Friday, April 24, 2009

Closing This Chapter of My Life Story

When I was in NY checking in for my flight to India, I met an older woman named Susan, do you remember her? Well, I will never forget when she said,
"This trip is going to change your life Cody."
Such a uncomplicated statement couldn't have been anymore precise and impactful for that's exactly what my hopes were set on with coming to India.

First and foremost want to express my undying gratitude from the innermost center of my heart for being given the opportunity to travel around India. I feel exceedingly appreciative that I had a well enough paying job making it possible to hoard my earnings (Thank you Brett), and that I had friends to heap on the love and support whenever I needed it. Most of all, I want to personally thank my parents. I will forever be in their debt for the unfathomable amount of love, inspiration and support I received from each of them.

All the matters I am going to talk about are solely based on my personal experiences and what I personally learned from them, so it may not apply to everyone. There is no fact behind any of this, its solely my opinion, so take it for whatever its worth.

The first question to be addressed is; "Why leave?"
When we are truly content with our situations in life, we don't change it, so why did I leave? All of my reasons came back to the underlying motivation to scrutinize what else is out there in the world for I was disgruntled with life. As the days progressed closer and closer to October 15th, more and more things in my life were collapsing into shambles, pushing me closer to India and further away from happiness. I didn't know how to change my discontentment, all I knew was that I needed a change of surroundings and a change in myself, so I could start over with as minimal dust on the mirror of my soul as possible. Ever since I began to sincerely desire to come to India, everything seemed to be programmed by a means I cannot explain other than to call it Fate, The Universe, God, or Karma whispering into my heart,
"Stop wishing to go, and put your dream into motion. First step; buy the ticket, everything else will work according to that."
To my astonishment it did. The date for my leaving L.A. was completely at random and everything worked according with my hearts deepest desires. I am young enough to where I could skip out for awhile and explore the world and myself, not having the apprehension of meeting a mortgage payment or taking care of my children or meeting the responsibilities of a career job, so why not go to India? There was no better time than now.

"But why India?"
For starters, since as long as I can remember, Ive always been fascinated with other cultures in all their different aspects, and and there is no other country that gives you a taste so potent of culture, than India. Each state in India, feels like a different country because its so different culturally that the one your were last in. From the clothes to the language, to the people to the food, to the landscapes and to the weather. Aside from its cultural diversity, India has so much to offer to see and experience, more so than any other country. Anything is at your fingertips in India; From adrenaline pumping white water rafting, to being a camel jockey in the sand dunes, to learning the arts of Indian culture, to divine and sometimes exhausting spiritual pilgrimages, countless amounts of monasteries and ashrams for self-realization, to exquisite beaches to bum around, to scrumptious food, to picturesque festivals all year round, extraordinary temples, forts, and mosques, and a mix of people coming from all around the globe in hopes to experience it all. You could spend a lifetime traveling around India and not see or experience the whole India. India's essence I don't think will ever be able to be grasped no matter how many lifetimes are spent discovering it all. I chose India because there were certain things I wanted to focus on, and India was a perfect candidate. Most American young men my age, wouldn’t think about going to India if given the opportunity to branch out into a different country. They would most likely want to go to Europe, so they could legally smoke pot and get prostitutes in Amsterdam, or to get obliterated at Oktoberfest in Germany. I on the other hand, wanted to focus my energy elsewhere, on something more constructive, positive and tangible. The only touchable way I brought true peace of mind and lasting happiness into my life was through a spiritual practice keeping my life in balance. There is no better place than India to get oneself back in a spiritual check. India in its vast entirety has everything I wanted to explore, all in ONE place. No other place offers such a extensive array of experiences so why go anywhere else? Including all of this and more, people who come here are starting to realize there is truly something magical here that keeps drawing people from all across the world to see for themselves. But what is it?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a truly happy person before? What was it about this person that made them so inciting? Was it the smile on their face as they drive their Ferrari down the road, or was it something a bit more deep than that? Maybe their health was perfect? Or still, not quite deep enough?...When I first got to India, all I saw on my way to my hotel was filth and people living in the midst of it, animals eating and sleeping in it, and young children playing in it. Seeing this, I felt disgusted with my own good health and the money in my bank account. The truly notable part was all I saw was smiles, and all I heard was laughter. At that moment, it became vastly apparent; India and the people here have something great to teach me. None of them owned a car, let alone a Ferrari, and their health was far from perfect, so why were their faces as fresh as beads of mildew on blades of grass? Slowly spanning over the length of the trip, I saw and was even blessed with the opportunity to talk to people who I felt must know something I don't know, like they were in on a secret to life that few people in this world know. Well, they do. Their secret, which is written in the major religions here, was their non-attachment to whatever possessions they owned and to life itself. I want to clarify what this non-attachment means. Non-attachment DOES NOT mean being non-participative, what I mean is they don't carry burdens on themselves, or cling to property. Learning the art of this non-attachment especially to my comforts, money and possession proved to be of much value to ,y enjoyment of this trip. Concrete slabs for beds became comfortable, cold bucket showers got warmed up to, no television kept my mind focused, pestering beggars became opportunities to drop attachment to MY money, and MY possessions turned into just things. The old bearded man in Delhi who told me I was crazy and that I need to drop my attachment to money was right. This magical way of looking at life was more predominant in the extremely elderly people but in a special way. Their faces shined as bright as a baby's face upon seeing its first toy because they never felt that aging is something to avoid or try to postpone. In America we spend billions upon billions of dollars on products to make us seem younger by coloring gray hairs, smoothing out wrinkles, covering up bald spots and not to mention the mind blowing amount of unnecessary plastic surgery. Why does our society feel aging is something to hide or be ashamed of? I cannot wait for the day for my hair to gray, I’m going to grow a FAT gray beard and be stoked about it! I cant wait for thick wrinkles across my face, because it will mean I lived a happy life full of big smiles! The lesson behind all of this is that we have to learn how to let go of what brings us pleasure in life, in order to enjoy it. We cannot fully experience the fruits of life, if we are grasping hopelessly for it. We will get rope burn from holding on too tight. Have any of you seen the movie, "Of Mice and Men"? There is a main character named Lennie, who is mentally retarded and isn’t aware of the incredible physical strength he posses which often puts him in sticky situations. When Lennie was given a bunny rabbit, out of excitement of how soft the bunny was and out of fear of losing it, he squeezed it to death with love. This happens all over the world, not just in movies. This is done in marriages by husbands and wives, in relationships by boyfriends and girlfriends, and its done to children by their parents. We hold on too tight, taking the life out of life itself. To have life, and enjoy all of its splendor, we must at the same time let go of it. This "letgoness" is essential to enjoy any pleasure life presents.

