Steve Appreciation Society

Steve Appreciation Society

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for some time now.  Let’s start with a little anecdote – back in the day on holiday, a friend of mine started an anarchic running joke, calling every stray dog she saw “Steve”, regardless of sex.

Dumballers being Dumballers, these kinds of thing catch on like wildfire and pretty soon we were all at it.

Y’see, in India there are a ton of stray dogs, wild and free roaming the streets and beaches, as much a feature of Indian culture as the many sacred cows, monkeys or piles of discarded coconut shells that punctuate her hot, fragrant and dusty streets.  

“Hi Steve!” 

…we’d say as we passed a dog, any dog, all dogs.  If you say it in the right pitch they almost prick up their ears as if it were their actual name too, and just for a moment they were individuals, they had a personality, an identity.  For a moment it’s like you knew them, and they knew you… kinda… but they were noticed.  Some even let you pet them, a welcomed and much appreciated liberty for this dog-lover.  

This frivolity grew from being a game and into a habit.  When the Dumballers left I carried on the tradition with me, sharing the fun with other travellers for shits and giggles, and so the #steveappreciationsociety was born.   

I even named my guitar Steve, because at the time I couldn’t take my guitar playing seriously either.

THE PLOT THICKENS…

As I moved around from state to state, town to town, the Steve habit started turning into something else.  I was starting to take notice of the Steves as much as the People, if not more.

I started to notice details.  Obvious ones at first like how the breed, shape and size would change according the climate and setting.  Then I started to notice wider details, like if they worked alone or in packs, if they were friendly, approachable, scared or aggressive, if they were well fed, in good condition, skinny and mangey, how they survived, how the locals treated them etc.

The more places I travelled to, the more I could reflect back and notice correlations between Steve’s temperament and the social undercurrent of the places I’d visited.

I’d never looked at dogs so much before.  What previously had just been background scenes with interchangeable parts suddenly had specific players that were no longer invisible.   

As my awareness grew I started applying the theory, using it as a rough indicator for new places as I looked out the train, bus or TukTuk window, and for the most part it’s been bob-on.

IN ASIA…

For example, in Goa, the Steve’s were all pretty playful, friendly, solid, good condition, tended to move around in gangs with a feeling that everything was pretty cushty, that they’d protect you if you asked, and I’d’ve adopted all of them if I could.

Arriving in Kolkata, I watched from my Ambassador window as independent, stocky, battle scarred but solid Steve’s roamed the streets – a quite obvious sense they had to fight for their suppers, but could each definitely hold their own in a much tougher competitive city environment – that was to be an accurate echo of the backstreet vibes of Kolkata.

Hitting Delhi, the connection became more obvious still – Delhi Steve’s were skinny, dusty, much smaller, mangy, usually alone and scared, eating anything and everything they could get their snouts on, even if that was a babies nappy – a distressing echo of the destitute and poverty stricken conditions in Delhi, and the many street kids who have to survive it.

Landing in Kathmandu, I was surrounded by the familiar and comforting sight of scruffy, friendly Steve’s, and I realised how much they’d become a part of my trip.

IN GUATEMALA… 

When I hit San Marcos in Guatemala, another level of intrigue hit me.  San Marcos is a very nice place to be, a yogi/hippy/tourist haven, and on the outside it’s all sparkly and friendly and safe, which it is really.

Like the people, flying halfway across the world meant the breed of street dog had now completely changed – compared to the typical stocky street Steve’s I was used to in India and Nepal, I was seeing a lot of smaller lap-dog Steve’s, larger and fluffier husky/wolf-like Steve’s who, for the most part, all looked pretty comfortable, lazy and pretty complacent in their lakeside habitats quite frankly.  A clear and good indication that food was plentiful, and that being a street dog in San Marcos was a pretty sweet deal man.

However, despite the glittery sheen there were several Steve’s who shied away whenever I tried to show them love, cowering away in fear, and it just made me think, “what happens to these Steve’s in this place of paradise and tranquility to make them act this way?”

