It struck me the other day as I was trying to get travelers checks cashed in Miyako that I am, for the first time in my life, rootless. When the woman assisting me asked for my address in the United States, I gave her the outdated address on my drivers license. I felt so...illegal.
As those of you who follow this blog regularly know, I was asked to move out of the place I was living in Albuquerque in early September. I was still looking for my next residence when I made the decision to extend the length of my impending trip to Japan from 10 days to indefinitely.
When I choose to end this particular part of my odyssey, I will likely return to Albuquerque, if only because that is where my remaining belongings and my car are. After that, who knows? In the meantime I'm staying in my son's apartment in MIyako, in what amounts to a halfway house on the way to nowhere in particular.
My email address and my post office box in Albuquerque are as close to a permanent home as I have at this point. Now when friends visit, they stop by my Facebook page. It's a very strange situation, this virtual life.
I've come to realize that a physical address is just as much part of our identity as any other description we attach to ourselves, like Wal-Mart sales associate or bon vivant. It attaches us to a specific spot on this planet that no one else can claim, at least until the lease runs out.
Like a steady job, it gives us a false sense of security in a chaotic world. This is my home, this is my castle, this is the place that I can rest my head on a familiar bed. But try fitting a futon into a post office box.
On the other hand, I'm not living in an abandoned car or a refugee camp in a third world country, so don't cry for me in Argentina, or wherever you may be reading this.
From a Phase 2 perspective, my geographic rootlessness is part of a larger process in my life, a sort of spiritual boot camp whereby everything I hold dear is stripped away and I get to see what I am made of.
In addition to no home, I have no girlfriend or wife to return to. I will, in fact, be leaving the person closest to me, my son, when I return to the states. I have no job to return to, and if I time it right, I won't have any money by the time I get home.
I do have good friends, my tribe, and the largest concentration of them is in New Mexico. But friends, too, can be a too comfortable way of defining yourself, and you can get too attached to that notion. All you have to do is spend a few hours on Facebook to see my point.
As a Phase 2 player I, of course, know that I already have all of the love, support, security, people and resources I need in spades. I've just hidden it so well, like that key to my bike lock, that I can't find it right now.
So for the time being, I'll do the Busting Loose process around the fact that I've chosen to give power to the idea of having a place to live, a person to come home to, my cool record collection, my bike, my bed, books, cooking utensils, a vehicle.
And I'm quite aware that buried deep in my storage unit is an issue about my beliefs in scarcity. If I don't hoard these things I already have, I'll never have anything. ergo, nothing to "identify" myself. I mean, what's a man without a flat screen TV?
Arnold Patent, Robert Scheinfeld's mentor, states it succinctly in number 15 of his universal principles -- non-attachment and freedom.
"Our perceived need to hold on to anything or anyone demonstrates our belief in shortage and personal incompleteness. Holding on to anything -- people or possessions -- blocks the flow of energy around our experience with the person or object and reduces the joy of experience. It also inhibits new people and new things from coming into our lives."
Again, I would suggest that holding on to ideas and beliefs and addresses does the same thing. It hinders us from experiencing the "Truth" as Robert likes to point out.
As for now, I'm left to wonder what's in store for me post-Japan.
I believe I will find the true meaning of abundance, for me, in Phase 2. But is it all the money necessary to express appreciation for anything I want to do or buy, or all the freedom to do anything I want? Or both? Or neither?
Will I be moved to manifest my financial abundance and buy a large house and fill it with treasures, mementos and stuff, or will I live like a nomad, unfettered by the simplest creature comforts, carrying everything I own on my back and living in a portable yurt?
In the meantime, as I'm figuring that one out, if you know anybody with an empty couch, be sure to shoot me an email.
I was asking my son the other day why there appeared to be so many ice cream trucks trolling around Miyako. Seems like every 20 minutes or so, through the apartment window or around the corner from whatever restaurant we were eating at, we were serenaded by the twinkling sounds of pre-recorded ice cream truck music.
Turns out it was garbage trucks. I have no idea what the ice cream trucks sound like. Metallica, maybe.
Ah, Japan, the land of the rising contradiction.
To say that I've been overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, food and people of this fine country is to understatement what Kanye West is to tact.
