Everything changes (for no reason)

Dharamsala, India.

And then everything is different again. Last Sunday I jumped on a plane. I was convinced that I would find a place in the Vipassana Center here in Dharamshala. At this very moment I should not be typing in front of my hotel room, I should be working on my spiritual liberation in a meditation hall a few kilometers from here. Or, the other scenario, I should be on my way back from a hike to gorgeous waterfall. But things change over and over again.

I traveled together with my young Israeli hiking buddy from Leh to here. We took a flight from Leh to Jammu and then a bus to Dharamsala. Jammu was an awful place by the way: hot, dirty, poor and somewhat hostile, filled with many beggars and many people ignoring beggars. It feels uncomfortable to do as the Romans do but giving to beggars is strongly discouraged and they (the beggars) are quite aggressive as well. Neither giving nor not-giving feels very rewarding. Don’t expect to transform the aggression into gratitude by giving something.

Haha, there is a young Tibetan boy from the school across the street waving at me and flexing his biceps when I wave back. When they saw me come out of my room yesterday to meditate on the roof in my board shorts they wanted me to flex mine. For all Asians my arms seem to be awe-inspiring but the children are especially impressed. But I don’t flex for free anymore. When the guys of the espresso bar asked for a picture with me I asked a piece of banana cake in return (and got it). When the kids ask me to flex, I ask them to flex too. Now they are continuously flexing when they see me. I just made a video of them.

YouTube Preview Image

Good, I feel better. The children cheered me up. It is beautiful how irresistible a child’s innocent spontaneity is and it is nice that I can make them happy and laugh just by showing my arms. Their happiness is contagious.

So the Vipassana retreat didn’t happen. When I arrived on Monday to see if they had a spot one of the coordinators ‘welcomed’ me by resolutely shaking no-no-no-no with his head and closing his eyes. Not much openness there and not much room for a dialogue either. To be honest: the whole place felt rigid and closed and on some level I felt relieved to not have to be part of that. But on another level I don’t understand: I felt so ready and so convinced that it would happen. I can only conclude that my ‘gut feeling’ doesn’t mean anything.

Or does it? Because Dharamsala is a very nice place filled with hiking opportunities and yoga and meditation. Maybe I am here to hike. The hike we did in Monday was awesome and this morning we would go to a waterfall. A plan was quickly made. This morning I knocked on my fellow travelers door to see if he was ready for breakfast. Guess what? Out of the blue he got terribly sick the night before. He slept till 6.30 in the evening. Then I woke him up because I wanted to check if he was still alive.

Three friends are getting married this year and I have to accept that I can’t be there. I really wanted to see my best friend before his marriage and we planned to meet in Thailand. Yesterday I heard he can’t make it. I was also hoping to meet my brother there: looks like he can’t make it either.

I don’t feel very disappointed anymore when things don’t go as planned but it doesn’t make me feel very happy either. I am not sure if I am getting numb or flexible. Part of me wants to understand why things happen as they happen. We like to say that everything happens for a reason, right? Well, another part of me wants to give up figuring out stuff. Things happen and I don’t know why. I don’t see a pattern. The only pattern that I see is that my mind wants to grasp but can’t. Holding on to expectations is useless.

When I look closer I feel lonely and defeated but strangely enough it comes with a feeling of liberation too. Circumstances and others are not what identifies me. Friends, money, success, failure, rejection and popularity are not what identifies me. I have less and less to lose. It scares me, it makes me feel naked and unprotected. But when I breathe into the sadness and vulnerability I realize that this is how I connect to basic goodness: nothing to gain, nothing to lose, just living this very moment.

Do you appreciate what I am doing? Please support me and my journey by recommending and sharing my posts on Facebook. It is such a small effort and really important (let me explain). And please consider making a financial, moral or relational contribution. Your help means a lot (readhere how amazing it feels).


  1. says

    Hi Atalwin,
    We kennen elkaar helemaal niet, maar om een of andere reden ben ik ooit op je website terecht gekomen en nu lees ik af en toe een blog van je op facebook.
    Ik vind het superinteressant en heel moedig wat je aan het doen bent!
    Je wilt de wereld iets brengen en tegelijkertijd is dit bijna een soort van queeste/Personal journey voor jou waarin je met de billen bloot gaat. En je blijft het maar aangaan…juist dát maakt dat ik respect voor je heb(vast ook meer dingen, maar ik ken je verder niet;-))!
    We zitten nu in een tijdperk waarin grote en kleine veranderingen plaatsvinden met diepgaande gevolgen; mensen die jaren bij elkaar zijn en ineens gaan scheiden, je baan kwijtraken enz. Zijn natuurlijk dingen die altijd gebeuren, maar ik zie het nu nog meer om me heen gebeuren en daar bovenop gebeuren aan de lopende band kleine dingen. Ook in mijn eigen leven.

    Ik herken heel duidelijk je gevoel van dat je niet zeker weet of je er ‘numb or flexible’ van wordt,van alles wat je gebeurd.
    In beide gevallen raakt het je toch wel, alleen ben je misschien wat minder het ‘waarom’ van alles aan het zoeken. Dat geeft ook een soort rust wellicht? Het is zoals het is.

    Ik zou graag ook zo gaan rondreizen als jij, maar zit nog te ‘vast’ aan dingen hier.
    In plaats daarvan organiseer ik reizen door Marokko en het allerliefste in de Saharawoestijn.
    Omdat je daar bijna vrij bent van prikkels en daardoor gemakkelijker tot de kern komt. En een weldaad van rust kunt vinden.
    Allemaal redenen waarom ik mensen daar graag mee naartoe neem. Verandering van omgeving zet dingen in een ander perspectief voor je en geeft interessante openingen om jezelf te onderzoeken.

    Mocht je eens in de buurt zijn en mee willen naar de woestijn, let me know!
    Voor nu: Veel sterkte en vooral veel plezier en mooie ontmoetingen!

    Hartelijke groet,

    • says

      Dear Suzanne,

      Thank you for the compliments and thank you for noticing me. One of the underlying messages of my journey and my work is “be the change you envision”. What inspires others is to follow your heart regardless of the amount and the size of the obstacles you see. If you want to travel like me: make it happen. Please do.

  2. Pausha says

    When I first started my zen practice, and then when I came to US, I often felt that there is something in me, other than me, that knows what I should do and makes me do it.

    I did the strangest things having no clue why, but that it just felt right, and those decisions would totally transform my life in ways that I could not have imagined before.

    In time I realized that what was making those decision, what knew what I should do, was me. What I thought was me at that time was just a mind telling stories.

    • says

      Thank you. I have had similar experiences. The day I ‘woke up’ it was because I had received a final blow to my heart. It shattered into pieces and opened me up. In that moment I saw that all the blows I had received through out my life had accumulated into that moment. It was the last blow that opened me up but all the other blows where necessary to weaken the structure (or solidify the structure in a way that it became so inflexible that it finally had no other option than crack). With hindsight all the desperation made sense, my suffering had become my capital. What was suffering was not me, it was me trying to be something that I was not.

  3. Adinah says

    “Don’t expect to transform the aggression into gratitude by giving something.”
    ….What a gem of a sentence! Thank you sooo much for sharing your ‘eye’ in words.

    And I see your quick to integrate the higher aspect of “in the market place” energy East of Europe….ha! Exchanging flexing for a cake or a flex back……love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *