Sunday, 5 February 2023

The Xi'an Glimpse

Feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be here. To be alive. It's been a surreal few weeks.

It may have inadvertently
started when a Manc septuagenarian began to (randomly) recite passages of Othello while downing cans of Black Panther. Auld Dave's as tough as they come having spent decades as a boxing coach. The last thing I was expecting was a broadside of Shakespearean prose as I scoffed me pie n chips - tremendous.


That episode reminded me of another jarring incongruency that occurred during the summer of 2017 in Xi'an, China. Here's what I wrote at the time:

In the park, a lone Caucasian bobbing in a sea of Asian. Fretting about a locked bank account. Frowning. It's a beautiful evening but lingering thoughts of bureaucracy cloud the mind. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I start laughing, attracting strange looks. Crazy foreigner. I laugh harder and louder. It's beautiful. A moment of utter clarity. Sublime. It dawns on me that nothing matters. Nothing at all. We're hurtling through space on a little blue ball going nowhere, in a gargantuan cosmos we can't comprehend, and no one knows why. My trifling issues are meaningless. Funny even. Isn't it wonderful?

And just like that it faded. What did? I don't know. A brief glimpse of a hidden dimension? It felt good whatever it was. Calm, peace, joy, unity. How do I go there again? I don't know. Elusive, like trying to grasp tendrils of smoke.


Austrian Armin (if that's who he really is) shows up and recommends the Jed McKenna Trilogy along with Onions to Pearls. Turkish Omer recommends A New Earth. I devour all five. Read, reflect, read, reflect. A profound transformation begins to unfold.

I'd accepted a part-time teaching job in Thailand. I'd even signed the contract agreeing to start in August. However, it became laughably obvious that this was not the right move. Go with the flow. Email, apologise, bin. I'm no longer a teacher.

In fact, I'm no longer a lot of things.

I deleted linkedin. Was like tipping a wheelbarrow of shite off a cliff. I felt compelled to write. Marshal my thoughts. Create. So emailed an old buddy:

Loosely ties in with a thought I keep boomeranging back to. Something you said a few times back in 2014-2016. As we drank piss - you with that stony-faced gaze into the distance you'd sometimes adorn.

Something along the lines of "when you know who you are". At the time I didn't get it. Processed it as spiritual gibberish, however, those words are resounding loudly in my consciousness today. Screaming in fact. The tectonic plates of "self" jolted dramatically as I read Jed.

The false self we call ego. A prison of our own making. I've been tightening my handcuffs my whole life. Reinforcing the deception. Afraid to step through the gateless gate. Currently shedding the layers of delusion. There is no separate self. It's all bullshit. Egoic. "The smart math guy". "The working class lad come good." "The Geordie". On and on. Layer after layer of conditioning since birth. A costume rooted in fear.

Shining the light of consciousness (the presence behind thought) on these untruths, it's hard to not feel disgust. Happy to finally understand your words - a wry smile they didn't click earlier. As each layer is discarded - each lie of who we are - we get closer to Nietzsche's abyss - the truth. Bring it on.

I'm grateful to have encountered you man, a significant influence. Always seeking, I was simply misaligned. Pointing the wrong way. Unready. These books were the nudge. When the student is ready the teacher will appear type stuff.

Looking back I reckon the first step on whatever-this-is was 2006. Disenfranchised with UK life. Dropping everything to leave. No idea where I was going. Hand off the tiller. Nature charting my course. Dust in the wind. Felt alive. Until the onset of the teacher grind. Stagnation. Feels like I'm at the start line again. 2023 - the year I turn 50. Fucking hell.

A cerebral spew-fest. As the bewilderment ebbed I reflected more on my first tentative steps as seeker. It was during a period of post-Navy unemployment. Late twenties. A vague sense of incompleteness (there must be more to life) steered me to the Philosophy Section of Morpeth Library. Topics like "The problem of evil" and "The brain-in-a-vat hypothesis" teased the intellect. It was here I first met the wonderfully pessimistic Schoppie.

A pair of decades later and I'm at Cogito Ergo Sum. "I think, therefore I am". Descartes' founding principle. According to him: I exist (as ego) is the only thing we can truly know. It follows that nothing else can be known to be true. Everything else is belief. Illusion. Everything. Socrates knew he knew nothing - ahead of his time.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Einstein. We are living in Plato's allegory of the cave. The Matrix. Illusion. Ego keeps us locked in our slime pods. Obscures the truth - the oneness of reality's substrate.

Did I glimpse the truth in Xi'an? Yes. I let go of the illusory self for a rapturous moment. Dumbfounded then, obvious now. I'd been searching outside of myself for 20 years; travel to foreign lands, alcohol, abstinence, sex, celibacy, employment, qualifications, status, possessions, minimalism - all serving to reinforce the false separate self - tightening the cuffs as it were. The answer was always inside - as Jesus said in Luke 17:21 The Kingdom of God Is Within You.

When I was young Christianity was incomprehensible. Weird English and unrelatable dusty places far away. However, as part of this transformation, some of Jesus' teachings clicked into crystal clear focus. Instantly. Effortlessly. I totally get what he was on about. And it's all good. Astonishing.

So where does this leave us? Nowhere really. Just skin sacks. Temporary bubbles on the surface of the fabric of being. Inseparable from any other bubble-being form.

I'm now aware that I was never the thing I thought I was. Deluded for 49 years. Surrendering to what is - as is. Aware that while the universe endows us with the capacity for reason, the intellect is, paradoxically, our greatest obstacle.

I'm currently in a state of giddy consolidation as I explore this arising state of being. Language is too feeble a tool to describe the condition. Humming in the background is an undercurrent of acceptance, heightened awareness and gratitude. Laughing at how I couldn't see what was right in front of me for so long. The cosmic joke. There's nothing to do.

So who am I? A deceptively difficult question these days. Words are too blunt. At this level of comprehension I'd answer: Everything - and you are too. We're characters in a dream so sit back and enjoy the parade.

What else

Jeez man, put the spliff down. What else you been doing?

I could write about that stuff for weeks. A non stop flow of consciousness-potentiality. Anyway, floods.


The day before Armin's arrival it propa twatted doon which is rare for January. It's funny to see the ordinary through new eyes. Everyday things are fresh and exciting for visitors - such as the football pitch slash lake and the road home slash Venetian canal. Drainage? What drainage?


We must have cycled hundreds of kilometers. I finally crossed Fish Island bridge and made it all the way to Coconut Beach. Canny.


So many hammocks, so little time. I've been here 8 months and must've spent 2 of them right here. J'adore. The best times are morning and early evening when nature serves up some wonderful sunsets (pics above).

Fish Island Temple

The Lotus Pond now has an afternoon competitor. Teen monks chill at a drink stall in front of a golden temple. Pics above. There are seats right at the river's edge with spectacular views. A bit of crack with the monks and coffee-lass contrasts perfectly with the harmonious tranquility. Mint.


Not looking too shabby for 49 and 53.

Haven't cut me locks in 8 months - longest its ever been. Weird. Bought a comb for the first time and enjoy the (new) sensation of running it across the scalp - simple pleasures hehe. Feel an urge to grow it for a year so will reevaluate in June.

Sometimes after the gym I visit a spa near my place. For $8 you get sauna room, steam room, hot and cold tubs, swimming pool, a pot of hot ginger tea and a massage from a cute 22yo lass weighing 42kg. I know her weight because she walks on your back. Not bad at all.


Question: So how much does it cost for 5 months of freedom in paradise?

Answer: $1,800 usd.

(Sep 420, Oct 320, Nov 360, Dec 340, Jan 360).

I have no desire to add anything to the mix. In fact such a statement is becoming increasingly meaningless as there is no "I" to want anything. I can even sense a subtle shift from scarcity to abundance mindset.

ភ្នំស (White Mountain)

From the hammock you can see a perfect cone jutting out of a flood plain 8km to the north. Sticks out like a sore thumb. I'd been staring at it for 8 months knowing I'd climb it one day. Because it's there - George Mallory style - though I made it back, unlike that poor sod.

Elevation probably around 300m - a bit of scrambling - superb views of Kampot to the south.

Sabai Beach

Sat in the shade of a bamboo grove. A nice breeze causes the impossibly thick bamboo trunks to creak like old ships. A 5,000r cup of Khmer Coffee at my feet. Awareness and acceptance - synchronicity and alignment - not a quark out of place - perfect.

Let's end with a poem from Rumi, a Sufi mystic from 13th century Persia:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry, I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.


  1. Bloody marvellous!! How did you get enlightened? Joined a monastery?

  2. Watch out Carl Sagan and Alan Watts!!
    AWOL's gunning for your jobs.

  3. Amazing the cost of the comb didn't send you into an existential crises.

  4. What's the air quality there at the moment? As laden with filth as st James park on a Saturday?

  5. Nice blog.

    Your journey is incredibly interesting. You've somehow lived in 16 years what would be multiple lifetimes for most people.

    It feels like major changes in tone happened 1. when you got scammed 2. when covid hit. Almost like different lives. It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

  6. Update overdue matey