June 13, 2008
A Midas Touch
The Unseen Hand
I'd been drifting now for nearly 4 years - hardly any permanent address, no money in the bank, no stable career, but I've had the most exhilarating adventures money can't buy. The things I could ever long for in life, I already have. The things I don't need, I already got rid of. With my life in my backpack, I enjoy an existence of nomadic mobility - the freedom to go where I want to go, be what I want to be and do what I want to do. Opportunities come my way in the most unexpected ways. While I have gone as close as a few weeks to going hungry and living in a cardboard box, that has never happened. In fact, I eat well and I eat good. When I wish for something, more often than not, it comes true...with hardly any effort. When I'm too chicken-shit to make a pivotal but difficult decision, something invariably happens that involuntarily constrains me to make that decision...and I'm always better off for it. It seems that there is an unseen hand that looks after my well-being.
Am I just blowing hot air? Maybe! But there's a point in all this too. This blessing has to come from somewhere. I have to ask myself, "Why is this happening?". It's too much it defies coincidence. Good luck? Sure, but I think good luck doesn't just happen. I had to stop, step back, and break my thinking into fragments, going deep into its anatomy. Of course Burning Man is the genesis of all this, but a few staples come to mind...and then some. Surprisingly, some of what I uncovered are so simple and common it's a no-brainer. Some, well, it took a leap of faith, and for most, they are things I already talked about in past articles.
Going With the flow
I've talked about the flow many times in my previous stories - staying anchored but going with it. By staying fluid (and not being a rigid control freak), it gets easier for the flow to take you where it wants to take you. In my experience, the flow is NEVER wrong. It has taken me to magical places I could not have imagined had I forced my control over all the variables. Of course I have to be flexible, willing to change itineraries on a moment's notice and an openness to the uncertainties that lay ahead (that's why I'd rather travel alone...less complication). When you're with the flow, nearly all the work is being done for you - you're just there for that excellent ride (like a surfer riding high on that wave).
The Collective Whole
The begging question now is, what creates the flow? The variables at play are almost infinite from the most benign to the most life-altering. However, there is a nexus that binds them all up as a streamlined whole - the collective universe to which we all are a part of. Here's where I get spacey. How I relate to this collective whole is just like any other relationship - it has to be cared for, nurtured and developed until it becomes an extension of mind and body - in the same way that my mountain bike which I'd been riding for 8 years now is practically an extension of my body; e.g. - I know exactly how much pressure I need on the brakes to optimize my stop without going over the handle bars.
Getting More Spacey
In the same way Earth is a living planet, the universe at large is likewise a living matter, with its own rhythm, cycle and evolution. I believe our universe has many energetic flows as well. Too spacey? Of course! No math or science can quantify this - but when it keeps happening, you see a pattern (not unlike seeing emerging patterns in public buying/selling of securities. Traders capitalize on this, and they're called chartists, as opposed to fundamentalists). Latch on to it and you're in for a magic carpet ride. I'd been on that ride a few times and there's nothing like it. Who needs drugs?
Let Me Count the Ways
Having said all that about the collective universe, the next question is, how do you even begin to establish that relationship? What are the foundations? Well, it's not just a mechanical act. Analogy? An avid church goer who prays intensely but when heading back home, cuts-off the first guy, schemes on how to defraud his creditors, etc. There is no connection and the flow is simply not going to happen. I have to clean up my act. Here's a few I'd been working on. I have to emphasize they are a work-in-progress. I falter many times along the journey. When I catch myself deviating, I pause, find my center before I pick up where I left off.
Anatomy of The Flow
This is not instinctive. I learned it the hard way. By being involuntarily separated from the things I tried hard to amass and own, by being almost violently thrown out of my comfort zone, I realized I was more free and more nimble. A lot of what I left behind was disguised clutter that weighed down heavy on me. By getting rid of clutter, I created more space for new opportunities to flourish. Now, I keep it simple. Simple needs, keeping only the things essential for a simple life (if I can get by with 2 shirts, why would I need a third?). Anything above what's essential, I get rid of. My life is in a constant state of clutter clearing, thus a fast revolving door with opportunities lined up one after the other.
I used to enjoy putting one over the other guy just to be a step ahead. If somebody made a million bucks, I wished for him to trip and fall flat on his face (Schadenfreude!). It's a different paradigm now. If a guy makes a million, for as long as it didn't take away food from my table, then I wish for him to make 2 million more, even if it doesn't benefit me. By giving him a push, I noticed that I'm pulled along...no kidding! Collectively, we're all better off for it. This is in sharp contrast to the crab mentality.
The conventional thinking is, you do for today whatever it takes to ensure your future - saving for the future, paying off a house for your old age, living life happily ever after, etc. I found all that to be a delusion. The future hasn't happened yet and the past has already taken place. All we have really is the here-and-now. By being mindful of the present, the future is automatically looked after. Now, I live life one day at a time spontaneously interacting to whatever unfolds.
Hunger for Knowledge
The moment I tell myself I'm too old to learn anything new, that's the time I slowly die off. I come across people who find contentment in their present lot, saying they're too old for anything new (too old to learn computers, too old for the internet, etc.) No harm in that, but don't expect a flow anytime soon. At the same time, I come across people retiring at 65 and taking on to mountain biking as a new way to explore the new horizon. They just blow me away.
Additionally, for me, knowledge is the building block for genius. You can't develop creative genius without knowledge as a jumping board.
Opennes to Change
There is complacency staying within your comfort zone. Human nature fears the unfamiliar and the unknown - that's understandable. Change does not offer any guanrantees...but so does life anyway. So why not take a chance and take that leap of faith? By embracing change (sometimes, even pursuing change) you open doors to new realms and possibilities. You get to know yourself a little better as you take on the new challenges. Your once familiar landscape gets reinvented and the feeling of uncertainty keeps you on your toes...being alert, being nimble, all senses firing up full-on. This state-of-being is golden. Coffee tastes better, colors are brighter, sex is great like butter and you notice a bounce on your stride.
I don't borrow money but when I do, I make sure I pay the guy back asap. Sounds easy? Ha-ha. If anyone has ever loaned money from you, chances are, the debt is still outstanding. This cultural landscape is marred by unpaid debts.
Another example. Have you ever walked away from sleeping with someone hot simply because she's someone else's wife or girlfriend? I have...many times. Trust me, it's one of the most difficult things in life to do. The universe is benevolent to such sacrifices. As if given a reward for a good dead, another beauty comes along and life is good and colorful again.
Another example? I don't cheat. My cheating days are over. I broke off with a girlfriend once. It was either that or I end up cheating on her, or worse, go crazy.
I do things right the first time and I go the whole 9 yards to deliver on time according to specs. No shortcuts, no compromise. In order not to spread myself thin, I only put in my mouth what I can chew. That way, I'm 100% to whatever I'm doing. Common sense? Sure, but how many people really do that? You do that, you stand out, and you don't run out of clients. Money is not the goal, but the quality of work. The money will inevitably come anyway. I take pride in my work and I make sure I love what I do. If I don't? I just walk away. I've walked away from fat contracts before for the simple reason the project didn't call out. The right one is always just around the bend (this is what I call keeping faith in a horizon far broader than what's visible).
I'm mindful of my thinking, catching myself if I'm thinking negatively. I always keep it positive, always moving forward. Thinking right is an empowering thing...the mind is a formidable ally. You know someone who's grumpy about the world? Someone who can't say anything pleasant about anyone? someone who's always negative? Chances are he's miserable and susceptible to disease...and bad luck always happens to him.
Benefit of the Doubt
It's very easy to be reactive and be pissed when someone disses you. An unreturned phone call, a curt reply, being stood up, etc. Before, when a bus driver cuts me off the road, I'd give him the finger and spend the rest of the day cursing that son of a bitch. Now, I just avoid being too close to a bus, and if I get cut-off, I just think he's got to work hard 'coz he's got 5 kids to feed and 3 wives to support - end of story. I can now proceed to thinking what's in store for me for the remainder of the day.
Covering My Bases
In short, I don't just sit around waiting for good fortune to land on my lap. I do my fair share of the work. This collective universe is sympathetic and nurturing. The harder I apply myself, the harder it works too to make it all happen for me. I recently got a replacement for an underwater camera within its warranty period. It didn't come easy. I had to drag the Department of Trade and Industry (mediation meetings and all), TriNoma Mall management, Olympus Asia and Olympus Japan into the equation just so I can get what the vendor was contractually obligated to uphold in the first place. That took up a lot my time, but the ground work had to be done.
Being honest about myself. It's not that easy because compromising is a lot easier. Will I be happy doing this? Or am I doing this only for the money? I could have made good money doing a porn site. No. That's just not me. But don't get me wrong - I watch porn and whack off every once in a while. Many times, I could have been with someone rich and live life on easy street. But when the time to move on comes, I pack up and take my chance on the open road, living life one day at a time.
You might ask, "how does eating right translate to good fortune"? I don't know. I just know it's part of the bigger machinery that creates the flow. I stay away from junk and processed foods and I buy my own food at the market and cook it fresh myself. Because I cook what I eat, I know that no shit goes inside my mouth.
I can't imagine life without working out. Imagine a junkie without his fix. Sound body sound mind. With my fitness level, I hardly get sick and I can do things on the fly with ease and confidence. Summit a mountain on full load? Dive deep and long with a single breath? Race up and down a mountain on a mountain bike? These are all do-able and immeasurably add quality to life. With yoga providing a check-and-balance to the whole gamut, I'm on an even keel. The horizon broadens exponentially.
As I think of more, I'll keep updating this page....at the risk of sounding too preachy.
I've always had a sense that I'm making the right moves to make all these good things happen. However, to actually sit down and dissect my actions and motives into its anatomy made me realize that there really is a lot of work involved in the making of the flow. It's just automatic for me now that I don't even think about it. What strikes me after this realization is that good guys don't have to finish last. Cleaning up your act and doing the right thing is not only its own reward, but quite rewarding in pursuing life's many travails as well. Of course I don't do this for the reward factor - I simply enjoy living life and doing things the way I do.
It wasn't easy writing this as I had to give myself a long hard look, but I'm glad I took the time and effort to do so. In times of uncertainty (and there will be many), I'd like to keep coming back to this page to remind me of what it's all about.
- Related Links:
- Be what you wanna be, Go where you wanna go, Do what you wanna do December 13, 2002
(Nov 30, 2011) This is an eye opener to a lot of people including me. Thank you for posting. I enjoy a lot reading about anything here on your site especially your travels which are very helpful. :)
(Nov 27, 2011) For unknown reasons, it connects on to me at the present. Thanks for posting, it's a big help. Coincidence? Not really...
(September 5, 2008) I go with the flow with much enthusiasm and...fear. But I love it. I have never been so alive. Thanks for sharing what you did. It makes me close my eyes and take a deep breath, and say, "It's ok."
(June 29, 2008) I was moved by your piece, A Midas Touch. I agree with you. Most of life's meaning or mysteries are so simple & common. This life, it all ends up with how we loved. Every particular action we do is based on love. We've all been searching for the truth, once in our lives. For me, the truth is love.
(July 11, 2008) It feels good to know that there's someone out there that thinks like me. I kinda feel like you're the 20 years older version of me. I love to travel and experience things outside the box but find it difficult to get myself into action to do the things I wanna do. I guess I just wanted to spill my guts to someone that understands...I admire what you're doing (being who you wanna be, doing what you wanna do etc) and can't help but ask myself how? How can you be and do what you want?
(June 20, 2008) Where does the family fit in the anatomy of the flow? In Detachment..one of the disguised clutter that has to be left behind? The begging question, I guess is, where do you draw the line between being yourself so you can go with the flow, and being plain irresponsible?
Going with the flow doesn't mean reneging on commitments and dropping everything behind...that's irresponsible. But sometimes, life throws you a curveball and you have to make difficult decisions.
(June 18, 2008) nice. so yung olympus nga talaga yung nasira mong camera. buti napalitan, ang mahal pa naman.
(June 17, 2008) ...usap tayo. Hehe somehow this post resonates something in me.
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