consciousness

17. Everything in its Right Place

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“The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact that you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not.”

-       I Am That, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

As I flew high above the vast empty wastelands of northern Mexico’s deserts, there was nothing I could do but surrender and trust. For someone who has a secret desire to control things, I seem to have an unhealthy way of throwing myself headlong into the unknown.  

I was closing the door on an eight-month chunk of hard-expat living and learning in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; hard living not in the typical pickled-expat way that eventually leads to cirrhosis of the liver, but in a way that deeply entwines winter’s long nights and stark beauty. It is, after all, the dormant, internal functions of winter that enable spring to unfold verdant discoveries in blossoms and blooms.

High above the Earth, who I was as a man in my 40s felt no different from anyone I had been since I was 17. In my mind, I was a kid on a flight, in transition from one thing to the next, hoping the gamble would work out, and turning to the written page to navigate my way—all the while documenting the journey of my physical existence notebook after notebook. Despite the deeply-grooved tracks and well-worn neural pathways that wanted me to remain in the adolescent hopelessness of my past, or the fear and anxiety of an uncertain future, like all of my life’s greatest journeys, I sensed I was on the precipice of great adventure. 

It was in this manner I was on my way to Seattle. From there, ten days later I had a one-way ticket to New York, and from there I was headed out to parts unknown. I was betting on an opportunity falling into place that would bring me to Europe, but if that didn’t work out, I was a man without a plan, especially since my apartments in Mexico and Seattle would soon be occupied. I had other possibilities, but at the time they only existed as unmanifested potentials.

From where I was sitting that afternoon in seat 21F, my perspective afforded me the awareness that everything I had just experienced for the last eight months—the zeniths of joy and the nadirs of despair—were just external reflections of what needed to shatter within me in order to become more awakened. And by awakened, I don’t mean in the Buddha way or the millennial woke way.

I simply mean I was more free from my past.

This new found freedom was the result of sitting long enough in the fire of one of my life’s more uncomfortable incubation periods. We all pass through these anxious seasons where we find ourselves thinking, Is this it? Is this all there is? But by sitting in the fire, and consequently burning down old parts of the self that no longer served me, I was now free to step into the next evolution of my soul’s incarnate journey.

At least in the present moment, age, experience, and the passage of time demonstrated to me how each time life breaks our hearts, it’s just a reminder to take off another layer of armor, to love bigger, and to be more courageous in our vulnerability and open-heartedness. Like a hurricane wiping out a coastline, when your heart gets crushed—in whatever inevitable form that might take—eventually you have to rebuild. If you’ve gained wisdom from the storm, when it comes time to rebuild, you fortify your structure; not in a walled-off way, but in a way that provides a stronger foundation to better weather life’s next storm. It’s for this reason vulnerability and open-heartedness are critical in this moment of human evolution—because vulnerability and open-heartedness don’t build walls, they remove them.

I had a situation recently where how I was operating in the world was called into question, and this caused me to momentarily shrink in the face of my vulnerability. The passive assault on my character was at first startling and rattling, followed by aggravating and infuriating, followed by observing and pondering. In this story arch, I was strong-armed into paying closer attention to my life’s script, juxtaposing the story I had written many years ago on the cusp of being a young man versus who I had become as a man. It was in the third part of the equation—the pause (which creates the space to observe and ponder)—that I found gratitude towards this person for forcing me to look more deeply within, for it was in the mirror of their unconscious affront that I was forced to take an internal inventory. In doing so, the evidence I found in my external world only propelled me to stand more steadfast in my worth and the vision I held for my life’s journey.

What was called into question by this person—whom by the way I love, admire, and respect—was the idea of hard work, because what this person’s idea of hard work looked like was very different than mine. I eventually realized it was because my way of being in the world fell outside of her construct. Simply put, my work as an artist and a writer looked very different than how she had been spending 10-14 hours a day for the previous three months.

I could have taken offense to this lack of understanding, after all—it’s lack of understanding that’s at the root of all wars, both within and without—but instead I took it as an opportunity to get more clear on how I intend to write the next chapters of my life.

