Float

I had a fresh new experience yesterday evening with FloatSA. The theme is something I’ve always wanted to try, namely a sensory deprivation experience. FloatSA goes one step further in having you float in a hypersaline solution that leaves you feeling suspended in the pitch black.

When I first arrived, I was given a wonderful microfiber robe (I love everything microfiber) and my rather handsome guide explained that after changing, I get 15 minutes in a massage chair to “pre-relax” me before the float. The chair was lovely, if a bit imperfect; I was too tall for it to properly do my neck. I hold a lot of tension there, so it would have been nice to really have that spot tenderized but I can’t fault the chair for that. Well I can, actually, but that wouldn’t be fair.

After the pre-relaxation event, I was now primed and ready for the main event — but wait! Before engaging in a Float session, one must also take a shower before and after your float, to save on cleaning agents, one would assume. Fair enough. Entering the room, I get my first glimpse of the FloatSA’s pod. That’s literally what it is: a very sci-fi looking pod that opens from one side. I half expect to awaken 30 years post-hyperdrive flight to find myself orbiting a distant star. Very cool right off the bat!

So I take my shower and center myself, feeling the water, smelling the soap and letting myself calm down more and more. And then I get in naked. The water is quite warm, and lit with a soft purple glow. I can immediately feel a slight resistance to the water, moreso than one would expect. There’s hundreds of pounds of magnesium salt in the chamber that gives one so much buoyancy that when you relax, everything is elevated. I’ve heard the Dead Sea is quite similar, despite never having been. Well for a non-swimmer like myself, it’s a must-visit now.

The music eventually wound down, and the lights went out…Leaving me in the dark. With the earplugs I’d also put in, it was quite impressive. Pitch black, eyes open or shut, and almost entirely silent, save my breathing, and eventually, my heartbeat. I had fun for awhile imagining I was floating in outer space, with a galaxy of stars frozen in place in front of my divine vision. I’d read a few reviews and people describe amazingly intense visions from being in that environment. I found it incredibly easy to remain present in such a strange environment.

The longer I stayed, the more the little things seemed to amplify. My breathing eventually became incredibly loud if my attention dropped and regained. My heartbeat thudded in my ears. Sensations in my limbs really stood out. I did some Inquiry-style meditation, and found a particularly interesting formula that dropped into my brain: “I.” “Know.” “Presence.” Investigating “I,” then “knowing,” and lastly “presence” with that mantra. I lost track of all time in there, but despite not getting much sleep the night before, I only got a bit fuzzy near the end. And I have to say, despite the fuzziness I didn’t really drop off fully into daydreams. I believe it’s because of the lack of stimulus; it was so much easier to remain mindful because daydreaming was too abrupt a departure from sensory deprivation, as opposed to sitting on a cushion.

Eventually, the music started back up to let me know my time was over. I touched a button on the side to cue the lights, and pulled myself back out. After the second shower, there’s a lounge area where one can have “spiritual snacks” like kombucha and granola, color, write and express any sort of creative desires you possess post-float. It was nice but I really just wanted to go for a walk, so I simply left posthaste.

It was an intriguing experience; I did encounter some energetic strangeness halfway through but I’m not ready to write about that yet. There was definitely some post-floating meditation-calm. I think I made the girls at Wendy’s laugh; I had such a dopey expression. I just wanted to smile at people, and I had zero desire to play with my phone or pretend to look busy after ordering. I just stood in place for 5 minutes and sensed my environment while they cooked my food. They probably thought I was high on something but I didn’t care; I felt great.. Fortunately, I purchased a triple package, so I’ll probably have another float this weekend. Spoil myself first (or after?) with the Indian buffet restaurant which happens to be next door..! Does anyone else have Float/Sensory Deprivation experiences to share? Comment below!

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Manifesting

This year will be a special year for me. This year will be the year I learn how to bring to bear all of my diverse experiences into painting the life I truly wish for myself. I’ve had feedback in various ways on the best way to find and create what I want and I feel I’m edging closer to a real precipice of a decision.

At the moment I see a number of possible forks in the road. I have an opportunity in California that interests me. Ajahn Chandako, abbot of Vimutti Monastery back in NZ is coming stateside and wants some help working on a forest hermitage there. I’m feeling interested and inspired; and it would be great to stop living a 9-5 lifestyle for a bit and shake things up a bit. What stops me is my fear over whether I will find someone to take over my lease or not. I decided to try leasing an apartment once again in the name of building something stable. And I understand the desire; after having a roommate that I wanted to kill on occasion, I had to find something quickly and it was there. But unfortunately its become an anchor, as it usually does, keeping me from doing exactly what I wish and when.

I’ve been accepted into the PRT (Physical Readiness Test) portion of the application process to becoming a Texas Game Warden. It’s a highly selective process that would end with a very interesting career with the State of Texas; Game Wardens are the men and women who act as backcountry police officers. They not only check hunting and fishing licenses but perform backcountry search and rescue, assist in natural disasters, animal rescue…Pretty much anything a trained helping hand is needed with. And the pay is quite comfortable as well. So I’m also pursuing this route; if all were to go as planned, I’d be in training starting September.

I could join the Peace Corps next year. I’ve always wanted to; after seeing how much Americorps had to offer in training, real-life experience and giving back to one’s community, the Peace Corps seems a very natural transition. A transition that also would have solid future career possibility.

And my photography is starting to pick up, ever so slightly. I’ve got a deal worked out with the Botanical Gardens where they will be purchasing some of my 5×7’s, matted and labeled with my name, to see how well they sell. A co-worker purchased a large print; and another inquired into a photoshoot for his daughter’s birthday.

So I’m at a very odd crossroads; I’ve many diverse possibilities in front of me, however they SEEMINGLY lead in different directions. And what’s helping me navigate all of this is realizing that I CAN’T KNOW THE FUTURE. I can’t know which one’s best, or what opportunities will come up or change. So I’m trying to focus more on the person I wish to be, instead of the circumstances I might find myself in. It’s very hard, as we’re taught at a very young age just how much circumstances matter, when it’s not necessarily true. We want certain circumstances, in order to produce certain feeling-states. However feeling-states can be quite independent of circumstances. In fact, circumstances follow feeling-states (at least, that’s what I’m experimenting with at the moment). So, Law of Attraction-type stuff. So, if I can’t know the future, but I can envision the kind of man I want to be, then it’s better to keep working towards that end and let the circumstances sort themselves out.

So having gone for a swim for the PRT, I’m going to mat some photos tonight to take to the Gardens and not worry too much about the lease for now, since I wouldn’t be in Cali until May/June anyways. I’m going to walk in between all four paths and see if a fourth doesn’t make itself obvious.

2017 is going to be an interesting year.

December: Mexico City

I have almost exactly one month until I go on vacation abroad. I’m not sure if Mexico City technically counts as “abroad.” I mean, it IS in another country, but I’m on the same continent and only flying a couple of hours south…

a·broad əˈbrôd/ adverb

1. in or to a foreign country or countries.

Well, I guess Mexico City DOES count as abroad!

So I’m going abroad for holiday next month. I’ve always wanted to see Mexico City. For starters, it’s the largest city in the Americas, something I was rather surprised to learn. And also one of the oldest; founded by the Aztecs in 13-something something, though it was then razed by the Spanish in 15-something something and rebuilt as Mexico City. Still, it remains a cultural nexus point for Mesoamerica and there are a LOT of interesting places in and around the city I intend to explore.

I will have December 23rd-27th to check things out. Not nearly the time I’d like to invest but enough to see Centro Historico, Teotihuacan, and maybe take a day trip to one of the surrounding towns of interest. I haven’t decided which yet; maybe Xochimilco or Desierto de los Leones! Decisions, decisions…All of which will involve my camera, naturally.

Best of all, I hope to meet my friend Xavier for the first time! Xavier and I game on League of Legends weekly and have for a few years. He’s a software engineer who gets sent around the world on business but based in Austin. We’ve talked about getting together a few times and it looks like he’ll be in MX at the same time as me! So I’ve tasked him with showing me some good food; and he seems up to the challenge. Good stuff..!

As you may know, I’m a big fan of old architecture, and I do believe Mexico City has this in droves. I’m looking forwards to sitting and photographing some old churches…Even if my Spanish isn’t quite up to snuff to sit through a service, I should be able to chat here and there. Anyone else have vacation around the corner?

Confessions of a Wandering Gaymer

So I get people saying “Wow, I wish I could do what you do!” A lot. And I have a confessions to make that I’ve been mulling over writing for a few days now.

I find people generally terrifying on some viceral level.

It’s true. I’ve had anxiety from the moment I left New York to see the world, over 10 years ago. You know how people talk about getting out there to “find oneself” and get over such things? Well I can’t say that I ever truly managed to do so…I’ve managed to make peace with my scared inner child, but I’ve never outgrown him, either.

I never really managed to become Indiana Jones, like I’d planned. Some days, I totally am! But others…It’s more like “okay, I’m going to work up the courage to step out that door and not mind what happens. And when I mind what happens, I’m going to try and not mind that too much.” Sometimes I really just want to stay home and read, even though I just flew 12 hours to be at said location!

I don’t think many people know this about me, but I actually suffer from crippling levels of social anxiety at times. The kind that feels like your soul is trying to peel itself from the man-suit it’s wearing and hide under a rock; a wrenching sensation of fear that snags one’s attention and mind and sometimes makes it impossible for me to even hear what people are saying to me because its so demanding.

It’s been my greatest teacher when I can smile and accept it, and my darkest demon when I’m already down.

But I remain, still. Because my fears weren’t always there, and one day, they will disappear and I’ll still be here. I just remember the adventurous child that’s also here and says “what’s over the horizon?” The curious child that’s also here and says “what does that dish taste like?” The spirited child that wants to give an opinion, quite often “no, I don’t really want to do that.” And I get them all to hug the child who thinks he’s still an awkward youth who will never fit in and is constantly being judged.

Compassion is bringing it all together again.

A Memory of Asian Fisticuffs

I’m reminded of one of the many body-scarring gifts China left me back in the day. I’d returned to the US to visit my family in Delaware for a week. Not only did it take the entire trip to adjust to the time zones, meaning I was asleep for most of it, but I had a cough from all of the coal dust I was hacking out and a sore throat. But the sore throat was not (entirely) due to the pollution residue. But rather from getting punched in the throat by a 20 year veteran of kung fu in Nanjing.

On my last night in Nanjing, a historic city on the Yangzte (and one of the most livable large cities in China, in my opinion), I sparred Wing Chun style with a friend of mine. I avoided kicking him in the balls as I’d done the last couple of times. We fooled around gracelessly as a way of saying goodbye…Until a Chinese fellow about our own age, accompanied by an ambling bent gentleman of about sixty, decided to join us at the park for a spar. The younger man interpreted for the older gentleman and much to our surprise, he wanted to go a few rounds for kicks. He also mentioned that this man was his shifu (teacher) and that he’d studied in Beijing for about 20 years. The name of the art escapes me.

My friend was far wiser than I in declining his invitation to fisticuffs. Naturally, I said yes, because cmon. I’d been trained in Nanjing by a Shaolin monk, no less. Surely I can take a bent little old man.

Nope. He went crane style on my laowai ass. Flowing open hands waving and darting around, and I have to say, I’m still a bit miffed he hit a little harder than he should have in a friendly, gloveless bout. See, when both parties are obliged to hold back, people tend to ignore blows that you would normally try and block in a real spar. I landed a gut blow, and he totally ignored it and nailed me in the Adam’s apple with a knuckle.

Gasping, I waved him off. But we bowed and called it a night afterwards. I was afraid all week that some permanent damage had been done, but fortunately a bit of R&R stateside cleared it right up. I think I need to see Shifu again someday…I used to know a fair bit of the forms of Wing Chun (and even got to play with one of those amazing sparring dummies) but I’ve since lost it all…

12 Years Old and a Fresh New Look

My 12 (!!!) year old blog was in need of a facelift. Also more writings. It’s still a work in progress, but I figured it was time to:

  • Stop using “Turbotroll” as my domain name. That made sense to me, and me alone. For the lovers of obscure references, it was the name of the toy dall Jackie Chan’s daughter Jane used to play with in the cartoon series “Jackie Chan Adventures”
  • Incorporate my photography more fully into the page
  • Solidify it’s identity as a photography, travel and personal webpage. There’s no reason it can’t be all three of these things, though it’s been a struggle trying to figure out the direction I truly wanted for my site.
  • Make it more interesting. Frankly I have a lot of moody stuff and I hope to cater to..Er…Everyone else. Upcoming are planned articles on photography (including a review of a new Photoshop Workflow Overlay known as Sleek Lens)!

So all in all, I do think the new layout is quite fetching. Thoughts? I intend to also add personalized emoticons…Here’s my old selection from back in the day; but I think it’s time for some fresh ones, don’t you?