Monday, 30 December 2013

This year I...

want you to take a couple minutes to think about this exact time, one year ago. Begin by thinking about where you were and who you were with. Then think about who you thought you were at that time - how you looked, what you wore, and how you presented yourself to others. Think about all of your affairs, think about the feelings you experienced, the friends you had, and any relationship you may have been in. Maybe think about the way that you looked at the world - or even the way in which the world looked at you! Who were you, what were you doing, and where were you going??

Now, take a look at this past year and think about how much has changed! Did it all happen the way you thought it would? Could you have ever imagined? It's amazing how much can happen in just one year. 

Now imagine if you had spent every moment of this last year working towards a definite goal - without wasting time on trivial matters such as excessive shopping, eating, sleeping, TV, gaming, gossip, etc. - you could have, WITHOUT A DOUBT, accomplished absolutely anything you wanted. You had the time. 

But there is good news - you still have that time! You can become anyone you want to become and accomplish anything you want to accomplish. All you need to do is to set your goals and then step towards them! Your future lies within your hands. 

Now today is the first day of 2014. How are you going to spend it? Are you going to lay in bed and think about this message, or are you going to jump, get out of bed, and get going. Start working. Start building for yourself the future you want. You have so much potential - don't waste a single second. 

Want to go a step further? 

I think a child understands how his life changes over the course of a year. A life-learned adult understands how his life changes over the course of a day. But few are those who understands that their lives change with every passing second. These men step closer to their goal with each decision they make - these men are the leaders of the world.  

I get SO many people who write to me telling me how lucky or fortunate I am to be traveling the world at my age. How lucky or fortunate I am to be experiencing what I am experiencing or doing what I am doing. But this is not true at all. Luck and fortune have nothing to do with it. I am traveling the world simply because I want to travel the world - because with every decision I've made over the past year I've made with my definite goal in mind. I am becoming who I want to become and accomplishing what I want to accomplish simply because I move towards my goals with every decision I make. 

So set your goals. Don't let your peers, parents, or social norms stop you. Do what YOU want to do and I promise you - the world is yours. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Your Infinite Potential

For those of you who know me - know full well the unique way in which I chose to travel. Seen by some as dangerous, risky, or even plain stupid - I travel without a plan or filter of actions, hitchhiking and Couchsurfing in every country that I visit (and if you think that's all I do, keep reading...).

*Gasp*? This is a common reaction. Before I left on my journey 2 months ago, I witnessed a lot of the negative views that my peers have of the countries of the world and the people in them - and maybe you feel some of the same.

Well I have now been backpacking for over 11 weeks in parts of México, Canada, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and I can honestly say that not once have I felt even remotely concerned for my safety. In fact, I have received nothing but genuine caring, kindness, and hospitality from everyone, everywhere - turning the last couple months into the most humbling experience of my entire life.

In Taiping with a view of the ocean during sunset, very much enjoying life

But the most important part of all of this began, in fact, before I even started travelling - at a place called SWITCH. SWITCH is a student-run healthcare centre established for the under served population of Saskatoon. And it was here, through many hours of volunteering, where I learned two pieces of experiential knowledge that changed everything:

First - When we show generosity towards others, we experience generosity and causeless happiness in return.


Second - With our thoughts and intentions we create the world we live in.

Everything that I have been able to experience over the the last couple months has been through the application of these facts to my behaviour, thoughts, and actions.

The first and most obvious example of this has been (and is) my ability to create my own safety. I have now hitchhiked over 3000km in Mexico, Canada, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And since I left Canada I have yet to pay for a nights sleep. I stay with hosts arranged through Internet, with people I meet on the streets, or on the streets themselves - on park benches, in vacated structures, airports, hostels (free), and hotel lobbies. When it comes to intercity travel I take every logistical 'risk' possible - walking randomly through back alleys and urban areas regardless of time, and taking public transport (never taxi) only when necessary. I rent motor bikes without license, enter countries with fake return tickets, and even submitted a visa application to the Thai embassy with fake documents (it was approved)! Not once have I ever held a negative thought towards an unknown person or situation - I simply don't understand the idea of danger associated with people and it's for this very reason that for three months, regardless of what I have done, I have been able to avoid danger of all types. As long as your thoughts always remain positive - your life will naturally be this way also.

One of my favourite open air accommodations in Indonesia - complete with cardboard mattress and brick pillow 

The purpose of my traveling has always been for spiritual development - and just by maintaining this intention, my trip has literally been filled with nothing but. Before I even left Canada I ended up  by staying in a very spiritual house in Nanaimo, and in Vancouver I met the ghost from the Polar Express leaning rocks in the fog on Wreck Beach :). In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I stayed over 3 weeks with a psychic Indian woman who, among other things, can see spirits, ferries, energies, thoughts, look into past lives, and answer just about every question about yourself that you can think of! In Kuantan I took a Vipassana Meditation course by S.N. Goenka and in Malaka I experienced a little bit of Islamic culture - even being able to attend a Muslim wedding. Once I arrived in Indonesia it took me less than 4 days to cancel my entire trip to be in the presence of an enlightened being, Swami Nithyananda, during one of his Inner Awakening programs . I also made day trips to Ratu Bagus' Ashram and visited a temple of a nearby cult leader. In addition to ALL of this, all along the way I have been introduced to various techniques of yoga, meditation,  prayer, and ceremonies, as well as the most profound spiritual, intellectual knowledge on earth - Vedic Mathematics as a small example. Setting an intention is like making a 24 hour goal for the way in which you want to experience your life - with proper sustenance you can experience WHATEVER you want to experience completely regardless of when or where. It is so simple.

Vibhu and I after 18 indescribable days of absorbing beautiful energy in a beautiful place filled with beautiful people :)

Wherever I go, I strive to be the best  person in all dimensions that I can be. I enjoy making people smile and laugh, sharing my happiness with anything and everything that crosses my path - I even sing to plants! I never leave a shop without the owner smiling and satisfied or a vehicle without the person happy to have met me. And as mentioned before, all of the generosity we show towards others will find a way back to us in one form or the other. Well, over the past couple months, it certainly has. All throughout my journey I have been absolutely humbled by the kindness, generosity, and compassion that has been shown towards me by the people I have met. And with these very same people, I have not only seen and done more than I could have ever imagined, but also more than I could have ever afforded. From sky rise condos to trips across the country, I feel like every person who crosses my path does something special for me. I have lived countless of these experiences through tears - feeling more happy and fortunate than I could ever begin to describe. I'm living in a world where money means nothing and kindness is the only currency. Swept away by love on a daily basis,  there is no combination of worlds able to capture even the essence of what I am experiencing - for this reason I have refrained from telling many stories and will refrain from telling them in the future. My experiences can best be communicated through my presence and the profound way in which they have changed my life, you will have to wait to see me again to know what I mean.

A very nice picture of a beautiful lady whose caring and special skills have given new understanding to my life and many others'

If you take away anything from reading about my experience please take away the understanding that all of this can be applied to YOU. Because with your own thoughts, your own intentions, and your own actions, you are literally creating the world in which you are living in.

As an enlightened being once told me, "The base fabric of the universe is intelligence matter. Intel matter records, remembers, and projects back everything that you think and do."

As Buddha taught more than 2500 years ago, "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world."

and As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world".

What Mahatma is really saying is that if you BE the change, you will SEE the change. If you be kindness, you will see kindness, if you be love, you will see love, if you be honesty, safety, caring and compassion, you will see honesty, safety, caring, and compassion. Remove all negativity from your mind and you will remove all negativity from your life. I'm telling you guys, my guru, Buddha, and Gandhi are telling you guys - you and you alone are the writers of your life story. Be inspired by these great people, listen from them, and repay them with the greatest gift you could possibly give them - allow them to watch you tap into your own infinite inner potential and create for yourself the life and happiness you want and deserve.

Merry Christmas guys - I love you all.

Check out some of my new photos if you're interested (tab at top)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Learning to Control Your Mind: Yoga and Meditation

Over the past month I've been making a huge push towards learning how to control my mind. And ever since I started to put in serious effort, I’ve been experiencing some seriously rewarding benefits. Let me share my short story:

It all started around January, 2012 when I picked up a book by the 14th Dalai Lama. Titled, ‘How to be Compassionate. A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World,’ this book was the first thing to introduce me to the concept that all of our humanly suffering stems from our own minds, and that simply by learning to control our minds, we can feel peace and happiness regardless of our external circumstances. Anxiety, nervousness, anger, lethargy, sorrow, physical pain etc. – literally every source of suffering could, apparently, be overcome from within. I toyed with this idea over the next year and a half – meditating occasionally – but I yielded only moderate results. The longer this slow progress continued the more I began to lose interest in mediation and the like, but about a month and a half ago everything changed…

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”- Buddha

I've also found this literature to be complimentary to my practice. The Dalai Lama: ‘How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life’, Śāntideva: ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life’, Deepok Chopra: ‘Buddha. A Story of Enlightenment’

Near the end of July, 2013 I Hitchhiked through México (all links open in new window) for about 10 days, and during this time I experienced a number of unique experiences – a few of which really stuck with me. I’ve shared a couple of these on my experiences page, but at least one, remains close. The point being that during my trip to México I became much more spiritual.

