It has been over 1,000 miles and nearly two months on the Journey to the East, the bicycling pilgrimage. A ripe time for some reflections.
The physical journey has taken me from Oakland up north to the "City of Ten Thousand Buddhas" in Ukiah, and then hugging the Pacific Coast, all the way South into Rosarito, Mexico, before turning back North and arriving in Los Angeles.
The inner journey has traveled just as many terrains as the outer one. Here are three realizations that come to mind.
1. The universe mirrors what's in our heart.
When I smile at life, life smiles back. When I have faith in humanity, humanity would never let me down. Proofs have been mounting that our inner world invokes the outer reality.
Here is an example. Three years ago, when I was bicycling across the US after college, I did not believe that strangers along the way would feed me, even if they allow me to camp in their backyard. So, I brought stove, pots, and food with me to "be independent and take care of myself". Lo and behold, I did end up cooking my own dinner in stranger's kitchen quite often during that 75-day journey.
This time around, I have full faith that people's innate hospitality and kindness will take care of me. This is not an expectation or a sense of entitlement, but just faith and acceptance. I do not ask for food, and am fully prepared and content to just eat my trail mix for dinner if I do not get invited to join my hosts for meals. Lo and behold, for two months on the road, every single night, I have been invited to join my hosts for dinner and breakfast the next morning.
I am deeply grateful for my hosts' kindness to the stranger, and do not take it for granted. At the same time, I also know that they are not feeding "me" -- they are feeding their own soul as they put food on my plate. We are both giver and receiver in that sacred moment of breaking bread together.
Here is another example. For the cross-country tour three years ago, I fundraised through friends and acquaintances, because I was worried that I would not have enough money. Lo and behold, two-thirds into the trip, I was running out of money. I had to email out another round of fundraising pleas to cover the remaining expenses.
This time around (after much inner struggle), I finally let go of the "money worry". I trust that my basic needs will be taken care of, and am ready to accept any physical discomforts when they are not. I did not do any fundraising, nor thought much about money at all, which freed up enormous amount of energy. Lo and behold, two months later, I have more money in my bank account than when I started -- all through unsolicited donations from ordinary people who support the mission of the journey.
But here is the caveat: so far, things have been pretty easy. God has shown up for me first (and repeatedly), and only then have I trusted. Jesus said, "because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29) I pray that I will have the faith to continue to smile at the universe, even when things start to "go wrong". That's when the real test begin. Please remind me that there might be a time lag in the cosmic mirror :)
2. When I have no things left to give, true giving finally begins.
It is a strong Chinese and family tradition that we bring physical gifts everywhere we go. It is an offering of gratitude, and a show of respect and affection. The gift-giving also helps to relieve my sense of indebtedness to so many people whom I could never repay.
On this journey, however, I literally have no extra things to spare, given the minimalist packing principle. And, I am receiving so many blessings from so many people that I could not possibly carry enough gifts even if I stuff my panniers full with trinkets.
At first, I felt uneasy when I show up empty-handed. I was at a loss, deprived of gift-giving as an easy way out of the discomfort of overwhelming gratitude. The discomfort forced upon me this question: what can you give, when you have no things to give?
The answer soon became apparent: I can give of myself. I can listen deeply. I can be fully present. I can be truly curious and non-judgmental. I can create soulful conversations, and hold a space of non-reaction. I can offer my silent prayers, and send out loving kindness in meditation. I can let go of the "I", the nervous ego, so that something greater could pour through.
I used to not have faith in the power of these nonphysical gifts. They didn't seem "real". I didn’t believe that I was good enough at offering them. I was doubtful that those around me would "pick up the signal". But now, after trying and keeping trying, my faith is growing daily in the power of giving ourselves without the self, and in people's innate ability to receive and value these gifts -- the only true gifts.
I am reminded of the words of a dear friend and teacher, Nipun, "Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."
3. One drop changes the whole bucket. For better or for worse :)
I will again take "money" for an example. As soon as the first unsolicited donation arrived in my bank account, I realized that my relationship to money has changed forever -- not just to the donated amount, but to the entirety of my savings. Once mixed together, I can no longer separate "mine" and "thine". The money is no longer "mine", because every dollar I withdraw from the account could be the gift of others. I need to be a responsible trustee of the money, instead of spending "my own money" freely. Even if there is just one dollar of donation added to my own $15,000+ savings, the entire pool of money has transformed in nature -- they have all become a gift, and I must treat the whole sum as donated. The change is instantaneous and irreversible :)
The shift in perception has brought about real changes in my spending habits. For two months, I have not bought any non-essential food items or indulgent treats: no ice-cream, chocolate, and such, because I could not waste money that was gifted to me. (OK, I did once buy a fresh coconut for $5.50 at a coffee shop…) On the other hand, it has made donating to other people and causes much easier for me, because, hey, the money was gifted to me, only to be paid forward.
The "Law of One Drop" has raised my vigilance to maintain the purity of the pilgrimage, because I know the Law works the other way, too. If I ever accept one commercialized offer or take on one advertisement, it would undermine the entire integrity of the journey. So, when a rich family offered me money for a hotel room as a way to decline my knock on their door, I politely declined the offer, knowing that the "donation" was not offered in the same spirit that supports the pilgrimage.
These are but a fraction of the gifts and learnings from the journey thus far; and it is just the beginning.
Every day, I count my blessings, only to soon lose count, and to realize my sweet, eternal indebtedness to countless noble friends.
People often ask if I am traveling by myself. I say, yes, but only on the apparent level :) Deep down, I know I am not alone; nor is it "I" that is on this journey.
Deep bow to all!
再拿“钱”来举例子。当我把第一笔朋友自发为“东行心路”捐的款存入账上后，我发现我与“钱”的关系从此完全改变了 － 不仅仅是与那一笔捐款的关系，而是账上所有的钱。因为，这些钱一旦融到一起，就无法分出“你我”。从此，我花的每一块钱，都可能是别人给予的祝福与信任，我必须小心、惜福地使用。如果仅仅是我自己的钱，那我爱怎么花，就怎么花，奢侈一点也不不要紧。但是，哪怕一万美元的个人存款里加入了一美元的捐款，那这一万零一美元就都不是我的了，性质完全转变。
经常有路人问，你是自己一个人在骑行的路上吗？我回答，表面上看，是的 ：） 其实心底里知道，从来不是自己一个人在行路。而在行路的，也不是“我”。
A pilgrimage around the globe by bicycle, in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time.