5 weeks, one beach part 4/4: No food but meditation and does sadness make a lost love bigger? (December 2022)

After spending three weeks at the stunning beach on the Marmaris peninsula in Turkey, I was conflicted about whether to stay or go. On one hand, I was eager to embark on new adventures, but on the other, I felt like leaving would be like avoiding something. There was an intangible sense that something remained “on that beach” for me to discover or let go. Although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, I felt that staying was the right thing to do.

Before heading to the Beglika festival in Bulgaria, I had a conversation about fasting with that lovely German family I met at the big lake. I had been curious about fasting for some time and that conversation and its longstanding cultural significance made me even more curious. During my time living on the first beach with Artha, I had experienced how eating less and changing my diet heightened my body awareness. I had felt more attuned to physical sensations and since then I was eating even healthier than before.

A couple of months ago, my attitude towards eating had shifted. It became more significant to me and I often found myself eagerly anticipating my next meal. At times, it felt like a craving. It may have been due to boredom or a lack of structure in my daily life. I began to ponder what it would be like to not eat. So I decided to try fasting for the first time in my life. My plan was to fast for three days and observe the changes in my perspective on eating.

Shortly before the start of my fasting, Artha told me that her life at the ashram was very intense and that she felt like changing every day. Although she still felt that deep and unconditional love between us, she felt her romantic love for me fading day by day. My heart skipped a beat. Was this what was left on that beach for me to let go? I had no doubt of that deep unconditional love and connection between us and I think that this made me feel very different about this change of our connection than I had felt in situations like that in the past. I did not feel anger, despair or fear, I was not deeply sad or depressed. I did feel that I was losing something and I felt passive. Leaving Bulgaria and Artha, Artha going to the ashram. All of that had changed our connection. But our connection had been changing all the time even when we had been together in Bulgaria.

I still felt that romantic love for Artha. If a fairy would have come by, I would have asked her to bring Artha to that beach. But I didn’t feel like my happiness was depending on her. A sense of freedom joined my feelings of loss. It was not a freedom from Artha but rather a liberation from a part of myself. The part that altered my being by clinging to and trying to preserve our romantic love, no matter what. That made me realize how strong this influence on me had been.

A part of me wondered if it was okay to not feel deeply sad, depressed, or angry about Artha severing our romantic connection from her side. Could our love have never been as strong as I thought it was? Was it all just a fantasy or a dream? How could I not feel sad and depressed about losing it and not be upset and angry with the one who took it?

These feelings and thoughts reminded me of the emotions I had experienced after the death of my parents and grandparents. I had been deeply sad and overwhelmed with grief. It felt like losing them meant losing everything. My life and myself. It was all-consuming. As time went by, I realized that even though we wouldn’t be able to see or feel each other in the way we used to, we would always be connected through love and memories. This realization had helped me a lot to let go of that all-consuming sadness and despair. 

Back then, I had thought about whether it would be okay to stop being sad. I thought how could someone stop being sad about losing something that one loves so much? Wouldn’t that be wrong? Wouldn’t that be a betrayal of that love? Back then in Germany and now at that beach in Turkey, I deeply realized that being not sad, not depressed, not angry and not mad was perfectly fine and would not diminish any love I was feeling at all. I still wanted Artha to be happy and live the life she wanted to live at every moment. And for myself I still wanted the same. And as I would like to meet all people, when we see each other again, I will be open to everything there will be between us.

I was at peace with my feelings and thoughts, but there was still a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I couldn’t quite shake. I felt that the opportunity to let go of this thing was within reach. To focus on it I decided that I would spend my three days of fasting with only meditating, slow walking and yoga, reading the Bankei lectures and sleeping.

The first day of my fasting started and I was feeling very good, calm and curious about what was up to come. I had no plan or structure for these days. I was just doing whatever came up and I did not much think about it. I did a lot of meditating and I never started a timer while doing so. I just sat down and started. When I felt like l laying down, I laid down. When I felt like walking or sitting again, I did that. When I felt hunger arise, I observed that and most of the time, I drank a tea. And I spent a whole lot of time just perceiving the beauty of nature. Doing that for more than some minutes was a pretty new thing for me and it felt wonderful and fulfilling.

