Transformation Travel, a Broader Look 2
The book A tale of Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki starts with, “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
I went for a walk today carrying my 25 lb. back pack. The first trees in spring bloom reminded me of my grandmother. She was born on March 21st and died on that same first day of spring. The day before she died, she cleaned her house readying it for her birthday party, went to bed satisfied and happy, and had a heart attack in the night. Could I ever exit so neatly? I walked to the next town and back along the greenway, the river flowing fast after days of rain. I carried all the necessities for living on the trail. When I crossed the bridge where the main road runs toward the freeway, two homeless travelers greeted me from their perch, the bridge railing, where they held a sign asking people in passing cars for a “doobie”. Did I read that right, “a doo-bie?” Have I stepped back in time, I asked myself, am I back in the 70ties? One traveler asked me if I was just coming into town and I realized he took me for one of them with my backpack. I explained what I was doing as I’m getting ready to hike the PCT in SO CAL. He compared his pack with mine, stating that his is so much bigger but that he needed to carry food for his two dogs. I asked if he was living under the bridge, where I had just seen a camping set up complete with kitchen, bedding and a chair. “No, I’m staying by the railroad tracks”, he said. He tried on the idea of throwing some freeze dried food in his pack and hitting the trail in Southern California. Are you hitch-hiking? he asked. Feeling almost guilty for my lifestyle I told him I had a car to get there. It didn’t seem to phase him, he remained friendly and wished me good travels. I walked on reminiscing about being profiled based on my appearance. Remembering the news story of the retired police chief, an American, who was detained in JFK upon his return to the States because of his Arabic name, I wondered if I would be profiled when I will re-enter the US after my trip to Europe in May. Who am I and who do I appear to be to others? In the early 70ties I lived on the road, I smoked doo-bies, I hitch-hiked to foreign places, just like the guys on the bridge. I had a choice, I had money and didn’t need to sleep along railroad tracks if I didn’t want to. Now at age 70 I still have the choice to live along the trail, to let go of the comforts of home. Am I the same person? Has time eluded me?
I walked to the next town wondering how my body would hold up under the weight. I turned around at the six mile mark. As I walked back counting miles and time, I suddenly felt as if I was pulling myself back by an invisible cord attached to my point of departure 3 hours ago, my home. Was I walking back in time? It felt like it. Or was I walking into the future? I took this walk to experience what I expect I will experience two weeks from now when I walk on the PCT. I wanted to know in my body what that would feel like. By walking the distance and carrying the pack I approximated my future experience. Could I “pre”-live the future? Was the person returning from the farthest point of my walk the same person as the one who just walked in the other direction? What was the product of 4 hours of walking? Loss of time? A changed body chemistry? An expanded awareness?
I passed the bridge, the travelers were gone. Did they exist, or had I made them up? At the end of the greenway I passed a house under construction. The builder was sitting on the half finished back porch smoking a cigarette (or maybe a doo-bie? It’s legal now). The product of his last 4 hours was a hung door that could swing open and close, a door that would allow people to enter and exit for many years to come. The builder had concrete evidence of what he did with his time. My grandmother exited time after cleaning house. Did I gain or lose in the last 4 hours?
Dogen Zenji said:
“That you carry yourself forward and experience the myriad things is delusion. That the myriad things come forward and experience themselves is awakening.”
If you’re reading this, you are one of the myriad beings who’ve come forward and experience themselves. That is awakening.
Transformation Travel, A Broader Look - 1
You can’t always be traveling to experience transformation. Sometimes your travel happens in your chair at home, in a book you’re reading, a show you’re watching, a relationship, an illness. Sometimes politics transform your life.
I recently read an interview with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet after Bill Gates sent his yearly letter on the state of the Bill Gates Foundation to Warren. Warren who has contributed 30 billion to the Foundation, likes to know how the money is working for change.
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/02/buffett-gates/517833/ Current politics came up in the conversation and the interviewer asked Bill and Warren if they were worried about what would happen with the nation and the world under the current administration. Both responded that they always worried about the world, but they were also optimistic and stated that Trump’s administration is one wave in a big ocean. Buffet said, “America is already great, and I predict a comeback for the truth, Democracy is self correcting”. Both men took the long view and listed the progress made since they started the Foundation. Progress that has reduced poverty worldwide, that has increased immunization (580 million children since 2000) across the world, eradicated diseases, increased GDP 6 to 1 in Buffet’s lifetime. Warren said, “I live in a neighborhood where everyone is living better, because of medicine, entertainment etc. than John D Rockefeller did”. With access to facts and falsehoods via phones, people are more aware of disparity and become dissatisfied. Bill added, everyone can read the Gates letter instead and find out about the good things that are happening.
This interview teaches that a long view is helpful when things don’t look so good in your life. It also tells me that even if personal transformation is at a slow pace I can contribute to transformation for others. This month I’m raising money for the Care Foundation, backed by the Gates Foundation. The money will transform the life of women and girls in impoverished countries: they may get a water spigot near their home, they may get shoes and a uniform so they can attend school. Daily for a week I’ll be walking with friends the distance these women and girls now have to walk to access water, to get their education, to get to work. The disparity between our world and that of women in Africa will come home to us and do its work of transformation for us.
What is transforming your life right now?
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