Friday, June 23, 2017

Falling in love with myself again

As my voyage of self rediscovery approaches it's conclusion, I am writing some notes to myself about why I took this trip and what I discovered. 

My main objective for this voyage was not just to get away and have lots of fun. Although I've certainly done a lot of that. 
Nor was my goal to go away to drown my sorrows. Although I've done some of that everyday too. Meditation has also helped me acknowledge sadness, and then let those darker clouds float away more quickly. 
And it's certainly wasn't for sex, although thank god, there has been a touch of that too.
And it wasn't just too travel. No I'm kidding. It's always about seeing new places. 

I went on my voyage to ask myself 2 main questions. 

First, could I be happy living with “just myself” ? 
Because if I could, then everything else would work itself out. Meditation has helped me tremendously fall in love with myself again. I'll explain how and why below.

Second, I wanted to test the idea that if a person lets go of his urge (compulsion in my case) to control things around him, and instead lets himself ‘go with the flow of life’, then magical opportunities present themselves. Many people who practice meditation suggest that ‘letting go’ is key to living a happy life. So on this voyage I rarely planned more than a couple of days ahead. Often I didn't know where I was going. And everyday was like magic. Day after day, new magical opportunities presented themselves. Each more amazing than the day before. 

So on this voyage,
I have rediscovered how to love myself. I've loved traveling ‘with myself’. And I now know, in my heart, that when I let go of my urge to control everything around me, magic follows each day. And I practice gratitude for every breathe I take. And gratitude fuels more magic. 

The next few paragraphs explore the ideas above in a little more depth.
If years ago, you had told me that one day I'd be writing notes to myself about meditation, yoga, letting go of control and finding inner happiness after loosing my 2nd life partner, I would have thought that you were crazy.

After Jerry left us,
I spent a short time being bitter at the world, angry at myself for not helping him more, sad for Jerry and wondering what would become of me. With the love of the people close to me, this period was thankfully short. I soon realized that my first priority had to be to intentionally find a way to 'start enjoying being WITH myself'. I have never really lived as a single person. And I now I expect that I will probably be single for a while. So if I could be happy being WITH myself', then everything else would work itself out. I use the term here ‘being WITH myself’ intentionally. For me the words ‘being alone’ or ‘being BY myself’ sound lonely. So I intentionally choose to say being WITH myself because that implies liking my own company. And meditation has been key in helping me like my own company.  

How I learned to love myself again. 
Through meditation, I realized that most people have 2 ‘voices’ or ‘selfs’ in their heads. I have learned to separate what I call the ‘chattering Jeff’ from my higher self. I call my higher self Jeffrey Nessim Douek (JND). Chattering Jeff is the voice in my head that is constantly talking to me. Chattering Jeff is never-endingly telling me what to do, criticizing me and others, and trying to control things because chattering Jeff thinks that he needs to control everything in order to be happy. Chattering Jeff is often repeating the same thousand ideas in my head day after day. I also found that many people don't really like their own ‘chattering self’ but think that their chattering self is their ‘real-and-only self. So most people don't think more about the subject. Other people believe, as I do, that every individual also has a higher quieter, calmer self, hidden deep inside ourself. Some call this self their ‘true’ or ‘higher’ self. I call my higher self JND and I talk to JND when I meditate. JND is Peaceful. Calm. Kind. Generous. Wise. JND is in fact the Jeff I WANT TO BE. And so I LOVE JND. The more I meditate, the more time I spend with JND. And now JND has even charmed the chattering Jeff, and the 2 are now trying to work together. And so when I say that I'm falling in love with myself again. This is what I mean. And by meditating a few minutes everyday, I'm letting JND lead me. And JND is connected to magic. 

Letting go. 
On this trip, and to my great surprise and delight, nearly every time I remembered to intentionally ‘let go instead of control’, and let the universe provide, the results have been quite spectacular. Day after day. Whether I was in Varanasi, India, quite probably the most miserable place of earth, I meditated a little and practiced letting go. I had amazing experiences every day that included being I invited to 2 Indian weddings. In Jaipur India, on a day when I had nothing planned, I was meditated by the pool at sunrise. An hour or 2 later, the owner of the hotel, who saw me meditating by the pool that morning, came to talk to me. He meditates too. He decided to offer me an Indian cooking class. He and his wife spent all day teaching me Indian cuisine. It was low season, and I was the only guest of their usually busy ‘Indian palace’ type hotel. The whole trip has been like that. 

Now I am on koh Phangan island, Thailand,
quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I've been on this small island for nearly 3 weeks, and I've rarely been bored or lonely (except maybe some evenings after 9pm). Even finding koh Phangan island was a magical surprise. I was sitting in my hotel in Bangkok wondering where to go next. I had no plans for the next day. I meditated a few minutes wondering where to go. A few minutes later, I got a text from Tiago about an infamous monthly ‘full moon party’ on the island of koh Phangan. I checked, and the next event was the very next day. So I went. And 3 weeks later, I'm still happy here. Then a week ago, I went to visit a friend of a friend of Tiago’s living on this island. And it just so happens this friend knows the manager of a yoga meditation center. It's calledTthe Sanctuary, and is reachable only by boat. I just spent 5 out-of-this-world days there, living in a little hut, on a cliff, next to a gorgeous beach, for $25/night.

I used to think 
that I needed to control everything around me in order to get my way and be happy. How else, in a crazy world full of uncertainty and change, could I make sure that I get what I want, other then by trying to control everything? But I've learnt that trying to control everything, doesn't always work, takes a lot of effort, and alienates other people. And even if I succeeded at controlling things, it only lead me to where I thought I wanted to go. Controlling things seemed like a logical path towards happiness, but it also excluded many possible outcomes that I hadn't thought of. As part of my mediations, I am learning to let go of control. And by intentionally 'going with the flow of life', life seems to bring me abundance, happiness, serenity. And magical opportunities. Things that 'control' has a hard time providing.

