Enjoying the Journey

My Experiment: Part 7

(You can read Part 6 here: Slowing Down)

My apartment in Costa Rica is about two miles outside of town, which takes me roughly forty minutes to walk. There’s a bus that runs past three times a day, but the schedule isn’t always convenient and it doesn’t run at night. Consequently, I end up walking quite a bit. I noticed myself getting annoyed with the trek, especially at night if I’m trying to catch a ride but the hitchhiking gods aren’t smiling. It started to become a thing, when deciding whether or not to go into town at night, I was factoring in the hassle of getting there and back. The hike had become solely a means to an end, the way to get to civilization. I was focusing only on the destination, impatiently trying to get there as fast as possible.

Then I had an experience that transformed my appreciation of the journey. I was heading home at night, after the weekly open mic. It was a fun evening, I’m getting more comfortable playing in front of people and overall it was a good vibe. So I was in good spirits as I started the jaunt back. The moon was high in the sky, one day shy of full. At first, on the way out of town, I was trying catch a ride, with no luck. However, once I reached a long stretch of road with no lights, the magic unfolded.

Walking under a bright moon, in utter darkness, is an experience like no other. Lights completely negate the effect; when I was walking in town, it was a night like any other. In total blackness, moonlight shrouds the world in a velvety, silvery glow. I could see my surroundings clearly, but everything looked ethereal and other-worldly in the subtle glimmer of moonshine. The road was a ghostly ribbon carving through the gossamer jungle. Shimmering waves sparkled fleetingly before crashing on the scabrous rocks. Scenes of Tolkien flashed through my mind, hints of elven-song danced on the breeze as I meandered through the trees. The night felt more alive than ever before.

The shadows cast by moonlight are equally enthralling, made of soft, misty lines, not the sharp demarcations of sunshade. The border between light and dark isn’t distinct, the line between is and is not blurs into a sumptuous in-between.

Since that night, it’s been much easier to embrace the trek into town as its own separate adventure. The goal is no longer to get there as quickly as possible, the goal is to relish the travel itself. What was once an obstacle to overcome before having fun is now fun itself. Of course, it’s easy to enjoy a walk here, the road is either ringed by jungle or skirting the ocean. In San Francisco, I used to drive to destinations in order to enjoy an environment like this. But even in this setting, I was turning the experience into a hurdle by focusing on the destination instead of the journey itself. Ironically, when I immerse myself in the sensations of the hike, it goes by much quicker than when I was just trying to get through it.

It’s a metaphor for life. Often, I’m too focused on getting through whatever task I’m working on in order to get to the fun stuff. Since blowing up my life and moving to Costa Rica, it’s been much easier to enjoy the present moment, but I still notice myself sometimes rushing through something in order to experience what’s next. Slowing down and fully embracing whatever is happening now leads to a much fuller appreciation of my life. My existence used to consist of moments of happiness followed by hours of boredom. Now the ratio is reversed, and it’s an overwhelming relief.

The journey continues!

You can read Part 8 here: Fitting Right In

Slowing Down

My Experiment: Part 6 (You can read part 5 here Finding Balance)

The pace of my life continues to slow down, and the effect is transformational.

Every morning begins with a sunrise meditation on the beach. The rich amber tones of the dawn sky gradually lighten to blue. Venus and Jupiter have been visible before daybreak since I’ve been here, adding to the allure. Sometimes my mind is unsettled at first, but as the sun crests the horizon, gradually brightening the darkness behind my closed eyes and warming my skin, it grabs me like a tractor beam, wresting my being out of the grip of my intellect. The next half hour, before the heat becomes uncomfortable, is pure bliss, absorbed in the magnificence of the growing luminescence.

Many days conclude at the beach as well, a marvelous means to unwind with the transition from day to night, light to dark, active to subdued. The actual sunset is hidden on the other side of the peninsula, but splendidly lit clouds are often visible. Facing east allows me to witness the arrival of the stars, and I’m beginning to recognize the order of the procession. Sirius appears first, followed by Rigel, in the Orion Constellation. Then they pop out rapidly: Betelguese, Canopus, Procyon, Capella, like old friends arriving at a party. The whole performance unfolds to the soundtrack of crashing waves and that indescribable feeling of dusk. It’s been nearly a month, and the magic still consumes me every time.

