Category Archives: Travels With Sarva

Daily living centered and present with Sarva.

I love Cuban cigars

I love Cuban cigars

Malaga city for new years eve was a lot of fun even without the fireworks. The adventure was almost uneventful and methodical. Usually when Kimber and I go on a trip or have an event there are so many unexpected and unplanned activities around that we rarely just have the actual event itself. This time though, neither of us was sick, we got on the right bus, got off the bus at the right stop, remembered our luggage, no traffic jams, no interesting encounters with people or animals, no history making weather, and well, rather a simple holiday really. OK so that’s it. Thanks for reading. Take care, and all our best to you and the family.

We lucked out with the hotel at Don Curro. The desk man said to Kimber, “If you aren’t in a rush for a room and you can wait about 15 minutes I have a really great room almost ready.” Kimber tells him we are in no rush. The hotel is amazing architecture and located in the old town section of Malaga. Pronounced; Mul-Ah-Gaw if you’re English and Mal-a-ga (a is silent in all 3 syllables) if you’re Spanish. The check-in desk area is decked out with marble floor, travertine walls, mirrors, and perfectly polished, glossy finished, spanish cypress check in counter. Just inside the front door is a staircase to the right. The steps are coco travertine, and the risers are carmel marble, with a handrail of brass. To the left is the check-in counter and marble path to the elevators.

Don Curro Hotel

The wait was well worth it. The room is on the top floor with a view over the old town and the massive cathedral just two blocks away. The scenery captured my attention several times during our three day stay. As I stood in the open window gazing out at the ancient city, mountains, trees, and sky I thought of all my friends, and most of my family. I can hear the people below, on the streets of the town. I’m impressed with the surroundings and the experience. It’s New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2019, the last day of the second decade of the second millenia. I wonder if I can come back here in 2221 for New Years Eve. No, no I didn’t wonder that. Just kidding, really. I’d be too old to stand in the window by then.

It’s the sound of people that makes us most excited and anxious to get settled in the room so we can head out to explore the streets. We truly enjoy people and humanity. We humans are an amazing miracle of the universe. While you may think the formation of a sun, or a supernova is an incredible manifestation of the universe’s power, humans are, every one of us, holy and all powerful. The chance to walk with, mingle with, bump into, speak with, listen to, and just the opportunity to be here with so many holy beings all at once, is truly a miracle. Kimber and I are unpacking the backpacks and getting ready for the explorations of the Malaga pueblo. Meanwhile we are discussing the four highest qualities of humanity. It’s not the equanimity, not the mindfulness, not even the loving kindness of those four treasures that has caught my attention here but the rare case, the first of the four highest qualities of humans: Sympathetic  joy. 

German culture shares the wisdom that says bad news shared with friends and loved ones is only half as bad and good news not shared is only half as good. The more I think about that sage, old wisdom the more I realize it’s a perfect definition of Sympathetic Joy. 

Just a Drunken Sailor

When I first arrived in Spain, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions and senses. Selling everything we owned, throwing away everything we couldn’t sell, giving away a few of our loved treasures to the few people we cared enough to burden with our junk, and coming to a country brand new to us with just five suitcases (and a load of cash didn’t hurt) was like a supernova event. I snapped photos on my phone like a drunken sailor in a nudist camp. I shared thoughts, ideas, pictures and happiness with everyone in my contacts and across the internet. At times I felt like all of my friends and family were sitting back rolling their eyes and murmuring, “oh gawd here he goes again!” I wasn’t bragging nor trying to do anything except share the joy I was experiencing. That’s just Sympathetic Joy.

Finally, we are out of the room, out of the hotel and into the streets of the city. We’re after the Indian food or maybe Mexican food. There are supposed to be three “authentic” Mexican restaurants in the old town (old pueblo) area. Google maps is guiding us through the bario, the maze of narrow streets and tall buildings. We’re strolling through holiday crowds where half the people are going in the same direction as we are. Some faster, some slower and occasionally, without warning, some people stop to have a more intense conversation for a few minutes before they continue on. The other half of the people are going in the other direction than what we are. Then there’s the half that is going across to the right and the half that are crossing to the left. Finally, the last half are the people who are window shopping from one side of the narrow street to the other side, back and forth they come and go. Stopping in the middle to express their excitement for what they saw over there, and over there while their friends are telling them the same thing about their experience over there and over there. Everyone is talking, a few are listening, and we’re all enjoying being here together — just this.

Oh, and then there is the occasional car, what!, yes-in-deed sometimes a car drives along these narrow pueblo streets filled and lined with hundreds of holiday festive joyful holy beings. We are loving the whole scene.

Mexican or Indian it’s all the same

We did locate all three of the Mexican restaurants in the area. We’ve walked for nearly an hour and a half criss-crossed the myriad of streets only to discover they are all three closed for the holiday. We are so happy they took time off to be with their friends and share some holiday time with family. We did see a combination, Indian and Mexican restaurant on our trek and Kimber spoke with the waitress. They were having a New Years Eve special for just 80 euros a piece. The selection was all they had for the evening. We moved on, and eventually we chose a nice Indian restaurant a block off of the main street. 

I could see the people on the main street from our sidewalk table. Can you even imagine how much information is streaming through the fiber optic tubes around the planet on New Years Eve? I’m seeing everyone snapping photos with their phones, shooting videos, and many with those selfie-sticks capturing themselves while enjoying the night’s event. They post these across Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and hundreds of other apps to share their joy. That’s more examples of Sympathetic Joy. Absolute planned happiness, I say to my wife. She barely looks up because she has become all-too-familiar with my suddenly saying something totally off the wall. Finally, after a moment or two she replies, yes it certainly is. 

collage of malaga on new years 2020

If you want to invite happiness & joy, into your life you have to plan it in. It doesn’t very often just show up all by itself. Life isn’t a natural fit for love and all of the elements that are included in the aggregate of love. Life is, instead a natural state of fear, greed, lust, anger, and delusion. Being here as the holy and perfect being that you are is an effort for you have to learn how to overcome these five karmas. You overcome them with love. I can almost hear all those eyeball rolls now. Using the four highest qualities of a human, you can overcome all the bad karma in your life. Start today. Right now. Plan it out. Invite happiness in by simply doing something you typically never do. Share the good news and the bad news with everyone in your family, all of your friends, and even with people you don’t personally know. Who cares what they think or say. This is about you not them.

Planning for happiness

Kimber pretending to ignore me

Sure you might feel a little embarrassed at first. What if nobody cares, what if they laugh, what if they ignore my silly sharing of personal thoughts, ideas, experiences? Yes, you might feel like it’s too beneath you to share your cleverness and your perfect intellect that provided you with this personal experience of misery or deep happiness.  Or maybe you feel it opens you to a sense of vulnerability that someone, somewhere, may someday exploit to get an upper advantage over you. Just trust yourself and share your bad and good as often as you can it’s the Sympathetic Joy that can spark a revolution in your life and countless others too. Stop keeping everything to yourself and being so selfish and aloof! Open up and reach out to the planet of miraculous and marvelous holy beings around you. 

Okay, stop the eye rolling or at least grab the selfie stick and your phone to capture and share.

Second day in Malaga we walked the pier and envied the yachts. Then we argued and stressed about taking a city buss across the city and to a distant pueblo of Benalmadena. I know… I know. It’s ben-al-ma-deeeena if you’re english, and ben-ala-ma-dayna if you’re spanish. It means, children of the mines. We typically get cross with each other when we’re about to do something stressful. When we’re not exactly sure how or what to do or not sure what the consequence may be, we get a tad testy with each other. Kimber more so than I, for sure! (wink wink) But, there is a monument in Benalmadena we have wanted to visit and we’ve talked about visiting long before we moved here. The time was right and off to the adventure we went. 

