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.