Slowing down enables me to delight in simple joys like sunrise and sunset. Sitting on my porch, enjoying the shade and the cool ocean breeze. Watching an iguana climb a tree to eat the tender new shoots at the crown. The art of perfectly cooked rice. Hanging my laundry to dry in the sun. Sweeping sand out of my apartment. The daring acrobatics of capuchin monkeys cavorting in the trees. Settling in to moments like these fills me with a profound sense of contentment. Much different from the hectic, harried existence of my former life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’m even coming to appreciate my part-time, remote job as a biological database curator. Several years ago I did this work as a fulltime employee, and I was always rushing through the tasks, finishing everything as quickly as possible. Now that I’m slowing down and only working a couple hours per day, I’m learning to derive a sense of fulfillment from meticulously caring for the data. In my entire professional career, I never had employment that I really liked. I think that’s mostly because there’s no single profession I would like to do all day, every day. Working part-time enables me to pursue my other interests, which allows me to actually enjoy work.

However my brain is still finding things to get wound up about. It wants to slip back into the habit of feeling irritated by minor annoyances. Sometimes considerable effort is required to let go of the little inconveniences that arise. I discussed plans in my last post. I’m still required to create plans, around the tides, the bus schedule, yoga classes, etc., and I often notice myself living in the plan instead of the moment. But I’m catching it sooner, and each time it’s a tiny bit easier to release expectations, unwind, and surrender to the present.

You can read Part 7 here: Enjoying the Journey

Finding Balance

My Experiment: Part 5

(You can read Part 4 here: My Experiment: Part 4 – Breaking Patterns)

It’s astounding how insidiously my mind continues attempting to create programs and slip into autopilot. I’m not sure why that happens. Perhaps because coasting on autopilot requires less mental energy than staying fully aware and responsive to the environment?

Again, I found myself getting really busy and all wound-up in my head, but for completely different reasons this time. My friend Chris was in town for the past two and half weeks (he arrived the same day I did). The last couple days, we were celebrating his birthday and send-off. It was a lot of fun, but a tad hectic… very active, lots of doing, not as much time for being. After he left, I was feeling a bit muddled, a little hung-over and coming down from the rush of all the activity. I don’t regret the adventures, it was a great time, but it left me wanting more, desiring the next fix of excitement.

Fortunately, the stillness and magic of Costa Rica’s natural beauty rescued me once more. At sunset, I went for a walk along the beach. I decided to search for shells and rocks to decorate my apartment, so I started playing close attention to the beach. It was spectacular. The diversity of color in the shells and rocks is absolutely astonishing. The more I looked, the more marvels I found. I felt like a child in wonderland, amazed by everything around me. Soon my hands and pockets were full and I forced myself to stop looking, because everywhere I glanced, another gorgeous piece called out to me.

Then I stopped and sat on a log, immersed in the melody of crashing waves and the dimming light of the gloaming. No other souls around, except for a pair of dogs who cruised past on their evening jaunt. I started playing with my treasures, not really trying to do much, just tinkering with them, examining them, experimenting with their positioning relative to each other. It’s remarkably freeing, to just play in an unstructured manner like that. No plan, no agenda, just letting my creative instincts wander, interacting with the beauty surrounding me. The elegance of the results surprised me.

When I have lots of fun, it makes me want to keep having fun, to seek out ways to recreate the great experiences I just had. My brain starts scheming, plotting, planning ways to fabricate another great adventure, instead of simply experiencing the circumstances at hand. My intellect devises a plan for some future peak event, and then starts judging the situations that unfold according to the plan instead of fully living in the moment as it occurs.

Often, it’s not a fully conscious program, there’s just a loop spinning in the background, comparing the current environment to the last one, deciding if it’s as much fun or not. I think that’s why alcohol and drugs are popular, they help shutdown those algorithms running in the background.

Balance, finding the right balance is a constant struggle. I heard somewhere that you’ll never be balanced, you’ll always be balancing. There will never be a time when everything is perfectly balanced, you continually need to seek balance. Spending all my time alone on the beach is not the answer, neither is spending all my time in town, around people. The trick is finding the harmony between the two, and between all the other circumstances of my life.

I think the key is to let go of all schemes to create the “perfect” experience. When I stop comparing my surroundings to the plan and fully observe them as they are, it’s easier to see the perfection and grace already present in every situation. By releasing my expectations of how things should be, I’m free to live in the moment as it is.

It’s a work in progress, but I feel like I’m making progress🤗.

You can read Part 6 here: Slowing Down.

My Experiment: Part 4 – Breaking Patterns

You can read part 3 here: My Experiment: Part 3 – Always Wanting More

Costa Rica is perfect for slowing down and breaking patterns.

The other day, I felt myself slipping into old patterns of thought. I rode the bus over to the next town to run errands, and I encountered several struggles that prevented me from completing my tasks. Then the bus back to my village was over an hour late. Sitting there, at the crowded bus stop, I felt my mind getting all wound up, irritated and annoyed, which led my body to become tense and stressed. These are the feelings I came to Costa Rica to escape.

Luckily, I started feeling better once I got back home. Being back closer to the ocean, in my smaller town helped. Then around sunset, I went for a walk on the beach. Ahh, the feeling of dusk, the earth winding down from the day. The ocean takes on the hue of blue steel, the darkening sky tinged by hints of fire. The beach was practically deserted, no sounds or sights of humanity to mar the peace. The tension melted away and my mind unwound, dissolved in the glory of nature.

After dinner I sat on my porch, in the dark, just listening to the ocean and a sonorous orchestra of insects, punctuated by the occasional rumble of a car trundling down the dirt road out front. The neighbor’s light provided just enough contrast to barely discern the outlines of the jungle. Soaking in the sounds and the feeling of nature, I was immersed in a deep feeling of contentment.

Slowing down, breaking old patterns, deprograming my mind. I used to get so wound up, and the tension would just stick with me, winding up tighter and tighter until I felt I would crack. I can see how I could get back to that, even here, if I’m not careful. Between working my part-time job and dealing with the idiosyncrasies of Costa Rican life, I could easily find minor annoyances to get bent out of shape about.

My meditation teacher once said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” She was talking about people doing exactly what I’m doing, running away to a new location in hopes of running away from unhappiness. The problem is, if you’re creating the unhappiness in your mind, you’ll take it with you. I’m beginning to see how that could happen, if I’m not vigilant.

But being here, in this new environment, provides opportunities to help me break out of these old patterns, if I can be aware enough of what’s happening in my mind to take advantage of those gifts. Taking the time to slow down and walk on the beach at sunset; not trying to do too much and fill my time with distractions; surrendering to the astounding beauty of the surrounding nature and the relaxed pace of life; these are all advantages of living here that were lacking in my previous home in the states.

Now I need to work on not getting wound up in the first place. Not reacting according to my conditioned programs when things don’t go exactly my way. Breaking patterns is tough, deprogramming is challenging. But it’s better than the alternative of my old life 😊.

Read Part 5 here: Finding Balance

My Experiment: Part 3 – Always Wanting More

You can read Part 2 here: My Experiment: Part 2 – The Return

Now that I’m away from all the situations that trigger my automatic responses, and slowing down my life, I’m becoming aware of the baseline programs running in my brain. I’m noticing my brain spends a lot of time planning for the future, thinking what I should do next, both in the short-term and long-term. This seems to be a common program that starts spinning up in my brain, thinking about the future, what I need to do to maximize happiness. It’s easy to spend so much time scheming for the future that I miss out on the present.

I read an interesting passage in Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment that touches on this topic. “One of the Buddha’s main messages was that the pleasures we seek evaporate quickly and leave us thirsting for more. We spend our time looking for the next gratifying thing, the next powdered sugar donut, the next sexual encounter, the next status-enhancing promotion, the next online purchase. But the thrill always fades, and it always leaves us wanting more.”

I’m noticing this happening to me. When all my schemes finally come to fruition, I often rarely get to enjoy the rewards, because my brain starts up again with new schemes.

Examining this dilemma through the lens of evolutionary psychology provides some insight. According to Wright, “We were ‘designed’ by natural selection to do certain things that helped our ancestors get their genes into the next generation…. Pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate, so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure. Natural selection doesn’t want us to be happy after all, it just wants us to be productive… and the way to make us productive is to make the anticipation of pleasure very strong, but the pleasure itself not very long lasting.”

We’re programed to always want more, because cavemen who always wanted more passed on more genes than those who were content with life. But now that we’re not facing the same selective pressures our cavemen ancestors faced, that drive to always want more is making us crazy and destroying the environment.

I kept experiencing the other night, listening to the phenomenal musicians performing at the local open mic. Sometimes they get into a groove, and it’s like the world disappears, and the only thing that exists is the music. A moment of peak experience, when I’m totally present in the moment, absorbed in the music. Then the moment would pass, and my brain would start coming up for ideas of what I need to do, what circumstances I need to change in order to get back into that peak experience.

I began to realize that instead of doing anything, changing anything, if I just relax, and open my senses back up to the present, I could get back into the feeling of peak experience, sink back down into that total absorption in the moment. Throughout the night, whenever I noticed that dissatisfaction growing, I’d try to just let go of it, drop down out my mind and into my senses, fully experience whatever was going on around. It wasn’t always successful, sometimes I did need to move of change something. But overall, by continually focusing on experiencing my environment instead of judging it, I kept settling into a state of contentment. It was a pretty cool experience, and it made for a great night.

The next morning, when I had to work, it was much harder to stay totally focused in the moment, so I still have work to do. In theory, if my mind is really quiet, I should be able to be content in any environment. But I’m not there yet. In the meantime, moving to Costa Rica, to this totally new environment, is facilitating my efforts to be present. There is so much natural beauty around, and so many happy, content people, that it takes less effort to fully experience the environment. There’s lots there that I want to experience fully. The constant crashing of waves, the ocean sparkling in the sun, insect and bird calls, fascinating stories from people’s lives. It’s easier to get absorbed in the wonder surrounding me.

You can read Part 4 here: My Experiment: Part 4 – Breaking Patterns

My Experiment: Part 2 – The Return

Photo above: my new home office

You can read Part 1 here: My Experiment: Part 1 – Introduction

My month-long experiment in Costa Rica yielded promising results. To recap, the goal of the trip was to deprogram my mind, to determine if being in a different environment would facilitate breaking the patterns in my mind that keep me unhappy. The small town of Montezuma was everything I hoped for and more. While researching my trip, every time I encountered references to Montezuma, I felt it calling to me. Prior to arrival, I had a loose idea of traveling throughout the Nicoya peninsula, looking for the right environment to conduct my experiment. But Montezuma had everything I wanted, so I wound up staying there for three weeks. After returning to San Francisco, I rid myself of most of my possessions and spent a month with my family in Milwaukee. Now I’ve returned to Montezuma, intending to stay for at least six months and continue the experiment.

People say Costa Rica has a slower pace of life, and I can feel that here. As soon as I arrived, I felt different. All my self-destructive urges started to disappear. In SF, I used food as a coping mechanism, often over-eating because my brain wanted to indulge its whims in seeking pleasure after spending so much time trapped in work, forced to do things I didn’t want to do. Especially sugar, I was constantly battling an addiction to sugar, because of the rush of pleasure it unleashes in the brain. (The only reason I wasn’t overweight is because my other go-to stress relief was exercise, especially 10-15 mile trail runs on weekends.)

Almost immediately upon arrival in Montezuma, I started eating less food in general, and almost no sugar. I just stopped craving it like I did before. As a result, my body started feeling much healthier. A reoccurring pain in my left side disappeared. I started sleeping better (which was also helped by the soothing lull of the ocean). My body started craving a really simple diet, lots of amazingly delicious fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, rice and beans. Some cheese and eggs for protein, with occasional meat dishes. My body started to feel like it was living harmoniously, instead of constantly presenting aches and pains that caused an incessant fear of dying of cancer or heart disease. It’s much easier to be present and still when your body isn’t in a state of discomfort.

The social environment in Montezuma is much less stressful than the US. This is one of the few places where I feel like I can just be myself and no one will judge me. In SF, I felt this constant pressure to conform, to fit it, buy into the great big shared illusion that everyone believes in. I constantly hid my real self, because I often felt judged when I expressed my true self, with all its glorious weirdness. Montezuma feels liberating, like there is no status quo to which everyone must conform. Or maybe that’s just my perspective, coming into this totally different environment. In any case, when I am out in social situations here, I feel like I can express myself here, without worrying about being judged. It feels like a judgement free zone, with no rules and no expectations.

In SF, I spent a lot of time alone, because being out in the world felt harsh and abrasive. Here in Montezuma, I feel like I can just wander into town and start talking to people, and it’s all ok. Again, maybe it’s just from being in an environment that is so different from what I’m used to. But the effect on me is a feeling of liberation, I can finally be myself.

As soon as I returned to San Francisco after my trip, I felt the pressure again, it felt suffocating. I could feel it as the plane was descending to the airport. I arrived at night, and seeing the vast expanse of lights that make up the Bay Area was a visual metaphor for the overwhelming web of oppressive human attention. I even felt some of that while visiting my family in Milwaukee. It’s not as intense there, but it’s still there, this pressure to conform, to fit into to this whole society thing. The whole time I was back in the US, in that pressure, I really struggled writing this post, because the pressure makes it hard to think clearly. Only after returning to Montezuma and unwinding for a bit do I feel able to put these thoughts into words.

