Bath Time…

Last night I headed to Tokyo’s red light district, Kabukicho.

I’d walked through the area on my first day whilst on my way to the Tokyo Government Building which offered views of the sprawling metropolis. You can even see Mount Fuji on a good day but, as I seem to be cursed with bad weather at the moment, I could barely see out of the window.

I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell Kabukicho was a red light district, however when I think of a red light district, I think of Amsterdam where the streets are lined with doors and windows filled with working girls. It seemed it was very different in Tokyo as I barely saw one girl all night. There were however plenty of billboards with pictures of incredibly young looking girls on, and a lot of touts trying to usher you into places that you wouldn’t dare set foot inside.

After about the tenth time of someone offering me soap, and checking for the tenth time that I definitely didn’t smell, I looked it up online. Apparently it’s quite a common thing in Japan to get around the fact that exchanging money for sex isn’t legal. A Soaproom is essentially a cover up for a brothel. They provide erotic massage, bathe and wash you, hence the term soap room, and then you pay them for sex. Apparently the touts are only for tourists as Japanese go elsewhere. Not just because they know the right places, the places themselves that cater for the Japanese would never let tourists in. Or rather wouldn’t let anyone in who wasn’t fluent in Japanese. It’s an honour thing. These places are often frequented by Japanese business men and, amongst them and within Japanese culture, honour is apparently a huge deal. If a tourist tried to speak to one of these businessmen in English and they didn’t understand, apparently that would bring shame on them. Therefore the soaprooms separate Japanese from tourists.

For me, prostitution comes under the same bracket as pornography. It’s a symbol of what’s wrong with the world and our attitudes towards our bodies. Or perhaps a fairer summary would be to say that it’s a symbol of what’s wrong with men’s attitudes towards women’s bodies. Whilst it may make us feel better to think that all these beautiful young women are all in this line of work because they just love having sex, if we’re honest with ourselves, both in prostitution and pornography, at worst they’re either trafficked or being manipulated, at best they have some serious issues with how they view themselves and their bodies.

Do we really think these women like getting screwed by god knows how many men each night?

I feel such a deep sadness and immense sense of compassion to women who have to vacate their bodies numerous times each night because, if they don’t, they’ll get beaten or worse. For those who may not do it from fear of violence, the conditions they’ve grown up in and the world that we’re all complicit in creating, has left them with such a screwed up view of their bodies, that they consider this as a profession.

Imagine a woman who’d grown up in a world where the only validation she ever received was when she let someone use her body, in an abusive sense or otherwise. Never received any validation that they can be loved in any other way apart from the physical. Never viewed as anything apart from the physical. Their bodies become the only way they think they can get validation.

Whilst I would never claim to understand a fraction of what this must feel like, it all boils down to the same fact. An unhealthy relationship with the body leads to an unhealthy relationship with the mind.

Whilst I didn’t see any women, encountering the men who were effectively trading these womens’ bodies made me feel like this wasn’t the place for me.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of Tokyo combined with the language barrier meant that I’ve become that guy who tries to find English speaking places. Not quite the guy who goes to Spain, eats at Bill’s cafe each morning and drinks at an Irish bar, but for me it felt that way.

I found an international bar which turned out to be a supposed replica of an English pub. The walls were decorated with names of English football teams. Japanese versions of what they thought were classic English pub food dishes were on the menu. After eating fairly healthy since I’d arrived in Japan, I thought I’d get some nachos.

I’d started chatting to a table of Japanese people and when the nachos arrived, they asked what they were. Fuck. How healthy a nation must you be when you’ve never heard of nachos. I offer them some and they all agree that they’re very good and they go well with beer. International trade relations are strong at this point.

I decided to head home as I’m not really feeling nightlife lately. Drinking I’m good with. Socialising and being out, not so much.

I had what seemed like a lie in this morning and got up at 7am. I knew the weather was going to be better today and even better the next day so my attention had turned to getting out into nature and continuing my work with San Pedro. I decided to have a restful day to prepare for the hike the following day.

I decided to run to Tsukiji fish market where I’d gone for breakfast the day previous. It was about 5km and I got to take in some beautiful scenes. A beautiful view of a dam followed by a section running through a beautiful garden. The cherry blossoms were starting to show their faces and I felt like I was really earning my breakfast of miso soup, tuna sashimi and rice.

They serve bottled hot tea with milk in most local shops here so, prior to breakfast, I treated myself to some tea and a cigarette. It’s never good to eat too soon after exercise.

I enjoyed a lovely, healthy breakfast before returning to the hostel.

As it was a day of rest and recuperation, I decided to head to Odaiba Onsen, a traditional Japanese thermal bath about an hour away. I take a bag of washing with me as I spotted a laundrette near the hostel. The lady in the laundrette didn’t speak any English however when she saw boxer shorts in the bag, she kept raising her arms and making an X shape, crossing her forearms. I instinctively joined her in making these X shapes with my arms but had no idea what she meant. After some time, I realised she was saying they didn’t wash underwear.

It was a small and neat shop and they had shirts and suits hanging up on coat hangers. As she didn’t speak English, 2 more people came out from the back room to help translate. After quite a lengthy and confusing conversation, where they pointed out some holes and burns in my clothes, asked me whether I wanted them on a hanger it folded, I realised I was in a dry cleaners. I didn’t even have the excuse of being stoned. Now it all made sense. The shirts and suits hanging up. The fact they didn’t clean underwear. It was so obvious. It was too late to turn back as I was faced with 3 people that had all become involved in proceedings. After taking the underwear out, I was left with a t-shirt, a gym vest and a tracksuit. Not typically items you’d look to get dry cleaned. I just went with it. I was too invested by this stage. She added up the items and it came to approximately £20. I desperately wanted to bail but they had my tracksuit. The rest I would have happily left.

Life is complicated sometimes.

I decided to just put it down to experience and look forward to putting on my dry cleaned tracksuit in a few days. I imagined how comfortable it would feel before wearing it and stuffing it back in my bag.

I managed to find a laundrette later in the day and washed and dried all my clothes for £6. That’s ok though. The reason I worked hard for many years was so that I didn’t have to worry about making terrible decisions. Pay over the odds for anything. Get ripped off.

I worked hard so that I could afford to be stupid.

I moved on in my mind and looked forward to the onsen.

As I arrived at the onsen after a great journey, I was very relaxed. Normally entering these types of places for the first time would fill me with anxiety. Much like the hospital gown, these types of situations typically present a lot of opportunities for embarrassment. You bathe naked in onsen’s so there’s always a chance you’ll get naked at the wrong time, the wrong place, it’s basically an accident waiting to happen. Second time you’re fine but first time can be tough.

Thankfully, being in Japan, where everything works like clockwork, everything was relatively well explained. I entered, got to pick my Yukata, a traditional robe and belt. I went for a flowery blue robe which I stylishly paired with a bright gold belt. I got changed, hit the baths and felt amazing. It had been quite some time since breakfast so, after 30 minutes of bathing, I thought I’d grab some lunch.

The complex was very impressive, designed for tourists, it had a food hall with numerous options. I thought I’d have a cigarette before lunch so decided to head back to my locker. On the way back I saw people using their phones, carrying cigarettes which seemed a bit impractical. I then saw a guy tuck his phone away in the cuff of his robe. Of course. I’d seen this before in Kung-fu films, they always hide their throwing stars in their sleeves. I checked and there were indeed little pockets in each cuff of my robe. I went back to my locker, grabbed my phone, cigarettes and lighter and started heading back to the food hall. As I left the lockers this time, I noticed a sign on the floor that said please wear underwear beneath your robe. I opted against underwear as the robe was wrapped around me well and it seemed pointless given that I was gong to head back into the baths after lunch.

In certain areas, food choices are very tough. They love pork here. Even what looked like a standard plate of noodles contained pork. I ended up once again ordering Japanese fried chicken and a beer. I looked for a table, armed with a little buzzer that would signal when my food was ready. It was only when I sat down that I realised why the sign said that guests should wear underwear in the food hall. As I don’t ever dine out in robes, I wasn’t overly familiar with how these garments work. It turns out that, as opposed to being stood up where all the material falls naturally, when you sit down, the material gathers up and the position of your knees causes the material to stretch and it’s very hard to retain your modesty.

I suddenly realised the challenges women have to navigate when wearing skirts. I couldn’t seem to find a position that stopped the material of the robe parting. As I thought the buzzer would probably sound any minute, I couldn’t go back to the locker. I was sat at the back of the hall with my legs facing the rest of the room. I crossed my legs at my ankles and managed to tuck all the material around me until I felt there were no gaps, then the buzzer went. I nervously got up holding all the material around me, intensely paranoid at this stage that everyone was staring at me, got my food, sat back down and went through it all again. It wasn’t the most relaxing meal that I’ve ever enjoyed.

I was glad to get back into the baths as, when your completely naked, you don’t really have to worry about that sort of thing. You’re already completely exposed.

Whilst the baths were great for my body and my mind, I didn’t underestimate the power of nakedness that we were all enjoying. Being naked in public, as it was in Hawaii, teaches us to be more comfortable with our bodies. We’re all the same.

Clothes provide so many layers for us to hide behind. It’s like an extension of our egos. Our identity.

I got back to the hostel around 6pm feeling refreshed. I plan to have a quiet night tonight and look forward to embracing nature tomorrow.

The Empire Strikes Back: The Bidet Awakens…

I arrived in Tokyo feeling electric.

I bought a portable wi-fi device which gave me an immense sense of freedom. Maslow was right. Internet access is empowerment.

I took the airport shuttle followed by a taxi to my hostel. This particular hostel was a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese living quarters. It was smaller than my box in Sapporo however it was not quite so isolated. There were no real doors to the room and, whilst as you’d expect, there was a roof, the side walls didn’t reach the ceiling. The host explained that it was historically a more sociable and connected way of living. It seemed my subconscious choice to opt for this particular place had served me well.

I arose in the morning at 4am. It seems that my circadian rhythms have changed.

Whilst we refer to circadian rhythms as sleep patterns, circadian rhythms are in fact any biological process that displays an oscillation of 24 hours. Patterns that have been widely observed in plants, animals and even bacteria.

After spending a week in Sapporo, these changes could no longer be attributed to jet lag. At Arkana, I arose around 6am every day. Most nights, especially after ceremony, I wouldn’t fall to sleep until 2am. Whilst I was only having approximately 4 hours sleep, I was never tired during the day. Quite the opposite. I felt energised.

When I went to the Ayurvedic retreat in Austria, whilst I never told the consultant how long I typically slept each night, he informed me that I was sleeping too much. He explained that the body can have too much sleep and, when this happened, it would cause your body to feel sluggish during the day. I could relate to this as I knew from experience, that when I’d slept in the day and followed it by a full nights sleep, far from being energised, I felt lethargic.

Since leaving Arkana, whilst I thought the root of my altered sleeping patterns must have been due to jet lag, I’ve now realised that I’d come to need a lot less rest. I’ve been hugely active in the days and still only require 5 or 6 hours sleep in comparison to the 10 hours I had been accustomed to, in sober times, over the past 10 years.

I decided to head out and explore the city with the new found freedom my wifi device had offered me.

Before I set off, I decided to take advantage of a traditional Japanese breakfast that was available in the hostel for very little cost. It was exactly what I needed.

One piece of salmon. A bowl of rice. Some cucumber, eggplant with ginger and a bowl of miso soup accompanied by some green tea.

Heavenly goodness for a body that was crying out for simplicity. A body that, whilst it had been fed more clean foods in Sapporo, was desperately screaming at itself to stop eating fried chicken. Stop eating fried foods. It seemed, as my life choices were becoming more decipherable in my mind, that I had an addiction to oil. To fried food. I find it tough to make choices that don’t involve oil.

Oil is one if the biggest pollutants to our body and mind. It’s also killing the earth. No upsides at all then. The types of oil that we use to cook, that are used to cook the food we eat in restaurants, everywhere, is not good for our bodies. Something I learnt from researching Ayurveda. Whilst olive oil is healthy for our bodies, the problem occurs when we cook with it. In the Ayurveda philosophy, they encourage the use of more natural and less processed substances such as coconut oil, butter or ghee, which is essentially refined butter. The latest research within the world of food science and nutrition is now starting to catch up with the wisdom that ancient cultures have been living by for years. Whilst things like butter have been demonised, and whilst it seems counter intuitive, they are in fact a lot better for bodies than had previously been acknowledged by the scientific community.

On paper, butter and coconut oil seem to contain much higher content of the things that we acknowledge are bad for our bodies, in comparison to processed oil. Ayurvedic philosophy, and what science is now starting to agree with, is that it’s not down to how things look before they’ve entered the body, but more to do with how the body processes these substances. The body knows how to deal with coconut oil and butter. They’re relatively natural. Whilst they are higher in fats than oil, the body recognises them for what they are and deals with them accordingly.

Says hello to the good. Says goodbye to the bad.

When it comes to oil however, whilst it looks less bad for our bodies on paper, it does not react in the same way as these substances that our bodies know how to handle. Heat coconut oil and it stays as coconut oil. Heat butter and it stays the same. Heat processed oil, olive oil, or whatever and it takes on different properties. This change in its properties renders it bad for the body. This type of cooking oil is reportedly one of the biggest carcinogens in existence in our modern day lifestyles. Our bodies don’t know how to process it and thus creates huge amounts of negative energy inside us.

Shamans believe that most modern day conditions are caused by negative energy. A spiritual imbalance that opens us up to physical illness. I also now believe this after my experience of working with ayahuasca. As opposed to treating the problem, they believe in approaching the problem from an energetic and spiritual point of view. I’ve witnessed this on my first trip when Marc was cured of his diabetes. A condition that seemed so physical but turned out to be entirely a question of energies.

I know that the fried food I consume on a daily basis does not have a positive effect on my energetic self, however it feels so comforting. It’s quite fascinating that our bodies have become so disconnected that we are happy to knowingly poison ourselves, rejecting healthier options in favour of momentary sensory pleasures.

My breakfast this morning however provided me with all the nutrition and energy I needed without introducing any substances that would be energetically unkind to my body.

Feeling energised, I walked around Tokyo for hours covering around 15km before midday. Whilst I was enjoying stretching my legs, I started to realise that, as my map app is telling me there may be an hour of walking until my next destination, that this city was way too big to cover on foot, especially as I’d only really scratched the surface of one particular part of this seemingly vast urban metropolis. I started to realise that I was anxious about endeavouring to take on the challenge of a seemingly complex transport system.

I decided to take a break from crunching my feet against the cold, hard and wet city pavements and treated myself to a hard earned cup of tea.

I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by the beautiful leaves of a plant that has captured the imagination of billions of humans across the globe. Whilst I’m aware that tea is not a master plant, I plan to ask Craig what the shamans view is on tea. It’s starting to feel like these leaves have a significant effect on my mood and energy. As I finished my cup of tea, I felt energised, I felt confident. There must be some reason, aside from the way it tastes, that previous civilisations have moved heaven and earth to acquire these leaves in abundance.

I decided to take on the transport network and realised that nothing is outside my reach. My biggest challenge was trusting my own ability to rise over any obstacle that appeared in my path. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t capable of travelling. That I wasn’t capable of navigating my way around cities. That I would make mistakes and get lost. The reality is that I’ve explored more than most. I had indeed got lost more than most but so what. I’d managed to establish myself in several cities, several countries and make a life for myself. Tokyo was no different. Nothing I couldn’t handle.

After exploring a little further, I returned to the hostel. It was about 3pm by this stage and I hadn’t eaten since my breakfast at 8am. My body was telling me that it was time to refuel. I changed out of my wet clothes and shoes then decided to grab some food nearby. Now in sandals, I ended up walking again for miles in search of the perfect meal. My body just seemed so willing to explore, to exercise itself. By the time I’d reached Golden Gai for the second time that day, I’d walked 24Km. After some Japanese fried chicken, 4 beers and plenty of sake that some American guys forced me to drink, my body was telling me that it was time to rest. It was only 5pm however I chose to adhere to the signs. I returned home to have a power sleep before heading out to explore some more.

When I arose at 4am this morning, I realised I was a little too late for last nights plans to see the city at night. I headed down to Tsukiji fish market for some breakfast early as I had heard it got incredibly busy as the morning grew into the day.

I enjoyed one of the most amazing breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. Miso soup. 3 cuts if tuna sashimi on a bowl of rice. Plenty of ginger and wasabi accompanied by refills of green tea. It was heavenly.

As I left the fish market, it started raining quite heavily. As I walked in the direction of the tube station, I saw what I thought was a museum. As my stomach seemed like it had something to say, I thought I would enter the museum as it looked like a place where I could use the toilet. It turned out that I’d inadvertently entered a shin Buddhist shrine.

I visited the toilets and was faced with a tremendously small cubicle. Seemed basic but still had heated seats and all the functions that i’d now become accustomed to.

As I finished what was fast becoming one of my favourite Japanese rituals, I selected the bidet option to my side. Just as I pressed the button, a jet of water sprayed up by back. This surprised me as, not only did the jet usually take a moment to squirt whilst the tiny tap got itself into position, it seemed way too far back. Surely its positioning couldn’t be that far off. This is a Japanese toilet after all. It stopped, readjusted itself and then continued. Whilst it had corrected itself slightly, it was still not the perfectly precise delivery I had experienced on every other Japanese toilet I’d used since arriving. I thought nothing more if it until I got up, only to hear the tap kick into action again and start squirting water which was going all over the seat of my jeans. I tried to sidestep the stream however the cubicle was tiny. Backed up against the side of this cubicle for pigmies, I managed to dodge the last jets of water.

I leave the toilet with my jeans displaying all the tell tale signs that the toilet trip had not been completed without a few unexpected difficulties. As I started to get over the feeling that everyone thought I had wet myself, the realisation of what may have just happened dawned on me.

Fuck. All may not have been as it originally seemed.

Was this a rogue bidet? Understanding that I possessed the knowledge of the Japanese bidet / toilet treaty, was it trying to tell me that not all members of the bidet community were happy with this seemingly peaceful treaty.

This was indeed an act of aggression. Behaviour very much in line with pre treaty bidet lifestyle.

This rebel insurgent bidet was flexing its muscles. Indicating that a resistance movement was in fact alive and on the cusp of a coup. In a shrine of all places. Is nothing sacred anymore?

As I exited the temple into the pouring rain, I realised that this wasn’t a conflict that I wanted to be caught up in and swiftly returned to my hostel.

Perhaps this city isn’t all that it seems…

Silence Is Calling…

I got on the bus from Sapporo to Chitose airport in a great mood.

Sad to leave the box but excited about what lay ahead.

Due to the bus providing wi-fi, I was able to listen to a guided meditation through the Headspace app.

I have such admiration for the creator of Headspace as, in my view, it’s not only a stroke of genius but a necessary injection of pace into our modern day lifestyles. By injection of pace, I mean a necessary deceleration. Its genius lies in the fact that it’s delivered through our smartphones. The very tool of acceleration that is, and is increasingly becoming, a key component in the burgeoning crisis in mental health.

I’m grateful that I grew up in an age where mobile phones didn’t exist. When I got to an age where you’d make plans with friends, it was simple. You would make plans, either in person, or over a landline and then just stick to them. If someone was late, you just waited. If someone didn’t show, then they didn’t show. Nowadays, especially if you don’t know someone that well, for example when you’re dating, it seems that you have to endure a running commentary on their journey.

It takes about 10 messages to arrange when and where you will meet. People don’t just seem to meet at landmarks anymore. Then the messages start to apologise for running late. That’s another 5 messages. Then, when guilt has clearly set in, you have to endure a blow by blow account of their journey. The taxi driver. The traffic. The crowds. Another apology. That’s another 10 messages. Then, when they’re approaching, another 5 or so messages. A step by step account of their progress. Just getting out of the taxi. On foot now. About 2 minutes away. Whereabouts are you?

How about you just pull your head up out of your phone and just use your eyes for a change. This really shouldn’t be this difficult.

I’m glad I don’t pay by the message as, by the time they finally arrive, I’d have to call it a night due to being out of money.

The only upside to this ludicrously life sapping series of unnecessary moments is that, if on a bad date, it provides a conversation piece to break the ice. Once the ice is broken, you have to fall deep down into a freezing cold plunge pool of contrived conversation until you can politely make your exit.

I remember when I was in university, I used to call my girlfriend at the time, Lauren, from a pay phone and tell her where I was. When she arrived horrifically late, she used to say that I should get a mobile phone so that she could have let me know. An interesting argument however I always felt my counter argument carried much more weight. Just turn up on time. If you don’t, I’ll wait. There’s really very little need to over complicate, what was essentially, a highly simplistic agreement on terms.

I didn’t need a phone for anything at that point. I saw my dealers all the time, or knew where they lived. If I didn’t live with my friends, or knew where they lived, I would at least know the places they hung out.

I have nothing against mobile phones nowadays and fully appreciate the power they hold to change lives in a positive way.

My father is a great example of someone who benefitted hugely from this invention.

When my father made the bold move of accepting a job in Northumberland, due to him being Pakistani, the other 2 doctors in the surgery did not want to partner with him. This presented huge challenges to how he did his job. In an age where there was no internet, no drop in centres, no out of hours service, he had to be available 24/7 for his patients.

The surgery number automatically directed calls to our home phone. Calls would come at any time of the night and he would have to go. My mother told me stories of him going out on a call at 3am. After finishing the home visit, if he could find a phone box that hadn’t been vandalised, he’d call home to find out whether anyone else had called. My mother would tell him that no one had called, hang up, only for the phone to ring a few seconds later with another patient requesting a home visit. My dad would walk through the door about 3.30am and have to go straight back out. He worked like a dog at times.

The pager was a huge advance for my father. At least my mother could page him so he knew he had to call home however the mobile phone opened up the lines of communication in a way that had untold benefits.

When I finally got a phone, it took quite a few weeks to climatise. I remember, if I was sat around a table in the pub, I would try to duck my head under the table if I was using my mobile. At the very least, if there wasn’t a table, tuck my head down in between my legs. Like a child thinks no one can see them if they shut their eyes, I thought that no one would be able to hear me if I got lower to the ground. It felt so intrusive. I felt like I was invading the atmosphere of the whole room to be broadcasting my conversations. Unwittingly assaulting peoples’ ear holes.

After a period of time however it became a fixture in my right hand jeans pocket. At this point however they were still functional objects. They only made calls and sent texts.

I remember my friend, Terry, who unfortunately died two years ago from an overdose, declaring that texting was for huckles. Huckles was slang for gay people. Terry was a career criminal and often a very violent one, however he was truly one of the kindest, brightest and most charismatic friends that I’ve ever had. The trick was not to end up on the wrong side of him otherwise you’d, at best, end up with parts of your cheeks or nose hanging out of his bloody mouth. You’d probably take that over what would happen if you really crossed him. It wasn’t his nicest side and, whilst his philosophies were certainly not aligned with mine, I could relate to the root of his comments on texting.

At the time, texting felt so disconnected from reality. Just pick up the phone and bloody speak to me. Due to the nature of texting at the time, it wasn’t as easy as it is nowadays, you could never really communicate properly. It also seemed like someone hadn’t given you the respect or the time out of their day to ring you up. Did they not have time to speak? After all this pocket curse sat around their person all day long. How truly busy had they been that they couldn’t ring? Were you not important enough to call that they dismissed your existence with some ill constructed, watered down sequence of words that would never pass for acceptable communication.

Nowadays I text all the time but the goalposts are constantly moving. Ive noticed that younger people seem to break down a message into numerous parts. As if they’re drip feeding the sentence to you over 5 messages. It’s quick fire. It excites the mind however I believe the reason behind this is to remove the necessity to construct proper sentences with the appropriate punctuation and grammar.

What was previously:

Have you heard of this particular restaurant? Whilst I know it’s not the healthiest, they have a special offer on this week.



Insert restaurant.

Special offer on.

Not healthy though lol.

Check it out.

Far be it from me to question the development of our constantly evolving mediums of communication. I’m actually fascinated by how language evolves. It actually excites me to receive messages in this format, as if every bitesize message is a teaser, a cliff hanger leaving you with a veritable sense of excitement as to what’s coming next.

It is however symbolic of our fast paced lifestyles. A symptom of the modern day mind which hurtles at a million miles per hour, desperately trying to dodge the landmines which hide in plain sight amongst the reeds within the river of life.

Text speak does however, if it stops being confined to a certain context, presents a real possibility of eroding the value of truly taking the time to construct sentences that manage to express your thoughts in both a clear and concise manner. Language is there to be used. It’s perfectly possible to express yourself with a little effort. It’s not like an ancient language where, there are so few words, or symbols, that everything we say must be vague or open to interpretation.

The far reaching implications of this new phenomenon of communication is however just the undercard. The main event is the prizefight between our minds and the device itself.

The device itself, and all that it contains, is primarily programmed to take up as much of your attention as possible. It’s default is to alert users if there is any change in information, no matter how small.

Apps like Facebook are designed to take up as much of our time as possible.

It’s a trap.

Imagine being of an age where you are too young to observe this trapdoor whilst falling deep into the grasps of cyber obscurity. It’s a challenge that I’m glad I didn’t have to contend with in my formative years.

The Headspace app, on my phone, sits on top of a trio of apps that must be used with caution.

Facebook. Instagram. WhatsApp.

As if it sits on top of a pyramid as a constant reminder that there are better ways to use your time. One of few apps that we can indulge ourselves in that actually serves us.

These apps are hugely positive for sharing our stories. The trap is the checking to see what’s happening elsewhere. Taking you away from the moment.

It’s cunning also lies in disarming our beliefs about meditation. It provides a cushioned introduction into a life skill that is often daunting to approach. Provides you with the comfort that you’re not too far away from the security blanket of your quick fix shots of distraction.

It offers bite size chunks that make you feel like you’re succeeding. Progressing. It packages meditations up in a format that we can relate to. One to relax after a busy day. One for feeling overwhelmed. One for feeling anxious. Ultimately meditation is meditation however you feel like you’re getting the one just for you.

Whilst I fully appreciate that the model is a standard in the world of apps. Use it for free but, if you want the real good stuff, then you have to pay. The fact remains that millions of people globally now have easy access to a free app which promotes connectedness through the very device that is one of the biggest barriers to connecting.

Following a 15 minute guided meditation, I sit temporarily in a relaxed state before drifting into a light sleep. I awake to see we’re pulling into the stop for Chitose station.

As I enter the airport, I start sighing. I’m drifting and floating through the crowds and suddenly question myself as to whether I’d taken San Pedro. The feelings within, combined with the sighing, were reminiscent of being on this medicine. I felt glorious.

I felt like I was expelling an energy that had built up during my stay in Sapporo. An energy that was based on solitude. I felt like this energy was leaving my body and messages were arriving, telling me it was time to integrate.

It seems that with all this knowledge that I’m acquiring, I’ve yet to take a medicine which has enabled me to master some of the more simplistic of life skills. After the check in machine telling me there was an error with my ticket, I wait 15 minutes in a tedious queue to speak with a human. The human politely explained that I am not flying with this particular airline and that, if I was to go to the correct desk, my ticket would no doubt work without any issues.

I head to the appropriate desk and they were right. I check in my bags. I’ve dropped almost 4kg’s of weight from my bag through shedding unnecessary layers.

The scanning machine detected that I had some batteries in my check in luggage that I needed to remove however it didn’t manage to detect the San Pedro. My prized possession at this stage.

I am then confronted with a snaking set of temporary elasticated barriers. Systems of control. Whilst I am the only person walking through this construct, I follow the maze around, resisting the temptation of ducking underneath. That would be exactly the sort of non-conformist behaviour they were looking for. Ive been refused entry to bars before, specifically for this type of act. I didn’t want to increase my chances of being random checked again alongside all the other brown people. Actually something that has not happened to me once since leaving UK & US airports.

As I wait for my flight to Tokyo, my Bluetooth headphones ran out of battery. I was forced to delve into the mysterious world of wired headphones, a realm that I don’t think, as a race, we entirely understand.

Something is not quite right with our wired companions. On the face of it, they are our friendly companions that bring the joys of music to our ears. Put them into a pocket or a bag and their demeanour changes entirely.

It seems that, behind closed doors, the left and the right earphone are mortal enemies. Much like the bidet / toilet rivalry, it seems these two colleagues are in fact nemeses both seeking dominance over the other. Once in your bag, they wrestle endlessly with each other until they manage to reach an impass. A stalemate. They have both managed to secure each other in a death grip that neither can get out of. Neither can win. Neither can free themselves.

As I go to take these seemingly cooperative colleagues out my bag, they are intwined beyond return in knots that remain undiscovered even to fishermen. I ponder what really happens when the curtains are closed, when the doors are shut and no humans are around.

Perhaps it will sit with the Japanese to propose another great treaty as they have clearly established themselves as the leaders in this field.

I give up on what seemed like a knot that will never be untied and await my flight.

Keep Your Coins, I Want Change…

This morning I woke up around 5am.

I spoke to my friends Ryan and Laura who are essentially my personal travel agents.

After an impulsive decision to leave Hawaii and head into a snowstorm in Sapporo, I thought it wouldn’t harm to get some advice before heading to Tokyo.

They informed me that it would be raining for the next 4 days in Tokyo. It seems that I don’t learn from my mistakes as, once again, I had failed to check the weather before booking my flights. After living in Manchester for over 10 years however, and following getting caught in a snowstorm in Sapporo, I can handle some rain. Once the rain stops, it looks like a week of sun and heat which will enable me to get back into nature.

It’s still raining in Hawaii so I wouldn’t have been any better off staying there. In fact I would have been noticeably worse off. The abundance of weed and unhealthy food was not a temptation I needed at this moment in time.

My 5 days in Sapporo had been without weed and had provided me with the window of opportunity I needed to reflect on my actions. Reflect on my progress. Reflect on my development.

Things had been going well. I’d been in the moment.

Whilst I will be sad to leave my box, I look forward to the slightly larger box that awaited me in Tokyo. A Ryoka. Still humble surroundings which looked very peaceful from the pictures.

After much solitude, reflection and time to process my thoughts, I felt it was time for action.

Communicating with my friends this morning provided me with an energy that is hard to describe. It connected me to my old life in a way that I’d never experienced before. I didn’t feel sad. Didn’t miss that life and I wasn’t pining for home. Nor was I scared or anxious about returning if I had to.

Whilst I’d always known that life’s challenges were always within, it was all to easy to externalise these problems onto a place. A job. A lifestyle.

Home meant nothing to me anymore. The change must come from within. It really doesn’t matter where I am for this to happen.

For years, my emotional well-being could only ever be reflected in a mirror. The mirror was my family. My friends. My relationships. My job. I was in good shape providing, what was reflected from all of these things, looked healthy. A terribly flawed model for caring for ones self.

I was always going to receive love and positive reflections of light from these things however the chance to look within had offered me not a mirror, but a window to look inside.

Strip everything away. Sit in a box on your own. No mirrors to reflect off and what do you see?

I saw a man. A brave man. One that has been so very scared for so long of looking within. Of being with himself. Scared of what he might find inside. Scared of relationships in case, they too, inadvertently show him what was inside. A man that’s never been able to love himself.

The first song I ever wrote when I taught myself how to play piano was called One Way Fare. I wrote this song after my first session with Gareth thinking that all my problems had disappeared. The symmetrical synchronicity of life continues to blow me away as, it seems that I’ve come so far however, the words of the song were more relevant to my situation today, than they ever were when I originally composed it:

Metaphorically, leaving town today,

For a place within my mind, not far away.

The past has ill abused me, a victim of my time,

The future will salute me, just a matter of time.

And I hope you follow me there.

Because the ticket I just bought was a one way fare.

Pictures are distorted, words are out of time,

Like some old fashioned movie, from another time.

The situations we create, are all a state of mind,

So pack your bags and say goodbye, we might be gone a while.

And I hope you follow me there.

Because the ticket I just bought was a one way fare.

But there’s always room for one more, in case you dare.

The song was about a mental freedom that I felt. The feeling that I had found a route out of the maze. A maze that I would never get lost in again.

I realised that, whilst I’d indeed bought the ticket, it took more than just buying a ticket to escape from the maze.

I’ve never liked hard work, especially if it involves unenviable tasks such as self reflection. It’s often not too nice to truly delve inside. Of course there are beautiful rewards however often it is a lot easier to stay stuck. Blame someone else. Blame the person who fucked you up. Blame the bad luck you’ve had. Blame life. Anything to externalise your pain and suffering.

It was time to wake up.

Life is pain. Life is suffering.

I don’t mean this in a negative way however it’s true. Charlotte Joko Beck often talks about being with your pain. When you can truly be with your pain, you can have perspective on it. See it for what it is.

What it is, is actually an illusion. Something that doesn’t really exist unless we allow it to.

People die. Our parents will die. Life will present many obstacles that we have to deal with. What often separates the people stuck in the mud from those who make it to dry land, is how they choose to deal with their suffering.

When I talk about pain, this is both emotional and physical. Charlotte Joko Beck explains that we run from physical pain however if we can focus on it, truly be with it and connect with it, we’re able to have a different relationship with that pain. Something that Gareth had been trying to explain to me in numerous ways for many years.

I shared my journal with Gareth after my first trip to Arkana. Feeling in an open and emotionally charged mood, I sent him a heartfelt e-mail, thanking him sincerely for how much he had helped me. Whilst mother ayahuasca would have carried out her work regardless, I was acutely aware that, the ability to understand my problems intellectually, provided me with a platform to understand and articulate my experiences on a level that I didn’t think I could have reached without working with Gareth.

I told him I thought he was an angel. It’s fascinating to think, whilst it’s both his job and his passion, how it must feel to have one after another enter your space and unload so much pain and suffering into your world.

It’s like your job is to mine plutonium. You feel a sense of success each time you find some, however you can’t help absorbing the radiation.

How he survives, I don’t know.

If I were to attempt to relate, I would think back to my role as a manager. If people are struggling, you can’t help but take on their pain. Their frustration. You take it home with you. You get drunk. You get high. However what you’re dealing with is nowhere near the weight of emotions that inevitably comes through Gareth’s line of work.

I get on so well with Gareth and he tells me that he genuinely looks forward to my sessions. He has some heavy clients. With me, he usually spends the first 5 minutes performing his latest stand up material. He’s not a stand up comedian although I constantly urge him to get on stage as the guy is devastatingly funny. From there on in, he also knows he can joke around with me, something that would not be possible with some of his other clients.

Purely out of formality, he asks me if I remembered what we discussed in our last session and how I felt afterwards. I never know. Can never remember.

He then reminds me and asks me whether I managed to practice any of the more practical exercises he usually provides me with to work on in between sessions. The blank look on my face suggests that, if indeed I even remembered, it’s the first time I’ve thought of these exercises since the last session, which usually gets a rye smile and a quip. Something like – it’s really reassuring to know that I’m having such a positive impact here. Sarcastic as hell.

I’m hard work at times. Never did any of the work he suggested. He’d given up encouraging me to message him in between sessions as I never did. His hand was always extended to pull me out of the mud when I was deep into my routine if cocaine and wine, however I would never grab hold. Never really wanted to be pulled out of the mud.

I just wanted him to fix me. And he has repaired so much within me however, whilst he would never say it to me in a direct fashion, all the practical exercises, the offers of support when I was struggling, were always an attempt to get me to engage with the work. Actually try to help myself. Something that I knew I had to do but was scared of actually doing.

Change was scary. It still is.

Staying stuck was always easier. I knew exactly where I was with my hedonistic routine. I controlled everything with a tight grip. No surprises. Never put myself in situations where I could be exposed. Where I had to deal with myself.

Change, on the other hand, was the unknown.

At that stage, I was still so deeply devoted to my job and all the things that it allowed me to feel. Completely concerned about what others thought of me, as that, combined with my work, was my season ticket to self love.

What would change hold? Would I lose what I thought was my identity? What if I changed and people didn’t love me anymore? Didn’t like me. What if I changed so much I didn’t want to do my job? Even worse, what if I got fired?

I now realised that change was a constant. Personal change was a must. And the change that needed to take place was, looking back, nothing but positive.

Whilst I’m not free from self doubt, or worrying about what others think, I act first and think later now.

A strategy that will no doubt lead to some negative outcomes, but on the whole will lead me into positive situations.

I can’t articulate the sense of freedom I hold inside right now, not from having the opportunity to go anywhere in the world and do whatever I want, but more so, from feeling free of an addiction that has been a ball and chain around my ankle for so many years.

I know things may not always be like this. I’m still dealing with some deeply programmed coping mechanisms for what life throws at me, but there is little value in pondering what might happen.

My only purpose in life now is to create good karma.

Make the best decisions possible for myself, my loved ones and the rest of the universe.

Work on this basis and life unfolds in front of you with such a simplistic synchronicity that you start to wonder what all the fuss was ever about.

My biggest decision is looking within to understand how I want to live my life and how I can help others. The messages from within, whilst blurred and just out of sight, are telling me that there is a significant overlap between these two questions.

My journey, if continued with the right intentions, will help my focus tune in to what these blurred pictures are trying to show me.

Far from being excited about visiting the city of Tokyo, my excitement comes more from having the opportunity once again to connect with nature. A place I can breathe again.

Following my shower this morning, I held my own private nunoo ceremony in my box. I meditated for a short amount of time in my box before I calmly filled up my self serve nunoo instrument. My sinuses had become blocked, not only from the smoking and drinking, but the lack of fresh air due to my box lifestyle.

As the nunoo hit my sinuses, my eyes streamed. An intense rush of energy flowed into my head and shot around my brain. My nose started running like a waterfall of brown goo before stopping. The sensations subsided and I felt clear. Clean. Calm.

I could breathe again and my head felt clear. Fresh. I felt open again and free from a cloudiness that I hadn’t really realised was resonating around my person.

I packed my bags. Cleaned my box before I took a moment to say goodbye to it. Thanked it for all that it had offered me.

Holding space. Peace. Tranquility. Silence.

Sapporo was far from what I’d envisaged but a very necessary step in the journey.

I look forward to embracing Tokyo with an open heart.

Always On The Run…

Today has been a relaxing day on the whole.

I’m officially giving up on understanding time difference and jet lag. After waking up at 4am yesterday, I could barely get out of bed today when I woke up around 11am.

I only forced myself to get up as I’d arranged to speak with Evan at 11.30am.

Evan was my roomie at Arkana however he stayed for another week after I’d left. It was great to catch up. He’s a wise old soul and constantly shows me nothing but love. We talked about how we’re both integrating. The great feelings, the challenges and some of the contact we’d had with some of our other fellow travellers since leaving. I’m really looking forward to meeting Up with him when I get to Vancouver.

Feeling energised after the conversation, I thought I’d venture out further for lunch today.

I set off in a random direction and, after about 5 minutes, decided to just walk instead of looking for food. As it was still early, there was no chance of me getting too lost, so I put my headphones in and walked around Sapporo for about 2 hours.

It truly is the best way to explore a city. Just walking around. Looking at the buildings. Smiling and saying hello to passers by.

As much as I loved my box, it felt good to be out. Fresh air. New sights. New sounds.

The soundscape around some of the streets here is quite surreal. Outside my hostel especially. It’s like you’re in a dream.

Whilst the nights are very cold here, the days are quite comfortable. There is still snow in quite a few areas but it’s still pleasant enough to walk around.

I stumbled upon the botanical gardens which, whilst covered in snow, looked beautiful. You couldn’t see any plants or flowers, however there were glorious trees rising up proudly from the snow that arched over a picturesque stream which was glistening as the rays of the sun bounced off it like a trampoline and into my eyes.

It was closed off, probably due to the snow, but something inside me told me I had to go in. I’d spotted a bench and felt like I needed to sit on it for a while and take in the beauty and solace of the whole area.

After checking no one was around, I climbed up the iron fence and and jumped over. I sat on the bench and smoked a cigarette whilst watching the river flow and felt so relaxed. I felt like I understood the river. Like the river summed up life.

Often looking at anything natural enables you to connect with these feelings, staring at a flower. An animal. It’s humbling and also manages to give us perspective.

The stream was just doing what it does. What it’s always done. It has no ego. Throw a boulder in it, and will simply flow around it. Over it. Its flow is never disturbed because, it is the flow. It has no desire for conflict. No desire to engage with the boulder. It has nothing to prove. It understands that the boulder is just doing what it’s doing, same as the stream.

After enjoying this moment, I decide to take a wander. I had my music on pretty loud so couldn’t hear much but started looking around as I felt something was going on. I looked over my shoulder and an old Japanese man was gesticulating wildly in my direction. I took my headphones out and he was shouting quite loud too. For me, someone with zero understanding of Japanese, a language that doesn’t even share an alphabet with my mother tongue and other languages that I’m familiar with, I can’t even tell the difference between someone saying fuck you or I love you. Which is a shame. Even the body language is different which is often a key component to communication when in a different country. If not the most important component.

Context is pretty significant aswell. If you know roughly what someone might be saying based on the context of the situation, you can then read their body language and listen out for the odd word you do know to make an intelligent guess at what they’re saying. This technique has served me well up until Japan where I am way out of my depth.

To be honest it’s not a feeling I like. I don’t like entering a restaurant and not knowing the components of basic conversation. Having to point at what I want in the menu. Even using a translation app feels disconnected as you both end up speaking to the phone instead of each other. There’s no eye contact. As I’ve spent most of my time in the box however, I haven’t spent too much time interacting with people which is key to learning the basics. I’m sure this will come in time when it feels right. So far I’ve reached the dizzy heights of hello, including a variation for good morning, yes and thank you. After all, I don’t want to be rude. I also know the main beer brands in Japan so I don’t need to know the word for beer.

One thing that translates the world over however is an act of aggression. A threat of attack. Humans had to deal with this long before we had such sophisticated methods of communication such as the languages we use today.

As this tiny, old Japanese man started running towards me, shouting, gesticulating, I knew something was up. I started walking away but he was closing in on me. He was surprisingly quick for an old guy. Gradually I picked up the pace as I started panicking. After all I’d just come from a part of USA where they loved shooting trespassers. What if he’s armed I thought? As I started heading towards the iron fence, I stumbled on the soft ground below and realised there was soil underneath the snow. Fuck. I was in the botanical gardens. Due to it all being covered by snow, in my quest to sit by the stream and be at one with nature, I realised that I’d probably been trampling the beautiful plants. That would explain why he had that wild look on his face. He must be some sort of caretaker.

I ran towards the fence thinking I would do some sort of heroic, one-movement jump over, but got the fear.

On NYE 2000, I went out to get some cigarettes about 2am. As opposed to taking the normal route, I decided I could shave valuable seconds off the trip by jumping over a wall. I was drunk, had taken quite a bit of ecstasy and was pretty stoned. Not the textbook preparation for wall jumping. I jumped up and, with two hands on the top of the wall, swung my left leg over so it was resting on top of the wall. I used my left leg to leverage myself up so I was laying belly down on top of the wall. As I shifted my body weight to slide over and let gravity do its thing, I hadn’t noticed that there was a huge, rusty nail in between my index and second finger on my left hand. The hand I was using to secure myself. As my body dropped, the nail hooked in and ripped all the flesh and tendon out of my index finger. I remember Jim almost fainting and me having to lead him back to the house. I was totally unphased as I was still so high. We got the ambulance to stop for cigarettes on the way to the hospital. The nurse had to tell my friend Charlie to stop playing with my finger. The skin and ligament was hanging out, however if you lifted the flap of skin up, and I bent my finger, you could see the remaining muscles and ligaments working in an antagonistic fashion. Quite fascinating really, but not the sort of thing a nurse wants you doing to their patient.

I was told I may never have full use of my finger again and would definitely never have a knuckle however, after 3-4 months of physiotherapy it started getting back to normal. I still feel it stiffen up in the cold and I will no doubt struggle with it in later life but, in all honesty, if that’s all I suffer from in later life, then I’ll be over the moon.

Ever since this event, I’ve had a deep fear of hand injuries and jumping rails, walls, basically anything that you have to use your hands to jump. Nowadays I take the long way around. For some reason I chose to break this rule today.

As the angry Japanese man chased me, I had a choice to make. Jump the fence and risk another finger injury or find another way out.

As I start running sideways, parallel with the railing, I look to my side to see if my hunter is gaining on me and lose my footing on what was no doubt a flower bed.

Covered in snow I get up. It was like a scene out of a horror film where they always seem to fall over when they’re being chased. It’s always so frustrating when that happens. You actually feel yourself get angry at how stupid they are for falling over. Well it happens in real life too.

As I get up and start running, I burst out into laughter. My adrenalin is through the roof by this point. I’m in a real life chase situation. Not a scenario I’ve been in fir quite some time and I start laughing wildly at how surreal the whole situation is until I find a way out.

I say a way out however it was actually THE way out. The way in. A space you could have driven a car through with a little chain holding up a sign saying closed. This was only 10 metres away from where I jumped over the fence originally. There was no need to have ever jumped over the fence.

Now that I was out, I kept running for about 2 minutes. I couldn’t even see the hunter anymore but, with my adrenaline pumping, I just wanted to put some distance between us.

Exhausted and soaking wet, I decided that it was time to head back to the box.

This is what happens when you leave the box.

As I get nearer to my box, I realise I still haven’t eaten. After all the exertion, I’d built up quite an appetite.

I enter a restaurant that was blasting Bob Marley. It was called Bob’s so I assumed, in conjunction with the music, it was Jamaican food. I walked upstairs and, once again encountered the language barrier. With no Wi-fi available, I ordered what I thought would be jerk chicken. What I actually received was a plate of greasy chicken covered in gooey cheese. Not one of the nicest meals I’d ever had.

As I smoked a cigarette and drank a beer in this pseudo soul food shop, I reflected on the day and realised that it was perhaps time to move on.

Sapporo seemed to have beaten me once again, however perhaps I will have more success in Tokyo.

Japan 1 – Me 0

Thinking Inside The Box…

Today has been exactly the sort of day I wanted when I made the decision to move on to Japan.

I’ve never understood time difference however it was a 13hr trip from Hawaii and it was a different day when I arrived in Chitose. I may have been unwittingly cheated out of a day that I will never get back, unless I fly back to Hawaii, I suppose. Something I may do as I’d still like to visit the islands I didn’t get a chance to see.

The jet lag kicked in today as I arose at 4am. It felt strange. It felt weird because usually this only happens when I’ve been on a bender.

Get high in a Friday, go to bed 9am Saturday morning to awake around Midday. Sleep so much on Saturday that I wake up before sunrise on Sunday. Typically I feel wired. Out of sync. Anxious. Spaced. Nothing to do. Hungry. Stressed.

This morning I arose and felt great. Not tired. No desire to do anything or go anywhere. I was so happy in my little box. It’s going to be a shame when I have to leave.

I say have to leave, but I don’t have to do anything. Part of me thinks it would be strange to sit in my box all day. Part of me thinks that, if it’s what I need, then fuck it. The former is only driven by social norms. What would people say? Would they think I’ve gone mad? The irony of this of course is that they never noticed when I was mad. I hid it well. Now that I’m feeling great and being more open, they think I’ve gone mad. No wonder people don’t speak up more about what they experience behind the closed doors of their minds.

My second trip to Arkana had left me in a very different state to my first. Following my first trip, the emotional, physical and psychological effects of the ceremonies whipped me up into a whirlwind. A beautiful swirling whirlwind but a fast moving force nonetheless. I was so high on life, felt so invincible, that I thought I could walk through walls. And I did. Day by day I walked through walls until, at first they started cutting my knees, then my shins. Then as I grew weary, the remnants of these walls that I thought I’d knocked down, started tripping me up. I stumbled through the rubble and it wasn’t long before I fell again.

This time was different. Not only did I learn from the aftermath of my first trip and was better prepared in terms of what to expect, but the wisdom that was passed to me over the 2 weeks was deeper. More profound.

Messages came nearer. Change was clearer.

The ceremonies, but in particular the plant diet, had caused me to delve deep inside myself and it was a place that fascinated me. I begun to see more of what was happening in my body and mind. Became more adept at noticing messages as they arrived.

The dismantling of my ego was a huge deal and I was able to see it for what it was. If you were to ask any of my ex-girlfriends, they would say that I’m actually a very quiet person. When I’m comfortable, sober and feel secure, I’m silent. When I feel the need to perform, the entertainer comes out. I’m reconnecting with the quiet me. The me that doesn’t need to perform. There will be plenty of time for that when required, when the time is right.

The trip to date, in addition to recognising my seemingly habitual desire to do, do, do, has had moments of realisation that I’m just not ready to integrate yet. Something that I had to do two days after finishing my first trip. And that’s ok. It will happen when it happens. It will happen organically.

I now understand the integration talks more than I’d ever done before. Perhaps next time I won’t even drink and smoke weed after my trip as it does create problems energetically. Your body is working so hard to integrate all the knowledge that it has learnt but you keep disturbing it. Like you’re trying to write a beautiful love letter to yourself of all your desires and intentions however, every time you go to write, someone keeps nudging your arm. The letter will eventually gets written however there are scribbles on the paper, your thought process has been compromised as distraction has set in.

The combination of my box room and the language barrier is actually the perfect storm of events to let me breathe. Let me digest. Let me think and to let me work things out through putting my thoughts down on paper. The lack of weed, albeit only a few days, has lifted the veil from my mind. I’m thinking more clearly. I’m less restless. Less anxious.

I spent until 11am writing, meditating and snoozing before my body was telling me it was time to eat. Unfortunately, the place next door where I had enjoyed a delicious meal the day before, was not open. I spent 1.5hrs walking around the streets looking for the meal I wanted. It was Sunday so many places were closed. The places that were open seemed to have menus full of pork. I felt amazing walking around the streets. Whilst it wasn’t snowing like last night, it was cold and the streets were still covered in snow. I didn’t even wear a jacket as I strolled around the city, savouring moments of occasional sunshine and drinking in the atmosphere of this remarkable place. This unique culture. So many interesting sounds everywhere.

Tannoys seemed to be constantly playing what I assumed to be advertisements but they all sounded so happy. So playful. It felt like another world.

After 90 minutes of searching, I arrived back at the hostel to find my favourite restaurant was now open. I enjoyed a beautiful healthy meal of ginger chicken and rice. Fresh. Simple and healthy. Exactly what I needed.

As I walk back into the hostel, I know I won’t be venturing out again until the evening, if at all.

I drink tea. Write. Drink more tea. Sleep. Write some more.

That’s all I need right now.

As if it were some sort of psychosomatic condition, after last nights realisation, today is the first day my nose has stopped running. I shudder to think how much I just damaged my sinuses as my nose continued to leak for over a month after taking cocaine for the last time. The consultant said that my septum would also regenerate over time which was reassuring to know as my nostrils, my nostril of choice for taking cocaine, still works in a very different way to my right.

From speaking with the hostel manager, the snowy parts of Japan, at this time of year, almost extend down to Tokyo. So much for snaking my way down the country. I may have to make short stops on the way to Tokyo as opposed to a few days each. I’m keen to get to areas where, regardless of whether they’re super hot, provide the right conditions to go on some hikes through nature.

I’ve managed to get my bags of San Pedro into LA, Hawaii and now Japan however I’m keen to work with it more in case the Canadian customs cotton onto my psychedelic smuggling escapades.

My plan was to go home after Canada however now I’m thinking I may continue my trip. I’m not quite sure I’m brave enough to take psychedelics into Asia, however there are certainly lots of friends and national parks to visit in US. I know wherever I go, my family from Arkana will let me stay as long as I want.

I’m keen to continue my work with San Pedro as I believe it will help me unlock the answers within me. How do I want to live my life. I know this answer sits within me but there is currently too many years of programming to let me access this information.

At the moment I want to continue writing to see if, what I started 6 months ago, finds itself arriving at a natural conclusion. Just as our human forms have a start, middle and an end, most good stories also share this trait. A publishing house started following my page on WordPress and I decided to submit what I’d written so far. The submission failed as I was trying to do it all from my phone, however I will try again. I’ve no idea whether they will think that it truly is the memoirs of a mad man, or whether they will find something in there that they think will resonate with people.

I think I will continue sending it to different publishers in the hope that, at the very least, I receive some constructive feedback.

I laid in bed this morning dreaming. Marvelling at the truly circular notion of life if I was able to make a living from writing.

I only started writing because of ayahuasca. All that I write about is ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has provided me with the clarity and vision to quit my job, travel, in which time I continue to write about my experiences with ayahuasca.

Perhaps she’s been pulling these strings all along.

Perhaps this is, that mysterious word again, destiny.

White Powder All Around Me…

I ventured out of my box last night.

I’d done some research online and found a bar just down the road which was dubbed an international bar. Somewhere frequented by Japanese people who spoke English. It seemed like a good place to start as the language barrier was tough enough at times let alone when you’re in a noisy bar.

The plan was to walk to Susukino which had a street referred to as Ramen Alley. A whole street dedicated to Ramen. Ramen is a regional thing in Japan. Certain regions are famed for their particular type of ramen.

I can only use my phone in wi-fi areas in Japan, so getting around is quite a struggle without any directions. I essentially hop between 7/11 or Starbucks, hovering outside each one to figure out whether I’m on the right path.

By the time I’d left the first bar, it was about 9pm. I’d stayed longer than expected as I got chatting to a few Japanese girls and was having fun. I walked out the bar into a snow storm. It was dark, the streets were buzzing and I was walking with my head down, hood up, desperately trying to keep warm. I never found ramen alley but I did find another bar that looked fun.

Before I knew it, I was at the bar drinking shots with a group of young Japanese people who thought I was someone famous. They didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak Japanese so I never got to find out who they thought I was. A young couple approached me at first, got really excited, then beckoned their friends over. One by one, they all came over. Whoever they thought I was, they seemed very excited to meet me. After a while, I stopped looking confused and just went with it. They bought me a few tequila shots which always send me a bit wild, then took some selfies with me before dispersing.

Drinking on an empty stomach is never wise, but throw in tequila shots and you’re really asking for trouble. I left the bar and just knew, despite my hunger, I had to get back to the hostel. I got in a taxi however we couldn’t understand each other. No wi-fi meant no translation app. I got out and thought I would have to brave the walk. I had no idea how I’d got here. I was looking for landmarks but realised this was pointless as I’d had my head down the whole way.

It was -2c and the wind was howling. No one spoke English. The 7/11’s were shut and had turned off their wi-fi. I was screwed. I started to panic as this was not the weather to be lost in. Desperately trying to think of a landmark I’d seen earlier in the day for which I could remember the Japanese name. I thought I’d found somewhere with wi-fi, however as my fingers trembled, barely able to use the phone, it wouldn’t work.

Where the fuck was the wind when I needed it the most?

In this moment, I walked by a club playing a song I hadn’t heard in years. My friend Jim used to sing this song all the time. I’ve known Jim since I was 16 and you won’t meet a lovelier person.

Massive guy. Missing front teeth. Growls when he speaks. You wouldn’t want to cross paths with him on a dark night but, once people meet him, they instantly fall in love with him.

Whilst Jim is incredibly hard working and runs his own garage, he has unfortunately been battling with a cocaine addiction on a level with mine, but for many more years then I have.

He found an old reggae song that started with someone saying “hey Jim….hey Jim” before kicking in with the lyrics “I got cocaine, running around my brain.” It’s actually a great song, especially because I can always hear Jim singing along to it.

As I hear this song, not only did I smile from thinking about Jim, I realised that I haven’t thought about cocaine since I left Peru. Not once. Not even when I’d had too much to drink. Admittedly I hadn’t been in temptation’s way however I would be willing to place a wager that I could get some if I wanted. It’s one of my life skills, albeit not one that’s too useful to me anymore.

I pulled my hood down, took off my hat and the scarf which I had wrapped around my face. I stood in the middle of the pavement, grinning, smoking a cigarette and chuckling to myself feeling invincible. The cold didn’t even bother me at this stage, it felt refreshing.

I’d never been this long without cocaine in over 10 years however that wasn’t why I was so elated. I was overjoyed because, even on an empty stomach followed by beers and tequila, I knew that if someone came up to me right now and offered me the best cocaine in the world, I would refuse. The thought of poisoning myself. The thought of punishing my body. Damaging my mind. Severing my connection to the universe and ruining this natural high I was on.

For many years I’ve hated cocaine but still continued to take it. I would do one line, realised I hated it, but end up finishing the rest. I no longer wanted that feeling of one line. That terrible feeling where you realised you were back in that horrible place again. The loneliness. The guilt. The stress of how you’re going to feel in the morning. All of it was gone. The monkey was off my back.

Now starting to feel the effects of de-robing in sub zero conditions, I got my hat and scarf on then pulled my hood back up and took a picture of myself.

I will never forget this picture. I never want to forget this picture. The picture, for me, symbolised a milestone in my journey. A milestone in my life. The realisation that I didn’t want to poison myself anymore. I didn’t want to be on that path anymore. Whilst I’m still not the healthiest person in the world, and have a lot of issues surrounding dependency to work through, cocaine was always a huge barrier to me making positive choices.

Coming down every morning. Levelling out by the afternoon. Racing home to start again in the evening.

It was tough to have a life, let alone a healthy one. Tough to date. Aside from the fact my self esteem was in bits, it was hard to find the time and energy to date when you’re spending twice the minimum wage on cocaine.

I remember when I fell back into cocaine after my first trip to Peru, I felt so guilty about what I was doing and how much money I was spending, that I donated £10K of my payout to charity, just to make myself feel less guilty. It didn’t work. I just felt more guilty that I thought I could throw my money at a problem to fix it. I felt dirty. It felt vulgar. Who had I turned into? That week I did double the amount of cocaine I would have done normally. Partly because I felt guilty and wanted to escape, partly because I felt more entitled to squander my money following my donation.

Whilst all of this was running through my mind, I realised that whilst I remembered all of my actions, I couldn’t recall or connect to the feelings.

I remember looking in on myself. Sitting on my couch getting ready for my routine which was pretty damn efficient when I was at my peak.

Leave work at 5.30pm and draw out enough cash for 2grams from the ATM right outside the office.

Straight away, looked on deliveroo, and ordered from the takeaway that would deliver within 20 minutes to coincide with me getting home.

About 5 minutes before I get home, I would ring my dealer and order 2grams.

Many times I nailed this to perfection. I would be walking up to my door at the same time as my food was being delivered.

Wolfed it down and, as I was swallowing the last bits of whatever unhealthy food I’d ordered, the dealer would ring the doorbell.

It would be round 6.15pm that I’d snort my first line and from there it was a race to finish it as quickly as possible. The quicker I finished. The earlier I’d get to sleep. The less wired I’d feel in the morning.

It didn’t always work like that however. Change the system. Change the routine. Things get out of control.

Perhaps if I went out for drinks after work. Went out for dinner with friends or round to their houses for dinner. It would be a constant race against time as to how quickly I could leave as I would be mentally mapping out delivery times, time of taking it, what time I’d get to sleep, if at all, and how I would feel in the morning. It was a regular occurrence on these evenings not get to sleep until about 4-5am before getting up at 8am to go to work.

I couldn’t recall the feelings though. Couldn’t recall how tired and depressed I used to feel on my walk into work when I was coming down hard. Couldn’t recall the adrenaline of getting out of work and organising the hedonistic logistics. The physical and mental stress when you’re up at 5am with a 7am train to London for important meetings the following day. I just couldn’t feel it.

Saw it all. Felt nothing.

I no longer wanted the highs. Certainly didn’t want the lows.

Didn’t want to live my life on a merry-go-round anymore.

Didn’t want to shut myself off from the world any longer.

Didn’t want to shut myself off from myself.

I was fully aware that taking cocaine was always a symptom of a much bigger problem, one which I’m dealing with one day at a time.

I was also aware that it was the biggest barrier to developing my energetic self and getting to experience the things that other people get to feel.

Being able to breathe. Being able to sleep.

The picture I took would remind me of the mindset I was in on that evening. The freedom I felt from my past. Freedom from my demons.

Whilst support will always be available and whilst there is still much work to be done, I suddenly understood that this is now just a matter of karma.

I’ve freed myself. Whether I choose to stay free is just a choice. My decision. My consequence. Choose to go back to the life you once lead or shape a new tomorrow. A new relationship with yourself.

The words Rob whispered in my ear during ceremony echoed through my mind:

“Your body is letting out all of its pain. Let it go. Your pain and suffering doesn’t have to hold you back any longer. You’re becoming healthy and free from all pain. As of now the pattern can be broken. You don’t have to live through this pain anymore. It’s always been your choice. Now make that choice. As of this day you have a new body. A clean body. You alone now have to choose how to be within your body.”

I finally return to my hostel. Take a glorious hot shower and, regardless of my hunger, drift off to sleep with a grin on my face.

Life’s a bitch, until you wake up.