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Life Altering Experiences Jun 1, 2010

Life Altering Experiences

Sometime back, I wrote A Few Mistakes, how life takes a wild spin over a few mistakes. But sometimes, things just happen and our lives are altered fundamentally, irreversibly and forever.

Having time on my hands, I'm looking at myself now, where I am and what I've become. While my high school friends go home to their families and nurture a sizeable nest egg, I have walked away from wealth, refused to own property, and I live life on my backpack one day at a time on the open road with all the looming possibilities. I don't even have a place I can call home. What life-altering events brought me here?

  • There is no Bearded One
    I was born into the Catholic faith, educated in a Catholic school and grew up with Catholic friends in a Catholic country. Religion is not new to me. I was always in search of God, but I always saw the stamp of man. Stepping back to see an unbiased big picture, I see how religion shaped humankind's history as a measure of controlling public thinking and behavior. It's so powerful that the Church, societies and governments cash-in on the bandwagon. Wars were waged in the name of God (Crusades, anyone?), conquest and indentured slavery wantonly practiced in the name of the Holy One (Spanish Inquisition), even labeling another country, the Evil Empire (Ronald Reagan). The Spanish colonization of the Philippines could not have happened without religion as a banner. Invoke the name of God and everything is fair game. To the extent divinity exists, I speculate it resides within all of us and ripples outward affecting the collective whole to which we are all an integral part of. Story: Quantum
  • Patricia
    I had a brief but tempestuous romance (as it happened in my young impressionable mind) with a French model who happened to be passing through the Philippines. She lived life on a suitcase, hopping from one country to another, armed only by her captivating beauty, street smarts and love of life. She exercised freedom like no other I've known before. Unafraid of uncertainties, she packs up and heads off, disappearing into the horizon. I was a basketcase when she left the Philippines, but she left me an insatiable desire to live life like she did - unbridled, free, spontaneous and ever-present. Story: Faces in the Mirror
  • Family
    The default model for family is based on blood relations - from immediate family, to extended family, each taking its place in the totem pole ranking of the family hierarchy. That's the ideal picture, or how the road looks from 10,000 feet above sea level. While this picture holds up for some, it's a cross to carry for others. I'm talking about disfunctional relations whose only basis for a relationship is blood...nothing else. I keep wondering why people choose to stay in a relationship that doesn't work, simply on the basis of DNA. Blood is thicker than water? If, with the company I keep, I can enjoy a sustainable working relationship based on loyalty (not blind loyalty), support and merit, it'll quench my thirst better than rancid blood. Story: Shifting Sands of Family
  • New York
    Growing up in the Philippines is to be pampered by over-protective folks...that's just part of the culture. Even though I was gainfully employed with my own flat, I needed more independence. Besides, the allure of life on my own in North America was impossible to ignore. Making this story short, I found myself in New York - alone with just my suitcase, not knowing anyone, completely unfamiliar with my surroundings, and faced with a culture I found harsh and unaccommodating. I dealt with all those, but what I found formidable was dealing with the isolation...the ensuing sadness that seemed unfathomable. I never knew such sadness could exist. I was prepared for the culture shock and everything else, but nobody warned against this. Enduring that sadness for as long as I did helped shape my paradigm on what price independence can exact.
  • 2 Daughters
    Born into a culture of machismo in the Philippines, I was a male-chauvinist pig. But I was blessed with 2 lovely daughters whose interest and well-being I protected like a hawk. That's when I came to realize women get the short end of the stick (female circumcision, anyone?). Of course I knew that before, but this time, it wasn't just a concept. My daughters were on the line here. I would not have any of that. I began to question societies who would discriminate against women. Even the toughest macho dude is surrounded by women - his mom, sister, daughter, etc. So why would anyone condone such a backward system? I couldn't get it. I haven't seen my daughters in a long time now, but I continue to see the world through their lenses, thinking how else I can make this world an even playing field. My daughters helped me see gender as 2 sides of one coin.
  • Playtime
    My eldest girl was 3 years old then. We were bonding and I was having a lot of fun. The meaningfulness of that moment made me feel so complete and satisfied. It just hit me. If I can feel this way without a million dollars, then who needs a million dollars? After that moment, money didn't loom as big. It remains essential for basic needs (of course!) but not for anything more. The meaningfulness of the moment became paramount. Story: Who Needs a Million Dollars?
  • Separation
    When I got married, I knew I've found the love of my life - the perfect person I wanted to get old with. I looked positively to the future with bright dreams - kids, mortgage, house in the burbs, white picket fences, PTA meetings, etc. Things were going according to well-laid plans until without warning, life threw in a curve ball and we were both blind-sided not knowing what just happened. Even with the best of intentions, the marriage did not survive. What we were left with were shattered remains of all that ground-breaking work. I realized then the future never really existed. It was a delusion. And nothing is permanent. Story: Staying Present
  • Burning Man
    I was already skirting Toronto's rave scene when I decided to participate in what counter-culture denizens consider the mother of all psychedelic events - Burning Man. Even though I went by myself in the harsh Nevada desert, I never felt alone as I partied with 30,000 like-minded artists, nudists, ravers, pyromaniacs and hippies, for the 7 golden days it lasted. It was truly mind-blowing - the intensity, the nudity, the spontaneity, the gift giving, the butt-spanking, etc. I was crying on the 8th day seeing the circus-like city being dismantled. When I came back to the big city, I left my corporate job, left Canada altogether, and embraced a more expansive universe than met my eye. Burning Man made me realize there is a horizon infinitely broader than what's visible. All it takes is a leap of faith. Story: Burning Man
  • Clutter
    Twice in my life, I had to leave everything behind except for the barest essentials I could fit in my suitcase. First one was leaving Manila for New York and the second one was leaving Canada for the Philippines. Initially, the thought of walking away from things I spent after-tax money on through hard work over several years felt like a tremendous loss. Surprisingly, with the few I had to work with, life continued with very little change. A few adjustments had to be made, but instead of feeling impoverished, I felt light, nimble and uncluttered. If I can get by with 4 shirts, why would I need a 5th? Whenever I'm tempted to buy anything new, I ask myself, "...will this fit in my backpack? If it doesn't, what would I have to throw away?". It dawned on me that things not essential to my basic needs are nothing but clutter.


