Friday, 30 November 2012

Discovering True Happiness

I've been thinking for the past few weeks about happiness.  That is what prompted me to write the following quotation that I posted onto Facebook a few days ago:-

"The boy smiled because now he knew.  There was no treasure greater than the treasure of the happiness that comes from following your heart, and of fulfilling your own personal destiny."

I am often asked how can I possibly be happy with my life, when I am living alone, away from my family and friends back in England?  I get asked how can I bear it to keep moving from one place to another?  Don't I want to be settled?  I'm told that it must get lonely and depressing always being alone.  So, why is it then that I don't ever feel lonely or depressed living my life the way that I do?

It wasn't always this way. I've had experiences of loneliness in my life, both as a child and as an adult.  In my childhood, those times would come as a result of starting a new school where I knew no one, or when I had been temporarily ostracised by my group of friends after a falling out.

In my adult life, there would be occasions when I felt retched and lonely because I was single.  For long periods of time, I would be unable to find a girlfriend.  A few of those periods lasted around three years between partners.  I'd have a few dates in that time, but nothing more than that.  During those times of being single, I would beat myself up, telling myself I was worthless, ugly, useless.  My friends and colleagues always seemed to have girlfriends, wives and partners and this generated even more self-created pressure and anxiety about my situation.  What was wrong with me?

There were times when I felt empty in life.  Even though I had stumbled quite by chance into a good career during my mid-twenties, enjoying promotions and business travel, working with some great colleagues, enjoying my working life, I always felt that something was missing.  I had taken out a mortgage and purchased a house, I upgraded my car several times, until I treated myself to my dream car, I bought myself the latest CDs, went to the movies, met up with friends and socialised.  In fact, I did pretty much what everyone else was doing and I did exactly what I was expected to do.  So why did I feel so empty inside and unfulfilled?

When I look back now, I can see that I was unhappy.  I reasoned with myself at the time that the cause of my unhappiness and the empty feeling was because I had no one in which to share my life, no special person to share in my experiences.  I strongly believed that the path to happiness lay with finding someone in which to share life and love.  That having a partner would be the cure for my loneliness and for the unhappiness that I was experiencing.  I thought that having a partner would fix everything that seemed wrong in my life.  A magical cure to all of my problems.  A way to fill the void.

But I was wrong.  I was very wrong.

From the moment that I quit my job, packed up the few things I had remaining and headed off to Asia with a backpack, I began to fulfil my dreams, to walk my true path in life.  I was finally doing something that I had long dreamed of doing and with that, I began to find an inner peace and happiness that I had never known before.  For the first time in my life, I was truly content with everything that I had.  The choice to be where I was and to do what I was doing was mine, it was of my own making.  Therefore, it became impossible for me to feel sad or lonely any longer.  Instead, I found something quite extraordinary, something I never expected and it was something incredibly powerful.  I discovered happiness.  Not a transient or short-term kind of happiness.  This was a happiness that was rooted in the very fibre of my being.  It was the essence of me.

With this new found feeling, everything else changed.  My eyes opened and it felt as if I had finally woken up, as if in all the time that preceded this moment, I had been asleep.  I felt that the great truth of life had been revealed to me.  For all my life up to this point, I had been seeing, but not actually seeing.  I began to see life all around me and it filled my soul with joy.  Everything in nature took on a new meaning.  I marvelled at the wonders of creation.  I no longer just saw a bird in flight, I saw a miracle of life.  I truly realised for the first time that every thing that exists on this planet, and in this universe, is actually part of the same thing.  That everything is part of the one thing only.

I was now experiencing happiness because of me, because of my choices.  If I was walking alone along the beach, or sitting alone at a restaurant, it was because I had chosen it.  No one else could be at fault.  There was no one to blame except for myself.  It didn't matter to me that I had no partner in which to share the moment.  I was simply sharing it with myself, giving myself a gift.  I realised later that by choosing to walk my path, I had given myself the ultimate gift.  The gift of love.

There was another realisation that I experienced, that even through the times when I didn't have a partner, I had never been alone.  My heart had always been with me, keeping me company, talking to me.  It was just that for so many years, I had chosen not to listen, not to heed the words that it spoke.  Now that I was walking my path, I embraced my heart, I heard its voice.  We became inseparable friends.  I knew that I would never stop listening to it, even if the words that it spoke to me were sometimes difficult words to hear.

True happiness comes from within each of us.  It resides there, waiting to be discovered.  I learned that you cannot obtain happiness from someone else.  By daring to realise my dreams, I found a sense of stability and peace that had eluded me throughout my life.  Perhaps it would have been better to learn that lesson earlier, but that was not my path.  All that was important was that I reached that point.

And this is why I no longer feel loneliness, why I can be away from my family and friends in England and why I don't feel the need to be settled in my life right now.  Perhaps one day I will return, I will settle and be content, but that will only happen when the time is right and it is the next stage on my journey.  Until then, I will continue to walk the path of my own making and to continue to fulfil my dreams.  

If you want to discover happiness, go in search of your dreams.  On the journey along your chosen path is where you will discover your true treasure.  The treasure of happiness.  And there is no greater gift that you can give to yourself.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

All Paths Must Return

The old man had been walking since early that morning.  He could not say exactly why, but he had felt compelled to walk out into the woods, to go and see his beloved waterfall one more time.  With a small pack on his back, he had set out shortly after sunrise to make the hike up to his favourite spot.  In his younger days, he used to make this journey as often as possible, but it had long since become an arduous task and the number of times he would make it, gradually became less and less.  It was necessary to stop and rest often along the way, his limbs seemed to resist his efforts and he need to recover his shortness of breath.  His body may have been old and resisting him, but his eyes had lost none of their fire of determination.

Shortly after midday he had reached his destination and he sat on a boulder in the shade by he side of the splash pool at the foot of the waterfall.  It could not be considered a spectacular waterfall by any means, the falls were no more than forty feet high and the stream that made them was rarely a raging torrent, but that was not important.  What had made this place so special to the old man was the peace and tranquility that it gave to him.  It afforded incredible views across the valley and to the mountain peaks around.  Save for the sound of the falls, it was peaceful, undisturbed.  It had become a place of quiet meditation, a place of refuge and of solace.  The old man had spent many nights camping here under the stars, but today, he planned to be home for dinner.  He had a date with cold beer and a pot roast that he did not wish to miss.

The old man surveyed his surroundings taking in the stunning view, the blue of a cloudless sky, the peaks of the mountains,the trees and bushes that grew on the mountain side, the rock boulders, the deep pool of icy cold water, the white mist of spray and the stream of never-ending water that cascaded down the mountain side, creating an arc of multicoloured light in the afternoon sun.  A realisation hit him and the old man smiled.  And that smile became a broad grin that threatened to tear apart the old weather-beaten leather of his face.  The grin become a laugh and the old man sat alone on his boulder, chuckling to himself.  He was experiencing a deep connection to everything that was around him.  In a single moment, he saw everything in a vision of startling clarity.  He saw the life that he had led and he realised that he was there, in that moment, because he had chosen to be.  He was there because he had gone in pursuit of his dreams.  He knew that the feelings he was experiencing at that moment in time came because his heart was happy and content.  And because of that, he was experiencing a deep connection with everything that was around him.  A thought came to his head, "I am the rock on which I sit, I am the water in the pool, I am the trees, I am the mountains, I am even the sun in the sky!  I am in everything and everything is in me."  It was a powerful thought and as soon as it occurred to him, he felt the truth of it.  And then a voice spoke beside him.

"It's always nice to hear a person laugh.", the voice said softly, "What was so funny?"

Startled out of his reverie, the old man turned to see that the voice belonged to a young girl, who was sitting on the boulder next to his.  He was taken aback with surprise but managed to hide it quickly.  How had she managed to get there unnoticed he wondered?  His hearing was not what it once had been and he surmised that probably she had arrived when he was lost among his thoughts.  He turned so that he could look at her properly.  She looked young, which was no real surprise as most people appeared young to him these days.  Her hair was a golden blonde and was swept back behind her ears, falling freely down her back and framed a face of fair complexion.  She was wore a simple white linen dress, cinched at the waist with a cord.  She was pretty he decided, the kind of girl he would have liked to buy a drink when he had his youth.  What struck the old man as strange however, was that her feet were bare, which might explain how she was able to sneak up on him, but surely she could not have hiked up here with no shoes or boots?  Probably she had removed them just before approaching the pool so as to not make a sound.

"I had just been reflecting on how beautiful it is here", he replied.  "This has long been my favourite place to come and to contemplate life.  But I've not been up here for a while and I wondered if perhaps it might have changed, or if I might feel differently.  Luckily, neither was true.  I was laughing because I simply could not help it.  I felt a moment of profound happiness.  I realised that I had fulfilled my dreams in life and I felt completely in tune with my soul and my surroundings, and in that moment, it seemed as if my very heart was singing to me."

He felt that perhaps he had said too much to this strange girl by his side.  He had no idea who she was or where she had come from, and he felt rather foolish for talking in this way about dreams and his singing heart.  After all, what could a young girl know about such things?  But he had found that he wanted to talk about it and to share it with someone.  He remembered a time long ago, when he had been informed by some friends that a man should not talk of such things and that if he did want to talk, he should talk about sport, hunting, cars and other manly topics.  He had always believed in speaking honestly and truthfully of his emotions and feelings, and he never saw a reason to change.  At the time he had reasoned that if people could not understand, then that was their problem, and he would never worry about it.

"I'm sorry", he added, "I'm talking gibberish in my old age.  Forgive the mutterings of a foolish old man."

"There is nothing to forgive.  I think it is wonderful that you had this moment because they are rare.  When it happens, it is because you have established a connection to every thing that exists in the universe.  Not many people are so lucky to experience such a moment in life.  And there are not so many that understand the true language and nature of the heart.  I am honoured to meet such a person.  Have you always felt this way about life?"

"No, it has not always been so.  In the early part of my life I ignored the voice of my heart and I was never able to find happiness.  I would have times when I felt happy, but they never seemed to last very long.  A week, maybe a month or two, but then I would feel sad again and sometimes lonely.  Then something happened to change my life and I began to see everything differently.  It was not a sudden shift in perception, but a gradual change.  Then at some point, I just decided that I could no longer ignore what I was feeling, and I began to follow my heart.  Ever since that time, I have felt a deep sense of happiness and I have never felt alone."

"Yes, I know exactly what you mean.  Many years ago I felt lost and lonely. Although I was surrounded by family and friends, I could not seem to find my way.  My brother got married and then my younger sister too, but I could never find anyone to settle down with and I always blamed myself when my relationships didn't work out.  Then, I took a chance and I booked a journey I had always wanted to make.  In the beginning, only making the journey was important, but once I had begun, I too felt my heart awaken and I knew that I must continue to do what it told me to do.  I no longer felt the fear of being alone because I would never be alone, as long as I followed my heart, I would always have it as a companion.  Tell me, after you started to follow your heart, did you also begin to notice the omens that appeared as you walked your path?"