Buddhist Stupa in Benalmadena

We had a few bus changes to get to the destination and back again, but we made it to the Stupa. These stupas are supposed to have some actual relic from the Buddha, Shakyamuni, underneath the golden dome. It maybe a hair, a finger nail, a bone, or a tooth. Not that this makes the Stupa some sort of magical place or a place where great miracles happen. That’s ridiculous. You have to build your own karma and karmic powers before that can happen. Though Kimber did read on the internet that if you walk around the stupa in a clockwise (always clockwise in everything you do) direction, three times then your dreams will come true. That’s just utter nonsense; everyone’s dreams come true — just not right now, today, in this lifetime, on this planet, but certainly with all your karma accumulated they do/will.

Buddhists Holy Beings it’s all the same

Everyone of us feels ashamed of our feelings, man. It sucks to be so encompassed by our thinking minds. Do you know how many memes you can find on facebook that stress the self ridicule, self deprecating, and the number of memes posted that express contempt for people? It’s out of control how casual people find it to share a ready made image with a snappy caption that either communicates self hate or hate for humankind. Stop it! Yes, some of you do this and it’s alarming. Post something amazing about your day, not your spouse, pets, scenery. Something fantastic about you. “I cleaned my toilet today. Under the rim, behind the back on the floor, under the bolt covers that hold the seat in place, inside the bowl where the water is stored between flushes, and the underneath side of the tank lid. I’m feeling accomplished for the day,and like I deserve this hot buttered rum that I just made from scratch.” Now there’s some sympathetic joy that can raise cheerful smiles and laughter across the planet. Embody that karma!

Some of us feel like we are missing out on life or that there is only so much happiness to go around and everyone is using it up. Sure you might not have everything you want and maybe you feel envy when you see or read about someone else’s happiness. Kimber and I see this when we’re out walking around. I remember a time when I was shopping at the Friday open market which are always packed with too many people and not enough room between vendors. People going in all directions, just like New Years Eve in Malaga. And every now and again there’s that one person with anger, rage, and condemning judgement coming through the crowd. Elbowing people, pushing and snarling as they thrust in disgust, pass the shoppers. I hear them and many people say it, “I hate people.” My step-father was frequently proud to announce his hate for mankind too. It shocked me as a child and still does as a senior citizen today.

Have a great year, everyday

All you need to do to stop hating is to stop judging. Stop comparing what others are doing to your strict guidelines to what they should be doing. Stop judging, stop thinking the world is wrong because of everyone else or that the troubles in life are because of others. In its place, share your sadness, share your happiness, share your accomplishments, share your failures. Fix yourself and you’ll quickly realize how holy you and everyone is.

My messy table

Kimber scored a new pair of walking shoes on our last day, shopping in Malaga. They were made in Brazil and they look pretty sweet. She told me they make her want to walk. I’m very sad by this because we are already walking 40 to 50 kilometers a week (25 to 30 miles), and my feet hurt. I have drop foot and my left leg always fights with me as we walk. It makes me happy too because we need to stay active as we age and do not go quietly into the night. I scored some Cuban cigars that are priced something like 99.9% less than you can get them in the USA. That makes me happy because I enjoy cigars with my whisky and Kimber doesn’t give me grief about the costs. OK I’ve beaten this theme of Sympathetic Joy to the edge of examples and reasoning, but before you take an oath to never go online again just to avoid having to read anything else I’ve written — that’s called self deprecation or what the Canadian’s have perfected called ‘passive aggressive’ — remember that you are always in my thoughts and I wish you every happiness!


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Born Again and Again

Though I am not very skilled at writing in first-person yet, here’s another short story. It’s not that I’m an unskilled writer, so I write. It’s more accurate to state that I want to be a better first-person writer so I write. Like everything human influenced in this existence we get better with practice. To help me learn in a guided and skillful way I have been taking a course from Wesleyan University in first-person writing. Hang in there, dear reader, improvement is on the way.

Buddhism and reincarnation

Last Wednesday I was hiking over the small hills to the east of my apartment with Sarva. The hills are steep in ascent and decent but they are fairly small. Perhaps just 60 or 70 meters in elevation. The first hill separates Tesorillo beach and Bahia beach while the second hill separates Bahia beach from the nudist beach. The vistas along the path are amazing. The sounds of the waves and the almost constant onshore breeze make the physical effort of these steep climbs more enjoyable than strenuous. 

These two hills and the three beaches are part of a park called Parque Mediterraneo. The path is fairly maintained by the city and it’s path provides sure footedness. Sarva is anxious for the workout and I can sense there’s a lot on his mind this morning. His pace all along the boardwalk has been slightly quicker than our usual, and he’s quiet. Too quiet.

Park entrance
Parque Mediterraneo

As we reach the entry to the park, passing below the welcome sign Sarva breaks the silence. “When most people in the Americas think of Buddhism, the first thing that they question is reincarnation. Even though the concept of rebirth or multiple exitstence is more generally accepted by Hinduism then it is for a Buddhist. People may think this reincarnation is impossible or false and I have had conversations on a few occasions with people who have said it is devil talk. While the concept may seem unbelievable mainly based on individual memories. That is, if I had lived before why would I have no memory of my previous life or lives?

This sort of questioning, from a Buddhist perspective, is a waste of time. It’s wrong. Not that there isn’t an answer, or that we are wasting our time looking for an answer. The purpose of Buddhism is to free your consciousness from this cyclic existence. The human experience or rather the human existence is the only level of consciousness where this freedom can be realized. Thinking, therefore must be perfected. Our efforts to enhance the mental clarity for optimal usefulness of the mind requires a Kung-fu like effort. The question of reincarnation isn’t the cause of suffering, it is the ambiguousness, difficulty, and unknowing of death and birth that cause suffering.

The Truth About Living

There may be a simple answer to a simple question. It’s not a question of — is reincarnation real? We can see and experience reincarnation in any of the thousands of examples all around us. Within the cosmos and on this very planet, we have perfect illustrations and reminders for the natural cyclic existence of everything. The more precise question about reincarnation that causes people suffering (stress) is — why can I not recall my previous lives? There are three possible answers. The first is rather simple but may also seem like an evasive response. 

From my apartment in Velilla
Sunrise over Salabrina

The easiest way for each of us to discover why we are not keenly aware of our previous lives is to ask what did you have for dinner last night two years ago? What television show did you watch six months ago. The answers to these simple questions for many people is — I don’t remember. For some people, where the daily routine is constant the answer maybe a little more substantial. It’s basic generalizations for most people, but answers with not much precision or clarity. Similarly, karma carries forward from one lifetime to the next. Your previous life may have been on a battlefield in 7th century Egypt as a foot soldier, and you may have been a homeless peasant suffering the plague in north Africa. You can’t know that level of detail. The way you act, the character of your behaviour, the basic personality has not changed much.

Comparing life from one to the next is truly wasting precious time. Though it is often a necessary step in the practice. Some people need to untie the mental knot, so-to-speak. They truly need to get a more substantial answer to reincarnation. They seek an answer that runs deeper than a simple lapse of memory. Then, for those who need a more substantial answer, let’s use karma, the duality principle of the universe.

The Evolution of a Universe

Climbing to La Herradura
Stairs to La Herradura

All life forms are different and even within the same species there are varying degrees of differences. Consciousness, for example. Some life forms are more conscious than others. A bird is more conscious than a butterfly, a fish is more conscious than a barnacle and on and on the comparisons are endless. We can know for certain that humans are more conscious than any other forms of life on earth. Yet, even among the human species consciousness is less for some than for others. There are some people who are not conscious at all. When we sleep for instance.

Natural evolution has increased the levels of consciousness in all species, and more so for humans. Biologically the human body has increased the ability to convert the food we eat into more energy. The increased energy means more amperage which provide faster muscle responses and cognition. At some point in evolution, thinking began. Humans emerged from animal behaviours based on instinct alone. Thinking provided reasoning, and creativity developed. The imagination, or the voice in the mind grew powerful — magically. The thinking itself is magic. Truly it is. 

Everything in our lives today that improves the quality of life began as a thought. From the coffee cup you start the day with, to the mattress you lay on to end the day and everything in between is the result of a simple creative thought.

As we continue to evolve, the brain is becoming more aware, more conscious. Nutrition improves and our body can generate more energy. More energy means higher voltage which then provides faster mental ability, more thoughts, more creativity. In your previous lives, you may not have even been human. Perhaps this is your first lucky break. Even if you were human in the last conscious life, or even in the past four, five, etc. lives, it is unlikely your level of consciousness was aware.

Barely Conscious Now

Moon Rising over Salabrina
Moon rise over Salabrina

The conscious ability to be aware isn’t the biggest challenge to remembering your previous lives. It’s the creative energy of the mind. The universe itself is 100% creative energy. Every molecule, and atom that make up the body and mind comes from the universe. As Carl Sagan once said, “the basic atomic energy within each of us that causes us to be human came about as the result of an exploding supernova somewhere in space. When we look up at the night sky in wonder of the cosmos we are truly looking for our origin.” This so called consciousness is little else beside creative energy.

The trail has come to the last beach on the path. This is one of the smallest beaches in Almunecar and it’s also a designated nudist beach. There’s a lot of sand and patches of pebbles. The pebble areas hold a lot of sea glass and sea polished stones. It’s quite beautiful to see.” 

How Quick Minds Wander

Sea glass beachcombing
Pebble Beach

Kimber found the sea glass to be very pretty. She took home a few pieces following a visit several weeks ago. Since then, and over the last three weeks she’s become very  interested in sea glass. She researched it on the internet to find where it is coming from. Turns out there is a lot of information available on sea glass including the origins, colors, depth of etching, clarity, jewelry making, value, how to find it, when to look for it, etc. Last week she found a special vase for her growing collection of glass. Beachcombing for sea glass is an obsession.

Sarva continues the conversation. “The creative consciousness is always looking for adventure and is quickly bored. If it isn’t a sea glass distraction, it’s rumination of the past, or the favorite past-time of the mind — those makebelieve what-if scenarios. Anyone who has ever tried to stop thinking for more than half a minute knows just how pervasive and overpowering consciousness is. Imagine, therefore, how this creative and imaginative powerful thinking mind will run wild when the body dies. When there is no more distraction from the five karmas, dreams will become vivid realities and deeply complex. The karma of fears, greed, lust, anger and delusions will surface and take root. 

Dead Conscious

Mark on his birthday in 2019
Birthday 2019

Imagine what would happen if we never took the time and never made the effort to train and perfect our thinking mind. Without the practice that perfects consciousness with kung-fu precision death would provide unobstructed and insane mental instability. Fear, greed, anger, lust, and delusion would generate consciousness of hellish torments. Once the body dies and consciousness is free (no longer influenced by the five senses) in the bardo insanity would be certain. There, the mind, would grasp at any opportunity to escape the torment. Even if it meant birth as a cockroach.

Consciousness is the natural evolution of the universe. Though as a human it is easy to become deluded by self awareness, consciousness isn’t a part of human evolution. Humans, like consciousness are a part of the universe evolution. Quite likely, we are developing artificial super intelligence not to improve our lives as we think. Rather, artificial super intelligence is a next step in the evolution of the universe. 

My previous life and previous lives are very memorable. All it takes to remember aging, sickness, and death that are the life of every birth is a well trained mind to know it’s true. The practice is all there is of any great importance for this existence.”

view from the office
View from the office

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