Common Knowledge
A lot of the insights I gained from the foregoing is not rocket science. In fact it's universally known and acknowledged as true - detachment, freedom, sadness, money, etc. But that's just the concept. When I actually experienced that concept...when events happened in my life that caused me to live that concept, then it's no longer just a concept - it became a part of my being. And that's the stark difference between knowing a concept and experiencing it.

The Mystic and the Physicist
I remember S.N. Goenka, in a video discourse. He said a mystic and a quantum physicist both arrived at the same conclusion about the quantum world - that sub-atomic particles vibrate trillions of times a second. The big difference is, the physicist arrived at that conclusion by mathematics and experiment. It was conceptual. The mystic on the other hand arrived at that conclusion through life desolidifying his body (through meditation) until he brought his existence at the sub-atomic level - where particles and waves collide, disappear, reappear, where certainty does not exist...only probabilities.

Intellectual Adventurism
That realization did not change the physicist's life. As intelligent as he was, he remained miserable about life. The concept didn't do anything for him except for intellectual adventurism (of course, we, as a race, moved forward with that knowledge). The mystic on the other hand, had a life altering experience. Two lives joined by a common conclusion, but moved in different directions.

Holy Grail
What lingers in my mind is what S.N. Goenka stated - that when you go beyond the concept...and actually experience life at the vibrational level, when you exist as a speck of consciousness, life will never be the same when you come back.

Where I am right now is how life unfolded for me. But life continues. Given more life altering events that are yet to happen, who knows where I'll end up? Life is infinitely fascinating.

--- TheLoneRider


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Reader Comments:

Jhet van RuyvenJhet van Ruyven
(Apr 4, 2011) I love your open-hearted writing style and the kind of life journey you are choosing for yourself. Where ever you are there you are. Life is infinitely fascinating indeed!

(June 3, 2010) Nice!

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