Day 7: Springtide

Saturday, 19th June 2021

Magnificent sunrise is magnificent.

I woke up to composing a poem in the early morning on the balcony. Being kissed by the muses is always a blessing, especially when they come in more-than-human form. The poem expressed an ongoing transformation in me, a shift in priorities, a desire for time in nature, a calling towards solitude, the dawning of a deeper kind of mystical knowing.

Yummy breakfast is yummy.

I made breakfast. Annika woke up late and ate only little as she was not feeling too well. We fitted her bike into the spacious trunk of the car and went to Kollmar beach, where we found a tree that provided shade and grounding. After a delightfully refreshing swim in the Elbe river at high tide (we didn’t know that later that evening, a 9-year-old girl tragically drowned on the very same beach, likely at lower tide), Annika made a discovery while leaning against the trunk.

This tree is vaster than you might think.

“When you lean back like this for a while, the tree appears to be much larger”, she said.

I tried it too, with similar results. When viewed from the ‘outside’, the tree appeared to have its normal size, just as you would perceive it. Yet leaning against the trunk, feeling the support of this old being, looking skywards into its crown of branches and leaves, it appeared vast to both of us … even majestic.

Annika suggested getting fish sandwiches, which helped me fulfill the unspoken commandment that thou shalt eat a fish sandwich in Hamburg. We also bought freshly harvested local cherries before heading toward Glückstadt. Despite its promising name this town felt rather unspectacular, so we sought a different route closer to the water. Getting lost is almost always a good choice. Now it led us through lush green vegetation to a dead end and a herd of sheep. Annika the Sheep Whisperer offered them water, but the sheep didn’t seem particularly impressed. Yet she made another discovery as she keenly observed how the sheep took turns in providing shade for each other. The herd looks after its kin without arguing.

Unimpressed sheep are unimpressed by Annika the Water-Bearer.

To get to Annika’s self-made garden house, we took the scenic route through Wedel and woods on the outskirts of Hamburg. Along the way, Annika suggested that I could invite Y to join us there and/or for a later walk along the Elbe river. “It’s always good to have data”, she argued. I agreed, and I also observed inner resistance. We took a break in the woods. I pondered for a while. Do I really want this? Do I want it today? Do I fear rejection?

Eventually curiosity won. I called – no response – then texted. Y declined, as I had anticipated, yet I was happy to notice that it didn’t hurt much. Besides, Annika and I got enmeshed in Hamburg’s Friday afternoon traffic. But if there’s a will there’s a way, and when one’s mind is set and determined, all paths are eventually leading to Annika’s garden house.

Annika standing on top of the world.

We climbed through the roof window and stood atop, then pumped water from a well (old school!) to water the garden plants. Annika took her bike and went to a social soccer viewing with friends, while I stayed behind in the shade of the garden house for a Zoom session with Mark Matousek’s “The Seekers Forum” writing circle. As fate would have it, today’s writing prompts fit my journey to a tee. Here is a sample:

  1. How do you show bravery in your life?
  2. Where do you withhold love today? What specific fears drive you to do so?
  3. Where does pride get in the way? How does trust play a role for you?

Boy, did I have something to write and to share in the Q&A! The coexistence of (1) a genuine desire and appreciation for freedom and solitude, and (2) a genuine longing for connection and the expression of love, can seem paradoxical, even irreconcilable. I have obviously chosen a life of seeking such realms of paradox, perhaps in order to reconcile them – although admittedly, skillful navigation in these realms does not always present itself as straightforward. Mark’s response was clear and compassionate as always. Two ravens appeared right afterwards. But of course!

Awesome garden house is awesome, and delightfully blue.

On the drive back, I needed to go practically “blind” as the GPS wasn’t working for some reason. Yet I already knew the way. It amazes me how after only 1-2 expositions to a new environment, our cognitive system can actually remember it well enough to navigate therein. (For the pen & paper roleplayers: my W100 on “street lore” was successful.)

I remembered a sign pointing towards a parking lot in the woods, leading the willing adventurer to a path along Holmer Grenzweg. I was such a willing one. There was plenty of daylight left. I walked slowly and admired the oak trees on both sides. At some point, I began to wonder if they knew about the stars. What if I told them the stories I knew?

When to the new eyes of thee
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linkèd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star …

From ‘The Mistress of Vision‘ by Francis Thompson

I began reciting the second half of the poem From ‘The Mistress of Vision’ by Francis Thompson, slowly, slowly, feeling each word, beholding oak and beech with reverence. Before reaching the end of the poem, my whole state of consciousness had shifted. I felt like treading a sacred realm that had always been there, and only now was my entire being completely and utterly immersed in it.

(another) Oak, basking in the warm glow of sunset.

I walked on until I stood before a very tall and presumably old oak on the left side of the path. We shared space for a long while. I said my name and declared my intention. I recited the whole poem again from beginning to end. Oak listened.

I told Oak about Cedar who lives on the lands of an area that we humans mostly refer to as Seattle. I shared, in whispers and mostly in thought, about humanity, human cultures and history as we know them, science and technology, telescopes and spacecraft. I shared all that I knew about all that we know as a human species, about distant stars that twinkle when one stirs a flower and even when Oak grows.

I acknowledged the heavy price that we pay and inflict upon the more-than-human world, and how many of Oak’s kin had to perish for us living our story of progress, and how many more beings had to perish alongside them. I wept for all of us, for all of our kins. These weren’t tears of guilt or shame. These were tears of knowing and feeling directly.

Oak listened. It seemed that this time it was my turn to share from the heart, and to be received by Oak’s unwavering presence.

Back home a candlelight dinner for one awaited, with more pasta and a glass of wine to conclude a long day on the balcony – marking the first half of this journey. The second half would inevitably lead me much deeper.

I have come here for this. I am ready.

Soundtrack of the day:

Wardruna – “Kvitravn

Day 6: Mudbound

Friday, 18th June 2021

It was time to deepen the journey and spice things up by drawing some Tarot cards. This wouldn’t be as much fun as the “Psychedelic Glass Bead Game” I had played twice with geeky friends, but it would be more personal. I went for one of the simplest forms described in the book “Tarot Basics Crowley” by Johannes Fiebig and Evelyn Bürger: draw three day cards that represent your situation, task, and solution. Easy.

Situation: Queen of Cups. Water of Water, Great Mother, anima mundi. Trust your inner voice and let it flow. Go to a river or lake and meditate there.

Task: Knight of Cups. Fire of Water, Percival, wounded healer. What do you believe in? Seek the holy grail. Unite heart and intellect. Balance the opposites.

Clearly someone has got their work cut out for them.

Solution: The Magus. Hermes Trismegistus, active, vital, decisive. Expand your horizon. Walk your unique way and discover the yet unseen.

Even without these hints, I knew it was time for a close encounter with water. But first I needed to find a replacement for the cool white hat that I had lost – alas! – along the road trip through Germany. I went to raid the nearby town of Elmshorn, earning the spoils of a new summer hat, a magic cap, swimming trunks of awesomeness, and sunscreen. A homeless man and I exchanged smiles twice in passing. His friendly gaze resembled that of a Bodhisattva – not that I could explain to you now exactly how a Bodhisattva gazes, so just take my word for it. I intended to return a third time, but when I looked for him he had disappeared. So I wished him well, wherever and whoever he was, and recalled the many times in 2012 (and since) when I had chatted with homeless people on the streets, or with street artists; these encounters had often turned out to be the true blessings of the day.

Low tide …

I drove to Kollmar beach with the intention to swim in the Elbe river. The tide was so low that in lieu of actual swimming, I only buried my feet in the soft mud that covers the riverbanks. At least I’m touching water. It was an uncanny feeling to sink almost knee-deep into something you cannot see. It also felt strangely comforting, as if Gaia herself would wrap me into her semi-solid, semi-liquid body of mud & moisture.

Meanwhile, two young men went further into the water to play with a ball, and unsuccessfully tried to convince a group of teenage girls to join them. (What I did not know: further upstream in Hamburg, a 15-year-old boy tragically drowned that evening while swimming in the same river.)

… begets muddy feet.

With little time left, I went on to Friedrichshafen and sat cross-legged on the slope of a dike, casting a meditative gaze across the shores of the Wadden Sea. Then I steered back home to raid some fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm shop, as well as a loaf of “Shield Maiden” bread from a small bakery that knows how to name their goods. At home Annika already awaited me in the garden, herself having ambitiously taken a bike tour amidst the scorching summer heat (at least 35°C) all the way from central Hamburg to Groß Nordende.

Gazing across the Wadden Sea.

Annika finalized slides for her upcoming presentation, while “we” (myself, Mary and Francesco from the Mindful Researchers “gardeners” group) prepared to open our first “Mindful Presentations” session – a new format that one of our community members, Niko, had proposed a couple weeks earlier.

What makes this meeting format special is that instead of a dry “classic” presentation for academic peers, we encourage each other to share and discuss our work in the context of “our deeper reflections on why and how we care about our research, as well as our non-academic ventures, ambitions, motivations, inspirations, contemplative practices, and questions in life that matter to us” – to quote from our newsletter. Or in Annika’s words:

A space where researchers can experiment, explore, test-run “less typically academic” (whatever that means in their specific discipline) reflections. Stepping deeper in our work, or branching off into new directions tends to involve uncertainty – and others willing and able to (joyfully, calmly, wildly) hold the space for us to do so. We want to offer such a space (to ourselves, and we invite others).

Barring a couple minor technical issues, our session went extraordinarily well. Willeke, Annika and Niko presented their research and life passions among a group of 17 participants. This was followed by a highly engaged “open conversation” / Q&A, for which most attendees stayed way beyond the official closing time. What a blessing!

After this highlight, I felt incredibly hungry and made pasta with veggie sugo, spiced up with swiftly sautéed mushrooms and, well, spices. It stayed warm outside way beyond nightfall. Annika had beer and fruits, I had wine and pasta, and we reflected on mind and life.

Finally sinking into bed, I wondered … soon the midpoint of this journey would be reached. What more was to come, when meetings and other duties were behind me? What magic was dawning, which places were calling, whom else would I encounter, and whose secrets were awaiting their revelation?

Soundtrack of the day:

Corvus Corax – “Sverker” (album), “Skál” (album)

To be honest, I cannot remember what exactly I was listening to on that day. But it’s a good moment to plug the earthy medieval music of Corvus Corax. You cannot go wrong by listening to Corvus Corax … you might only go a bit crazy and perhaps surrender your body and soul to ecstatic dance. :-)

Day 5: Dreamtime

Thursday, 17th June 2021

I woke up early, grabbed my phone, read a comment from Odd asking if I would also come by Norway on this trip, and read another comment from Y. Sinking back into sleep, the feather still next to my bed, a series of dreams unfolded.

Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep.

from “The Mistress of Vision” by Francis Thompson

Sequence 1: In a large house, I am sharing the bed with a petite, dark-skinned young woman. We are both around 20. Clearly this young woman is Y (whom in reality I haven’t met before her late 30s) although she also reminds me of my first partner. We are under one blanket, and it seems that we are not supposed to be too close because of her parents who are also home. Y places her head on my shoulder and chest, and I lean my head against hers and wrap her in my arms. Our bodies become more closely entangled, holding each other tight. Y seems to desire more, while I make sure we don’t go too far. I put the blanket aside and notice I am naked, yet not ashamed at all. I find my boxers and put them on, not for my own sake, but to protect Y from possible unpleasant consequences through her parents. Scene change.

Sequence 2: I am driving with someone (Y?) on a hot Summer day, intending to park the car in a small lot. A policeman blocks that part, so I manoeuver to turn the car and leave. I see Odd in a car nearby, and we exchange some words through the open windows. I continue driving to an excavation or construction site that seems located in the US, perhaps in NYC, although the scenery altogether looks more like Italy. There is a large gathering of protesters who are opposing plans for building manmade things on this land. A policecar is approaching from behind with blue lights, and I stop to let it pass through a narrow passage before me. Yet the policecar waits and the driving cop ushers us to go first. We arrive at the site, now walking rather than driving. I see a CERN colleague, Claudia, many indigenous people, news reporters, and some very ancient trees. I am carrying a camera and microphone too, as if being a journalist, and I feel like one. Then I look more intently at the trees … and everything falls silent around me. I become one with the trees. They look like olive trees, standing on leg-like trunks. I feel a surge of Kundalini energy rising and accumulating in my solar plexus area (for the first time ever in a dream, as far as I can remember!) and I get close to sneezing to discharge the intense energy, but manage to maintain it so it can circulate through me. The thought occurs, “This is almost like a dream, but it’s real!” I start floating and drifting uphill, where the people too are walking backwards and uphill in a row, as if to take a position from which they will make their stand. I feel awestruck by the sacredness of this moment. There is a direct connection to the land, the people, the trees, to everything. And I remember. I remember my promise to the Cedar tree in Seattle. I remember that I too am here to stand up for the trees. Scene change.

Sequence 3: Again with Y, now in our 40s, at a massage parlor close to the previous scene. I am sitting comfortably in a reclining chair. We are naked, which feels again perfectly natural. Y is performing some kind of acrobatics together with another woman, and declares that she “already has some experience with this”, that she is already knowing something that others will be catching up with in their own time. I awaken.

Sometimes a feather is all it takes.

I immediately made a voice recording to remember these dreams in vivid detail. The feather was still there.

The day was filled with meetings, close to seven hours of screen time. These included a presentation I gave about applications and possible benefits of the “Systemic Konsensing” method in science and research, exemplified by experiences with the Mindful Researchers.

As the day proceeded, an inner voice commanded me to “get off the fucking screen.” I still had some things to do and further meetings scheduled, including a couple of sessions at the Toward A New Way of Being With Plants 2021 conference. Now the desire to let go of all meetings and work, to dive deeper into the journey, became loud and clear. Not yet, not yet, but soon.

Soundtrack of the day:


Day 4: Feathers

Wednesday, 16th June 2021

Breakfast at sunrise on a lovely balcony, surrounded by birdsong – the day started well. I finished unpacking ALL THE THINGS (including books), composed drafts for travel blog posts, and wrapped up preparations before having a pleasant meeting with the Planning Committee for the upcoming European Summer Research Institute in August.

Seems like I brought a couple of books – here is a small selection …

As the outside temperature rose towards full-fledged pre-summer heat, I started feeling hangry and grumpy. Today was not a good day for doing things. This was meant to be a slow day. I felt tired and ready to rest, but also restless.

In the evening I felt the urge to go for a walk and hunt and gather some food. Delighted that REWE was open until 22:00, I started walking at 21:00 when the sun was still well above the horizon. Strolling past woods and through alleys, I felt a peculiar urge to connect with the trees and other nonhuman beings around me. Moments later, I heard a crow in the distance.

A bird’s feather on the sidewalk caught my attention. I reached down and picked it up. Walking on, a sudden remembrance of the principles of “The Honorable Harvest” from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book “Braiding Sweetgrass” stopped me in my tracks. Did I introduce myself? Did I declare my intention and purpose? Did I ask permission for this gift?

I softly whispered, “My name is Wolfgang. I intend to take this feather for the purpose of being more connected with all of you. Thank you for granting me this gift.”

Walking on, I wondered if that hadn’t still been far too hasty. Had I made a genuine ask, and had I awaited a response, or did I just assume that my wish would be granted?

A few steps later, my entire perception shifted. A thousand sounds filled my ears at once – birds, wind, rustling leaves, distant cars. I beheld my surroundings with sharp acuity – trees, grass, flowers, bushes, stones, houses, windows, cars, clouds, skies, reflections of evening sunlight. I felt the presence of all things animate and inanimate, and myself within.

A typical sunset in Northern Germany. (The photo doesn’t come close to the beauty of the original.)

Shopping at REWE pulled my awareness back into the mundane world. I still generally find it difficult to keep walking in several worlds at once, although it happens more often these days. On the way back home I listened to a couple of songs from Arstidir’s “Nivalis” and Wardruna’s “Kvitravn” album. Unsurprisingly, the latter was met with the appearance of more crows along the path.

I placed the feather next to my bed, remembered the trees, and fell into a deep slumber.

Soundtrack of the day:

Arstidir – “Nivalis” (album), “All Is Well“, “Meanderings
Wardruna – “Kvitravn” (album)

The “And” of All-one-ness

I once had to protect myself,
learned to defend my boundaries.
“Yes, but”, I said to prove my point.
Or so I thought. The “and” that liberates
came slowly and discreetly.

This is not about “the other”.
This is not about “my self”.

