When I parted the beautiful alternate reality of Soul Quest, Carlos drove me to my downtown hotel, the Grand Bohemian. He was puzzled why I didn’t select a more affordable or a more conveniently located hotel but I had my reasons. I wanted tranquility from a non-Disney oriented hotel with room service and a pool. I needed this time to decompress in order to have an easier reentry back into the mainstream. Carlos, however, understood but seemed unconvinced that I was acting wisely.
At first I thought about my relative isolation at Soul Quest and that I mostly managed to ignore the broader culture of the outside world. I had quickly acclimatized at Soul Quest and was seldom reminded that I was visiting the US. I could almost be forgiven for concluding that everything I saw was mostly the same as Canada wth the exception of the hot weather and legal Ayahuasca.
As we drove I couldn’t shut off my busy mind. I couldn’t let go of the distraction from everything around me. It was a stimulus overload. I expected it would be a rough transition but I never expected a heightened state that I couldn’t readily regulate. So I went with it. As Carlos navigated traffic and as my mind went into a an stimulus rich environment I began to see some of the differences.
But Orlando is not just about materialism, it is also about ‘manufacturing consent’.
As we weaved our way through traffic to my hotel, I couldn’t help but wonder how different the world would have been if love was our motivation as a species instead of prosperity, power and prestige. Materialism, of course, lifts us up above our ancestors but doesn’t, in itself, provide for a healthier, happier life. What would our world look like if we had chosen spirituality as a goal over materialism?
Then I remembered my plane ride to Orlando. There were four or five little girls onboard who were already outfitted in feminine Disney products, complete with Disney princess suitcases. Their materialistic values as well as their roles and relationships in life were clearly influenced by their middle aged mothers, who fought the progress of their years with almost identical little girl, barbie doll looks complete with youthful clothes and dyed blond hairstyles.
Even from remote Canadian fishing communities little girls learn that charming men is not only an acceptable way of life but a path to marriage and hopefully everlasting love. Yet, the Disney story is the American dream incarnate. Making something out of nothing. The little guy fighting all the odds. The vast empire today that provides joy and prosperity to countless people every year, however, it also creates life-long aspirations fashioned by fantasies and, for little girls, a life lesson that charm is valued above competency.
The richest country in the world has made peace with being always at war, even with its own people.
Ayahuasca opened me up to the connectivity that we humans share with other life forms and each other. We are, after all brothers and sisters regardless of position in society, race, gender or tribal affiliation. But as we approached my destination the clean streets and modern buildings are littered with the disenfranchised homeless on nearly every street corner.
Here in the richest country in the World our brothers and sisters, where million of Americans sleep in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation, poverty makes survival more pressing than long term aspirations and opportunities possible through education and proper health care. Here, in the ‘land of the free’, freedom, for some, means being born into crippling generational poverty and life in a culture that looks at the surface and not the roots of a problem.
But it’s also different here, for instance, in New York where I’ve seen homeless sleeping on sidewalk doorways or like San Francisco where I’ve seen the home living in cardboard shelters like. The Homeless have become the new normal for Western cities but here such reality is largely sanitized for the Disney experience. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, at least 2,000 children live in cheap, crowded motels in central Florida and on the highway leading to Disney World. An invisible problem, however, is still a problem even though we choose to ignore it.
Is it any wonder that Americans rate America as not a happy place to live?
Soul Quest also opened my eyes to the how extensive trauma is in the lives of ordinary people in America. Maybe it’s the same in Canada but I don’t think to the same degree. It seems like there are a lot of people in America that are not only traumatized but who have no where to turn for effective treatment and an alternative to suicide.
America has always struck me as an immature country not yet comfortable with its own strength. The states is truly divided, except when united from nationalism or fear. They fear socialism but few are happy under their version of capitalism. I understand that there are problems with socialism and it is often confused with communism but I don’t understand why Americans choose to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ when, as a people, they are largely unhappy with the status quo.
There are better examples in the world where people who live under capitalistic governance are happier than America. Canada consistently rates higher on the happiness scale than America. In Nordic countries, such as Denmark, where socialism and capitalism work hand and glove the Danes and other Nordic countries are consistently among the happiest people in the world. Compare that to the happiness in America, where every hour there are nearly 30 killings, 10 rapes and 4 suicides. Is it any wonder that Americans rate America as not a happy place to live?