Part of the story I have been writing for most of my life, and the one I will continue to write, is that I don’t have to play by society’s rules. Why? Because I say so. But more aptly said—because I am answering to the unknown path of the calling. Critical to setting out on a path less traveled is the surrendering to, and trusting in, something greater that is guiding me, protecting me, and calling me forward. If you’re on this same path, you know it’s not an easy one.

This begs the question, what is it to trust? To me, it is to venture upon a path you cannot see, to a destination you do not know, on a journey in which you can’t rely on others to light the way. Instead, you must be your own guide by generating the light from within. To successfully tread upon this path is to trust there will be terra firma beneath every step, even when you can’t see the next one in front of you.

***

Within the spiritual and creative class (a term coined by the American economist and social scientist, Richard Florida), how I live my life is in some regards quite conventional: I am dedicated to pursuing an internal vision that I imagine to be the greatest expression of myself. Outside of these class structures, however, in life’s more prescriptive avenues, I am an anomaly. There’s a part of me that longs for that perceived stability and security found in routine and building the vaulted walls of 401(k)athedrals, but like anyone else who is living by an internal compass, I have no choice but to obey this more vociferous, more dominant aspect of the self that answers not to a boss, but to the calling.

Personally speaking, the purpose of this more dominant aspect of my self is to lead me into the caverns and underworlds of my life, to move through its uncomfortable layers, and into the places and spaces where very little light enters. Ultimately, this leads to the inner-most labyrinth of the self. Perhaps as my life progresses and I move further into this labyrinth, I will find there is no self. As a friend suggested, perhaps I am only an aspect of consciousness observing consciousness itself,

If I can bring light to those dark places, and if I can navigate my way out of the labyrinth, then I will have completed what Joseph Campbell called “The Hero’s Journey.” The purpose of this quest is to bring back meaningful knowledge, information, and wisdom acquired on the journey so that the greater good may benefit.

As a writer, this is the fulfillment of my life’s work and mission. First, my work is to overcome the fear of diving into my life’s muck and mire in search of pearls of wisdom. If I can apply this wisdom to myself, then I can share it with others. Second, my mission is to translate light, frequency, and energy into story so as to lead others to their truth. Just as each has their own path upon which to walk, this is the path of my soul’s journey into the heart of my own human healing.

The gamble I am betting the farm on is that if I can prove as a living example that the revisitation of the dreams and intentions of the internal world (i.e., directed consciousness) manifest in the outer world, then I can teach the lessons of the journey through story. The most important aspect of this story is not about the destination, as Dr. Joe Dispenza says, but about who you become in the process. If I am going to write about these truths, I need to live them.

As I said in my book, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, “The world changes through two things—story and consciousness.” I know from experience there is a certain strata of people who on a daily basis are undertaking this same journey of healing and soul work. They are the tides who are raising the buoys of human consciousness, first by bringing healing to themselves, then to their families, then to their work, followed by their communities. The journey into healing our unmet needs and unconscious wounds of childhood, as well as the perceived wounds inflicted upon us by others, is the most important journey (and the hardest work) any of us will ever undertake, for this is how we change the world. We don’t change the world by conquering men and women, squashing rivals and competitors, or stealing resources from far off lands. No, if we acted in more noble, more selfless ways we would find there’s plenty to go around.

We change the world by conquering the enemy within.   

The way I see it is you can look at your life in one of two ways. The first is as a series of lessons where you are the hero of a great journey, and the second is as a series of mistakes and arbitrary happenstances where you are the victim. (This has taken me a long time to learn.) Both stories are born out of the perspective and narrative we chose to weave around our life’s happenings and events. It’s from these happenings and events we build the stories of our lives, and it’s our stories that define us, for better or worse.

Personally, I think the journey of life is just a series of events and interactions designed by a higher, more knowing aspect of ourselves. The purpose of this journey is to create intersections of ideas and collisions of people who force us out of our comfort zones. It’s in the exploration of those outer, less known aspects of our being where we find the space to grow, evolve, and step into expanded versions of ourselves, that is—should we accept the challenge—rather than remain in the safe cocoon of the past and predictable known.

To accept the challenge is to step into the unknown, whether that’s moving to a different country, switching to a different career, or journeying into the very heart of love itself. No matter what facet of your existence you apply this litmus test, to not accept that challenge is to remain on a linear, predictable path—void of soul growth, expansion, love, and the greater self that calls the limited self to emergence. This is the journey of transformation, and to transform is to move or change from one state of being, form, or awareness to another. Therefore, acceptance of the challenge is to allow disorder and chaos into our life so that it may transform into grace and good fortune—all in the name of our individual and collective evolution.

***

As I step into a new adventure and close the door on eight months in Mexico, my time there was filled with as much joy, expansion, and grace as it was with uncertainty, frustration, and disorder. But I wrapped myself in the chrysalis and sat in the fire, and although you can’t witness it in my external presence, in my internal world, once again the phoenix has taken on a new form, a new being, and a new awareness.

Beyond forging a deeper trust with this internal guidance system and stepping further into the unknown, I am also stepping further into the idea of I AM. It’s my postulation that if you declare “I AM” within the alignment of your words, actions, and thoughts—or mind, body, and spirit—the universe will conform to the declaration of your courage. At least this is what I am attempting to prove to myself, and thus share with others. This is what the journey of the calling is all about, which is also at the heart of what my third book is about. When you accept the calling, you have no other choice but to follow the unknown path upon which your soul leads you.

Of course at the human level, you always have a choice. We call this free will, but if you recognize and accept that the human experience is about the evolution of the soul—that greater aspect of our self that is only limited by language—then you have to trust the personalized inner-guidance system that most often only speaks in whispers, signs, serendipities, and synchronicities. This is the path of the peaceful warrior, and the path of the greatest expression of our human selves.

Speaking of expression, perhaps the current epidemic of modernity is that the majority don’t feel free or safe to fully express themselves, whether that’s at work or in a relationship, in their religion or sexuality, in their despair or joy, or in their victories and defeats. The tragedy in this repression is that at the most elemental root of human expression is the need for connection—the need to be in communion with someone, to be understood and recognized, and to receive the validation that we are not the only one who is experiencing the inner turmoil, tumult, and confusion that arises through the human experience.

That shared internal journey of consciousness is what unites us, creates compassion—and when the physical journey ends—returns us back to unmanifested potential, the source from which all things arise. If we were all engaged in this idea, that we were all one and part of the same source energy, it’s my belief we could finally bring peace and prosperity to the entirety of this planet.

This is my declaration of I AM.

Feel free to comment below about, declare your I AM, share if you feel so inspired, or simply say hi. Also, I just began a newsletter I will send about once a month. If you’d like to receive it, please sign up at my website.

Finally, the opening quote to this essay opens the first of three parts (Spirit, Body, Mind) of my book. To learn more about my book or watch the book trailer, please visit: https://www.acuriousyear.com/.

 

13. On Becoming Conscious (or) The Pylon and the Pier

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It was the Friday after Thanksgiving in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, so instead of treating it like a regular workday, I decided to take off on a long run. My intention was to begin running into a new future, to run my way out of the subterranean hole I had fallen into, the likes of which I had not known since my mother passed away and my house burned down.

As I ran along the narrow sidewalks of Ancha de San Antonio, I turned left towards Parque Jaurez, ran up the north side of the park, and began running the stairs near the Paseo del Chorro. While ascending the stairs, a peculiar, unexpected thought popped into my mind: “Good things are about to happen to me.”

Now before I proceed, Dear Reader, if you are going to trust me as your narrator, I feel I have to admit something to you. Before I had time to fully register the thought, “Good things are about to happen to me,” meaning before the thought had time to register, assimilate, and/or entrain with my body—before the thought had the time to create a corresponding neural network for its existence, and ultimately it’s manifestation—like a bartender at closing, I threw that thought out on its ass and shut it down as quickly as possible.

The extermination of such a thought was an all too familiar act of fear, contraction, and limitedness, albeit an unconscious one. Nonetheless, in the same way malware affects the function and effectiveness of a computer, for a large portion of my life these unconscious programs have been running in the background of my awareness. There is a silver lining, however. I am happy to report that as soon as I shut that thought down, a moment of self-awareness occurred. I simply observed my thought. By observing the thought, I was able to bring forth from the darkness of the unconscious the light of a new awareness. What does that mean?

New awareness is expanded consciousness, so to combat the negative voice that so rudely interrupted my future, I consciously began repeating in my mind over and over, “Good things are about to happen. Good things are about to happen.” In repeating this mantra only a few times, like the moment when grinding gears on a bike finally shift into gear, the energy of the consciousness that produced the thought, “Good things are about to happen to me, clicked into my being. In that moment, I allowed myself to feel the energy of my future—and I can tell you it was as refreshing as it was titillating.

In that elevated, expansive state, I transcended an old form, an old pattern of the person who fell into darkness. Like any training or practice, while I would need to continue working on embodying this energy every day, every time I made the effort to embody it, I was pushing tinfoil. This self-awareness (or awakening) was a tear in the seam of an old form and pattern I have clung to for most of my life. Why? Because to a certain degree it’s safer to live in the known—a somewhat linear, predictable path that doesn’t require me to stretch outside of my comfort zone.  

To bring the light of consciousness to the dark corners of the unconscious was a moment of triumph for mind over matter, because it was not actually my consciousness that shut down the thought of “Good things are about to happen me.” It was the old habits, old forms, old patterns, and old wounds—unconscious programs that exist in the body as feelings, reactions, and emotional triggers. The summation of these repeated patterns causes the body to function as the unconscious mind. Perhaps at this moment you are thinking, If I stepped out of the paradigm of the known and stepped into the paradigm of the unknown, what could happen? The answer is infinite possibilities of rich, abundant, experiences in love, career, family, connectedness, and so on. Perhaps you would agree we could call this the fruition of our dreams.

According to the quantum model, if I step out of my resting or baseline state of being (the known) to embody and/or become the energy of my future (the unknown), then I am casting an electromagnetic signature into the quantum field, an infinite field of information that exists outside of time and space where all possibilities exist as energy and frequency. Therefore, when you become the frequency of your future self, a self which already exists in the field, as you connect with the energy of your future self, you pull possibilities towards you. This is, as Dr. Joe Dispenza says, how you become a vortex to your future. It’s also the truth of who and what we really are; consciousness animating matter.

And so as I embodied the thought of my future (that is to say, who I was becoming and who I could become), because thought is energy, that thought expanded the energy and frequency of my future into my body. This is the process whereby we heal. It’s also the process whereby we create, but are they not one in the same?

What all of this adds up to is that if we are to evolve as human beings, we need to surrender the old, limited ideas and aspects of ourselves that no longer serve us. This is the power of consciousness becoming awakened. It is what enables us to be energetic snakes and butterflies in human flesh. To not become aware of the unconscious programs that run our life is to live as a diminished potential of our highest self-expression.

The unique aspect of humanity that gives us domain over all other animals on the Earth is the power to become awakened. This power is our divinity—that greater aspect of humanity that calls us to be something more, that calls us as consciousness to evolve through the physical experiences of our senses. To say this more simply, the mind can train the body to be its servant. This servitude arises through heart and brain coherence, the unification of which turns the body into an instrument of higher consciousness. Like the snake, it’s this ascension into higher states of consciousness that allows us to molt old parts of ourselves, and like the butterfly, what allows us to transform from one state to another. As we do this over and over, it is not the physical that is ultimately molting and transforming, it is the internal—it is the individual aspect of consciousness in service to the transformation of the universal consciousness. Let’s look at this in a slightly more down-to-Earth way.

For a moment, let’s think of the old self as the remaining pieces of a decrepit pier whose utility has passed. Piece by piece, while time has dismantled the pattern of what was once a pier, a single pylon stands obstinate, clinging to what it understands to be its nature and form. Rather than surrender to the tides, it becomes an immovable force by which nature, in this case water, must circumvent it. This remaining pylon of the pier clings to the idea of itself as a pier because it is a safer, more known way to exist in the world. But if we want to evolve as individuals, or even continue existing as a species, it’s time to let go of the limited constructs that no longer serve us.

We only need to turn on the television to see that the outdated constructs of the old world are falling away around us. It’s important to remember, however, that our global external reality is nothing more than a reflection of our individual internal reality. The old is falling away so something new can be born, but birth is not an easy process.

What is being born is the awakening of a new planetary consciousness, but global awakening begins within each individual. In this moment of history, all of us are being called to surrender old ways, old patterns, and antiquated concepts of being so as to step into the new consciousness that is being birthed. I not only see this happening in my own life, but I feel it…and still the internal battle rages within as I cling to old ideas of self. I cling to the last standing structures, the last patterns, the last remaining vestiges that represent my old, limited ways of being. It is not an easy process, but a necessary one.

If we are to let go of these old forms, we must first ask of ourselves: If I am not the pylon and no longer the pier, then who am I? Who will I be if I step out of the patterns and prison of my own making and thinking?

The answer is I will become freedom itself, and within the limitless energy of freedom, I am free to create any life or reality I desire.

Like to read? Check out this list of some of my my favorite books.

Like to listen? Check out this narrated excerpt from Chapter 9 of my book. It features music from my book’s soundtrack. This song, People Zoo, also from the soundtrack, is why I named my blog People Zoo.

 

8. Architects, Ayahuasca, and Tinfoil

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How are architects, ayahuasca, and tinfoil related?

Architects
In my previous blog, Love and the Construction of the Universe, I talked about how I imagine the universe to be constructed. The way I theoretically see it, for every construct there must be a context, for instance, if you were an architect and were tasked to build a structure, you would need to know whether that structure’s purpose was to house a family, businesses, airplanes, assembly lines, and so on. So for the construction of the universe, it must exist in a greater context.

What I proposed (and what many other quantum physicists, leading thinkers, and scientists such as Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Eric Pearl, and Gregg Braden, among others) would agree upon, was that the construction of this physical world is for conscious to experience physicality. Why? Because consciousness in its purest state is just energy and awareness contained within an infinite field of frequencies. These infinite frequencies are creation itself.

The context of all creation is the unified field, which—according to where we’re at in the infancy and limited understanding of the human experience—is the supreme governing law and structure of all that is...and when I say all that is, I don’t just mean our universe. I mean the multiverse, which are infinite realities that exist beyond space and time.

Ayahuasca
I am going to step out of this space and time (which is to say the flow of the above three paragraphs) for a moment to share something that I think is relevant to this discourse. Last summer, I attended an ayahuasca plant medicine ceremony in a remote, wooded area about 1.5 hours from Mexico City. Before I tell you about it, I feel like I should make a public service announcement (PSA), and that is this:

PSA: My advice to those who haven’t done Ayahuasca and/or are thinking of doing Ayahuasca is this: Do as I say, not as I do. Unless you’re really prepared to go dimensional and explore the most outer/inner reaches of your mind, only drink one cup. (When will I learn this lesson?)

To make a long story short, when the ceremony was ending at 4am, I was just taking off. Another way to say this would be that around 4am, a tear in the seam of my being was just beginning. This tear was separating "Tim Shields" and my ego from my physical existence. In the process I fell into something much greater, much more infinitely expansive, and much more encompassing. And so began one of the most intense and humbling experience of my life. 

During the course of the next ten hours I received a lot of information, in fact it felt as if I was being waterboarded underneath Niagara Falls—only instead of being tortured by water, I was being tortured by an endless stream of information that was more than my mind could handle or process as matter in a physical body. (This included an entire download for my third book. Although I can’t recall all the particulars, I know the story lives in my biology, and under the right conditions, in the right state of what Steven Kotler talks about as flow in this video, I am confident I will be able to access it.*)

Download after download the information flattened me, leaving my quantumly expanded and physically depleted. And when I say depleted, the depletion I speak of is like nothing I have ever experienced. It did not even come close to my Division I college soccer days of double-session, pre-season training at Loyola University in Baltimore’s late-August, 110 degree heat. It could not even begin to compare to the highest fever I’ve ever had. It could not begin to touch my longest stretch of sleeplessness, which included nearly 40 hours of travel to the other side of the world. 

