Going Full Pilgrim: Divorce and Renunciation
This post might be a little long but its me baring my soul, and will update the ‘Alternative Resume’ page. I am hoping it will be of some use to others navigating the radical uncertainty of the 2020s or just for friends and readers who would like to know me and my work as a futurist , writer and teacher a little more.
“None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.”Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
I might have become a Pilgrim.
It seems like it has been a long time coming. Another life within a life. Like many others I seem to have had a few.
It is 6 years since a beautiful gift from God came into my life and I became father. And in the same month I lost my younger sister Rebecca to a sudden illness after she gave birth to baby Bella. It’s 10 years since I quit the corporate world and got really serious about my spiritual path. It’s 22 years since I began a career in international finance which had me working in all the big financial centres of the world including London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. And to meet a Korean woman who would change my life. It’s 26 years since I departed England on an adventure to the Land of the Rising Sun, to learn Japanese and experience Eastern philosophy and Zen. And its 46 years since I appeared on this planet, in the Thames Valley, son of Denise and Alan.
Some observers might see my life already as that of a Wanderer. For sure there has been elements of it. However , last year and into this, I was invited to pass through new thresholds, all of which involved pain and letting going go, but made me stronger and my life direction clearer. Portals to the future.
To adopt the life if a Wanderer I think one needs to let go of a lot. And just keep letting go.
Divorce amd Transition
Danielle and my paths had been drifting in different directions for many years. It was a source of pain that the woman and wife, with whom I had been with since 2001, and I no longer saw eye to eye on how we should walk in the world. Although we had discovered the profundity of Zen together and embarked on pilgrimage to Korean Mountain Temples, Himalayan Monasteries and Indian Sacred sites we couldn’t make it work. And to add to the pain, we had brought a beautiful soul into the world a true gift from God. It made me so sad that mummy and daddy could no longer be together. In many ways I’m old school, and I was really attached to staying together. We both were. My parents celebrate their Golden 50th Wedding Anniversary next month. Why couldn’t we do this? How will this effect our child who we had endeavoured to bring up in a conscious way? No doubt I made many mistakes and still required much shedding of the fear- based ego. No doubt I could have been a better husband. There is much I have reflected and regretted . Danielle has seen me at my worst – but also perhaps my best (or maybe not as that it yet to come) . However, in the end we realised the way we walk in life is now so different and I couldnt live in Korea where Danielle wanted to stay. Although she would disagree with that statement. It still makes me want to cry, although paradoxically I am at peace with it.
At the end of last year we decided to transition the relationship from marital partner to co-parents of Gaya, and friends. It still feels odd to say this. We went through the legal procedure they call divorce, but which I feel is an ugly word. I prefer the new terminology they call consciousness uncoupling or maybe just transition. We will never be divorced from eachothers’ lives. My love for Danielle is timeless and eternal ;as the mother of my child and the friend and spiritual partner with whom I spent 20 years of my life. In the court room full of couples poised to be ‘divorced’, we were the only ones sitting next to eachother, speaking jovially and even laughing. I hope this bodes well for Gaya’s future.
I have also thrown out 95% or more of my worldy things, reducing my life to one backpack, and a small day bag. As I don’t have a permanent base it made sense and with the world in chaos I feel called to step deeper into my life mission, being available to those who need me. I remember hearing how Wayne Dyer, the author and spiritual teacher, did this in his fifties at the same time he discovered my favourite text, the Tao Te Ching. He felt a rush of freedom and euphoria. I felt pretty good as well, although parting with thousands of books was a little tricky. In the distant past I felt the need to accumulate things and an annual bonus which would fund this lifestyle. I never fully appreciated the hold it had over me. So much so that I couldn’t always aprreciate the very things I had worked for when they did materialise! Looking back, and at maby people around me today, I cannot help but think of the story of the fisherman and the businessman:
“One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”
Purification of the Body
In the past few months, and intensifying now I have been going through another period of purging and renunciation. I strive to purify myself, and make the difficult choices with steelier conviction. For too long I got soft on myself with too many exceptions if I wasnt ‘feeling good’. Worse still were the moments I tried to use outside phenomena to change the inner state of mind: the worst of these was the known poison alcohol, but which has also been a very effective teacher in earlier times of my life and led me on extraordinary adventures to places like a rehab with gangsters in the South African desert! I could write a whole book about that one.
When I first moved to Japan I was inspired by Bushido, the way of the Samurai. One of my favourite novels of all time is Musashi. It is the tale of Japan’s greatest swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, who was very much the spiritual warrior and disciplinarian, but who also creatively invented a while new form of swordsmanship . It was interesting to me that hjsngretest teachernwas a Zen Master not a Swordsmaster, ; highlighting the importance of the mind. In recent reflection, and especially in my ayahuasca ceremonies, I was reminded of that dimension to my life in Japan. I had ended up working successfully in an investment bank, training as a high performance triathlete and still had time to immerse myself in Japanese culture and the mountains. I was learning aslects of Zen without learning it. Sometimes the new agey yoga community can feel a bit fluffy, and tough decisions aren’t made. Or evaded in order to feel the ‘high vibes only’. Worse still, some of it can actually result in the expansion of the ego. The complete antithesis of the Way.
So my mind and body continue to undergo transformation as I stick to a strict diet of vegetables, fruit and no intoxicants, strive to do various daily practices of qi gong, Zen meditation, remain celibate, and regularly enter challenging ceremonies where one has to face any lingering inner demons, such as ayahuasca and temazchel.
Hopefully this doesnt come across as a holier than thou existence. Because I have in previous phases of my life tried the complete opposite. It brought me, and others , nothing but pain and shame. Now I experience less and less bullshit. It turns out that the Prophets, Zen Masters, Yogis, Christian Mystics and Sages were right – not the latest celebrity guru or coach. As the burden of self diminishes life gets easier: its often back to front in the spiritual or coaching industry.
And even more importantly, I feel joy welling up inside me, a white inner light, every moment of the day. And I get to share this with others in line with my deepest calling.
In the old days I used to be very attached to relationships, even those where the other didn’t value me or probably even like me! I would cling. There must be something wrong with me. Now my stance is changing. I strive to act from the highest wisdom within, to take correct action as we say in Zen, and then let go of the results. Hopefully this means I act in a compassionate way to those I meet, but it does not necessarily equate to a long term relationship. I continually strive to learn from all relationships I have and I can also love and let go.
My ego used to be attached to another form of relationship which I thought was reaffirming: that was the brand or organisational affiliation. My insecure small self, would feel wanted and safer if I was associated with a company, special club or tribe. I’m now long past the cruder manifestations of that. But its time to tackle the more subtle. If I can use my membership of different organisations to influence and pursue my higher mission, then I am happy to belong to them. But if it they do not, I will have to decline offers or quit existing affiliations. It will be interesting to see what I’m left with in the coming months: there might be many or even none.
The more difficult decisions I make (including dropping unwholesome relationships) , I feel that I’m sharpening and refining the diamond within. I feel like Arjuna going to battle in the Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita. I no longer mourn the end of relationships. And this non attachment, like the non attachment the Japanese have for the cherry blossoms which they revere, makes me feel more alive. Grasping on to stagnant or toxic relationships is not life affirming.
Renouncing Money and Embracing Abundance
Now I have gone through the previous gates, I have recently made the decision to try renunciating money as my work moves further in the direction of the spiritual. I am not quitting my role as a futurist, however going forward I imagine much of my time outside my personal practice and writing will be dedicated to one to one support of other’s journeys. I believe this is what I am called to do at this Time of Great Chaos (and Opportunity).
This shift is something I have been considering for a long time. My relationship with money used to be healthy but I have had challenges of late which caused me to have a rethink. And recently I have had a prompt from an ancient Indian futurist Chanakya (Artha Shastra) as well as Sujith Ravindran’s modern book on the mystical laws of abundance.
So I have renunciated money but not abundance. There is a clear difference. In fact, there are known laws of abundance in the Universe. I have direct experience of following them, and when miracles literally happen, and when I do not – and consequently became broke. Sujith tells a great story about how his teacher gave away his only radio. I think it eloquently captures many of these laws:
“Why did you give your transistor radio to that homeless man?” Later I asked the Guru. “He has no use for it.”