One of the reasons India is unique and special to me is because each day of life in India is a growth opportunity. Everyday, you are exercising and expanding your patience, kindness and compassion. From dealing with pushy aggressive touts, rickshaw drivers, beggars, a communication barrier, power outages in the midst of writing a 2 hour novel, no hot water on cold days, no water at all on hot days, and constant late transportation, to just name a few. The past several years of my life, I have given serious thought to becoming a monk, for I could see myself soaking up the monastery life for quite the chuck of time. Given the opportunity here in India, I started to honestly question my intentions behind this life changing decision. Many of us go through life, telling ourselves, and others a story, because the story is band-aiding a wound that we don't want to treat or heal. After many days of self inquiry I came to the realization that all of my intentions were for all the wrong reasons. I was a scared child escaping from the responsibilities in life in hopes to get to a safe haven where I will forever be whacked out in bliss. Behind this I learned that, I was placing peace and happiness outside myself, which is why Ive always felt dissatisfied with life. For example, I was placing it in this trip telling myself,
"Life will be so much better, happier and peaceful, WHEN IM IN INDIA"
or placing peace in years of meditation telling myself,
"Finally I'll have peace of mind AFTER I MASTER IT!"
India showed me that you don't have to renounce the world in order to live in it, even though many people do here. It might be the right path for some people and I thought with my whole being that it was for me, but its not. Having a balance between the worldly pleasures, responsibilities and a strict spiritual discipline, is how I want to live my life, and did here in India. But the truth of the matter is, true happiness is cultivated within yourself, and true peace comes from the contentment of where ever you are. Until that is cultivated, happiness and peace will never be with you, where ever you are or in whatever you do.

