Dec 2019 30

“And Andrew, don’t pick up any hitchhikers.”

This was the only advice my father gave me. And although I am long past the age of needing advice from him, I was on my way to drive around Belize, his home country, for a week.

So, good advice.

Which is why I let out a long, internal sigh, when I gazed in my rear-view mirror at the man whom I had picked up and was sitting in my backseat.

There is a stretch of highway in Belize that says ‘Prison Area – do not pick-up hitchhikers’. And this is where this person had hopped into my rental vehicle.

I had been in the country for about an hour.

How did this happen, you wonder?

Well, the roads of Belize are as wild as the interior jungles. ‘Paved’ is a relative, loose, term. The better arteries are chalky, pock-marked surfaces that resemble the better parts of the moon. And the rules of the road can be just as structure-free. Expect to be passed at wild speeds, ramshackle Belize buses to be coming at you in the wrong lane, and the ‘sleeping policemen’, as they are called – sometimes unmarked speedbumps.

Many times in the past I have no doubt wrecked the suspension of a rental vehicle in Belize by taking these too fast.

It was at one of these bumps that I slowed down to take at a reasonable, polite-Canadian speed, and a Policeman signalled me to stop. This happens once in awhile in Belize. They checkstop to make sure you don’t have any unwanted stowaways.

As I slowed down to talk to the Policeman, he went to open the back passenger door and tried the handle a few times. It was locked. Silly me. So I did what any law-abiding Canadian does – I unlocked it. He opened it and got in.

“Thanks for stopping. I was going to take the bus.”

What?

“Who are you?”

“Dunkirk, sir.”

“Where are you going?”

“Belize City.”

He was grinning ear to ear. His very proper and clean uniform said ‘Prison Guard’ on it. Not a cop.

I was blocking traffic. I had a moment to decide. Pick this person up, this stranger of about 25 years old who was baking in the afternoon Belizean sun, or be a complete dick and drive off, scared.

Sigh. Non-dick mode engaged.

“Fine. Get in.”

Sorry, Dad.

Over the next 30 minutes, we had a conversation through the rear-view mirror. Me in the front, Dunkirk in the back. I learned that Dunkirk worked at the Belize Prison. For the last 8 months. He had a Belizean degree in Agriculture but was finding it hard to get a job, so he took what came along. The Prison.

We small talked about family and how he was waiting to get a girlfriend because he wanted to be financially stable before doing that. He wouldn’t be going out on New Year’s Eve because he didn’t want to hang around with the wrong crowd.

In Belize City, it would be very easy to get in with the wrong crowd.

“Where are you going, Andrew?”

“After one night in Belize City, I have no idea. Maybe a Jungle Lodge. Then a beach town. Who knows? No plan. I have family here in Belize but no one knows I’m in the country. I’m trying to stay off the radar.”

Basically, you could kill me and leave me at the side of the road and no one would know I’m missing. Shut up, Andrew.

We continued our talk, covering Belizean politics, corruption and the state of the country, and I began to appreciate all the things back home that I take for granted. My job. My first-world status. My knowing that a bus will come along every 5 minutes. My ability to just say ‘Fuck it, I’m hopping on a plane for Belize tomorrow and gonna do whatever for a week.’

I stopped near the phone factory to let him out, as he asked, pulling up on the dusty gravel shoulder and kicking up a cloud.

He opened the door to exit into the said cloud. I turned in my driver’s seat and we shook hands.

“Good luck to you. It was nice meeting you.”

“Thank you, Andrew. You, too.”

“Oh, and don’t stop for any people dressed as Belizean Army. There are a lot of robbers impersonating them lately.

Good to know. Prison Guard might be a good guise as well.

As I watched him scamper away, I thought about how I’d probably never see him again. Will he find that girlfriend and start a family? Will he find a job in Agriculture? What am I doing here on some crazy mission to feel the homeland under my feet? Where do I belong? Who am I? Where am I heading tomorrow?

It is a few days later. I am at a lodge in the Jungles of Belize. As I type this, I am also speaking to someone who says she writes books about unlocking the divine being within us. 2019 is going out the same way it came in – full of embracing odd opportunities that come along. And opening my mind. And remembering you get back what you put out there.

We’re all passengers on this ride. Buckle up.

See you all next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 2019 29

 

 

 

 

Dec 2019 21

This.

Posted In Blog,The world

 

Christmas, for the win.

(Architect unknown)

 

 

 

Dec 2019 19

Wisdom

Posted In Blog,The world

“Carlos, you’ve known me for over 20 years,” I said as we looked at all the photos. “Have you ever seen even three photos of me smiling like that?”

“No, Andrew. I have not.”

This was last night. We were in a funeral parlour at the visitation for the daughter of a friend. Her funeral is today. She was only 25 years old.

There were about 500 photos of Sophia throughout the rooms, all in collages. And in every single one, no matter what age she is at, she is beaming and radiating positivity and light. As a toddler. As a teenager. As a woman just a few months ago and meeting Taylor Swift backstage. All her life she battled chronic health problems but you wouldn’t have known it.

