The Street Fighter And The Boxer

New York, New York, USA.

New York is an addictive place, I felt that in the very first minutes I put my feet on the pavement. When I got off the subway in Canal Street and walked into the neighborhood of my friend Jessica I felt something creeping up my spine for the first time during my journey. It was a feeling of ‘yes’ and of excitement. It felt like entering the house of someone you feel attracted to and you know you will make love that night for the first time: a tingling in the stomach and a pleasant desire to perform and impress. It felt quite magical to me. I don’t find it hard to imagine how people will start making sacrifices to be part of that magic You have to work hard and make a lot of money to be able to afford living here.

When I was preparing for my journey I picked a deadline: my birthday, or – more precisely – the day after. The idea was to spend the whole year of being 40 traveling because the symbolism of that made sense to me. Because of fear and indecisiveness I missed that deadline and instead I left in the beginning of the new year (my birthday is in the end of November and I left in January 2012). I clearly remember how pissed off I was with myself for missing the deadline and how strongly I felt I would NOT let it happen again. This time I feel the same. “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere” sang Frank Sinatra about New York. I failed to ‘make it here’ once and I will NOT let it happen again. It is that feeling I had as a young boy when some friend challenged me by saying ‘I bet you don’t dare to do that’. “Oh no? Let me show you!”. I don’t know if it is spiritually very mature but that is how I feel about it.

I wonder if the Dalai Lama (or any other enlightened master) ever made such a pride driven decision.

The paragraphs above I typed in coffee shop in Manhattan. When I was looking for a power outlet and couldn’t find one a lady approached me to tell that there was one next to her seat. I could work there. We started a conversation and it turned out she was a Buddhist practitioner from the Shambala tradition. This is the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa, the Tibetan master who wrote “Shambala, The Sacred Path Of The Warrior”. The quotes in the ticker tape are from that book and he is also the man who coined the term ‘basic goodness’. Quite a coincidence.

Right after she left a black guy asked me what I did for a living. When I answered ‘life coach, team trainer and writer’ he came over to talk with me. To be honest: I did not trust him immediately. Apart from that: I had a really hard time understanding his English American Ebonics ghetto slang. But it turned out to be a fascinating meeting.

He was a 29-year-old son of African immigrants who grew up on the streets of The Bronx and spend more than 10 years inside prisons. He had lived a lived a hard life and had the scars to prove it. Currently he was running for the police after violating parole.

But there was more.

He was trying to change his life. And 5 days ago, on the same day I arrived in NYC, he ran into a young guy, a promising amateur boxer, who had chosen a spiritual path. This boxer decided to help the street fighter. He gave him money. He basically gave him all his money.

The boxer is an aspiring life coach and motivational speaker. The street fighter called the boxer on his phone and told him to come meet me. At this point I still was unaware of who the friend of the street fighter was and I was more or less expecting to be set up from some kind of Nigerian scam. I was pleasantly surprised to meet the kind boxer. Slowly their history became clear to me and I understood that the street fighter felt deeply indebted to the boxer. His way of giving back was to introduce his friend to me.

You have to appreciate the miraculous ways of the Universe if you realize the improbability of this African American street fighter finding two boxing life coaches in one week. What are the odds? Now he finds himself at a table with two white guys confronting him and calling him on his attitude and his ego. There must have been days in his life when he responded quite differently to such advice.

This morning I woke up realizing I had been dreaming of lifting weights and doing strength training. Traveling makes it really hard for me to go to the gym regularly. The boxer asked about my workout routine based on my apparently firm handshake. I said I regretfully had none. He said “let’s walk to my gym and I’ll introduce you”. 15 minutes later I had negotiated a temporary membership with mrs K, the owner of the Kingsway Boxing Gym.


  1. Joost Peper says

    Lieve stoere coole Atalwin, ik zit weer maximaal te genieten van alles wat er met je gebeurd en alle avonturen die je beleeft. Ik voel heel sterk hoe dat gebeurt, en geniet er zelfs hier in Nederland van. Dus geniet – maar dat doe je al -;) En bokse ouwe…



  2. Manolis Polychronides says

    Dear Atalwin,
    it is well over a year since you landed in Athens, starting your journey! And what a journey it has been 🙂 This tingling feeling you describe is a good sign, let alone the fateful meetings you describe. I feel strongly that the journey still has many turns but that eventually you will arrive. It will not be a place, but a state of being, not a destination but a way of seeing.Fear will not subside, but it will be a sure compass that you are on the right path. Keep your heart true and open 🙂

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