It is difficult to calculated the cost of traumatized lives. For the individuals and families traumatized it is impossible. For society, however, it means that money and man-hours wasted on a problem that doesn’t ever go away. It simply resurfaces both with those that struggle to survive their lives and those that live in fear that they might be next to be raped or killed.
The hotel was a not-so-well-disguised wink and a nod to the rich and wealthy who created this oasis of privilege.
As I unpacked, I consciously choose to ignore the outside world of television and radio. I didn’t want to see or hear more violence and/or suffering. I didn’t want hear opinionated people yelling or see breaking news about more mass killings. I simply wanted to get back into a sacred head-space in order to process the Soul Quest experience, which had ignited the brotherly love inside me but it now flickered against the first head-winds that I encountered.
I needed two nights to myself before returning home on my once-a-week return flight. I knew that the ordeal of the last few days as well as the stress of integrating back into society would be harsh. I wanted to better understand the virtue of what I experienced while it was fresh and I was open to change. I knew that my experiences revealed my true self and answered many of my concerns but I also knew that without a supportive community all this is especially difficult to nourish.
I don’t plan to go very far afield so avoiding more public venues, even the hotel restaurant, so I rented a room located on the ‘executive level’ to ensure a quieter environment and unfettered access via the executive lounge for snacks and breakfast. When I first went to the executive lounge to get some water it was empty and quiet except for CNN in the background. As I got closer to the TV behind the bar area I saw that The Notre-Dame Cathedral was burnt almost to the ground and Wolf Blitzer was frantically milking the human misery from its ashes.
I need find a way to still my mind before I lose it
His superficial coverage is symptomatic of the state of ‘journalism’ today in America. It stems from a corporate culture and revenue based services dedicated to political divides. In an America that fails millions of Americans it is more than just another reminder that American culture ignores the roots of a problem. It is part of the problem through its self-interests, complacency and biases.
Yet who am I to judge? Better yet, why do I judge? I no longer struggle to build a better society. I no longer hold the view that anyone can make a difference. My hope for a better world has slowly faded during my lifetime. There were signs of hope such as the removal of Nixon and the rise of the Hippies and then Trump followed Obama. I now question who among us can alter the destructive course we have all willfully or silently embarked upon.
I was never a hippie but in my heart I always will be one. Not the hippie that is only seeking sex drugs and rock and roll but one who connects with nature, fellow travellers and has a healthy suspicion of the military/industrial complex. In other words, one who is awake and conscious, one whose values include creating a better, healthier world. Yet, this and all the other signs of hope have been dismantled systematically by the greed of capitalism.
At first I was fascinated by this tragedy, but, the sensational reporting soon got to me. I didn’t feel comfortable shutting off this public TV so I just tuned it out. I understand that it is really impossible to shut out the outside world but selective exposure is my preference over over exposure. At the same time, however, I came to realize that since I left Should Quest that I’ve been not grounded in the present moment and that I need find a way to still my mind before I lose it.
I am all alone in my room and all alone in this city with no bearings and no-one to connect with that I could share my plight
This would be huge for me. I can easily lose quality sleep and waste precious time with matters that are either abstract and not important to me personally. I realize that I probably will need to pursue meditation as well as seek a supportive community. I feel that these two goals are the reasonable next steps in my journey.
I don’t feel a supportive community is an option for me given my age and isolation. I would value such a community but will need to cherish the times when it occurs rather then regret the times that it doesn’t. For, now, however, I need to find my balance. I must learn to integrate within the larger world while putting external distractions aside and to stay in the present. Meditation is something this post demonstrates that I need and convinces me that it should be a step on my transformative journey.
I had known that the ‘real world’ transition can be rough but today’s post on Disney, homeless, happiness and ‘flower power’ was not only an unexpected ‘stream of consciousness’ but reminiscent of being stuck in an Ayahuasca loop. I felt almost unable to control my own thoughts and for a while felt a little scared. From my experience loops are learning experiences that one needs to pay attention to. I also know this from being stuck in a rut like so many others I have known.
Now, As I sit silently all alone in my room and in this unfamiliar city. I have no bearings, metaphorically or geographically speaking, and no-one close enough to help guide me, especially those I love back in Canada. Yet, despite my gloomy reality, I took comfort from the fact that Ayahuasca opened up my heart and that I had experienced and likely am still experience some sort of cosmic love and acceptance. It gave me strength to know I wasn’t alone but part of sometime that up until now I couldn’t even imagine. I felt blessed and believed that this blessing would always be with me as long as I tune into it and not be preoccupied by everyday distractions.