6 Months in Mexico

Mexico

As I write this, I feel peaceful and settled in my spirit. Nothing too wild and grand to share, although my life seems to have no lack of those things. More than anything, I just wanted to share a brief update and a bit of inspiration.

I’ve been living in Mexico with Nancy and Violet since the end of October last year. We’ve settled in a small beach town on the West Coast that we love. Roosters wake us in the mornings and horses still clod through town. Violet has a school that she loves as much as we do, and despite the media coverage of Mexico’s violence, we feel exceptionally safe here. Our intention is to make this our primary home base.

May will mark 5 years from the day I left my “normal” life in the US. Somehow that date feels like it will never lose its significance as a marker in my life. I still remember a friend asking me how long I would be gone, and I remember experiencing a complete inability to answer that question. It felt unknowable.

This summer we are off to Thailand for a training with the Asian Leadership Institute which offers a wonderful facilitated on-line course we have been taking.

I think of it as action-oriented mindfulness for the modern life. I was skeptical at the value I’d receive before starting the course, but have been amazed at the transformation I’ve witnessed in myself and in Nancy. We are simply much happier people because of the work and practices we’ve been doing in this course. It’s not that there are so many new concepts for us in the course, but they provide a structure that really helps us to effectively implement the principles in our lives. And that has made all the difference.

Once I finish a stint of a couple of months in Thailand, I’ll head over to Sweden and eventually back to the US and then Mexico in the Fall.

Nancy’s being a BAMF (that stands for “Bad Ass Mo Fo”) right now as she’s in the middle of a 5 day solo dark retreat – that’s 5 days in a room with no (and I mean NO) light by herself doing meditation and other practices. She’ll follow that up with a few more days of meditation in the light before returning to me (hopefully). To some it sounds like torture, but this ancient practice is usually an experience of deep rest, rejuvenation and insight. I’ve done a three-day dark room retreat and can personally attest to the power of this practice. I’m incredibly inspired to have a partner who is brave enough to do that depth of practice and exploration.

Here are a few photo highlights from our time here in Mexico:

Stunning beach sunsets

Epic Chidren's Circus Performance

Farmer's markets

 

Lice Treatment Selfie - Fun, Fun!

 

And yet, I don’t want to leave you with the notion that my life has always been some perfect paradise in these past 5 years, because that would just be a lie.

What is this life of living the world over?

I couldn’t have imagined where life would take me or where I’d be now – sitting in a brick-roofed, wood-walled cafe in a small Mexican beach town.

These last years, the highs have been so high and the lows, so low. Most people just see and hear about the good times, the awesome pics of aquamarine ocean views and the exciting adventures – because that’s what we tend to share as world galavanters.

We don’t take pictures of us lying in bed depressed wondering what the hell is going on with our lives or feeling like shit for who-knows-why, and then feeling guilty on top of feeling like shit because we are in “paradise”, aren’t we?

Again and again, Life shows me that paradise is within. Certain external conditions facilitate that experience, but these are relatively simple conditions – a sense of community, enough time to “just be”, enough sleep, healthy food, living in alignment with my sense of purpose.

I’ve come to appreciate the great importance and value of feeling in alignment with my own purpose – the purpose of this form in this life. What is it? Sometimes it feels like the instruction book, the great guide to life, got ripped apart and the pages strewn to the corners of the earth. Sometimes I feel like I’m just scrambling around trying to find another page to understand the story a bit more clearly. Little by little, it seems to be taking shape.

And yet, even though the Great Peace comes when the searching stops, the searching seems to be a part of the process. It’s easy to say, “stop searching”, but the searching has to stop of its own accord, when it’s ready. I think the one piece of advice I’m still trying to heed on a daily basis is to find appreciation in life for the things I don’t like, for the stages that I don’t prefer.

I want clarity, I want to know what’s next, I want to have it all sorted out – that’s just what my personality prefers. But in many areas I haven’t, and the challenge for me is to embrace that unknown, to love the exploration, the taking-shape of it all – and sometimes I just don’t, and then life is hard, even when it doesn’t have to be.

And I’m reminded by Life, “You’re here to love the journey, even when the journey seems unlovable, even when you don’t like the journey, even when you desperately want the journey to be different, completely and radically different. You’re here to love the journey.” And when I don’t love the journey, Life reminds me in so many ways and calls me to come back to loving it. That’s the only state that keeps me open, aligned and inspired – when I can surf that sweet spot, that edge, where awareness and love are not attached to what I like or want, but follow what I am called to do – not what my ego feels I should do, but what I am deeply called and inspired to do.

I find that edge razor thin, and falling off of that edge sucks, but it’s Life’s wake up call. “You are out of alignment. You are off your center. You have overextended yourself. You are heading in the wrong direction.” Just like getting pummeled by a wave when you get out of balance surfing. Nothing to do but get back up and try again, until you just get it and flow with it, and that – that is such a sweet feeling – so clear, so awake, so alive.

May you find your edge of clarity. May you surf it with joy. May you even enjoy falling and getting back up, because this too is part of the process, part of the loving Dance as it finds its way through this miraculous play of consciousness incarnate.

Categories: Personal Growth / Spirituality | Leave a comment

Parasites: friend, foe or pick-up line

That worm doesn't stand a chance!

Nothing is sexier than lying naked on your bed face down while your lover parts your cheeks and pulls small, live worms out of your anus.

Tropical romance – what fun!

Pin worms are actually all about sex. You ingest the eggs from one of the many sources of contamination. As soon as they get inside your intestines and hatch, they start having a big pin worm orgy. Promptly, after they are finished, the males die. Why? The only thing I can think of is that pin worm sex is so good, that they are ready to leave this world for the next one after they’re done.

Then the pregnant females work their way down through your intestines where they come crawling out of – you guessed it! – your sexy but. It kind of itches when worms are crawling out of your but, so of course, you’re going to scratch. And when you do – blammo! – your burst the female who is full of eggs and you then spread those eggs into your clothes or sheets and eventually into other unsuspecting people or back into yourself.

The good news is that pin worms are relatively easy to kill, so a few pills later and those hotties are no more – until the next time.

This whole experience got me thinking about FP, one of the things I’ve become most grateful for, these last 4 years on the road in India, SE Asia, South America, Mexico, etc. What is FP, you ask? Firm Poo.

That’s right, a good solid stool. It’s really one of the great pleasures of life. I met an Indian guy in Rishikesh who said he had permanent diarrhea. That sounds horrible to me. I had a flu where I had diarrhea for 3 days and couldn’t keep any food down – not fun! There’s just nothing like looking down with pride into that glistening white bowl and saying “Well Formed … Well Formed.”

I still remember my brother’s first poo after 7 weeks of diarrhea in South America. Turns out that he had a case of Giardia that escaped his first diagnostic test. Once we finally figured it out and got him the meds, you shoulda seen that poo! I thought an anaconda was crawling out of that Bolivian toilet!

Thinking back, I wish we had entered it into the Guinness Book of World Records. It amazed me so much, I even took a picture of it, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. And what did I say to him as I was admiring his handiwork? “Damn brother, well formed!”

I’ve learned so much about parasites in my 15 years of traveling internationally. Now, they don’t scare me so much, and I certainly don’t go running for a bottle of antibiotics at the first sign of diarrhea. I’ve met too many travelers who have destroyed their immune systems by doing that and have no hope of recovery – no hope for an FP in their near future. “Well Formed” will not be a phrase they utter with pride each morning until they get home and take tons of probiotics and who knows what else. Some parasites are worth treating with allopathic meds, but most aren’t.

Grapefruit seed extract is a powerful antidote for a lot of bugs, although it’s also very powerful and does take out some of your natural intestinal flora. Activated charcoal can also be a big help. How about a couple of diced cloves of raw garlic a couple of times a day – oh yeah, baby – now that is sexy!

I recently completed a 100 day herbal parasite cleanse that I’d recommend to anyone, even if you think you don’t have parasites, because the truth is, you probably do. It’s a 100 day cleanse involving Wormwood powder, Black Walnut Hull powder and Clove powder all in capsules – a combo called the Triple Treasure.

You take them once a day with dinner for 100 days. This gives all your little friends time hatch, have their orgies, lay their eggs in your intestines and get hit by the herbs. The 100 days makes sure you get them all.

I’ve been fascinated with parasites over the past year. I even found a woman who is successfully treating autism in children through an aggressive parasite protocol.

I found a doctor from Spain that said (I paraphrase), “Hey, we treat our dogs for worms. Why don’t we treat ourselves? We also have worms, even if you live in the US or Europe.” Makes sense to me. This is a guy that does serious parasite cleanses and then digs around in his poo with a stick to see what’s there, and HO-LY SHIT, you wouldn’t believe the things living inside of us. Feels a bit like the movie Aliens. Check this out.

And to top it all off, I found a guy who is effectively treating auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and severe allergies by actually infecting people with small numbers of hookworms!  He says that we actually have a symbiotic relationship with some parasites that helps us to stay healthy. There is some interesting research beginning to show up in this area.

For years, doctors have been using maggots to clear up infections that no allopathic medicines can tackle and leeches to treat diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.

So what to do with all of that information besides feeling grossed out?

Our bodies are mini universes. We couldn’t even digest our food without the help of millions of bacteria living in our intestines. In fact, we have 10 times more microorganisms in our intestines than human cells in our entire bodies!1 We are not islands unto ourselves – even in the most basic of ways. Contemplating this fact helps break down the sense of separation we can feel with the world. It’s not me in here and the world out there. It’s a very interpenetrated existence even inside of us. Buddhist teacher, Thich Naht Hanh, uses the word “Inter-Being,” although I don’t think he’s applied it to parasites yet. Perhaps now he will.

With that, I’ll leave you, hopefully not too creepy crawly. Enjoy getting to know the many organisms that call your body home. Send some gratitude to the millions of beings inside of you that are making your life possible, and perhaps explore if there are a few visitors that might need to leave.

Here’s to wishing you a well formed FP.

Categories: Personal Growth / Spirituality | 2 Comments

Idyllic Sweden

Nancy and Brandon enjoying Swedish Apple Bounty

I am happy to take some time and share some of the beautiful experiences that have been happening in my life recently, and not so recently, as it’s been a long time since my last update.

I’m currently residing in Southern Sweden in a very small town called Vejbystrand, not too far from Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ve met my spiritual partner and love, Nancy, which is a gift beyond anything I could have imagined. For that, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It’s a new level of relationship for me with a deep sense of ease, naturalness and comfort. It’s been beautiful to form a relationship with a focus on seeing the divine shining through one other – seeing beyond our forms as individuals to something more essential, while at the same time being madly in love.

Chef Violet making lunch

Nancy and I met in Mexico in January of this year and spent a few months together there before reuniting here in Sweden in July. Nancy has also brought a beautiful, 5-year old girl, Violet, into my life. It’s ironic that I always said I didn’t want kids, but now have a 5-year old in my life who has completely changed my perspective on children. Violet is truly an amazing being and one who teaches me so much each day and brings joy and light into my life.

Besides starting a new life together, Nancy and I have also started a new business, focused on bringing “Superfoods” to the European market and especially to Sweden. If you’d like to check out the business and see a picture of Nancy and Violet, see www.superfoodsubscriptions.com.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the new business and website and have learned a tremendous amount in the process. We’re excited now to be moving to the next phase of getting the word out and letting people know about the incredible nutritional value of Superfoods, something that Nancy has brought into my life in a big way.

Sunset over the ocean from our apartment

Nancy and Violet in the Troll Forest

Perhaps the best word to describe our life here in Vejbystrand is “idyllic.” We live in a small nicely furnished apartment with a view of the ocean. Most mornings I walk about a block to take my morning jog on our beach, which is surrounded by wild rose bushes, all pushing out their big, bright red rose hips. I never knew that the fruit of wild roses was so big and incredibly nutritious. Directly adjacent to our apartment is a small forest that they call the Troll forest because of the magical shape of many of the trees whose trunks often first grow in a complete loop before finally shooting skyward.

From the perspective of food, we have an incredible abundance here of sane, healthy, nourishing foods. We get raw milk from a small dairy down the street; sometimes I ride my bike there to pick up milk, wave hello to the cows and try to calm down the manure-covered dogs. (If you’re curious about the safety and benefits of drinking raw milk, check out www.realmilk.com. I was amazed at the lies and fear we have been fed for so long around this topic.)

A bit farther away, we’ve found another small farmer (a Danish couple) who have chickens running around on their property within a generous enclosure. They produce about 30 eggs / day, and I think we’re their best customer. Our family probably consumes about 10 eggs / day! Usually we get some amazing veggies from them as well – leeks, fennel, zucchini, beets, carrots and pickling cucumbers. I’ve been making my own yogurt and herb cream cheese from the raw milk, and Nancy has been making sauerkraut and pickled beets. Nancy’s ex-husband, Sandro, drives up to the nearby ridge and brings us back big jugs of spring water once a week. The spring is tucked away in the forest and he collects the water directly from where it bubbles out of the ground. Sandro is a wonderful guy and has really welcomed me to his family and community.

Mushroom Foraging

A few weeks ago, I went out mushroom picking with a friend here and came back with about 17 pounds of mushrooms! It was a long process to clean, cut and dry them, but we feel very fortunate for the bounty of the forest and fields. July and August were our “berry months” and we collected lots of wonderful raspberries, blackberries, currants and cherries. Apple season is now ending, and the other day, I picked about 20 pounds of apples from trees in the neighborhood.

Life here is particularly sane, where our friends in the community all help take care of one another and one another’s children. Whenever someone is going to get food, milk, water, fruit, etc., they bring back some for their friends. We don’t lock our bikes outside of our homes. When the weather is nice, we take Violet to school on our bikes, riding through small forest trails and along the coast. Friends pop in frequently to visit, usually unannounced. We rarely lock our door.

I feel particularly grateful to the new worlds that I’ve been opened to in the last year in my 9 months in South and Central America. Getting to travel with my brother was an experience I’ll treasure for a lifetime. I deepened my practice in yoga and meditation. I explored Shamanistic rituals of Amazonian origin. I cannot say enough good things about the way these cultures use sacred plants to open consciousness in ways that are extremely powerful, beautiful and healing. More on that in another post.

On the dietary side, I’ve had so many paradigms shifted – raw milk, raw eggs, fermented foods, Superfoods, the incredible benefits of wild meat, and the wisdom of indigenous traditions on so many fronts, but especially related to food. (See the very interesting and useful book on indigenous nutrition called Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nigel). Of course there are many perspectives on nutrition, but what feels right for me now is that as humans, we have known for a long time how to eat in ways that are healthy and nourishing. In our modern civilization we seem to have traded this wisdom for convenience or fad diets. It’s been fascinating to “go back in time” and see how much our ancestors actually knew about nourishing our bodies, and how much of that we’ve forgotten or discarded.

Rainbow over the farms of southern Sweden

I feel as though a fog has been lifted from my eyes, and that I am learning to see the world and my life in a whole new light. I can see the deep challenges our world faces and the true insanity that modern life has brought us to – the disconnection from our wisdom traditions and essential knowledge that has been cultivated over millenia. Yet, somehow I am able to hold this suffering with less attachment and more love. Imagine what life would be like if everything you believed to be true simply wasn’t, or didn’t have to be.

Over the last year, I have experienced a massive shift and opening consciousness, and have seen many around me also opening in beautiful, amazing ways. We are truly living in fascinating times! What I seem to keep learning over and over again at ever deeper levels is to continue to listen and surrender to the wisdom of Life – to realize that “I” don’t have to figure everything out, and that if I stop long enough, I can experience a connection to an intelligence that is far greater that the “little me” I sometimes imagine myself to be.

I feel like I’ve lived 100 lifetimes in the past month let alone the past year. Perhaps what feels most relevant is that when I stop and am still, I feel an infinite depth of abundance and gratitude. This is such a beautiful gift. I want to thank all of you for your generosity over the months and years, whether in large or small ways.

May you all be well and really happy!

Lots of Love,

Brandon

Categories: Europe, Personal Growth / Spirituality | 1 Comment

In Loving Memory of Dodge Drake Smith: 1950 – 2012

Dodge Smith surrounded by his sons Brandon and Drake

My father, Dodge Drake Smith, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at the age of 61. A memorial service will be held in Birmingham, AL on March 10, 2012 from 2 – 4 PM at the Courtyard Marriott in Homewood, AL at 500 Shades Creek Parkway. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the New Life Foundation

Read more »

Categories: Personal Growth / Spirituality, Poetry | Tags: , | 16 Comments

A True Rebellion – Approaching the Environmental Crisis from a Place of Love

When connected to our center, we genuinely want to help others, but do so from a much different place than when we have an agenda... it begins from a place of genuine acceptance of how things are and focuses on the love, kindness and consciousness that are generated through our efforts regardless of the results. -------------- (Picture by Jano Cortes)

(This article is dedicated to my friends and colleagues working tirelessly to make this world a better place. May you respond to the crises of our world from a place of deep love.)

Environmentalism, sustainability, being green – they don’t matter. Not only that, but they are actually a part of the environmental crisis that we are facing on the planet. In fact, they are just as much a part of the problem as the multinational corporations producing coal-fired power plants, toxic chemicals, deforestation and social upheaval.

By the way, this is coming from someone who has had a strong environmental ethic his whole life and who dedicated six years of his career working on the cutting edge of the environmental and sustainability movements. Read more »

Categories: Personal Growth / Spirituality | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments