Yin Yankee

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“The artless art is the art of the soul at peace, like moonlight mirrored in a deep lake.  The ultimate aim of the artist is to use his daily activity to become a past matter of life, and so lay hold of the art of living.  Masters in all branches of art must first be masters of living, for the soul creates everything.” – Bruce Lee

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I started get skinny to the point of looking at my gums in the reflection of my tablet to see if I had any pocketing.  Gross, I know.  It’s time to get some nutrients.  (Don’t worry, I am a hypochondriac.  While working at a local school to give kids checkups, I took a blood test and my iron levels are fine.)

I didn’t start to look in the mirror until I started working more—before I had the luxury of considering my diet diversity.  Before I was just happy with food.  This was usually a tub of yogurt, bag of granola, bunch of bananas, and a loaf of bread.  Nutrients beyond this would be from the cheap taco restaurant around the corner and in shift meals at work.  Having a pretty girl take me out to dinner is nice, but makes me feel like a bum. (Mario knows what I’m talking about.)

I’ve discovered two (2) (II) (dos) (zwei) (二) ways to get by in life and I alternate between them.  I would bet that most people do this many times throughout their lifetimes.  Some do it only once and call it “retirement”.

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The first way to get by in life is to work, and keep working, and early in the morning work some more, and at the end of the week work, and sometimes late at night work, and on the weekend work, and into the next week work, and work all week.  Eventually you develop a type of endurance to the discomfort and you can just work non-stop for weeks, months, and your body starts to crave the routine.  It’s not that your mind becomes numb, but it’s working so efficiently that there’s no time for refined thoughts.

I enjoy the ability to buy pizza whenever I want and have money saved up for travel and new clothes and my own transportation.  I enjoy buying the good food at the good grocery stores and not having to worry about things like malnutrition.  The funny thing about advertising is that it has no affect on those that can’t afford the product.  As soon as I started working like crazy and had money to spend, I needed all kinds of things.

The efficient mind part is what I have a problem with.  Fog. Fatigue.  A new form of self-pity arises after working your 14th day straight.  Part of the resistance is knowing that I’m letting go of my mind a bit.  Knowing that I’m not going to be as analytically sharp or aware.  It’s just one of the give and take parts of survival, I guess.  Like how living in society is easy, but also voluntary slavery.  I say voluntary, because the idea that the “world” is trying to make us into this or that is only our own innate tendency to regard other’s “judgement”.  In reality, it’s only us judging ourselves.

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The second way to get by in life is to work as little as possible and have oodles of free time for reading, exercise, art, observing, and thinking.  This of course gets abused and turns into “laziness” [from Proto-Indo-European *las- (“weak”)].  Goals are pushed aside for other goals and the whole schedule dissolves.  Life is grand for a couple of months until you realize that it’s not a self-sustaining system.  You realize that more fuel has to be pumped in from the outside.  Only pets who have genetically evolved to domesticate humans can get by with only “working” an hour a day.  

After the first 5 or 6 weeks of not working, my mind becomes “fully awake.”  The less monotonous, tedious, demeaning tasks you do to make other people money, the more you are connected mentally with the life-force-thing that flows through your veins, makes plants grow, and is in the sun and water and the wind.  The more you curiously and freely wander the earth, the more you feel your connection to everything.  You have the time and patience to watch the world.  And it’s both interesting and entertaining.

But, there’s a but.  The thing that allows you this freedom from worry and time to soak in 100% of your surroundings (which change constantly if you are traveling) is a pile of money.  The size of the pile determines the duration and luxury.  I find there is more to see at the ground level, so I don’t even bother with the luxury part.  But, when the pile is low, you can choose two routes.  You can figure out a way to start making money on the road or you can go back to your original source of income.  Both options involve surrendering large portions of your mental faculties and significant amounts of time.

Since time moves at a constant rate, there do not appear to be any shortcuts.  The best thing I’ve found is to figure out how to enjoy the run-ragged work part.  It has it’s perks.  Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of them.  Just don’t stay in the fog too long.  It’s just anxiety vs. sadness.  Anxiety when I’m running out of money.  Sadness when I have to temporarily say bye to my mind, my hobbies, and myself.

But, there’s another but!  There’s this thing called presence.  Sounds spooky, right?  It is a common theme that has been rediscovered by many influential people throughout history and it can be taught, but like anything, only to willing students.  It has a myriad of other names too, all equally bashed by skeptics who don’t experiment a whole lot throughout their 75 years on this planet.  “Awareness”, “awake”, and “grounded” are a few.

Basically, all you do is stop every now and then to ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?  Is there anything bothering me?”  This looking inward somehow makes everything outward more clear.  The same thing happens when you leave town for a long-over-due weekend to go camping.  It’s like stopping to clean the glasses of life.  This is my newest experiment.  Supposedly it’s a game changer.  As Boots says, “I’ll give it the old college try.”

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When you get a key made in Central America, the key maker doesn’t hit it with a brush machine to clean up the edges.  It’s obvious that it’s just a jagged piece of metal.  It’s not some magical object that opens locks.  

When you buy a machete, they grab a flat bar of metal, grind off one corner and wrap the other with duct tape or rubber.  A knife isn’t something that can only be made by a knife maker.  It’s a piece of metal that’s filed thin on one end.  A shotgun is an oversized metal tube with a loading/firing handle.  When you go to Little Caesar’s or the post office, or the grocery store, there are guards with sawed-off shot guns.  They smile back and you realize the shotgun is a cheap tool, about as easy to construct as a coffee maker.

It is infinitely more clear what objects really are when you are not living in a polished consumer society.  

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“The way to transcend karma lies in the proper use of the mind and the will. The one-ness of all life is a truth that can be fully realized only when false notions of a separate self, whose destiny can be considered apart from the whole, are forever annihilated”  – Bruce Lee

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“It’s very strange when we arbitrarily decide on one drug.  Regardless of its impact on people’s health and wellbeing and crimes committed under the influence of it.  Which is one of the most devastating ones.  Alcohol.  And we make that our primary drug.  And we just decide.  You’re dealing with a sophisticated and intelligent civilization.  You’re dealing with people who have previously impossible levels of access to information.  In the face of all this overwhelming evidence, you’re choosing to put people in cages for plants.  That’s unconscionable.” – Joe Rogan

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Chairs with back rests just aren’t good for your body / health.  I’ve been thinking about this for about two years and this is my conclusion.  Your body has built in muscles that give you posture.  These muscles, like the heart do not get tired, if you use them.  If you remove their need to work (using a back rest) then, like giving money to a bum, you only make them weaker.  You have a choice.  You can keep your ability to support your own body (i.e. sit up) or you can throw it away like bone density by using a mattress.  I’ll save the mattress for another article.

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When Joe Rogan asked Jay Leno what caused the end of the era of Italian mob-run clubs and casinos, he said this:  “Corporations are meaner and nastier and tougher than the mob.  At least with the mob you got a free drink every now and then.  Once the corporations came in, that was the end of that.”

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Most love songs (unlike The Distance by Cake) rationalize the sickness that humans develop through interaction with other sick humans. I’m talking about not taking responsibility for your own emotions and not admitting what is reality.

“I realize all the uncountable manifestations the thinking-mind invents to place a wall of horror before its pure perfect realization that there is no wall and no horror, just Transcendental Empty Kissable Milk Light of Everlasting Eternity’s true and perfectly empty nature.” Jack Kerouac, Tristessa

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Something I’ve learned recently is that you can look at everything in two lights.  Like the idea of Yin and Yang.  Here’s a story by Alan Watts explaining the concept:

The Farmer’s Horse

  • There is a story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “May be.” The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “May be.”
    And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “May be.”
    The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”

The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting. This is the Good of good-and-bad.

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The greatest fear or all is fear of the unknown.  That’s why traveling to foreign countries is so terrifying and interesting.  Why do you think death haunts us all?  Why do you think religion has been such an important part of our history?  If we knew death was only temporary or a transition, it wouldn’t be so damn scary.  But we don’t know.  Death is very useful to us because I think you can link it as motivation to everything we do in life.  It’s a good example of the duality of all things.

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“Put aside your notions of how people are and the world will surprise you with it’s grace.” – Arielle 5 to 7

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More reasons to go to Guatemala

Here are some reasons to visit Guatemala.

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Go to an art school

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with a view

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and connected to the state of Georgia.

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Start with the basics

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and learn how to do this

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or learn to bake a delicious cake

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or paint madness.

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They have carpentry classes, if you are looking for something more practical.

DSC_0024Here’s a reason for Mama to visit.

DSC_0160You can rent a room in a cozy house
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for $100 / month

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in a nice neighborhood.

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You can visit weird stores

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and impressive parks

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or chill in the woods

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just don’t forget to smell the flowers. 

What else do you want to learn about?

Ask in the comments!

How to Expat: Five Cheap and Easy Meals

If you have any subjects you are curious about, feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I will write articles on those topics.

[An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).] – wikipedia

When you get to Antigua (or any developing country) everything seems really cheap.  It takes a while to understand the new currency’s buying power.  A hamburger for 60 Quetzals = $7.82 doesn’t seem like much until you learn that a day’s work gets you about 120Q.  So working all day will yield you breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What about rent, clothes, entertainment, future travel?  There must be a way…

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A banana plant in my back yard gave birth.  One of the perks of living in Central America.

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With no idea of what to do with 100 pounds of bananas, I broke them into “hands” and scattered them around the house.  Are there any banana experts out there???  If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments. 

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The day before I was going to go to the ATM, I lost my wallet.  With only 120Q to last me until payday (6 days away), I had to come up with a plan.  Everyone knows that crisis leads to innovation.  The most content times of my life have been when I was broke.  I guess it’s the lack of options that makes everything so crystal clear.

DSC_0021One of a hundred stands at the mercado.

DSC_0354Broccoli, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and a papaya for 8.5Q = $1.10

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Cooking for Americans

It can be hard to resist that strange cafe on the corner.  Sometimes you just want a taste of home.  It’s always a good time for ____________.  We need to manage these external cravings if we want live sustainably.  Antigua, being perhaps the most densely cosmopolitan city in Central America, has no shortage of new restaurants and bars to explore.  Most restaurants are priced for short-term travelers.  If you start out making local wages have to either eat at budget restaurants or cook.

Here are some simple cooking methods for Americans and other newly adventurous people.  If this sounds sarcastic, it’s only by design.

I don’t know about you, but the only things I knew how to cook by the time I got to college was a quesadilla and scrambled eggs.  None of my friends knew how to cook growing up either, so I’m going to assume most young Americans don’t grow up knowing how to cook anything more complicated than ramen noodles.  And no, following a recipe doesn’t count.

In my Santa Rosa, Honduras post I showed how easy it is to roast chicken and veggies.  (It’s located about half-way down the post.)

Instead of translating symbols into arm movements (i.e. sit, roll over, add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, etc.), I hope you learn how to use your tastebuds and sense of smell to create something that is enjoyable to eat.

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1. Rice and Veggies (For ease of learning, no meat is added.)

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Beets or “remolachas” always turn everything magenta!  I am a believer in color diversity in your diet.

Step 1: Buy rice and colorful veggies.