[I will define 'spirituality' the same way a scientific journal I found defined it: “The quality of ones’ innermost values.” - or the measure of connectedness with your body, mind, feelings, and thoughts, and the way in which they effect your life]

One thing I started doing again was meditating. As I began to mediate more and more, the first thing I began to notice was how my thoughts rarely wandered off into the future – something that they used to do a lot. This made me feel more peaceful – more aware of my present situation, and more awake to my happiness. I continued to keep up my mediating when I returned, and a couple weeks ago I worked myself up to meditating an hour and half a day, and this is when it really started getting interesting.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” - Buddha

I started to receive some AMAZING compliments from people – including some from people whom I did not even know. People who I just met were telling me how peaceful I seem, how comfortable I seem, and how "attuned to life" I am. Even tonight as I publish this article a friend commented on how she finds it relaxing to be around me, that I am very laid back (these comments are 100% unprompted btw and did not come before México!). And the more of these comments I received, the more I believed them… the more I meditated. I was feeling happy, comfortable, relaxed, and peaceful – those people were right. But what they didn't know was that I was changing the way I was feeling simply by learning to control my mind through meditation.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” - Buddha

Now, working in a neuroscience lab, I understand that people are skeptical of accepting ideas like this as fact without scientific evidence – fortunately, the evidence for the benefits of meditation is overwhelming – a quick Google Search will show that. In fact, a fellow researcher introduced me to a type of meditation popular among a number of celebrity figures, Transcendental Meditation, which has been the subject of over 350 research studies, over a hundred of which are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. And believe me, this is NOT the most popular, nor the most published form of meditation. Try that Google search! I was also introduced to an awesome U of S meditation group, Meditation on Campus, which meets every Monday. I encouraged you to check out their Facebook page – it’s LOADED with publications, articles, videos, and everything you need to know to get you started.

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”- Buddha

As this wealth of beneficial information was being unfolded to me, I realized that I could adopt more than just meditation as a practice to control my mind. This past week I took it to the next level. I came across a 1 week pass for free yoga at the Ground Yoga studio on Broadway, Saskatoon. And in the last week I took 10 yoga classes for a total of 15 hours, and tonight I bought an unlimited 1 month pass for only $50 (being a 'student' is awesome)! Yoga was just the additional spiritual practice I was looking for. The instructors do a fantastic job at incorporating spirituality into the yoga, including Hindi greetings, Buddhist chants, meditation, and yoga sutras.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”- Buddha

Here is a look at the Ground Yoga studio. The warm room, candles, dim lighting, and soft East Indian music make for a perfect yogic atmosphere. I highly recommend this place. (I took this photo after 4.5 hours of yoga tonight :))

Overall, I feel great about the progress that I have made in effort to control my mind – and I've noticed some very real, recent, beneficial results: I was named volunteer of the month for July at SWITCH. Two weeks ago I golfed at a new course and shot a 79, my personal best by 5-7 strokes. The compliments I've received and shared above. And less measurable aspects such as reduced stress, increase happiness, increased work efficiency, and increased focus.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”- Buddha

In the end, I realize that my lack of results before my trip to México was due simply to my lack of effort. And I think this is true with anything in life - if you want results, you need to put in time and effort. The amount of time that I've put into learning to control my mind over the last 6 weeks has far exceeded any practice I had done before - but the positive results have certainly come along with it. So whether you're wanting to learn to control your mind, become more friendly, or any other skill, just remember to be patient. Even with daily practice - sometimes the benefits don't come until many weeks down the road. Just please don't give up. "Hopelessness is the real cause of failure." - The 14th Dalai Lama

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”- Buddha

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hitchhiking in Mexico

In the past 10 days I've hitchhiked more than 2200 km across the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas. I've rode in well over 20 different vehicles with occupants ranging from single women, entire families, to other hitchhikers. Riding anywhere from 2-500+km per trip in the box of trucks, cabs of cars, and front seats of semis - I've met, played cards, drank beer, and talked with some of the nicest people that you could ever meet. I was offered snacks, drinks, beer, business cards, e-mail addresses, and Facebook friend requests - all of which I accepted. With waits ranging from not at all (people will offer you a ride if you're just walking down the street with a backpack) to 1 hour (happened only twice) with the average wait being 4-8 minutes, I would say that hitchhiking has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of traveling Mexico thus far.

My Couchsurfing host Dani and I hitchhiking through the jungle in Chiapas to Agua Azul (Blue Waterfalls)
Apart from the free rides, free food, free beer, and nice people - I also found hitchhiking to be a fantastic way to experience Mexican culture. It was actually really interesting how I got a very intimate look into the lives of working Mexican people. I got to transport and unload mattresses in Balacán and Campeche, help keep 200kg of shrimp and oysters cold from Mérida to Tulúm, and learn about the many companies and jobs that my drivers either owned or worked for. I learned a lot about the Mexican way of life simply by travelling from one place to another. 

Here is a picture from inside an unfinished holding compound for illegal immigrants. The guy who picked me up is supervising its construction. He gave me a full tour before dropping me off at the airport. 
I'm so thankful to all the people who not only gave me a ride in Mexico, but to all the people to went far out of their way to do so. There is no way I will ever be able to repay you - but the kindness you showed to me I will be sure to pass on to others. I hope that will be enough. Thank you again.

I've made my final conclusion about hitchhiking in Mexico and it's this: Read the thousands of stories on the internet about how safe, fun, and easy it is and believe that if you want to experience it you can - it's all true, and it's not that far from home.

My pictures from around the world

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