January, 2006 - Australia
(click on map to see larger image)

January 4, 2006
We get to Sydney, Australia, and rent a car at the airport. We’ve rented a full size car, but it’s not really a full size car as I know them, and how are we going to get our stuff in this car? Needless to say, even though the stuff wouldn’t fit, we made it fit, though the kids did complain a lot about a lack of leg room. And oh yeah, we have to drive on the opposite side of the road. I could do that, but my spatial sense of the car was distorted. Just ask the left side mirror about it.

This first day, we leave the airport and go to find a place to stay to rest and get over the long journey. I look at my records for the place to stay I had found, but not booked, and the record of it on my Palm Pilot on the computer had been erased when the computer had crashed and needed to be restarted just before we left. So I tried to find an internet access point to find a motel, and when I got access, jet lag overtook me, and for 1 ½ hours I looked and could find nothing. A broken man, I realized I needed to try another way and we got back in the car and headed to Manly, a suburb of Sydney, where a soccer friend of Kate’s family was vacationing. We eventually found a motel 20 yards from the ocean, which was great. What wasn’t great was as we found out later was that this area was where major partying happens throughout the night. That evening while we slept there was a raucous commotion of drunken young adults carrying on until about 3 a.m. in the morning.

I had told the kids that they would have some of the best times of their life on this trip. Sometimes things would be real smooth and easy, and other times they would be real uncomfortable. This was one of those days, but really just a little tiny bit. More will come I know, it’s all part of it.

January 5th, 2006
We went to the zoo today. Zoos are places that can be exciting and very sad for me. It was exciting to see the kangaroos and the koala bears, and some of the other animals, but it’s also sad to see the animals that are essentially in a prison. I will say that this zoo was beautifully designed, and the environments created for the animals were very nice. I remember once seeing the zoo in Central Park where some of the animals were in concrete enclosures. This zoo had educational writings on plaques at each site I found to be very enlightening and informative. There were important messages about how the destruction of the rain forests and other natural habitats is causing some of these animals to become endangered. I’m still very tired after the longest flight that we will have on this trip.

January 10th, 2006
We are now in a cabin in Byron Bay, right near the ocean, and we’ll be here for 5 days. A great chance to rest and recharge after months of almost non-stop preparations. We’re also here with friends of mine from the Network Chiropractic community that I haven’t seen in 7 years. I knew them separately and now they’re married with 2 beautiful young girls ages 4 and 5. They have a beautiful place near the Gold Coast of Australia, in a rural area called Advancetown. The property is 5 acres with gorgeous grasslands and 3 ponds and gorgeous gum trees and other kinds I don’t know.

We went to a local rainforest called Natural Bridge. What a great experience that was. Of the original Australian rainforest, only .3% still exists. The rest has been cut down. What effect has that had? As soon as we arrived at the rainforest, I felt a bit giddy. There is an energy, a current, an aliveness in this place that lifted me up. It felt soothing and enlivening at the same time. I had read at the zoo a few days earlier that it can take 500-1,500 years for a rain forest to form. Maybe it’s a lot longer because often times when a rain forest is cut down, as I have heard, the soil can wash away, and the rain will stop coming to the area and it can become a desert.

I was also remembering my readings by Victor Schauberger. He was challenging the forestry practices of his native Austria where a natural forest is cut down and then a monoculture of trees is planted in rows. The difference between a monoculture of trees and a natural forest is huge. In a natural forest, there is a whole ecosystem that develops with thousands of species of plants and animals and insects that develop over a period of time through a natural progression that a planting of one species of trees in rows for the purpose of fast growth for timber production can never replicate. In the natural forest there is a profusion of diversity and a vibrancy of life because of all the life forms and life force. And this is what I was feeling, this vibrancy and aliveness of the natural world.

This journey is about exploring native wisdom throughout the world. My perspective is that the native cultures arose from their connection with the natural world, and the rhythm of their lives developed from the rhythm of the natural world. Their livelihood came from being in tune with their environment and learning from the plants and animals that were their food. And their spiritual life developed from their connection with the spirits of the area. My question then is, how did the native people live in this area? What was their source of food, and how did they get it? How did they pray and how did they feel about their lives here?

January 16th, 2006

We are on a flight to Auckland, New Zealand from Sydney, Australia. As we sit on the airplane, the kids love having their own TV to watch whatever they may want, or play video games, while Elijah just gushes his love of life. Now he sleeps in a bassinet hanging on the wall of the plane after being rattled to sleep with his favorite chant.

We are blessed to be flying Emirates the official airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), service and amenities that surpass the flights we have been on thus far. As we sit on the chairs we read “HELLO!” the official Middle East “People-magazine-like” magazine, filled with pictures and gossip and such. However, there is a much deeper article on the passing of the UAE Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai (a city that the whole family is looking forward to visiting in the near future). His name is Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he passed away on January 4th at the age of 62. We heard of his passing when we were in Australia, the location that he died. We were told that in the Arab culture the body must be put to rest within 24 hours of death so his body was whisked back from the Australian sea coast to the UAE that same day.

It appears from what we read of him, he was a true leader and one who had compassion and love for his country and his countryman. I felt such a grace and bigness of spirit when looking at a picture of him. In a land where there is oil and material wealth, I reflect on seeing such a generous man of spirit as I look at his eyes. I had read about one of these middle east country that is returning the wealth from the oil to their people. I don’t know if UAE is one of these countries, but I’m looking forward to going there and find out firsthand.

We had a wonderful time in Byron Bay, staying by the ocean for 5 days and swimming every day, but mostly relaxing during that time. A highlight was Shabbat at the lighthouse, the easternmost point of Australia that we shared with our friends Vinnie and Shelley and their 2 young girls. Australia was very hot, and a short time out in the sun caused sun burn. I feel we are preparing to ramp up the intensity of our journey very soon.

I was very excited to see the Sydney Opera House. Sadly we didn’t get into the theater, but seeing the building from outside was something special. What a masterpiece. We did meet someone there who was from Italy. His name was Sandro and he was very kind in recommending places to see in Tuscany, as well as special places in the Middle East. I’m excited to meet people with a different perspective than I’m used to, and who have lived in and seen different parts of the world. He was very generous with his help and I told the kids, “People all over will help you if you give them a chance, and treat them with kindness and respect.”

Sugar and the Hungry Ghost
Yesterday we were heading to a farmers market. I had a special interest in sampling a drink my friends Shelley and Vinnie had told me about, sugar cane juice with ginger. They had told me what a delicious and healthy drink it was, and that got me thinking. What happens when we change things from how they are naturally and make them into something else. When the sugar cane is processed into refined sugar, it changes dramatically. Instead of a whole and complete fruit, it is turned into a concentrated form that is without its natural enzymes and minerals, as well as missing other parts that assist us in digesting it.

When we take refined sugar, our bodies must leach minerals and enzymes from our body to digest it because of what has been taken out. What also happens with refined sugar is that it creates an upward spike in the blood sugar, and then a compensating crash as the blood sugar drops below a healthy level. I’ve known people who experience a tremendous high after eating sugar, and then will go through the crash of low energy and irritable moods. Refined sugar is also well known as a substance that creates quite an addiction in many people. One aspect of addiction is an intense craving for something which than can create breakdown and a lesser life expression instead of building vitality.

I remember years ago when I traveled in Bolivia and was introduced to Coca leaves. They are indigenous to that area and are used by many of the local people to help them recover from tiredness, and stave off hunger and thirst at the high altitudes that they live in. Visitors like me would try the coca leaves to help with adapting to the high altitude. The affect of ingesting the coca was a gentle change of awareness, and the result is people are better able to carry on with hiking and working with less need for food and water. There are no big highs or lows with it. I tried it and remember how gentle it was.

Sadly, as part of our addictive culture, Coca leaves are processed into cocaine and sold through the world in the drug trade. It is highly addictive and the cause of breakdowns for many people in many ways. It gives people a feeling of euphoria, and then followed by an intense low and then an eventual crash. It then requires more and more of the substance to achieve the original high that was once experienced. Again, the coca is processed into something different than what it naturally is and then changes from something benevolent into a highly addictive and toxic substance.

I also wonder about medicines that are created from natural substances but then are processed into drugs that still have the active ingredient, but have refined out the rest of its components. Most drugs have major debilitating side affects especially with regards to their effect on the liver and kidneys. When these organs are affected it’s because they are trying to detoxify toxins. Most of the drugs are toxic in some way as proven by the number of deaths each year from prescribed drugs!

Anyway, I spoke to Matt and Kate about my thoughts on the concept of addiction and this brought up a huge conversation about the nature of addiction and the hungry ghost, as I had once heard it called. The hungry ghost is the part of us that is hungry for a feeling of connection, because intrinsically there is a disconnection in one’s connection to God. So we run and search for a feeling of connection from the outside. When the connection inside is severed, searching for it outside may come in the form of drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or name your poison. Something or anything to fill the empty hole of the hungry ghost.

They were very fascinated to discuss drugs, but especially as they brought the conversation to sexual matters, they became absolutely riveted with attention and excitement. This is their time of sexual awakening and I spoke very bluntly about the hungry ghost and how it can take over when we are not filled from within. I also spoke very frankly about sex and how I believe it is one of our greatest gifts and a way of making connection with the divine, but can also be very hurtful when we are not ready for it. This is a very exciting time for them as they speak about sex. I want them to feel safe to talk about it and feel no shame, because they have come from a place of snickering about it. This one series of talks about sex and life, I think, shifted their whole perception in a very positive way. I haven’t heard the same kind of snickering since. Consequently they seem freer since then.

A Special Performance in Byron Bay
We saw a performance the other night in Byron Bay that was absolutely brilliant. It was performed by a local troupe, with percussionists, dancers, and a newscaster broadcasting positive news that matters. On the whole the percussion stuff was lots of fun, the broadcasts were hilarious, and the dancers were good.

One girl did acrobatic-type moves on a rope high up, the kind that makes my stomach fall. It looks very dangerous, one mistake and she could be seriously injured. On the whole, the sum of the parts was bigger than the individual parts. For instance, one bit was a conductor of an orchestra conducting his musicians. He is staid and proper, counting the time of the music with his baton, cueing his musicians at the right times, but as the music progresses, his body starts to dance and he brings himself back to being controlled and on top of it, pulling a stray leg back, and suppressing a propulsive movement of the beat. Finally he can’t hold it back any longer and just throws away his baton, throws all the sheets of music in the air and just rips it up on the dance floor in an ecstatic groovin’ dance.

The whole performance was so good, yet the opening piece was something I’ll remember a long time. They introduced the evening by coming out in the dark with the seven performers all playing different little instruments that mimicked the sounds of the forest. As this beautiful little orchestra played I felt transported into the forest, and the sweetness of that place. After a few minutes of this, a guy came out with a conga drum and he starts playing real loud, totally drowning out the sounds of the forest. What a simple and profound metaphor for how the dominant culture has come and obliterated the native cultures of the world, without listening, without paying any attention to the beautiful songs of the forest and the natural world, without any respect for the gifts of those in tune with their natural world.

In this piece though, the loud drummer realizes his foolishness and he stops and listens. The songs of the forest emerge and he plays softly and in concert with the forest songs and adds to and becomes a part of it. Oh, if it could only be that easy to reestablish our connection with the natural world?

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