The old man decided that since the girl was so young, it was not possible that the events she was retelling could have happened to her many years before.  He decided that she must be relating a story that she had heard from another person in order to make herself appear more intelligent and wise.  But he really didn't mind.  It was nice to have someone to talk with about these matters.

"Yes", he said, "Once I began to follow my heart I was able to notice what I called the signs, that began to appear before me.  I noticed that rainbows always held a particular significance for me.  If a rainbow appeared, then I knew I was on the right path or that my decision was the right one.  Perhaps it is because I have always been drawn to water that rainbows appeared so often, because a rainbow needs the drops of water to act as a prism to refract the light."  He was quiet for a moment.  This was a moment of revelation to the old man.  "I never thought of that before.  In all my years, I never made the link between water and the sign of the rainbow but now it is clear.  My path was always meant to lead me to water.  An absence of water would mean an absence of the sign that indicated I was on my right path, simply because I could not be."

"You are fortunate that you recognised the sign that was important to you.  The signs appear to every single person, but not everyone is able to see or to read them.  Many people stumble through their entire life with their eyes closed to what is obvious.  But not every path can be the same.  Each person must define their own path and each person must walk the journey of their own making.  Each soul must find its own way back."

Who was this young girl who spoke in this manner? he wondered.  She seemed much older and spoke in such a way that would suggest she was much older than she looked.  "What do you mean, each soul must find its own way back?", he asked.

"Since the dawning of creation, since the moment when it all begin, the first path was created.  And from this one path, all other paths have led.  The point where you are now has it's beginnings in the dawning of that one single moment, in that one single spark that created the universe, that created life.  And so it is, as it has always been, that we are all part of the one thing.  And to complete the cycle of life, so we must return to the point in which it all began.  All paths lead to that place."

All the paths leading away and all of the paths going back.  The old man could picture it in his mind.  Then something occurred to him.  "Are saying that even if I was unable to see and to read the signs that appeared before me, I would still end up in the same place?  That no matter what I did, nothing would have made a difference?"

"Everything that you have done, every decision that you have made, every difficult choice that you took, every person that you met, every experience that you've had, every emotion that you've felt, they have all led you to here, to this place, to this moment, to now.  They have all been part of your journey along your path.  Some people never get to live out their destinies and continue to live their lives with sadness, feeling unfulfilled.  Ask yourself, if you had known that you would return to the same place as every other soul, would you have changed the way in which you lived your life?"

The old man didn't need to think about it.  "No", he replied.  "No, I would not.  I would not alter a single thing because otherwise I would not be here in this moment, enjoying this conversation with you.  By the way, I wanted to ask you, just how did you get here?"

The girl looked into the eyes of the old man and she smiled kindly at him.  "I have always been here," she said.  "I was waiting for you to come back again, so that we could have this talk.  And I have enjoyed it immensely.  But as in all of life, nothing can ever stay the same forever.  And now I must go.  Would you like to come with me?"

The girl stood and held out her hand to the old man.  He looked at the hand, then he looked up at her face and in that face, he saw pure love.

The girl noticed his look.  "It is a reflection of you", she said.

For the first time, he saw the bright light that was now radiating all around her.  He raised himself off the boulder and looked around so that he might take in the view.  He said goodbye to the waterfall and said a quiet thank you for its company.  Then he turned to the girl.  "I am ready", he said and he took the hand that had been offered.  Together, they took a step forward and as they did, he turned his head to look back over his shoulder.  In that final moment, he was able to see the arc of colours of the rainbow in the waterfall one last time.  He smiled, "Thank you", he said and then together they stepped into the light.


Friday, 23 November 2012

We Are The Fighters

Once you have reached the decision to change your life, or having already taken steps along the path towards achieving your dreams, you will encounter certain moments when you come face to face with the spectre of doubt.  When this happens, there is no need for fear.  Doubt provides us with an opportunity to test our courage. 

Having realised that there is another way to live your life, you will find that maintaining the momentum to change it can be difficult.  This becomes increasingly more difficult if you are surrounded by people who do not understand the motivation behind, or the ideal of what it is that you wish to achieve in your life and for yourself.  There will always be doubters and dissenters.  Never view them as the enemy.  They are actually your friends.  They are challenging you, making you question your resolve and they will make you ask yourself why you want this other life?  You can use that to your advantage. 

Confucius said that the green reed that bends in the wind is mightier than the oak tree that breaks in the storm.  In the situation where someone is disparaging your choices, or being negative about them, you have to be the reed and let everything flow over you and around you.  But more than this, you have to take that negative energy and turn it around.  Turn it into something useful and positive.  This is how a fighter uses the power of their opponent and turns it against them.  And in this world, we are fighting for the choices that we believe in. 

You should be aware that your greatest opponent could be someone very close to you.  The closer someone is to you, the more they feel they have to lose by you changing and moving away from the person that they once knew.  Their image of you is threatened.  They would perhaps rather that you remained the same person because it makes them feel safe.  It doesn't challenge them to look at their own lives and ask the questions, "Did I go in pursuit of my own dreams?", "Am I following my heart?".  The answer will be no to both questions.  Why?  Because anyone who has realised their own dreams and who is walking their chosen path would offer you encouragement, support and help.  They would want to see you achieve all that you desire.  This person may claim to love you, but ultimately, they cannot love you unconditionally, because they attach a price to their love.  And that price is that you remain exactly as they want to see you.  Evolving and changing is part of life.  Without the ability of nature to evolve, nothing that we see today in the natural would exist.  Trying to stop you from evolving as a person, is to try to hold back the force of nature itself.