RICE

Step 2: Boil water.  (Use between 2 and 3 times the amount of rice.  I recommend 1-1/4 cups.)

Step 3: Turn down the heat and add rice. (Use between 1/2 and 1/3 the amount of water.  I recommend a 1/2 cup.)  It will be nummy in 10-15 minutes.

VEGGIES

Step 4: Cut the colorful veggies into bitesize pieces.

Step 5: Add veggies and spices that smell tasty to a hot pan with some oil. (If you’re not sure how much, add a little and taste test)

***Note: Don’t over cook anything.  My friend John McLeod gave me some priceless cooking advice:  “Be there.”  If you want to burn something, go watch TV or leave the kitchen for a while.  If you feel overwhelmed, don’t do so many things at once.  It’s better to have cold, well prepared food than hot, burnt food.***

  • When you’re not sure about something: grow some balls, use your common sense, and experiment.

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2. Veggie Pasta & White Gravy (The same veggies are used for simplicity and can be substituted.)

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This gravy is also good for American biscuits, home fries, or just to bring to the gym in a thermos.

PASTA

Step 1: Boil a bunch of water and add whatever shape of pasta makes you smile (follow bag instructions or cook until it tastes good).

VEGGIES

Step 2: In another pot, boil chopped veggies (Cut into bite size pieces.  Here’s a Gordon Ramsey onion demo.  Remember a cube has three dimensions which you can control.)

SAUCE

Step 3: In a small pan, heat a type of fat (butter, oil, chicken fat, etc.) and add some flour and stir.  (Roux is the base of many sauces. To learn more, check out the 5 Mother Sauces.)

Step 4: Add spices that smell good.

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3. Spicy Chocolate Sauce (This Mexican-style Chocolate Mole is incredible with chicken and rice!)

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It’s ok to be afraid ’cause it’s new. Now that you’ve faced and overcome that fear, let’s talk about the sauce.  Instead of a sweet dessert, this sauce has a seductive richness and zesty spice that will blow your mind.

Steps 1, 2, and 3: Cook/season your vegetables first and add chocolate when it’s almost done.

***To season, I like cayenne, black pepper, salt, and cumin  Experiment: nutmeg, mint, and rosemary are good options as well.  The last time I made it, I used a can of peppers with a medium spice.  When it was nice and hot, I added raw cocoa powder.  It’s just like making chocolate milk, only completely different!

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4. Yogurt Granola Fruit (Cheapest and quickest option.  Great anytime!)

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Yogurt & granola with strawberry/blueberry preserves and banana bread

Step 1: Chop some cheap fruit. (Whatever is in season is going to be the cheapest and most delicious option)

Step 2: Add granola and plain yogurt. (Find the yogurt with the shortest list of ingredients)

Step 3: Add a spoonful of fruit preserves/jam and a spoonful of peanut butter. (Macadamia butter is cheaper here in Antigua.)

Step 4: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey

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5. World’s Best Oatmeal

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No photo would do this oatmeal justice, so here’s a badass chalkboard chicken instead.

Step 1: Put half a banana, a dash of vanilla extract/flavoring, and a couple spoonfuls of hot coffee in a cup. Smash with a fork and let sit for a couple of minutes. (Coffee breaks down the banana and extracts its flavor.  The mixture should be a light tan color.)

Step 2: Boil 1 cup of water and add a small handful of raisins.  Add the banana/coffee sauce.

Step 3: Prep a bowl with a small spoon full of butter at the bottom.  (Butter makes everything better!)

Step 4: Add a heaping 1/2 cup of oatmeal.  Reduce heat.  Stir constantly.

Step 5: Once oatmeal is reduced to desired thickness, pour it in the bowl.

Step 6: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey.  Stir and enjoy.

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~ ~ WHAT DO WANT TO LEARN ABOUT NEXT?  ASK ME IN THE COMMENTS ~ ~

Getting Busy Living


You get settled in a new town.  You find the value grocery store, the best street food, the quality restaurants with local prices.

Then life becomes routine.  Life goes back to the way it was at the last town.  People get to know you, so you can’t play the mysterious character anymore.  Life gets boring…if you let it.

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My aura changed when I got to Antigua.  I really dig the town, but I got out of whack and a heavy darkness has been draining out of me.  Picture walking out of a dry sauna into the snowy outdoors.  Steaming bad vibes, visible to everyone around me.  Guys relate and open up because they know we all go there from time to time.  Chicks see it and take cover.  It’s just not safe.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with.  The transition is like being the life of the party and then you go to the bathroom and everyone discovers something terrible about you.  You come back and everyone’s just staring at you.  At a party, one of your friends would take you aside and tell you what happened.  In a new town you have to try to figure it out without any clues.  You start putting the pieces together like a detective in a suspense movie.  Then it clicks.

I’ve been a miserable four-letter word for the past couple weeks.  It doesn’t matter how a bad habit is formed.  What’s important is doing what it takes to break it.  I usually start squirming and trying things until something works.  The first thing that got me out of my funk was boxing lessons.

Boxing helps release trapped energy.  It also forces my body to adjust.  I don’t crave sugar as much.  I crave more vegetables, which are the cheapest (and healthiest) food you can buy.  I’m starting to look better and feel better.  I’m doing something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid.  I’m also learning to become dominant in daunting situations.  Life will always try to push us around.   It feels really good to push back.

Being content with myself helps me to be content with others.  My boxing teacher, Hannes, is a grumpy over-analyzer like myself.  We have a little support group going on.  He’s conquering his fears and taking control of his life, too.  He is kind of a scary guy with a “wolf smile”.  He’s intense and doesn’t put up with non-sense.  To lighten up a bit he’s taking Zumba classes with a bunch of Guatemalteca chicas at the gym where we box.  We did the painting thing the other day and will be hanging out for sure.

Oba is in town with the Dubes as well.  Mathew McConaughey said in an interview that you gotta have your guy friends to live a healthy life.  I believe it.  Going solo is inefficient.  Friends back at home are irreplaceable, but the energy has to travel many miles.

DSC_0154Riding with Hannes to the Macadamia farm to paint

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Guatemalan landscapes are much better viewed from a dirtbike

“You can’t teach soul.” -Mario Loor

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The short patter of footsteps on my roof always entertains me.  It is probably the cat, but pretending it’s a Guatemalan rat living in the ceiling is also funny.  This room is laughable at best. That’s exactly how I’m going to enjoy it.  I can’t quite touch the opposite walls at the same time, but it’s close.  It must have been a storage closet, but the yellow walls, narrow rafters and street lamp give it charm.  I’m just going to fill it up with art.

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The rug really ties the room together.

You can’t let life get boring it.  The same courage it took to buy the plane ticket is the same courage it took to get that tattoo.  Courage is courage.  Fear keeps you on your familiar grocery list – on the streets you know – listening to the same music.  “But I know what I like,” you say.  

Tastes change.  If we aren’t trying things, we end up stuck with things we don’t like anymore.

It’s up to us to ask what we really want.  That’s easy.  When the door opens, we have to walk through.  That’s hard.

We tend to schedule away our time long before it gets here.

I get stuck in a grind anywhere I go.  I start to hesitate, mumble, lose ground.  Put me on a chicken bus to a place I’ve never been and I’m speaking with confidence in broken Spanish.  When you feel butterflies in your stomach, that’s the feeling of gaining strength.  You are about to grow.

This blog serves as a thermometer to read how I am doing in life.  The last two posts were negative.  I try to keep it honest and not hide one side of my experience.  I knew I was not healthy and so I asked myself what can I do to turn this around?

This is what I came up with:

  • Work less (which meant spend less time/money chasing things that don’t matter)
  • Treat my body better (boxing lessons have already found me)
  • Develop the big picture part of my brain (the artist painting the coffee shop gives lessons)
  • Move to the music of life (after boxing there is a Zumba dance class – trying to hang with latinos is intense!)
  • Better my communication (I’m waiting for the Spanish school “door” to appear)

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Andy (local artist) teaching me about depth and light/shade

DSC_0013 Andy also told me to learn a human face, practice drawing animals.  I feel like a proud 12 year old girl!  Can we hang it on the fridge?!?!


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The only thing more hilarious than my room is my bathroom.  The shower curtain always wrapped me up like a 70’s horror movie, so now I just squeegie the floor with my foot afterwards.  Occam’s Razor: The simplest solution is often the best.


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Space is limited in the city.  You gotta adapt and find a way to enjoy what you got.

Estoy Exhausto

Estoy Exhausto (I’m Exhausted)

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My mind feels foggy.  At this moment I am dumb from being tired.  I remember this feeling well from my days at the office.  In the field (when I would drive around New York and go up to rooftops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx) I would always feel refreshed.  But I was targeted for upper management, so 95% of my life was to take place in the office.

I mean this is sad.  It’s 8:28PM and it feels like 1:28AM.  It’s a combination of emotions from working the past 3 days and not getting paid enough to survive.  I kept good records of my cash flow for the past 6 days and I spent 707 quetzals and only made 649 quetzals.  This doesn’t include the 125Q/week for rent either.  This is me being pretty careful, buying groceries, and only going out twice a week for drinks in a party town.  I am going out tonight though to clear my head.  Tomorrow I will talk to the owner about these silly wages and the ridiculous schedule.

The company is supposed to be all about helping the little guy, why don’t they pay their employees enough to survive on? I’m not yet sold on the company mission to help struggling farmers.  Some workers may be illiterate, but the farm owners aren’t stupid.  Charity is the most demeaning and suppressing force for those with low standards.  The worst thing you can do to a bum on the street is give money.  Unless your goal is for them to remain a bum.  There are some that are mentally sick, and that sucks.  Sick people either get better or die.  Death is part of life.  I told my roommates last night if they want to keep seeing animals (in this case roaches) in the kitchen, keep leaving food in the sink.  Maybe I’m being too much of an idealist.

Eating a bowl of refried beans mixed with chips and chopped veggies is starting to make my head come around.  I think it’s the bullshit and boredom of a job that drains you more than anything.  An honest day’s labor feels pretty damn good at the end of the day.  A job that you have to try to distract your mind all day makes you feel wretched because you are constantly having to lie to yourself to stay there.

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The reason pickup-artist books don’t work is they don’t derive off of a true confidence.  They create an illusion that is easily broken.  Without real integrity in what you’re selling, you may trick a customer every now and then, but they will soon catch on.  Right now I am very unstable with supporting myself.  This can only create an attraction between another person who is in-between food sources, so to speak.  

This could be me making excuses, but the truth is that I find it difficult to exude confidence when I haven’t even reached the lowest levels of survival.  My attention has been on securing a food source and shelter, not a social circle.  Or if you look at Spirit, Body, Mind, Social, by not having a good food source, one or more of these will be out of whack.  

I could steal and kill for food, and while that may generate an amazing level of confidence, I would have such inner turmoil with values and morals that I’m not sure what would happen.  Maybe like in the movie Natural Born Killers I’d get total peace of mind.  Maybe I’d just become psychotic and bizarre.  Anyway, the point is, if you want to have confidence with picking up a partner, you first have to have confidence.  Confidence in life.  Confidence that you are taking good care of yourself.  That’s what the whole looking good thing is all about.  Trimmed fingernails and well groomed hair are signs that a person is so good at survival that they actually have transcended to a level of self-pampering.  This is the basic idea behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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It’s so sad that we take pride in how hard we can work.  How long and miserable can we grind out for someone else.  How much shit can we eat to build someone else’s dream.  If you are not a business owner, you are suffering as cheaply and as long as the owner can possibly get from you without you leaving.  That’s economics.  Your life is a quantifiable resources.  How much is your life worth?  Exactly how much you are getting paid.  I am talking with my boss tomorrow to tell him that I have an offer if he wants me to stay there.  He will pay me twice what he is paying me and I am going to work half as much.  If he can do this, I will stay.  If he can’t, then I’ll go get a job that allows me to have a life.  Jobs should be treated as freelance, because they are.

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Text from Jiddu Krishnamurti:

—===[[[   So the controller is the result of thought, thought based upon knowledge, which represents the past. And that thought says, ‘I must control that which is happening now’ – right? The actual. The actual is being, say for example, envy or jealousy, which you all know. And thought says, ‘I must control. I must analyse. I must suppress it, or fulfil it’. So there is a division – right? – the division created by thought. Are you following? So in this there is deception. Right? The deception lies in the idea that the controller is different from that which is to be controlled. Both are created by thought. Right? So the controller is the controlled. I wonder if you see this. Right? So if you really understand this, go into this very seriously for yourself, you will see that the controller is unnecessary, only observation is necessary. You understand? When you observe, there is no controller or the controlled, just observing. Observing your envy, say for example, envy, observe it, without naming it, without denying it or accepting it, just to see, the sensation, this reaction, which arises, which has been called envy, and to look at it without the word. You are following all this?

Then when there is no word, because the word represents the past – you are following all this? – and when you use the word ‘envy’ it strengthens the past. Right? So there is a possibility of living without any sense of control. I am saying this not as a theory but actually. The speaker says what he has done, not what he invents, that there is a life without any sense of control and therefore no sense of conflict, no sense of division. That can only come into being when there is only pure observation. Got it? Do it and you will see. Do it! Test it out.  

We are only examining what is actually taking place. And to observe what is actually taking place one must look, without the response of the past shaping it. From that pure observation there is action. That is intelligence. And that is also the extraordinary thing called love and compassion.   ]]]===—

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little tiny gummy bears.  Osititos! in spanish.  I will often toss a little balloon of these drugs on the bar and offer them to strangers

In developed societies, we have this strange idea that we can reach our potential by working more and working harder.  The human mind is like a muscle that requires rest.  Young athletes get into trouble often because they dont believe they need rest.  After giving in to their coaches wisdom, they realize the immense benefit of recovery.

Once a person takes a few days off from work, they feel more accomplished than the previous 6 months of constant grinding.  Doesn’t that seem the opposite of what we are taught?  If you observe the emotion associated with feeling accomplished, it is clarity, larger perspective, connectedness.  These could also be used to describe the state of mind after a good rest.  Instead of feeling this once after finishing an 8 month project or completing a certification, this feeling could occur almost on a daily basis.  Being overly-diligent is just putting this feeling on hold.DSC_0307

Once you do accomplish a great feat, how long does that feeling last?  Sure, you can always look back with pride at how you used to feel and try to renew this feeling by sharing the accomplishment with others, but that is living in the past.  It will never feel that good again.  Former world champions feel like former world champions.  The search for pleasant emotions remains a part of your daily routine.

At the moment I am employed at a job that takes all of my time and doesn’t pay enough to support my lifestyle.  I forced this situation against the natural flow of things (I turned down several other job offers), because I wanted to do what I love (coffee) for my job.  Confucius said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I now think: do what you love for work, and you will no longer love doing it.

My uncle warned me about this.  His passion used to be skydiving.  Then he became an instructor and it completely ruined it for him.  I go to coffee shops to clear my mind.  Working at a coffee shop all day long, all week long clouds my mind.  Worst of all, when I go to a coffee shop, I just think about the process.

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Israelis are actually pretty cool

Let’s face it, if there is any culture more hated more in hostels than Americans, it’s Israelis.  They travel in packs, rarely branch out to meet other nationalities, and speak the disgusting language that is hhhhhhhhhhhhhHebrew (read as if you are hacking a loogie).  My fear and loathing of the strange culture was compounded after living in Key West, where 300+ t-shirt stores are constantly yelling fake bargains at you with an Israeli accent.

So what is wrong with these strange animals?

There is a hostel in Antigua that is known as ‘the Israeli hostel’.  95-100% of the guests are from Israel.  Spanish is not widely known and some don’t even know English (see, there’s my U.S. arrogance).  It is as if they travel the world in the comfort of their home, completely missing the potential experience around them.

Every now and then you can find a Israeli loner.  One who avoids the pack because he/she wants to see what Earth is like.  That person doesn’t need a support group to order lunch.  If you are lucky enough to befriend one of these explorers, you will learn a lot.  You will also break formed stereotypes of their root culture.  It’s like digging through a dozen books on a subject and finally finding one that is readable.

Dor is one of these Israeli loners.  When I took 8 Israelis up the volcano, Dor left the comfort of his native language to occasionally talk to me about photography, coffee, and travel.  He designs/builds ornate sets for plays and television shows.  He also sells his photography and sells things on Ebay.  About the same age as me, he is doing well enough to order a new $800 camera, without batting an eye, after his lens broke.  A drunk German guy asked Dor, “So are you Jewish or Muslim?”  Dor said, “I’m vegetarian.”

This is how I got my insight into the Israeli culture.  I would run into him around the city and at party hostels and bars.  On his last night, he invited me to have a beer at the Israeli hostel.  At this point, I was totally wasted from hitting a joint too many times (I have a mega-weak tolerance for weed) next door.  I can’t carry on a conversation when I’m really high.  I observed instead.  

Although I didn’t understand the dialogue, like watching a foreign film with no subtitles, there mannerisms were without aggression, totally relaxed.  They shared everything from drinks to cigarettes to blow.  The bar in the hostel looked like one in a luxury hotel.  There was a nice deli/coffee shop downstairs.  Everything was so spread out and clean that I did not feel like I was in Central America.  I felt like I was back in the States or Scandinavia.  There was even a hot tub.  No wonder they never leave.  It’s insanely comfortable here.

They just all took care of each other.  When the security guard told us it was closing time, there wasn’t a big fuss from drunks like last call at a bar.  They all got up at once, efficiently cleaned the party lounge and headed for the door, maintaining their conversations as if nothing changed.  I saw a respect for one another that made me envious.

Later that night I asked Dor about the money stereotype.  He explained with his permanent smile that they don’t value money very much.  According to him, Israelis would rather give you food, clothing, shelter, information, and any other form of hospitality before money.  He explained how money just doesn’t mean that much and it is used as a last resort.  

Now this could be a very convenient and overly-abused excuse, but it makes sense.  It could be one of the deep gorges that separates it from other cultures and causes a great deal of confusion.

Another nut I’ve been trying to crack is Indian (the country) child rearing.  Working at a mostly vegetarian restaurant, I got to see lots of Indian children running wild and shouting at their parents, who unfazed, maintained polite conversation in an otherwise peaceful restaurant.  Although I have not immersed myself in Indian culture yet, I theorize that they are simply letting their children be children.  I bet they look at us with the same horrified curiosity when we shout at our children.

I believe that all cultural stereotypes have logical explanations once you have all of the information.  Standing afar full of fear is how the game is usually played.  Let’s hope the internet and an increase in world travel will shed light on the fact that we all have the same brain anatomy, the same psychology, and good reasons for doing the things that we do.  We will also realize that all human beings desire the same end: to feel good.

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“It’s either real or in a dream

There’s nothing that is in between”

-Jeff Lynne

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“Psychologists found that something like 98% of our thought processes are completely repetitive…Realize that it is possible to be conscious without thought…the identification with thought is like dreaming…One could say that the next step in human evolution is to rise above thought…Up till now, humans have been totally identified with thought.”

-Eckhart Tolle

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The boss dropped my schedule down to 3 days, but said they are too new (only been a company for 3 months) to give pay raises.  I said ok, because I do enjoy making and learning about coffee.  I also have time now for a bar job or volcano tour guide, which both make 2 or 3 times as much.  So I’ll have a job for each of my bi-polar personalities.

What did I learn?  If you want more free-time, ask for more money.  If you want more money, I’m assuming you could ask for less free-time…?

DSC_0002 Painted with 2 espressos, 2 mochas, and scrubbing a couple of roasted beans on the canvas.  Also started with pencil.  It’s funny, to me, the reactions people have to art.  Most of the town is unnerved by the alien ship, you know, because they aren’t real.  Danielle was “creeped” out by the cross, because she didn’t know it was an actual view.  My friend, who is Guatemalteca, has a fantastic sense of humor and just saw it as art.  Let’s all spend 10 minutes trying to find out what it means!  

What it means is I had a baby hit of a bong before me and my boxing teacher drove up the hill on his dirt bike to paint away the beautiful afternoon in the sun.

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“Stormy seas make a skillful sailor.”

-book that Patrick Storey and Kenzie are reading

Observant

– Observant –

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I snapped today.  I had been trying to be patient for too long.  With the changes and going with the flow and being natural and all that taoist jazz.  The night before, Javier and I went out after work and got drunk.  I’m not sure about him, but I was drunk.  Stumbling around at 1:30am, I found some locals at a late night pulperia and asked in Spanish which way South was.  They looked at me confused.  I asked again which way to Volcan Agua.  They pointed and I walked into the dark streets of Antigua, looking for a familiar street.

The alarm clock said it would go off in 4 hours and 33 minutes.  That is not enough sleep for me.  I had been telling the coffee shop that I am completely flexible and took all available shifts.  This took up so much time the last few days that I can’t remember the last good exercise I had.  It has been said that when one area of your life is out of balance, all areas are.  If any of the 4 pillars of the human foundation (social, spiritual, physical, mental) were developed at this point, it was social.  Otherwise, I have been cramming philosophical, historical, and coffee knowledge in my brain as fast as I can without passing out.  I have not been writing much, stretching, and have no groceries for simple healthy eating.

After a morning of forcing positive thoughts, I was asked to cover another hour so the other barista could have a midday break.  After that, time flew by and before I knew it I was in a hurry, annoyed by her lack of concern for quality beverages, and trying to calmly explain her errors.  The key word is “trying”.  I was not calm.  Javier asked me what I was doing with a laugh to which I snapped back, “Making a mocha.  What are you doing?”  My manager calmly said, “I’m making your schedule.”  After a couple of minutes, he said he wanted to me to get some rest.  I told him I would leave right after I finished showing her how to make the drink “with love”.

If there were cameras in this place, I would ask to see the tape to study my body language and expressions.  It’s kind of harmless and humorous until the frustrated person looks you dead in the eye and the amount of pain is only exceeded by the amount of anger.  In those rare eyes, there is no room for fear or for losing a confrontation.  That is where the old saying, “dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog” comes from.  A midget could take down a giant if he were angry enough.  Aggression is derived from fear.  Anger has no regard for fear or reason for that matter.  My anger came from restless frustration which came from the looping dilemma of how I am supposed to make a healthy living in a town where I can spend a weeks worth of pay in one night.  Rent is cheap, especially where I’m living, but working full-time to barely get by is going to eat away at a person like me.  I never work “full-time” because I learned years ago that it’s unnecessary and very unhealthy.  Now I’m considering working 3 jobs so that I will be able to leave Antigua when the time comes.  It’s difficult not to be a burden to others when you are flat broke.  I’ve heard that you can travel without money, but I have not experienced this first hand.

So anyway, I’m in a city that I love, doing exactly what I want to do, but just got a little burned out.  This is the game.  It’s always a game, too.  Rockstars go back on tour, not because they like playing their most thoughtless songs 20,000 times, but because they have to earn a living.  I think hunting and gathering is the same way.  No good artist stays good by resting on his laurels.  Back to the drawing board.  What is most important and how can I simplify?

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Oh so there are some basic needs and that is going to have some fundamental affect on the way I view the world.  Until we are uncomfortably without, we are unable to see the world as it is, without the smoke and mirrors.  When we have excess of the bare essentials, it’s impossible to imagine others in need for example.

We are so caught up in what we want, we begin an endless quest to seek comfort.  This will not only drive us to misery, because the moments of true happiness will become obscured in the cloud of superficial desires and instant, fleeting satisfaction

This is perhaps the reason I am drawn to this path.  Because a part of me wants to get all of those material comforts like 5 cappuccinos a day and now cuisine infusions and trendy apparel.  The key word being ‘trendy’, because the style simply won’t last.  The people who are attracted to this topic lusting (like myself) will scorn the person wearing clothes from two years ago before actually looking at the person themselves.  At least some part of the brain and time of one’s life is spent thinking in terms of what will impress strangers.  This aesthetic search doesn’t aid you physically or mentally, perhaps socially, but only temporarily.  The moment eye contact is made and worlds are exchanged all appearances go out the window, that is, as long as the person is really listening.  To really, really listen, you have to feel what the other person is feeling as they give you their words.

There is the chance that two people can look at each other with such intense lust that they will immediately search for a linen closet to release the build up energy.  And that’s all well and good, but then what?  When do you get the emotional connection that we are all seeking?  When can you share your favorite movies and cook dinner together and dance and travel?  You see, the problem with material investments is they retain no sentimental value.  you’d be better off getting plain, comfortable clothes that fit and are comfortable and then spend the extra $ on an exercise class.  Investing less on instant gratification luxuries will allow you the money and time to do this.

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One of the hardest parts for me in life is not complaining about life.  One, because I always gets better, so there is really no sense in whining.   Two, because it brings people down.  Three, because nobody wants to hear about your constant bitching.  No, it’s true, people are turned off by weaknesses, probably because it reminds us of the same weaknessnes we are hiding form.  It is so difficult not to bitch because that is where I get a lot of my information from.  When I complain, the human response is to help and I get lots of it.  I’m not proud of it, but its what I do.  And I’m a huge hypocrite, so basically whatever I put into words, the opposite will come true.  Indirect power.11837003_10152860953121685_354618642_o

A friend sent me his photos from the volcano trip.

11840428_10152860952211685_445204443_oIs it possible for animals to be sustainable?  Only for a limited period of time, then changes have to be made.

In the course of a lifetime, an animal just does what it needs to from one moment to the next to get by.  Some of these moments can be planned for.  The more prepared you can be, the fewer surprises that person will have to deal with.  Some people don’t like surprises.  The best and worst parts of being alive are surprises.
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I don’t have to participate in the shenanigans that make me feel so empty, like going to a college type bar full of beautiful, uninteresting women that I can’t talk to.  It’s not fun for me.  The ones I am interested in don’t frequent these places, putting me at odds.  The whole experience is uncomfortably awkward.  I feel like I have to have a drink in my hand and look around to see where my “friends” went because I don’t want to be a wierdo by myself.  Girls never approach loners at bars like this.  The same spring-break, cattle-herding money-trap that I’ve seen since I could sneak into bars, where the only remedy is to shout seemingly funny small talk while trying to get drunk off shitty beer as fast as possible.  Looking at it objectively makes my stomach turn.  No quality, all quantity.  9 out of 10 times has historically ended with me going home with an empty wallet to watch porn and pass out.  There’s plenty of options, if I want to lower my standards.  In the words of Kurt Cobain, “I wish I was like you.  Easily amused.”

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Try to observe your emotions without words.  Don’t let an inner monologue begin in your head.  Try it for a day.  Just observe.  The controller and control are inseparable, meaning that if you try to control something, you are subjecting yourself to control.  I’m not going to spoil the surprise of what happens when you just observe, but try it out for yourself.

Here’s a video with more explanation if you want:

Volcan Fuego & the U of C

Shtolen from wikipedia.  Thanks

Shtolen from wikipedia. Thanks

This picture was taken in 2013.

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Here’s my grainy picture taken from my tablet.  Next time I’ll find a way to fit my good camera.

F n A!

I am training to be a guide to take up groups to Acatanango Volcano.  After 5 hours of climbing uphill through the clouds to 3,400 meters, we have noodles and coffee, cooked on campfire.

The night grows dark, but there is not much light pollution from the 5 or 6 visible cities below.  Also visible is the silhouette of Volcán de Fuego and Volcán de Agua.  Agua is dormant.  Fuego is not.

Every twenty minutes or so there is a BOOM!! The sound is about 5 seconds behind the light which has already traversed the canyon and we look up to see the fireworks.  Red sparks the size of tool sheds shower the conical silhouette.  Sometimes it is just a poof of smoke.  Sometimes rivers and waves of liquid rock turn the top 1/3 of the volcano bright orange.

This volcano is also over 3,000 meters tall.  So one thousand meters or eleven football fields are covered with lava.

Behind Agua Volcano, fluffy clouds ignite in constant lightning.  There is an increasingly bright, glowing cloud which gives way to a full moon, fully illuminating the half of sky opposite of Fuego.  Still, the sky is clear, I can clearly see the Milky Way accompanied by the occasional shooting star.

As I write this, I hear cheering from the other campers.  I look up and see a massive plume of fire above Fuego.  The sound catches up a few seconds later with a massive boom.  Lava flows almost all the way to the bottom of the massive volcano, now glowing fully like a mountain of hot coals.

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Fuego in the light.

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The campsite and Agua.

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From on top of Acatenango.

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It sits near the middle of the volcano chain, which is part of the Ring of Fire.

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Looking West.

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Morning clouds rolling into the city (barely visible, bottom right).

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Grass growing on the side of Acatenango.

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Very Dr. Seussical plantlife on the ash-fertilized soil.  That’s why the coffee is so complex and regarded so highly in Guatemala.

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I am not a grinder.  Sometimes I wonder how I am ok with not making money for the future.  I would rather do what I want now than prepare for a future that I can only catch up to once or twice a week.  I guarantee if I’m not around next year, it won’t be because of money.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to work.  But some jobs pay better than others and some are more enjoyable.  I just rank constant enjoyment higher than potential enjoyment (money).

Then I found this audio clip:

Thanks Oba, for introducing me to Alan Watts.

Every path in life is the right one because it’s the only one you’re going to take.  

To get off the human schedule is to be often alone.

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

-Alan Watts


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The Unjudgeability of Connectedness

The reason we like looking at things that are obviously old is because there is a faint the sense of the thing in it’s prime. The same goes for visual textures. Our minds can feel the surface of what we are looking at even if it’s too far to reach. When a cat jumps on a ledge we detect the softness of the landing. It’s all our world. It’s all our reality. We are part of that reality. We follow the same rules. We didn’t have to learn the rules, they were already our instincts when we were born. If you can stop thinking about arguments and future anxieties and just look out, you can feel what you are seeing. Run your mind’s fingers over the shingles of a house you’re walking by. Look into the eyes of a passers-by and see their thoughts. You have the same thoughts. If you let yourself, you can see they are experiencing the exact same thing you are. It’s all part of the same game. It is all one game. All the parts are connected because they are all made of the same stuff. An unlimited supply of the same stuff that all started as the same stuff at the same time. The vastness of all the details of the universe is only matched by the complexity of our minds, which are both made of the same stuff, too.

Once you understand this and understand that we all have the same thought process, the same thoughts, you can feel people making their decisions.

It makes sense why, on relaxed days, I like to focus on all the little details. Pebbles, flowers, the breeze. I see the miracles like a child in a sandbox. Soap bubbles really are amazing.

On other days my mind is spinning through preparations and planning and comparing everything and everybody I encounter. When you believe things are unconnected, they can and will be compared. You don’t compare your hand to your foot. They are different, but they are part of the same body.

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Sleep Deprived Guilt

Today, with only 4-1/2 hours of sleep, I felt annoyed at the general public, which really just means I was annoyed with myself.  Some part of me was annoyed with the choices I made last night (I didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk).  All night my gut was telling me to go home, but I was babysitting a drunk person until 2:00AM, knowing I would have to get up at 7:00AM to hike a volcano.

The volcano trip was postponed and I wandered around in a fog of frustration, thinking about other bad choices I have been making like not being healthy enough.  This isn’t even the case.  Aside from about 30 espresso drinks and 15 fluffy pastries, my diet and exercise routine have been alright.  I’m not in shape to run a half marathon, but my joints and tissues are fairly free of stress buildup.  Aside from the lack of sleep, my life is pretty well balanced at the moment.

But I keep seeing my reflection in car windows and then scold myself for getting flabby.  I judge the younger people at my hostel for drinking cheap beer and doing exactly what I did a few years ago.  The only obvious variable is my lack of sleep.  All week I’ve felt fine and this is the first time I let me self undersleep.  

I took a 3 hour nap and am now back to seeing things clearly.

I have a theory… or rather correlation of how not sleeping enough creates miserable yet consistent workers.  I don’t think it’s a grand conspiracy, rather an imbalance of time and money.  Sort of like bad diets and sugar crashes.  The more we work, the less time we have for money saving activities.  Once the see-saw tips, we slide down into a tired trap which can only be solved by either doing much less each day and going to sleep early, or by adjusting the over-working situation.

We play a game in the civilized world where the players see how little they can sleep and still function.  Ever been on vacation?  Happy vacationers sleep the full 9 hours their bodies crave.  Maybe we need so much because of our brain/body ratio.  From what I’ve read, the brain is 2% of our body weight and requires 25% of our body’s oxygen.  Gotta give it rest because, in one way or another, it controls our reality.  Treat it well and have a good reality.

Why do you think stoners are so chill?  They sleep enough.  Workaholics (historically me) are always tired and have volatile emotions.  Here’s a cool article about sleep:

https://www.onnit.com/academy/sleep-or-die/

This morning I had a coffee with peach aromas. I’ve been eating peaches from the mercado. I never buy peaches. At lunch my friend and I were talking philosophy and he said he could see I was in a new season and that he saw peaches. I hadn’t told him anything about peaches.  He didn’t know where it came from, it was really random.

I’m going to do some research this week and get back to you next week.  Any comments on peaches are welcome.