Places That I Have Loved

Places That I Have Loved

“The town was paper, but the memories were not.” John Green

A fortune-teller told my mother that she would die at 87.  At 85 she began to get her life in order. By the time she died at 91, everything was in boxes and labeled with notes.  There was one box that had a note pasted on it which said,“These are places that I have loved. Perhaps you will like looking at them”. There were postcards, pictures, menus and a few photos from various travels around the world. I wanted to ask why she had saved them. What were the memories in this box that she wanted us to know?

There were photos from Japan. My mother loved her trip to Japan. They had gone with a group that matched senior citizens with Japanese families who wanted to practice their English. My friend Reiko and her father took my mom out for sushi when she was there.  She talked for a long time about how expensive that dinner was. There was a picture of her in a kimono smiling with her Japanese family.

There were some postcards from Brazil. The tour group was going down to the beach and casinos in Rio. My mother had been invited to a friend’s cousin for the afternoon and dinner.  Everyone told her not to take public transportation because she could get robbed. She and her friend went on the public bus. Everyone on the bus helped them, shared their food and wanted to talk. They had to change buses and the bus driver got out and took them to the next bus. They had a wonderful dinner with their new friends and drank caipirinhas (cachaca or rum sugar and lime juice). When they returned, they heard that most of their group had been robbed at the tourist locations.

She enjoyed Australia and Israel. I don’t remember her talking about Paris or Italy. I don’t know if she ever got there. She had wanted to see the Great Wall of China.

Travel wasn’t my mother’s passion. Theatre, Opera, Ballet and Classical Music were. I wasn’t surprised to see fifty years of playbills and programs and favorite opera tickets, but I was surprised to see this box. Travel is about pictures and stories and I didn’t know all the stories.

My mother was legally blind from the time that she was seventeen years old.  The doctors said it was from looking at an eclipse. I’m not sure exactly what she saw but it wasn’t what we did. When she was young, she made the decision to have the best life she could and not let it affect her. She studied at the Lighthouse For The Blind and knew everything that was available to her to make her life easier. The only difference I noticed growing up was that my mother did not read.  She told us the stories of every opera, operetta, ballet,  Broadway show and Shakespeare play. She is most famous with her children and grandchildren for her original Bunny and Squirrel stories. (who were suspiciously a lot like us.)

She developed her other senses to compensate for her lack of vision.  My mother knew the location of every seat in every theatre in NY. She knew by memory the address and phone number of everyone in her life. She took the subways and had certain markers on the stations so she could tell where to get off. She went with the crowd at traffic lights. She would walk down the street smiling so people would think she saw them when she couldn’t. She never wanted anyone to know that she couldn’t see.

As my mother got older, she was probably almost totally blind but she never complained and asked for help when she needed it.  She had many, many friends who were always willing to go somewhere fun with her. The alternative of staying home was unthinkable. One day when she was in her seventies she asked a bus driver if it was the 21 bus and he said ” What are you? blind?” and for the first time she said yes. She was proud of that story.

I also found color-coded envelopes with separated bills in them. I think we are the only country where all our paper money is the same size. I never thought about that. Whenever I asked her for money or small bills, she gave it to me. I always assumed that she could see it.

One day she said that she wasn’t going to travel anymore because of her worsening eyesight. She was in her sixties. I felt really sad. She said “Don’t ever feel sorry for me because I have the capacity for happiness and most people don’t. I understand that happiness comes in moments and I have had many happy moments in my life. I love NY and have a lot to explore here.”

She went swimming and took dance classes. (She had been a dance teacher) She went to the theatre, ballet, symphony or opera seven days a week. She went to all the museums in NY and loved discovering new ones and sharing them with us when we came to visit. She joined a hiking group on the weekends and started going to Atlantic City for a little gambling. She was always coming to visit her children and take care of her grandchildren. My mother slowed down to three to five times a week for the theatre after age eighty-seven because her arthritis was affecting her legs. But even at that age, her phone rang more than mine did and she had friends of all ages. For her ninetieth birthday, she went to the opera with everyone in her family who could make it to NY and then her favorite Chinese restaurant. Her friends gave her a huge friend party as well a week later (Her friends ranged from ages 40-100).

She never talked about traveling again after she stopped. I looked at the memories of a life that wasn’t mine and wished that I had paid more attention.   I wondered about those fragmented, arbitrary glimpses into her life. My mother left a very important legacy to me and anyone who knew her. You always have the choice to live the best life you can, or sit in the dark.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

 

Seattle Is A Food Town

Seattle Is A Food Town

“Humor keeps us alive. Humor and food. Don’t forget food. You can go a week without laughing.” Joss Whedon

I’m a terrible food blogger. I do way too much when I travel and I’m always starving when I sit down to eat. I never remember to take photos when the food comes until after I’ve eaten several bites. I try to put the food together but it never works.  Or it’s dark and I forget to put my flash on. There is something weird to me about taking pictures of food before you eat it. But it is the number one thing people post. Apparently other people love to look at pictures of the food you are about to eat.

Seattle is a food town. Signature dishes are salmon, smoked salmon, coffee and Starbucks, (separate categories), Rainer cherries, Teriyaki anything, Top Pot donuts, fresh local ingredients, Salumi salami, Dungeness crabs, named after the town of Dungeness in Washington) apples – half the apples in the United States are grown here, mussels from Whidby island and my least favorite thing – Geoduck clams. I had a lot of eating to do but no Geoduck.

I’m not a huge fan of cured and preserved meats or long lunch lines.

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Yet I found myself waiting an hour at Salumi in Pioneer Square.

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It is owned by Armando Batali, father of a famous chef.

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I had the Salumi salami sandwich and to my son who made me wait on the long line, I say “thank you.” It all worked – the bread, the provolone, the salami and whatever they drizzled on it. The family had the mole sandwich, muffo sandwich and salami and mozzarella on Guiseppi bread. It is worth the wait.

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I love fish and all the fish in Seattle is so fresh. The salmon, mussels and poke I had at the wedding at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island (and it looks like its name) was amazing. Sorry,  I was busy taking pictures of family and friends.   All the seafood at Anchovy and Olive is beautifully prepared and delicious.

Pike’s market is one of the main tourist attractions in Seattle. It opened on Aug. 17, 1907, with just eight farmers who sold their food to more than 10,000 people who came out on a crazy first day. It hasn’t slowed down since and now more than 10 million visitors come to it annually.

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The market is located on Pike Street.

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How do you not like aisles of fruit, vegetables. souvenirs, desserts, ethnic food, art, crafts , flowers and men throwing around massive fish and giant crabs?

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I ate my way through on the first day –clam “chowda”, giant Dungeness crab cocktail, chocolate covered cherries, giant peaches , piroshkies and apples apples apples. I would have taken photos but I couldn’t balance the umbrella, the purse, the camera and the food as I walked through hordes of people.. Remember that Anthony Bourdain has a film crew.

The original Starbucks was opened in Pikes Market in 1971. There are Starbucks on almost every street in Seattle but there is always a long line down the block at the first one. I guess it just feels different. I did not wait on that line in the rain for my Seattle Pikes Place Starbucks mug.   I walked to the one a block away with a normal line and got a regular Seattle one. I draw the line at waiting forty minutes for a souvenir – even though I have a major Starbucks around the world collection and wish now that I done it.

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Piroshky Piroshky bakery  located in Pike’s Market is a must to get piroshkies in Seattle, Even if you don’t know what they are you will not be sorry. Try the cinnamon and smoked salmon ones.

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I found a new favorite dessert – dried Chukar cherries covered with dark chocolate cocoa and I am eating them as a write. They are located in Pike’s Market and will let you sample many of them. I see you can buy them on Amazon.

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The gum wall in Pike’s Market is one of the main tourist attractions. The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater, and the tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. It became a tourist attraction in 1999. You can bring your own gum to add to the collection but just know that is on the list for Five Germiest Tourist Attractions In The World.

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Food writing is very competitive. As a non cook I have no right to judge other people’s food but I do come to the table with major experience as an eater. I’ve had three meals a day for my entire life.  I’m also a restaurant slut. I am always trying new restaurants and rarely stay with them unless they are amazing. My favorite places to visit are those with good people and good food and Seattle has both.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

 

Top Ten Travel Travails (say that three times fast)

Top Ten Travel Travails (say that three times fast)

“The Act of God designation on all insurance policies… means roughly that you cannot be insured for the accidents that are most likely to happen to you. If your ox kicks a hole in your neighbor’s Maserati, however, indemnity is instantaneous.”  Alan Coren

I think the word travel comes from the word travail. Travail comes from the Latin word: trepalium, which is instrument of torture. The definition of travail is use of physical or mental energy; hard work. It means suffering and singing the blues while you work. It means an epic Greek Tragedy is happening. That is how travel used to be for the ancestors, pilgrims, pioneers and explorers. It was arduous and life-threatening. I think going away back then meant having travails or  “travailing.”

I thought that I would write a blog about some of my modern-day travel travails.

1. You’ve spent months planning your trip. Life kicks in and things go wrong. For me it is  illness related, I sprain my wrist the day before I fly. I get a weird fever, rash or asthma the week I am leaving. It is definitely anxiety. I always go away carrying some new medicine or arm brace that I didn’t need the last time. When I get there, it is fine.

2. Other than Japan and Switzerland, I always experience flight delays. There are no explanations and no one seems surprised or aggravated in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave. Hakuna Matata is a real thing. I hate when I have connecting flights in these countries. I am always running through airports only to find the next plane is late also. There was that one time that the connecting plane was on time and it was the last connecting flight of the day and no one spoke English.

3. Rain can ruin your holidays. If your hair frizzes in the rain, you are going to feel ugly. There is nothing more dreary than seeing the sights of London soaking wet because a car drives by and splashes water all over you.  Running across a marble courtyard in high heels during a downpour in Ankara can be dangerous. How often do we hear “the first day was great and then it rained.” But rain is not exactly a reason to sit in your hotel room watching reruns of seventies sitcoms in Chinese. It is only water.

4. Malaria and Dengue Fever.  Avoid being bitten by mosquitos. Mosquitos prefer fat, sweet-smelling, sweaty people who leave lights on, and who’s fashion choices are bright colors and sandals. Daytime mosquitos carry dengue. Nighttime mosquitos carry malaria. Dusk can be both. Take malaria pills if recommended, use netting, cover up and Spray, Spray, Spray.

5 Being robbed not at gunpoint. (hotel room, pickpockets, car break ins, etc) There is nothing like having to contact your credit card companies, insurance companies and banks while on vacation.  If they get your passport, let me add in the US embassy.

6 Being robbed at gunpoint – ok that is really scary.

7. Food Poisoning. There is a specific misery that comes with being violently and uncontrollably sick in a place that is not your home and especially in a foreign country.   I am normally germophobic so when I travel I become the food police. I don’t know when the last time the street vendors have washed their utensils or what kind of water they are cooking in. It is not enough for me to just not drink or brush your teeth with tap water in countries with poor sanitation. After seeing “Slumdog Millionaire” I now have to worry about fake sealed bottles of water and make sure to drink a reputable local brand.

8. No electricity. Many third world countries have power outages. It’s always a good idea to carry a flashlight or perhaps a generator if light is important to you. Find the stairs if you are staying in a hotel with an elevator. From experience, I try not to stay on a high floor if I see bad weather, lights flickering or dim street lights. It is pretty much of a given that it will happen somewhere when you are in India or Africa . You might be traveling to places with no or limited electricity.  Be aware of that before your cell phone dies.

9. No hot water. Hot water is a luxury that we take for granted. There are moist towelettes and dry shampoo but you might at some point have to take that very cold shower.

10. Poverty and begging. In third world countries you are going to be approached by children, the elderly and people with physical and mental disabilities begging in the street. It’s hard to see and to know what to do. I’ve heard if you give kids money it keeps them on the street supporting their families and out of school. It is said that if you give things in packages, they can sell them for drugs or glue to sniff. People maim and blind kids on purpose to get more money. I don’t know what the truth is. It is something I don’t understand so it is best  for me to give to charitable organizations in the country.  I always bring pencils, stickers and small inflatable balls to give out. It is not an answer but it is something.

These are the challenges that I face on the road to adventure. They are the anythings that can and always do happen. The most interesting things happen when I am cold, hot,  hungry, wet, tired and uncomfortable. The travails become the stories.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Chihuly Garden And Glass – Seattle, Washington

Chihuly Garden and Glass – Seattle, Washington

“I never met a color I did not like.” Dale Chihuly

As soon as you enter the Chihuly space , there is a magnificent piece of glass.

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You turn around and an explosion of color and light appears.

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I walk through the galleries in awe of seeing so many beautiful pieces in one place. Even the idea that hot glass pushed through a pipe, can be shaped in such extraordinary ways is fascinating.

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The exhibition includes indoor and outdoor spaces as well as a glass atrium. The pieces work perfectly to heighten the spirit of the environment.

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In the first gallery is his basket series influenced by Indian baskets and tapestries with blown glass in them.

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The other works are mostly floral motifs based on influences from his mother’s garden.

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He has the ability to blend his work well with nature.

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Dale Chihuly is renowned for his architectural installations in museums, gardens and public buildings throughout the world.

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He studied at the first glass program in the United States at the University of Wisconsin and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study glass blowing in Venice. He established a program at the Rhode Island School Of Design and taught there for many years. An auto accident in 1976 caused him to lose eyesight in one eye. His injuries caused him to relinquish his actual glass blowing activities and continued developing his projects with his chief glassblower William Morris. He now presides over a company of artisans.

I would have loved to see his large-scale installation of Chandeliers Over Venice.

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There were fourteen large-scale chandeliers hung over various sites in Venice. PBS did a video about it which runs from time to time called Chihuly Over Venice.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Chihuly+Over+Venice+On+PBS&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=E27A5D3BB7EC80DC7FA8E27A5D3BB7EC80DC7FA8

The Chihuly Garden and Glass opened in 2012 by the Wright family who own and manage the Space Needle to reinvigorate Seattle City Center.

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The Collections Cafe which houses some of Chihuly’s collections has great food.

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Though others may critique this idea, there is something magical to me about an artist who can no longer physically create his own pieces, but is able to see how far he can go with glass and show us his vision – with only one eye.  http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/m/

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Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Everything Touches Everything

Originally posted on Travel Well, Fly Safe:

‘ Everything touches everything.”           Jose Luis Borge

After 9/11, the world reacted in very kind and  humane ways. The best story that I heard was the one from the Masai tribe in Kenya.  One of the Masai was living in New York and studying to be a doctor at the time. He returned to Kenya and reported the story to the tribe. Telling stories to the Masai was the way of passing on the news.  They hadn’t watched it on television. They didn’t comprehend the logistics. They didn’t know who the bad guys were.  They understood  that  3000 people had perished in an attack on the United States. They wanted to help. The cow is life to a Masai. They use every part of the cow and treat it as a sacred animal.  Fourteen families gave up their only  cows as a gift to America…

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Things That I Have Learned In Seattle, Washington

Things That I Have Learned In Seattle, Washington

“Seattle is for people who love culture, but refuse to sacrifice their wild nature to attain it.” Kimberly Kinrade

Seattle is ranked the most literate city in the country. Everyone reads here. The Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country.

The city has the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher.

Seattle is the birthplace of grunge, has summer rock concerts in the zoo, a Jimi Hendrix memorial and a Kurt Cobain memorial (his old house).

It was the first city in the US to play a Beatles song on the radio.

Edgewater Hotel is where the Beatles stayed on their first tour to America. It is the famous photo of them fishing from their room.

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Bumbershoot is the music and art festival of the year for kids growing up in the Pacific Northwest.

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The festival takes place over Labor Day Weekend. Bumbershoot means umbrella so you know that there will be rain. It is held near the EMP Museum and Space Needle so there is an eclectic mix of rockers and tourists around.

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It’s all good. Especially because marijuana is legal in the state of Washington. You can definitely smell it. The law states that if you are over 21 and have an ounce of marijuana not open in a public place it is legal. You cannot smoke it anywhere cigarettes are not allowed. The police are still finding their way so be careful.

Seattle was the first American city to put police on bicycles.

The EMP Museum is dedicated to science fiction, music and pop culture.

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The Experience Music Project  was designed by Frank Gehry and created by Paul Allen who was one of the founders of Microsoft.

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Seattle-based artists Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana have galleries there.

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There are interactive music galleries that the kids will love. Play any instrument, dj or make a video.

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Music videos are on constant loops through out the museum. (props from OK GO, This Too Shall Pass, my favorite music video).

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There are impressive instrument collections as well.

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The sci-fi and horror film section has something for every nerd. Even a non-fan will be impressed with the displays and technology.

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Constructed on the grounds of the 1962 World’s Fair, the Seattle Space Needle was inspired in part by a flying saucer. With its domed top (always a rotating restaurant and observation deck) it has appeared in Sleepless in Seattle and Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me.

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At 76 stories and 937 feet Columbia Center is Seattle’s tallest building and is 12th tallest building in the country.

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The Seattle Great Wheel built in 2012,  is the largest observation wheel on the west coast. It is 175 feet tall and can hold up to 300 passengers at any time. The wheel is open year round. There are fully enclosed gondolas and a covered waiting area, so the rain can’t stop the wheel from spinning.

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The world’s first gas station opened in 1907 on East Marginal Way in Seattle.

The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the country and the third largest in the world, carrying over 25 million passengers annually.

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Seattle’s Pier 52 is the busiest ferry terminal in the U.S.  It is a 35 minute ferry trip across Elliot Bay to Bainbridge island.

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Bainbridge Island is almost 28 square miles, and has a population of just over 20,000. If you have the patience to wait on the ferry lines and bring a car over, it is a good way to explore the island. If you happen to be going to a wedding there, it is best to walk on.

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Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour in Pioneer Square takes you beneath Seattle’s streets where there were once roadways and storefronts.

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The Underground Tour leads us through obscure doors and urine filled alleys.

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This was the original area for saloons and brothels and “the sewing circle”- a group of ‘seamstresses” who knew “not to sew without a thimble”.

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It was interesting to learn how the city was leveled and rebuilt after the fire of 1889 to accommodate constant flooding and poor sanitation.

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Tales of rats and sewage are a big part of an underground tour if that is your thing. (Notice  that the early water pipe  is made from wood.)

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Our tour guide was funny, informative and a great story-teller. There is a lot of history under those streets. http://www.undergroundtour.com

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The Seattle Architecture Foundation does tours around Seattle. I was there on a day that they did a downtown tour. Check the website for the tour schedule. It was raining but being a frustrated architect I got to learn all about the architectural styles and public/private space buildings around downtown. Hearing the history from the underground tour and seeing the modern, beaux-arts and brutalist buildings pulled the Seattle story together for me. http://seattlearchitecture.org/tours/downtown-tours.

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I always take advantage of a concierge at a hotel. Keith Dowsing at the Alexis in Seattle was especially knowledgeable, helpful and fun. Before I arrived he had taken care of great dinner reservations, tours and a hair appointment on a Sunday. He is the ultimate insider and knows everything going on in Seattle. He made my kids feel special when they arrived as well. He is a valuable resource and definitely added to my Seattle experience. Thanks Keith.

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Another great thing about the Alexis is that  on your night table there is a copy of a book for purchase written by students in the writing program at 826 Seattle. I volunteer in the writing program at 826 LA so I thought that was very cool.

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People in Seattle are used to rain, always have a Plan B, don’t usually carry umbrellas, have plastic for their cameras and a good hooded rain jacket. I am not from Seattle and knocked into a lot of people with my umbrella and couldn’t take photos in the rain. Living in LA for so long I need to brush up on my weather skills.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

“I’m Spiritual Not Religious” – An American Thing

“I’m Spiritual Not Religious.” – An American Thing

‘Don’t use Buddhism to become a Buddhist. Use Buddhism to become a better whatever you are.’   Dalai Lama

Most people don’t enter a path of spirituality when they are happy. It is when life gets hard that they look for help. When I started on a spiritual path, I learned a little of everything. –Meditation, Mindfulness, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Anything A Non, Judaism, Taoism and Sufism. I took a Spiritual Christianity class and learned about the Koran.

When I travel, I try and learn about the religions of a country –to see how God fits in their lives. The religious buildings are so much a part of the architecture that I love. I like to learn about the kind of people that use them. What I have seen is that the poorer the country, the stronger the faith and the community of faith. Spiritual but not religious people seem to be prevalent in America only.

My spiritual path is a bit of this and a bit of that. At the moment (and it changes often) It includes some yoga, meditation, mindfulness, quotes from everything, erratic Torah study, Tai Chi, Sufist readings , Indian food, bracelets and feng shui. I haven’t studied the books intensely of any of these religions enough to know the true meaning of the work. I take what I like and leave the rest. My eclectic spiritual path seems to place me on a path alone. My thoughts and belief systems start to change as I continue on to the unknown. It is my journey and my truth and I can become as self obsessed with it as I wish. Is this the religion of the me generation?

True spirituality is supposed to put you in touch with empathy for the world, I’m not seeing the correlation between good, kind and caring people and “ the new American spirituality”.  I’m hearing the words but I don’t see the transformation. Being spiritual allows you to be ambiguous. You don’t have to have a belief system, you can just believe in something. There are no expectations about your behaviors or attitudes . You don’t have to be accountable for your actions.

Spirituality in the American version appears to be a bit selfish. I find myself being hurt by people who say they are spiritual. I give them qualities that they don’t seem to have yet. Their search for their own truths becomes more important than anyone’s feelings but their own. Spirituality and meditation seems to be about making yourself feel better. It isn’t about being part of something bigger or helping a community . It can be a bit narcissistic if you are inclined in that direction. Your own journey is the most important thing.

A  Vietnamese Buddhist monk was teaching a meditation class. He said “If you hear bombs in a neighboring village and your first thought is where is my family? Oh, they are not there. Everything is ok” than continue to sit and meditate.”

So I will have to reconsider my spiritual path once again. I have to change my mindset. I have to make compassion, kindness and integrity more important than my own personal well-being. If the world is going to change, it starts with each of us.

Fly safe,

JAZ