Carmel Crossroads

San Francisco, California, USA.

Many things have happened. As we speak I am in San Francisco, in a tiny but beautiful cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden and overlooking the San Francisco Bay. I am the guest of the infamous Pausha, known for very deep comments on this blog. Comments that I greatly appreciate and sometimes comments so deep that I don’t understand (but still appreciate).

Pausha is from Polish descent and lived in Santa Barbara for 12 years. I happened to know that she moved to France a year and a half ago. To my surprise she connected with me a couple of days ago. Turns out she temporarily staying in San Francisco, accompanying her husband on an 8 week business trip. The profound voice from cyberspace now transformed into a woman who is preparing lunch or dinner (or something in between) right in front of my nose. Pretty amazing outplaying of circumstances.

We met in Carmel. Carmel is also the place where my high school friend lives. It was my intention to meet with him but he caught a last minute flight to Maui. He will take some time off to be with his wife and mourn the loss of their son. So I found myself in his hometown, in his favorite bar, talking about him, shedding a few tears and having a beer with his friends without him being there. Although our mutual friend was absent for a sad reason our stories about our times with him made us laugh too. It seemed like we were celebrating life, his life in particular. I liked to hear the stories that his American friends told me. It made me realize he had made really good friends here and that everybody cares about him and his family. Similarly I got the feeling that the American friends of the couple appreciated that an old friend of their buddy showed up in their pub when the going got tough.

Carmel was also the place where the ways of my client and me parted. We had spent 6 days together in a bungalow in Joshua Tree. We filled our days with daily meditation, coaching sessions, writing sessions and sometimes an hike or a coffee run. It was emotional (for her) and powerful (for me) to part ways. I felt no doubt about her heading in the right direction. I felt that our work was completed and that she was ready.

During this week I felt for the very first time what it is like to be a teacher. It is very different to live with somebody, albeit for a week, than to do a workshop or a weekly session with a person or a group. It is hard, beautiful, touching, demanding, exhausting and easy. It is easy because I myself am the limit: I can’t be wiser than I am and I can’t offer more than I can offer. That is very clear. It is beautiful to see somebody go through an essential process, a process that will change her life. It is hard to outwardly come across as a jerk when I don’t wish to play along with fantasies and mind-games. And it is demanding to be basically 24/7 available, to be continuously present and concentrated.

It is a physical experience. After a week of working I feel almost transparent and all the cells in my body are vibrating. At the same time I feel solid, composed and grounded. It makes me think about my zen teachers who are very often guiding 50 people or more through a weeklong retreat, having full attention for everybody. How stretched must they feel every time. What an enormous heart must it take to effortlessly and tirelessly attend to all the needs of all the students.

And then my client left, I take a shower and I meet Pausha. Hardly an hour later I am in a completely different role, not a teacher but a colleague of a fellow blogger. What where the odds that I would meet her somewhere on the planet? I am in awe with the coincidences that are happening around me. As I sit there with my back pack ready to go to San Francisco we find out that she never really invited me. Oops.. And that the cottage that she and her husband are renting is really, really small. Double oops.. But without blinking an eye she takes me in the car. We drive to San Francisco and after a beautiful meal in a French Vietnamese restaurant I sleep for the first time in this journey on the floor. And what strikes me through the whole experience is that am never concerned. No knots in my stomach or resistance at all. I feel trust that everything will work out fine. It is a nice feeling.

And as I come to the end of this post an email finds its way from cyberspace into my inbox. It is an email from my client. And what I felt would happen with the ending of the retreat indeed happened: “I have realized something big I must hurdle and that is the clinging out of desire for love and affection and clinging out of fear of the unknown and doing it on my own.  This is the most wonderful realization ever.  And the absolute most challenging and painful.  It constantly comes up, showing up in all sorts of different forms. I see it constantly. So thank you. For opening my eyes. For opening my ears. For opening my mind. For opening my heart. For guiding me to see awareness and choice. I am empowered. I am scared.”

I feel very grateful.

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  1. […] I am feeling very grateful today.  Not even 10 days ago I was finishing my time in retreat.  10 days… not so long ago, but yet feels like an eternity.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, in October I went on an intensive personal retreat with Atalwin Pilon and was fortunate to spend a total of 10 days with him, 7 of which were in formal retreat.  I was drawn to Atalwin a year ago by his writings.  Everything he wrote resonated with me.  Everything he was going through (or had gone through) resonated with me.  Turning 40, becoming awake and aware, discovering “identity” and how it is only a mask.  But of course, he was articulating it and for me, it was all in my head and I thought I was just crazy or going through a midlife crisis or something.  So of course I was amazed and grateful he was expressing himself so freely on his website in the form of his blog.  I finally realized I was not alone in my feelings and in my search.  That there are others who are fed up and long for something more.  That are driven by goodness and love and just want to help people.  I appreciated his perspectives on life and love, and related to his sense of humor and strategic use of profanity.  His writings oozed with spirituality that I was happy (and longing) to hear.  I say all this in the past tense… his writings are still all of these things, see for yourself at  Some of his posts: A Sparrow vs the USA,  What is Truth, In the Oven (must read!), and Carmel Crossroads. […]

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