“Really?” The Guru replied with questioning eyes. “Did you look at him? Did you see how excited he was?” “It meant a lot more to him than to me,” he casually added after a pause.
“And what about you? You liked to listen to the news on that transistor every day,” I remember asking.
“No worries. Now let someone else listen to the news.” He responded. “Giving, receiving, giving, receiving….that is how the world moves,” he waved one hand in the infinity sign.
Though I was the only one who witnessed the Guru gift the radio to the homeless man, I never spoke about it to anyone associated with the ashram. The next time I visited the ashram, I saw a new radio sitting on the stand next to him. This one had more channels, could play cassette tapes and could connect to the large speakers in the meditation hall. A Japanese passerby had gifted the music player to him. For the Guru this was an exciting gift. Now he could play chants and discourses from other spiritual masters to the audience. “
I will still gratefully receive payments for my service, but I will not demand a price. I still believe in myself, and what I have to offer at this time of human history: my visions of the future as well as guidance in the nature of the human odyssey seem especially useful. In some ways, it is priceless and so I will not put a price on it. I still require money, to pay for food and shelter as well as to wire money to Danielle and Gaya to support their life, especially for Gaya’s education. In some ways I wish I had her when I was earning millions of dollars per year as a macro investor or stock broker. But she is here now when I have no salary and no savings but when im full of spiritual abundance. I trust that by being on own my path, uncompromising and in the service of others, I will give her the best role model I can. And pass wisdom on to her. I do not want her to compromise the longing of her soul, I want her to march to her own unique song in this world.
And besides , money DOES flow in and always at the right time. I have not taken a vow of poverty, I have taken a vow of abundance – and non attachment. And many of my clients and students have been materially enriched over the years and especially in the last 12 months with the significant moves in some assets like Bitcoin. My ability to foresee future trends, envision future events and discern financial markets is as clear as ever: as is the abikitt to see multiple futures. But when I have coached others in this area, I insist we have a holisitc conversation which includes all dimensions of their life and purpose , not merely financial returns, which are completely meaningless in isolation. Just look at the drug abuse and depression in the centres of power today.
The Pathless Path
So here I am in a foreign and faraway land again, following my intuition. The photos might look stunning, of Caribbean ocean, jungles, and pristine cenote waters. But not everything is easy: I don’t know how I will pay the bills or how long my shelter will last. Everything is uncertain but there is a mysterious sense of joy – as I know that I have come home. Some might say there is flow. And it is from this space I can authentically teach others.
In 2015 in my quest to study more about Gaia, after naming my child Gaya, I got to spend some time with Satish Kumar, the founder of Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence Magazine. He once walked the entire planet by foot on a peace walk, and is often also known as Earth Pilgrim. It is an incredible story and even if you don’t get to hear it directly from him, you can read it in his book “No Destination”. Satish has managed to hold the spirit of the pilgrim and do many things in this world as an activist including staying in the same place for 30 years to build a centre of ecology and spirituality! I was inspired by this quote I found of his, as I endeavour to walk the path of futurist and teacher.
“… I have come to realize that the true meaning of pilgrimage is to live free from any attachments, habits, prejudices. Free from physical and mental clutter. Making an outer journey is a reminder of an inner journey, and I discovered that I am always on a pilgrimage.”
So it feels like I have finally surrendered to path of the mystic. A pilgrim of the future perhaps. I actually think its the only logical conclusion of a futurist! But talk of surrendering and renunciating might sound a little sombre and serious. All I can say is that I have never felt greater joy in my entire life. As a free man today, I recollect the mantra which Gino Yu – a great teacher and friend – once gifted to me: are you acting from joy or for joy? It is clearly the former today.
I shall leave the last words to another Wanderer who has beem close to my heart for over 20 years, Matsuo Basho. He was revered both as a spiritual man, a wanderer and pilgrim, as well as an accomplished poet and Zen teacher. Although born in 17th Century Edo Japan, he was a constant companion when I lived in modern Edo (Tokyo) over 300 years later, and in my wanderings ever since. For several decades he has reminded me the power of a mind freed.
The journey itself is my home.Matsuo Basho
An autumn night – dont think your life didnt matter.Matsuo Basho