Backpacking With Babies

There is an aching nostalgia I get, a bittersweet feeling only a parent could understand, when I think of my children at the age of 3—the age they started to shed their helpless babyness and long-term memory started coming online. It's an age where speech can often be both prescient and hilarious. 

When my son Jackson was three years old and my daughter Samia was an infant, my (now ex) wife and I travelled to Thailand with them, where we planned to crisscross the country for six months with our babies in our backpacks, so to speak.

The crew

The crew

I was at that time practising Vipassana meditation daily. I had gone to painstaking lengths to make it clear to my son, the 3-year old grand inquisitor, that he was not to interrupt me while I was meditating. His understanding of "interruption" took the meaning of direct questions. 

His habit became to seek me out when I was perched on my meditation cushion and ask questions which were meant to sound self-reflective or rhetorical, such as "I wonder where my dozer is?" Or he would make general statements about the weather, or (more often) Lego, as if he just happened to be in my office and talking to himself while I was meditating. 

"This is cool," he said once. I couldn't help opening one eye. He was staring at his dirty fingernails. "My fingers have black stripes!" 

"Pumpkins are amazing," he said another time. "The best thing about pumpkins is that they look like coconuts." But he wasn't asking me a question, so as far as Jackson was concerned, he had not interrupted my meditation. While the disciplinarian in me stirred with annoyance, I generally didn't say anything because another part of me clearly loved these non-interactions I could share with him. I loved that he couldn't help but seek me out during my meditation hour. Often he would cost his own eyes to get a glimpse of his own internal world—though mostly when this happened it would be both of us sitting with one eye slightly open as we pretended to meditate. 

If Gollum were adorable.

If Gollum were adorable.

Once I just heard his young voice humming a tune he made up on the fly. It lasted for several minutes into my meditation and I drifted away in thought until he suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes. Jackson was lying on the floor with his chin in his hands, staring at me. "I'm so fond of that little song," he said. 

Another time I was pulled from meditation / reverie by the sound of paper ripping. Unable to restrain myself, I opened one eye and Jackson sat directly in front of me, ripping an old magazine. "I'm just an angry guy," he shrugged, supposedly speaking to himself. "I like to rip pieces of paper." 

"I'm just an angry guy."

"I'm just an angry guy."

While I was meditating the night before we left for Bangkok, Jackson wouldn't sleep. As I sat on my cushion I heard him bumping and groaning and stretching. I was determined to sit still and keep my eyes closed and remain equanimity but the noises Jack was making continued for so long I eventually opened my eyes. 

He was crawling across the room in his tightly-whiteys. When he stopped he sat on his bum, then bent forward and grabbed for his toes. He sat up and did some belly-breathing before flinging his body around and popping into a pretty decent downward dog. His upside-down face caught me watching him.

"I'm doing yoga," he whispered.

Who's ready for two days of non-stop travel?

Who's ready for two days of non-stop travel?

The travel portion of our journey seemed to last an eternity. By the time we lifted off the Tarmac in Tokyo, I considered that we would have to stay in South-east Asia longer than six months in order to make all these flights worth it. 

After a lunch of rubber fish in chemical curry served by ANA staff, the kids dozed in a kind of fog, sneezing at the recycled air. Eventually fatigue dragged the children deep into the realm of the unconscious. Jackson was so deep in sleep that he didn't even wake when he peed in his seat. He  continued to sleep as I peeled his pants and underpants off with a wet shlok, then tucked one airline blanket under his bum while wrapping him in another. The accident was no surprise considering his juice intake while he'd watched about a dozen episodes of Pingu on a continuous loop, laughing manically throughout. 

Eventually, we arrived.



The smells on the drive into Bangkok from the airport shook loose some olfactory memories of my experience of flying into - of all places - Nairobi, Kenya. Something about the scent of a foreign and lush land, with small bonfires burning in the distance, and the silhouettes of tropical vegetation, the shadows of foreign architecture. The palm trees, standing tall and strong, waved their leaves like pennants in testament to the fact that we'd arrived, in both our physical beings and our collective consciousness, in new and unfamiliar territory. 

Gold-medal traveller.

Gold-medal traveller.

Samia was wide-eyed and smiling, happy as long as she was facing outward in the baby-bjorn and could hang onto a water bottle. Jackson was beyond exhausted, and would spontaneously wail "WAAAAAH!" with all the air in his tiny lungs the moment anything didn't seem to go his way. 



Our hotel room, located in an alley off a back street near Khao San Road, was dingy and almost instantly demolished with our exploding luggage. But it was air conditioned and it was ours, and after 29 hours traversing the globe with 2 babies in economy seats, just resting my bone-weary body horizontally was immeasurably satisfying. We were all so tired we were giddy. I was seeing strange shapes in the ether. 

It did not take long for jet lag to settle in and so at midnight, wired and tired, we hot-footed it to Kao San Road where there was still plenty of unsavoury late-night activity, drunk foreigners looking for food, for more booze, or for the remaining bar girls who would sell their bodies to pasty white farangs. Loud, predictable music blared from drinking stalls and makeshift bars. 

We found a promising looking food cart and bought pad thai from an old woman. On a nearby tree, Jackson spotted his first gecko and his sense of amazement humbled me. 

Our first morning in Bangkok we had a breakfast that made the horrible days of travel seem like a distant memory. A strong, kind Thai woman wordlessly served us coconut shakes, mango smoothies, bananas in porridge, muesli with fruit and yogurt, a cheese omelette and a tiny loaf of bread. 

Stinky-hot overland travel in Thailand.

Stinky-hot overland travel in Thailand.

Jackson instantly fell in love with tuck-tuks the same way he had naturally become enamoured of dump trucks, tractors, trains and fire engines. We took a tuk-tuk to the Chao Phryn river and then paid 3 baht for a ferry crossing. We eventually made it to the train station to inquire about tickets North. On the tuck tuck ride back to the ferry boat, Samia's floppy sun hat blew off her head. Our tuck tuck driver turned to go back and retrieve it. 

The hat lay in the middle of the busy road. A young boy pulling a cart ran into the street to pick up the hat and was running towards us, to bring it to us, when he got hit by a taxi. There was a sickening thud and my ex-wife screamed as the boy rolled into a ball over the hood and landed on his back in the dust and the gravel.. 

I jumped out of the tuk-tuk, already trying to remember the ABCs of First Aid, when up popped the kid and finished his sprint over to us. He bowed to Samia as he handed her the hat. He started walking away and then I noticed he was with his mother, who collected the cart. He favoured his right leg and had one hand on his back. I was extremely concerned. I tried to tell him and his mother that they needed to go to the hospital, that we would bring them to hospital, but they wanted none of it. I had horrifying thoughts of various injuries, internal bleeding, concussion - but I will never know, because they were set on leaving. I handed the boy 100 baht and he bowed to me and smiled as he accepted it.  I felt like a cheap fool, a heartless dumb tourist, and tried again to get him to the hospital. But he and his mother disappeared into the crowd. What happened to him, ultimately? I hope he was okay. 

As we were ferried back across the river I felt sick with a profound sense of alienation. I felt not so much out of my element as out of my reality. Questions like, "Where is Thailand, really?" occurred to me. "Where am I travelling to as much as the places I visit within the confines of my own skull?" 

Always thinking about how to look pensive.

Always thinking about how to look pensive.

We all passed out before dinner and slept until ten. At 3:30 am Jackson was playing with his toy planes and his toy cement mixer. He peered into my face to see if I was awake. "Dada," he whispered, "Have you seen my dozer?" It was his favourite question of 2005. 

We spent several days in Bangkok, eating and trying to get over jetlag together. I experienced my first genuine Thai massage and was forever altered in body and spirit. We walked the streets late at night and early in the morning, waiting for our bodies and minds to adjust to both the time difference and the culture shock. 

One morning, just at the break of dawn, I looked over to see Jackson laying on his back, staring up at the pink helium balloon he'd been given by somebody the day before. He softly, slowly pulled it towards him in order to watch it float away again. He pulled it towards him again, thought about something for a minute, then quickly hit his sleeping mother on the head with the balloon. 

"Hey!" she grumbled, half asleep.

"Jack," I growled. He started, not realizing until that moment that I was awake and watching him. "Didn't I tell you yesterday I'd pop that balloon if you continued to hit people with it?"

Then I felt bad about startling him. He was bored, perhaps. Due to the nature of our travel, we had to pack light, which meant very little room for books or toys. I relied quite heavily on spontaneous story-telling to keep him amused.

"You want a story about the greatest train mystery ever?" I asked him. I hadn't even yet made the story up, but his favourite theme at the time was anything related to the railroad.

"Yes!" He shot out of bed, let his balloon drift to the ceiling and cuddled next to me as I related a story of a train that went through a mysterious cave and disappeared, making it up on the fly. I stalled from time to time by asking him "And what do you think happened next?"

His capacity to listen to stories amazed me, as did his ability to sit for silent hours of travel in his own reveries. Sometimes the far-away look in his eye could spook me, and I'd ask what he was thinking about to draw him back, tether him to me where I felt he was safest. His answer was always the same: "I'm watching a movie in my head."

"I'm watching a movie in my head."

"I'm watching a movie in my head."

I tried to write but with two young kids I could barely find the time or space to meditate. I was still recently sober, and I hadn't yet decided wether the dream I'd held as a younger man—to be a self-sufficient author of fiction—was healthy or pathetic. 

I wanted to forget all my old desires for recognition and just write spontaneously, for the pure, creative joy of it—to recognize that every little bit of it, even the mundane top-of-the-head shit, is somehow sacred. Because the intent is sacred. 

Throughout the trip through Thailand I would vow over and over again—usually while inspecting my scoliosis or love handles in the mirror—to gather and build strength through self-discipline. Part of this vow was refusing to be a passive doormat with my (now) ex-wife, who wanted  what she wanted when she wanted it—for example, she wanted our tiny family to subsist on cheap street-eats rather than real food. 

The first time I confronted her over this issue was on Khao San Road, when I put my foot down and said we would all be better off eating a nice curry and rice at a sit-down restaurant rather than Petrie-dish noodles that had been sitting in the same bowl all day on a rusty food cart. Her insistence was based on two beliefs, both of which I knew to be fallacious. Firstly, she was under the mistaken impression that eating from a food cart in the area designated exclusively for farangs would somehow bring us closer to a less-touristy, more authentic Thai experience. This seeking out of "genuine" experiences was an obsession with her, and she seemed to miss the irony that trying to be "a local" was as inauthentic as one could get. 

Not locals. 

Not locals. 

The second reason my ex-wife wanted to eat street food was that she'd come to believe that restaurant food was too expensive. true, it was more expensive than pad thai from a broken-down cart, but compared to the Canadian dollar it was practically free. She refused to relativize with me and became obsessed with not having to pay more for a meal than a Thai person would have to pay. 

"I'm not going to eat shit and feed Jackson shit just because it's inexpensive!" I shouted at her. I immediately regretted both shouting and cussing, because at the time I was going through a somewhat naive phase where I believed that pretending to be calm would somehow make me a calmer person. 

Please don't touch us without our permission.

Please don't touch us without our permission.

Later on Jackson woke up in the middle of the night and said he didn't like when Thai people kept touching him. Both the kids were routinely mauled in crowds, to the point where I had to fend off arms of strangers at times. There was something about their blonde hair that made the Thai people fervent in their quest for some display of affection from Jack, like he was an omen, or a lucky piece. I told him he didn't have to kiss or touch or hug anyone he didn't want to, and I taught him how to throw up a block and say "No" in Thai language—ไม่, pronounced "Myi". 

"Boundaries," I said, "are the best. You set your own boundaries depending on what you are comfortable with." Later that got me into hot water when he didn't want to kiss his mother goodnight.  

Jackson was rooting through the pockets on my backpack and found condoms—we hadn't had sex in months but I was thinking the trip might spark something, and I'd bought a pack for the trip—in fun colours: bright yellow and red and green and orange and blue. He walked in with a handful of condoms: "Guess what I found Mama?" He clearly took them for some kind of fruity sweet-treat, hidden candy treasure in Dad's backpack. A Thai lollipop, perhaps?

"Those aren't treats," I said.

"What are they?"

And then my ex-wife did something she always did, which drove me crazy. She made up a nonsensical lie. "Those are Durex," she said. "They are for Daddy when he gets a sore back."

Jackson looked at the condoms disguised as fruity treats. "Oh my back is sore," he said. 

We drove around Bangkok for an hour in a smokey tuktuk and with grimy faces bought a sleeper train to the coast, ferry to the island of destination, and a few nights accommodation - all for 3000Baht. 

Our last night in Bangkok, I woke at 3am and couldn't fall back to sleep. I got out of bed at 4:44 and walked around the muggy streets. People were still partying. I was making my way to a local temple when a hooker approached me and asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted to meditate. She said I'd have to wait until sunrise for the temple gates to be unlocked. 

"Maybe I can come to your room until then?" she said. I politely declined, but was surprised to see how the idea somewhat excited me.

"Hey Buddy," called a ladyboy from a nearby bar. "You want beer for breakfast?"

The jetlag and lack of sleep eventually caught up to Jackson and he turned into a savage just as we boarded the train for Surat Thani. Hitting us, biting us, throwing temper tantrums. 

"I thought you loved trains?" I said. He growled at me. Then he wouldn't stop screaming for a treat. I slapped his hand to get his attention, and was immediately flooded with guilt and shame, and fear of my own ancestral potential for rage. As we shuffled along the tracks out of Bangkok my ex-wife fed Samia while fanning herself\. We were all grimy and greasy from the dust and the heat. I didn't win the argument to get an air-conditioned berth. 

I stared into the impossibly impoverished huts along the tracks—endless shantitowns, though everybody had a cell phone and a shiny new moped. There were numerous small temples with gaudy golden Buddhas bracketed by ugly concrete aqueducts. Some night markets, big and small. We passed numerous small gatherings of people sitting around small fires, embers really. I wanted to join their conversations, if it meant getting off the stifling train.

Eventually the porter came around and put our beds down and gave us cleanish-looking sheets. Jackson passed out finally and I watched his angry face grow still and calm. The silhouettes of the endless palm trees were illuminated by dry lightening as a storm raged in the distance. I crawled in beside my son and slept too, only to be woken several times through the night in a full-blown panic attack, feeling as if we were about to careen off the tracks or hit an oncoming train. We passed so many trains travelling in the opposite direction, and each time I felt that if I stuck so much as a finger out the window I would lose it, we seemed that close..

Jackson woke up howling, and I raised my hand in the air, in a claw-like pose, and hissed "I'M DONE!" I felt my anger come out of me and enter him as fear. His face crumpled and he started sobbing. I held him close and said we were all tired but was already thinking of ways I could make amends to him. There was only one way: not to treat him the way I had been treated. I need to love him with the kind of love I've never known, and sometimes I worry that isn't even possible. Until I hold him and resolve that it is. 

Peace takes practice.

Peace takes practice.

And like this, we unimaginatively made our way to the tourist-ridden island of Koh Samui. We stayed in a cabin on Bophut beach next to a pool belonging to The Coconut Grove. Our neighbours in the next cabin over were two Israeli men who went looking for love everyday in their unfortunate speedos. They had their own special peacock-walk which they'd obviously worked on together, consciously or unconsciously. They liked to swim up to young girls in the pool and tread water next to them while pretending they were bored, or shouting nonsensical bluster at each other. It was great entertainment. 

The massage therapists on the beach fell in love with the children, as everybody seemed to. During their slow afternoon hours they would take Samia and hold her and rock her and play with her and bathe her and change her and rock her to sleep, which was a great boon for us. It was as if the baby had abruptly acquired half a dozen doting Thai grandmothers.

Remembering why we came here in the first place.

Remembering why we came here in the first place.

For possibly the first time on this trip, which would last another five months and see all of us in the hospital at one time or another and almost capsized on a ferry from Koh Tao—a story I won't get into here—I found myself capable of relaxing. This was my first sojourn abroad as a provider and, in my mind, as a protector.

I was recently sober as well and everything—every single experience—was new, filtered not only through tourist goggles but also through the lenses of sobriety and fatherhood. 

Once, my father, with whom I didn't really get along as a boy, remarked to me: "I would die for my children, you know." It was part of a quasi-apology for acting as a pushy tyrant for much of my younger life. My first thought was that I'd never been in any danger of assassination. I never needed a bodyguard. What I'd really needed was someone to be kind and patient and to teach me things I needed to know about the world and about myself. 

This is why my reactions of anger, when they occurred, were so distressing to me. I felt helpless at times, as if the operating system of my true nature had been hacked with a virus of helpless fear and rage. Through fathering I was understanding my father more and more.

Life is a beach.

Life is a beach.

Nobody knew or could guess at what I was capable of.

I joked with tuk-tuk drivers and haggled good-naturedly with shopkeepers. To outsiders, as I carried my daughter in a pouch on my chest and my son on my shoulders, I looked like any other middle-aged white Dad carrying his children across the smelly landscape of the Land of Smiles.

But nobody knew what I was capable of. At all times I knew where the exits were and who might be potential threats. Nobody could guess at how supremely ready I was to react to any threat—real or perceived. At a moment's notice I knew I was capable of whirling myself into an energetic onslaught of fatherly fury. Nobody could guess at how readily and easily I would—and I knew it was true—die for these children. 

And I felt silly knowing it. It felt overly dramatic, carrying around this level of protective concern. I guessed that much of it was chemical in nature, wiring that had very little to do with me, personally.

Vaccines and Natural Law

Practically all humans who promote the use of vaccines (or amalgam fillings, fluoride in water,  omnibus bills, the Patriot Act) erupt with visceral hatred at the suggestion that individuals should have free will. In this case many people are questioning the right under natural law to choose whether or not to vaccinate themselves and their children. 

    These people reflexively claim to have all science-based medicine in support of their position, but are unaware of how deeply they have been programmed to parrot consensus reality. It may surprise many to learn (because lapdog media hasn’t informed them) that vaccines are an extremely divisive topic in current medicine and research, not just among the general public. 

    In case it needs to be iterated, ‘scientific’ is not synonymous with ‘true’. Carl Sagan warned us that those who control science and technology will control humanity. One needn’t become a conspiracy theorist to reach the conclusion that our systems and the institutions that support them are failing us, and have been continually failing us for a long time. 

    A scientist who balks at the official party line will have her funding cut, will likely be disparaged by her peers, and may even lose her job. In some cases of extreme human interest, scientists who’ve stepped outside the established paradigm with valuable (i.e. damning) information have lost their lives under questionable circumstance.

    Vaccine safety studies are rigged and the safety of the preserving agents in vaccines is highly questionable. It is the manufacturer who funds testing after all. And yet this blatant and critical conflict of interest still passes, to the masses, for what we call science. Even the warnings from within the scientific community, such as the Institute of Medicine, are squelched.

    The system that is interested in mandatory mass injections is actually not concerned with disease prevention. As difficult as this will be to swallow, vaccines are not scientifically sound methods of eradicating disease. In many cases, vaccines have caused outbreaks of the diseases they were supposed to prevent. The general population has erroneously assumed the science behind vaccines is concrete merely because vaccination has been implemented, officially supported, and in place as long as it has. The system which controls vaccines and their delivery relies on this assumption.

    Here, in broad strokes, is what the proponents of vaccines are demanding: We need to blindly accept all science that promotes the use of vaccines and mindlessly reject all science that refutes it. We need to give up our right to choose to have vaccines or not to have them, and in doing so, we must indiscriminately trust both our governments and the pharmaceutical industry with unfettered access to our veins. We must accept that the known neurotoxins and the unknown compounds and untested agents, which include, but are not limited to formaldehyde, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, thimerosal, and polysorbate 80, will enter our bloodstream and impact our central nervous system in ways we fully do not understand. Despite the fact that vaccines contain established carcinogenic, neurotoxic, immunotoxic and sterility agents, we must accept them without expecting or demanding informed details about the shady history of vaccine development and the pseudo-science behind the entire program; we have to trust that the impacts of the contents, or testing that has (or has not) been done on some of the chemical compounds and preserving agents, known otherwise to be highly toxic and to bioaccumulate with each successive injection, especially when attached to an organic compound, will somehow magically not be harmful to us or our children because the CDC or Health Canada says so, without having ever done any substantial testing of their own

    Even if vaccines are harmful, we must uncritically accept that the rewards of vaccines, despite their dubious success, outweigh the risks, notwithstanding existing evidence to the contrary. We do not have the right to question the motives of this mass-delivery system that knowingly contains neurotoxins, and we do not have, nor should we have, the right to refuse it.

    Now, surely most people in 2017 must realize that we cannot trust mainstream media or mainstream science. The so-called ‘gold-standard’ in medicine, namely peer-reviewed journals, is not immune from corruption, bias, outside influence, and, in the interest of ongoing funding in various fields, extreme self-censorship. The money trails in science, medicine and media all lead back to the same place. Scores of scientists, celebrities, politicians, medical professionals and internet trolls, whether out of ignorance or some more sinister motive, jump to the defence of vaccines as if the very thought of questioning them is inhuman, ignorant, and even evil. The result: mass of public opinion intentionally shepherded to shame and vilify anyone and everyone who questions the validity of the ‘science’ backing vaccine use.

To understand the fundamentals of the arguments around vaccines, we must possess an informed understanding of denial, and how denial is used. The system in control of what passes for science, government, business, medicine, law, religion, and media is not, simply put, what it appears to be.

    Denial is what keeps the official narrative—any official narrative—alive, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and in spite of our own gut feelings. There is a very good reason intuition is ridiculed as baseless and holding none of the ‘exacting’ standards of science, and this reason has nothing to do with the benefit of humanity, the other beings we share this space with, or the beleaguered Earth which supports and sustains us.

    How it works: in the face of prolonged, relentless corruption and scandal, individuals in denial reduce each scenario to so many isolated incidents of bungling incompetence and basic human greed. Like lab rats habituated by electrical shocks, we’ve been acculturated through manufactured fear for generations. We have been hornswoggled by the very same system that purports to educate us, govern us, inform us, and entertain us. The ongoing epidemics of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue and addiction on this planet are often the expressions of conditioned helplessness.

    Anyone who chooses to step outside the stifling atmosphere of consensus reality are derided and scorned, and not even by the authors of this fallacious reality, but by fellow lab rats who react automatically to defend the status quo denying anything outside the official narrative with as much vitriol or sarcasm as they believe the occasion warrants.

    The brilliance behind the vaccine narrative is the presupposition that my recommended injections (which are not synonymous with immunizations) are necessary to protect other people as well as myself. This is why, if I choose to not get myself or my children vaccinated, my fellow lab rats can’t just let me be in peace. I need to toe the line in order to keep the narrative intact, and all of us safely and cozily held in the miraculous arms of modern science.

    The conditioning into denial has been ongoing for centuries, or longer, and presently nearly every professional and ‘elite’ in our society is infected with denial. So, not only do we perform the dirty work of hiding the truth, but we heap criticism and derision upon those who would bring the truth to us.

    The so-called ‘science’ of vaccines has inauspicious beginnings. In the late 18th century, a British physician named Edward Jenner decided to test out local Berkely parish folklore that diary workers exposed to cowpox were immune to smallpox. Jenner’s scientific inquiry involved taking the cowpox strain from the fluid on an infected milkmaid’s hand and transmitting it to his poor gardener’s eight-year-old son James Phipps. Several months later, Jenner infected the boy with smallpox. James Phipps was resistant to smallpox. Jenner infected the boy twenty more times, to no effect. This, in a nutshell, comprises the specious and shaky foundations of the entire theory of vaccination.

    What is not often mentioned is how deaths from smallpox increased dramatically directly after the introduction of the smallpox vaccine.

    And, (let me interrupt while you attempt to bring up the so-called miracle of the polio vaccine) the ‘grand chapter’ in the vaccine narrative relates how virologist Jonas Salk was a national hero who not only saved countless lives with the polio vaccine but took the moral high ground by refusing to patent it. 

    “Would you patent the sun?” he famously told Edward R. Murrow—omitting to mention that the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis had already had its lawyers analyze the possibility of patenting the vaccine. It was determined that a patent would never be granted. Salk also conducted illegal and unethical medical experiments on patients who were senile and mentally incapacitated. And, incidentally, numerous sources have demonstrated that ‘polio elimination by vaccine’ story is actually a hoax, and that post-1955, the polio vaccine was actually SPREADING polio, a phenomenon which necessitated a massive cover-up, which included the renaming of vaccine-induced polio-type diseases, including aseptic meningitis. The fact that 200 people were paralyzed and 10 people died from Salk’s early administration of the vaccine never seems to make it into the literature, for some reason.

In 1955, just after the release of the Salk vaccine, the CDC radically changed the diagnostic parameters of polio, automatically eliminating 90% of subsequent diagnoses - 30,000 cases a year we were then told were prevented by the vaccine.

In 1999 the CDC conducted the Verstraeten study, which found a direct correlation between the mercury in vaccines and speech and learning disorders and autism, so they re-formatted the study five times over two years, each time watering down the statistical significance another inch or two, until they were able to announce to the devout American public that there was no connection.

In 2002 the CDC conducted a study that found a definite correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism. In response they re-designed the study, after the fact, eliminating the damning data, ultimately to publish the conclusion that no causal relation had been found. 

There are specific reasons why a Corporatocracy might want to deliver high levels of aluminum to the pineal gland, but without even going into my theories on that, the now incontestable link between MMR and autism - something that was proven over a decade ago and then "debunked" by corporate-backed science—should be enough for anybody to be willing to ask hard questions of a "science" that has a lot of gaps. People still believe the "debunked" version (re: autism link) because it was fed to them like pablum, and it is likely too terrifying for many people to actually consider the implications of what more and more medical professionals (and yes, informed parents) are saying. To just look at the raw data from U.S. HRSA Vaccine Injury Compensation Court is enough for any educated individual to be deeply concerned. 

It might be time to stop mocking those who are brave enough to bring us hard-fought bits of truth, and give ourselves some credit by being open enough to listen objectively. Nobody in 2017 should remain naive enough to believe that the Corporate Health Industry is interested in the health of the people. Vaccine history is doctored history engineered for corporate profit and population control. 'Herd Immunity' initially described the amount of population that had to be healthy in order to build resistance to disease, and was somewhere around 70%. This term was co-opted by the vaccine industry specifically to brainwash the public into believing that 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated for everyone to be safe. Fear is a tried and true motivator.

    Our current predicament of denial is grim. Consider this: over 3000 Americans are currently imprisoned for allegedly shaking their babies to death. Deaths from shaken baby syndrome (SBS) are alarmingly similar to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the peak incidence which occurs between 2 and 4 months of age, or exactly when routine vaccinations are given. Auto-immune deficiencies and complications from toxicity, particularly with hot lot bad batches of vaccines are reportedly similar to the damage described by SBS.

    How many parents have been imprisoned when the real culprit is the vaccines? This deserves a sincere and earnest independent inquiry, at the very least. To those who claim vaccines are safe, how is it that the American government has paid (it is conveniently illegal to sue the manufacturer of a vaccine in the USA) roughly 3 billion dollars in damages to families who have lost loved ones to toxic vaccines?

   To ignore / poke fun at the hundreds of thousands of parents who have seen their children virtually disappear almost immediately after routine MMR injections is not good science - there is a serious lack of objective data to prove vaccines even do what we have been trained to believe they do, but the data that is available—including that which has been leaked from CDC—shows at minimum a horrifying toxicity issue. The process of how so many people who have diligently recorded and reported these experiences, presenting a very clear pattern, get vilified and discounted as hysterical is even a more interesting question to me than the issue of dangers of vaccines.

    There is enough empirical evidence available from scientific research to soundly refute the mainstream position on vaccines, which is why millions—millions, friend—of intelligent and educated people are opting out. It is also quite curious how many believers of vaccines change their minds when they start their own research, but skeptics of the whole CDC-backed gambit do not generally start trusting their government again, ever.

    There has been scandal after scandal associated with vaccines as well as with the official organizations that administer them, most commonly the World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control, who have acted in direct contradiction to their stated mandates. All of our beliefs and judgments need to be dismantled, quickly, so we can truly see our denials objectively.

    Is it toxic to deliver high quantities of heavy metals, formaldehyde and other neurotoxins directly into the bloodstream, particularly for an infant? Does the pharmaceutical industry have the health and well-being of the people as a priority – not in its mandate given in a press release, but in its actions as demonstrated throughout its history?

    Has the government, embodied by such organizations like Health Canada, the CDC, or the WHO, consistently demonstrated both a willingness and ability to protect the health and well-being of the citizens it is mandated to help?

    I worked for the government for years, and I’ve seen firsthand how statistics are spun and manipulated to tell the public one thing, stakeholders another, and the politicians something else. What I see so often is that people decrying the dangers of ‘stupid people who refuse vaccines’ are quoting statistics and information that almost universally leads back to corrupt government “health” agencies that have knowingly been complicit in scandal related to vaccines.

    The people who are mocking and vilifying the ones questioning the truth are complicit in repressing it. Because what is at stake here is a tremendous amount of liberty and freedom of choice. In the balance, we are blindly being asked to submit our bloodstreams and neural pathways to the chemical control of organizations like the CDC and Merck.

    It’s a framing issue. Vaccines make all the sense in the world as long as you believe 1. Our immune systems are garbage and can’t evolve and 2. Our governments or large corporations are incapable of willfully poisoning large swaths of the population. If you are going to claim science is on your side, you need to consider all the science, even—or especially—the science that is buried. The stuff you have to dig for. Don’t just blindly swallow the swill that is shoved in your face.     

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My Journey Into Vipassana

The first time I heard the word Vipassana it put the hook in me. 

Vipassana is the Pali word for ‘seeing things as they truly are.’ Pali was the language spoken at the time of Buddha. Technically, it describes the consistent practice of observing sensation in a systematic manner throughout the body, without attaching any positive or negative value charge to any one sensation. The practice of observing without reacting allows, in theory, for an experiential understanding that all fluctuations of mind and matter are transitory. As such, one comes to understand that craving of pleasant sensations and aversion to unpleasant sensations are futile reactions which serve only to more deeply engrain the habit patterns of the mind that give rise to unhappiness and suffering. This understanding leads to a more equanimous state of being, which in theory leads to a happier, and necessarily less harmful, life.

The late S.N. Goenka was a former Burmese industrialist who was introduced to the technique of Vipassana while seeking out a cure for his persistent and severe migraines. His success with the technique under his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin led him to become the one who essentially brought the technique, allegedly Buddha’s original technique preserved for centuries in Burma through a lineage of monks, into the mainstream. There are currently close to 200 Vipassana Centres around the globe.

The late S.N. Goenka was a former Burmese industrialist who was introduced to the technique of Vipassana while seeking out a cure for his persistent and severe migraines. His success with the technique under his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin led him to become the one who essentially brought the technique, allegedly Buddha’s original technique preserved for centuries in Burma through a lineage of monks, into the mainstream. There are currently close to 200 Vipassana Centres around the globe.

For over a decade I attended at least one 10-day meditation course, as taught by the late S.N. Goenka, every year. I meditated most days throughout most years. Through thousands of hours of Vipassana practice I learned that correct knowledge is based on direct perception. Illusory knowledge is based in a distortion of reality caused by erroneous perception. Just as Goenka said I would.

This is what is wrong with us as a species: everyone is running around squawking at each other, asserting their beliefs are facts when in truth most people have zero direct experience with the fundamental principles on which they’ve established the framework of their lives. Book learning is not direct experience. Teachings from other people will not constitute direct experience. The assertions of a scientific community rife with industrial conflicts of interest does not amount to direct experience. Reality, in essence, is a very personal thing. And because we’ve had so much bullshit layered into our minds, it takes some perseverance to get to it.

Once, while Goenkaji was still alive, I attended a course at the meditation centre in Igatpuri, India. I flew into the insanity that is Mumbai, dodged numerous bribe attempts by Indian officials, and was driven over bumpy roads to Dhamma Giri in a rusty land Cruiser by a man who I’m still convinced had active tuberculosis. I arrived past midnight and was nonetheless struck by the ornate Myanmar Gate at the entrance.

There was an arduous span of time spent with the security guards at the gate, and numerous late-night phone calls I couldn’t follow because I don’t speak Hindi. I was tired, my mind drifting. The course, which cost nothing, including room and board, and was run entirely on the donations of old students, and they had trouble finding my name. Finally I was told to follow a guard who would escort me to my bunk. I struggled to keep up with him along the path.

I heard the tinkling of wind chimes to my right. I followed the sound with a sleepy gaze and was struck into wakefulness by the immensity, the immediacy and sincerity of the building that stood there in almost perfect silence. I’m normally not a fan of any spiritually-based infrastructure, but the golden pagoda at Dhamma Giri was somehow different. A soft yellow light promulgated through the spires at the top and each archway. From the base, constant rows of tiny, honeycombed windows were stacked upon each other, the lowest row right in front of me, each subsequent row raised a level then set back, each window framed by a rococo vault, like the petals of an enormous lotus. There were hundreds of them, and this was just on the side of the pagoda that I could see. What are they?

We passed a green sign: Entrance to Pagoda Cells

“Meditation cells,” I whispered. The enormity of what I was looking at, and the mystical sound of the phrase “meditation cells” as I whispered it to myself a second time, gave me a sangfroid that made me think I’d misplaced something precious, and was about to be made for accountable it.

The guard stopped at a tiled hut with faucets labeled “Drinking Water Station.” Another sign said, “Drinking water: do not touch the glass to your lips. Be Happy!” I took the steel cup chained to the faucet and drunk as the sign advised, pouring the cool water into my mouth, wondering about parasites, amoebic dysentery, giardiasis, or the possibility of gastroenteritis.

On the first rows of dorms we came across I spotted a moth the size of a small beaver clinging to a screen door, and I prayed I didn’t have to be the one to disturb it. We crossed the concrete path to another bunker of rooms and he motioned to one labelled J-13. I stepped onto the miniature porch and opened the feather-light screen door, nodding goodnight to my guide. Inside was a room barely bigger than the small bed it contained. Above the bed was a shelf. The space next to the bed just large enough to access another door, which opened into the coffin sized washroom which pulsed keen wafts of mothballs into the atmosphere. 

I let down the bug net over the bed before coiling myself in the cotton sleeping bag liner provided. I wrapped my t-shirt around the stained, damp pillow and as soon as I laid my head down I was pulled instantly, almost against my will, into a feverish sleep.

In the morning I awoke in the dark to a chill in the air and the sound of a gong being struck repeatedly by someone walking through the compound. The answer to my question about water safety seemed to be answered by several bouts of explosive diarrhea. I washed and dressed quickly and in cotton drawstring pants, and a t-shirt, and somehow I found my way to the appropriate meditation space, which was called a “Dhamma Hall.”

It wasn’t time to enter the meditation hall yet, however. In the evening there was some kind of orientation offered in five different languages, where I would have to confirm that yes, I was ready and willing to stay on the premises for the full ten days’ course and I would not leave early.

I had time and space to myself in the lush silence of the place, and found a space on a bench with an exquisite view of the grand pagoda circumscribed by the petals of individual meditation cells. In the distance I could hear a waterfall from a river swollen by recent rains, and there was a heavy fragrance to the air. The previous night’s India had been noise, bodies, corruption, diesel and dust. That morning’s India was an India of lush vegetation, banana trees, papaya, durian. I concentrated on a point in the forest rising above the mist, and for a moment had the sense I was sitting on the edge of a giant bowl of clouds. In the distance, somewhere below the canopy of jungle, between the mountains and me, were rivers and streams and lakes that dated back to the last glaciation. Everywhere in that moment the air was clean and crisp. India was abruptly a place of ancient magic.



The gardens were fragrant, damp from the mist. All the facilities were clean and practical. A large gong hung somewhere near the main dining hall, but apart from that and the shape of the grand pagoda, I saw no statues, no art, nothing carrying any religious or sectarian significance. There were dozens of volunteers living on site for the duration of the course, cooking our meals and cleaning up after us.

In the evening, after a generous helping of lentil soup and naan bread, the course started. I grabbed several pillows from the stack of meditation cushions and sat in the silence of Dhamma Hall for the first time. We all sat, men separated from women, and everyone in a state of noble silence, even avoiding all eye contact. 

There was chanting. The voice that chanted floated round the hall like the low, slow flight of a hundred sun-drunk bumblebees. I had the firm sense that we were not meant to look around, but I couldn’t help myself. The assistant teachers sat at the front of the hall with the volunteers, or Dhamma workers. The recording of Goenka’s voice asked us to take refuge in Tripe Gem: the Buddha, the Enlightened One; the Dhamma, his teaching; and the Sangha, the community of meditators.

Goenka’s chanting, his instructions, and the nightly discourses were all previously recorded, while any questions about the technique would be handled by two of his assistant teachers. With nearly a hundred meditation centres on the planet, Goenka couldn’t be a physical reality, even when he was still alive. Thus were the teachings of Buddha disseminated in the Information Age.

During the few hours before dinner I’d avoided conversation with any of the other students, preferring to keep to myself. But when the noble silence started, and there were no more opportunities for talking, not even gestures or eye contact, for ten whole days, I considered I I should have perhaps said something when I still had the opportunity. Perhaps I could have asked question or two, because the moment Noble Silence commenced, thoughts swarmed me like gnats.

When Goenka’s disembodied voice finished with its chanting, he informed us that the New Students were to follow five precepts, while the experienced, or what he called Old Students, were to follow eight precepts.

The first time I’d followed one of these courses, it crossed my mind numerous times that I’d voluntarily signed on for an elaborate brain wash. Eventually, the technique itself taught me everything I needed to know to have a better understanding of it.

I agreed to abstain from killing any living creature (which explained the vegetarian meals), to abstain from stealing (though there was nothing to steal for miles), to abstain from all sexual activity (hence the segregation of men and women, which helped heterosexuals, at least, from temptation), to abstain from telling lies (hence the vow of noble silence because most of us are incapable of not lying, or at least embellishing, while talking), and finally, to abstain from all intoxicants. The extra three precepts for us Old Students included refraining from eating after noon, from wearing jewellery or adorning the body, and agreeing to not sleep on luxurious or lofty beds—which wouldn’t be a problem, considering my simple living quarters.

After agreeing to all these precepts, I snuck another good look around. Even in the Dhamma Hall, there was no religious paraphernalia anywhere – no statues, no icons, no paintings, no candles or offerings. No prayers. Just a large hall of meditators sitting like so many statues of Buddha.

For a split second I experienced a total body absorption into a state of alarm. I couldn’t logically piece together the chain of events which had led me to where I was – none of it seemed possible. I felt that there was a mass in my brain somewhere, a mental muscle, a series of connected tissues tensing in my mind to keep my thoughts tight and narrow and quick.  This muscle had been tensed and unable to relax for a very long time. 

Am I in shock?

I considered what Goenka’s ghost was saying: that my sensations were merely reactions, aversions to the unknown. All the fruitless years of craving, brought on by the void of Future, yawning endlessly in front of the cavernous cipher of my past.

Goenka explained how since action stems from the depths of the subconscious, we must somehow learn to really penetrate, communicate with and practice in these deep subconscious regions. This awareness of sensation, and the need for equanimity in the face of whatever arose would train or retrain the realm of the preverbal actions that constituted my entire consciousness on a moment-to-moment basis. From what I was given to understand, this was the root level of conditioning, and thus the root of suffering. It was also the root of action (karma), which embodied the process of how we perceive, experience, and learn what happens from moment to moment, even while we slept.

During the closing chanting for the day, Goenka bid us happiness, and when he did – for one sweet, brief millisecond, the knot in my mind relaxed.

But then, next morning, rising pre-dawn, I was taken aback by the heavy demands of the schedule. The course, I remembered, was intended for intense, ass-breaking work, and not at all for relaxation. Every time I leave a Vipassana course I forget how hard it really is.

