It’s kind of amazing how quickly I can kick into a different mode while traveling. Something happens to me once I finish everything I need to finish prior to a trip. It’s always such a slog to ready my home for a summer of renters and preemtively prepare for a summer away. Sometimes I’ll change gears just after leaving my home in my car as I drive down my street, sometimes on the airplane, but this time it happened on the train from Oakland to SFO. I always travel with a mala of prayer beads from Dharamsala from the Dalai Lama’s temple, strung with 108 polished stone beads. 8 seems to be a particularly positive number in that part of the world, so you’ll often find 8 or 108 or 1008 of something or other in holy places (columns in a temple, statues of the buddha, shiva lingams, etc.). Anyway, once on the train, I pulled out my beads, keeping my awareness with one breath per bead as best I could. As I did so, I became acutely aware of details: the girl in front of me with many pink accents throughout her clothing, bag and suitcase, blue toenail polish on another, an African American woman blowing a kiss to her ganja-scented man in saggy pants who was pushing their baby stroller, her sparkling headband adornment, and the drunken apparently homeless man tidying the train car. Most riders were of course tuning in to one form of distraction or another on their iPhones. It used to be the newspaper when I was a regular BART patron. (Reminds me of a song I wrote years ago while on that commute: “Harry isn’t happy – on the train that he rides with a thousand weary eyes. His head is in the paper, so he never sees their faces like he never sees the skies.”)
The shift to presence came about 10 minutes after starting with my beads, as we departed the Embarcadero station. The train’s acceleration imparted a sense of unstoppably increasing momentum toward Nepal and all that awaits me there. A broad-beamed excitement and smile arose and I was already gone.
The key to presence for me is that I simply need to stop. For me, the weeks of preparation for this trip didn’t really cease until I boarded that train. Finally exiting preparation mode, something in me simply stopped. Presence is never very far away for me, but it does require a stopping, something which doesn’t come as easily to this chronic accomplisher as I sometimes wish it would. That stopping need only be for a second, but when I do, my eyes see clearly again and my presence within my awareness settles in. Remembering to sense my own breath is usually enough to settle me down and bring me back home. Sometimes being in the presence of a teacher can be enough of a reminder. It took me all of about 2 minutes to settle in to something deeper while spending time in Rishikesh earlier this year with Mooji. Being ‘in the field’ is often more than enough. Whatever the case, here I am.
On another important note, it has become much more clear to me that I am driven to generate more meaningful work in my life. I am blessed where I am able to have a stable income with my bakery investment and also managing my home as a vacation and airbnb rental. It’s been a long time, perhaps if ever, where I’ve felt that my work in the world had meaning and personal value. Following up on my time in Nepal earlier this year, this return trip is largely about cultivating more meaningful work in my life. It is actually very empowering for me to move in my life towards work and service rather than toward relationship. My travels over the past many years have almost always involved traveling in support of being in long-distance relationship. While I don’t regret any of that time and heart energy spent for the slightest of seconds, a deeper desire seems to be expressing itself, the desire for more meaning/contribution/service in my life. I’m not opposed to relationship, but the need to continue to develop a more meaningful locus for my life’s effort has continued to arise more clearly.
I have found some of that locus in Nepal with the Nepal Orphans Home and also with my photography. I have purposely left this trip structure somewhat loose as I don’t really know quite what to expect after the recent devastating earthquakes. My intention is simply to land, see how/where my particular skills are needed, and take action accordingly. I am very curious how this summer will unfold. I am certain that I will be of use with NOH (of which I am now on the Board of Advisors). I also am striving to cultivate more “humanitarian” photography projects by doing documentary photography for specific causes, service and aid organizations. To that end, I spent much of this past week redeveloping my Ted Seymour Photography site to better reflect that type of work. Beyond those “specific vagaries,” my summer slate is deliberately open. If anyone reading this has contacts at organizations in this part of the world who might be in need of documentary photography work, I would appreciate your passing on that information to me.
The core of your life is your purpose. Everything in your life, from your diet to your career, must be aligned with your purpose if you are to act with coherence and integrity in the world. If you know your purpose, your deepest desire, then the secret of success is to discipline your life so that you support your deepest purpose and minimize distractions and detours.”
~ David Deida
I’m currently in the Bangkok airport on a 4 ½ hour layover after a couple of long flights through Tokyo to here. I’ll be in Kathmandu in about 6 hours. Already feels like a coming home of sorts and I’m not even there yet!