A Lesson in Falling

There's a certain magic that occurs in travel. Navigating unfamiliar terrain keeps the mind alert and the senses sharp. Even a mundane trip on public transport or a walk along what might be seen by the locals as an unremarkable residential street is seeped in intrigue. Strange bird song, a shocking scent of juniper, a crescent moon hanging in the sky so close it can't be real. My time in Australia, on the other side of the world, quite unexpectedly turned my world upside-down.

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Surfing and Falling Down Laughing

According to the Yoga Sutra, one of the five Kleshas (afflictions of the mind) is Abhinivesha, most often translated as “clinging to life” or “fear of death.” This affliction dilutes mental focus and compromises one's ability to discern the real from the unreal – an obstacle on the path towards liberation. It's not that I actually thought I was going to die out there in the water, but deep down we all have an innate survival mechanism that signals a flashing red light when danger is near. The tough part is discriminating between legitimate danger and an overactive mind.

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Impermanence

We as humans hold onto things. Our relationships to familiar objects, people, and places form a tapestry of self-identity. And while it's often scary to do so, we must shed as much as we acquire as we move through life. Each of my departures from Japan is a process of letting go. Letting go of the temporary apartment I've occupied, the streets and favorite restaurants that surround it, the people with whom I've shared countless walks and meals and conversations.

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