Category Archives: Snake Bite

Snake Bite

*†*

So we come to it at last. The melting point.

In April 2014, I found myself in the south of India experiencing an unexpected awakening. I was bouncing between the enjoyment of personal freedom and the bitter after taste of emotional pain. Finding this back and forth unbearable I somehow began to reject this state of affairs.

As you’ll read below, the grace of my own Self, the Universe, presented a question; Who or what is the witness of your ‘I’ that you take so seriously?

The venom of the Serpent was beginning to transmute and dissolve some of the great illusions of seperateness and I started to hatch out of my egoic shell of a personhood after an auspicious evening in Hampi.

*†*

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 to climb boulders that didn’t look too hard 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, India
Climbing the ‘warm up’ on Rishimuk Plateau. Hampi, India

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. We then travelled and climbed across SE Asia, tapping into the wonderful world of the climbing community, mixed with bountiful blends of cuisine and architecture on our ‘cultural’ down days. Tons of fun.

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 state at the time? Was losing cabin pressure. 

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.

Wondering and pondering in Ton Sai
Wondering and pondering in Thailand


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 find 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 but good friends we shall remain. What a year though. We climbed the Incredible Hulk together with ‘that scramble’ down in hail and freezing rain, we had vehicle breakdowns on major highways, 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 upon her 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’. 

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 but I was absent minded and missed 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. 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. 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.

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 me. 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. 

Victoria Memorial in Calcutta
Victoria Memorial in Kolcutta

Sensory overload. I loved it.

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, It took us days to leave Kolkata due to the Holi festival and wasted an entire day at the ticket office ending in vain. It’s hard to be introverted and think. I just wanted to be in Hampi to climb with Liam.

We board the train the following day at dawn, drink some chai and let the next 25 hours float by. Hot drinks, Biryani, beggars, water..it 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. Strange.

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.  

Mona the sunflower
Mona the sunflower

A few days later, we forgo our brief 05:30 morning climb ritual. It was fun, 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 you can climb for an hour or two in the evening. 

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. All too soon, 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.  

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 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. I did work 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.

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 our inner state.  Why couldn’t I express myself to Diana then? Because of ‘poor little me’. That damn ego. She is smart 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 feel a rejuvenation in me once more, like getting shoved back onto the path and saved from stumbling in the undergrowth.

1964807_1417887338463643_1070421679_n
Thanks Dana Wang for the photo

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 finally began to shed my former self. Born again so 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.


Epilogue

The following morning, i take a stroll onto the grass and lie down next to Britta and Jackson playing the guitar. Bliss. It felt like the garden of Eden in this sublime afterglow. Like a veil had been lifted. The birds are chirping and the sky deep blue. The various forms and shades of green all feel vitalising too. Growing things in what Taoism calls ‘Wu Tze’. Orderly chaos. Perfection, forever changing forms. Breathe. I share with the others what happened last night. When I spoke with Sam before going catatonic last night he said;

 “It makes sense and feels right because it’s a state of remembering something you already know, you just forgot….Now you’ve walked through that door, you’re ready for anything” 

The ensuing week was full of little miracles, they happen all the time. Seb comes back from the market bearing gifts of necklaces. One in particular stands out to me which he notices and gives to me. It’s a diamond shaped stone that has the same coloured consistency of a reptiles scale. A big one. He had no knowledge of the ‘snake bite’ which I told him about soon after accepting the gift.

One night a man from London whips out a sidar and enters a musical trance. He plays like any brilliant artist who can use the instrument as an extension of his mind and delivers pure expression. During the second song, the owner of the place, Manju joins the beat with his mouth piece instrument (Morsing / Jew’s Harp) and plays so well that it isn’t just an accompany, it sounds like a layer of psy trance. Electric and met with a round of applause when the song fades. He’s not finished though. He goes on to say how much he loves the group that has coalesced in this place, that his family including the two Nepalese chiefs have stayed open an extra week or so because they genuinely enjoys having us stay and knows how much we love this place and the people in it. It was heartwarming.

1544429_10153995708970510_3446275564010132913_n
Family at Manju’s

I would like to extend a most sincere thanks not only to Manju and the infinitely kind family but also to all those rays of light that gathered in the healing hexagon. You are all special people.

And of course to Mother India. I admit my initial motivation was escapism, which isn’t the best, but I needed a spiritual experience nonetheless. Having said that, at the time I did not conceive how profoundly powerful that experience was going to be. You helped me to open up again just when I wanted to stay in my fractured little shell and for that I am eternally grateful.

 Finally falling into India’s rhythmic heartbeat, it was time to move on again. To each and every one of you, it will only be a matter of time until our next meeting. I take great comfort in that.

Peace & Love