We were instructed to observe our breath, nothing else. We were to observe our bare breath, not to try and change it, influence it, or control it. We were to do this while sitting motionless for a period of one hour, at least ten times per day. Plumbing the depths for that place of stillness is rarely, if ever, a pretty process.

At breakfast I was reminded that no contact and no communication notwithstanding, there was zero sense of personal space because personal space did not exist in India. The India of breakfast was an India of queue-jumpers.

The food was healthy and fresh. All the Dhamma volunteers worked silently, and earnestly to provide us with two meals each day. And yet this centre, in fact all of the Vipassana centres worldwide, were run solely on a donation basis. But donations didn’t come from canvassing or corporations, they were only accepted from students who had already completed a ten day course.

I remembered the bolts of doubt which flashed through my mind during my first Vipassana course: Goenka must be gathering intelligence on behalf of some government agency. How else could he really fund so many meditation centres?

But during the first evening discourse, when we got to see a video of Goenka talking about what we’d experience on the first day, I was instantly disarmed. Here, finally, was the face behind the voice. He was a squat man with tiny eyes and a pudgy, smiling face. He had the big belly of a happy Buddha and grey hair. He wore a simple collared shirt and sat cross-legged. He didn’t look like a guru. He didn’t look like a freak. He looked like a businessman, or like someone’s jovial grandfather.

In the video he spoke to a group that we couldn’t see from the camera angle, but as he talked to this group about their wild minds, their untamed minds, and the difficulties associated with sitting for long periods at a stretch – all of this might as well have been intended specifically for me because it captured what I had been experiencing all day. I left the Dhamma Hall after the discourse with fresh hope and a renewed sense that I have come to the right place, once I realized I hadn’t thought of my predicament once in over an hour.

My nightmares became more complex; in one, an unlikely heroine, heroin-chic, pressed her finger to her lips. Her other arm was no arm at all but one massive black wing. She stepped towards me, treading lightly over the placenta of my birth, pointing at the crest of a fish-lens sky, I awoke mid-roar from another dream, somehow on hands and knees on the floor making the sounds of a bear. The tiny cabin of J-13 was destroyed, the mattress, linen, and what little gear I had been tossed – presumably by me, as the door was bolted from inside – all over the place. Like pus coming out of an infected wound, rage and terror bubbled to the surface every night, to be skimmed off the surface of consciousness through barely-remembered dreams.

The process went on, one minute, one hour, one day, after the next. Self cannot dissolve self; tiny pinpricks of awareness were gifted to me at each moment of release. During Annapanna meditation I had to continuously return to my breath, and I was truly bewildered by what an untamed beast by mind could be. People I’d known stormed my memories, turning mover every emotional cupboard. 

Between sittings, as I stretched my legs walking around the pagoda and gardens, I spent time composing and rehearsing a speech, a carefully crafted homily designed to resonate with all beings, and to gently but firmly inseminate their consciousness with the virtues and wonders of the meditation technique I was learning.

I delivered the speech to myself over and over again, watching each word crystallize in the humid air. I delivered this speech in my sleep and awoke sweating with exhilarating genius of it. My gestures to accompany this speech were equally wild, and equally in vain, because when I awoke on the third day I would never give that speech another thought again, since it had been crafted by my ego and I understood how insanely futile it was writing sermons to myself.

For three whole days I learned to observe nothing but my own bare breath. Goenka explained how to do this. I sat until I thought my bones would shatter, but eventually I could stay with my breath longer, for at least a minute or so, before my mind started to wander. On days one and two my body was almost always in excruciating pain from the extended hours of sitting, but on day three it happened several times that I seemed I’d just started to observe my breathing before the hour was suddenly, miraculously, up. Time was no longer what it usually seemed to be.

When all I ever wanted was a sense of peace, I’d instead reached out for oblivion, for distraction, ruled by the same anxious, fractious shards of thought shrapnel. Fear was the detonator. I became—in my own life and marriage and career—more the empty husk, lighter than ash, tethered to no place.

Photo belongs to the talented  Matt Sartian

Photo belongs to the talented Matt Sartian

On the fourth day we took our first steps into Vipassana, or what Goenka’s voice referred to the field of wisdom, and from then until the end of the course we would be observing the sensations that we could feel on our body. It was for this reason we had been sharpening awareness with Annapanna for three days.

And so it went, and on day five I experienced what Goenka called storms, moments I wanted to scream in agony, or frustration, perhaps loneliness. I thought of my children, and couldn’t choke back my grief. There were moments I wanted to fly out of the Dhamma Hall cussing in rage, to flee from silence and tranquility where I’d become prey to my own thoughts and truths.

And yet, these storms were counter-weighted by moments of peace and contentment like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life – a state of quiet joy in which I wanted for nothing but to share this with other humans. A loner almost my entire life, I was thirsty for community.

The Buddha, Goenka further explained, did not teach sectarianism. He did not teach an advanced method of intellectualization. The Buddha did not discuss philosophy or theology; rather, he was a practical scientist who set out detailed instructions on how to experience the truth directly.

I awoke on day six, still buzzing from my dream, painfully aware that any knowledge I had of myself was superficial, at best. I’d began to form a militant suspicion of desire.

I’d never expected all this work. Every day was drudgery. I toiled within myself. Storms raged and fell, suns rose and set within me. Day six started as a blissful day, after my first sit on a beautiful beach and turned rapidly, without notice, into white squalls.

Meditating all day sometimes seemed like trudging through a desert. I began to look forward to Goenka’s nightly discourses in the same way as a parched man would look forward to a glass of water. I forgot the sound of my own voice.

I began to worry a tiny bit about the attraction I felt to everything that came out of Goenka’s mouth, and that I might have already become part of a cult. Was it possible that everything he said could make so much sense? I looked to what was expected of me. Nobody was asking anything of me other than to live clean, watch my breath, and observe my sensations objectively without reacting to them. If this was a cult, it was a highly ineffective one.

I awoke in the dark of early morning on day seven, but wasn’t fully conscious and was still acting out my dream, wherein I was the Immigration Officer responsible for letting Indian nationals onto a train that would somehow bring them to Canada.

One slim fellow with deep black eyes presented a passport that was newly issued, had no visa, and contained travel stamps to various other countries which appeared fraudulent. I called him on it immediately and said I would have him collected by the local police. I said this aloud, sitting up on my sweat-soaked bed in J-13. I patted the mattress, lifted it up, looked around everywhere for this guy’s passport, which had somehow been misplaced. What was my water bottle doing here? 

Then, it was revealed that this man had actually been hired by me, or a part of me that I wasn’t aware of, to investigate fraud with the police. The plan seemed vaguely familiar to me so I couldn’t discount it, nor could I remember doing it. I had to be careful. I eyed the man suspiciously.

I lay in bed, half-awake, for at least an hour wondering what the fuck I was going to do with this guy and his missing passport before I grasped that they didn’t actually exist in 3-dimensional reality.

“Good god,” I said aloud. “I’m delirious.”

4:00 AM            Morning wake up  4:30-6:30 AM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room  6:30-8:00 AM        Breakfast break  8:00-9:00 AM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall  9:00-11:00 AM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction  11:00-12:00 PM        Lunch break  12:00 – 1:00 PM       Rest  1:00-2:30 PM           Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room  2:30-3:30 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall  3:30-5:00 PM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction  5:00-6:00 PM        Tea break  6:00-7:00 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall  7:00-8:15 PM        Teacher’s discourse in Dhamma Hall  8:15-9:00 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall  9:00-9:30 PM        Open Q&A session in Dhamma Hall  10:00 PM               Lights out

4:00 AM            Morning wake up

4:30-6:30 AM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room

6:30-8:00 AM        Breakfast break

8:00-9:00 AM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall

9:00-11:00 AM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction

11:00-12:00 PM        Lunch break

12:00 – 1:00 PM       Rest

1:00-2:30 PM           Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room

2:30-3:30 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall

3:30-5:00 PM        Meditate in Dhamma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction

5:00-6:00 PM        Tea break

6:00-7:00 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall

7:00-8:15 PM        Teacher’s discourse in Dhamma Hall

8:15-9:00 PM        Group meditation in Dhamma Hall

9:00-9:30 PM        Open Q&A session in Dhamma Hall

10:00 PM               Lights out

During the first group sitting of day seven, it occurred to me that my body, the entire body, contained the mind. In a way, I’d been learning this my whole life. I understood implicitly that every part of me had mind, not just the heavy pumpkin I carry around on my shoulders. As I went deeper, I came to see that my whole life had revolved around sensations – running after the pleasant ones while trying earnestly to avoid the unpleasant ones.

That very night Goenka explained that an addict takes a drug because he wishes to experience the sensation which brings him most pleasure. I couldn’t deny that as soon as any desire was fulfilled, I would generate another one that needed satisfying.

I went deeper still, and glimpsed for one, brief, lucid moment, the layers of ego, like an endless stack of mille-feuilles, a thick curtain sticky with self that kept me from seeing each moment, in which resided the timeless confluence of Source Energy and the spark that lay within. I had no ideaat the timethat I would very soon have to eventually renounce even this meditation, the very practice, which had led me to these insights.

There was no way to discern how long I was standing in front of the bulletin board staring at the daily schedule which I already knew by heart, but it must have been a long time because I had pins and needles in my feet. As soon as I became consciously aware of this sensation, I was literally blown backwards against the wall by an electric sense of foreboding.

I skipped my next meditation and lay on my back, staring up at the spider on the ceiling of J-13, coming to the conclusion that it must be another storm, that my mind was laying tricks, trying to get me to leave my practice before the ten days were up.

As I observed, thoughts were becoming clearer to me. Then I remembered my purpose was not to think, but to observe. All of my thoughts were misleading – the way out of the jungle was through observation of sensations. My thoughts could never bring me peace or enlightenment – only awareness of sensations could – as long as that awareness is devoid of reaction – completely equanimous.

We were not supposed to open our hands or change our posture, but I made one slight adjustment and moved my hands from my lap to my knees, in a kind of physical commitment to higher mental vigilance, for better concentration.

I was sweating and drowsy. But I knew that this moment would change. Just as every moment preceding. The insight was simple, but untouchable until I experienced it myself: everything was and is constantly changing. 

Good God it must have been frightening for the Buddha! Doing this all on his own, in the darkness of jungle forest with the monsoon rains and the frogs and bugs and snakes – he couldn’t have been automatically accustomed to it.

All these years I’d been waiting and expecting to learn who I was, waiting to learn who I was supposed to be. What if all my suffering was the result of concentrating on my suffering?

But here it is: it has happened. I had happened.

I’d happened without me planning or realizing it. I was already that person, that person I’d been waiting to define and sculpt and finally move into. I’d always been him, and he’d always been right here, changing. And to think of all the time I’d burned, all this energy I’d wasted trying to sculpt meaning from the clay of my experiences. I’d been exactly who I was.

And then at a certain point I realized that who I was, and how I perceived myself, needed to be wiped away.

Not only that, but I was the one who had to willingly go inside and do the job, solo.

On my meditation cushion, I had to come back to Annapanna because of my elevated heart rate. There was so much information pouring in.

Vipassana meant seeing things for what they really are, and for the first time I understood the meaning of humility: seeing things for what they were – not as I wanted them to be, nor as I feared them to be.

Our so-called elites – The Control System – had known for know a very long time how powerful human emotion and human intent is in the creation of our shared reality. Quantum mechanics and string theory had barely touched on the process of manifestation but were slowly, painstakingly, illuminating to the left-brain what the yogis and shamans had known for ages. But the Control System knew about it and had exploited it so thoroughly that most of our species was locked into a pattern of unconscious acquiescence. We were herded by our own fear into fields of ignorant submission.

I observed new sensations in my skin, my jaw and cheeks and as if my entire face was going to be magnetically ripped away from my skull. With these sensations came the stark understanding of what we’d lost – or forfeited – as a species.

I thought of the media I’d been bombarded by my entire life, and the staggering manipulation of a reality that we couldn’t’ seem to stop swallowing long enough to catch a breath. They were throat-fucking us with their lies! I was appalled by any and all talk of the economy, electrons, politics, Hollywood, the environment – people quoting people quoting people who’d been told what to say.

I raged internally, fighting wars inside my own skull, sweating bullets.

I’d never considered that I wasn’t still sitting in Zen-like quietude until I managed, with some difficulty, to notice that I was in gyrations, spasmodically twitching on the floor of the meditation hall. 

That night I slept more soundly than I had all course, and I woke up long after the gong on day nine, so long it was light out and warm, and I’d slept right through breakfast.

In that tiny, fragile room called J-13 I felt a presence.

Nothing new – a presence like an old friend whom I’d forgotten, suddenly lying in the space next to me.

What I experienced there, in the morning quiet of a day like any sunny Sunday, lying in stale sheets, on the cusp of understanding with the cheap drapes open, was my own life’s telling truth.

I closed my eyes and knew how the exposed current at the base of the waterfall drank the earth, swirling itself all the way to the ocean, spinning sea-borne thoughts into spoondrift, spraying the salt-fed anchors, atomizing the wreckage of our so-called lives, doubt dying again and again, impaled upon so many glittering knives of light.

From my bunk in J-13 I could even smell it, and I shuddered, for a moment shunning - fearing indifference to – the grievous beauty of frisson.

(To be continued.)


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