Saturday, 20 September 2014

Snake, Rattle & Roll

Flashback to November 2013;

We stride in the fading light through this familiar labyrinth that we have come to love but happen to be lost in. This place goes by the name 'The Wonderland' for the reason none other than to describe the feeling you possess when you're playing in this maze, climbing over gigantic sugar cubes like a victorious ant or walking up enormous slabs of granite the size of London's 'Millenium Dome' or maybe you're a giant looking upon a vista of breadcrumbs...either way it's a pretty nutty landscape. Precious and beautiful. One of a kind. That being said, Diana and I weren't focused on this aspect as we trampled through the tenements of orange rock, dodging spikes of cactus and other such plants that grow out of inconceivable crevices.

The reason for this excursion in the dimming daylight? We were looking for a climb. A rather famous one actually but one with a reputation for it's seemingly immense exposure or sense of...well, a massive fall should your fingers peel off the match box edges, dotted all over this intimidating shield of rock. I have to admit at this stage, that it was largely to do with my crusade to climb all the best 5.10's* in the area. With the ecstatic onsight* of 'Clean & Jerk', 'Run for your Life' (Yes, kinda scary too) and the redpoint* of 'O'Kelley's Crack' in my arsenal, I felt that this would be the proverbial icing on the cake to end our session in Joshua Tree, California before heading to Asia for the winter. I agreed when Diana suggested we climb it. We were in for quite the climax. (I say, with an element of sarcasm).

  Approaching the bottom of the formation known as Astrodome which hosts the climb, we take off our packs to cool down. Another couple is just finishing the first pitch* of three, about 250ft. (We did it in two). It's nice to catch our breath but when it's time to climb we note that we have an hour or so until the sun sets. "Let's get on it then"

To be honest, I love in particular climbs that require complete focus or shall we say, presence but this just looked plain scary to me at the time. I knew it had a big reputation and my hard man friends say the old line of "Oh you'll be fine, it's not that bad"..Well, that was not helpful to me...Derek! (I laugh in hindsight). Since the wall is north facing it's almost always in the shade, so in the gathering darkness it was hard to locate the bolts*, adding to my already brimming apprehension but the first one is seen. Let's start with that. Off we go!

From the base, the first twenty feet it completely blank so you walk up a slope to the left and traverse straight right on a ledge, half the width of your foot, sometimes larger. The exposure feels pretty immediate.I was already scared of 'that fall' looming up ahead. Funny how we have such fearful thoughts for something that hasn't even appeared yet. I reach up on my tippie toes to clip the rope into the first bolt, 25 ft of open rope leading all the way to the bone crushing ground and I'm in. Only, my adrenaline is juiced already. Where's that run out* again?, Where's the next bolt? I can't see it!
The futility of minds quest for security in such times. That's why we are here though isn't it, to focus on Now.

Ok let's climb! Upward upon the shield of orange rock there really is a trail of positive edges to latch your fingers around and stick your big toes onto. (Thanks be to my 'Indian big toe and my climbing shoes) The dance is quite spectacular! Stretching up one delicious, athletic move after another until I'm four spacious bolts up the vertical. My heart, mind you is still beating ferociously as I force my shallow breathes to delve deeper into my lungs, my tense muscles drinking in oxygen with relief as I rest on a 'bucket hold'.

Now, the climb traverses straight right, on good holds, but still, a good fifteen - twenty feet. Waaa, maybe this is the exposed part. Not so bad then...Diana's words of encouragement waft upward into whispers that barely permeate my frightened and exhilarated brain. Next, is another good rest by the bolt. I can see the anchor! Don't look down too long and don't think it's over yet, the couple before us made it sound like it's exciting at the end...

A friend, Derek Bloomstadt on the traverse. Great photo from Miramontes Photography.

Scanning over the last section, there looks to be a round dish, smooth but impressed into the rock like a depressed disk. Not much for feet but to press and pray for friction. Ugh, tired. After some hesitant and increasingly frantic glances later, I realise that an amazing hidden hold will not show up, there's only time for action. Right hand goes in the left side of the disk, left hand crossed over to the other side..Transfer of balance and my right hand flies out to the round bulbous ledge below the anchor. Oh God, I can't feel my right's sliding!..Must be this solidified bird crap that littered and pressed into the rock. Not helping my swollen arms at all...

In this moment, I fear that I will fall and take the big whip into the yawning abyss. You'll be fine, people have taken the air time plenty of times and lived. Go for it! Focusing on where my left hand has got to go I let go and slap the hold with all the precision I can muster. Got it! Mantle! Still nothing for feet at this point, so it's time to climb out of that swimming pool like you've never done before. Heaving upward, I try to move, abs trembling, triceps failing. A mental image of the void wrapping around my legs and dragging me downward becomes more and more vivid. Still can't feel my hands. Heave! No thoughts anymore though, gone like a switch just pure presence and focus. Do It. Slowly, face to the rock, my gasping breath blowing microscopic pebbles into the back of my throat, I slowly rock over the point of balance required. Nice!

Feet follow afterwards as I stand up gingerly on the ledge, carefully rigging the anchor, feeling tender as hell, like a feather could knock me off balance, sending me into space like a catapult. Anchor set, clipped in. 'Oooffff'. A sunken slouch of relief allows the residual adrenaline to surge and explode into a 'Yeeewww!' against the canyon walls that echo my screams of triumph for miles around. Poor Diana, witnessing this display of complete terror from me probably did not fill her with the kind of stoke a more confident leader would perhaps emanate. But I speculate. Having climbing it without falling, I am happy to have done this legendary climb but am surprised the fear was so strong. Just the very idea of 'that fall' was enough to feed that petulant child called fear. Just a thought, that's all yet it's enough to make you do silly things and serve it with fries.

Diana does a great job following but isn't up for leading the next pitch in the now dark. The next pitch has bigger holds to my utter joy and after ten feet the first bolt is clipped. I charge on, Diana's faithful headlamp glows in the dim as I climb on ten, twenty, thirty feet. Fuck sake, am I off route? there's no protection around. The fatigue of the first pitch still lingers as I go 40 feet above my last piece to a ledge. It's an easier mantle but still an 80 foot fall would not be appreciated in our current situation and condition.

A few cams* go into the corner on the ledge and shortly after we are both at the top. The stars are out and I take one last look at this magic realm I've come to love so much, even if the climbs demand so much effort, maybe becuase of that actually. We both rappel to the ground safely, still a little shaken from the fright fest and begin to manoeuvre our way through the nocturnal jumble of chaotic rocks, leaving behind the brooding hulk, darker than the night sky itself and exit The Wonderland an hour or so later, thanks to Diana who knows it like the back of her hand.

Another great day in Jtree. Thanks Drew for the photo.

The next day, we're having breakfast with friends, recuperating from last nights adventure and after a belly full of seasoned potatoes and eggs with tortilla wraps, we head to L.A so I can catch my flight to Bangkok.

Somewhere around halfway we are cruising in the relaxing morning air, enjoying each others company until BAM! A car bumper or something to that effect blows across the road and under the car. A couple of seconds later the undesirable occurs... 'duh duh duh duh duh duh' "Yup, we got a flat tire". Shit my flight is in two and a half hours... 

Again, thanks to Diana, her insurance can send a tow truck that will meet us on the shoulder of the road in twenty minutes. I sit twiddling my thumbs, jerking my feet, chewing on the thought of 'I could miss my flight'. Diana's perspective of 'well this is happening, let's do our best with what we've got' is of course a healthier view but it doesn't help my worried mind. She's right though, so I sit with it. The guy shows up right on time and puts a dummy tire on the car and we're off like a bullet.

90 minutes to go as we approach east L.A. The whole time my heart is back to the thumping state. Two details concern me. First is the flight, which wasn't that cheap and my visa. This day is the last day allotted before it expires, so I'm back to being worried. Which, I note, is a shame because it's the end of my road trip with Diana which has been a blast. A wonder filled adventure with brush strokes of beauty that paint the tapestry of our road trip. I go in and out of focus from inane worry for something that hasn't even happened yet to appreciating the purity of the moment here, in the car that I've come to know so well, travelling with her, a special being in my life. 

Somehow she navigates the traffic and finds roads less packed then the others as we approach LAX. At departures, I only have time for a quick kiss, goodbye and see you soon as I run to the check in, which is in the process of closing. The attendant, thank goodness checks me in and I walk straight onto the plane for Thailand.

Sitting on the plane, I think back in hindsight about these two electric scenarios. So intense. And it occurs to me, that the fear is so much worse than the actuality itself. How profound. 


* 5.10 denotes a grade of difficulty
* Onsight is when you climb it for the first time with a fall
*Redpoint is when you try a few times until you do it without falling
*A pitch is a rope length or one section of the climb
*Protection that has been drilled into the rock as removable protection is not available
*A run out denotes a long run between protection points, a fall would be a big drop
*Camming units are a form of removable protection

Friday, 2 May 2014

Year of the Snake


   The past year was epic. So much so, that the climbing centric narratives can no longer contain the scope of what i want to express. The meat of the story surrounds the effects of the snake bite but smaller stories will ensue with either a lot of action, a minor tremor of excitement or intense introspection. It won't be linear either, that depends on the motif of each story and the relevant space and time. Either way, i just want to share stories and encourage people to share their own.
Henceforth, there will be an arc of stories over the duration of July 2013 to April 2014 under what I've called the 'Year of the Snake'. The title will make sense to readers eventually but it's also a nod toward an extremely talented person called Jeremy Smith who put up a bold new rock climbing route in the enchanted forest of Squamish, Canada.

The Chief, Squamish


   During the last days of August, there was a tepee. A circular space large enough for about 20 people to enter and sit inside. Surrounding it were structures just like it, brimming with hundreds of people coming in from all directions and flying away on their merry way. You see, this bustling encampment was just one 'block' inside of many others, all with a different purpose and theme. 
If you float into the sky and look down from a birds eye view, you'll see an enormous sundial forming 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock with the centre circle called 'The Playa'. Maybe a mile in diameter. Branching out from 'The Playa', the 'blocks' go about 13 deep (using letters). Sweep across the curvature of the sundial and somewhere in this iridescent metropolis, our little tepee stood amongst kindred clusters known collectively as the Shaman Dome.

Yes, we're at Burning Man.

The scorched earth surrounding us is located deep inside the Salt Flats of northern Nevada, known as Black Rock Desert. At it's height, 68,000 people gathered here in 2013 for the ongoing experiment of 'radical self expression and reliance'. A temporary city. Nothing here grows from the ground. Only Sun, Moon, Earth and us to create and reinvent.

Aerial shot of 'The Playa'.  (Googled, I  take no credit and own Nothing obviously)
Inside the tepee, it's late morning and the baking oven is gently wafting hot air under the tarpaulin into the calm space of gathered seekers and veteran practitioners. To my left is Kyla from Canada. A real gem. We crossed paths rock climbing in Utah during the winter of 2012 and has been a spiritual counterpart ever since. At the time of our meeting, the tendrils of winter began to spread it's frost over the valley bottom of Indian Creek and an exodus for warmer temps began. Our tribe ended up flying south to Mexico (See previous post; Running out of Time). And a crazy and joyful exploit it 'twas. When the time eventually came to grab contact details, she mentioned her Facebook was named after her shamanic power animal, the Eagle. A spark of curiosity came into being right there and 6 months later, it's time for Spirit Connection.

The shaman starts by blessing us all with incense. Feathers and animal bones are placed in the centre. He explains that a drum will beat in a consistent bum-bam-bum, bum-bam-bum for 10 minutes, followed by a short breather, then another 10 minutes. Sit up in the classic meditation pose, eyes closed.
He begins by asking you to think of somewhere you went as a child that was a place of trust and safety. I remembered the woods above my mothers house. The lush countryside of Britain. Memories of walking our family dog, climbing trees, crawling through the undergrowth, the rich palette of flowers in bloom during the spring. The inner sanctum. "Look for a door" he says. A muddy hole under my favourite oak tree appears and a staircase leading down into the void. Your subconscious? 
I can't tell if it's imagination that will appear or that I'll have to try and make sense of an endless flow of shapes and symbols swimming through me like a river of thoughts. All i know is to relax and be open. The one question radiating; "Are you out there?"

Ten minutes is up with nothing  We listen to peoples parables of what they experienced during this time. Some of them are vivid and i marvel at what they claim to have seen and felt. Some say they also didn't find anything.
The drum starts again. Time to give it another try. Sanctuary, calm, open. I fight the thoughts of frustration and stay relaxed. The subsequent minute or so was the most mind bending thing I've ever witnessed. How can i put it? Think of the geometric framework that we as humans have created in terms of mapping an environment, structure, anything really. From right to left, an image projecting onto the back of my eye lids with this structure was an Eagle swooping down to land exactly where Kyla was sitting. On my left.
This released whatever shreds of doubt i was harbouring. It's real. Subsequently, scales materialise, ebb and flow like a reptile is draped across my eyes. Upon notice, the scales move away with fluidity in an arc and come around to face me. The Snake. We acknowledge each other but i don't do anything, i don't want to. I'm in awe. It opens its jaws slowly and purposefully before swallowing me whole.
Boom. The session ends with smooth synchronicity but I'm a little lost for words...stunned actually. It didn't feel hostile at all...but what did that mean? The shaman explains that it was a good sign. A message of welcome and total embrace. I wanted to reciprocate fully. The two of us together, united in essence. To fully 'grok' each other as Valentine Michael Smith puts it. In what way i wonder.

Sean Renwick's Photo of The Temple
The next day, at 'Sacred Spaces' i was admiring some art work on consciousness inspired by the brilliant artist Alex Grey. ( Under the multi coloured awning of the atrium, a group was congregating next to a sign posted 'Discover your Inner Being'. Naturally i was drawn to participate. It ended up being pretty simple. Again, a circle was formed. "Do any of you guys know each other?" The lovely woman leading the session asked. Two women smiled toward each other, one fully ordained in silver head garments that reminded me of a Buddhist deity with glitter sparkling up along her royal cheekbones and a mane of brown hair beautiful and long. Her friend was blond and fair with wooden bracelets, dream catchers, feathers and shimmering blue eyes. Both had kind faces and carried an air of a clairvoyance. They knew each other. No one else seemed to though.
 So, we are instructed to take turns, one at a time, to sit in the middle for others to say what they see in that person's face using brief adjectives. Various individuals eagerly take turns to convey their insights. Words like "playful" "nurturing" "sexual" and "introverted" start to fly around.

It's been a fun hour. Our guide has shown or reminded us rather, that we can make astute observations of each other if we can look past quick judgements based on our concepts of identity and the resulting prejudices. The ego and it's projections. Expressing ourselves from the heart whilst welcoming from the heart. The key, i suppose, is observing these initial impressions before letting it guide your subsequent thoughts, letting your sunshine burn through the gloomy cloud of cynicism. Of course, there will always be an infinite amount of scenarios that say something different but it should be something encouraged nevertheless.
During the last 60 minutes I've been a little distracted though. Still smiling and participating yet retaining a minute here, a minute there to ponder and churn the events of the Shaman Dome over in my head. The water was still muddy from the disturbance and would take time to settle. Turning around, we notice the next group filtering in and the vibe says our session is coming to a close. I didn't go but hey that's OK...

Surprise meeting with Patrizia. (We met in Red Rocks NV, years before)
"Yo, what about Toby? We haven't seen him yet". Spinning back to the group, the clairvoyant duo's eyes beam over in my direction with an inquisitive smile. Being the only one left from the group our guide ushers me into the middle. Plodding myself in the centre, in nothing but my jean shorts and scarf, i look around at the beautiful people we've been talking with this past hour. A searching look over my companions saying So, what do we have here? followed by a bashful glance at my hands. The calloused scars of crack climbing in Squamish still fresh and embedded in Playa dust like talcum powder. Again, the observations were astonishing. The preliminary comments like "thrill seeker", "playful", "sexual", "deep thinker", "nomad not yet settled" and  "self disciplined" were all kind and surprising especially when i heard "cute". Yet the home run came from the oracles in the front.    

"I can see wisdom from past lives" the woman with earth tones said. Interesting. "Hmm" continued the sparkling brunette "I can also see transmutation occurring in him, hmm yup, like a snake" We lock eyes and she smiles at the acknowledgement. How? This happened yesterday?!

Stepping back out onto the Playa with yet another dose of wonder, the sun begins to set. Gentle gusts of wind send clouds of dust into the expanse above, turning the sun into a tangerine orb. Thousands of people on their multi coloured glowing bicycles are roaming in all directions. Trance and techno beats gently initiate their nocturnal ritual. The sun eventually dips behind the horizon and is met with hooting and hollering from the night owls. I think about this confirmed transmutation. Maybe I'm getting ready to settle in the United States? I miss Diana with a pang. I wish i could share this with you, and start to think about what life would be like in the future with her, rope access work and climbing on the road.  A dream for an idealist like me. It didn't occur to me that knowing the path and walking the path is something different entirely.

The snake bite will manifest all. 

The man burns in 3 days.

*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-* -*-*-*-
* Normal text - Hampi*                                                                                   *Bold text - Back in time*

   7 months later, I'm lying down like a starfish on a raised plateau in between two big boulders feeling the heat of the day radiating into my aching frame. The air is still and doesn't help to cool my body that's glistening with sweat. It's sunset once more but the temperature remains high around 38'C. It's quiet too. Tranquil. A faint reverberation can be heard from the local evening drum circle higher up. Their daily salutation to the falling sun and an ode to the rising moon.
I could hear the vibrations peak and lull when i was climbing earlier. In my little snow globe, i imagined it as my tribal soundtrack as i explored the scattered sugar cubes of rock deployed all over the surrounding plateau. Alone, choosing established boulder problems that didn't look too hard to climb was wonderful. To feel your fingers latch those little crimps and crystals again, the dance of orientating yourself to the holds, the unique positions you find yourself in the middle of a rock face. Full body awareness. I will always be thankful for climbing because of that. The way it helped me take my first steps toward manifesting a more astute consciousness.
Sitting up, there is just beauty all around. The little creek below flows through the meandering valley, nurturing the thirsty palm trees and keeping the rice paddies lush and green. Leaning over top, jumbled heaps of bulging boulders stained in peach and orange sit silhouetted against the fading sky. Within this delightful palette of colours, something stirs in my soul. It's time to return to the 'Healing Hexagon' of Manju's Guest house. I felt like sharing with the beautiful beings that have coalesced in this place.

Climbing the 'Warm up' on Rishimuk Plateau
 Hampi, Southern India.
April 2nd 2014

3 weeks before this exceptional happening however, my head was reeling like a boomerang still in flight. Personal circumstance had not unfolded as i thought at all. 3 months of climbing and being on the road in California was bliss in the afterglow of Burning Man, especially when we returned to my favourite place in the United States. Joshua Tree. 4 months in SE Asia after that, tapping into the wonderful world of the climbing community, mixed with bountiful blends of cuisine and architecture on our 'cultural' down days. Other times the big chill. Great fun in both Thailand and Laos
But something happened when we crossed the Pacific. A shift i couldn't put a finger on. It started subtle though but we felt it. Diana and I. For me, it felt like a block of communication. With this resistance growing in strength i became angry on two fronts. Why can't i articulate myself? Why was this happening now? Resulting in a slow downward spiral into a self imposed prison. We did have amazing days though and those memories i shall cherish. But the my inner self at the time? Was losing cabin pressure. 

Wandering & Pondering in Ton Sai
It was like riding wavesLeading an overhang without taking a fall, dancing on the beach or watching the sunset and discussing the mechanics of life were and are of course, fantastic. But again, with one on one engagement, inter connectedness at an intimate level grew dimmer and hazy with time and space. My ego jumping and stomping in a tantrum, as my conceived notions of the future don't go as i want or expect. Yup, we're breaking down. Climbing becomes my only respite. I'm always psyched to move on the rock but it wasn't enough. I had to fix something but i didn't know what. Perpetual cycles. What a weight.

It's dark by the time i stagger from the night into the light of the Hexagon. The vibrations from the music and the people within the nest are perfectly in tune. Hanging lanterns of different shaded colours dance and sway in the gentle breeze. Harmony. Many conversations are had. Track; Desert Raven by Jonathan Wilson. Learning, sharing, having fun. At some point in the night i find myself sitting with Sam and Jackson in a state of such contentment that i found myself having some kind of revelation.
Two and a half weeks in India, where interaction with people is constant, nothing goes the way you think it will and really money is just a game when travelling on a shoestring. It all helps you to work on some core skills such as keeping a bag of tricks for bartering and being open in an honest and responsible way. And the latter, really worked a number on me.

Back in Chiang Mai, Diana's about to catch the bus to Bangkok and take a flight back to the US. We figured that this parting would also serve as a metaphor for our relationship, as a 'couple' that is, good friends we shall remain. What a year though. During that time we climbed the Incredible Hulk together with 'that scramble' down in hail and freezing rain, we had vehicle breakdowns on major highways, an episode with a black bear that ripped all our food apart, moon flooded nights in Joshua Tree, trekking the jungle in northern Laos, motorbike night rides from the crag, braved illness and my damned Ton Sai abscess..Unique experiences shared together. 
Looking at her radiant face through misty eyes and quivering chin, I'm filled with a real sense of gratitude, betrayed however, by resignation and fleeting thoughts of 'what if'. 

Diana and Wade climbing at the Furnace, Chiang Mai
Thai people mill around the truck, inhibiting what might have been an emotional scene. Fortunately, we had a chance earlier that day to talk. Ironically, its was one of the best dialogues we'd had in weeks. The thing was, that during this Asia trip, i was often left at a loss for words, i couldn't understand what i was feeling let alone express that to her. So many times I wanted to tell her that i loved her and tell her she was great just by being her but i would also be absent minded and miss obvious chances to express that through actions instead of words because i was thinking thinking thinking about how and why our situation had changed, totally missing the present.
That morning however was different. Upon separation a weight was lifted and we started talking, recounting stories, laughing and crying. The most open communication we'd had in a while. Tremendously therapeutic. A sign that all was not lost, i could still speak from the heart but the root of the problem was not solved. It was clear that i couldn't move forward until i found the source of this disquiet.  

With emotion somewhat purged, i felt hollowed out but good, it felt right. She fades away with the traffic and that was it, she was gone. But not lost.

 If you love somebody you have to be willing to set them free.
 I will always love you Diana.

Inside the Hexagon, i feel my vibration increase. I close my eyes and sit for a while, focusing on awareness. The energy in here tonight is amazing. How 8 inhabitants can create a flowing feeling of loving and healing, like a Burning Man cell is incredible and shows what each of us is capable of creating. Conscious creators. It's been a while since I've been in a state quite like this. My engrossed, albeit excited, mental chatter evaporates leaving fresh thoughts and sensory input to be viewed objectively. I notice these thoughts but i am not my thoughts. I am. Next track; The Sense I Am by Mooji.

"Just the feeling i am, is present...but it's not attached to any condition or any thought. If Spirituality or religion has any significance, its only such that when its sieved out, the feeling 'I amness' stops associating with other concepts and ideas...and simply marinades in its own self....and then great peace...great joy.." - Mooji

The gurus words emanate from the sound system. It feels like he's talking directly to my consciousness. Synchronicity is met with a blissful smile. A warm sensation begins to glow in the centre of my chest. 

On March 14th, I touch down in Kolkata with my 'water brother' Mona. Yes, we're here! Before we even leave the airport, it begins. "OK, so lets use the ATM so we can get into the city"...Only, one machine is out of money, the other out of order and the currency exchange won't accept anything under $30. We meet Daniel, a Danish fellow in the same boat. The three of us converse with a cohort of attendants and eventually we are guided out of the airport, past the bus station to a tiny building near the airfield. Inside this dimly lit shack is a machine. Weird
A little while later we are in a taxi heading to our booked hostel in Dum-Dum. Nowhere near the centre of the city. The rickety white tin box, bumbles along through tight lanes heaving with people, rickshaws, cows, blaring music, colourful buildings and rapid fire honks from every vehicle on the road. There's traffic going in all directions, even sideways. 
But it goes slow enough to let everything flow. Amazing to witness. People definitely get knocked around if you're not careful but for the most part it works. It feels like swimming with multiple interconnected shoals of fish. 

Sensory overload. I loved it.

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
10 days later, a camel lumbers past laden with smiling Indians swaying this way and that. We are taking a last look at the aquatic expanse of the bay of Bengal from the beach in Puri. A lot hasn't made sense to me up to this point. Nothing happens the way you expect, people seem to eventually ask for money or act without any kind of forethought of their actions. Sacred cows eating in mountains of trash and the spectrum of poverty astonishing.
Almost every financial interaction ends with confusion for everyone involved and always scraps of paper with sums and division with individual taxes for every item included afterwards. It took us days to leave Kolkata due to the Holi festival and had to pay a travel agent in Puri to wake up at 4am and get us tickets, as our entire day before at the ticket office and trying online ended in vain. It's hard to be introverted and think. I just wanted to be in Hampi to climb with Liam and Mona. 

Puri's Beach
We board the train the following day at dawn, drink some chai and let the next 25 hours float by. Hot drinks, Biryani, beggars, keeps going. Someone always has something sometime. I feel like this is the first time i can relax and just take everything in, apart from the transvestites who want money to leave you alone. Quite strange.

Mona the Sunflower
Looking over at Mona on the other side of the sleeper carriage, i'm met with her primrose perplexion smiling back at me, loving this place she had visited many times before. Knowing the process i'm going through getting to know this place too. Hey, it's not for everyone. You either love it or you...find it frustrating. The sun rises and sets in the same day of our long journey and rises once more as we enter Hospet. A short distance from Hampi.  
A few days later, we forgo our brief 05:30 morning ritual. It was fun, especially some of the cracked boulders, but lets face it. All too soon it's too hot to climb. High's of 42'C is too much and leaves you immobilised. Surrender, it's OK. Submit to the day with the solace that i can climb for an hour or two in the evening. 

The young Wizard Liam having a good time on 'Psycobloc' 6b+. Thank you Dana Wang for the photo.

My philosophic counterpart, Liam, and I spend our days instead discussing in analytical cycles about India and the human condition with our pocket book scepticism. A time of council and meeting of minds. Wonderful of course but i still felt i wasn't shining the light in the right direction. Illumination had not occurred lately. A few days later, Liam must go North. Good timing to. The hostel we are in is closing down due to domestic issues with the married owners. The latest argument could be heard from every corner of the place, almost personifying my own back and forth of late. The next day, i bid my old friend farewell at the 'ferry' and move into Manju's Guest House down the road. Bags are dumped into the new room. It's quiet here, how refreshing. Time to walk over to the Hexagon and meet the others.  

The Hexagon
Next Track; 'You are Awareness' by Mooji  

"Both the ego and the consciousness refers to themselves as 'I'. You see, God says 'I' and the Devil says 'I'......You've fallen for it, you the consciousness has fallen for your own projection" - Mooji

Wind inflates my lungs as i take a slow deep breath and maintain the glowing embers i can feel in my chest. 'Maya' is a Sanskrit term for delusion and that was just it. I didn't think it was possible but it had happened to me. What had caused this state of delusion? The damn ego. And the reason for this? Lack of growth and imbalance. I had been living, on and off, in Western Canada since '09 and have been helped financially from my parents. Yes i worked during the winter to pay for the ski lift ticket and for rent but without that flow of aid, a lot would not have been possible. So because of this, although i am of course immensely grateful for their support and understanding, i am left with a sense of shame. 
Shame that I'm not doing this completely off my own back. On the other hand, I'm pursuing travelling and climbing. The two vehicles that have introduced me to the mighty mountains, the supreme silence of the desert and people whom i love and would be strangers had i never jumped on that plane or never hitch hiked down that road. All of which have helped me to become more conscious but somewhere i faltered in that evolution.

Shining brighter. Yes, genuine reflection, finally. Alex Greys conceptual artwork of  'Sacred Mirrors' suddenly becomes a little more understood. We are different aspects of the same entity. What    
 we see in other people reflects in us something we love or we hate (with various degrees in between). Why couldn't I express myself to Diana then? Because of 'poor little me'. That damn ego. She is smart, capable and independent. Self sufficient. This highlighted a gap in my life and i knew i had left that gap unfilled and unfulfilled for too long and as a result used accomplishments in climbing to try to heal that rift. 
I will always be thankful to climbing for forging my connection with this earth and creating my first ripples of awareness and it will remain a major part of my life but it can't be everything. When i tried, my sense of self, my identity crisis, is what caused layer upon layer until eventually the voice of the heart was dimmed and i began to stumble in the dark.

Not anymore. 

It occurs to me how powerful perception is. Heaven and Hell is not some external world but right here right now. We are the creators of our own reality and if it's run by the stroppy 'poor little me' primate ego constantly fearful and looking for validation we will get nowhere and live in these hateful perpetual cycles. Like the Ying - Yang, Vishnu & Shiva, Creation & Destruction, Love & Hate, Spring & Fall, they all go hand in hand, one cannot exist without the other but i choose to step into the light. Renounce the ego. I felt a rejuvenation in me once more, like getting shoved back onto the path and saved from stumbling in the undergrowth. 

The gravity of the Shaman Dome finally dawns on me. The snake bite had indeed poisoned me but it was necessary. I had to go through the delirium in order for that poison to be transmuted. I had finally shed my former self. Born again to to speak. Back to the feeling of simply being.  

"I think now looking back, we did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us." - quote from Oliver Stone's film Platoon.