Japan is definitely one of my best creations by far. If I had known I had created a place this amazing, I probably would have visited sooner.
But let me start with the people. Of all the concepts in Busting Loose, expressing "appreciation" has probably been the one that I have neglected the most. So it's probably no surprise that I created myself to end up in a place where it is almost impossible not to appreciate everything, especially the people.
For those of you who have never visited Japan, unfailing kindness and politeness is the starting point for personal interactions, and I must say I'm enjoying it immensely. Coming off my recent trip to Las Vegas, the contrast is even more dramatic.
In Las Vegas, everybody wants something. They want your attention, they want you to buy a timeshare, they want you to try their escort service, they want you to slurp margaritas off their breasts, they want you to spend money, they want you mainline alcohol so you'll spend more money, they want you to almost die in the heat so you'll go inside an air-conditioned casino and spend still more money. The list of wants goes on and on, along with the pretense of fake hospitality.
By contrast, in Japan, I seem to be spending most of my time receiving. The first family that my son, Teo, and I spent time with in Tokyo bought us meal after meal in the city, cooked for us at home, paid for entry to shrines and temples, and hauled us all over the city to see the sights. They even came to the train station to see us off to Miyako and I felt like I was with family. It was quite a gift and I feel sort of inadequate for leaving them with a piece of Navajo pottery and a jar of El Pinto salsa. I mean the salsa's good, but not that good.
That was just the start. Every time I think we're finished sightseeing or being entertained, along comes another benefactor. My son's landlord and his wife took us on a trip up the Japanese coast the day after we arrived, so we could see some of the most jaw-dropping land and seascapes in the world. And they bought us lunch at a swanky hotel.
I must pause here for just one moment of not-so-greatness. The next day, Teo and I walked all over Miyako trying to find somewhere to exchange my traveler's checks for yen. One post office and four banks later, no luck. But my son did call someone he works with and found out where I could engage in this transaction the next day. As it turns out, that was just the prelude to another fabulous experience.
Ito, a gentleman that works with my son, agreed to help me with the traveler's check problem. He came by the apartment at 9 a.m., drove me to the bank, and helped me negotiate the transaction with one of the most cheerful bank tellers I've ever met.
That was pretty much all I was expecting. But I offered to take him to coffee at one of Japan's ubiquitous Mr. Donut shops, the one landmark in Miyako that I have quickly become familiar with. (It's right next to the other landmark I'm sure I'll become familiar with, the Tomato and Onion restaurant, where you can get traditional Japanese food, and wacked-out versions of American favorites, like meatloaf topped with pizza, pizza topped with meatloaf and triple-decker cheeseburgers with a slab of prime rib on top, and a side of fried chicken nuggets with lard sauce. Oh, and a green salad.) Anyway, we dined on donuts and coffee, then got back into his car, presumably to drop me off back at the apartment.
Nope. I had mentioned that Teo and I had tried and failed to find a map of Miyako so I'd be able to get around when he wasn't there. So Ito took me to a place near the train station to find a map, along with a bunch of tourist brochures. He asked me if we'd seen Jodogahama Beach the day before.
No, we had not.
Of course, within minutes, we were headed for the world-famous Jodogahama Beach up the road from Miyako. We not only cruised the beach, but spend a good three hours there, taking in the scenery, the sea breezes and the soba noodles for lunch.
So, we're on the way back to Miyako and I'm thinking about all the important things I have to do when I get back to the apartment, and we stop to visit a farmer's market and then a "recreation center" that puts most spas to shame. The appreciation is the equivalent of $50 a month for swimming, a sea mist room, an aromatherapy room, yoga classes and many more cool things you won't find at Defined Fitness. I've spent $75 for a mud pack alone in Marin County, so believe me, this is a deal.
Five hours later, he dropped me off at the apartment.
I could give a dozen more examples of what I'm talking about, and that's just the first week. I mean, policemen bow to you here, and no, hell hasn't frozen over, although I hear it usually does by winter, at least in these parts.
So appreciation is the watchword for my first week here. It's getting so intense, that I'm wrestling with the question of whether I deserve all this. Should I be more conscious of imposing on my creations, or should I just casually mention that I'd like to drive to Mt. Fuji and see what happens?
Even before I left for Japan, I learned my first lesson. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and trip preparations do not necessarily mix.
