Unchaining the Spirit

He who has no object to gain by what he does in this world, nor any to lose by what he leaves undone; nor is there anyone, among all beings, on whom he need depend on any object.- 3:18 Bhagavad Gita

Lately I have been feeling more trapped and karmically embedded than usual. Whenever I feel stuck in life, I tend to slow everything way down and reflect on my past.

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re coming from. – Bob Marley

In these reflections, I often find my mind wandering back through the travels I did before I had a career, need for grounding at a base, or any concern in the world. During those years, $1000 was enough to fling myself far from my country of origin. I had a passion for experience, to be with nature, to immerse with people from everywhere, occasional insanity, salt water, adventure, and the breath of life.
I went where I was intuitively called, with usually zero preparation, I followed the feeling I received from the Universe.
I find that by reflecting on these past experiences, I am reminded of how powerful and amazing my path has been, which in turn gives me a huge amount of strength to keep moving forward to this day. To know, yes this life is full of suffering, but in the same breath it is full of joy and wonder, and perhaps most of all, it is full of synchronicities.
I’m not only referring to the awesome things that have unfolded as synchronicities, but also the tragedies. The heartbreaks. The ego shattering and rebuilding to rise again as this being I know as myself.
One of the most amazing journeys of my life was to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
It was the first international travel I had done without a travel partner, and I found myself in over my head perhaps. I originally planned to fly to Venezuela and get off there and head to Colombia, with a “just in case I’m scared shitless to do this alone,” plan b backup flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad, that left 12 hours later.
I boarded my flight in Miami, and watched as everyone filed into their seats awaiting departure. The flight attendants’ announcements were all in Spanish. I had traveled through Mexico a few months prior to this journey, and a familiar, exhilarating twinge of excitement arose within me immediately as I tried to decipher the Spanish.
Caracas is one of the absolutely most beautiful places in the world to fly into. Massive jagged green mountains rise up from yellow, sand lined turquoise Caribbean waters. The tragic beauty of the ghetto dotted the hillsides, as I’m sure it still does to this day. The unpainted gray concrete brick in contrast with the deep jungle green of the mountain backdrop was strikingly beautiful.
I disembarked the plane into the terminal, looked out towards the exit of the airport towards the busy and crime plagued streets and decided immediately that I was, in fact, scared shitless and would fly onto Trinidad that evening.
As I was waiting for my flight to Port of Spain, I made a couple of friends headed to different locales in South America. This afforded some small talk about what the hell we were all doing, and they confirmed that my decision to fly onto the Caribbean was a wise one.
As it was time to board my flight to Trinidad, I found myself walking behind a group of ten or more Hare Krishnas chanting the Maha Mantra quietly as they lined up for the same flight I was on. This totally blew my mind as I have a deep love for Krishna and view him as a Divine Protector, always benevolent and able to clear the deepest darkness.
This brought me to a place of comfort and inner knowing that I was not to doubt the perfection of my timing for this journey to unfold.
*****
Before arriving in Port of Spain, I arranged for a guest house taxi to pick me up as it was almost midnight and I had been forewarned that Trinidad was a different place at night. The taxi driver was quiet, nervous almost, and drove me through the center of the city before taking me to my sleeping arrangements.
As I observed the different people in the square I noticed a most interesting combination of women wearing colorful clothing, high heels, with an enviable carmel brown skin tone, out for the evening in large groups. Women selling fried fish and various other street foods. Beggars in rags sitting amongst the groups of women, as if it were staged. Men in American style dress, saggy pants, baseball caps with the tags still on them, deep brown skin. A few Rastafarians scattered amongst the crowd, wearing big turbans around their dreadlocks.
The next morning after eating at, to this day, the BEST vegan restaurant I have ever eaten at, I was wandering around the square I had been driven through the night before. I saw one blonde girl and her Trini friends walking towards me. I thought to myself, “they are walking towards me,”and sure enough they walked right up to me.
They said that I should NOT be alone in Trinidad, then invited me for a beer at a local pool hall. I didn’t drink at all at the time, but took them up on the offer (eleven am), and before I knew it,  I was with my new friends, flagging down a minibus on the highway heading south. The feeling I had on that open, unfamiliar road was that of utter amazement of how powerfully I am always taken in by locals when I travel.
The family took me in and upon arrival in a neighborhood south of Princess Town, I was introduced to the entire family. I was a vegan at the time. The grandmother offered me a piece of fried chicken, I hesitated for a moment, then took it graciously and sat with them to eat, somewhat amazed at how the day had just unfolded.
It was an insane set of three weeks staying with this family in the South of Trinidad. The beauty was that of a rose. Mindblowingly radiant coupled with danger at every corner. I partied more than I had ever done and went to beach party after beach party with the family that had taken me in, and many neighborhood friends. At one gathering in particular, a gang fight broke out near us in the crowd, then gunshots were fired and the crowd took off in every direction. Thankfully one of my friends grabbed my arm and guided, or rather dragged me behind her as we ran, to safety.
During my time in the south of Trinidad, I collected many other experiences such as this, which permanently altered my world view for the better.
They helped me be real, compassionate, street wise, and fearless, even dare I say they taught me to take no shit when need be….. I recognized that I am not an invincible being, but rather needed more caution, more intention in my decisions, more self love first. More living my yoga……
I began to understand how powerful traveling alone can be, and further committed myself to finding what I set out for at the conception of this journey on a lonely 20th birthday a month earlier. After all, I was into yoga, hadn’t drank alcohol for over a year before the journey, not to mention a vegan, and just felt I hadn’t found what I had traveled all that way to discover, about the islands or myself.
I expressed this empty feeling I was having to a Rasta man who had helped look out for my safety while I was staying in the neighborhood at sunset one evening, and he agreed wholeheartedly that I needed to continue on and trust there was more for me.
As we spoke upon this, a beautiful blue and yellow parrot streamed across the sky headed from a southerly direction towards the northeast. We silently made eye contact, knowing this was confirmation, hugged goodbye, and I headed to the grandmother’s home and waited for morning to come to catch a bus back north.
*****
I had limited funds and wanted to travel as long as possible as I had no ties, so after arriving in Port of Spain again, I bought a bus ticket for the north of Trinidad. I walked to the city center again, sat down, lit a bedes, and contemplated what I would do for the following two hours before the bus departed. As I was smoking my clove cigarette, a conservatively dressed woman approached me and asked me in an American accent if she could sit down.
I felt warm towards her immediately and said yes. She told me her name was Eden. She lived on the streets as a homeless woman as her family had disowned her. She had gone on a journey to the US where she contracted HIV. When her family found out, they kicked her out. I offered her a clove cigarette, which she promptly took and smoked. She told me that I was out of my mind if I thought I wouldn’t get kidnapped traveling in Trinidad alone. She was so firm with me I felt obliged to listen to her guidance.
She suggested I take the midnight ferry to Tobago where it is much safer, had nice beaches and a slow island lifestyle. I contemplated her suggestion, and she asserted to me it wasn’t a suggestion but a demand that I must listen to. She then proceeded to escort me down the road to the loading docks where I could buy a ticket for the boat. I secretly named the road “Bum Row,” as I had never seen so many people living on the streets in one place in my life.
After getting the ticket to the boat which departed at 12:00 am prompt, Eden and I wandered around, ate spicy Indian food that I bought for us, and talked about our lives. She walked me to the ferry boat that night and wished me so much love. I tried to give her some money which she adamantly refused. We said our goodbyes and she watched me as I walked towards the boat. She felt like an angel sent to guide me.
There were no security guards in sight on the boat. I was sitting by myself waiting for the ferry to pull out of the port when a man walked up to me in plainclothes and showed me his police badge.
My first reaction was to get a bit anxious as I thought I was being accosted at first. He told me there were no security guards on board (which I had been noticing), and said he should sit with me for the ferry ride over and that he would be good company and make sure no one harassed me.
He explained that he was going to visit his wife and daughter in Tobago, which reassured me and I obliged. He ran and bought two beers and some cheese sandwiches from downstairs. (Food I would normally reject immediately.)
As the night wore on we told stories of our life and he continually reminded how he very well could be saving my life right now. All the while, I’m laughing to myself thinking, or am I saving yours? He was obviously trying to make an advance on me, which I calmly declined repeatedly until he left me to sleep in a deserted booth in the empty restaurant.
As the sun was rising, we arrived in Tobago. Green hillsides, marketplaces, and concrete brick houses dotted the hillside. I disembarked the ferry and walked down the bay front to the taxi stand. I saw a red minibus with the number 222 on it, which is my birthday and also the number of synchronicities, so I decided to ride that bus to where it was going.
As I took my seat in the crowded van, I felt a huge sense of relief, and for the first time since leaving Miami, I was able to relax a bit and take a deep breath. The bus had this huge sound system and as the driver took his seat, he selected a track and proceeded to blare dance hall reggae for the entire hour plus ride along the coast.
I remember watching this elderly woman nod her head to the beat and silently rejoiced that I had arrived somewhere with a true island vibe.
We crossed a ridge line and began to descend into a town called Charlotteville, which was the end of the road at that point in time. I nearly wept when I saw the crystalline waters shining down below, green mountains, fishing boats, and as always at these pivotal moments in life, a tangible feeling that God does exist.
I asked the first old man I saw as I stepped onto the small dusty street if he knew of any guesthouses in town for less than $10/day. He smiled and said his Uncle had one up the mountain that I would really love. He then proceeded to take my backpack from me and load it into the trunk of his little car, and drove me up a steep, windy road to a white house on the side of a cliff.
The family that owned the guesthouse greeted me and told me it was $5/day. I immediately paid for one month off hand, not even seeing my accommodation yet. They walked me down the sidewalk past their home, and below me the crystal blue sea shone, so clear I could see the details in the coral reef and the fish swimming around it, even though we were at least 100 meters above the beach.
They unlocked the door to the one room abode, complete with a kitchen, bed with mosquito net, cold water shower, and a deck overlooking the expansive Caribbean sea. I had a wave of total release on many layers of my being. My joy was obvious to the family and they left me to enjoy my newfound space.
I felt battered and exhausted from my time in Trinidad, and proceeded to sleep for the better half of the afternoon.When I woke up, I took inventory of how my somewhat desperate situation had transitioned into paradise found within a period of 24 hours.
I decided to walk down to the tiny fishing village and seek out some food. I navigated the dirt trail from my house, and walked along the coast until I arrived at the main beach that lined the town. My mind was more focused at this point on where the most epic spot to swim in the ocean was, rather than on food.
I sat for a while on the beach and watched a rasta in the distance pull his little boat onto the shoreline. After securing the boat, he walked past me, paused a few feet away from me, and said,”You want to go on a boat ride?!” It felt like more of a command than a question, and I felt an initial twinge of resistance, knowing that I needed to be careful of whom I trusted, I felt into the idea for a moment, stood up and proclaimed,”Yes.”
As we walked toward the boat, I read the name of the boat out loud, “Unchain Spirit.” I said it again, and the captain (Nigel) smiled and asked me if I had any idea what that meant. Before I had a chance to respond, I climbed on board and we began to navigate our way around a mountain that was protruding through the middle of the bay.
As we rounded the corner, three untouched pink sand beaches appeared along the wild shoreline. Egret birds, albatross, and parrots dotted the sky. Nigel told me there were no roads to the vacant beaches, only trails, not a soul in sight. I was captivated by the beauty.
Nigel stopped the boat and observed me silently, somehow psychically knowing what it took for me to reach that moment. I sat motionless, rejoicing in a way that is far beyond words. Bowing with my entire being to the beauty this life is. Humbled by the unfolding.
****
I view this as a pivotal moment in my life. It was the moment where I knew, beyond any doubt, what an Unchained Spirit was. To me, it was to be the one to set myself free. It is to not let the chains of conditioning, inculturation, expectation, and shoulds infiltrate my highest bliss path in this lifetime, or any other for that matter. In fact, it was to break these “chains” I willingly took on and consciously create and receive my reality.
It was to always follow my heart, despite fear of failure, to always listen to myself despite fear of rejection from others disapproval, it was to keep going in the face of humiliation and shine brighter than the star(s) Sirius within my own darkness.
When one realizes that we contain everything we perceive we need from others, we become free to follow our dharma, our Highest Truth Path. One is able to love without attachment of forever, for the love within cannot be lost when a person exits our life, in fact the depth of healing can awaken even more self love. One is able to trust that no matter what happens in life, we are fully supported, even in the event of death, our journey is synchronistic and perfect.
To be an Unchained Spirit is to be one who flies free with the birds, dives deep with the fish, and communicates intuitively with the ancestors for Guidance. It is to know that the beggar is equal to the sage and to honor the divinity within both and everything in between with equanimity. Equal reverence to all of life, not just what is palatable. To be an Unchained Spirit is to claim one’s birthright, which is to follow the love in one’s heart, with no exceptions, even if the love is not met,  keep loving, keep blessing it all. This is dharma.
Though realization of the perfection of all of life, oneness is perceived and experienced. There is an utter freedom in recognizing the interconnected nature of all of life.
Through this realization, that everything is truly perfect, all energy is transmuted into teachings, which inevitably leads towards Self Realization, Enlightenment, Samadhi.
Through this one realizes the only chains ever on us, were the ones we placed there.
And knowing we placed them there, they can all be broken in an instant.
I experienced this utter freedom through the medium of travel, but I realize this can be experienced right in my own backyard. It is simply a matter of perspective.
*****
We anchored the boat and swam about 30 meters to the shore of one of the abandoned beaches. We walked barefooted up a jungle trail and bathed in a spring water fed waterfall. After swimming back to the boat and reaching the little village again, Nigel invited me to his Grandmother’s for dinner as it was Sunday after all. I obliged and from there the journey rolled on. As it always does.

Itinual Blessings in the name of the Most High,
K

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