of him, the feel of him altogether, that haunts me. And even in reliving the whole thing in dream state, where I have the opportunity to do it differently, I still felt paralysis at the sight of him.

There was a quarrel inside of me within those 30 seconds. Two instinctive responses were at odds with one another. His sobs made my heart ache and a part of me wanted to hand over everything I own. Another part of me feared him -the paranoid, wary part of me that has been advised by the fears of others. “People who have less than you always want to take advantage of you for what you have.” Who’s voice that is -I don’t know. I listened to it anyway. The voice spoke and we made an agreement that that was the truth. I had a choice at that moment. I chose fear. Logically, it made no sense. He was blind & helpless. What harm could he have possibly inflicted upon me?

I spend much of my time ranting about compassion and make such an effort to understand the battles another incarnation is facing. And here I am, staring into the eyes of my own hypocrisy. I’ve made no final conclusion about why the experience haunts me so. But I thought I’d jot it down anyway. It doesn’t feel as though it ought to be forgotten.

September 3, 2013
Sunrise at Manchu Picchu
A day not to be forgotten

Monday
September 2, 2013
10:05 pm

We’ve done it! We’re here!!! After overcoming a long string of challenges, which I don’t care to recount in detail, we’ve finally arrived in Aguas Calientes.  It was dark by the time we boarded our train in the Sacred Valley, so most of the businesses were closed when we arrived. The sound of tourism was silent for the most part and my ears were left to feast on the the sounds of Urumbaba’s rapids slicing through the town. This place is like a commercialized Shangri La! I feel a small sense of guilt for taking part in the tourism that has taken over this town. I can only imagine how incredible this place must have been before tourism had its way with it.  The layout of the town is beyond description!! It’s nestled between the peaks of the Andean mountains & its streets aren’t laid out in grid, but rather, alleyways braided over the texture of the land. It’s nice to see development surrender to the natural shape of the landscape. 

We’ll be leaving our hostel for Machu Picchu in five hours.  Sleep seems to be out of the question. The cloud of fatigue that hovered closely all day had been blown away upon arrival.  Even in its quiet hours, there’s an energy about this place that pumps life into my veins.  

It’s pitch black beyond the perimeter of the man made structures. Faint traces of the mountain are visible through a dark veil. Giants! Nearly close enough to touch!! Ghosts, but not monsters. Very powerful guardian angels -silent and powerful. It reminds me so much of the presence of my grandfather.  I’m housing an array of emotion: awe, splendor, humility, an awareness of divinity and a strong sense of conviction that my minuscule little life-breath is part of it all. Tears are streaming down my face as we speak. 

The physical reminders of my fragile, mortal, body which I endured in Cusco have vanished.  As if they had been washed away with Urumbaba’s current the second I arrived.  I feel the divine here —of the divine as a matter of fact.  In complete union with it, absent of worship & diety.  Simply in sync, in flow.  Here I am water. Not a river, not a lake, not the ocean. Simply water and of it all. 

Gratitude permeates every thought and I think back to every sacrifice, every bead of sweat, every choice at varying forks in the road that led here. Ceremony is approaching….they say you die a small death through surrender during ceremony. It all feels synchronistic, the events of the last few days.  Nightmares shedding light on my own fears and insecurities… arriving here just in time to be reminded that I am not powerless…all things are in place.  Everything has happened as it should to bend me into complete surrender. I have never felt so natural in my own being as I do in this moment.  Here and now, I could not imagine my soul taking on any incarnation besides this one.

Monday
September 2, 2013
10:05 pm

We’ve done it! We’re here!!! After overcoming a long string of challenges, which I don’t care to recount in detail, we’ve finally arrived in Aguas Calientes. It was dark by the time we boarded our train in the Sacred Valley, so most of the businesses were closed when we arrived. The sound of tourism was silent for the most part and my ears were left to feast on the the sounds of Urumbaba’s rapids slicing through the town. This place is like a commercialized Shangri La! I feel a small sense of guilt for taking part in the tourism that has taken over this town. I can only imagine how incredible this place must have been before tourism had its way with it. The layout of the town is beyond description!! It’s nestled between the peaks of the Andean mountains & its streets aren’t laid out in grid, but rather, alleyways braided over the texture of the land. It’s nice to see development surrender to the natural shape of the landscape.

We’ll be leaving our hostel for Machu Picchu in five hours. Sleep seems to be out of the question. The cloud of fatigue that hovered closely all day had been blown away upon arrival. Even in its quiet hours, there’s an energy about this place that pumps life into my veins.

It’s pitch black beyond the perimeter of the man made structures. Faint traces of the mountain are visible through a dark veil. Giants! Nearly close enough to touch!! Ghosts, but not monsters. Very powerful guardian angels -silent and powerful. It reminds me so much of the presence of my grandfather. I’m housing an array of emotion: awe, splendor, humility, an awareness of divinity and a strong sense of conviction that my minuscule little life-breath is part of it all. Tears are streaming down my face as we speak.

The physical reminders of my fragile, mortal, body which I endured in Cusco have vanished. As if they had been washed away with Urumbaba’s current the second I arrived. I feel the divine here —of the divine as a matter of fact. In complete union with it, absent of worship & diety. Simply in sync, in flow. Here I am water. Not a river, not a lake, not the ocean. Simply water and of it all.

