Sunday, 13th June 2021
After a semi-sleepless night, my pounding heart heralded the rising awareness that my “second real journey” was finally beginning today, on Sunday, 13th June 2021. Given the luxury of a spacious trunk, I prepared to pack ALL THE THINGS: guitar, RAV Vast (a hangdrum-like instrument), a year’s supply of books, about 20 favorite shirts, the first three of my “spiritual journals” (the first I started on 14th June 2005, the third was completed in December 2012), meditation bowl, sitting cushions, incense sticks, pumpkin seed oil, … and lots of small stuff – perhaps a tiny bit too much. (We’ll get back to this on Day 2.)
My brother and I transported herbs and flowers from my balcony to his place. We talked about family matters and I told him about a recent liberating breakthrough. I remembered that our relationship too had transformed way back in May 2005 in the cleansing fire of a fierce clash and the healing balm of our reconciliation. We hugged each other farewell, and I went on my way with his car, a token of love and trust.
(It strikes me as quite extraordinary how the years 2005, 2012 and 2021 keep popping up as siblings and chronological protagonists in this journey. These are the years of most significant transitions in my life, with the current one – the youngest of the three siblings – still unfolding. Like humans, these years ripen over time and progress through stages of maturity with each birth of a new sibling: for instance, 2005, 2012 and I are now developing and enacting a new kind of relationship together.)
Back home I played Tetris 3D by stuffing ALL THE THINGS in the trunk and on the back seat, then took a picture for one of my extremely rare Facebook posts. Once upon a time, I had planned on journal-blogging about my “first real journey” in October 2012. But some things had kept me from it, among them a hesitation about being seen – a kind of social anxiety that today feels all but gone.
Changes … and growth.
My first destination was Sulz im Wienerwald, where incidentally my cousin Michael was busy renovating my late uncle’s house that they had inherited. He greeted me in a dark blue work overall, artfully embroidered with the words “Lord Bughunter” aptly praising his formerly embodied expertise. It’s been a long time since we’ve last hugged. It felt good.
I took my RAV Vast to the nearby cemetery to improvise some melodies for my beloved uncle. How he would love to see me embark on this journey! The tomb looked different now, more alive. I brushed dark soil from two faux-grass-covered rabbits that had been toppled over by a storm and put them back into position. Clearly the old man still has humor, reflected by the myriad creative artefacts that we mortals are compelled to gather in this ceremonial place, paying homage to the multifaceted human beingness, not only his, but ours too.
I stretched out on the patch of grass next to my uncle’s grave and gazed at the trees above, remembering my time in Sulz with him in Summer 2005, just three months after my first and irrevocable “spiritual heart awakening”. He was one of my first companions with whom I was able to talk quite unrestrained about my budding spirituality. In fact our conversations had already been a source of inspiration for years. What a precious gift! Some people have a hard time understanding how this unabashedly hedonic and sometimes hot-tempered man could also be a dedicated Buddhist practitioner and an eclectic spiritual seeker. My uncle had always defied narrow categories. I believe we have that in common.
Back at the house (read: construction site) my cousin led me through the garden, once fully untamed, now partly shaped by a grass-covered oasis of active gardening amidst the wilderness, all watched over by old Buddha peacefully abiding in the very center. Then we walked through the old house, from cellar to attic, and I inhaled the familiar olfactory uniqueness that had always defined that place for me; knowing that I was seeing and smelling it as such for the last time.
The tiny room in the attic where we, the “BMW” gang (Bernhard, Michael, Wolfgang), had slept as teenagers, was clearly my highlight of this tour through old “Villa Sonnenschein”. Ancient memories were instantly rekindled. I enthusiastically shared with Michael where my bed had been and what significant discoveries I had made there some thirty years ago.
It was good to speak with Michael, a dedicated husband and father of two who helps rebuild a house for his family. Sensing the arc from childhood to adulthood, I can’t help but feel content and proud for us.
I continued my journey to St.Pölten, driving into the sunset as I would be doing for the next couple of days. My aunt greeted me with a warm dinner, and we talked more than ever, until veteran Major Fatigue and decorated General Exhaustion commanded us both to retreat to our beds. I checked my phone and found that myriad likes, hearts, and text responses to my Facebook posting were pouring in. Old friends from all over the world were wishing me a blessed journey and safe travels, including both my head teachers from the secondary school days – one of them long retired for more than 25 years. Whoa!
The beautiful “unintended consequence” of my posting was now unfolding as an integration of memories and connections that I had made throughout this lifetime. Old colleagues from CERN, new colleagues and friends from the Contemplative Science / Mind & Life / Mind & Life Europe communities, former housemates, classmates, head teachers, Elders, Council trainers and carriers, muses, musicians, artists, writers, extended family, Salsa dancers, people I’ve met at concerts by Anneke van Giersbergen, friends from old and new online & hybrid communities, friends from the European Forum Alpbach, Commodore Amiga computer geeks, men with whom I’ve shared initiatory journeys and sweat lodges, travelers, activists, chess players, researchers I’ve met on my “first real journey” in 2012, meditators, mystics, and more. I’m sure I’ve missed a few categories, but I hope I can weave you all into my story nonetheless. You are already part of this journey as you are part of my life.
Just scrolling through this highly eclectic list of wonderful humans makes me feel tremendously integrated – not stretched apart, as it used to – and very happy. I am blessed by generous offers to visit friends in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. I’ve never been to Denmark before, maybe this is the time?
Soundtrack of the Day
- Robin Wall Kimmerer – “Braiding Sweetgrass” (audiobook)
Let me pause here: this audiobook, narrated by the author herself, is among the best I’ve ever listened to. The chapter about “The Honorable Harvest” is forever changing my life.
Also, various songs from these albums: