A long gap between my last post and this, reason being I have been travelling the length and breadth of the Himalayas for a new book I am writing...and it has been incredible. I don't always start a trip with a good vibe, often I am wary and full of foreboding, which all goes the minute you get on the plane. This time was no different, and yet by pure luck and happenstance I've managed to do far more than I anticipated- from trekking the Kuari Pass at the foot of Nanda Devi to meeting former headhunters in Nagaland to crossing into Burma to drinking tea in the Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong (former residents Alastair Crowley and Alexandra David Neele) to walking over the 5000 metre Goeche La Pilgrimage in Sikkim to where I am now- at the Tawang Monastery 3000 metres up and about 30km from Tibet. Enough shameless boasting; I am soon going back to Cairo so what I have gleaned? Many things, which I shall unpack over the next several months; for now I am revelling in what I call the 'travel grinder'. Over time you get ground smoother by travel, your prejudices and ideas seem more like mere thoery and puffery, you get to living without 'having a view'. you naturally have to exercise intuition and best of all you have to start learning again- or else the grinder will get you but not in a nice way. Crammed into shared Sumo taxis going down atrocious roads you see how much you can strip away that you thought was 'you', was essential if not assumed. It's a lot about getting rid of baggage, seeing yourself in unfamiliar situations or reflected in your default reactions, the grinder wears it all away. Not over yet so luck still required, but if ever I needed reminding that solo adventure travel renews and reorients this last 2 1/2 months has proved it.
What's your next adventure?
As Idries Shah wrote in The Sufis, 'the average person thinks in patterns'. Different cultures have different patterns, travel between cultures and the patterns begin to emerge. Whenever we react without taking a step back, whenever we attempt to think sequentially or !in the correct way' we are usually thinking in some age old pattern, or even a new one. Such patterns reflect no doubt well worn circuits in the brain, rat runs of thought worn in through repetition and rewards, social and material. But the real thing is to evade these thought rails and live intuitively.
We know that 'masters, such as aikido masters and wine experts use fewer brain cells to perform similar tasks over time. This frees up neural space for greater and greater appreciations of subtlety. At some point a mysterious flipping point is reached when they suddenly 'know' what to do without having to reason it out. You might argue that the patterns have simply become so internalised they aren't noticed anymore, but I think tHat is a side point. As a writer I know the feeling of using my intuition rather than logic as a guide, but it only came after many years of grafting away and relying on rules and reasonable procedures. The point comes when you decide to trust your intuition. It's really as simple as that. Faced by having to navigate a canoe down powerful Rapids I had no time to dither. Instant decisions were required and I was certainly no master of paddling. But I found that necessity forced me to trust myself and the river was descended safely.
Greed, distraction, fear, expectation, all these things cripple intuition. Necessity, meaning situations where only intuition works (and not mere guesswork) is not so easy to engineer in routine life. Get out of the routine then, but also start running less important areas of your life on intuition. Get used to feeling a strange reluctance to do certain things, which can only be sharpened by spending some time doing stuff you hate and comparing strange reluctance with laziness. Often there is no warning bell, just a clean transparent feeling that one course of action is Mildly better Than another. But in the end you have to trust.
Trust your intuition, it's as simple as that. I find it's useful to lose the idea that intuition delivers 'hole in one' results, spot on every time. Well we don't live in a perfect world. Broadbrush success is all you should need or expect. But play enough good golf and you can expect the odd hole in one, a byproduct rather than an aim of the enterprise.
Joe Vermillion was a Chipewyan Indian I met on the Peace River about twelve years ago. I was engaged, then, in the seemingly impossible task of paddling against the 8mph current of that river- which was over a 1000 miles long. Joe said we could do it, but we had to be sly with the river. We had to use the back channels, the places near the bank where the current was slack, the reverse currents you get behind obstructions; we had to tow the boat when the bank was clear, we had to sail when there was a good tailwind. If we tried to tough it out, battle headlong into the current like heroes we’d last about a week. I saw that when I started. We had to be sly with the river.
I was thinking today it is the best advice for any adventure. And maybe for life, especially for long drawn out and difficult tasks. Use every advantage, every place where the current reverses for whatever reason. Even when things are against you, when you’re battling against everything you can make progress, bit by bit, looking for the easiest route, the openings. You have to be sly with the river.
What we object to in a thing may simply be its unavoidable yang or yin elements. Nothing can be 100% one thing or the other. And for yang and yin read 'outgoing' or 'inward looking' if it makes more sense to you.