They say, “the heart sings songs long before
the mind counts profits” –
I say, “the soul knows its destiny long before
the traveler directs their footsteps.”

Here we are.
You. I. This moment.
This moment of truth. Here, now –

I seek solitude, not company.
I seek trees and ravens, not humans.
I seek silence, not words.
I seek to be wrapped by salty ocean water,
not by my lover’s tight embrace.

It is not because I dislike them –
company, humans, words, and lovers.
It is because my way to be one
with myself, with them all, with the world
is now through solitude and silence,
and I find access to them
through ocean, tree and raven.

This is the “and” of all-one-ness.
This is where you and I will meet.

Journal entry on Saturday, 19th June 2021, early morning

Day 3: Arrival

Tuesday, 15th June 2021

I started the day with a Pilates abdominal workout on the carpet, ate yummy leftovers from yesterday for breakfast, took in the view from the balcony, and then car & driver got back on the road. Nine hours of driving (with breaks) across Germany were upon us. It felt good to have a clear destination and a clear path towards it. Grounded determination. No desire for meanderings today.

Of course the universe lovingly injects the right obstacles. How could I not love it? In Rohnetal the car and I performed my first ever fully autonomous oil refill. After double-checking the manual, I found the right lubricant for this precious engine that has been running smoothly for almost 300,000 km. The tricky part was to find the mechanism to lift the hood, elegantly hidden in the Audi logo. The refill itself was easy. After 42 years, I am thus no longer a virgin when it comes to motor oil.

It’s never too late to get dirty.

Listening to my friend Erwin’s albums “Leb’n“, “Anaseits” and “Host schon gheat?” proved to be just the right soundtrack for this road trip. I smiled as the highway signs started showing “Hamburg”. Still two hours to go. At the next service area, I contemplated putting up a hammock between the trees. Yet instead, I lost my precious cool white hat – the one I got from my dear friend Dav in Arizona in early March 2020 when people were still flying.

Driving into the sunset again, I finally arrived at my destination in Groß Nordende, located about 30-40 minutes to the northwest of Hamburg. For me it was, and still is, the most gorgeous Airbnb place ever. Spacious, bright, beautiful. Two bathrooms, two bedrooms, cozy chairs and couches, a sweet little balcony. Birdsong all day, stillness at night. The best bed I’ve slept in for years!

How lovely would it be to share this place … and yet I knew my need for solitude, for now. Visitors were going to come soon enough: three days later Annika was going to stay for a night, and the rest would reveal itself.

The sea is calling me. Soon I will respond.

Soundtrack of the day:

Robin Wall Kimmerer – “Braiding Sweetgrass” (audiobook)

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me
Erwin R. – “Leb’n” (album), “Anaseits” (album), “Host schon gheat?” (album)
Arstidir – “Hvel” (album), “Nivalis” (album)

Day 2: Metamorphosis

Monday, 14th June 2021

Part 1: Finding Stillness

Drowsily stretching in bed and checking my phone in the morning, I saw a caterpillar crawling towards the laptop. I looked away and back again: the tiny creature was gone without a trace. Surely you didn’t crawl through the ventilation slots, little one, did you?

After breakfast I visited Christoph and became best buddies with his adorable dog Tinkerbell. I asked if he had tools. Yes, Christoph has tools. He has all the tiny tools you need to open an old MacBook Pro Mid 2009, still alive and kickin’. I took off the ground plate, and there it was: the little caterpillar was resting comfortably on the SSD! Deciding that a laptop is not a good place for a caterpillar, I set it free. (Did I, though? Perhaps it was destined for metamorphosis there? My friend Niko later asked, “Maybe it actually wanted to join you on your travel?”)

Almost camouflaged caterpillar is almost camouflaged.

Christoph interviewed me for his podcast “Zukunftsweberei“, soon to be launched. It was my first time on a podcast, and I really enjoyed it. He asked excellent questions. I talked a lot, shared stories and thoughts, described my journey through physics, my time at CERN, the big changes in 2012, the transition towards Contemplative Science, and eventually the Mindful Researchers initiative. I was completely in my element. And then …

… I remembered stillness.

I cannot recall the details; perhaps it was triggered by sharing stories about my blessed encounters with Brother David Steindl-Rast in 2018 and 2019, perhaps it was amplified by Christoph’s presence. Yet as I remembered stillness, I too became still. The energy in our room shifted. We were suddenly finding ourselves in an intimate encounter with the Mystery. Ordinary ideas and “knowing” went to the background. What we exchanged from there onwards came from a different place, a different “knowing” that dwells behind the mirror of not-knowing.

Christoph, Tinkerbell and I bade each other farewell, and I returned for lunch with my aunt, my cousin Mareike and her son Julian, my nephew. I delighted in hearing about Mareike’s upcoming ventures with the Pioneers of Change and other ripening visions. Julian defeated me 10:7 in a fun garden soccer match. Then it was time to saddle my steelhorse and ride into the Northwest; 4 hours of driving were upon me.

Part 2: Crossing Borders

WHERE is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.

from “The Mistress of Vision” by Francis Thompson

A good hour into Bavaria, the highway customs police asked me to pull over, and we exited at the next parking opportunity. Two cops approached my door. I donned my mask, lowered the window, and we exchanged formal courtesies. I handed over my passport and papers.

“Are you nervous?”, the more talkative cop asked.

“Not too much. Why, are my hands shaking?” I looked at my hands.

“Yes indeed, sir. Have you ever taken drugs? Like cannabis?”

I thought for a moment. “It’s been a while … 2015, I think. Am I in trouble now?”

I’m sure the man grinned underneath his mask. “Not yet. Do you carry any weapons, drugs, or illegal substances with you now?”

“Of course not. Would you like to check the car?”

They wanted. I assisted where I could. The talkative cop had to go through ALL THE THINGS in the trunk. Meanwhile his colleague searched the front of my car, and I didn’t even notice. I kinda enjoyed speculating aloud about what might make a good secret cache, and empathetically denied the talkative cop’s speculation that a small flask filled with massage oil might contain k.o.-drops. That man did have humour!

“That instrument is hollow”, I said when he knocked on the uncovered RAV Vast and elicited some sounds. “It would actually make for an excellent cache, too!”

“How do you get all these ideas, sir?”, he asked. “Now you’re making me sooo curious.”

“I just have a vivid imagination”, I laughed. Perhaps I should offer my services to criminal investigation. If they ever need someone to give them ideas for how criminals might think, I’m a near inexhaustible source of creativity. On the other hand, I’d be a poor criminal myself, as the next minutes would reveal.

Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep …

from “The Mistress of Vision” by Francis Thompson

The talkative cop sent me to his colleage who asked me to empty my pockets on the engine hood. All fine. As I went back, the talkative cop held up a little flask. “And what’s this?”

“Oh! The CBD oil. I didn’t even remember packing it. But that’s not psychoactive, hence legal.” Cricket chirp. “Right?” Uncomfortable moments of silence. “Or is it illegal in Germany?”

“Here, read this.”

I confidently obliged. “THC <0.2%. Yes, but that’s far below being psychoactive. You’d have to swallow like a liter of that stuff.”

Guardian stag is watching (over) you.

I still didn’t see the problem, until he politely informed me that in Bavaria even the possession of such minimal amounts of THC was illegal. My feelings of unease increased.

Fortunately, the cops decided to let me pass and went on with their patrol. Perhaps my “case” would have meant tons of paperwork for actually nothing, and some other big fish out there was awaiting their dutiful inspection. With a sigh and a chuckle, I tossed the flask into a bin. Surprises on every corner! And a welcome break from the long drive.

Riding into a gorgeous sunset, I arrived in Windischeschenbach and checked into my Airbnb for that night. It wouldn’t take all too long until Morpheus embraced me under the watchful gaze of a plush stag.

Soundtrack of the Day

Day 1: Memories

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.)

Surely (almost) nobody is actually going to read this …

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.

All watched over by machine-rabbits of loving grass.

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.

Rorschach test: anyone else seeing a divine act of procreation here?

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.

“There it was!” (Despite my significant growth, the old room looks bigger today.)

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

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:

Who speaks for trees?

At the entrance to the cedar’s grove, the old tree pushed me backwards and knocked me over from the distance.


I paused in awe. Tears filled my eyes. I slowly surrendered. An eternity passed. I accepted that this was not my time to enter, that I had been too hasty and too preoccupied with my own thoughts and projections, that I hadn’t been listening to her. In this very moment she invited me to come closer.


My eyes beheld a golden leaf before me, reflecting the sunlight. I felt my body rise and walk, yet it was not I who rose and walked. I slowly followed the golden light into the grove, inwardly reciting the ancient poem “The Mistress of Vision“. Half way towards her, I waited and listened to the mosquitoes humming “no, no, no” until their song changed.


I asked to approach her. Will you allow me to receive you? I came closer. She accepted in silence. I sank to the ground before her, filled with awe.

Rise. Feel your roots.

I rose up to stand tall before her, stretching out my hands to become a tree like her. My feet were rooted firmly, yet gently, on the ground.

Rise up, stand tall. If you do not rise, I will fall.

I wept. What can I, a single human, possibly do to change this course? I wept for her, for all of her kind, for all of our kind … for all beings.

Speak. You must speak up.

I promised her, in some kind of language that I could not understand. Enthralled by the mosquitoes not biting me, not even attempting to, she taught me again to ask. I asked the mosquitoes to refrain from sucking my blood unless their lives depended on it, for then I would willingly give it to them. They spared me, humming. I knelt down again.

Enter me. Come inside me.

I closed my eyes, weeping again in gratitude – how much you trust me! – me, a man who was only learning how to listen, and yet a man who was willing to surrender to just that. I dared not enter her fully, yet I sensed a budding glimpse of our spiritual union.

Feel me.

I reached out my hands, very slowly, listening to who it really was that spoke. Trusting, I placed one hand on her leg, or was it her hand? I touched her. I gently placed my other hand on her. I feel you! I was learning how to feel her. You are alive!

Remember. Remember my brothers and sisters.

I rose up and looked around me. With new eyes I saw their sentience, I saw her brothers and sisters whom she was lending her voice. Yes, I will speak up for you all. I will honor you. I felt complete and began to leave.


I stumbled and fell backwards again. She wasn’t done with me yet.

Remember my brothers and sisters. You are among them, too.

I saw a yellow leaf resting on the trunk of a tree before me. Are you mine to pick up? I asked permission. I held the leaf up high, and suddenly three other leaves were falling around me. Clearly, the one that landed before my feet was mine to bring back. I carefully placed that first one back on its trunk and picked up mine. Finally I left the grove, focusing on my steps, filled with a knowing that I did not need to look back.

Don’t look back, remember. Remember us.

— based on a journal entry on Monday, 22nd June 2019 @ Seattle, Washington, USA.

The Meaning of Ithaca

We are all on journeys – the journey of life, and its many quests that lead to new worlds in space and time. Once again I am back home on the road. A friend of mine sent me this amazing poem:

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,
pray that your journey may be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes,
and of furious Poseidon, do not be afraid,
for such on your journey you shall never meet
if your thought remain lofty, if a select
emotion imbue your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes
and furious Poseidon you will never meet
unless you drag them with you in your soul,
unless your soul raises them up before you.
Pray that your journey may be long,
that many may those summer mornings be
when with what pleasure, what untold delight
you enter harbors you’ve not seen before;
that you stop at Phoenician market places
to procure the goodly merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and voluptuous perfumes of every kind,
as lavish an amount of voluptuous perfumes as you can;
that you venture on to many Egyptian cities
to learn and yet again to learn from the sages.
But you must always keep Ithaca in mind.
The arrival there is your predestination.
Yet do not by any means hasten your voyage.
Let it best endure for many years,
until grown old at length you anchor at your island
rich with all you have acquired on the way.
You never hoped that Ithaca would give you riches.
Ithaca has given you the lovely voyage.
Without her you would not have ventured on the way.
She has nothing more to give you now.
Poor though you may find her, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Now that you have become so wise, so full of experience,
you will have understood the meaning of an Ithaca.

Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy

When I read this poem I felt inspired. Yet when I recited it to two friends on Sunday, I got completely overwhelmed, and my voice cracked numerous times, and I cried passionate tears of unknown origin in the middle of the restaurant in the heart of Berlin. Something is happening, shifting, finding its way to express itself through me, while Ithaca guides me on my path and inspires my every footstep, breath and heartbeat. May it inspire you as well!