Gandhi said:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

San Marcos is definitely a shiny happy place on the outside, but those anxious Steves gave away her slightly malignant underbelly, which was also described to me by some local friends, confirming my couch flip-flop-filosophy theory further.

MEANWHILE, IN SOUTH AMERICA… 

When I touched down in Peru, I started observing the Steve’s of course, trying to get sense of South America and Peru.  They were tough to read:  I struggled to see the same breed twice, a lot looked like hybrids/mongrels in one way or another (think Sausage Steve’s with Labradors), small Steve’s in tee shirts and hoodies, and the indigenous Peruvian “Incan Orchid” breed is an adorably weird hairless alien-looking thing.  It’s like they didn’t make sense at all, an ironic echo of my confusion and hesitations about South America! (see my last blog).

Peruvian Inca Orchid – the indigenous hairless dog of Peru


 
I’m glad to say that that feeling has now completely passed.  Not only that, the diversity, quirky individuality and friendly mien of the Peruvian Steve’s has just made me fall head over heels in love with everything that Peru and South America has to offer – new and unchartered territories, of both mind and matter.

Look to the Steve’s – the Animal Kingdom can tell us more than we realise.

#steveappreciationsociety

Consultations with the original Steve

Checking for update

Checking for update

For all those who truly want answers and who truly care about the questions;  for all those who have embarked upon quests for truth with sincerity of heart, longing of soul, and openness of mind, this blog is for you.  

When I reflect back on the last 8 months, my quest to find My Way Up, I can pin-point specific “spots in time” when I’ve experienced change, a shift.  Some were small yet significant, and some were seismic game-changing epoch-defining shifts that altered my perception of the world around me, as well as my perception of Self, from where I could operate from a point of ignorance no longer.

I figure I’m currently operating on Jessington software version 36.5.0, and version 36.5.1 is ready to download.  Each version has featured its own bug fixes, removing redundant features and replacing them with upgrades.  

Jessington Version 36.5.1:

– shadow work:  embracing my darker, denser side in the paradigm of duality, true balance. 

– discernment:  listening to my highest thought: joy;  listening to my clearest word: truth;  listening to my grandest feeling: love;  listening to my greatest messenger: experience. 

– exploration:  asking my higher-self (from my heart) “what experience do I need to have?”  We are all led to the truth for which we are ready by being open to everything, by being willing to hear, and remain open to the communication even when it seems scary, or crazy, or downright wrong. 

“Feeling is the language of the soul.  If you want to know what’s true for you about something, look how you’re feeling about it.  Feelings are sometimes difficult to discover – and often even more difficult to acknowledge.  Yet hidden in your deepest feelings is your highest truth.  The trick is to get to those feelings.”

Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch

UPGRADE AVAILABLE:

Denser feelings, such as anger, depression, frustration, are still a part of us (I’m working on this) but they can get in the way of our joy, our happiness, our truth.  Here’s some magic:  you can choose your response, truly:

Inquire within, rather than without, asking: “what part of my Self do I wish to experience now in the face of this calamity?  What aspect of being do I choose to call forth?”  For all life exists as a tool of your own creation, and all of its events merely present themselves as opportunities for you decide, and be, Who You Are. 

Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch

By consciously letting go of redundant features, such as energies, emotions, protocols or belief systems that no longer serve you, you inherently make space to welcome in new ones that better express and embrace your Essence-Self.  

In time, and by working on myself a lot over the last 200+ days,  I’ve come to realise that so many of the issues, or “miseries”, that I’ve had in my past were a result of decisions I made without even realising it – decisions like carrying around other people’s shit, accepting gifts of negativity, or my ego getting in my own way by trying (and failing) to impress people because of a need to be liked, brought on by childhood insecurities. 

Insecurity, anger, frustration, whatever, these are the things that hold us all back; they feed our negative thought patterns, our protocols.  They mean we keep repeating the same bullshit stories we tell ourselves over and over, like “I’m not good enough” or “if only that person would change a little, then my life would be sooo much better”.  

I’ve come to realise that the only person we can truly change is Us. 

Taking that time to work on myself, to really inquire within, to put my ego to one side and hold space for myself means I’m now better able to choose to lead a life that isn’t dictated by my past as much anymore.  I choose to live a proactive life, free and liberated.  It is such a joy not to be kept awake at night with those kinds of feelings anymore, and instead to replace them with feelings of liberation.  

Now, I have the faculty to Pause.  I can choose not to get angry, I can choose not to accept gifts of negativity or frustration from others.  I choose to be me, to try and embrace both the light and dark aspects of me as a whole unconditionally,  freeing myself from the old stories I’ve been told, and to walk in the valley of my own shadow. 

All to often we pick up and carry so much of other people’s shit around, when we have so much of our own shit to deal with in the first place.  If only we put as much energy into outselves as we do other people. 

Por ejemplo:  There were these two monks, one Old, one Young, walking in the forest.  They came to a river, and saw a young woman struggling to cross it.  

Now, they’ve both sworn an sacred oath never to touch a woman, but after a brief pause and without hesitation the Older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river, setting her down on the other side, and without a word they continued walking.  The Young monk was beside himself – he kept thinking to himself how could the Old monk have broken his vows?!  

He kept quiet until he could no longer, and confronted the Older monk “How could you pick her up?  We both swore a sacred oath never to touch a woman?!”.  

The Old monk replied “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”.  

Told. 

Along this theme, and to help keep me a shit-free zone, I constantly refer to some powerful and beautifully simple principles, or keys: 

1.  The 4 Agreements: thank you Anna Cooper, I FINALLY understand them all:

2.  Forgiveness:  to liberate my soul

3.  Gratitude:  to open my heart 

4.  Anicca: The law of nature/impermanence.  Everything changes, goes in cycles, so just Let Goooooo of any cravings or aversions:  the key here is to accept everything just as it, not as you would like it to be.   For example, the Sun will always rise and it will always set:  we have no control over that, so just accept it just as it is, and most importantly do that with equanimity: i.e. no labelling it Good or Bad.


5.  Pause:  Choose your response proactively in every situation, not reactively.  Take control.  Take a conscious breath.  Pause, and the solution will present itself.  Be 100% Present – hold space, be in the moment, and your true Essence-Self will be revealed.  

Seems relevant at this point to also introduce the Law of attraction/repulsion, as summarised in the video below, which is well worth a watch:

Bashar :: The Law of Attraction and Repulsion

God bless every child travelling the road home 🕉 

You can go your own way

You can go your own way

“Welcome to Hogwarts” he said, as I walked through the gate.  “This is going to be an interesting month” I thought to myself…

Sometime ago I decided to throw out plans, to Let Go and just go with the flow.  India is massive, and in the beginning just choosing what direction to go in was hard enough (FML).  I soon realised that if I just shut up, sat back and waited, the solution often presented itself.  It was then that I really started letting go of any idea of linear, logical, north/south/east/west routes, and instead to listen to my intuition and literally make this shit up as a I go along. 

That decision led me in directions I never expected, led me to simply fabulous people and places I might never have met/seen otherwise.  By being open to absolutely everything and going with what felt right in the moment meant I never shut any doors.  

I just stopped thinking about travelling in geographical terms and instead as a field:  I can go in any direction I want, I just have to follow the feeling and find my own way.   Plan B was everything else, Plan A was just being present in the moment and going with it. 

7 months later, I followed a feeling and flew Guatemala from Nepal, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. ok ok, Las Piramides School of Yoga, Metaphysics & Meditation in San Marcos La Laguna.  They’re basically the same thing.   

  

I’m halfway through week 2 of the 4-week Moon Course here at Las Piramides, and I’m certain it was the best decision I ever made.  

I’m doing Yoga every goddam day, meditating, getting in touch with my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, learning about metaphysics, dimensions, astral travelling, lucid dreams, channelling, Reike, Kirtans, healing techniques, mantras, I’m chanting Om Mani Padme Hum and I understand why, I’m opening my 3rd eye with Ommmmm meditation, I’m learning breathing techniques and Pranayama, I bought a crystal the other day and I’m living in a fucking pyramid!  

yoga every goddam day

  

my little hobbit house
 

I feel like Hermione Granger as I note down the instructions for Lucid Dreaming and Astral Travelling, dictated to us from one of the coolest, most authentic 60-ish year olds I know off’ve the 70’s (with the best anecdotes, FYI).  We’re not even halfway through the course yet, and we’ve still got another 5 dimensions to learn about!  It’s fascinating. 