It was apparently a huge lesson that my Expanded Self felt I needed to learn.
It began the week before, when I attempted to liquidate my IRA to help finance the trip. (I'll give myself some credit, at least I'm not obsessing about retirement, huh?) I completed all the paper work for my broker, we talked about the exciting adventure I was about to go on and I left with instructions to email the routing number so the money could be deposited into my bank account the same week. That was Tuesday, a good week before I was to leave. Smart, right?
Over the next few days, I did things like spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to split up my travelers checks into different pieces of luggage and money belts, because I knew someone would go through my socks if I hid some of the money there.
I worried about whether I should wear a back brace through check in at the airport, since under a shirt it looks like I could be a terrorist with a bomb strapped to me. I'd be detained interminably, miss my flight, be rendered to a dark hole somewhere in Eastern Europe and generally have my trip disrupted.
Were the jars of salsa intended as presents for my Japanese hosts going to shatter in my luggage if they weren't triple bubble-wrapped, enclosed in a bag and nestled in a bed of styrofoam peanuts?
It got crazier.
The money still hadn't shown up in my bank account by Friday. My broker emailed, saying there had been some kind of delay within the banking system, so wait for Monday. I'm leaving Wednesday, no problem.
Monday came and my broker called to say she had forgotten to submit the routing number I had e-mailed her, and the deposit had been denied. I re-sent it. The money arrived Tuesday. But the fun was just starting.
Wednesday morning -- departure day -- with 99 percent of my preparations finished, about to drop off my car and get a ride to the airport from friends, I worked on the coup de grace -- laptop computer security. For the first time since I've owned a computer, I decided it would be good to set up my laptop so that a user had to type in my secret password to use it. In the possible event that my laptop was stolen while abroad, (insert wailing and screaming here) at least the bastards wouldn't be able to log in and steal all my passwords and information.
I was actually going to wait until the next day in Los Angeles when I had more time to mess with it and some help from someone who knew what they were doing. All this despite the fact that my laptop would be surgically attached to my hip the entire time, and that my son had told me on several occasions that Japan was the last place in the world my computer would be hijacked. In fact, if someone did steal it, they'd probably leave a better one in its place.
But no. All I could envision was some young cyber-thug running down an airport terminal with my life in his hands. Besides, all I had to do was follow a simple procedure, and voila, the final protection would be finished.
So I did it.
Then I re-started the computer. I typed in my name and password. The little screen just jiggled and spit the words back at me. I tried, 30, 40 times. Nothing. I called my techie friend, Blaise, who had recently upgraded my computer.
I told Blaise what had happened. We tried a few more things. Nothing. He knew the name and passwords were correct because he had just used them to do the upgrade.
Blaise, who was just returning de-planing at the airport from a trip, suggested he could look at it if I could meet him on the other side of town. He was waiting to be picked up and taken somewhere by his brother, though, and would call me back when he knew exactly where he was going to go.
I still had to drive from the far reaches of Albuquerque to a bank to cash a check for the trip. and get to my friends' house. All in about one hour and a half.
I borrowed a friend's laptop to search for possible solutions, but nothing looked remotely good.
I'd either have to leave the laptop with Blaise and let him figure it out then FedEx it to me at some exorbitant cost, or have him burn a start-up disk for me and mail it to Japan, hope it arrived at the remote town where I'd be staying with my son, then have him walk me through the fix via phone. For me, that's the equivalent of performing brain surgery on a fellow astronaut at the space station, with House giving me instructions on the phone. Did I mention, I'm not a surgeon?
My blog posts, my internet businesses, my writing assignments and most of all, my presence on Facebook would all be horribly impacted. Double shit.
I took off in my car, hit the bank, then did the Busting Loose process twice, as I raced across town to meet Blaise, who was in a cigar shop with his brother and a bunch of other people milling around.
I immediately started up the computer and let Blaise take a look as thought of doom filled my head. We chatted nervously as I envisioned my Japan trip in ruins -- all because of me and my fear.
As one attempt by Blaise after another to log in failed, I began my next OCD routine. I gathered the address where I would be in Japan, and other contact information. I calculated shipping costs. Blaise slaved away, typing in password combinations and checking instructions on his IPhone. After half an hour, even he was frustrated. I must admit, it's fun to hear geeks curse.
Then Blaise let out an exclamation. "I'm not sure what I did, but I'm in." As we back engineered a solution, we realized he had accidentally typed in two spaces between my first and last name when entering them, instead of one. It was a mistake I had made when setting up my name and password upon purchasing the laptop several years earlier. A simple mistake we would have probably never would have figured out in a million years.
Happy I was.
Never mind that I subsequently misplaced my boarding pass and some other papers while driving to the airport. No big deal.
The whole Japan trip has been an interesting mix of letting go and grasping. Living in reactive mode, then torturing myself over my decisions.
The past few days have given me enough fodder for a few years of process and contemplation, so already the trip's a success.
It was just one more exhilarating lesson about the fact that I'm still operating under the illusion that I -- the player -- have any control of anything. I still think I can foresee, and subsequently plan and scheme my way around any problem that arises. It's a good lesson and one that obviously needs to be reinforced frequently by my Expanded Self, because going on 53 years now, planning has not necessarily been my best friend.
So today, I'm going to get out of bed, and that's all I'm committing to. Sayonara until tomorrow.
Until this week, there was only one thing I've ever done in my life where I felt I could absolutely do no wrong -- ministering to the dying as a hospice volunteer. Now, I've apparently found a second -- taking a long trip to Japan. Geez. If I had known, I would have done it sooner.
(Now I know I can't really do anything wrong in the illusion. But believing that you can screw up is part of the game and that's one role I have embraced in the past.)
As those of you who follow this blog know, it's been kind of a busy month for me. I celebrated my birthday in Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago, then came back to Albuquerque to find out that I had until the end of September to find another place to live.
That was somewhat complicated by the fact that I had already planned to go visit my son, Teo, in Japan for 10 days this month, leaving me very little time to accomplish everything I needed to do.
Instead of being a welcome chance to reunite with my son in an exotic locale, the trip was now becoming a nuisance that was getting in the way of my life here in New Mexico. I was already wondering whether I could really afford to go. Now I had to think about a bunch of other nonsense, like where would I live when I got back? What about the paying work I might miss out on while I was gone? How much would my rent get jacked up? Who would help me move shit, and when? And would I have to take a chance at "roommate roulette?"
As I sorted through my options for living arrangements -- all fairly dismal to this point -- and agonized about how I could carefully stretch my money to the end of the year until the rest of my abundance (at least a paying job) miraculously showed up, I finally gave up. I realized that I was contracting by the minute, creating stories about my lack of abundance and choices and freedom faster than Obama switches positions on health care. And the judgment about it all wasn't helping.
That's when my Expanded Self decided to throw another option my way.
As I assessed the current state of my life, I thought to myself, what's keeping me here? Why not travel for a while? I already had a place to stay in Japan. A friend had offered to put me up in India. I have friends in Africa, Europe, South America. I could cash out what was left of my piddly 401K to get started.
Then I had my 7-11 moment. The Big Gulp.
The idea of chucking everything was both exhilarating and scary, of course. It brought up a batch of eggs around safety, survival, money and responsibility like nothing I've ever experienced before. Yet, I knew it was the right thing to do. Maybe not travel all around the world just yet, but get way out of my comfort zone and have an adventure.
Now on the scale of things in my hologram, I'm not sure where to rate this. Friends of mine travel all of the time, all over the world, doing amazing things. It's no big deal.
But the reaction to my decision was astounding.
Even as I internally agonized over every possible reason not to do this, friends, family and even strangers were cheering me on like I was a runner in mile 25 of a marathon.
It reminded me of Arnold Patent's "Mirror Principle." Arnold is one of Robert Scheinfeld's mentors. In effect, he says that what we see and experience "out there" in our illusion is really a reflection of our consciousness. Robert's version is a little more expanded, but almost the same thing. The point being, if we want to get a look at where we are consciousness-wise, just pay attention to our environment.
Now, in many other practices -- ones that I have experienced previously -- we are taught to look inward for the answers. The challenge is then to discern the mindless chatter from the voice of truth. Because of my addiction to listening to the voices in my head, I'm finding the Patent/Scheinfeld method a much easier way to gauge the state of my consciousness.
That could all change in an instant in a Zen monastery in Japan. But from the reaction, I'm guessing my consciousness is in pretty good shape. Thank you all (and me) for the support. I feel truly blessed to be able to embark on this journey.
I now get to mull over two more big questions.
We all know Expanded Self has a sense of humor. But does it have a sense of boredom? I think it does and it's much more dangerous than the sense of humor. I mean, let Expanded Self sit around with too much time on its hands and you might be guided to do something really insane like spend the last of your illusory money traveling around the world.
Secondly, do guests, like fish, really begin to smell within three days? I'm hoping in the land of sushi, they won't notice.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said "You can not step twice into the same river." The river is different every time. At least that's one interpretation.
In mathematical terms, a late friend once explained to me that Heraclitus' statement could be translated as "A" never equals "A," which is the opposite of the foundation for most of our mathematics and western civilization. Start with A never equals A, and where would we be today?
I would offer that "I" never equals "I" either, because we as humans are always changing. We are never exactly the same person from minute to minute, and that change appears to accelerate when we enter the playground of Phase 2 in Busting Loose.
In linguistic terms, our shape-shifting selves are striving to be verbs and not nouns.
Instead of saying "I am a writer," to be more accurate and dynamic, I might say "I write," or "I make symbolic marks in certain patterns that some people take the time to decipher." Instead of saying "I'm a filmmaker," I'd say "I arrange sound and images and create packets of digital information to be viewed by others." Instead of saying "I'm an entrepreneur," I might say "I create ways to make money flow."
Granted, some people would think writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur are pretty sexy nouns, and I've taken great pride over the years in being able to hand the words out like dollar bills or stick them on business cards. But do they tell who I really am, in the hologram or as an infinite being? They're all an illusion, just like the other terms I might use for myself, like unemployed bum or spiritual surfer.
The difference is that each noun comes with its own baggage. Each verb comes with a possibility. In quantum physics, nouns are the collapsed wave form. Verbs are the zero field itself.
To integrate the metaphors, nouns tend to dam the river of life, while verbs tend to move it along.
"I write" means I do that thing when I am moved to do so, and implies I can do other things like make homemade sauerkraut. "I am a writer" crystallizes whatever image and expectations of being a writer that you or I might have. That expectation might incidentally include actual writing, but most days may be just about wearing a tweed jacket, thinking great thoughts and smoking a pipe in my library while I stare at the books on the shelves hoping to release my writer's block.
All the energy I put into being a writer that does not include the actual writing, is time taken away from the possibility of growing rutabagas, climbing Mt. Everest or playing with a puppy.
I know a minor filmmaker with a famous name, which I won't mention here. But you've heard of the family.
The kindest thing I can say about this person is that as a filmmaker, he's a great chef. But I've actually felt pity for him/me. Not only is he a noun-y filmmaker, he's got the extra added weight of the family name attached. What might have initially seemed like a crown is probably more like a ball and chain.
I watched this person spend a lot of time creating an image of being a renegade filmmaker, dressing like an extra from "Easy Rider" and bossing people around as if his world was a real movie set, as if this type of behavior confirmed he was a filmmaker.
This, instead of actually making films.
He obviously feels compelled to follow in the footsteps of his family heritage and he occasionally has made a film, but as I said, his future is in cuisine. Maybe chef just doesn't sound as sexy as filmmaker.
I understand that this is his life path and there's nothing wrong with it. I do hope he gets to open his own restaurant some day. But he is an interesting reflection to me about how we get caught up in meaningless roles.
I relate this all with a great deal more compassion now than I felt then because I see all my nouns being sucked into the black hole of meaninglessness as Phase 2 continues and I come face to face with all my discomfort and illusions. At this moment in time, what do the terms filmmaker, father, writer, lover, journalist, radio host, brother, son, SOB, TV producer, sports junkie, ex-husband really have to do with anything?
Not much, as far as I can tell. They were simply nouns that I placed my power in for a time. I'm reclaiming my power from them -- even as I battle the tyranny of adjectives. But don't get me start on the judgment of adjectives.
Living the "verb life" means living free, living reactively, living without the burden of expectation and letting others do the same thing. I'm liking the fact that I'm learning I'm not who I thought I was all this time.