At some point I got the impression, that it would not only be possible to trust my pure being (like I had described in the previous post), but that I could really do it. These upcoming thoughts in my mind felt not only less important, they felt obsolete. The commenting voice inside of my head felt like being a commentator of a live game. It was like this commentator told me what was going on and offered topics to think about, but all of that was already known inside of me. Several times I caught myself giggling about how weird that felt.

I started to think about if there were any necessary thoughts. I still don’t know but back then it felt like these arbitrarily arising thoughts that seemed to deliver only things that were already known were of no real use. But I felt like in contrast to these thoughts, the activity of pure thinking was useful. And this pure action of thinking felt much smoother now. Letting go of arising thoughts felt so easy and natural. It felt like my inner commentator had been used to mostly comment something like “hi upcoming thought, I let go of you” or “oh nice, I let go of that upcoming thought” when letting go of thoughts. Now he was mostly silent. The submerging of thoughts felt like a light was dimming itself down. 

Since I had started meditating about six years ago, I had often been longing for the end of a meditation session. Although I did not skip one day of meditating for more than a year, it was not unusual that I had to push myself to start a session. And while meditating, thoughts about quitting a session in early had been not unusual as well. All of this had changed during the time of my fasting. Meditating felt like kind of just having a good time. No part of me questioned that.

Not eating, no phone or iPad didn’t feel bad for those three days. In fact, everything felt very good for that short time. Everything felt very good, light and free. Especially my experiences regarding the unimportance of my inner commentator, the ease of letting go of arbitrarily arising thoughts and the ease of meditating felt super good. They felt so good that from my perspective, as I’m writing this four weeks later, it feels like I was at least partly “high on them” and “high on myself” for being able to experience them. Maybe those experiences and the way I clung to them were the things waiting for me to let go off on that beach.

But in the end it doesn’t matter. I’m happy for the experiences I made and I loved and still love my time at that beach. Everything of it. And I’m very thankful for that.

5 weeks, one beach part 3/4: Can I trust my pure being and summoning dolphins without thinking about them? (December 2022)

Back in Bulgaria, I had the feeling that analyzing and trying to deeply understand the things that were going on in my mind would no longer be my way. The funny thing is, that about six years ago, I had felt something similar but different. Back then, I had been thinking a lot about things that had been bothering me. It had been like a whirlwind of analytical thoughts, dissatisfaction, and sometimes desperation.

At one point, I realized that there was no need for the strong dissatisfaction and desperation I had been feeling. I understood that I could change my perspective on the things that had been bothering me. This realization came to me as I was reading the book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. In the book, he describes many interesting concepts, but the one that resonated with me the most was his explanation of how humans believe in a lot of things that we just made up, such as money, countries, and companies. These things don’t actually exist, yet most of us believe in them so strongly that they shape and dictate much of our lives. Furthermore, Harari describes how subjective, dynamic, and elusive the human perception of reality can be. I began to think that if I was already believing in so many things that were not real and these beliefs were having such a big impact on me, and if my perception of reality was not solid but could be changed, then I could create new beliefs and change my perspective in a way that would make me feel happier. This had been the starting point for a long process of change. Dissatisfaction and desperation became less and less important. I think that at this point, I had started to actively change my perspective on things by altering my thinking about them. It was a lot of thinking, but it felt good.

Around the same time, I had begun to meditate and study various literature on happiness, mindfulness, Buddhism, philosophy, and psychology. At that time, my primary motivation was to understand how the self within me worked. In retrospect, I realize that I had been approaching this desire on an intellectual level. I had believed that nearly everything could be explained in this way. However, over time, this perspective had begun to shift. My intellectual understanding became more and more supplemented by a deeper level of feelings and beliefs. Despite this, I still had changed the way I saw things by analyzing, understanding, and then altering my perspective.

At some point during my journey, which had begun about a year ago, I had started to feel that analyzing and understanding felt clunky and unnatural. I had realized that I didn’t need to understand everything. However, I was still very much in my thoughts. Then, back in Bulgaria, these active, analytical, and transformative thoughts started to become less important. I feel that the intense time I had spent with Artha, our love, mutual triggering and everything else, had the effect of a catalyst.

I felt that my perspective on my thoughts and the concepts they were following had changed. I got the impression that the relationship between feelings, beliefs, thinking and arising thoughts might be different than what I had believed. From that point on, I felt more open towards myself and started to be more honest with everything that came up inside of me. I felt a different kind of authenticity and naturalness, something I hadn’t experienced before. The feeling reminded me of sayings like “there are no wrong feelings.” I felt liberated from certain boundaries that I had applied to myself in order to be authentic, mindful and spiritual. After Istanbul, I found myself relying on analytical thinking again at times, but mostly I felt like I was starting to welcome all aspects of myself and observe the parts that irritated me. So, I guess that was more observing, welcoming, and letting go than thinking, analyzing, and actively transforming.

At one point on that beach in Turkey, I got the strong impression that I might be able to fully trust what felt like my pure being. By “pure being,” I mean “me” without the arising and commenting thoughts in my mind. In (Zen) Buddhism, there are the terms “small mind” and “big mind.” I read most about them in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. It’s a deep topic, but I guess for now, it’s enough to say that the big mind seems to perceive everything as it is, while the small mind (as a part of the big mind) tends to add delusions in the form of stories to everything one perceives. So, with a calm small mind and fewer delusions, one might suffer less in life because one would judge life less in a dualistic way of good and bad. I felt that what I felt like my being was pretty well described as the big mind, and my thoughts as the small mind. I felt like that I might be able to trust my being completely at some point, and I felt like the journey there had already begun.

I continued to attend the Dharma talks of the Bright Way Zen community via Zoom, and I was reading the book “The Unborn – The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei” translated by Norman Waddell. It felt like it came at just the right time and I connected strongly with it. From my understanding, Bankei’s teachings mostly revolve around the belief that one can fully trust in their pure being and that is all that is necessary to not suffer in life because that being will take care of everything that needs to be taken care of. He refers to this being as “the unborn Buddha mind.” My brief descriptions of the “big mind” and “small mind” and this one about the “unborn Buddha mind” are by no means adequate descriptions of the concepts that Suzuki and Bankei are offering, but I think it’s enough for this post. Reading that book and its constant repetition of trusting my being felt relieving, confirming, and very healthy for me. It felt like my belief in my pure being kept growing.

One day, while sitting in Rosinante, I looked at the switch for my charging booster. I had always wanted to drill a hole in the interior of Rosinante to properly install the switch, but I never got around to it because I couldn’t decide on the best way to do it. But on that day, I just did it. Afterwards, I fixed an electrical connection of one of the batteries that I had been meaning to fix for months, but didn’t know how. I also improved the routing of the cable from my power converter through the cabin. These tasks that I had been putting off for so long, ended up taking only a couple of minutes to complete. And after these, I found myself tackling a number of other things that seemed to just appear. I simply did what was next and didn’t give much thought to them. It felt like a chain of flow. I experienced this feeling on several days while I was on that beach.

On another day, I hiked to a small waterfall and meditated at a peaceful creek. On that day, there were even fewer distracting thoughts in my mind, and I felt easy, bright, and light. When I returned to my camper and was reading on the beach, I felt the urge to look out at the sea. I noticed a bird swimming on the waves in the distance and thought it was astonishing that my human visual system could see the bird so clearly from such a distance. I wondered if I could see dolphins, and as if on cue, two dolphin fins appeared not far from the bird. The bodies of the two dolphins partly emerged from the water, one bigger than the other. They dove, reemerged, and disappeared. I laughed wholeheartedly.