I know what you’re thinking… “She’s gone full Hippy now”, and up until very recently I would have agreed with you.  

To back-track a little… 

I came to San Marcos two years ago, sat in Shambala coffee shop, observing many cliches around me:  Ali baba trousers, dreadlocks, and all Peace and Love maaaan.  My friends and I laughed a little at the time, remarking how we thought those kind of people had died out in the 90’s, and as it turns out they’d all retired to San Marcos to set up organic coffee shops.  I scoffed a little, and called them “Hippies”.

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I’m beginning to understand where “they” were coming from, and what they were aiming for, and I’m wondering – when did Hippy become a bad word?  

I’ll fully admit that for me it had slightly negative connotations at the time.  They were different, perhaps weaker for some reason I couldn’t express, alternative, running away, new age, definitely out there and something I judged because of ignorance.  

Labelling puts us into categories, segregates Us from Them.  It happens all over with things like job titles, fashion statements, religion, race, whatever – they’re all just ways we fit in, all different vehicles to use, and all subtly perpetuating apartness, a separateness from the Whole, in both positive and negative ways.

I didn’t want to feel separate from my friends or my family just because of a new perspective I was getting, so I began thinking “there should be a new word for this”.  I wanted a word that could encapsulate the beautiful essence of what I’m experiencing and seeing so clearly, without having to feel different, or separate, because I’m not different exactly.  I’m still me, I’m just becoming more of me.

I’m here with 20 other like-minded people who are just as cool, grounded, funny, and normal as my mates from home.  We’re not bonkers, I promise.  We haven’t flown away with the fairies.  We’re all very grounded, normal people from normal backgrounds (who still take a pinch of salt in their diets), we just all followed a feeling:  we’re here because we want to find out more about ourselves, and ultimately to make a positive contribution to the world.  If that’s what being a Hippy is all about, then yeah!  I’m all for it! 

Then I thought about it some more.  Why does there need to be a new word, or a word at all?  By finding a new word I’m just perpetuating that concept of categorisation, the idea of separateness, difference. 

So instead, I prefer to think of it like this:  

We can be everything.  You don’t need to label it, you don’t need to close any doors.  Life is a field remember, and we can all go in all directions. 

You could be the Grande Fromage of a big corporation, wearing a suit from Monday to Friday, or a person who just really likes video games, whoever, we can all embody the essence of what we’re learning, which is basically a way to be, a way to present yourself in the world for your own benefit and to make the world a better place.  It doesn’t need a name, you can just Be it, be the example. 

Keep the doors open, and Be the change that you want to see. 

Om shanti shanti Om, peace, peace, peace, love, light, freedom and compassion for all beings, light and blessings for your day, Namaste.

the Flip Flop Filosopher x

A Day In The Life…

Bottomless Thali served with effortless beauty on banana leaves and eaten with one hand, the spectacle of watching hot sweet chai brewed by the side of the road, scalding your fingers and throat as you drink it, the call of the lyre bird, the rust bucket scooters, the Hindustani Ambassadors, Kites and Eagles circling overhead, piles of spent coconuts, kids playing cricket, everywhere, cranky air-con fans, ill fitting idiosyncratic mosquito nets, endless negotiation, street dogs running wild and yet always keeping you company, cows in the street, the fervent steamy production of simple delicious fast food, the chaos, the head wobbles, the glint in the eyes…

It’s the small details in India, the ones you don’t think to mention when someone asks during a phone call to home “So how’s it going?” that are so rich in meaning. These are the ones that seduce you, and ultimately make you fall in love.

Click to watch  A Day In the life of India

They said it would happen

They said it would happen

Day 91: Varkala

You don’t have to be in India for long, or go very far until you see someone practising Yoga or meditating on the beach at sunrise or sunset, or come across someone who wants to tell you about this and that practice they do, had done to them somewhere, or their particular philosophy on life.  That kind of thing just happens all over the place here.  

The allure of the taste, texture and colour of life mixed with my curious enthusiasm to learn new things means I like to try everything at least once in life.  

So far, in the past 91 days I’ve had my playing cards read, learnt about Chinese astrology and Indian Sanskrit, been given some pretty hard core acupressure on my hands and feet, been taught Pranayam (breath control), witnessed EFT (emotional freedom technique) transform a dear friends life, for the better, forever. 

I’ve been taught about the Shamans of the Amazon and Ayahuasca, about Mayan Astrology – how it syncs with the moon phases and the planet we live on, and explain why our man-made calendar makes us all feel like we’re always short on time.  I’ve been gifted a Bowen Therapy massage that left me feeling like a blast of energy was bursting up through my body like a tree trunk on fire!  I just can’t deny that that happened!  Shan’t. Don’t care what you say or if you tut tut contemptuously.  It did.  I now know that was my chakras bursting wide open (stick with me), but before I went I had no idea what it would do or what it was all about.  I had absolutely no preconceptions or expectations.  I just went on a whim after seeing a friend come back from her own massage literally glowing. G.L.O.W.I.N.G. and had my own glowing explosive experience. Just wow.

Through an energy exchange (you scratch my back, I’ll massage your foot, kind of thing), Sonia (the resident Reike master here at Shiva Gardens) asked me to teach her the little I knew about Mayan astrology.  In doing so, we realised we had a much bigger connection than we’d ever anticipated.  I learnt more about it in the process, and in exchange she taught me more about my own Chinese Astrology, Karmic astrology, Numerology and how it all ties into the moon.  No money exchanged hands, just knowledge, self realisation and so much to contemplate. Oh, it’s all going on! 

In other news, since I’ve been in Varkala (and this is the cheesiest phrase I’m going to say today), yoga and meditation has found me, and bloody hell.  I went to a sunset yoga session with me mate jack and Rijas, again on a whim (and the promise of a sunset swim/beer after), and was enriched by the feeling and was encouraged to keep practicing by Rijas.  

Shiva Gardens offers morning yoga sessions with Maya, so I tried basic Hatha Yoga with a dash of Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) at the end – it uses a moon gong (yes, I know….) to basically help put you into a deep trance, and if you’re lucky open up your third eye, or just put you to sleep. It’s a sublime way to start your day, and that gong just set me on some kind of new path.  It’s ridiculous. 

I’d practiced mindfulness at home a bit, on and off before I came away, but inevitably the pace of life, fatigue or the occasional hangover etc meant I didn’t keep it up, and I got lost in a sea of distraction – don’t we all?!

Meditation, and Yoga, so far is helping me to focus my mind, to see things more clearly, and helping me to feel balanced.  Making some time for myself to just relax, go inside, breath deeply (even if you don’t do all the body bending) is so rewarding.  I’m starting to realise what I really need to work on personally, and have a way/space to contemplate it.  I now see what all the fuss was about, and how all those Yoga types are so bloomin zen!  Mixed in with all the astrology I’ve been learning about I feel so much more connected to to who I am, and with the planet I live on.  At times it feels overwhelming.

I tell you this because even though I’m open minded, I was ignorant, and I had a healthy amount of scepticism about all these kind of things before I came here (which I suspect you’re experiencing right now).  However, people have come to me with this stuff.  I didn’t go searching any of it out, and it’s been so eye opening just being open to it all, the people I’ve met as a result and the journey it’s taking me on.

I’m also telling you this because the fact you’re reading this means you’re one of my friends and family, which hopefully means you know I’m a “normal” (for the most part anyway).  The fact this change is happening in me means it could happen to you too, if you want/need it.  It doesn’t have to feel all weird or scary.  You never know he good it might do for you too. 

I hesitated to write this blog because of the sheer volume of what I needed/wanted to say, whilst also hoping you wouldn’t judge or scoff too quickly about what’s happening to me – I was the one sitting on the beach in Goa all those months ago saying I thought the people on the beach practicing yoga or meditating at sunset looked a little odd, because I was self-conscious on their behalf and ignorant of the power of good it was doing for them.  Now, I’m the one thinking that’d be fucking beautiful way to watch a sunset! Ommmmmmm 🕉

I’m trying to do more yoga.  I’m learning the value of meditation.  I bought a fucking Tibetan singing bowl yesterday for fucks sake, and I spent hours traipsing around Varkala for just the right oil burner and incense stick holder to make my own Puja – something is happening to me.  I’m making more time for myself, I’m focusing, I’m opening up and looking inside. I’m switching my phone off more and more. And do you know what?  It feels great.  It all seems to make sense.

They said it would happen, and they might just have been right – I might be turning into a yogi/hippy OR I might just becoming more conscious (it’s not a dirty word, pipe down you at the back). Whatever you want to call it, whatever the reason, life feels pretty great and balanced for me right now.  

I’m not exactly planning on heading to an Ashram any time soon, but I am feeling so excited about what’s around the corner – like, as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve. 

Speed dating Sri Lanka 

We needed to leave India, temporarily, to go sort Denso’s visa out. We chose Sri Lanka, and it just felt like another stop on my trip. 

Sri Lanka was lush, beautiful, expensive and full of tourists. On the surface, it’s a great place to have your honeymoon or go on holiday. But that’s what it felt like, going on holiday. I’m not here to spend all my hard earned cash on a long jolly. I haven’t exchanged precious time for money just to go and piss it up the wall and sit on a sun lounger surrounded by tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying myself, I’m having the time of my life; but this is more than just a mini break for me. 

Plenty of people love SL, and that’s fine. I’m sure I will when the time’s right, just not now. I was only there on a perfunctory VISA run, and we barely scratched its surface, barely got past first base. This I know. If we were on a date, I’d be coming off as standoffish – truth be told, I was in a bit of a mood with SL simply because it wasn’t India, and that made me realise just how much I’ve fallen in love with this country, and how much this love affair ain’t over – not by a long chalk. 

Oh India – you’ll always be my love affair. There’s never been a jewel so rare. There’s no one like you anywhere

Pranaji – Oh India

Being in Sri Lanka burst my Indian bubble. It was what SL lacked that made me realise what I love and cherish about India: I missed the people, my friends, the culture, the smiles, the head wobbles, the dirty fingernails, the no rules, the chaos, the traffic, the chai, the language, the rhythm, the food, the music, the budget, the disorganisation, even the squalor and the rough round the edges bits – India has done something to me, and I missed all her assets terribly. 

I never expected to feel such an accute urge to abort abort abort and run back as quickly as I could, but my short time away only renewed my reason and reward for being here. 

 

To understand India you have to see it, hear it, breathe it and feel it. Living through the good, the bad and the ugly is the only way to know where you fit in and where India fits into you.

Around India in 80 trains

So where does India fit into me? I’m not here just to look, gawp and snap away like a tourist, I’m here to see. To scratch the surface, to respect, understand and learn about it; to meet inspiring, interesting and fun people along the way; to allow her magic to impress further upon me, for the kindness of strangers to continue to surprise me again and again, and forever be humbled by Indias implicit welcome. 

Missing India was the best bit about going to Sri Lanka. I’ve come back with a renewed love for this special place, a renewed sense of purpose as to why I’m here, how I fit, and what travel means to me:

Regardless of how my road unrolls in the future, this walk has reminded me what a life of adventure is really about. More than anything else, it is a state of mind. It is an attitude of curiosity, bold enthusiasm, ambition, effort and a rejection of mediocrity. I don’t need to walk across India for that. I can find it anywhere, if I am only willing to chase it. I have the choice.

There Are Other Rivers

So here I am, on a 7hr overnight train from Madurai to Vakala that cost me 230 roops (~£2.30!) to travel 350km, living it up in 3rd class sleeper class once again (the only way to travel), experiencing India solo for the first time, loving it but missing my mate terribly due to an epic eTV admin fail, confident India will deliver us back together again in Kerala, and just so blooming relieved to be home. 

Chai?