Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love at First Sight (Part 3 of 3)

I thought about how many more posts to write about this story. The truth is that if I wanted to I could probably write a medium size novella about the whole thing. But I’ll keep it decent. I will conclude the account today.

She made the caramel latte with such a natural flair, unpretentious but self-assured. You know, like someone who knows that it’s capable of many wonderful things, but is in no hurry to get there. It was almost as if she was taking a day off just to make my coffee and was enjoying every step of the process. Pour the milk in the metal carafe, place it under the steam wand and warm it up with just enough artistry and at the right angle to have a substantial layer of foam to top the latte. Grind the coffee beans fine to give the espresso shots a smoky texture when the boiling water extracted those mystical flavors. A few stripes of caramel syrup to top the creation with which I would gather enough courage to tell her that she had been on my mind since the first time I saw her.

“Do you believe in signs?” I asked her almost out of the blue.
She smirked while looking down as she was tidying up her work area. She vacillated, looked at me like figuring where I was going with this conversation, and then almost under her breath said “Yes,” like she was remembering that she did in fact believe in signs. She was quite pleased with her answer. It was almost as if for some reason she had forgotten it a while back and I had just reminded her.

“I don’t even know where to start,” I said. “It’s just that the whole thing is so fantastic that I just have to say it. If I told you that I was thinking about you on my way over here, would you believe me?”
“I don’t know,” she smiled. “I don’t think so.”
“It’s kind of odd I know, and I apologize for being so forthcoming, but I’ll tell you why. About a month ago I was doing some Christmas shopping with my family in the mall by the border and I saw you in the coffee shop. I wanted to talk to you, but it didn’t seem appropriate. I’ve been thinking about you since then and now I run into you here! That has to mean something right?”

She chuckled genuinely. If I was telling the truth, it was kind of charming I guess. But even if I was making the whole thing up, as far as pick up lines is concerned, this was a pretty good one, I thought. I don’t really know what I was expecting. I mean, I know I wanted to ask her out on a date, but what were the chances of her saying yes? At the same time, as if the situation wasn’t odd enough on its own, I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.

“I guess all I’m really saying is that I would really like to get a chance to talk to you, get to know you a bit more. I have a feeling we would get along really well.”
“Well,” she started, “I have to say that I appreciate you being so frank, but I don’t know. I would feel weird giving my number to a stranger, I mean, it’s not something I do.” She smiled again and continued “but you are talking to me now, right?”
“Yes!” I said holding my breath as a glimmer of hope peaked.
“Well, talk then,” she said amused.

I figured I had about five minutes to have a convincing argument before more customers arrived. She had to have some information about who I was and what I did for a living. She needed to know that I was genuinely interested in getting to know her, and that I was not just flirting frivolously. I told her about some of my adventures as a reporter which she found entertaining, and she told me that she was finishing her professional practices as a psychologist. As you can imagine, I was thrilled with every bit of her that she shared, I thought it gave me a slight better chance of seeing her again. She was exactly the kind of person I imagine her to be: quirky, sassy, funny, genuine and smart. We were hitting it off famously, I thought, and in my mind there was a good chance we could set something up. Then the door opened and a customer came in. If there has ever been a more inappropriate intruder, it had to be that lady.

“I’ll tell you what,” Tania said as she looked at me. “I like that you are audacious. I respect that and for this reason I’ll take your email. I might write you,” and she handed me a pen and a piece of paper. My time today was up. It was like one of those moments when you are walking amid some foliage and run into a hummingbird. It hovers for a moment right in front of you flickering its wings so fast that they are just a blur, but you feel like you can almost touch it. But it’s only an illusion, a moment later it flutters away in a dash just as gracefully as it had arrived.

I wrote my email address in my best handwriting and gave her the note. She took it, verified it, folded the paper in half and placed it in her back pocket. It was a bittersweet flavor for me of course. Admittedly, more sweet than bitter yes, but still. I started backing away, slowly, as the customer intruder lady who had been looking the stuff on the retail shelves approached the counter and I didn’t want to get in the way. I thanked Tania for the coffee, which was delicious, and was about to leave when a fleeting thought crossed my mind.

“It was really nice talking to you,” I said to her. “It was just a moment, but I enjoyed it a great deal. I’ll be checking my email. But you know what? I have a feeling that even if you don’t write, we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

She smiled as she directed her attention to her customer and I left.

Yes, I checked my email every hour in the course of the next few days, which soon enough became weeks, and later months. On more than one occasion I thought about going to the coffee shop where she worked to say hi, but it didn’t feel right. I thought there was probably a good reason why she didn’t write. At times, I considered the possibility that she might have washed her pants with my email still in their pockets. What if she had the piece of paper in her car and it was blown away in the freeway? What if she put the note in her purse and it was stolen? Or even worse, what if she just threw it away as soon as I left? Whatever it was, I had to be stoic. I had to stand by what I felt the very first time I saw her. I recognized her. She had always been with me, transcending time and existence in our present form since back when we were still light traveling across the universe, there was no doubt. I knew it in many different levels, and in some odd way I thought she knew it too.    

Nine Months Later

I was on my way to the newsroom to work on a story that was due, when I ran into tree of my best friends. We joked for a bit as we hadn’t seen each other in a few days and they ended up talking me into having sushi with them before going to work. There were two possible sushi places we could go to, and I picked the one closest to my office. We took the second next table by the window facing the parking lot and ordered our food. As we waited for our lunch, we caught up on current happenings and events in our lives; it was a period of many exciting changes for us. I sat in a bench with my back against the wall facing the door, like Wild Bill.

A girl walked in, but I couldn’t really see her as my friend in front of me blocked my sight. She ended up sitting next to me on the bench, taking the table right by the window. I was involved heavily in the conversation with my friends when out of the corner of my right eye I saw the way her hair fell on her shoulders as she leaned to read a book. I turned my head to see her delicate and unmistakable profile.

It was a warm Thursday of September, and I have to agree with Keats: Who cares about the songs of spring? Fall has its music too.

We’ve been together since.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Love at First Sight (Part 2 of 3)

Photo by: Edgar A. Morales
Why didn't I say something? Looking back, I have to say it was an awkward spot. Had it been any other girl, I could've started a conversation about little nothings. Don’t get me wrong, I am no Casanova but I am also not one to shy away from a pretty face. But she was something else. There was an air of mysticism to that moment when I first saw her. She seemed so full of peace and content. I really can’t tell what it was that stopped me from talking to her, maybe a combination of not quite knowing what to say and the astonishment of the moment. I like to think that what I experienced in that moment was a sudden surge of lucidity which prevented me from saying something stupid. And I am thankful for that. 

I spent the rest of the day in a haze. It was a warm feeling. I felt reassured in many respects. After she left the coffee shop there was no doubt in my mind that I would see her again. I didn’t know when, but I was willing to wait. After all, what are a few days, months or even years in comparison with the eternity I already spent getting to this moment? If time was the price, it was an easy bargain to make. The most difficult part was learning that she was real. And she was.   

Christmas came and went. Days trickled, as they inevitably do, and in my everydays I now looked for her out of the corner of my eyes each passing moment. I thought I saw her in a New Year’s celebration where I arrived just as the bells were tolling, but she wasn’t there. Everyone else was, but not her. I walked into the celebration amid fireworks, cheers, people hugging one another celebrating new beginnings, and champagne cups reached for the ceiling while spilling bubbles. Those with company kissed as a vow to their love in the coming year. I embraced her memory, and stole an imaginary kiss from her, wherever she was.

I was on my way to visit my parents on a Sunday evening. It was the end of January then. I drove on the freeway trying to decide where to buy some dinner as there were a few options down the road. My apartment back then was on the East Side of San Diego County, not too far up north, but still about 20 minutes away from the Tijuana border, which gave me plenty of time to think. And dream.

It was almost like a game. I played in my mind what I would say to her if when I saw her again. Back in those days, the power of manifesting one’s desires was gaining some popularity, and it didn’t seem as too farfetched of an idea. It makes sense to me. Want something? Think about possible ways to make it happen, one of them may work, right? So, multiple scenarios went through my mind and as you might expect the most conservative plot landed us in an exotic Micronesian island where we raised our five children in a hut near the shore and crystal clear waterfalls.

Serendipity

The freeway stretched and twirled in front of me and the tip of the Tijuana mountains became visible at the distance. It was unusually clear for an evening, the sun still long ways from the horizon. A few miles before reaching the border there was a small strip mall with a grocery store, a couple of fast food restaurants and a coffee shop. Ever since I saw that girl, every time I passed ANY coffee shop my heart raced. It was as if the possibility of running into her increased tenfold in one of those places. I decided on what I would get for dinner, which was actually a family request, and after leaving the food in the car I walked to the coffee shop, which was a few only a few stores away. As I was approaching it, I slowed down my pace as the totally irrational thought that I might run into her overwhelmed me. I kid you not, I was laughing at myself for being so silly. I hesitated for a short moment before opening the door to a Café void of any customers.

The girl behind the counter greeted me with a sincere smile, and my heart sank with such an overwhelming emotion that I overcame any hesitation, and continued walking in her direction. It was her alright. Mind you, I was in absolute shock. How could it be? Was this really happening to me? Some heavenly deity must have been getting a kick out of the whole thing. There she was in all of her splendor, wearing a barista apron and a pony tail, and this time she was smiling at me. I know, it was her job, but I didn’t care! If this was destiny, fate, divine providence or simply pure good ol’ fashioned plain luck, I was going to take it. That moment had been given to me, to us, by whatever force moves the universe, and all I had to do now was follow the motions. So I did. I mean, the whole situation felt so matter of fact that I figured it would turn out fine. Our conversation went on something like this:

“Hello, what can I get you?”
“I don’t know, what’s good here?” The truth is, I knew the menu by heart, but I was looking to stretch our interaction for as long as I could. She looked back for a second pretending to glance at the menu before turning her porcelain face once again to me.

“Have you had the Caramel Latté?” I knew she was going to say that. I knew it because a few years before I had worked in a coffee shop and whenever someone asked for a suggestion, the Caramel Latté was the default response.
“You know what? That sounds really good. I’ll get a medium one.”
“Ok, what’s your name?” she asked me.
“Edgar,” I said, and after she wrote my name on the paper cup I asked “and what is your name?”

She looked at me for a second (which felt like an eternity), quizzically, like measuring my intentions and I just stood there. Sincerely.

“Tania,” she finally said with a smile and proceeded to make the Caramel Latté.

I honestly felt completely overjoyed. The woman who shook my innermost being was standing in front of me just under a month from the first time I saw her, and the universe felt completely aligned. I was thinking of what I could say to start a conversation with her, but any question that popped into my mind sounded like a plastic attempt at picking up a pretty girl for a just another date. I finally decided to tell her exactly what had happened. I thought it was the best thing I could do, after all, it was the truth.


To be concluded: HERE.

♠ ♠ ♠

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Love at First Sight (Part 1 of 3)

The following is a true account. No details have been changed to romanticize the story, which makes it even more fantastic (at least to me). This is how my wife and I met over and over until we stayed together.

I have always been the romantic type. I love to daydream, writing poetic-ish scribbles, and chick flicks. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I think most guys like them, but have been ingrained to deny it lest be mocked by other guys who secretly like them too. But this is not a psychological piece. This is a love story.

First Sight

The year was 2003, holiday season. I was doing some Christmas shopping with my family in a mall in San Diego close to the Mexican border. It must have been early afternoon on a weekend day. As you can imagine, the place was packed with thousands of voracious shoppers frantically going through sales and discounted merchandise searching for the right bargain (or the closest thing to it) to gift their dear ones. Lines in stores wiggled through aisles, people carrying multiple bags from different stores carrying a single item in each one, disorganized displays from so much perusing, and the occasional cry of a child who had too much mall for one day. Since crying wasn’t much of an option for me, I opted for the next best thing at the moment: a cup of espresso.

I told my mom that I was going to wait for her in the coffee shop next door while she finished in that store, then we could move on to the next one. And then to another. And so on for the rest of the day. I remember that I was in a transitional period back then. I had just gotten a new apartment in East San Diego, and a new job while completing an internship with a local newspaper. As I walked amongst the masses, the only thing in my mind was how long it was going to take to finish the mission. I walked in to the café and the ambience was just as hectic: multiple blenders going off at the same time, line reaching the entrance door, cheesy Christmas music playing in the background, and the baritone mumble of everyone talking at the same time carpeting the whole place.

I was lucky enough to get a table right away because a couple left as I was walking in. I decided to wait for my mom and sister hoping the line would dwindle down by the time they got there. I sat with my back against the door facing the crowd. The place looked and felt like a vortex with the center of energy all the way down the lobby around the espresso machines next to the registers. Everything and everybody revolved about that center of caffeinated gravity. People flowed ceaselessly back and forth, lingered at the center waiting for their drinks to then hastily escape this micro universe with a smile and a latte in their hand. This is when magic happened.

I try to remain humble about this sort of things. The truth is that there is a bunch of stuff we don’t know about how the universe works. Is everything pre-determined and we are just following an inevitable fate with our ultimate destination already set in the cosmos? Or, is everything a random mix of events affected by our every action? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was sitting in that café minding my own business when I felt her presence before she even arrived. I smiled discreetly while contemplating everyone flowing in and out. I remember distinctively feeling really good about being in that place, sitting down, smelling the coffee, hearing sudden bursts of laughs mixed with the steam of the espresso machine frothing the milk. The door opened and closed behind me for the 11th time and everything stopped.      

I looked over my right shoulder in the direction of the entryway which lead to the registers only to be overwhelmed by a presence unlike any other. I was barely able to register a gentle silhouette which moved at a different pace than everyone else. There was a great deal of elegance in her demeanor. She was completely present in the moment, not concerned about getting in line or to a table. She savored each step she took, and her motion was effortless. I couldn’t see her face, but was able to distinguish a graceful expression as she walked by to look at the retail display. Only 3 seconds had passed, and it was already an impossible sight. How could it be? Why did I feel this mesmerized? Was anyone else seeing this?

She reached out to grab a blue cup, index finger slightly above the rest, then changed her mind and went for a red one instead. She wore her wavy hair down and faced the shelves, so I still couldn’t see her face. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to. I already knew. She was from a time that does not go by. Ethereal. I got up. The door opened again and a gust of wind blew in only to caress her face along with the warmth of a beam of sun. It was almost as if the evening was already missing her company outside. That’s when I saw her smile. I stood for a moment not knowing how to act. Walking up to her seemed so banal at that point, and yet, there was nothing else I could do. I moved on pure impulse, but slowly. She went back to looking at possible gifts and I walked in her direction. I finally stood at an arm’s length, and could not utter a word. So much wholesome beauty, because you could easily tell her soul was generous and unblemished.

I pretended to look at the retail, although in front of me there was only a $499 coffee machine. She finally made a choice and walked away to get in line to pay for her items. I stood still in front of the coffee machine. She paid for her things and got a latte. I remained in the same spot. She thanked the baristas and walked away. I could not move. She walked past me in all of her beautiful poise and I saw her face one last time before she left.

I felt overwhelmed and so very thankful. I now knew it for sure. I finally knew she was real. She existed and her presence had manifested in the coffee shop of an outlet center during holiday season for me to know that we were going to be okay. A few moments later my mom arrived. She saw my silly smile and asked what was going on. “Mom,” I said, “I just met the love of my life.” She looked at me funny, you know, the way sometimes moms do, then I added “I just met the woman I am going to marry.”

Part Two --> HERE <---

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Sudden Departure of Dagoberto During an Unfinished Soccer Match

The following is a true account. Although the event itself did take place, some modifications have been made to make some sense out of the whole thing, but I am not sure this was accomplished.

Dagoberto dropped dead during the second half of a soccer match before the amazed eyes of his friends, his son, and a few viewers. It was a copper colored evening of a dusty Fall Tuesday during the 1998-1999 season of the Over 40 Downtown League.

During half-time, Dagoberto, or “Dago” as his friends used to call him, had been passing bottles of water to his teammates and making jokes about the speed (or lack of if) of their soccer match. His son sat in the sidelines and held brief conversations with other spectators of the game. The teenager made it a point to go to most of his father’s soccer games.

Before going back to the field for the second period of the game, Dagoberto, who was not a tall man at all, hair somewhat messy and his skin as dark as the dirt they were playing on, found his way to where his son was sitting and patted him in the back.

“Thanks for coming,” he said to his son.

The game started again, and the middle-aged men ran after the ball with the same joy from their youth, but the rhythm was a different one altogether. After some intense 12 minutes of the second period, the ball went out of bounds.

Dago ran to the sideline to cover the guy who was going to “throw in” the ball to continue the game. He was alert, all pumped-up with his eyes fixed on the ball when he felt a sharp, incisive and prolonged puncture on the middle of his chest. He cringed, and then his expression changed to one that looked like he had seen something that shocked him. His knees slowly gave up underneath without him taking notice of it while his eyes were still set on the ball and the opposing player.

“Why is he not playing the ball?” Dago was thinking as his body became loose and his arms and legs numb. He fell on his knees first, not fully knowing what was happening to him, and waited -still- for the ball to come into play.

He paid little attention to the chest pain, thinking that it was only a direct consequence of the efforts made during the soccer match. After all he wasn’t 24 anymore. Aches and body grievances had become part of his life beginning a couple of years ago, when his cholesterol shot through the roof and he developed a slight case of the diabetes. Even then, he led an active life and played soccer twice a week.

Several hours of beer drinking followed each game.

As it was, the ball never made it into the field. The player from the opposite team, who just minutes before had said something nasty to Dago -all in the heat of the game- witnessed how Dago’s body collapsed and how his once dark skin became very pale in a matter of seconds. The player dropped the soccer ball and waved for help.

But all of this was in slow motion.

The ball appeared to be floating and turning on its own axis in front of Dago’s face. The player that was waiving for help with both of his hands looked like a clumsy seagull trying to leap the ground.

“What the hell is he doing?” Dago was thinking. “Play the damn ball already!”

Players from both teams ran towards the falling man faster than they did when they were playing the game and formed a circle around him. The sun was setting and their shadows resembled a stretched crown across the soccer field.

“Somebody get water!” One of the players yelled towards the benches. See, in soccer matches water is supposed to cure just about anything.

Dago fell softly on his left side with the help of his teammate, the one wearing the number 10 jersey.

“Why is everyone around me?” Dago thought, and felt very drowsy. His teenage son, already by his side, cried.

Dago heard the voice of his child, but didn’t know where it was coming from. Maybe it was just a memory, maybe an ill effect from playing under the sun, or maybe it was just the need to hear him.

For Dago the story continues in a big misty hall with a large gate, or maybe in a long tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. Perhaps the story continues as Dago floats above all soccer players, teammates and adversaries who standing still in a circle, his son by his side.

Maybe he looks down on them and realizes that nothing is really happening, he is just going somewhere perhaps better, or maybe just different. The story could also continue with Dago being born again, but with a different shape, or as a completely different being. Or maybe everything goes dark and that’s the end of it.

Only he knows.

For the rest of the players the story will continue attending a funeral in two days where they will drink a couple of beers and remember how much of a good person Dago was.

Next Tuesday they will play again. And hope they win.

♠ ♠ ♠

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Write a Novel in One Month - Sure, Why Not?

So I decided to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you who don’t know, this is an event in which crazy people from all over the world try to write a fifty-thousand word novel in ONE month. Yeah. That’s about 3 pages a day. My wife approached me with this idea about two months ago, but for one reason or another we passed. We wanted to do it with a few other friends who were busy having babies and stuff like that.

We decided to wait for a better time and a fellow poker-player/blogger friend (Hi @PokerLawyer!) said she was going to do it and I got all excited about it again. I checked the website for the project, read all about it and fell in love with the concept. I have always wanted to write a novel, but I am a little too good at finding excuses not to. Not this time. I will give it an honest shot, and to prepare for it I’ll be writing a blog almost every day in September and October. 
  
I guess I’ll be writing more about me and about where I come from. I will be discussing more about my philosophical views and some anecdotes. I’ll write about my weekends and fun escapades and you will love them all! 
    
I’ve always loved to write. I did poems when I was a kid, prose in high school, and short stories in college. I was recruited as an editor for a literary magazine early in the decade and later as a writer for a newspaper. I have had such a good time all along. I got into blogging a bit, and even though I haven’t been as consistent with it I enjoy it thoroughly and want to do it a lot more. I do some writing for work, but it is mostly technical stuff so my artistic/contemplative side needs to be nourished in my own time. 
   
As much as I enjoy all kinds of writing, I do have a certain preference for literary fiction. I think this genre synthesizes all others in a beautiful way. You can write as poetically as you want, or with a sort of journalistic style with a literary twist. You can mess with form and rhythm to make each composition as artistic or as straightforward as you want it to be. And I think this is a lot of power. I think writers don’t realize the power they have in their hands, and those that do are the ones who excel and create masterpieces.

Writing and other forms of art are restrained by their own means, but within their own limitations the options can be endless. I don’t want to convolute my point, but what I am saying is this: a painter can only work within the confines of his canvas and his material, a musician can only work with the notes that each instrument can hit, or a sculptor has to work with his tools and with the malleability of his material. Yet, the varieties of the final products each one of these artists can come up with are infinite. The options are limitless. Same thing for writers, the number of possible compositions is impossible to obtain.

The interesting thing about writers is that in a way, the canvas we work with is people’s imagination. We can compose a piece and our diction will paint images in an individual’s mind. And what’s even more, each individual will have the opportunity to create its own ideas from what they read, and not only that they will have the opportunity to assign it some meaning and it can lead to a change in their lives. Pretty powerful stuff.

Thinking about it, makes me wonder how many revolutionaries and leaders were inspired by something they read? How many people have been motivated in one way or another by reading a compelling poem or eloquent prose? How many will be inspired by something you write? I for one find this very exciting. Anyways, thank you for coming along. I am enjoying this blog a little more everyday and I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and reading it. 

This blog is roughly 730 words and for NaNoWriMo I need to do around 1700 every day. 

Oh boy. 

This is going to be interesting.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deus factus sum – I have become God

I first read the words “Deus factus sum” in Grace and Grit, a wonderful book by acclaimed philosopher Ken Wilber, and was fascinated by the concept that in three words summarized my entire take on existence. Now, before anything else, I must say that this realization has been more than anything a humbling one.

When I think of the words I have become God (something that can seem arbitrary and for many nothing short of obscene), I do so accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of joy, hope and above all: wholeness.

In many religions god, goddesses, divine spirits or beings are perceived as something external. They are seen as heavenly deities that are looking down on us, judging, testing and punishing for wrongdoings. In some traditions it is convolutedly stipulated that we have to live by certain standards and complete a series of requisites in order to be accepted into their heavenly “afterlife.” Many individuals live under the delusion that their god(s) is/are the one and only supreme, omnipotent, ever-present, creator of all things, and live in constant fear of his/her final judgment.

I don’t want to sound preachy, I really don’t. I want to stay away from climbing on a pedestal of dogmatic claims that leave no room for contemplation because it is precisely our ability to question, meditate and scrutinize about our origins and purpose that will eventually lead to a better understanding about our true nature.

My reflection

It doesn't matter what we believe in, where we are from, or who we pray to because in the end we all are an eclectic combination of energy and matter having an individual human experience amid the vastness of the universe. And the universe is pretty big. Neither energy nor matter can be created or destroyed ever; it is only changing all the time, evolving perpetually carrying on throughout the cosmos forever… like god.

God is in everything we are told sometimes. He is the alpha and the omega. If this is so, we are part of it and we have god within. Although I have to say that I don't feel comfortable calling it god, at least not in the same sense that a lot of people do because I think it's presumptuous. Almost any definition or explanation that we are told about “god” or a divinity is falling significantly short of real understanding of the notion.

Yes, to a certain extent we have limited perception, but this goes back to our individual capacity for reflection and meditation because divinity is an individual experience. It is a mistake to let somebody tell us who god “is” or what god “wants.” That is such a limiting proposition. True divinity can only be experienced by the self and it will be different for everybody.

If we accept what somebody says god is (e.g. religion), then this becomes a cognitive process and we are losing the most important element of the divine which is experiencing it. Have you heard of enlightenment?

What if…

I can only imagine what the world would be like if from the beginning we had been taught to look for god within. I can only imagine what a different reality we would have if we hadn’t been taught to seek the “approval” of external deities that are judging our every action. There is no judgment and there is no hell. There is an "origin" of life and energy, there is a point in time when everything started and it is because of this that we are all connected. There is no division. There is no separation between what is sacred or divine and us. We are sacred and divine ourselves. Everything is sacred and divine.

I know I don't have all the answers. I know I am limited to my experiences in this human condition, but I also know that whether we want to or not, we will all transcend this form at some point in time and our bodily limitations will end as we fuse with infinity. And this is ok.

God, or the divine, or the all-powerful creators of everything that exists in the universe are/is everywhere and in everything ALL the time, including us. So by definition, you have become god as well. You became god even before you were born, and will still be god well after you die. You just have to realize it, and experience it.

Love to all.



Friday, August 5, 2011

We live here, there and beyond.

An anthropologist friend of mine who I respect a great deal said that "The problem with trying to understand my nature [my consciousness, self, or personal identity] by going all the way down to the molecular level, is that I don't live on that level. I live on the level of medium-sized bodies. That's the world I inhabit." Always the pragmatic (and he brings up a valid point too), but this is my reasoning: If anything, this is but a matter of perception and of course awareness.


I don't think we can categorically state that we don't live in the molecular level anymore than we can assert that we don't live in our hearts, or bodies or even brains. It is clear that we "live" in all those levels as well, but it is also evident that limiting our core "essence" to them is somewhat of a quandary because these components are in a state of constant change, regeneration, impermanence, and yet our very core, our identity remains.

This, to me, is remarkable evidence that whatever it is that constitutes our innermost essence exists beyond what we can be readily aware of. We are not aware of all those things because it would be too much to handle. It is a way to keep us sane. Can you imagine the information that we would have to process if we were aware of the cells that constitute every single hair we have? Or our skin? Yet, these too are all part of what we presently "are," but again, they do not constitute our very essence.

I am not suggesting that what goes on in the molecular level and beyond is more or less important than what we are conscious of, but I do think that as an elemental part of our "self" it is important that we become "aware" of it. Maybe, and just maybe, this is some form of Enlightenment. Who knows? One with the universe? Why not? It all comes from the same point somewhere back in time and all that is really happening is that everything is transforming and manifesting in different forms.

What would happen, for instance, if you lost all your memories? Imagine every single thought, experience, idea and memory you ever had was completely wiped away from your brain. Everything. Would you still be you? – And just to be annoying- would your essence still be the same?

I think an important part of our identity comes from our experiences, but how can we deny a "self" that is by all means real, independently of what we see, hear and even live? This "Self" may be different than the one we are aware of in our everyday as we go about life, but does that makes it any less real just because we are not fully conscious of it at all times?

I think it is a mistake to disregard this part of our identity. I think this "self" is essential (pun intended) in understanding our presence and place in this universe. This is, if you ask me, a very natural approach. I see this as a method that integrates all the different elements of the being, material and non-material, because after all we are also energy… but this is a whole other subject in it of itself.

♠ ♠ ♠ 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Yoni!


I know a lot of people. Well, not really KNOW them, but I am acquainted with them. And that’s fine. In reality, there are only a handful of people that will have a lasting influence in our life. I guess we could go into a deep discussion as to how even the guy crossing the street when we are about to make a right turn at the traffic light could affect how old we are going to be when we go into our midlife crisis, but looking back there is no way we could trace those events back to a specific encounter with somebody. But we can immediately recognize when we meet someone unique.

I have always had a great deal of respect for social media. I am glad I was able to recognize its utility and reach early on. My wife was a bit hesitant at first, but has now seen what I was talking about when I was telling her about making key connections with people that may be somewhere else in the world that will be important for us. We don’t know how long they are going to be in our life, but I am certain they won’t be forgotten like the guy crossing the street.

In a way, I met Yoni through social media. We became acquainted thanks to a mutual passion for poker and started interacting on Tweeter. Man he is something. It’s his birthday today and I’ve been teasing him about NOT congratulating him. He is a bit of an attention whore. And I say this with all the love in the world. But then we also went to Vegas for WSOP 2010 and 2011 and WSOP-C in San Diego and have recognized in the group of friends we have that we are not going anywhere for a while and that our friendship will continue through the years. That much we can be certain of. I would name everybody, but today is Yoni’s b-day and I wanted to honor who he is.

He is a noble and sincere person. There are people that play an angle and a part to the tee in order to gain something but they can at some point be pinpointed and dealt with accordingly. The thing about Yoni is that he will come upfront and frank, sometimes with innocence and playfully but with good intentions. There aren’t that many people like that. He has this childlike quality to him that shows his gentle demeanor and he makes an honest effort to remain true to his convictions. I see that he also is wise enough to learn of his mistakes and move forward, and I respect all of these qualities in him.

Today was his birthday. And even though I teased/trolled him about not congratulating him, the truth is that I wished him the very best all day long today and every other day as well, because he deserves it. He is a great person that can make you laugh and feel good with his jokes and crazy ideas and someone you want by your side during difficult time because he will support you and encourage you along the way.

I haven’t been there for the different times you have needed a friend, but I wanted too. I appreciate you a great deal and I want you to know that I consider you my friend. I really want you to thrive because you have everything you need to do it. I hope you have an amazing time with the people that love you and are close to you and that you continue to keep that amazing attitude that makes you the great friend you are.

Happy birthday Yoni!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vegas 2011

So I made it to Vegas. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, the World Series of Poker going at full speed at the Rio and plenty of tournaments for just about any bankroll everywhere else. A few of my friends played WSOP events, some others were aiming for the deepstacks while a few more were focusing on cash playing. It was amazing to see them all.

The Drive

Last year I took a bus for this same trip. Big mistake. My reasoning was that it’s just a few hours away and I could just sit back and relax on the way over, get some reading done and sleep part of the way. It ended up being an uncomfortable ride that included many hours of waiting in the San Diego AND in the L.A. stations. This year I decided to drive.

There is something about the open road. The notion of going somewhere, the uncertainty of the next curve and what will the landscape look like and the focus on nothing else but driving certainly make for quite a Zen experience, albeit a hot one since the A/C unit in my truck is not working. It was a lot of fun nonetheless. A very enjoyable and unintentionally exciting drive as I almost run out of gas past Barstow as there is a huge climb that stretches on for miles and miles without a gas station. I am not joking: the way down was on neutral and praying. The next gas station was about 20 miles after the end of the hill and I barely made it.

WSOP 2011

Summer in Vegas marks the time for poker players to flock from all over the world to compete for a coveted WSOP bracelet or to take advantage of the wide array of different tournaments with decent structures and weak players (both of which can be found at all levels). This is the trip I most look forward to since I started playing poker almost two years ago.

As it turned out, a few of my friends had remarkable runs in WSOP Events. Michelle finished 53rd in the Ladies Event. Then, out of a massive field of about 4500 runners in WSOP Event #54, Nelson ended in the 299th spot while Mony finished 119th. A couple of days later, her boyfriend Fishykis finished 123rd in WSOP Event #56. They played an amazing poker and it was such a delight to be there with them.

Other friends also played these events, but fell short of the money spots, a big shout-out to PokerLawyer, Morris, Brenda, and Camachin, all of them great players and amazing people. For those who work as hard as you do, I know it’s only a matter of time before the big win. I know I’ll be seeing you again next year.

I only played TWO tournaments. That’s all I would allow myself to play. I did well and felt happy with my performance. I finished 5th in one and middle of the pack on the other in a spot where I was ahead but didn’t hold. You know, Poker. I feel good AND motivated, this is going to be an important year for me and I am looking forward to it.   

Pokers

I was a great treat to spend time with fellow poker players in Vegas and talk about hands, spots, lines and ideal decision making. I feel like I’m in a good spot to continue growing as a player and make this upcoming year a big one. The thing is I am practically starting my bankroll from ZERO since I only had a few hundred in Stars when Black Friday happened and there is no telling when we will get our money from Full Tilt. It sucks because I had worked on a few key elements of my game in the last few months and the deep runs in mtts were becoming the norm, also, I was turning a nice ROI in 27-player SnG’s. But this is no longer an option, so now I have to focus primarily on live playing.

I don’t mind playing live. I actually like it better than online. It’s just that it is so convenient to be able to fire-up a few tables at the click of a mouse whenever I want, as opposed to make a drive to the local card-room or casino a couple of times a week. Then again, I do have the option of playing at a local card-room AND casino, which is more than what a lot of people can say, so no complaining here. In the meantime, they are down to 12 on the Main Event as I write this, so let’s see who makes it to the November 9 and continue working on one day being there.

♠ ♠ ♠

Monday, June 27, 2011

Zen in the Baja Wine Valley

The last time I visited was years ago when I was commissioned to write an article for the vacation special of the publication I was working for. I have always loved the place. It is unlike anything the rest of the country has to offer. And don’t get me wrong, I love Mexico and all of its different landscapes, but there is something about vineyards that I find truly peaceful, romantic and bohemian.

Back then Tania and I had been dating for a while and our relationship was pretty much going in the right direction. I can say that from the get go we knew we were serious about each other, but still dealing with some personal issues from the past. Normally, I would take my own pictures, but she went with me on that trip and I had her take on that task. She used to be a professional photographer before going into psychology, so I knew she would get me a few cool shots.

One of the pictures she took was of the ground, or rather of something she had written on the dirt of the valley. She wrote “I Love You” inside of a heart and took a picture of it. I didn’t find out about it until later when I was reviewing the roll for shots to use with the article. Fast forward a few years and here we are again, this time with our 2 year old boy.

Dear Friends

We primarily went to visit two of Tania’s best friends, one of whom we had not seen in over a year. She now has a 7 mo old baby we had not met. They went to college together and stuck with one another through thick and thin. They were radiant when they saw each other, both of them moms now and in a completely new place in life. She married a chef and we had dinner at their restaurant which has an amazing set up right on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

We first arrived to their house around noon and took a break from the long drive, which is really only about an hour and a half from San Diego. There were lots of hugs, laughs and baby introductions right away and then off to the restaurant to check it out. It is called Gazuza and it is located about a mile after the Ensenada toll booth. The highway runs along the ocean and the restaurant is off a gravel entryway going into the beach. It is easy to miss as the signs out there are not particularly imposing, so you have to be on the lookout.

Once in the parking lot, the entrance to the compound is a long wooden corridor that ends on a stairway to the beach. The restaurants rest atop of a sea cliff; they share a terrace and the Pacific. While we were taking pictures and walking on the beach, our friend made quick arrangements to meet the winemaker of one of the local wineries.

Wine Country

The countryside is literally ten minutes away from Ensenada, and it stretches on for miles and miles of olive trees, foliage, wine and friendly folks. As soon as one enters the valley, the landscape changes from a heavily busy highway into a serene two-way road that runs between two mountain ranges that cross the peninsula eastward. You might as well travel back in time, park on the side of the road and just walk the rest of the way amid the vineyards.

The entrance of the winery is oddly decorated with two twenty-five or so footer vessels, one of which never made it to the sea while the other spent more time wrecked than in the ocean. The ranch also has the peculiarity that some of the vineyards are arranged in a circular pattern instead of a straight line. This makes it a little bit more arduous to work on, but helps the vines “hug themselves” in hopes that the affection they give each other will result in a better quality wine.

We had a great conversation with the winemaker. We spent the afternoon talking about wine, growing techniques, soil quality and the individual and collective efforts of the local wineries to make a quality product. These people love what they are doing and thrive in sharing their work with the rest of the world. It is no wonder that wines from this region have been awarded international recognition.

We took a stroll on the grounds then diligently proceeded to the wine vault, a wood, rock and concrete building that stands twenty feet high and drops about forty into the ground. It is heavily insulated as to preserve a cool temperature which is necessary for the wine to rest. We walked downstairs to where the wine sat silently in the heart of the hills. Some of it in barrels, some of it in tanks, depending on the stage of development, regardless each wine had a story to tell.

The grapes for each wine came from different parts of the hills and grew under different conditions, despite being in the same property. The ones that grew over the hill facing the ocean had the cool fall sea breeze caressing them at night. This of course influenced their texture. Other bulk of grapes had been ravaged by wild coyotes, affecting the size of the crop and making it necessary to combine them with others to make a blend. A few did not reach full maturity in time but were still good enough to use while some others grew under ideal conditions and were pampered up until they were pressed to get their nectar.

Still, as we were sampling each varietal the notion of the craft, effort and the art used to create the final product was palpable on each sip: The citric tones and floral bouquets of the Sauvignon Blanc, the blackberry mixed with oak and leather from the Cabernet, the blueberries and orange zest of the Grenache, all of which a testament of nature’s complexity and generosity even when treated unfairly.

Who would have thought that tasting wine would be a humbling experience?


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The I Ching, Theo and Me



There is no denying that there are people who completely bright up your life from the moment you first meet them. Theo Cade is one such one person, so much so that he is dearly nicknamed “Sunny” and if you ever have the chance to talk to him, you will know why this is so.

He just published “I Ching, Version for Optimism” a work of love, inspiration, selflessness and life experience, a book I know will be a legacy for humanity to use in the betterment of everyday life. This may sound like an audacious claim, but such is the passion and noble ambition with which it was created.

I had conversations about this book with Theo, and it was such an honor for me to hear about his vision of a better world. I will say that I didn’t have many conversations about this subject back then, and it was so refreshing to hear someone talk about the real possibility of a healthier tomorrow in such rough times.

Back then Theo gave me as a present the I Ching Essence cards of his creation (which can be downloaded for free HERE). To this day, after so many years, I have them on my desk at work. Every day I randomly pick one and rejoice in the wisdom, love and insight they posses. I will treasure them forever.

So here is a courageous man who will pour his whole being into the openness and become utterly vulnerable and completely dedicated to his mission: “To stimulate and participate with others in the transformation of the world to a state of Total Permanent World Peace & Prosperity.”

It is such a mouthful.

I don’t know that we can collectively get there just yet, I really don’t know. But I do know that we as individuals can walk in that direction and invite others to join us. Theo is doing it. And I also know that with love and wisdom such as the one encapsulated in his book we can also move in the same path.

I truly look forward to the time when we finally get there.


.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One of the Funniest Ads I've Seen, and another HI!

Hi everyone. It has taken me a while, but I am getting this show on the road and little by little this page is starting to become a blog. I had a couple of different ones in the past, some I kept updated regularly some not so much. But I do have to say this: Poker With Zen is here to stay.

I just don't see myself not keeping this blog. I am very excited about it and I totally see it as the blog I've been waiting to keep all this time. I do have a twitter account where you can get my updates in 140 characters or less, you can find it here: 3dgar and I also have a tumblr which I also love and update quite regularly with photos and snippets of thoughts which you can find here.

I have debated whether to use the tumblr platform to host Poker With Zen or blogger, but they just seem to serve different purposes and have different functions, so for now I'll just keep it this way, and if I have a tumblr post that just can't be posted here for logistical reasons I'll just post a link to that particular post.

Father's Day is tomorrow and I am off for a weekend getaway to Baja's Wine country, so I'll leave you with this ad which I found hilarious:

   
 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How do I tell you?

How do I tell you that you are...

Beautiful without saying that you are beautiful?
Perfect without saying that you are perfect?
Eternal without saying that you are eternal?

How do I say these things so that you realize them?
And why would I take it upon myself to do so?
Why do you see yourself as anything less
than the extraordinary being that you are?

Who lied to you?
Who told you that you are not worthy of true love?
That happiness can't be attained?
That you are less than somebody else?

The truth is that you are beyond any of this.
And my words will do nothing for you.
They are just words and they have meaning
Only if you give it to them.

So I won't tell you anything.
You are as I am.
And this is all that matters.
 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My true Self (and yours too)

The Bucket in the Valley by 3dgar
Many traditions share a particular mantra that explains true nature, the very core of our being. This exercise is by itself a journey of self discovery, should one decide to practice it. This meditation goes beyond beliefs, dogmas or doctrines and its sole purpose is to help us become aware of our innermost identity: our truest self. This is my version:

I have a body, but I am not my body.

My body may find itself in different conditions and states at various points in time, yet this has nothing to do with my real self because even though my body changes, I continue to be me in essence.

I behave in different ways, but I am not my behavior.

My behavior comes from my thoughts and depends on present context. I sometimes behave inappropriately and sometimes appropriately. In any case, since I am not my behavior this has nothing to do with my true essence. I am beyond behaviors.

I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.

My emotions are sometimes negative and sometimes positive. My emotions change as I move in space and time and even though my emotions change, I continue to be me in essence. I know I am not my emotions. My true nature remains the same despite the different emotions I experience.

I have a mind, but I am not my mind. 

My mind is a tool for creating emotions, behavior and body. My mind processes the information in my immediate surroundings. My mind is powerful, but it is not what I am. My true essence is beyond my mind and my body.

What am I?

I know the things I am not. Beyond these multiple aspects is my true self. My body, behavior, emotions and mind may change or evolve with time, but I still am me in essence. I am a being of pure self-consciousness. I lie ever-present in space and time regardless of all these things and changes, because in reality they are not really me. My true "I" exists regardless of the different experiences my body goes trough.

I am one with everything around me that can and cannot be seen. I am that which can and cannot be explained. I am that which transcends space and time.

I am essence beyond substance.

I am with or without the physical manifestations of the self.

I am.

As are You.

Friday, April 15, 2011

PokerStars Issues Statement Regarding U.S. Operations Shutdown

Amid the uncertainty of what may or may not happen with Online Poker in the U.S. after April 15, 2011, PokerStars, one of the biggest online poker sites has issued the following statement:



"Business as usual" for the rest of the world resonates as particularly harsh for all of us in the U.S. who will not have the opportunity to continue playing. But I am definitely glad Pokerstars can continue their operations worldwide as this will allow them to somehow make sure the cash-outs for North American players can eventually take place. The “how” and the “when” is yet to be determined.

I am aching to find out what will happen next. I wonder if there is any significance for authorities to do this on a Friday as opposed to sometime in the middle of the week. Do they know that had they done this earlier the implicated parties would’ve been able to resolve this issue somehow before the weekend? Are there going to be any additional developments to this before next Monday?

I’ll be following this situation very closely, but in the meantime, I guess this weekend won’t be my “One Time”, at least not online.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Private Online Poker Home Games on PokerStars

Private Online Poker Home Games. Wow. This is probably the coolest feature of any poker site EVER. Of course, me being the poker enthusiast that I am, I went ahead and started my own Online Home Game Club right away!

The best thing about this feature is that we can play tournaments, or regular games with FRIENDS ONLY. Another thing is that the game selection and customization options are simply amazing. I know, I sound like a fanboy, but I really think this is beyond cool.

So having said this, if you are reading this You are invited to join my private poker club!!!

- If you don't already have it, download the free PokerStars software
from http://www.pokerstars.com/poker/download/
- Open the main poker lobby, then click on the Home Games tab
- Click the 'Join a Poker Club' button
- Enter my Club ID number: 130946
- Enter my Invitation Code: San Diego

That's it! Once I've approved your membership request, we'll be ready to start playing Home Games online together.

If you want to find out more, visit http://www.pokerstars.com/poker/home-games/

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I am

I am essence.

I am in the unfolding present.

I am a life experience in this world.

I am a physical manifestation of a deeper truth.

I am the idea of a human being that's moving in time and that will cease to exist as such at some point and transform into something else.

I am.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

PokerStars Blogger Championship

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 966813

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mr. Intensity

This is Dante, my son. Quite a looker, if I do say so myself. He has been an amazing gift and responsibility at the same time. He is 20 months old now, and getting in all kinds of trouble. As I write this he's running all over the living room and hopping on the couch. I thought it would be a good idea to post a pic of him as I'm bound to mention him plenty of times in future blogs. So here he is: