Travel notes from my year in India (2003): Goa. 5 of 16

December 31

Here I am sitting on a beach in Goa looking at the sunset, in this day both meaningless and loaded with expectation. It is windy and the Arabian sea is ruffled. The waves and the reflection give life to a golden snake, continuously swirling towards me in a familiar movement: the same I saw the moon create in Big Sur this summer. The sun rushes ahead, eager to bring this last day to you, the ones I love, so far away. Soon this same sky, now so passionately colored, will become transparent and reveal once again the enormous emptiness and darkness of the universe around us.

What a kind miracle that such terrifying isolation should be hidden from us during our active day by such an elegant blue blanket. The same one that keeps us alive. The same one that also regularly disappears in itself to still remind us of where we stand. The way we have converted sunsets from the panic of the disappearance of life light and color to romantic and reflective is utterly similar to all the other 'conversions' we do unconsciously every day. Fear is intrinsic to our existence. The more we hide it from ourselves, the more we fall down the cave. And do we really want to spend this brief moment of existence in a hole, where all we see are the infamous reflections on the walls? At the same time I ask myself how many more times I will have the strength to intentionally destroy the comfortable cocoon I have had to rebuild so often already. How many times will I have the courage to stand in naked isolation in dark night, knowing full well that every time it will be darker and colder than the previous? Only I need to remember how every sunrise is equally more piercing of true clarity. Is it thus the ego or the fear that I need to chase? So far I have only really acknowledged both the power and the links between the two. I see now the ego driving me around all day, the flirtatious mind desperately active in hiding both the night and the sunrise.  How I wish at times that I could skip a few cycles and jump ahead to the next chapter! It might not be about the destination, but the journey sure is rough at times.


January 7
What is 'real'? We arbitrarily set reality and imaginary apart in an illusion of control. We choose to believe that the 'real' is scientific, conscious, controllable, and predictable. But of course it is not. So we narrow our focus more and more, sinking deeper and deeper in a dark hole that is more unreal than any reality could ever be.  We negate all that is there to help us: our dream, feelings, visions, fantasies. The moon is just a big rock, a butterfly is only an insect with big wings, and a 'moment' is nothing but a moment.

The unconscious retreats and becomes our own enemy, chasing us with doubts and fears and dissatisfaction. We intellectualize and rationalize even more, hoping in a relief, but to no avail. Some choose to retreat, to hide behind all sorts of distractions.  Most, when confronted with a crack in their 'reality', choose the blue pill: forget all about it and go back to somewhere where the crack cannot be seen. I chose to jump in the dark, eat the red pill, the one with no return path, slipping right through and into the crack. I am piercing through the layers of our collective conditioning, in awe of a fluid space, all of a sudden free of borders and walls. I surrender, and in so doing I am freed. Partly. That is how I find myself in Goa. The full moon rave at the beach, by the temple, under the palms. There is a fully dressed cow dancing to the beat of trance music. Yes, she is truly shaking on all four legs, following the rhythm of the music.

I close my eyes and the music takes forms, in shapes and colors that my body instinctively follows. At sunrise the party moves inland, in a bamboo forest at the bottom of a valley. And goes on until sunset. I meet Lorenzo, American, tanned, tattooed, in his late 40's. He has also been to Esalen and Burning Man (a new community in the making!). And his wife, who's name I did not understand, beautiful, young, delicate. We share a moment in time, deep strong brief. We part as brothers, maybe never to meet again. And it is OK.


January 15
I have decided to join a Yvengar yoga intensive course and am lucky to find place in one of only 4 Tee-Pee's that are within the complex that sits under the palms, caught between the sea and a river. The location is stunning, in splendid isolation. An island of peace in the craziness of Goa. After a few days I enter for the first time in some of those 'impossible' asanas. A sense of accomplishment: at least the body is responding! That night the moon smiled at me in her reflection from the river, the shadows of the palm trees bowing respectfully.  The class (there is about 30 of us) is a muesli mix of ages, accents, personalities, and life histories. I met Chris, he tells me about the sexual habits of a famous writer. I feel an initial sense of disenchantment, almost betrayal. But after further consideration I realize that I am placing a moralistic and conditioned judgment on his sexual life.

I am caught in the old paradigm that a 'spiritual' person should have a monastic life, that enlightenment only comes through privation, sacrifice, suffering.  I share my thoughts with Chris and in reply he tells me about his latest research on sexual behaviors in the stone age. Apparently the ratio of testicular volume to body mass is a sure indicator if an animal species is monogamous or not. Of course I ask, and it turns out that humans are somewhere in between.

I argue that we are different because of our consciousness. He counter-argues that consciousness gives us the power to love, which is different from our natural sexuality. We end up disagreeing a bit on whether it is possible to love one person but fuck many. But then again... Looking back in history, it is true that monogamy has mostly been driven by need, and that the wealthier members of most communities always seem to have been polygamous.  Also, I have reached some time ago the conclusion that love is not an institution, nor any of the many forms of dependency (father/mother figure, need of affection or security, etc.). But rather the conscious decision by two individuals to follow the same path for a period of time. Together, but still respecting the individual identities. So, if we are truly free of all conditioning and dependencies, can this go as far as been monogamous emotionally but not physically? Most would agree rationally that jealousy is a form of possession, but is a long step to actually not feel the pain at the idea of our loved one being fucked by someone else! In my personal case I feel like monogamy has been a social conditioning, while polygamy has been a parental conditioning. And the path forward is impossible to predict, control, or judge.

January 22
Midnight, riding on my motorbike back to my Tee-Pee tent. A long ride back in the complete darkness of Indian back-roads. The sky is full of stars, there is no moon, and the air is warm. All of a sudden I am on the long bridge over the river, the one that took 12 years to build. Orange lights on high poles disappearing in the distance. Nobody else on the road. Two realities mixing together: that one of other such bridges back 'at home', and the one I am supposed to be in. Where such bridges are an abnormality, an exception that is there to catch me off-guard in my perception of space and time. Four cows sleeping in the middle of the road bring me back.

February 03

Surf Club, my local hangout bar here in Arambol since a couple of weeks. Communities and friendships start fast here. It is sunset; I am lying on a hammock. The two local waiters are playing pool in the background. The palm leaves all around us slowly turn into intricate golden patterns with the last sun rays. Time is different here. Well, so is space. What a folly to live in the belief of one singular and linear reality.  Then suddenly everybody leaves for some birthday party. I will follow, later.