It's 3 am and I hear an alarm ringing. I jolt upright in bed. The room is dark. Silent. Awoken by an anxious dream for the fourth time since falling asleep at midnight. I sit still for a moment as my sense come into focus. The silence fades into the soft pater of light rain and the window frames a display of tiny rivers of rain water running down the glass. After the frenzy of my college graduation last weekend and the hectic scramble of painful goodbye's and uncertain 'see you later's,' this moment of stillness is a welcome respite, a necessary, slow breath on the riverbank before plunging into the current before me. These next three months are sure to be a wild ride.
By this afternoon I'll be walking the warm, sandy beaches of the Virgin Islands. I'll then hop on a sailboat for a week, spending my days out at sea and evenings on various small islands while being introduced to Tai Chi. When I return to land I'll meet a Tai Chi master who will begin a more rigorous training in his practice and in herbal medicine. Here, I will listen to the language of Water.
I'll then fly up to New York for a few days before leaping across the pond, stepping through over Europe and landing in New Delhi. I'll make my way down to Vrindavan, the mythical homeplace of Shiva where I will stay in an ashram, passing my days in yoga and Hindu scripture lectures. I can expect temperatures of 122 degrees. Here, I will listen to the language of Fire.
After a day in Bangkok I'll continue on to Beijing. From there, I'll take a train into the heart of China to the Wudang Mountain, birthplace of Taoism. At a centuries-old kung fu palace I'll meditate in the mornings and train with Master Yuan 6-8 hours a day, learning how to channel energy from the ground through my body. Here, I will listen to the language of Earth.
Finally, I'll fly to Tokyo and stay with a good friend before ambling over to Kyoto, where I studied Japanese Buddhism nearly two years ago. I'll have the privilege of training with Zen master Suzuki-roshi, whom I met during my studies at his mountaintop temple, Unsenji, which translates to Temple Above the Clouds. Here, I will listen to the language of Air.
Then I'll fly back to California. And return home. Not all of my family, however, will be waiting at the airport in late August.
As the rain patters softly outside, I look at the bed beside mine. My younger sister breathes deeply, sound asleep. She'll be joining me on this adventure. Like Sokka and Katara meeting the boy in the iceberg for the first time, we have no idea how this adventure will unfold, what we'll see or how we'll grow over the next 13 weeks. I can hardly wait to find out.
Let the journey begin.
BY: Tomás Quiñonez-Riegos