Her smile in every photo telegraphed the same thing.

It said “Isn’t this amazing?! Isn’t it great to be alive.”

I only met her a few times, but I know it wasn’t just for the camera. She truly felt that.

“It’s so cliche, but it’s true I guess”, Carlos said to me. “You gotta enjoy every moment.”

Sophia. Her name in Greek – apparently, it means ‘wisdom’.

Go forth and Thursday, everyone. If you’re not doing something to get you closer to that thing you want to do, ask yourself – why aren’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 2019 14

432 Hz

Posted In Blog,The world

“Go where your breath takes you.”

In a year where I have given in to where the universe has been nudging me, I found myself at a Sound Bath last night. Yah, I know. A what, Andrew? I don’t even know you anymore, man. Exactly. I had no idea what I was in for either.

Warning – I have no clue if this post is a review, confessional, or cosmic drippings. But to a Sound Bath, I went. I am all for baths, by the way. I’m bubble guy. But this was different.

So during a recent online discussion about dogs and their higher intelligence, I quipped “See you at the Sound Bath”, something I associate with granola and people who don’t use soap on their feet, and I realized I was mocking something I knew absolutely nothing about. A few years ago I did this with the World Naked Bike Ride and then found myself riding through Toronto on my bike, modest bits flopping about, with a herd of other naked humans. I am afraid of what I don’t understand. I am trying to go towards these things. So when I came across an event at a Yoga and Meditation space that was an evening of music and breathwork involving sound, I figured the universe was again telling me to go in the direction of my fears and curiosity.

So what is a Sound Bath? Well, after attending, I have to say I’m still not sure because I think every experience and attendee will experience them differently. It was a guided meditation experience where a group of us lay on yoga mats and were immersed in music and sound, some of which were in the magic zone of 432 Hz, which is thought to be the frequency of the universe, and promotes well-being and harmony. And hey, who doesn’t want that? Especially at this time of year.

So, on a yoga mat I laid. This alone is hard for me. I find it hard to relax and lie still. Gold stars for me just for fighting the urge to get up and flee. But it was dark, and I probably would have tripped over the other bodies arranged around me. No. No one was naked, people. Jeez.

For an hour and a half, I was guided by a soothing voice to go on a trip. And the ticket there, was to control my breaths and charge my body with oxygen. Rhythmic, almost tribal music set a pace and off we went. Circular, deep belly breaths in and out through the mouth. Occasionally an actual drum or crystal sound bowls played by a live musician emanated over us. I think I heard a tuning fork right around me at one time.

“Whatever you find, welcome it in. Know your breath can push you through it.”

The theme of the night was ‘Surrender’. Before the session, many attendees spoke of their intentions, what they wanted to surrender to, and I suppose my own hope was just to surrender to whatever the experience was.

The first 30 minutes or so was an effort. Have you ever laid down with a group of strangers, all breathing heavy, to music? It’s easy to just feel self-conscious. Am I doing this right? Does my breath smell? Is my belly rising enough like they said it should? Oh, do I have a giant belly? Is the instructor looking at my gut? Oh god, I hope I don’t get an erection. These are the strange wanderings of the mind.

But then I was gone. I won’t say where because it’s all a bit cosmic and confusing, but mainly because I don’t know. Old, familiar places I’ve never really been to. Spaces I’ve been to in dreams that don’t actually exist. States of mind. People, this was a mind fuck on a ‘Did I inhale something?’ level. A dream while still awake?

“Trust your body. It knows where it wants to go.”

After passing my one year of sobriety this week, I suppose in the darkness this is the phrase that resonated with me the most. Perhaps it’s an admission of the age I am at and fighting entropy and natural decay, but I’ve worked hard at removing the things I believe were clouding my body and spirit. Do you know how badly I’ve wanted a Bourbon for over a year? Enough to go to a Sound Bath on a Friday Night to replace that rush, that’s how much, everyone.

Yes, I’m trying different shit lately. I do not know where this journey is taking me. Do any of us? On a day when I received news that a friend’s daughter of just 25 had lost her life to cancer, I suppose I was just happy to be there. To be anywhere. To feel my back cramping up from lying on a mat for 90 minutes. To smell the essential oils that the person next to me had dabbed onto them before the session. To hear someone sobbing, deep sobs, during the session. And to come back and know that I’m still here. It’s not over. Every day is a chance to keep moving forward towards some idea of what life could be for myself and for all of us.

The energy of the holiday season can be overwhelming. The waning full moon. The approaching new year and people falsely believing it’s a new decade (there was no ‘year zero’, people) and world events. This is an intense time, everyone. Whether you think Sound Baths are a bunch of hooey or not, we’re all dealing with some major ‘being a human at this time in history’ shit right now.

Be gentle on yourself and others. Basically I’m saying don’t stab anyone with a fucking candy cane in the eye. We’re all gonna make it.

“You get back what you put out there.”

That. This year I learned I can at least surrender to that.

 

 

 

 

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