An invitation to the infinite

“In this moment, it is not possible for me to know, dear reader, if the infinite jungle has started on me the process that has taken many others that have ventured into these lands, to complete and irremediable insanity.

If this is the case, I can only apologize and ask for your understanding, for the display I witnessed in those enchanted hours was such, that I find it impossible to describe in a language that allows others to understand its beauty and splendor; all I know is that, like all those who have shed the thick veil that blinded them, when I came back to my senses, I had become another man.”

—THEODOR KOCH-GRÜNBERG, 1907, Ethnologist. First documented overseas explorer of the Colombian Amazon.

A Letter of Invitation From:
. S h a f i n  de  Z a n e .

🦉 ∞ Boundless Walking ∞ 🦉

One of the first things I try to clarify to my students in class is why we want to leave our old life behind and begin a journey seeking infinity. It’s a long, strange and enchanted road that takes us off in directions we neither signed up for nor imagined. We usually begin aiming towards one destination and end up somewhere else altogether, and that place usually renders our original plan irrelevant. It’s also a journey that involves facing our deepest fears and stretching to the very limits of our patience and endurance. Just like the “red pill” in the Matrix, “waking up” is just the beginning.

So why bother? Why not just stay with the stocks, steaks and the TV shows? The answer is simple but few people ever understand the issue with good clarity. It’s all about greater freedom you see: inner and outer, primarily inner freedom and secondarily outer freedom.

When we finally commit to the journey of awakening, that is synonymous with expanding our awareness to see more, feel more, understand more, and, most importantly, love more. In this context, loving more is synonymous with being more: being something more than just your self.

If you think about it, if there is any way to heal the collective insanity of man, and to be a positive source of light rather than an unwitting force of animalistic ignorance, there is only one way and one way only: put on the oxygen mask on yourself first.

Greater union is greater, richer, more fuller sense of being; and infinity seekers aim not towards deeper romantic love, but towards becoming transparent to the cosmos.

A very strange sort of living begins when that happens: the mountain is still the mountain and the homeless bum is still the homeless bum, but then the mountain is no longer just the mountain and the bum is no longer just a bum. Everything becomes multi-layered, interdependent and co-arising.

yin-yang-cats

OK,  since you are still reading (well done you!)… from this point I am going to assume you are interested in some real learning. So the next bit is going to require some extra brain power because you will have to convert in your head the actual felt experience that these words are trying to convey (remember: words are simply soundbites/symbols pointing to something else, the menu is not the food). If you can handle it, there is a possibility that you will untangle some knot right here in the next few minutes that will forever change your life.

So… no pressure. Let’s begin.

The “I” or “me”, our subjective experience, is usually made up of the following 4 layers:

  • First, I have my social personality: how I behave based on what I think other people are thinking about me. Its messed up, I know.
  • Next layer in the “I” cake is thinking: This is the mental monologue I usually associate my own self with.The way this works is that in the background I have pure awareness without any specific content, and this incessant mental monologue just clogs up the whole system, so to speak, so that my awareness becomes dim in every other area of life experience other than this never ending mental chatter of what she said, what I should have said, what I will say, how wonderful the party will be, what to get out of the next staff meeting… etc. As Robert Frost would say:

   “I often see flowers from a passing car, that are gone before I can tell what they are… Was something brushed across my mind, that no one on earth will ever find?”

  • Then there are emotions that color thinking like fire. Emotions work as jet fuel to make us just do that thing. The word emotion comes from Latin emovere which means to move. So emotions create mental agitation so we do something, and it keeps building slowly until we actually do it. In other words, emotions make us take action, which can be nice or not nice, but… not before igniting our thoughts with their particular color of fire.
  • Deeper still: Unconscious neural patterns (how the brain got wired from childhood) that trigger those emotions that color and trigger thinking.  Hint: a lot of these patterns are our 98% genetically coded – behavior patterns we inherited as a member of the mammalian-primate family – that are now camouflaged as complex human social behavior, having been “humanized” during our childhood.

And then of course there is…

The Fifth Element: The bare naked awareness that is before all content and memory, the “cosmic witness”, or consciousness itself – the mystery that bedevils all of science, the most mysterious phenomenon in the known universe. How does the mind, subjectivity, the thing we feel is our soul, arise in a universe seemingly made of nothing but atoms forged in the stars?

This Fifth Element is why we meditate. We do not find it, we do not chase it (since its not going away anywhere), we do not even try very very hard to concentrate so we can finally see it. We simply slow down and then stop doing all the extraneous movement we were doing inside and outside, in our brain and with our body. When we stop throwing pebbles in the lake, the full moon is seen on the water. That’s what real meditation is: the simple act of seeing without filters and noise. That’s it, nothing special, but then, still something. This is how real learning begins.

Now more about this retreat: we are going on a long and magical journey, and you are invited for having read up to this point and (hopefully) understanding it.

This October, I am guiding some of my students to the Everest region of Nepalese Himalayas for a meditation retreat. If you have prior experience with meditation, that’s great. Since our mind is always evolving, every practice takes us only deeper. And focused practice on a journey like this… you can imagine what awaits.

If you are an absolute beginner, that’s the best, in fact that’s the only way to be with true meditation: always a beginner. Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “In the beginner’s mind there many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”.

You don’t need superhuman level fitness. But you do need some form of exercise regularly; cannot have knee, ankle or back problems; or any other illness (mental or physical) that can become a problem out where there are no doctors and no quick fixes (consult your doctor if you are not sure, more details of the journey is below); you should be able to walk 5 to 10 kilometers a day over 5-7 hours, uphill of course. If you can do that, you are probably fit enough for this journey.

  • No ice picks, crampons, etc. will be necessary (yay!). This journey involves rigorous walking up and down mountains, but there will be no actual climbing. (Full packing list will be provided to you later if you are accepted on the team.)
  • If you can walk about 5-7 kilometers (3-4 miles) up and down, you are probably fit enough for this journey.
  • You need to be at least 18 to be on this journey. It’s not about physical fitness, but rather the teachings and practices that will be the main focus of this journey is very unlikely to make any real sense to you unless you have certain amount of life experience.

Yes! I qualify. But… (list your excuses here on why you would love to embark on this journey but cannot make it.)

Get this, no amount of running after money, no job, no relationship will ever bring you true happiness if you haven’t discovered the mystery of the inner space: the structure of your own consciousness.

The great psychologist Carl Jung wrote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate”. We teach our children everything about investing, pursuing and buying all kinds of things and experiences to satisfy their 5 senses but how will they enjoy those things if they have no idea or training on how to focus and regulate their own mind?

We are born with a brain that very quickly adapts (literally wires) in response to the environment/people we are surrounded by, and that adaptation becomes our mind.

At this point of our evolution, most human minds are imprisoned by many magic bars: daily struggles of work and life, distractions of the glitzy media, blind religious dogma of this variety and that, and of course myopic nationalism (which is really glorified tribalism)… Few people in this world today will understand what this paragraph even means, let alone agree with it. If you understand, please ask yourself a simple question:

Is this adaptation good for you? The way your mind was shaped from birth till now, is that the optimal way to experience “you”? Can you be upgraded from whatever it is you are right now?

  • Good news: your brain is programmable. Which means you can upgrade yourself almost endlessly.
  • Even better news: you can do the reprogramming yourself through different techniques of meditation. Which means you do not need to worship any guru. The tools are easy to use, but gaining expertise takes practice and training like any other skill.
  • And here is the best part: you can learn this mystic art in one of the most beautiful and iconic places on earth. The Everest region in the Himalaya.

(All photographs from this point are taken by the author on the actual route of this journey. Yes, you will walk the same path.)

Now, an important cautionary reminder…

Be very careful about building up a massive ego trip. You will seriously regret it. More than physical fitness you need spiritual fitness to truly enjoy this sort of a journey. Many people have lost their lives in these mountains, in the name of adventure.

Understand this clearly: you are going to the greatest mountain range on earth, one wrong step and it will break your legs (or give you a blister at the very least). This is no joke. Out there in the mountain, no insurance plan can save you from yourself.

People get injured all the time. Even more get superbly miserable with mountain sickness, blisters and whatnot. So, please read this carefully: if you want to join because you want to post on Facebook to show how cool you are back at the office, or prove to your mother or husband or girlfriend what great you have achieved this time, chances are you will suffer endlessly by everything from aches, pains, food, cold etc. Go to Thailand, you’ll get a much better deal.

Now here is your Invitation Card if you are ready and it’s your time to fly:

This October we are conducting a 12 day adventure-pilgrimage in the Everest region of the Himalayas. Out of these 12 days, 3 days will be the actual retreat at a small lodge somewhere in the mountains in the picture below, where we will spend most of the time learning and meditating. This will be around 12,000 feet (3800 meters) in the Khumbu region of the Nepalese Himalayas. (Our destination is bit of a secret sanctuary that will be shared with you once you are confirmed.) Our “mountain home” will have basic food, lots of tea, breathtaking views and (hopefully) functional toilets.

We will have two goals: 

  • Walk the path of knowledge towards boundless infinity.
  • Learn to meditate deeply and expand our awareness as much as possible within and without, (and begin to see some things we have never seen before).

“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it.

When a man has fulfilled all four of these qualities – to be wide awake, to have fear, respect and absolute assurance – there are no mistakes for which he will have to account; under such conditions his actions lose the blundering quality of the acts of a fool. If such a man fails, or suffers a defeat, he will have lost only a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets over that.”

Carlos Castaneda

We will have the best logistics support from the most renowned trekking companies in Nepal to ensure greatest safety possible, including carrying your luggage (no more than 10 kg). And of course all food and accommodations will be taken care of as well so all you have to do is walk, learn, and have your mind blown on every corner by the some of the most stunning views on earth.

The price of this 12 day adventure is $2700. Begins October 21st, 2017 (you land in Kathmandu) ends November 1st, 2017 (your return flight home). 

Price includes: Almost everything except international airfare and insurance (details below).

Brief Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu. If you arrive early, you can rest and explore this old world of incense and Buddhist chanting alongside endless bars and some very good restaurants.

Day 2: First teaching session in the morning. Getting papers and permits ready for entering the protected Everest region. Second teaching session and meditation in the evening.

Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla at around 2860 meters or 9383 ft (world’s #1 most dangerous airport, picture above). Same day we will start our upwards journey towards our destination. We will stop at some Sherpa village around 2pm or so. Estimated walking through paradise: about 4-5 hours.

Day 4: We will reach the Sherpa capital Namche at about 3440 meters or 11,286 ft. Trekking time: about 6 hours. Expect Irish pub, cakes, pizzas and burgers surrounded by magnificent snow peaked mountains! (Splurge with your own cash, stuff can be expensive as we ascend higher.)

Day 5: We reach our retreat destination around 3-4pm. Altitude around 3800 meters or 12700 ft. Estimated time trekking upwards: 6-7 hours. Prepare to gasp at the breathtaking landscape and scenes you will never ever forget.

Day 6, 7: Learning, meditation, insight, and awakening. Exact schedule of teaching and meditation sessions will be posted later.

Day 8: Back to Namche. Irish pub, pizza, cakes, coffee…

Day 9: Back to the village before Lukla airport.

Day 10: Back to Lukla. One last night in the greatest mountain range on earth.

Day 11: Fly back to Kathmandu.

Day 12: Fly back home or take your own time off.

Highly recommended: Keep extra couple of days at the end free, for both taking the time on your own and for any unpredictable delays due to weather.

The price includes:

  1. Airfare within Nepal. Kathmandu-Lukla-Kathmandu.
  2. All transportation. To and from airport, to airport again, to wherever else that is connected with this program. Personal travel is of course not included.
  3. All government fees: Permit for going to the Everest region, permit for trekking, etc.
  4. Support staff costs including their salary, insurance, equipment, domestic airfare, food and accommodation during the whole program.
  5. All accommodation. Most times just plain mountain cottages or something to that effect, attached toilet rarely available. Expect no luxury, it doesn’t exist in the mountains. Note: Rooms will usually be twin sharing. Whenever there is available room we will try to get you single rooms at no extra cost. However, if you want a single room during the 3 days retreat at the lodge, there will be an extra charge of $300, and that too subject to room availability.)
  6. All food (usually very yummy but nothing fancy, no alcoholic drinks)
  7. Experienced English speaking trekking guide. (Sort of our personal butler.)
  8. Porters to carry luggage (less than 10 kg per person, more than that there will be extra charge. We will send you your packing list when you are confirmed as a participant.)

Does not include:

  • International airfare to and from Nepal.
  • Travel insurance with helicopter evacuation in case of medical emergency. You must have this. If you need a suggestion, get it from World Nomads. Costs less than $200 depending on your country of origin. Make sure your insurance covers emergency medical evacuation by helicopter.

So… if you want to join, send me an email here: shafin@shafindezane.com with a brief intro about yourself, your physical fitness level, age/height/weight, life situation and why you want to join such a crazy adventure. In other words, please introduce yourself. Don’t worry too much about writing the perfect pitch, just write whatever comes to mind and we’ll see if you are a good fit for this group of adventure pilgrims.

As you can imagine I have to carefully choose the right people with the right mindset and the right sort of “readiness” for this group. If you are truly interested to evolve, expand and experience some mountain magic, I am waiting to hear from you.

A great adventure is calling towards the path of knowledge: an adventure that can lead to discovery of worlds upon worlds inside and outside, un-imagined till now, yet just a breath away. But courage is necessary, sincerity for discovering the deepest truth within your heart and willingness to totally surrender your self interest is necessary.

If these components are in place: if there is true sincerity, true commitment to come in alignment with the heartbeat of life, and willingness to accept the responsibility that comes with it, you are ready to begin. It’s a long journey (never ending really) but every day we walk the path, it’s a day filled with wonder and new discoveries to expand our inner-space exponentially. The alternative involves saying no to the calling that is within our hearts; and living a life too small, (in the words of poet Rilke) in a cage with a thousand bars, and beyond the bars, no world.

Looking forward to walking with you in the Himalayas.

Enjoy the rest of the pictures below.

Shafin de Zane


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