It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog. I’ve had many adventures, witnessed many a magical event, and I’m continuing to have the greatest adventure of my life. My personal transformation continues as I experience new cultures, meet new people, visit sites of vast beauty, and continue to integrate myself into the flow of all that is. Even my incessant rhyming is getting better (some of my fellow travelers may not agree). I finished Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang unconvinced that Eco-Warriorism is the path to absolution, but more aware of the problems of bridges, dams, and survey stakes and of the massive damage we continue to perpetuate upon this Earth at an ever alarming rate. I read Daniel Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head, a detailed account of shamanism and his personal journey from New York cynic to a mind opening exploration of all things psychedelic. Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth was a pleasant surprise. I normally don’t read self-help style books, but this one affected me profoundly and I continue to use its knowledge frequently. I also took an aside and read Adam Elanbaas’s Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest, a book I highly recommend. I’ve interacted with Adam on a number of occasions and his heart-wrenching memoir detailing his personal journey from Christian evangelical to the wonderfully spirited man I know captures the essence of my own Ayahuasca calling. It’s this calling that has put my thoughts to words and inspired this piece. I feel the vine working within me as I ebb closer to my South American adventure. I’ve been writing here and there and plan on putting those pieces to use because Durango to Maui to La Alberca to Barcelona has too much wonderfulness to ignore. All these places deserve a chapter in my written musings. However, this particular experience has affected me so deeply, I’ve decided to put it out there and what will be will be. And what better place to start, but the end.
The Light When the Darkness Creeps In
The hug was brief but electric. The exact sentiment of the past three days. Cate. Beautiful, witty, fun, intelligent. A positive being with a positive heart shining upon me when the dark began to creep around the corners. She walks away, turns, smiles and I know the question written on her face. Are you sure this is the right way? I point and smile. Our eyes lock briefly and she’s gone. I turn and walk away, make it halfway up the stairs, turn and run back down, shoot around the corner, hoping for one final glimpse. Nothing. She is truly gone. As I walk the streets of Barcelona, so much more slowly than the past few days, I wonder, how did I get here, heart a flutter, scattered, but with a deep sense of rightness, of truly feeling my inner self, at peace, parts of me that were seemingly dormant awakened and alive once more. I feel revitalized, very much in the present, and most importantly, happy…
How did this happen?!?! I look back at the past few weeks and the decisions that brought me here; the last minute decision to travel with Katherine, the mix up at the original hostel and being moved to Creative Alternative, my hotel traveling break in Martorell and finding out my friend in Biarritz could no longer host me, the seemingly daily hotel extensions, the staff smiling at my reassurances that this was my final day, and finally waking up on my sixth day, ready to move on. The problems booking with EuroRail and deciding to fly directly to London instead of taking a train, the dorm room I was put in at the hostel. So many decisions and circumstances that could easily have shifted this entire experience. I laugh to myself. The universe is full of intrigue and wonder. Any path can lead you to joy and that sense of connectedness that turns wonder into knowing, thought into spirit, life into love, and the complexity of everything into something so simple. It was meant to be.
Three Days Prior
I awake very late. It must have been 11am. My head a mere foot from the bathroom door, bed creaking, the all night snoring that sounded of near death rippling through the room. I must have awoken a hundred times throughout the night, but it feels like a dream barely remembered, quickly losing its grasp on memory, sliding into the ether. I lie there for a few moments thinking, nearly drifting back to sleep. I sit up. I have a Castle to see today! The Americans are still asleep as I tenderly gather my things and head to the common room for tea and a breakfast of fruit, bread and peanut butter. I feel the need to accomplish something today, to move forward, or at least make a step in the direction of my future. I scan the numerous task lists I have, check my email, skim the icons organized into related groups upon my desktop. South America. The big project. A task list that grows with each day. I check Facebook and sure enough Chris Kilham has responded. I read his posts and I’m intrigued by his musings at the Ayahuasca center he’s currently at. You see, South America is more than just a tourist destination. It’s more than the documentary Sean and I plan on filming. It’s more than thoroughly analyzing, debating, discussing, questioning, reformulating, and interacting with people and cultures to try and make sense of the mess humans find themselves in. It’s all those things, but at the center of it all, is my personal quest to touch the divine, co-mingle with the spirits of all things, and to discover within myself the things I need to do to help create a better world for all.
And unbeknownst to her and even myself until the time of writing this, Cate did all of those things for me. I see other possibilities. I can see myself opening a cafe where all the food is grown within a certain area doubling as a community center for people to gather and exchange ideas. A place that accepts multiple currencies, that lives outside of the current system, with all the trials and tribulations documented, the design opened up for all to see and replicate. I can see myself having a family, fathering children, loving my partner through and through, working with my community to do things such as starting school based community gardens for children to learn and nourish from, writing and interacting and communicating with the broader world the things that need to be done, setting an example for the people around me, for my children, allowing them to grow in a world of positivity and love. I see farms and beaches and people living in harmony. Or any number of different paths that are meandering out in front of me. These three days opened up these possibilities making them all seem, well, possible. But I digress…
After reading Chris’s posts, I begin contacting everyone I know within the Ayahuasca world, putting together a list of possibilities, formulating my plan. Full from breakfast, with thoughts of a good run after my tourist activities now forefront in my head, I begin the long walk to the Metro station from which Castillo de Montjuic can be obtained.