Stay tuned for more insights from the experiment!

Read Part 3 here: My Experiment: Part 3 – Always Wanting More

My Experiment: Part 1 – Introduction

I want to deprogram my mind. I feel like I have all these programs running through my head that have developed in response to my environment. I needed to develop these programs, because we all have to figure out how to fit in to our environment. But often, the programs get out of control, they start running on autopilot. I feel like I’m going through life in a series of conditioned responses to my surroundings, hardly making any conscious decisions. 

The theory I want to test is that moving to a totally new environment will allow me to consciously create the programs that run in my mind, and keep control of them. One thing I keep hearing about Costa Rica is that it has a slower pace of life. I’m hoping a relaxed pace will help me maintain control of the programs. The pace of life in the San Francisco Bay Area is so fast, I feel like I need all the programs on autopilot just to get through everything. There’s no time to make conscious decisions. 

I’m hoping to create a life that I want to live, instead of a life that is living me. 

The challenge I foresee is the fact that my brain is conditioned to run these programs, if I’m not careful, they’ll just start running again, finding things in my new environment to react to. Again, this is where I’m hope slowing down will help. I need to have time to examine my thoughts and actions, to ensure I’m consciously making decisions, instead of just responding on autopilot.

So I’m going to try it out for a month first, see if I find a place that I feel will be conducive to consciously creating a life I want to live. 

And I’m hoping to have some fun along the way. But the real point of having fun is to be consciously living in the moment. Fun activities for me are things that help me be present, or demand that I be present. Surfing, diving, hiking, yoga, dancing, playing music, nature, meditation, all these things help me live fully in the moment. I’ll pursue some of these activities, but not too many. My goal is to just be in the moment. 

That’s the life I want to create, a life of conscious living, not unconscious reacting. 

Read Part 2 here:My Experiment: Part 2

For some background reading about the experiment, check out this earlier post: Experiments in Lifestyle Design

Bee Mindful

This past spring, I noticed the a steady stream of bees flying in and out of a tiny hole in the ground in the narrow walkway between my house and garage. It must be the entrance to a hive. My landlord had left a can of wasp and ant killer in the garage, but with all the news about colony-collapse disorder, I didn’t really want to add more carnage to the bee deaths. Plus, they didn’t really seem to pay much attention to me, they just whizzed past, going about their business. I decided to not take any action and see if we could peacefully coexist, leaving each other alone.

The strategy seem to work for the next several months. Often, I hardly even noticed they were there, except for the occasional bee zipping past. Then yesterday, as I was walking back from my garage with a load of laundry, I felt a sharp stab in my leg and looked down to see a spasming bee sticking out of my calf. I flicked it off and rushed back into my house before more bees swarmed me. Aside from the immediate pain, the feeling dominating my mind was a sense of betrayal. Why did this bee decide to sting me today? Why today, of all days? I didn’t do anything differently, I wasn’t harassing the nest or anything, why did this bee break the truce?

As I was folding my laundry, I realized something. I had been in an angry mood while walking back with my laundry. New neighbors recently moved into the other house on the property, and although I think they try to be nice people, they can be rather… obnoxious. They smoke cigarettes in their yard, and the smoke comes in my windows. Sometimes I can hear them screaming at each other. Sometimes, like that afternoon and every day for the previous week, they play really loud music. Hearing the music in my living room, I was getting myself worked up into a pretty juicy self-righteous fury. I started to wonder if the bee had sensed this hostility and, given my proximity to the hive, felt it needed to defend the hive.

When I first noticed the hive, I was always careful to walk quickly past the hive and not do anything to antagonize the bees. I think that mindfulness ensured I gave off a neutral, respectful vibe. Since the sting, I’ve had to walk past several times again, and I haven’t had a problem, perhaps because I’ve been paying close attention to my state of mind when I’m near the hive.

Maybe this incident is a reminder from the universe to stay mindful of my thoughts and emotions, to not let myself get worked up into that self-righteous fury that serves no good for anyone. A reminder to constantly “bee mindful”. [Insert groan here] I’m usually not a fan or corny puns, but this one is too good to pass up.

Anyway, that’s the narrative I’m choosing to construct from this series of events. I like how this makes me feel better than the many alternative anger-filled narratives I could create. We have more control than we think over how we react to events that occur in our lives. Even when bad things happen, we can choose to find a lesson to learn, rather than give into mindless anger.

P.S. After I calmed down, I had a chat with the neighbors, and they said they’d keep the music down in the future. Since it was during the day on a Friday, they thought no one was home and it was safe to play loud music, not knowing that I often work from home on Fridays.

I find that calm, respectful dialogue is usually a much better approach to addressing conflict, instead of lashing out in self-righteous anger.

 

Killing Time

“Killing time”, that’s an interesting choice of words. When you’re bored, you have time to kill, you’re waiting for something better to happen. The way this phrase is worded, we tend to think “killing” is used as an action: we’re killing time, reducing the amount of time between now and some future event. But what if “killing” is really an adjective here? As in, this is the killing time, the time when we’re slowly killing ourselves by not being present in the moment. I know after I’ve been killing time, I sometimes feel like I’ve died a little, feeling listless and agitated at the same time.  

We spend so much time chasing experiences, looking forward to some future time when things will be better, and killing time waiting for that future experience.

What kind of experiences do we want? I think a big part of what makes an experience fun is that it fully engages our attention. Think back to the last really awesome thing you did, you were probably fully engaged in the moment, experiencing it all, not thinking about anything else, not reminiscing on the past or worrying about the future.

In the words of Joseph Campbell: “I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that the life experiences we have on the purely physical plane will have resonances within to our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.”

I love the way he says that, “…the rapture of being alive”. Yeah, I think that’s what we really want, to feel the rapture of being alive. This is similar to the concept of “peak experiences” discussed in the book Stealing Fire by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler. That entire book is about different ways to chase peak experiences, different ways to feel the rapture of being alive.

Admittedly, some experiences are more likely to fully engage our attention, and that’s great. But if what we really want is to be fully engaged in the moment, what if we directly chased that, rather than chasing experiences that we hope will fully engage us? That’s what mindfulness is, trying to experience the rapture of every single moment.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in chasing experiences that we spend most of our time rushing through all the other stuff we have to do in order to get to some future experience, killing time until we get to a better experience.

The essence of mindfulness is that our minds judge experiences to be good or bad. If we quiet the mind, if we stop the judgement, every experience, every moment can be a peak experience. If we stop thinking about what’s wrong with the present moment, or how it could be better, or how much better some future moment will be, then we can fully experience the moment we’re in.

At least that’s the theory of it, I know I frequently struggle with judging the moment I’m in, often assigning unpleasant judgements to it. I try to start small, try to capitalize on the benefit of a peak experience before and after it occurs. If I’m looking forward to some future event, I try to notice that I’m doing so, slow down, and pay more attention to what I’m doing. Not just rush through it trying to get to the next experience.

Similarly, after having an awesome experience, I try to bask in the afterglow, instead of trying to prolong the experience itself or immediately planning the next experience. Baby steps, you have to start somewhere. Instead of killing the time in between good experiences, I want to be living the time, fully living it.

 

A Fire in the Sky

The sun dipped below the far-away clouds, giving us a taste of the spectacle to come. We were sitting on the beach in Cozumel, Mexico, after a day of diving the sublime reefs off the coast. A few days into a dive vacation, spending all your time in and around the ocean, it’s easy to forget anything else in the world exists. The serene sea, turning a metallic blue in the fading light, the whisper of gentle waves caressing the beach, we were entering the magic hour, the transformation of day to night and the fleeting interchange that is both, neither, and something more.

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The sun slipped below the thick band of clouds and painted the sky, an explosion of color radiating out from the burning center.

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The dark band of clouds seemed to intensify the glowing red-hot coal of the setting sun.

 

The sun sizzled into the sea, seeming to to end the show, but the encore was just beginning as clouds farther back in the horizon caught the fading rays.

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This cloud formation on the left flamed up like an gasoline thrown on a fire in slow motion. I stood there in awe, transfixed by the magnificence unfolding before me, the indescribable beauty.

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The final remnants of color finally faded away.

That’s the wonderful thing about vacation, when you get away from the constant hustle of life and have time to watch an entire sunset evolve in front of your eyes. No distractions, nothing else to do, no where else to be. Time to just watch and absorb the radiance of the natural world.

Nothing is fixed, the world is still a frightening mess, but for awhile, it doesn’t matter. You forget about everything else in the face of overwhelming beauty, and experience peace.

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