Another Way
    A couple weeks ago I related the experience of going to a restaurant in Miyako by myself for the first time and taking a stab at using my limited Japanese to order a meal. It was empowering to say the least.
    It's human nature to want to be understood, and being understood in a language you can barely speak is beyond satisfying.
    But nothing has topped my most recent adventure.
    Out for my afternoon jaunt, I successfully ordered lunch at a local restaurant; bought a squeegee from a hardware store; and negotiated receipt of a Mr. Donut coffee mug after racking up 150 points on the store card.
    Again, nothing that you'd even think twice about in your own language, but quite a feat as far as I can tell for someone who spent two years trying to figure out the difference between sashimi and sushi.
    I began my quest for a squeegee by piecing together a sentence using my phrase book and a Japanese-English dictionary.
    As you might surmise, there was no Japanese word for squeegee in the dictionary. So using my inimitable logic, I prepared a couple of questions to ask the sales assistants. Do you have car accessories? I figured they'd just take me to that section and I'd take it out from there. But if they pressed me, I'd do my best imitation of a homeless man in New York City cleaning your car window at a stoplight. (I figured this would be easier than miming a window cleaner on a Manhattan skyscraper) True, the chances of someone working in this store in this little town who had been to New York and seen this service were pretty small. But, hey, who am I to judge?
    Just to be sure, I worked out an alternate phrase that amounted to something like "window" (and the verb) "to clean," followed by more squeegee action.  
    I walked in the store ready to go. I asked the cashier the car accessory question. She nodded and called over another assistant. I think that one asked me asked what kind of accessory was I looking for.
    "Squeegee," I blurted out. The assistant rolled that one around in her mouth for a few seconds. Then I quickly referred to my "window to clean" phrase and threw in the wiping motion. To make a long story short, it worked like a charm. She took me to see the squeegee department, showed me several sizes, and I walked out with what I wanted a few minutes later.
    Turns out, that was just the prelude to more linguistic fun.
    I met my son that afternoon after work and we went to the grocery store to get the fixings for a salmon dish. After returning home and starting the recipe, we realized we didn't have sake, the ubiquitous rice wine alcohol of Japan.
    I was dead-set on doing the recipe correctly -- and hungry -- so I suggested that instead of biking back across town to get the sake, he ask our downstairs neighbors, the Kandos, for a couple tablespoons. The Kandos have been gracious neighbors, but for whatever reason, Teo was reluctant to go downstairs and ask. But since I was the one with all this newfound Japanese knowledge, why didn't I go down there, he wondered? So I said, I'd go, but tell me what I need to ask.
    Teo told me how to say the equivalent of "may I have some sake?"  Then I planned to show them the picture in the recipe book to indicate it was for a dish we were making, and that would be it. Now here's the punchline. Sake is also the word for salmon. They wouldn't be confused, right, son?
    Nope, most people say salmon, instead of sake, he assured me. Besides, I rationalized, I could always perform my well-rehearsed imitation of a drunk homeless man with a squeegee to get my point across.
    Mr. Kando greeted me at the door and ushered me to the dining room, where his mother, a spry 92 years old, sat at the dinner table. His wife, the one who actually knew a little bit of English, was still out shopping. After exchanging some preliminary greetings, I posed the request for sake, and pointed to the picture of the dish in the book.   
    Both their faces lit up and grandma headed into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later and handed me two sashimi-grade filets of salmon, wrapped in plastic. I realize in retrospect that showing her a picture of a salmon dish and asking for sake was sheer brilliance on my part. I thanked them profusely, and tried to explain again that I needed the drinking sake, not the swimming sake. Just a smidgen, I indicated with my thumb and forefinger.
    Their faces lit up again. Grandma again disappeared into the kitchen, only to return a few minutes later with a small container of translucent orange salmon eggs, one of Miyako's signature dishes. She even brought a spoon for me to taste. The eggs were delicious, of course, and who was I to turn down a healthy helping? She sealed the container and placed it in a bag with the salmon filets. Apparently she thought my smidgen gesture meant really small salmon, as in eggs.
    As we glided into Abbott and Costello territory, I thought, I might as well give it one more try. Sake, I said, adding the gesture of knocking one back.
    Mr. Kando was having fun now. He was apparently quite pleased that in addition to raiding his fridge, I wanted to drink with him, too. Grandma went to the kitchen and returned with a small unopened bottle of chilled sake, and a gift -- a colorful, many-faceted, cloth ball. I resigned myself to the fact that we'd have to wait for Mrs. Kando's arrival to clear things up and accepted a cupful of sake. Kompai --  "cheers" -- I said,  and we were off.
    Several shots later, Mrs. Kando arrived home. I didn't really care at that point. But after a few more minutes of hand gestures, my broken Japanese and her reading the recipe, she got it and simply pointed to the nearly empty sake bottle and uttered something to the effect of, "just take that with you."
    Now my point is not about miscommunication. I think it goes way beyond that. What I got out of it is an example of how our higher self knows much better what we want than we do. Really.
    The little me went downstairs for two measly tablespoons of sake.  The expanded Phase 2 player, came back with a fine buzz,  the final ingredient for our dinner, the next night's dinner, a local delicacy, a gift, a bonding experience, and a great story. Who says I'm not living large?
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    As I sat alone at one of my favorite dining spots in Miyako the other day --  the Mr. Donut coffee shop -- assessing whether I've been transformed as a result of my trip here, it hit me that while I'm more dependent than ever on others for my survival in this version of my hologram, I'm now much more willing to engage my new environment on my own.
    It starts with the Japanese language, something that ranks right up there in terms of things I am clueless about, like particle physics or the Roman Polanski code of ethics. One reason I even considered staying in Japan was because my son Teo already has a place here, speaks fairly fluent Japanese and knows his way around the Japanese culture. It seemed like a safe bet, and within a few hours of arriving at the Narita Airport, the payoff was obvious.
    He helped me exchange currency and buy a bus ticket before we were even out of the airport. (Although even he was mystified by the paperless high-tech toilet there.)  Soon, we were on our way to Tokyo to stay for a couple of days with a family he knew.
     We took a couple sight-seeing trips and he efficiently guided me through the labyrinth that is the Tokyo train and subway system. Imagine that there are no signs in plain English in this system, and not even any signs in romaji, the Latin alphabet translation of the traditional Japanese kanji characters.
     You've got to buy tickets from machines that display only kanji, purchase a ticket on the correct train, follow signs you will never in a million years decipher, attempt to find the right platform in the multi-level stations, board the correct train, get off at the correct stop, then transfer to another train. It makes the term byzantine seem quaint.
     But I watched with awe as Teo negotiated our journey through the subways every step of the way.
     In the coming days, whether it was translation or etiquette or ordering food, he was on top of it and I gladly accepted the help while fruitlessly leafing through my Japanese For Dummies phrase book, trying to formulate something intelligent in Japanese before winter came.
     I knew Teo would soon return to his teaching job and it seemed like my main option would be to sit in his apartment all day playing on my laptop, with an occasional bike ride mixed in. When I got hungry enough, I'd venture to a nearby convenience store for rice balls. I had figured out that all I had to do was place the rice balls on the counter, slip some coins to the cashier and just keep saying "hai" (yes) until they handed me back my change and my bag full of rice balls.
    This was not a blueprint for meaningful interaction. Not a way to learn the culture, one of my rationales for staying so long here.
    But slowly I made progress by studying my phrase book and meeting some locals at a weekly language class. I went from ordering a hamburger at the Tomato and Onion by pointing at the menu and nodding my head to ordering a fried egg sandwich by pointing at the menu and saying kore o kudasai  (this one, please) and actually requesting a glass of water in Japanese.
     This week, I befriended the owner of a little French cafe my son and I had stopped at a couple of times previously. Between Junichi's broken Engrish and my phrase-book Nihongo, we communicated. I learned about all the best places to eat in town, the coolest bars, the niftiest tourist attractions and the fact that his favorite food was steak, which he cannot get in Miyako. All that for a $3 cup of French roast.
     I can only guess what he thinks he knows about me after our exchange. But apparently he understands I like baseball and he does not think I'm a child molester, which is a good start when trying to hit it off with the locals in a foreign country.
       Full of confidence, I struck out on my own the next day to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant he had recommended.
     An older Japanese woman met me as I entered. I greeted her with a hearty konnichiwa (good afternoon), sat down and quickly stated in what sounded to me like flawless Japanese that, in fact, I spoke little Japanese. She smiled and pointed to the menu.
     That seemed to grease the wheels. After that, I successfully ordered some stir fry and green tea, requested a refill on the tea, complimented her on the food (I'm pretty sure there was chicken in there somewhere) and paid my bill, all in Japanese. I was proud I had struck out on my own.
    So back to Mr. Donut. While munching on a chocolate cream-filled, it struck me that the term for the action I had taken that day -- "striking out" -- had a double meaning, sort of like the Chinese character for "crisis," which supposedly is a combination of "danger" and "opportunity."
    Striking out on you own can mean to boldly go to a Chinese restaurant in a Japanese city where you've never gone before and order food despite a flimsy command of the language. It means to begin, to take action. In the baseball sense, of course, striking out means to end in utter failure. It means you've settled for convenience store rice balls.
    But you can't have one without the other. You can only strike out if you don't fear striking out. Maybe that's why bēsubōru (baseball) is so popular over here.
    Regardless, I've now had a Phase 2 glimpse of the two-sided power of playing the Human Game with limitations. It just might come in handy.
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       Japan is a land steeped in traditions and customs and I've spent a good amount of my brief time here learning a few of them.
       It's important because etiquette governs about every area of Japanese life, from personal interactions (polite) to bathing in public bathhouses (nude).     
       For instance, there is a whole system of bowing, depending on age, social status and just how bad your sciatica is. I won't learn that in my lifetime. But I know that some type of bow or nod will suffice in most every situation, even if you have no idea what that situation is. I find myself in that predicament often whenever I'm in public, answering hai, or "yes" to just about any utterance, whether it's "would you like that sushi-flavored corn dog heated up," or "where are you from?"
        (And I must say that I'm relieved to know that at those rare times when a handshake takes the place of a bow, it's a straightforward grasp, not a time-consuming piece of fist-bumping performance art.)
    There are correct ways of eating -- expressing gratitude for a meal you've been served by voicing a a heartfelt itadakamasu before you dig in, using chopsticks dexterously and slurping your noodles like a Hoover vacuum cleaner.         When you pay for stuff, you do not hand your yen directly to the cashier, but instead, place it on a plastic tray and slide it over. You receive your change the same way. This could explain why the incidence of robberies in Japan is so low. It would take too long.
    There is a time-honored custom of giving gifts that makes Santa Claus look like a piker. Gifts are not only for relatives and lovers, but for co-workers, hosts and business associates and there doesn't need to be a special occasion. However, you do need to know the fine points as to not inadvertently offend the receiver by giving them something inappropriate or just plain wrong, like a set of four AC/DC beer mugs (nothing wrong with the band, but the word for "four" also signifies the word for "death" in Japanese) or a gift certificate for a lap dance (the lap dance would signify that that Americans are really crass.)
    The myriad of etiquette rules and their exceptions could cause you some agita. I have a big issue about screwing up, whatever it is, and the more I worry about doing it right, the less I enjoy the custom. But when I remind myself that the customs here are grounded in civility, kindness and respect -- and the people are forgiving --  I don't worry so much. In Japan, screwing up just means you get a mulligan.
    One of the new customs I'm quickly adapting to is the removal of shoes in the doorway before entering a home.
    As I understand it, the nature-loving Japanese believe that dirt is fine while it's outside, but no tramping it into the place where you live. Plus, shoes are hard on the woven tatami mats that cover the floors of most Japanese residences. I think it's a sane and sanitary idea.
    But as my friend Vickie points out, it's also a nice metaphor for Busting Loose.
    (I know you're thinking, how does he always manage to come up with these tortured connections to Busting Loose? It's a gift, what can I say.)
    Let's say "outside" is what Robert Scheinfeld calls Phase 1.
    Over the years, as we journey through life, our shoes pick up a lot of potentially nasty stuff to help convince us that we're anything but the totally abundant beings we were born as. Mud cakes on our Gucci loafers. Chewing gum adheres to the soles of our Birkenstocks. We step in some unseemly stuff while jogging past the dog park in our Nikes. Substitute mud, chewing gum and dogshit for false and self-defeating patterns, beliefs and stories, and you get the idea.
    In that context then, taking off your shoes upon entering a home can be construed as a sign of respect and appreciation for the place you or others live.
    The home, of course, represents Phase 2 and the Truth about yourself. By casting off the gnarly footwear and entering a place of expansion in clean socks, you are honoring yourself, appreciating your power, leaving behind judgments and loving yourself unconditionally.
      Who knew there was so much power in a pair of Payless specials? Maybe Imelda Marcos was onto something.
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       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.

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     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?
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    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.

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    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.
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