One of my favorite things to do whilst traveling, and pretty much anytime, is listen to music. I find myself doing this time and time again in Barcelona… walking and grooving, sometimes singing out loud to the smiles of those around me, enwrapped in my own little world while simultaneously sharing the greater world with all. The Metro and subsequent lift are full of kids, high school age by the looks of it. I’m sucked into watching their interactions, the males and females intertwined in innocent dances of eyes, word play, and touches. I find the spiked hair with the sides shaved, stubbles of beards yet to come, and various styles of hats amusing. I think back to my high school years. I smile even more. I play MGMT on my MP3 player. The song Kids caresses my ears, filling my mind of with images of the trials and tribulations our youth will face in an uncertain future. I look around me with a new hint of sorrow. I think of Arcade Fire and its city with no children. I wonder what awaits. The lift arrives at the destination. It’s time to put these thoughts to rest and tour this ancient structure.
History of castle
Monjuic Castle was built in 1640 atop a large hill located in the southwest corner of the city overlooking the city and the bay. A military fortress designed to withstand the forces of Philip IV during a revolt, the castle has seen many revisions through the years and has changed hands on numerous occasions. In 1842 it was used to bomb Barcelona to squash a rebellion in the cotton sector resulting in heavy casualties. In early 1890, it was used as a prison for social and political activists many of whom were tortured and killed. Wikipedia states that, during the Spanish Civil War:
“… it became the popular prison and place of execution for the insurgents or supporters of the “national cause” and became famous for the Santa Elena pit, where they murdered soldiers, priests, conservatives, Falangist youth, students, entrepreneurs, Requetes and all those who were considered the right.”
Many military personal including General Manuel Coded, Jose Lopez, Jimenez Love, Captain Fernando Lixcano de la Rosa, and the President of the Generalitat, Lluis Companys were all killed there. It wasn’t until 1960 that the castle was ceded to the city and its days as a prison were over. Today, the castle is a military museum and houses, amongst other things, the Peace Center, a group created to “promote the culture of peace through dialogue, awareness-raising, and training in crisis management and conflict resolution.”
After taking many pictures, walking and thinking, I write this:
I’m sitting in the main courtyard. Cafeteria smells scurry across my nose rousing rumbles in my stomach. But I am not hungry. The energy is manic. I sense the somberness of thousands of years of death and war. A castle. I walk amongst the historical record. Old pictures of rehab projects, thousands of civil war prisoners, machines of destruction, and the absence of all that is natural uncharacteristically (or not) missing. I walk amongst the remaining canons. I peer over the edge and see the futility of humankind’s attempt at dominion over all that is. Thousands upon thousands of cargo containers, ships loaded and slowly moving towards unknown lands, a snake of trains and trucks slithering into the distance. I have a vision of taking these old canons and going to war with the structure of our society. Unleashing centuries old weaponry on large containers of merchandise that continually consume staggering amounts of resources. Putting a mere dent in a much larger system. This is not my way. The violence required for such strategy begets more violence where the conquerors become the new oppressors. I grow weary of this city. Endless corridors of brick and stone, shops for miles hawking goods of all types, Starbucks around every corner, McDonald’s and KFC. The culture bleeds through, one of hospitality, love, and companionship. But it is stained. The earnestness for a western way of life ever present. The media, marketing, and propaganda machines work with effortless precision. They spew lies from a place they believe is truth. They are swept up in the same disease that has affected humankind since nature became other and the collective ego was formed. The problem is there really is no they. There is only us, a singularity, bound by the chains of the past, by structures of thought perpetuated through time arriving to dismal results in the present. For we are they and they are us and all permutations in between. We are innocent and guilty all in one. I sit here in this castle, pondering these things, wondering, grasping, clinging, needing, trying to find that one truth that can right the ship, set new sails, and transform that within me that doesn’t agree with me, but is me, into the new me. The very fact that I can feel these energies, the remnants of dead souls; horrors beyond comprehension residing within these walls gives me hope. Just this morning, I wrote to someone ‘awareness is the first step towards a solution.’ How apt those words are in my personal quest to continually be better than who I am. Is it time to leave? Midnite croons in my ears, music that seemingly found me. I know not how this album started. It found me.” A chun called late night ghetto, Every crevasse of the heart Jah love.” Thanks Midnite. Your form of reggae helps remind me of the things that I need to know, feel, and love. Yes. It’s time to leave this castle of past death, find a tree, and open my energy to the guardians of nature.