My surrender experiment. 
If the ideas above interest you, I suggest you read a book I just finished called "the surrender experiment" by Michael Singer. I got my inspiration for the type of voyage I wanted to take during an intense group meditation event on April 15. After the event, I shared my voyage ideas with some of the other participants at this event. Several people jumped to recommend this book. And now I share Mikey’s simple views on how to live a happy and successful life. Although I am only able to meditate for 10-15 minutes at a time (compared to all day like Mickey) and have I no intention of building a temple. I hoped that on this voyage I'd learn how to meditate for 30-60 minutes. But I'm still at 10-15m. Unless I use pot, which helps tremendously deeper my meditations. I also hoped to learn how to deepen my sober meditations. But it seems that many people who meditate, also use a little pot to help focus on the breathe. Few drink heavily if at all. 

Coming home. 
Yesterday I enjoyed my first acid trip ever. We a group of 10-15 new-age hippie types living in these cliff-side huts, tripping in the water together, on a secluded beach paradise. Complete with a DJ, playing outstanding deep house music. She was DJing just for the 15 of us. Pure magic. And as a result of this experience, I am now ready to come home. In fact I'm excited to come home to LA. And get back to work with my friends and family at the bistro. 

Other Interesting footnotes:

-Years ago my friend David taught me a trick to quickly connect to JND during meditative massages he gave me. I learned that by repeating my given name at birth, Jeffrey Nessim Douek, 3 times, to myself, I could nearly instantly quieten the chattering Jeff and access JND.

 -Last June, Jerry and I had the amazing good fortune of renting a sailboat in Croatia. It had a funny name for a Croatian sailboat: "go with the flow"

-As I travel, I notice how many people are not really happy living with themselves. And more sadly, I see how many lonely people look for strange companionships to lessen their sadness. Here in Thailand, there is a undercurrent of sad looking older foreign men who come to find young Thai girls (and boys) to offer them companionship. And as I grow older (56 soon) I notice that guys my age don't often 'fall in love' the way younger people do when they meet in their 20s or 30s. It seems that many people "seek arrangements" of all sorts for companionship...and all this seems funny to me. I'm not criticizing these people or judging them. I'm just realizing that this is not the way I want my future to be. I need to be happy living 'with myself first' for a while before thinking of a new relationship

The only disappointment
of this voyage is that I haven't really made any new long term friends. I had hoped that I'd meet a few new long term friends. I've met many very kind, generous, thoughtful and interesting people. And I look forward to seeing many of these people again. But few real new friends. Part of the reason is that it's low season and many people travel in couples. And part of the reason must be, because this trip really ended up being the fulfilling voyage of introspection that I hoped it would be.

Thank you Jerry. That you universe. Thank you everyone at the bistro 

Thank you for following my posts. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beautiful koh Phangan

Well I found paradise on a little island called koh Phangan. Near koh Samui. And I had no reason to leave. The weather has been outstanding, although it's low season, so hotel prices are low and the Thai charm is on high. I moved to a 5* hotel a beach over from where I was. Panviman resort. I thought I couldn't afford to stay here. But the receptionist suggested I look at online specials. They had an $800/n villa for only $125/night. So I moved. 


Aabove is my new yoga massage and meditation hut


View from my room at sunrise



View from my villa at mid day




Saturday, June 10, 2017

But the best of Thailand are its islands and beaches

Now I'm on koh phangan. Koh means islands. I may never leave. Here is my room here. Unfortunately this blogs doesn't show videos well so I'm only posting pictures 


My room is the one in the middle with open doors







Perfect spot to meditate









This tiny highway gas station has 3 fountain and a deer zoo





Thailand. I'm in heaven. Bangkok

Well Thailand is certainly the highlight so far. 

Clean. Beautiful. Colorful. Smiles everywhere. 

Bangkok views












Thursday, June 1, 2017

Images of Nepal 

I haven't posted from Nepal partly because I was so busy and partly because internet service was limited to my hotel. I will devote this post to images of beautiful Nepal. The next post will summarize in a more serious way the challenges I'm facing with meditation. 

Images first.  Nepal is a trekkers paradise. It has both the tropics at lower altitudes with elephants and jungles and some of highest peaks in the world. But everywhere you feel the influence of a very devote Buddhist population and influence of its Tibetan refugee population permeate the culture. The overwhelming handicap facing the population is the lack of paved roads. Even in downtown Kathmandu. Moving people and goods is a daily nightmare for everyone. A 200km trip can take 8 hours with dust and mud everywhere. The government doesn't collect taxes and has no money to build roads and so everything is stuck in the mud. And everyone wears dust masks, very similar to Burningman. And there is no foreseeable solution to this daily nightmare. Here are a few of my favorite images of Nepal. 

My hotel. The Shambala. 



My friend Jakub and I at the main Bodo Stupa


My friend Tsetan. 

When I asked him what is the guiding principle of Tibetan Buddhism his reply will stay with me forever:

Be nice.     


The Bodo Stupa. For the first time in my life I felt the energy of devotion from the practitioners who came here to pray. 

When I was in Jerusalem or Rome or Istanbul or Salt Lake City i never experienced this kind of devotion or energy. 



I



Rafting and kayaking in Bokhara







The only disappointment of the trip so far was the ashram in Nepal where I hoped to learn more about meditation. I heard good things about it before I arrived. But when I went to visit I knew I could not stay here even a few days. This was what the 'deluxe' accommodations were like (bottom of structure ....but still.). Hopefully I will find a more beautiful setting to meditate in Thailand where I go tomorrrow. 


Tomorrow ....Bangkok