Gratitude permeates every thought and I think back to every sacrifice, every bead of sweat, every choice at varying forks in the road that led here. Ceremony is approaching….they say you die a small death through surrender during ceremony. It all feels synchronistic, the events of the last few days. Nightmares shedding light on my own fears and insecurities… arriving here just in time to be reminded that I am not powerless…all things are in place. Everything has happened as it should to bend me into complete surrender. I have never felt so natural in my own being as I do in this moment. Here and now, I could not imagine my soul taking on any incarnation besides this one.

Pua and I have discovered Karaoke night at our hostel. It’s just as I suspected…..The Notorious BIG iiiiiis universally loved!!! ❤❤❤

Paid a visit to one of the cathedrals in the Plaza de Armas today. Wow!!! The ornate union of European and Inca art is UNREAL!!! 24kt gold leaf over nearly everything! I’ve never laid eyes on a more elaborate place of worship in my life. My jaw hit the ground the moment I stepped into the cathedral and I instantly teleported back to my childhood years in Catholic school. There were only about four other people there during my visit, all of whom were kneeling in prayer, which made the echoing click of my heels feel even more intrusive. My face was flush with red by my third step. I was fascinated by how different their depiction of Jesus is from what I grew up with and their concentration on the Virgin Mary. There are tributes to the immaculate conception everywhere and there is an abundance of art highlighting Joseph, which I found incredibly interesting. His paternal presence was not represented much in the way I was taught about the church growing up. God himself was the celebrated Father of Christ. The visit sparked some new interest in what I learned as a child about the church, though its now from a more historical perspective than from a seat of faith.

I’m laying in the courtyard of our hostel in Cusco watching clouds pass against a blue sky —reflecting on time and its fleeting nature. There’s a colorful array of hippie travelers sprawled out on bean bags around me and I couldn’t be happier with their warm & cordial nature. I’ve exchanged dialogue with a few very young travelers and am blown away by how much of the world they’ve seen in their early twenties. I’m in awe of their courage. I pictured myself making the same choices at their age and could barely imagine myself letting go of attachments i had at the time: my idea of what my parents thought I could (ought to) become; the familiarity of friends & comfort zones; and the notion that I simply “couldn’t”….. I smiled to myself about where I am and the seat (bean bag) I’m in and what came to manifest as soon as I mustered up the courage to say, “I can.” I considered the space I’m in in my life now and what attachments have prevented me from being truly present in my surroundings when I’ve mustered up the courage to stray from home. Those I will refrain from speaking more about until I’ve explored them further.

I meet a lovely young couple traveling together. They’ve been together for four years and said they are more madly in love every day and don’t remember a single moment of boredom in one another’s company. This peaked my interest because I’ve found myself bored with partners during stagnant chapters before —even the ones I have loved very deeply. I asked them what their secret was and they replied,

"Even the most intriguing lover cannot keep your eyes in wonder forever. It’s not fair to limit yourself in that way or to ask so much of them. If you love someone deeply and wish to remain that way, you have to take some time to look away from one another and look at other things TOGETHER."

I told them I had considered such ideas in the past and made efforts to create those opportunities for myself and my lovers, but timing, income & obligations have managed to get in the way.

To that they replied, “then you have the wrong partner. If its something you BOTH want, trust me, you’ll find a way. And though your lovers may be lovely, your relationships will not have longevity. You’ll may stay together for a long time, but for the wrong reasons. You’ll stay together because of your attachments to what you’ve already invested rather than what can be created in your shared space. You’re too young to stay in relationships for such reasons. Choose a partner who will be your sails not your anchor, and you’ll never be faced with having to choose between loving and growing.”

With that I was silenced and retreated to reflection.

We met a lovely woman from Copenhagen at Lima airport. She was dealing with the same flight woes and we shared a cab to the hotel in Lima. Pua and I joined her for dinner and we all shared stories of our home towns and bounced around a few opinions on social differences.  When we ventured into the topic of the Sacred Feminine and female role dynamics she said something that struck me and is resonating with me until now. She said that, “the greatest service a woman can bring to a man in a relationship is to bridge him to the divine.”  A plethora of ideas, new notions and insight washed over me and though I would love to jot them all down, I wouldn’t be able to keep up if I tried. The topic has touched me though, and I know it will be the seed of further reflection.  I know that if the hurdles we experienced served any synchronistic purpose at all, it was to place me at the same table as Eva that night. For her little slice of time and honest opinion, I am truly grateful.

We met a lovely woman from Copenhagen at Lima airport. She was dealing with the same flight woes and we shared a cab to the hotel in Lima. Pua and I joined her for dinner and we all shared stories of our home towns and bounced around a few opinions on social differences. When we ventured into the topic of the Sacred Feminine and female role dynamics she said something that struck me and is resonating with me until now. She said that, “the greatest service a woman can bring to a man in a relationship is to bridge him to the divine.” A plethora of ideas, new notions and insight washed over me and though I would love to jot them all down, I wouldn’t be able to keep up if I tried. The topic has touched me though, and I know it will be the seed of further reflection. I know that if the hurdles we experienced served any synchronistic purpose at all, it was to place me at the same table as Eva that night. For her little slice of time and honest opinion, I am truly grateful.

Cusco at night is something to fall in love with. The air of romance in the plazas is palpable and the little lights sprinkled on the hillsides are hypnotic —flickering in their random sequence.

The locals are much warmer than some had led me to believe and their hospitality is incredible!!! Pua and I strolled the streets and alleyways a bit and I could not have been more pleased to discover that there’s as many mini art shops as there are 7-elevens in Los Angeles. It’s lovely how much artistry is encouraged here!!!