It is not only individuals that we must fight against, it is the entire cultural and social system in which we live and to which we must not only contribute to, but also to conform with, in an expected way.  Individuals are protected within the cocoon of this society.  If we follow the rules and conform, then we are led to believe that everything will be okay.  Anyone who thinks, speaks or acts in an unexpected manner is frowned upon.  It has always been this way and it always will be.  Different will always be bad until the majority adopt the different.  But being different does not make you wrong.  Finding your own approach and method to contribute in a positive way can only be considered as good.  It may be different to what is the accepted norm, but that in no way makes it wrong.  I am not advocating anarchy.  I am only advocating that each person must find their own way - their own personal path.  History is littered with individuals who thought differently, who were ahead of their time - or perhaps just out of their time.  They persevered, many of whom were persecuted for their ideals.  The teachings of Jesus for example.  His beliefs set him apart and he gave the ultimate sacrifice.  Now, those ideals are adopted and accepted around the world.

So, against individuals and against notions of what is right in society you must take a stand.  Dare yourself to be different.  Be bold.  Be brave.  For you are never alone in the fight.  When everything seems against you, take these moments and use them to check your own courage and to examine your own convictions.  Life will test you.  There is no doubt about that.  If you are true to your heart, you can never be defeated.  We are the fighters. 

We Are The Fighters
We are the fighters for good
We are the fighters for change
We are the fighters who follow their hearts and go in pursuit of their dreams
We are the fighters who will live with no regrets
We are the fighters for our own freedom
We are the fighters for life
So draw your sword
Take a breath
And walk tall into the battle
For we are the fighters
And with the power of our hearts
We shall never be defeated.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Dear Heart

There are times in life when we should give thanks for the journey and to our constant companion and loyal friend.  That friend is your heart.  Treat it well.  Look after it.  Your heart is always looking out for you.

Dear heart,

You have shown me so much and we have enjoyed many good times together, which I will always cherish.  You have been with me when the road was tough and I was not able to see my way forward.  When I needed a light to shine through the darkness, it was you who brought the light.  You were there when I suffered, when I felt pain, anguish and sorrow.  You did not desert me.  You waited for me, until I was ready to go on again.  You have shown me what it means to love.  And you have let me experience the pain of loss.  You leaped for joy with me and felt my excitement when I saw the most amazing sights and heard the most incredible sounds.  You opened my eyes to the miracles of life that happen all around me.  You were there when I was among family and friends and loved ones, and you have kept me company when I was alone.  You have shown me what it means to have courage and you have shown me what it means to have fear.  You have taught me the lessons of forgiveness and compassion for others.  You have taught me that whatever path I chose to walk in my life, there is always a price that must be paid.  When I needed someone to talk to, you were there and when I needed to hear a friendly voice, it was always your voice that called out to me.

You are a gift dear and precious heart and for this, I thank you.

Forever your companion and friend,


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Seeing Through Time

The sun was just risen, marking the beginning of another day.  The old master sat on the grass of a clearing in the forest, head bowed, legs crossed beneath him, his three students sat facing him in similar pose.  They were all silent, deep in meditation, just as they were every morning at this time, the only sounds were those of the forest as it awoke.

The master lifted his head, reached down his hand and rang the small bell that lay in the grass at his side, next to his skin of water.  The bell indicated that the meditation was now at an end.  Everyone rose to their feet in a single, slow and fluid motion.  It was customary to go back for the morning meal at the school, before beginning chores and daily lessons, and the students waited for the master to indicate that they should go.  Instead, the master spoke.

"What is the furthest that you can you see?", he asked them.

The question surprised the students because they were unaccustomed to their master speaking with them at the morning meditation session.  They had always come here and left again in complete silence.  One of the boys looked around him and answered quickly.

"I can see as far as the school building that is down the pathway."

"An answer", said the master.

The boy who had spoken felt embarrassed because he now knew that this was not the correct answer.  In his haste to impress the master, he had answered quickly, stating only the obvious.  The other two students stood silently, thoughtful, before the second boy spoke.

"Master, may we take a walk to the top of the mountain?", he asked.

The master hoisted his water skin over his shoulder.  "Yes, I do believe it is a good morning for a walk", he replied, "Please lead the way."

So, the second boy led the way to the top of the mountain.  It was cool when they started to climb, but as the morning wore on, and the way became steep, it soon became hot.  They stopped for a short rest and the master shared his water with them.

"Do we need to go higher?", he asked the boy.

"Yes, my master.  We must go right to the very top."

They climbed on in the heat and by midday they had reached the summit, which was marked by a simple wooden cross and a cairn of stones.  Each of them added a stone to the pile, as was the tradition on all mountains.  After they had shared the water skin once more, the second boy spoke.

"Master, I will answer now.  I can now see to the furthest horizon.  I can see to the edge of the ocean.  I can see to the edge of the land.  This is how far I can see."

The master was pleased.  This was a good answer.  Th boy had shown initiative, insight and thought.  And he had displayed courage in asking them all to climb the mountain and to lead the way, in order that he may give his answer.  This is a good student the master thought.  He will do well.  Then he turned to the girl. 

"You have not given me an answer to my question.  How far can you see?", he asked her.

"I would have us all sit down and wait master", came the reply.

"But I'm hungry!", exclaimed the first boy.

The master simply said, "We will wait", but he made a note that this boy would probably have to finish his studies and leave the school.  He was not a suitable candidate to progress, since he failed to understand the lesson of patience.

They all sat down on the rocky mountain top to wait.  It was hot with no shelter from the sun that glared down on them from a cloudless sky.  They each induced a state of meditation, to wait in calm and silence until the girl was ready.  The sun moved slowly across the sky and began its decent toward the horizon in the west.  It would soon be setting.

The boy who had complained before stood.  "This is ridiculous! She has no answer and it will be dark soon.  She won't be able to see anything in the dark and we will be unable to get back down the mountain until tomorrow."

The master broke from his trance and looked up at him.  "So be it", was all he said.

The boy kicked at a few stones around before sitting back down again to wait some more.

Night fell and with it the complete darkness and silence that comes only from being in wilderness.  The temperature began to drop, bringing welcome relief from the heat of the day.  Finally, the girl stood up.

"I am ready to give my answer now master."

"Please go ahead.  How far can you see?"

"I can see to the heavens, to the stars in the sky.  I can see the distance from the star that is furthest on my left, to the one furthest to my right, and that is a distance immeasurable.  But more than this, I can see through time and I can see through space."

"Thank you", was all the master said and he smiled in the darkness.  This had been a very good day.  He had found one good student but more than this, he had found his new disciple.


Inspired by my nightly walks along the beach road under the dazzling array of the stars of the night sky.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

One Simple Word

Not for the first time, Joshua felt frustrated.  He closed the book and pushed it to the far side of his table then he turned quickly away, to look out of the small window that gave the light to his room.  He could no longer face the book, it seemed to repulse him and in that moment, he needed for it to be as far away from him as possible.  If he could have done, he would have thrown it out of the window to give vent to his frustration, but books were objects of learning and therefore to be given the utmost respect.  Just like all teachers.  It didn't seem to matter how hard he studied, it made no difference which method he used, it didn't matter how much time he dedicated to his books, Joshua just could not seem to make progress.  All of the other boys he had started with had long since completed the training and had moved on, becoming missionaries to spread the word and the teachings to the rest of the world.  Only Joshua remained behind, knowing that if he did not complete his studies by the time the new trainees arrived, he would have to leave as a failure.  And just as the water of the river flows ever on toward the ocean, so that day was fast approaching.

Through the small window, life was going on as it always did.  Outside, in the peaceful calm of this place, the monks went about their daily chores and habits: there were monks tending the gardens; in the shade of a palm, two sat mending the fishing nets; on the lawn, a few sat cross-legged, deep in meditation; some were sitting reading; and Joshua could see two hooded figures walking around the paths in quiet conversation.  One of these he knew was his teacher.  Not for the first time, Joshua felt ashamed.  All of these people had managed to do what he could not do.  He must be stupid!

Wearily, he turned back to his table and opened his book once more.  He stared blankly a the page in front of him.  It might just as well have been written in a foreign language.  Nothing made sense.  It wasn't the words that he could not read.  No, that had never been a problem - he had been able to read a book even before his elder brother.  It was the message in the words that he could not decipher.

He did not know how long he had been sitting there, staring at the book, lost in thought, when a gentle knock came at open the door.  Joshua looked up to see his teacher standing there.

"May we speak Joshua?", the teacher asked and then motioned for Joshua to follow.

Joshua closed his book, stood from his simple wooden stool and followed.  They walked along the short corridor, down the stairs and out through the gardens.  In accordance with the custom, Joshua walked a step behind his teacher.  The teacher walked with purpose, head still covered, so Joshua was unable to read any expression or to guess the nature of the conversation that was to come.  Outside, they crossed the gardens and headed out through the front gate and followed the path down to the beach.  Once on the beach, they walked on for a few minutes more, until finally the teacher stopped and turned to face Joshua.

"Joshua", the teacher said simply.

"My teacher", came the reply.  It was the custom and the expected way to begin a conversation.

The teach continued.  "Joshua, you have been a good student.  No one could question your dedication and commitment to your studies.  I have witnessed it, as have many others.  You are commended for such commitment.  But, as you know, you have not progressed passed a certain point.  This is a failing."

Joshua looked down at the sand. Yes, it was a failing.  He was a failure.  He felt so ashamed and a tear escaped from his eye and tricked down his nose to fall onto the dry sand.

"Look at me Joshua."  Joshua lifted his head to look into the shadowy face of his teacher. "The failing is not yours.  The failing is mine.  I am your teacher.  I have failed to find a way to help you to progress.  It is I who am ashamed."

This made no sense to Joshua.  How could his teacher be ashamed of something that he had failed to do?  After all, all of the other disciples had succeeded with this teacher.  Joshua remained silent, unsure of what to say.

"I have been asked to tell you that you must leave us Joshua.  It is over for you.  I am sorry."

"But the new trainees do no begin for two months more!  I still have time."  Joshua felt his world beginning to collapse around him.

"It has been decided.  There is no more time.  You will leave at first light tomorrow."

Joshua looked down at the sand again.  He felt utter shame.  He felt a complete failure.  No one had ever failed before.  The irony struck him.  He had always wanted to be remembered for what he did in his life, but this was not how he had imagined it.  "Perhaps dreams do not always come true in the way we imagine", he thought out loud.

"Yes, that is true Joshua.  There is always another way to see life, always another way to see a situation.  It is not always as we perceive it with our own eyes.  But for those who believe, dreams always come true, as long as they are dreams conceived in the heart."

They stood silently on the beach for a time, each lost in their own thoughts.  The waves of the great ocean rolled in and pulled back.  A pair of fisher birds flew overhead.  The silence was broken by the teacher.

"As I told you, I am the one who has failed and for this, I must pay the price.  I also will leave this place tomorrow and I will head out as a missionary once more, so that I may think on what has happened and find a solution and peace once more amongst the people.  I will not be allowed to return here again."

"But that is unfair!  You have done nothing wrong."

"It is the custom Joshua and as such, it must be respected and followed.  Before we parted, I wanted to give you one last piece of knowledge.  I am not sure if I am permitted to do this thing, but something tells me that I should."

With that, the teacher pushed back the hood.  "Since I am no longer a teacher, I am not permitted to wear the hood any longer."

Joshua stood looking, trying desperately not to stare.  He had long known that his teacher was a woman, but he had never expected this.  She was beautiful!  And she was so young!  Perhaps only a year or two more than he was.  There was a silence for a few moments.  Joshua waited for his teacher to continue.

"You have seen the waves on the beach many times.  But do you really see them?", the teacher asked.

Joshua looked.  Of course he saw the waves!   Was he blind as well as stupid?

The teacher continued.  "Each time a wave rolls in, it moves the sand, which alters the beach, which changes life.  This is how it has been since the dawning of time and creation.  Because the whole of the universe is built upon one simple word..."

With that, the teacher bent down and wrote a single word in the sand.  Love.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Last night, I went out to a bar to meet up with some friends and to watch a band, Local Legend, who I had seen many times before.  They're a rock covers band and belt out some very good tunes - their lead guitarist is one of the most amazing guitarists I've ever had the pleasure of watching and listening to live.  Sometimes in life, you just have to marvel at a person who possesses such an incredible talent and realise that what you are witnessing is something very special: a culmination of talent and passion.   And who would have thought you would find such a thing in the sleepy backwaters of Playa Flamingo?

Amongst the songs played by the band is one of my favourites, Dream On by Aerosmith.  Is it purely coincidence that one of my favourite songs is about following your dreams?  When I first discovered the song, it was because I was at the time (1989) really into Aerosmith.  Love in an Elevator had been riding high in the charts, Pump by Aerosmith was my favourite album, and I decided that I wanted to get to know more of music of this band.  Permanent Vacation was added and then at a record fair, I found their first album on vinyl, Aerosmith, released in 1973. When I got home and put it on for my first listen, one song stuck out more than any other, Dream On.  How was I to know at that time the meaning that this song was to have for my life?  I was clueless, uncertain of the future and saw life superficially.

But is this really a coincidence?  I'm not sure that it is.  There are many decisions and choices that we have to make in life.  At the time, we have no idea how profound an impact even the simplest decision can have.  Just as in the butterfly effect, tiny and innocuous vibrations in the air can lead to a hurricane.  I am convinced that at the root of every decision is an undercurrent of subconsciousness.  Our subconscious self makes decisions that lead us ever onwards, toward our destinies.  Our hearts know the true path and they quietly guide us, taking us to the places we need to go, to the things that we need to experience and to find the people that we need to meet.

Take for example my meeting with my spiritual teacher, the person I credit with awakening my slumbering spirit.  We were colleagues on the same project at work.  I was the lead in the UK, he was my counterpart in South Africa.  I needed to go to South Africa for three weeks to meet the team and to help them and as I was going to be there for three weekends, I wanted to see some wildlife and something of the country.  I wrote an email and asked if there were any places to see some game that I could visit.  In his reply to me, he asked how I felt about making a weekend trip to a game reserve and to sleep out on the trail under the stars? I wrote back, telling him how he had no idea how much that was just the perfect thing that I would like to do.  So, after two days of business, we headed out together in his car for a weekend of camping and hiking in a game reserve.  During the evenings, we talked around the campfire about life and it was because of these conversations, that I started to think differently I began to let my true self surface.  This sleeper began to wake.

A few years later, in a taxi in Budapest, a friend hands me a copy of The Alchemist.  A simple and friendly act that would change everything for me.  How had I ended up in Budapest, at that exact moment, in that taxi, with that person, who had that book in her bag?  Everything, and I literally mean every thing, that I had done, every decision I had ever taken, led me to that moment.  It put me in the right place at the right time.  I was given an opportunity.

No, I don't believe in coincidence.  Coincidence is the manifestation of every previous action.  We are guided by our hearts towards what is right for each of us. The heart always knows.  The great lesson of life is actually very simple: follow your heart, always.

Dream on.  It's the same message.  Believe in your dreams, follow your heart.

"Sing with me, sing for the year, sing for the laughter, sing for the tear, sing with me, just for today, maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away."

So, before I was conscious of anything, I had already selected a song with meaning for my life.  Only later would I come to realise the significance of it.  For all of my life, the same message has come to me in different guises: Dream on.  Carpe diem.  Follow your dreams.

There is no coincidence.  It is, as it has always been.  As it will always be. 

The Many
The many decisions we make
The many paths we might take
The many choices that we face
Hammer and chisel
To shape our lives
Guiding us ever on
Toward what is right
Revealing what is needed
Reach out and take it
It is yours
Freedom awaits
Unbind the chains and shackles
Let your spirit run free
Spread your wings
And soar once more
As you once did
Cry out in joy
Give thanks to your heart
For you have arrived.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Barefeet and Board Shorts

This afternoon, I decided to take myself off down to the beach to read a little, to watch the waves of the ocean, and as is always more than likely, to swim.  I just cannot keep myself out of the water, it has always been mesmerising to me.  It lures me in, calling softly to me, until I can resist it no more.  It has always been this way and it always will be.  As I cycled along the short stretch of road that runs alongside the beach of Playa Potrero, a thought came unbidden to my head, which caused me to smile and then I found that I could not stop myself from grinning.

The thought was a simple one:  I was cycling barefoot and wearing only a pair of board shorts, while cycling along the side of a beautiful beach in Costa Rica, with a hot sun shining down upon my naked skin.

It occurred to me in that moment that I was, after all, living my dream.  This may not seem like a big deal, there are probably thousands of people who get to do this every day, but that is not the point.  The point is simply this:-

No matter how big or small you may think your dream, by realising it you will find happiness and contentment.  You will experience emotions that come from the very core of your soul.  You will know the truth of it because your heart will speak of it to you. And you will not stop from smiling when you realise it.

There are always bigger dreams.  There are always other paths to walk.  Every once in a while though, you have to take a moment to give thanks for all the achievements that you have made, all of the battles that you have won, and for all of the steps that you have taken along your chosen path.

In these moments, I give thanks to the Creator for all that I have experienced.  I give thanks for having the courage to set out and for having the courage to continue, even in those times when the road becomes difficult and the future is uncertain and hidden from my view.

I am here,
I am now,
I am alive,
I am all things,
And all things are me,
My soul cries out in joy,
My heart runs free,
I am everything,
I am me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Monotony of Life and Knowing There is a Light

When does doing the same thing over and over become monotonous and boring and at what point does it become the key to a successful, fruitful and meaningful way of life?
I believe that there is actually no escaping the fact that life will eventually become the same every day, unless you have the ability to make constant changes, such as to travel.  But even if you travelled, you could argue that eventually you would be in the routine of bus/train etc... finding a place to stay, explore, move on and repeat.  Life is routine.  It is intrinsically part of living.  Get up, eat, do something, eat, do something, eat, do something, sleep.

Now, does that mean that there is no hope of escaping from the monotony of routine?  Absolutely no. 

What makes life monotonous and boring is when you find yourself performing a task that you do not really want to be doing.  Then you are living a life without passion and when this happens, you cease to connect with your heart.  It is when you catch yourself saying, "If only I was doing..."  And when that happens, capture the thought, make a note of it, write it down, because it could be the key to your future happiness - no matter how ridiculous or far fetched it may seem at the time.  At a later time, if you find yourself contemplating the question of what is it that I want to do with my life? then remember these thoughts.

If you have no passion for what it is you are doing, then you never give yourself fully to the task before you.  The focus of your mind wanders and you drift away.  Take a conversation.  You can be speaking with someone and the conversation is fine, it passes the time.  But if you speak with someone who's words inspire you and touch a place in your heart and soul, you feel as if you never want time to move forward and the conversation to end.  You lose yourself in that moment and everything else around you ceases to exist - there is only you and the other person.

But it is not only what you are doing that may be important.  It is also worth considering the where?  Ask yourself the following:-

- Am I living in a place that inspires me?
- Do I feel that my surroundings add to the quality of my life or detract from it?
- Do I feel peace and contentment in my heart when I look around me?

- Am I able to pursue my passion in this place?
- Are there people around me that inspire and push me? 

If you answer no to any of these questions, then perhaps it is time to move on.  Your surroundings can make an enormous difference to how you feel about life and what you do.  The ability to see the ocean or the mountains.  The opportunity to connect with inspiring and like-minded people.  The options to pursue those things that interest you.  

By immersing yourself in a culture and the surroundings of what gives you passion in life, it will help to nurture that passion and in turn, feed back into the community in which you live.  Your passion adds to the collective and helps it to grow and to inspire others. 

For as long as I can remember, I harboured a dream of living on a tropical beach.  One early morning back in 2006, as part of my divemaster in training (DMT) duties, I was sweeping sand off the decking out front of the dive shop and I paused for a moment to take in my surroundings.  In that simple moment of looking down the arc of beautiful, white sand beach, I knew I had fulfilled my long held dream.  I laughed to myself at the absurdity of the situation.  Only five months before, I had still been enjoying a good career at a large corporate and here I was with a broom in my hand sweeping sand.  But the sweeping was not the important factor, it was the where and the why I was doing it that gave me passion and made me want to do it the best that I could.  It's the way I feel when I am floating in the ocean, or riding a boat over the sea. I feel an uprising, a swelling of my heart. I cannot help but smile and be happy with life because I am doing the thing that drives my passion and fuels my soul.

Whenever you begin to have negative feelings and thoughts about the monotony of life and question what it is that you are doing, then you need to use those to positive effect, rather than letting them become constantly negative.  Use these thoughts to inspire and to give courage to yourself.  Tell yourself:-

  • Each time I do something that I find monotonous, I move a step closer to finding my purpose in life
  • I now recognise and know that what I am doing is not right for me
  • I will not continue to do this forever
  • I will find a way to make my life the one that I want
  • It is only a matter of time until I can make that change
  • Whenever I have these negative feelings, I will use them as the fuel for moving me forward
  • I will look at others who make the same complaints with compassion but I will be happy that at least I am going to do something to change my situation
As the time comes to make your change in life, you may even begin to rationalise these feelings and decide that every one gets them and so it is quite normal to feel this way about life.  And that, I believe is the truth.  Every one does have these thoughts.  What separates us as individuals is what we do about them.  For some of us, they are too strong to ignore and we would do so to our own detriment and eventual demise. 

A flower needs to bloom.  You have to raise your head to the sun and open yourself up to the life that you want.  You owe it to yourself and only to yourself.

I have a notion of doing God's work and I think that it comes from pursuing the desire that you have in your heart because that allows you to connect with everything around you, which in turn, brings you closer to everything.  And everything is part of the whole.  Because everything is one.

Go follow your dreams.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Back to the land of Pura Vida

Saturday 10 November
Yesterday, I travelled from Dallas down to Costa Rica, flying from Fort Worth to Liberia with American Airlines.  I passed the flight surrounded by a couple and their three young daughters, who were travelling with a retired Spanish teacher, in order that they could all spend one week in Papagayo to learn medical Spanish.  After watching the in-flight movie (The Amazing Spiderman) and some reading (On The Beach - Neville Shute), I spoke with the retired teacher a little and discussed the merits of teaching - a topic that comes back to me time and time again. Could it be my true vocation in life?  I have often pondered that question and I think it has to do a lot with my 5th grade teacher Mr Noon, an awesome bloke who combined strictness, with interesting anecdotes and the ability to give away his beloved Murray Mints (too good to hurry mints) if you did something special in class.

So, everything was running smoothly, despite some sickness the night before, caused by some sort of flu-bug almost every member of my host family in Dallas had picked up.  I felt happy and excited to be heading back to Costa Rica.  The landing was a jolt, the hardest touch down on the tarmac I've experienced for a while and I think it generally shocked the entire plane, including the stewardesses, who came on the speakers to thank us for flying American in a very nervous sounding voice.  Once off the plane, we all made our way into the immigration hall to await our turn to get stamped in, usually just a formality. I had been seated towards the back of the plane, so it was no coincidence that I was near the back of the queue, but certainly there were people after me.  As I stood in line, one of the immigration officials caught my eye.  She was older, perhaps in her late forties or early fifties and looked as though she were in charge.  I made a mental note that I did not wish to end up at her desk. A minute later and again she was looking at me. Or was it just my anxiety making me think that?

My experience with immigration when entering Canada via Toronto in August, had been extremely unnerving.  I was told to report to a specialist immigration officer for questioning.  That experience had made me feel as though I had done something wrong, as if I was a criminal for leading the lifestyle that I lead.  I had to prove who I was, prove that I was a citizen of good standing and order.  It brought home to me how my mobile life of travel and temporary homes look when viewed through the eyes of officialdom.  Short stays abroad and no time in my country of residence.  I am certainly doing nothing wrong.  I am just leading an alternative, transient lifestyle.  A lifestyle that does not meet the black and white of immigration, that takes a little explanation to people who are trained to seek out those that do not fit.  Like the hair on my head, I am moving ever more into the grey.

I shuffled forward with the other passengers and slowly but surely my turn came.  I handed over my passport and landing card to the girl behind the desk, I smiled and said "Hola".  She swiped my passport, looked at her screen, frowned, swiped it once more.  She flicked through the pages of my passport, looking at the stamps.  She asked me what I was doing in Costa Rica, how long was I going to be staying?  A couple of months I said, then I'd be moving south to Panama probably.  That bit was a lie, something I never like to do.  Did I have a return ticket she asked?  This is a mandatory requirement or entry into Costa Rica and something I did not actually have, since I did not know when I would be leaving.  That is why I had said I would be heading down to Panama.  However, I did have a pseudo itinerary I had created to get around this problem.  I just hoped that they didn't follow through and contact American Airlines or I would be in a whole heap of trouble.  I handed over my itinerary and she took it and looked at it. This is not a ticket, she said.  I explained that I could not get the ticket until I checked in for the flight.  My nerves and anxiety were rising.  Was I foolish to create a fraudulent itinerary and hand it over? I could get into serious trouble here.  Maybe get thrown out, put on a plane back to..?  Back to where?  The UK?  Probably.

There was now no one else left in the immigration hall.  The officer called over the older woman, who was the supervisor.
"How old are you?", the supervisor asked.
"How old are you?"
"42", I replied again wondering if she had hear me correctly or not.
"What is you date of birth?"
I responded with my correct birth date
"How old are you?"
I smiled. "I'm still 42."
"Where were you born?"
"In England", then I added the town and county for clarification and to provide as much information as possible.  I did not wish to appear evasive in any way.
"Do you have any other identification?"
I handed over my UK drivers licence.
"How old are you?"
"Really," I said, "I am 42 and I'll be 42 if you ask me a hundred more times", I smiled at them as I replied.
The girl looked at her supervisor, then she handed me back my drivers licence and itinerary, before she began to stamp my passport.
Muchas Gracias, I said.  You speak Spanish they asked? And suddenly the mood changed completely.  I relaxed and I could tell something had shifted. 
"She likes your eyes", the officer said, indicating her supervisor.

I thanked them in Spanish and said goodbye, collected my bags from the baggage carousel and met my pick up.  I was back in Costa Rica.  It felt good to be back. A huge relief washed over me.  Yes, it was good to be back in the and of pura vida.