Have any of you taken the time to notice the monumental beauty behind a steadfast candle flame? It is a beautiful sight. This flame is unwavering, its robust destructive energy is contained and as so, is focused entirely on its being. But what would happen if that unwavering flame gets knocked over? Its catastrophic energy is released, and it could blaze up a firestorm that could destroy a lot of land or at worst even kill people. The most vital priority for the rest of my life, which always has to come first is my sobriety. My addiction is like this candle flame. I have to be constantly aware of its slaughterous energy for if I have it under control and contained, I am able to focus my energy appropriately to bring light into the darkness of my life. If my addiction gets out of control, just like the flame getting knocked over, it would annihilate my life and everyone else involved in it. I will never forget, when I was waiting to board in N.Y. Ive never felt so dislocated and out of sorts in my life and then my entire being was spellbound by the sight of a fully stocked empty full bar, alluring me to take a seat. Everything else in my vision vanished into complete blackness, and all I saw was this mouth watering sanctuary. Without a seconds hesitation I had a hallucination of swimming in that hideaway of alcohol. It felt good. However what struck me as odd was Ive seen many bars back home, even held my friends drinks and not had a problem, so why was I brought to my knees this time, taking every ounce of energy in my body to resist? Its because I knew I could get away with it and no one would know. My addiction would plead with me taunting me,
"From this point out Cody, you have the opportunity to be anyone you want to be, to completely reinvent yourself. You are going to meet so many people who don't know about your past, present or future, so INDULGE you fool while you can get away with it! When you get home, you can go back to normal. No one would know!"
It took some time but coming back to my senses,
"But I would know...And I like who I am...There is no need to reinvent myself...I love who I am and who I am becoming..."
This trip has given me the final test in my sobriety, that even in the mist of great trials and tribulations I have the strength to push my addiction aside even when I know I could get away with it, I can focus my energy on truly experiencing the many tasty fruits that life has to offer.

Have any of you ever taken the time to really see water flowing in a river? Its a beautiful sight. It flows with grace and ease over anything in its path never looking back. It focuses solely on where its going. The two most important aspects I cultivated while traveling was to go with the flow of the current of life and readiness. Have you ever tried to resist the current of the river before? Sometimes it is very difficult to stand your ground let alone move forward, is it not? Its so much easier to go with the flow than to resist, common sense no? Life is no different. Why resist and make conflict? All it does is make your head hurt and face frown, and that will bring everybody down. So much of our energy gets wasted on conflicting ideas and emotions. When we can let go of our ideas of how we think things should be and go with the flow of life, we will know true peace. What truly matters is, the awareness of "WHAT IS" actually going on, and the grateful acceptance that you are alive and experiencing it. Why be anywhere else? Why do anything else? You are where you are, so smile. Each moment of life is too precious and short to be anything but happy and content with where you are, to just be, and to be alive experiencing whatever life unfolds, with a smile. Doors close for others to open, go with the current of the river of life with a smile and you will be truly rewarded. But what happens when the river reaches a dam wall? It stops , becoming utterly still and patient, does it not? However, what happens if the wall cracked open? What happens to that calm water? The water immediately without hesitation pours out. The readiness of that water didn’t hesitate a second to pour out for the water is always ready to pour out. This is what readiness truly means; to expect nothing but to be ready for anything, and proved to be of great value to mental clarity on this trip.

Since the beginning of humankind there have always been people who worship the sun. Without the sun everything would perish and wither away on Earth. The sun bestows its light and warmth unconditionally, to every man, woman, child, plant, insect or animal, regardless of what they do or don't do for it. The sun has no enemies, strangers, or friends for it passes down to everyone equally with its light and warmth. The sun to me represents each human’s capacity to unconditionally dispense their love to all living beings in life. By the loving grace of God I have been shown what it means to truly touch souls with another human being by realizing the loving potential in my heart and transmitting it to everyone expecting nothing in return. This is an experience of inexpressible joy. What happens when dense black clouds get in the path of the suns light? Light and warmth are diminished, no? I feel clouds represent the guards each one of us has that blocks us from pouring forth the greatest fruit life has to offer, love. Ive never truly experienced such joy until those clouds were fully out of the path of my love pouring forth, REGARDLESS IF THEY WERE A FRIEND, ENEMY OR STRANGER. I think you all can agree with me when I say love is truly the greatest gift to hand over, no other emotion compares to feeling loved. The entire world needs to open their hearts and realize their capacity in themselves to dish out to every man, woman, child, plant, insect or animal with the purest love they have, regardless of what they do or don't do for us personally. Stop reading this for a minute and imagine what the world would be like if each one of us had this intention behind every action we carried out in our day to day lives. Without love, life will never have any real depth. The true beauties of the world cannot be seen, let alone felt. The single most important thing in the world is love, and sadly its what the world is lacking the most. Without love our world would crumble in an instant, are you aware of this? With all of this in mind, may each one of us use the sun as a means of motivation to be a beacon of light, love and warmth for the true benefit of all beings in this world full of darkness.

