Living in Los Angeles can be very anti-natural.  Never-ending cityscapes and traffic jams become an inherent part of life, trees and stars seem few and far between and the only animals I come by are extremely small dogs and absurdly gigantic cockroaches.  So after visiting a small town amidst a large redwood forest, it is of little surprise that I find myself writing a blog on nature.

Outside of Santa Cruz, California, just north exists the town of Felton, a beautiful area minutes away from the cold waters of the Pacific and surrounded on all sides by redwood forest.  This vibrantly small town rests half under canopy and half along the main street stretch.  Reminiscent of an antiquated mountain mining town, Felton has much to offer.

The gigantic redwoods and brilliant blue skies welcomed me in on my long journey from Los Angeles.  The moment I drove through the tall timbers, I felt a sense of deeply resonating awe.  This feeling, a feeling I once lived, had been nullified and forgotten between the smog-ridden airways and traffic-jammed streets of L.A.  I found myself thoughtless.

Nature has a captivating ability to create calmness and peace.  It ignites a flame of stillness that burns passionately and even.  In this light, nature reveals what is lost in the darkness of the city – our bond and role within our surroundings.  From the smallest microorganism to the largest standing redwood, nature displays an interwoven, interconnected, ballet of life where each part is dependent upon each other.  As this bond is acknowledged, we surrender our separateness and understand our role in the greater environment of the world.  Nature is the purest form of the ego-killer.

In nature, a level of trust is required to survive.  Each aspect of nature is dependent upon every other aspect.  If one part fails, the entire system fails.  Those living in nature depend on the seasons, the animals, the weather, and learn to live within their parameters.  It is through these parameters that nature has created  guidelines that will support a sustainable life.  In turn, nature creates sustainable people.  Instead of creating a river in the desert to build a home, the naturalist finds a home near a river.

When a population depends on nature, it learns to be interdependent upon each other.  The dependence is manifested in honest sociality that creates bonds based on social security, love, and truthfulness.  In Felton, much like many other towns of nature that I have visited, everyone I encountered had something genuine to say.  Whether it be a simple yet meaningful “hello” or a complicated story, I felt the compassion and humanity in every conversation.  This type of society is a much more connected community than the largely segmented megalopolises of today.

Nature has an uncanny ability to connect.  It brings people together.  I came to Felton to visit some friends and we had a lot to catch up on, but the moments that were most profound were those spent silent in the presence of nature.  In this way we connected much more than any conversation could have delivered.

Nature also has the ability to heal.  The truthfulness of nature exposes the fraud of falsity.  It brings to surface problems buried deep within the subconscious.  Nature can tell you more things than any book or any person, without speaking a single word.  It will make your denials dubiously obvious and will clear the path towards healing.  When I go to the beach – the uncrowded, natural beaches – I can feel the healing tendencies of nature by just laying in the sun.

Inside the city, these benefits don’t always apply.  Trust is something left to a closed circle of loved ones and dependence is attributed to paychecks and hours worked.  Instead of an elegantly unified ballet, a city more likely resembles the futile competition of a free-for-all bar brawl.  The connections that do serve any purpose are most always circulated around monetary or social gain.  Even conversations lack the luster of sincerity and love.

So why live in a city?  Why live in Los Angeles?  I am sure all have their unique reasons.  Mine involve gastronomic and opportunistic advantages.  Yet, it will only be so long until I can no longer endure the disassociated life of a city-dweller.  I have heard the redwoods calling, and can feel the pull to the mountains.  Soon, I imagine, I will be graced with their powerful presence.

Sushi: A Transcendent Experience

Sushi is one of my favorite ways to dine.  Beyond the cuisine being offered, sushi imparts an experience of much greater depth.   From a hand massage with a hot table side towel to using chop sticks to drinking hot tea, the entire experience of eating sushi is unique and involving.  Yet is is often misunderstood that sushi is only a gastronomical experience.  Sushi is much more than fish being sliced and rice being steamed.  There is a great profoundness to sushi.

After years of eating sushi, the only knowledge I gathered came from slim two-fold menus positioned atop japanese restaurant dinner tables.  Maybe my stomach was to blame for the lack of research or maybe post-sushi-mortem induced too much laziness for my active culniary curiosity.  Either way, I had never looked beyond the epicurean literature of sushi.

As I started learning more about sushi, I found that the meals I spent so much time enjoying had a message of great depth.  Originating in China, sushi existed out of necessity.  Sushi began as a preservation technique that involved rice fermentation greatly extending the life span of caught fish.  In modern times it has intertwined with philosophy and religion establishing its artistic and creative roots that resembles the calmness of the most peaceful Zen paintings.  Beyond the aesthetic pleasures, the message of sushi strives for a deeper meaning: to connect man and nature, transcending the realm of duality and separateness.

Sushi, in its most basic and traditional forms, represents the earth.  Land and water are attributed from its elements of rice and fish.  The balance between the two represent the harmony in nature.  The art of sushi is in its respect and gratefulness, creating a most beautiful display of honor and poise.  Each sushi creation is a tribute to the balance of nature.

It is in this respect that sushi attempts to transcend the detached world of man and nature.  Each piece of sushi praises the forces that support man, thus recognizing our role in the interconnected play of the world.  Through the design, care, and technicality that sushi artists and chefs harbor, the lives of the fish and plants that came from the oceans and soil of the earth are respectfully honored.  The realization of the consciousness of each component of sushi gives love, admiration, and thanks towards the earth.

As man partakes in this experience, he is participating in the gastronomical ceremony of the connectedness of man and earth through sushi.  He is praising his dinner for it is the earth he is eating.  Without the earth, he would not exist.  Sushi is a transcendent experience that involves grace in every bite and every moment.

In previous blogs, I have mentioned the importance of changing the way food is perceived.  Food must be seen as divine in order to understand our connection with the world.  Sushi does just that.  The connection between man and nature is exemplified in the artful display of balance and respect for the consciousness of the earth that supports us.

PS if you’re in los angeles and love traditional sushi, make it your prerogative to spend an evening at Sasabune

The true price of drugs

I have used a lot of drugs in my life.  Substances of all sorts and sizes have been ingested, digested, filtered, and processed through out my body.  I cannot say I am proud of my lengthy laundry list of decisions, … Continue reading

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Meet Guru.  Eight weeks young and full of life.  We have only had him for two days now and I have completely fallen in love.  I am so consumed by his amazing energy that I cannot even fathom another topic to write about.  He is a Shih Tzu and is very adventurous.  He is bold, playful, very smart, and loves milk.  He makes the entire apartment come to life and does the same to everyone he meets.

It is incredible the power a young puppy has over the emotions of random people. My girl friend and I took Guru for a short walk around the neighborhood — it was as if Guru was strolling down the red carpet of a Hollywood premier — and everyone had something to say.  For the first time in a while, I remembered the uncanny ability animals had for evoking purely genuine responses.  The reactions to Guru told me so much about the people we met.  Their emotions ranged from sheer happiness to bitter jealousy to even being threatened.  I was in awe at the cathartic abilities a 3 and a half pound being had over the minds of random people.  This pure, innocent puppy was eliciting unfiltered responses from an otherwise layered and protected world.  It was as if his identity of absolute truthfulness made it impossible for others to act insincerely.

It made me think.  Does absolute truth always summon absolute truth?  If so, how can we as humans create a world where everyone is held accountable based on the principles of truth and authenticity?  My answer starts within.  As I purify my identity, I will encourage others to do the same.  Leading by example will always trump preaching.  I hope that when you read any of my blogs, the candor of my words reigns more powerful than the content.  Writing is of course the art of sincerity and its power lies in the writer’s ability to genuinely transfer his or her thoughts into vocabulary.  The more I write from my heart, the more content I am with my writings.  I also see it fit that the truer I am with my self, the more integral the people in my life become.  Creating a community of integrity and love – which is the same as absolute truth – starts with the self and will spread to others.  Changing the world has never had such grass-root beginnings.

And just for the record, the happiest person Guru and I met was a man who made his living collecting other people’s recyclables.  His smile was as big as guru.