To use a plant medicine such as ayahuasca is to be a spiritual miner, journeying into the deepest recesses of one's inner world. In a sense it is the hero's journey into the darkest caverns of the soul in search of precious, metaphysical jewels to bring back to the physical world. This journey is not always a beautiful one, in fact, I can remember calling out in the void for my deceased parents or someone—anyone—to help me. 

Despite this rigorous odyssey into self, I received many jewels on this journey in the form of downloads. For me, the two most important ones I discovered I will share with you now: 

  1. Dimensional experiences, while mystical, are not something far off, removed, and inaccessible to the majority. Instead, they are simply a subtle sidestep to the left or right, and they are born out of choice and awareness.

  2. Because the greater aspect of our human existence is consciousness, be careful what you wish for, because you can have anything you want.

Tinfoil
And now back to our regularly paid programming…I want you to imagine for a moment a flat piece of regularly-sized tinfoil floating freely in space. That piece of tinfoil is the quantum field, the very fabric of reality that exists beyond our senses but is impressionable, pliable, and malleable through the energy of our thoughts, intentions, and awareness—the summation of which is our consciousness.

Now I want you to imagine a wooden block in the shape of a star, but instead of it being a star, I want you to assign meaning to it. That meaning can be whatever you want to do, be, or create while you inhabit your body in this physical reality we call the human experience.

Each time you press this star (which represents your energy and awareness) into this piece of tinfoil, you are creating an impression in the very fabric of reality. The more times you push into this piece of tinfoil with your energy and awareness (which we call intention), the more the tinfoil takes on the form of your intention. Eventually, your thoughts actually take form. We could call this the creative process, and this is a truth many ancient cultures knew. Somehow along the way, however, modernity lost this truth under the dirt, dust, and ash of time, a result of the physical world reorganizing itself. Fortunately, we’re once again beginning to awaken to this unifying law.

So what is my point? The point is this: like tinfoil, the very fabric of reality is malleable and impressionable by our thoughts. What we think and feel over and over—if we keep thinking that thought enough times—eventually that thought begins to take shape in this reality.

Whether you are conscious of it or not, at all times you are creating, therefore the questions you need to ask yourself are this:

  • Are you going to be conscious of the impression you are making into the fabric of realty?

  • Are you going to be conscious and push into this fabric the impressions of love, compassion, and unity?

  • Or you are going to be unconscious and push into this fabric the unconscious program of fear, hate, and division?

Remember, this fabric of reality responds to who you are being.

***

(Have you watched my book trailer or explored the excerpts? If you like this blog, you'll certainly like my book.)

*'Flow' when used to describe an altered state of consciousness is attributed to the researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his seminal book, "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience".

7. Love and the Construction of the Physical World

On a walk last Friday night I was thinking about the construction and nature of the physical world. The way I theoretically understand it is that there is an energetic reality that exists beyond our physical form (beyond our senses, which are what plug us into this physical dimension). This energetic reality, which is comprised of what Dr. Eric Pearl, the founder of Reconnective Healing, refers to as energy, light, and information, exists beyond the visible light spectrum and is comprised of infinite frequencies.

As far as we know, this energetic reality is endless—without beginning, without end, has always been, and always will be. Science calls this reality the quantum field, the zero point field, or source energy. Religion calls it God. The sweet spot, and perhaps the greatest hope for the future of humanity, is the melding of the two, which is why Dr. Joe Dispenza often says, "Science is the new language of mysticism." 

Of this field, Einstein said, “The field is the sole governing agency of the particle.” This means that the field governs all other laws of both the physical and nonphysical worlds. All information within this field is transmitted through the wave function, including our thoughts. Just as you would see a ripple in a pond when you drop a rock in it, that wave is the way the physical world transfers energy. 

As individual people, we are all a part of, and connected to, this greater field of consciousness. This field is consciousness itself—far bigger and greater than what we can comprehend in the human form or with our limited mind.

If you were to continue to move upward into this field of frequencies—which is to say, into greater levels of consciousness and awareness—there would be no separation, only oneness. It’s only when light moves beneath the speed of light that oneness, separation, and division begin to occur. 

If this model of reality is indeed true, then this is how I see the construction of the physical world:

  1. The Field (infinite consciousness/potentials/possibilities)

  2. The Question (consciousness becoming self-aware)

  3. Language (consciousness giving ideas form, structure, composure)

  4. Action (consciousness turning ideas into matter)

  5. Result (consciousness constructing the physical world)

So why the construction of the physical world? What’s our purpose here? I believe it is for consciousness to experience itself in the physical form. This requires us to truly live our life—to take risks, to love, to suffer, to experience loss, to transcend our suffering and loss, to get bruised and battered all while experiencing family, joy, unity, transcendence, wholeness, and all there is to experience in this physical form. (I talk more about this in my book.)

Mostly though, I think it’s about learning to love. Learning to love is a surrendering of our stories, because it’s our stories that create distance—I am this and you are that. When the distance created by our stories disappear, there is only oneness, wholeness, and the energy, consciousness, and awareness that unites us.

When will the human species get this lesson?

Seattle, WA 8/17/18

2. Places and Spaces

My birthday, July 17, 2011.

My birthday, July 17, 2011.

An “interesting place” is just a point on the map, coordinates comprised of latitudinal and longitudinal lines that allow us to zero in on the ‘idea’ of a physical space in time. A space then is just emptiness until consciousness and awareness is brought to it. This is why I’ve always said travel is not about the places you visit, but the person you are when you inhabit these spaces. Take, for example, the Taj Majal.

The Taj Mahal was a grandiose expression of love, a tomb built by a Mughal emperor to house the body of his most beloved wife. On my 37th birthday, my last full day in India after living there for three months, I found myself painfully aware of being alone, when all I really wanted was love and connection. It didn’t matter that I had just finished volunteering for India’s most important environmental lawyer, a man who sued the State of India over the course of 20 years to create a green zone around India’s most famous monument. He argued that the cultural relevance of the Taj Majal was worth more to India than the short-term gains of Industry, the effects of which had been yellowing and pitting the virginal marble. While I wallowed in loneliness, a couple beside me was celebrating their wedding anniversary. Their awe and enthusiasm could not be contained as they marveled at the extravagant ivory ode to love.

To me, the juxtaposition of these points of view proved that an “interesting place” is only as interesting as the awareness we bring to it. An “interesting place” then is simply a mirror of our internal state of being at that moment in our lives.

When boiled down to its essence, like the breath, being only exists in two states; expansion and contraction. To insert travel into this construct then makes travel a series of micro-choices: Do we bring expansion, which is love, into the places we inhabit? Or do we want to bring contraction, which is fear? I’d be willing to bet my best friend’s 401k that if we all brought love and expansion into the places we inhabit, the world’s borders would quickly evaporate. Think of all the new places we could then visit, interjecting love, connectedness, and goodwill along the way.

Travel is an idea. It is consciousness in motion—a movement through time within a physical reality where our senses comingle with people and ideas. I think it’s safe to say then that the most interesting place I’ve ever visited has been all those places where I’ve been at my best—expansive, engaged, present, aware, and connected to both myself, the people, and the culture. When you travel in this state of being, you can’t help but be a vortex for interesting people and experiences.

A place is only as interesting as the consciousness that is brought to it, for without consciousness, there is nothing.

(posted June 22, 2018)

Note: This was actually an essay I wrote for a travel writer position at The New York Times in the fall of 2017. The assignment was: tell us in 500 words or less about the most interesting place you’ve ever been. The crux of this essay is an underlying theme in ‘A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment.'