Flowers are beautiful gifts from God, are they not? Have any of you ever taken the time to really see and smell a flower before? Its a beautiful sight and smell. India has quite the overwhelming of the senses and one of those being the sense of smell. So many repulsive smells and fewer pleasant ones. I remember very vividly walking along a pathway on one of the meditation courses and in the midst of thick green foliage lining the walkway was one flower blooming bright, exalted up to the world. So I stopped, got a closer look and took a long exhilarating whiff that made my whole body tingle in divine intoxication. Flowers are extraordinary to me because a flower never wants to be a tree or a shrub, it wants to be exactly what it is, a flower. Flowers shine like no other piece of foliage because it believes the fact that it is complete and beautiful as it is. One of hardest things Ive had to tackle in my life was to learn to fully accept, love, and be content with every aspect of myself; To see myself as whole and complete as I am just like a flower. To not feel inadequate because just like a beautiful flower, each one of us are complete as we are, and once we truly believe this we will always be in blooming beauty. A flower that just opened to the world is a beautiful sight is it not? I feel flowers represent each human’s beautiful nature within themselves. When a flower hasn’t bloomed yet, it is closed and its beauty is withheld, confined from the world. Just like with humans, when a person is closed to the world, their beauty is withheld. But the moment the flower slowly creeps open the petals to the world for everyone to see, it shines with all its beauty and as a result is a truly magnificent sight. Imagine what the world would be like if we all believed in the fact that we are beautiful as we are opening the pedals that confine our beauty that lies within us.

Trees are a magnificent gift from God are they not? These towering beasts are supported by meters and meters of roots. If you need to kill the tree, what do you have to do? Kill the roots. Without the roots, the tree dies. The people in my life are the roots, the life force, the glue holding my life together. I consider myself extremely blessed that I had so many people to miss and want to see while away and that so many people to miss me and want to see me while away. The people we choose to have in our life are very crucial for they either contribute to our life or death. When I was not in a good place in my life, the roots that held up my life were contributing only to my doom rather than my bloom. Once these dead negative roots were killed off, only the healthy positive roots remained helping me to grow in vibrant loving delicacy. Being away from all of you for so long has opened my eyes to how much each and every person means in my life, for each and every single on holds an equal spot in my heart for who they are. This, was my the highest hurdle to jump over each day; That I couldn't be with, have a hug, or even talk to the people who mean the world to me. Through this, I realized how powerful memories can be, for at times it was all I had to sooth the loneliness I felt. In times of great despair like with my rash in Kerala, these memories were invaluable to me. The comfort each memory I have of each one of you back home, brought a warmth to my body like a blanket on a cold day, and for the briefest of moments, when I closed my eyes and focused on each of you, it felt like you were sitting right next to me. At this point, I was free to talk to you if I wanted to tell you about my experiences or to tell you how much I miss you. That's the beauty of memory, no one can take that from you for its stored in your heart. Ill never forget how that felt. To sum it up, my friends and family mean more to me than anything.

Have any of you ever seen a moth mistake a candle flame for a mating call? If so, what happens? The moth without hesitation flys directly into the flame and gets burned to death. A major obstacle I faced not only in this trip, but in all aspects of life is tasting the many flavors fear comes in. Now, I’m not suggesting we should blindly kill ourselves but behind the moths actions there is something truly inspiring, if we look close enough with the scales of our eyes and heart. It saw the flame and without a moments hesitation followed its heart and did whatever it could to get it. On the way to its impending doom, the moth wasn't fearful about rejection or death, it died without fear pursuing what its heart desired. The moths actions set a great deal of inspiration for me because I encountered great fear everyday but the antidote was to follow your heart because your heart never leads you astray. Listening to and following your heart is what truly gives life meaning and this trip has taught me to not let the fear of the mind, no matter what the flavor, cloud the passions of the heart. I truly felt free to the world and through this I realized my life passion or calling; To see the world with a backpack on my back, having no real plan each day, not knowing who ill meet, where ill sleep, how ill get there, no agenda, and a pad and pen jotting down my sights and experiences so I can write about it to those who care to read it. This constant uncertainty truly was the essence of the journey and it made it such. Each moments uncertainty brought with it a freedom I never knew existed. May we all use this as a means to cultivate the awareness to listen and follow our heart.

After spending a few months in India, I feel this country and its essence can be compared to one of those 3-d pop out images. Have you seen these before? This picture at first seems to draw lots of confusion for it seems to just be a mess of colors, nothing special, no piece of beautiful artwork here. I was extremely confused upon seeing India’s "mess" at first. The overwhelming amount of excrement, pollution (air and litter), the violation of "personal space", cold long uncomfortable stares and more attention that Britney Spears walking down the streets of Hollywood. However, given the right mindset, patience, and time, this splotched mess's beauty slowly was revealed. When you look past all of this, the beauty reveals itself, just like the 3d picture. You have to look past the image and then,
"POW! OH! That’s it!"
You see it. Some things like the excrement and pollution I cant explain other than when you catch a glimpse of the magic behind this country, these feeble issues are overlooked and in a sense forgotten about and accepted. Everything Ive been able to adapt to, some slower than others but each second of life for me in India was a transformation in motion. Each second you are adapting and changing your views on things because India forces you to with its situations and experiences that you are put in.

One of the last things I want to leave with is a quote, from one of my favorite movies, "The Shawshank Redemption". I feel no other quote fits this trip more perfectly.
"Some birds were not means to be caged their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you knows it was a sin to lock them up, does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more dry and empty when they are gone."

Ive always believed with my whole heart that everything in life happens for a reason, and I believe the answer is two fold. The first side of the coin is that everything that happens in life is an opportunity that each individual has to decide what kind of life they choose to lead and live by the actions carried out, the intentions cultivated and the desires seeking fulfillment. India opened my eyes to the reasons why I felt disgruntled with my life back home; I was responding to life in the wrong way. My eyes have been opened to the realization that the way I responded to life in the PAST, were the causes of my PRESENT discontentment and how I reacted to the present was repelling happiness for my FUTURE. If you want to look at your future, look at your present actions and intentions. If you want to look at your present situation look at your past actions and intentions. With the situations and experiences of everyday life here, slowly the veil was uncovered and I found the change my life needed. In my past, I spent many years leading a life leading me to a couldasack, reaching a stopping point in my life for all I was doing was running around in circles screaming,
"Why am I not getting anywhere?!?!"
I was living a life that’s only future was to forever run around in circles and be miserable, a life hardly worth the precious and wonderful gift of life. By the loving grace of God, I was given another opportunity to change, another chance to choose what type of life lead. Despite the actions I must make amends to, the destructive habit patterns that need changing, the backtracking I must endure in order to take steps forward, I dont condemn any bit of it for it shape shifted me into who I am today, and this is a person I can finally take pride in. For the first time in my 22 years of living, I can honestly say I am proud of who I am and what I strive to become.

The second side to the coin is that everything happens as a means to teach us something because behind every experience, situation there is God whispering the secrets of the universe into your heart, so listen and be aware. There is an undeniable energy in this world. Some people call it God, Karma, Allah, Jesus, The Universe, Mother Earth or whatever label you want, this energy force works according to your actions, desires, and intentions in a similar way to what science calls "The Law of Attraction" Truth is, I dont know what it is exactly, and honestly I don't think the label matters, but I do know the more I noticed it, the stronger it became. I know for a fact that this energy works with your hearts desires, for my soul desire was to stop living a life of pain. This energy heard my hearts plea, and paved the way for my trip and life. With each experience, sight, or smell, whispering to me how to be the change I wished to see in my life. Great inspiration lies behind this world, have you taken the time to notice this? Its in a candle flame, its in a river, its in the sun, its in flowers and trees, its in insects, its in people, its in experiences, its in all aspects of life. Being in India showed me that the real teacher or Guru is the world itself, the secrets to life are all out in the open, and in our daily lives. Its all a question of how we look at it, and if we take the time and awareness to hear the hidden wisdom.

I came to India because I needed a change in my life. I didnt know how exactly how to bring about the change, but I knew what the end result must be. That change has taken form in more ways than I can begin to count, so I guess you can say this story has been a success.

To close this chapter of my story
; How we respond to life with the actions we carry out, the the intentions we cultivate, and the desires we seek to fulfill, become the story of our lives. The story of my life is that it took me getting lost in a deep rut of darkness and pain, in order to find myself walking on a path of light and happiness.

I enjoyed telling you all this chapter of my life story, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

See you soon.