And so I leave the castle. I feel the immense need to be alone and decide to walk down the mountain. I want a park, a field, trees, flowers, anything devoid of concrete, asphalt, trash, advertisements, and seas of people trapped in a system of destruction happily going about their daily activities unaware of the atrocities their purchases, movement, and resource consumption spew forth upon the world. My thoughts begin to grow darker. Is there hope? Is collapse inevitable? Do we have a chance? Nearly blind with a sense of doom, a sense of helplessness, a sense of overwhelming in the onslaught of all that shapes this world, a place I haven’t found myself in for many years now, I stumble upon a small trail leading into the woods. I begin walking away from the concrete path and towards the unknown. The ground is littered with plastic bags, cigarette butts, bottles, and wrappers of all sorts. The melancholy is beginning to turn to hate, a feeling I deplore. I walk further and further until I’m suddenly startled out of these deep thoughts.
A lady, old and shrunken by time is walking the path ahead of me. At first she seems to be carrying a bag full of groceries. I think, ah, here’s another human, part of the problem that is all of us. But wait. She’s not just walking, she’s picking up the trash. And in her other hand, a fist full of wild onions, nature’s bounty. I stop for a moment and gather myself, observing her. Her clothes are old and ragged, her hair dirty and unkempt, her shoes in tatters. I’m speechless, rooted in my place, amazed that this homeless woman is gathering her own food while simultaneously cleaning up the trash of society. Someone that was probably viewed as trash by the same system that created that which she cleans. A sense of purpose fills me. I walk past her and she barely notices me if at all. I continue to walk and finally come to a massive cliff overlooking the very same port, the very same cargo containers, the very same symbols that affected me so much up in the castle. I climb up and over a rock, precariously close to the edge. I find the perfect seat. I cross my legs and assume the meditation pose from my Kundalini Yoga DVDs. I clear my thoughts and begin.
I can’t say for sure how much time passed. A quick glance at my smartphone clock indicates the possibility of up to 30 minutes. The stillness I encountered was complete. I feel very much awake, at peace, my stomach no longer a dull ache. I look out upon the scene in front of me. I realize that the path I’m on will be fraught with perils unknown, encounters with all types of people, brushing up with the muck of existence. The muck in front of me seems less threatening and far from overwhelming. I now understand that I need to keep within myself a shield of sorts, a piece of understanding that transcends the ugliness in front of me. I’ve known for a long time that we are all one singularity, one essence, one one, but now I start to feel it. From the people leaving trash in the woods to the lady cleaning it up, from government officials to shamans, from working families to excesses of the bourgeois, from myself to everyone else, we’re all in it together. And that’s the beauty. That’s the wonder. That’s the infinite within us and all around us. I can see the beauty in these cargo containers. The rectangular shapes forming laughing faces. I remember when a good friend said something that stuck with me through time. That a truly enlightened soul can look into the face of his brother’s killer and see his/her own reflection. What seemed like an impossibility now becomes a hint of the possible. I smile. It’s time to leave. As I scramble back over the rock, once again realizing the physical peril I’m currently in, I look up. A little further along the cliff face, seated upon a giant rock is a young female. She smiles and I smile back. A small exchange of knowing.
I walk back to the concrete path, back to the swarms of people taking hosts of pictures, back to the statues and the fountains and the lifts and the trains. Back through the city filled with Kebab stands and shoe stores and fast food and frantic energy and cars upon cars. Back through the people, the same as you and I, doing what they do, living and loving, dancing and laughing and crying and dying and birthing and thriving. I feel them. I know we need change. I know I have much to learn. I know we have a long way to go. I know my purpose will find me. I know. And now I feel.
I get back to the hostel. I’m thinking about a run, but my feet hurt from the walking. I sit on my bed, laptop in hand, making notes of all these things. I look up. A smile, a beam of energy, a magnetic glint in her eyes. My name is Patrick I say. My name is Cate, she replies, spelled with a C. Like Cate Blanchet I respond. Exactly! I find myself telling this perfect stranger all about my Ayahuasca journeys to date. I can’t remember how that topic was even broached. I pour out all of my experiences from the vine of souls. I talk for a long time and she waits patiently, possibly sensing my need to get this out. I make her late, but she doesn’t complain. When I’m done, she leaves. I smile at myself. Cute girl and you probably just scared her off with your stories of Buddha and outer body experiences and becoming plants. I laugh at myself. Shower time!
For the next two days, I spent a magical, mysterious, fun journey exploring the streets of Barcelona with Cate. We laughed, we talked, we jumped, we juggled, took pictures of street art, we ran, we skipped, we played, we ate, we danced, we experienced life with no reservations, enjoying the journey with no thoughts of the destination. I’ll forever be grateful to this person of beauty, with a depth to her being I hadn’t encountered in quite some time. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, but I do know she will always be with me. She represents possibility to me, the joy of life, the unknown, the light when the darkness creeps in and I’ll keep all these things with me, forever.