An hour north of Ica, on my way to Cusco, Peru.
I am on my way out of Lima again and in the bus to Ica. Actually, Ica is the first stop and my intended destination but I just found out that this bus will continue to Cusco. And Cusco is the city close to Machu Picchu. I decided not to go to Machu Picchu because the weather is awful this time of year. But now that I am already in the right bus.. I feel torn.
The bus just stopped for no apparent reason, which made me aware of an amazing sunset. Now we are driving again and the horizon is hidden behind mountains. I was a blessed little moment. Because I am getting further away from the equator the twilight time is getting longer again. I like that. I am from a country with long summer nights. I find that whole dramatically-switching-of-the-light-at-6-pm-thing unnecessary, over exaggerating and attention seeking behavior. Glad it is over. Long summer nights rule.
Although I didn’t do much in Lima I had a very interesting time. Unfortunately I can’t be too open about all of it. I have to bite my lips on this one. I can only say a few things.
It was brought to my awareness that an old zen acquaintance lived in Lima these days. We were never too close but I got his number. I called him and suggested breakfast. These type of meetings are funny. I am sort of used to getting a phone number from somebody when I approach a certain city. But for the other I am often the last person they expected to see again, and certainly not on the other side of the planet.
Now he was curious about what I was doing in Lima, I was also curious what he was doing on the other side of the earth. The way I knew him was as a very devoted zen monk, living a monastic life. Something drastic must have happened. And so it turned out to be. In a nutshell: he broke a rule and was kicked out of the monastery. That’s drastic.
I can’t go into details and I have heard only one side of the story. But once again I am quite disappointed in the lack of grace in what I have heard. The enlightened master turned out to be less forgiving then I would have hoped. I think that emotional or spiritual maturity is put to the test when the going gets tough. It is easy to be all graceful and shit when we are inside our comfort zones. But to not fall back into defensive, cruel or cowardly behavior when the shit has hit the fan and we took a couple of blows to the gut takes a lot of presence. Perhaps it’s too much asked from an ordinary person but after 25 million hours on a meditation cushion one would hope for a more original response than ex-communication. When 2 or more people have a conflict that lasts longer than 2 days the people involved should simply acknowledge that there are ego patterns and blind spots at work. This should especially be true when revealing your ego is a hobby you take so fucking seriously it makes airplane spotters and postal stamp collectors look like cool people. All the players involved should take a step back, breathe and take a deep look in the mirror, including the teachers or masters or whatever they like to be called. Then they should gather again and share what they have seen in themselves. If there were still excessive anger in the air I would opt for a good old fashioned fistfight. But get the fuck over it and have a beer afterwards.
Anyway. So I had a taste of what goes on in spiritual communities once again. In Colombia I also heard a couple of stories. Zen masters and shamans, they all behave like ordinary people if you don’t watch out. I am not disappointed about that. What I am disappointed about is that so many teachers have difficulties taking responsibility for their part in the conflict. Similar to Dutch football icon Johan Cruyff it seems that they have a hard time being wrong. Very few say sorry unless there are really no escapes left.
Apart from this I had my own stuff going on. In my mind I am very busy with preparing things in New York and Hong Kong. After initial promising response it got very quiet. I received a few rejections, some people just stopped talking and some others subtly withdrew. I felt fear creeping up on me. If I fail in these cities my journey could be over. I felt very vulnerable. I am so dependent on others. I can have all the good intentions in the world but if people tomorrow decide to delete my email I can become powerless overnight and will have to live with my mother within a couple of months from now. It feels awful because I feel threatened in my purpose. It is also the moment that I remember why I want to write a book: because I want to be semi-famous so I don’t have to prove myself over and over again. It would be so nice to just have a solid reputation, receive requests from all over the planet, do the work I love to do and go to the next destination when the work is done. But this is not my reality yet.
I decided to make a very unconventional move. I decided to ask the higher powers for help. Now is my connection with the higher powers not extremely clear. I feel tested and challenged over and over again. Often I feel that I am sent the hard way just to see if I will make it. So I asked people around me who have a clearer connection with ‘upstairs’ to plea for my case. I realized how fortunate I am to be able to select 10 exceptional persons from my address book. Writing the email alone was already both humbling and empowering. It is the strength of surrender; admitting I can’t do it alone gives a sense of strength paradoxically. Within hours I received a couple of heartfelt responses that brought tears to my eyes. Then I received a few emails from New York and Hong Kong that gave me the idea that I was behind the wheel again. Things started moving.
I have been working very hard the last 2 days. My head is buzzing from staring at the computer screen. Although I don’t know the outcome I received more than a handful very beautiful and supportive messages. And I realized: this is what I get on a bad day.
“Dearest Atalwin, I will pray for you in the morning, afternoon and evening. I know in my heart that a true warrior is not concerned with success or failure, but with his destiny. Ask yourself: does this path have a heart? If not, then it will destroy you. If so, then trust and pursue.”
“Thank you, dear warrior, for this beautiful request… I will keep you in my prayer! With a big hug and love your way!”
“You’re one of the most inspiring people I know.”
“Please know how much you are helping others and what an inspiration you are by doing what you are doing.”
Yes I have some good friends in New York. Just give me the dates and information on your workshop and I’ll be happy to help spread the message for you. Give me a shout anytime if I can help be of service.”
A new testimonial for my website from a client from L.A popped in my mailbox.:
“The first thing that stood out to me upon meeting Atalwin were his eyes. They were glowing with light, and I could see his stories and travels through them. I came to Atalwin not sure what I was going to ask him or discuss, but curious to meet the person who’s words I had been reading and following. It didn’t take too long before we were deep in effortless conversation. I told Atalwin he was an inspiration to me as we are both writers and I admire how he is putting his experiences in life out there. He gave me wonderful insight and advice as well as confidence in myself to do the same. He also did a beautiful meditative exercise with me, allowing me to go deep within and it’s something that I have carried with me and continue to practice. Atalwin’s presence is very strong and influential, but at the same time he is a light hearted and extremely kind individual who is truly passionate about helping others and what he does. He connects with you by sharing his own experiences and challenges
After our session I felt completely liberated from many of the fears I had walked in with. He gave me hope, and strength to go after what my heart truly desires. I feel so grateful to have been able to meet him, and to have experienced his awesome energy!”
Again: if this is what I get on a bad day, I can’t be that bad. But although I love to read the beautiful words it is hard to fully believe them. But I try to let them in and feel truly grateful for the support, back-up and acknowledgment.
Last night just before bedtime I received a message from Hong Kong that I can write an article about my work for a magazine targeted at Dutch expats in Hong Kong. During the writing of this post I got a message from the Dutch Chamber of Commerce that they will include me in the newsletter and I think the company that I worked for last year just hired me. I am not 100% sure because my clients emails are so brief that they can get quite cryptical (but I like the guy anyway).
Is there a moral of this story? I still don’t know what my life will look like in 1, 2 or 3 months from now. But I feel encouraged and supported in this very moment. Beautiful people surround me. The interdependency that makes me feel so vulnerable can flip into something empowering and nurturing in minutes. Less then 24 hours ago I detested the insecurity and unsafety of being so dependent, now I feel carried and magically pushed forward, as if I am riding a wave. I only have to keep the balance, I guess.
By the way, I decided to go to Cusco so I will spend the night in the bus. Visiting Peru without at least attempting to see Machu Picchu doesn’t feel right.