Mom and Ian drove me to the airport after a crazy day spent training and coaching and finally delivering a program to 20 new coaches in India via a telecon as we maneuvered through the late afternoon Johannesburg traffic to OR Tambo airport.
I am so excited to see what my new adventure brings.

30 May
Wow, this time zone thing is hectic. Woke up after a 10-hour sleep through the San Francisco night (the SA day).  After a flight on the, mostly empty, United Airlines plane – (having to pay for my own drinks); I hit THE queue at immigration in SF. Luckily officialdom in SF seem to be more pleasant than JFK and ORT, so it was a mild hour and a half until I emerged to meet the delightful Stanley. We laughed as I immediately went to the door on the left hand side of the car and then proceeded to clutch my hands to my head in alarm every time he turned a corner or overtook. Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road certainly challenges your neural hardwiring! Bring on plasticity!

Renee and Stan have made me feel so welcome in their beautiful home. I am privileged to share Friday night Shabbat with them and then I fall into an exhausted sleep. Jet lag is not for sissies!
Today I spent meandering along the peaceful streets of Pleasanton (no kidding). I feel as though I have stepped into a movie set. From the flags adorning the wooden-slatted-houses to the basketball hoops on the streets; the kids whizzing along on their skateboards and the quaint street food-market where a sign declares you can ‘Take what you want – pay what you can’. The American accents reinforce the fact that I feel like I am in the movies! You would never guess I was a world traveller (of sorts).  I find a bicycle shop. Yes, although I could not even afford a link in a chain at this exchange rate. – And there are hundreds of cyclists whizzing down cycling paths  - completely safely, there are no taxi’s intent on mayhem and slaughter! Incredible.  I even find an armchair on the pavement – they really do leave their furniture outside for anyone who needs it. No gates, no fences, no locks, no alarms – no threat. ‘Ah, America.' ‘

After a couple of hours resisting the lure of SA time sleep, and putting in some thesis thinking time, I venture out for a long run – this town is irresistible. Some more visual American-Pie for me to ogle. I run around a park where various Little League Baseball games are being played. The mini-people all dressed in bright t- shirts and baseball caps and long socks with ¾ pants. Sweetest little things, even with their infatuated parents yelling encouragement from the stands.  I order a pizza and a Sierra Mist (my new favorite) and meander home along the archetypal suburban utopia. The only thing out of kilter is the moon is on the wrong side of the sky and the stars are confusing! . ‘Ah America’ again.

30 May – Mindfulness in San Francisco 2
I saw Golden Gate Bridge 28 years ago – for only one day, as a misdirected self-conscious twenty two year old. Who is to say that now, at 49, I am headed on the right track – that's what I am in California to find out. Perhaps.

Not wanting this story to become a travelogue inspires me to capture my sensory encounter with San Francisco. My early morning run in the movie set that masquerades as Pleasanton reaffirms my suspicion that I may be reliving the life of Truman Burbank - a provocative, non-celluloid version of my sense of an altered state. My most generous new friends, and gracious hosts, Renee and Stanley prepare to reveal their adopted city as they have discovered her.

The four extraordinary bridges that we cross are testament to the skill and ingenuity of the human race. The San Mateo bridge (on Friday) and today the newly built Bay Bridge, the Glorious Golden Gate and the Richmond San Raphael- all creating a network - like a leap across a synapse, a hardwiring of connectivity. (Do forgive the merging of the brain, architectural and technology metaphors – somehow appropriate for the Silicon Valley surrounds that circumscribe San Francisco City).

1The rainbow flags and kaleidoscopic painted crossings of the Castro district reflect the gay abandonment of the homosexual sub cultures that parade the pavements. Picturesque houses embrace the streets, honouring the old-world charm of the city as well as the uniqueness of its inhabitants.
Theatres, bars, curious shops and dark alleys all recede as we head up Twin Peaks to see a panoramic view of the city, the long straight Main street crisscrossed by lesser avenues; and my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. A cold wind bites my face – strangely contrasting with the humid warmth of Pleasanton only a few miles away. Stanley takes pictures of Renee and I and describes the city to me- probably more knowledgeable than most native San Franciscans.

2After winding down Lombard street – hydrangea and bougainvillea adorn the ‘crookedest’ street in the world - Renee and I jump out to take photo’s while Stanley risks the wrath of the ever-present American police – oh my, what its like to be in a law enforced, law abiding country. I take a chance to jump on an historic trolley car before it sets off up the precipitous streets of the city.
The Marina, with its million-dollar yachts smugly anchored in the harbor provides a close up view of Alcatraz – ice-cold sea and bitter winds conjuring up the misery and foolhardiness of the attempted escapes made famous by Hollywood. A spectacular salad from Pluto’s in Chestnut street fuels us for the next adventure. First through the billionaire homes of Seacliff and an impressive view of the bridge and then onto the bridge itself

34Whether it is knowing that I am standing on the Golden Gate Bridge, or the marvel of experiencing one of the engineering achievements of the 20th century – whichever, I feel the vibrations, hear the cars scorching past and look down a long way into the unforgiveable water that thousands of suicidal souls have chosen as their final repose.

The Bridge is the crossing to Sausalito – quaint; rich; beautiful and cosy.  Better still is the Cheesecake factory – not for the sweet variety, but – a Great Big American Cheeseburger!

Renee and Stanley. You are two of the human beings I like most in the world. I will never forget. Thank you.

01 June – to Pacific Grove
After catching the bus at San Jose Airport (thank you Stanley), I am driven through the sterile, but impressive territory of the technological giants – Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter – contrasting with the cherry farms and the brown grass on the hills, an ever present reminder of the worst drought in history being experienced in California. The geography changes to sand dunes and finally the vivid blue of the cold Pacific.

Familiar names begin to emerge: Cannery Row; Monterey; Pacific Grove; Carmel; Pebble Beach. Sweet little seaside towns. Shabby, but chic – undoubtedly expensive.

5Asilomar, the resort, does justice to the craft of Photoshop. A tattered room is serviceable at best, the food unmentionable; but happily the spectacular landscape is even lovelier in real life. The sunset executes an eloquent descent in the western horizon of the Pacific Ocean. I begin my spiritual retreat at this moment – in orange-hued tranquility.

02 June – Sam and The Bike
What better activity to do in California, than ride your bike?  I hear about 17 Mile Drive – it is famous – Google it!. Without hesitation I rent, for a lot of rands; and not as many dollars, a bicycle – of sorts.

The bicycle and I head out cheerfully, following a map into Pebble Beach and Carmel, golfing meccas to those who care. I shall state upfront that I am a complete illiterate in the wonders of the game of golf. Suffice it to say I believe it shall impress many people that I have trodden on these hallowed grounds….

6And then I meet Sam. Or should I say, poor Sam is accosted by a cheerful, confident South African who decided that he would be a suitable companion on a bike ride along some of the most remarkable coastline in the world. I asked this man-on-a-bike whether he would like to ride with me and we set off on an adventure.  Sam shows me the vistas and tells me the stories of the area. I show Sam how much fun it is to ride a bike. We ended up in Monterey eating Clam chowder and sharing a couple of glasses of Chardonnay.

17 Mile Drive is magnificent and memorable and a gift to my senses. I go for a 10km run along the coastline in the afternoon – spiritual retreat indeed.

03 June
Unexpectedly I stand a meter away from Eckhart Tolle as he leaves Merrill Hall. It is icy cold and dark. This man has a low-key charisma that fuels a fire in a cynical heart. He lifts a hand and hesitantly waves. As I catch his eye, I understand that I really am in the presence of one of the greatest spiritual guides of my lifetime.

I will not repeat his message. It is there in his magnificent books and a thousand You Tube videos. I teach and coach and speak his philosophies. But only Eckhart can deliver the wisdom with his own rare style.

After a day of listening and writing and absorbing – interspersed with some meditation and breathing and yoga poses (executed in my own rare style – great hilarity…) and stretching and cerebral discussions – I am tired and thoughtful. I am still not sure why I have come so far at such great expense. Perhaps it was to stay with Renee and Stanley? To ride 17 Mile Drive? To walk on Golden Gate Bridge? Meet Sam? Be on my own and not work? Speak with like-minded souls? Perhaps it will emerge…? Eckhart himself says that expectation is unconsciousness. Just be present and allow….

04 June.
Eckhart Tolle inspiration

05 June - ET and the Convertible
Sleeping 9 hours a night seems to be a comfortable rhythm that I am settling into. It’s freezing cold here in the summer in California (in synch with Joburg weather, I hear.) Two more intense sessions with ET.

My observations of the experience (not the content):

  • Meditation music plays in Merril Hall – Wooden eaves, floorboards and the smell of cedar is pervasive. It supports the collective sanctuary that these individuals from around the world have manifested. We queue long before the doors open – all of us eager to be close to hear and absorb the power of ET’s presence (btw, the irony of the acronym is not lost on me – lol)
  • Eckhart has a powerful presence. He enters the quiet hall with humility. Slightly stooped, dressed in a lilac shirt, simple pants, brown loafers and a sleeveless cardigan. He turns to us, puts his hands together, palms touching, fingers pointing upwards. Namaste - it means "I bow to the divine in you".
  • His voice is quiet and slightly gravelly. He sits on a straight chair placed in front of the stage – a small table with a glass of water on the side. He begins to speak. For a few hours he continues. He is funny at times. Delivering his familiar message with conviction and intelligence. This is not a religious or fundamentalist. It is a cerebral construct that enables a spiritual and cognitive transformation.
  • Eckhart moves his hands like butterflies; he is flowing, expressive, gentle and shuffles his shoes awkwardly. He laughs nervously and blinks often. Somehow this adds to his presence – not distracts. He is a rock star, yet he is humility embodied.
  • I am meeting remarkable people:

Helena a medical doctor here with her Dementia troubled father. She gives              
                me her remarkable book that she has written
Kai from London – a counselor with pain in her past
Remo - Swiss – an Engineer, working with energy
Barbara – a spiritual healer from Texas
Emery – an emergency Medical Physician from Boston
Monica – a massage therapist from Colorado
Herleen – a therapist from Mumbai
Kal – a Quantum Physicist from NYC
Sperry – Writer and Healer from Washington
Lesley – from SF, owns a healing retreat
7I have never in my life met and connected with so many people whom are all resonating at a consciousness that I am thrilled by.

From the spiritual to the egoic thrill of  materialism in a day. My friend Nelly from Singapore and Kai and myself set off on an adventure in a Mustang Convertible along the California Coast to Carmel. Girls on a frivolous quest for fun. This week just keeps getting better!

06 june
Of Mountain Lions and Marriage

My favorite sign in California is at the entrance to the nature reserve in which Asilomar nestles. It says: “If you should encounter a Mountain Lion, wave your arms overhead and make plenty of noise to frighten it away”.
My other favorite are the bicycle signs indicating, “This is a Bike Path”.8 I ride on highways and narrow winding sea drives that have no verge. I ride on dedicated cycling roads through mountains and suburbs. I compare it to the heart-in-your-mouth cycling that we do in Johannesburg – I could very well be excused for thinking I have landed in heaven. Perhaps the mountain lion advice will be useful with Joburg taxi drivers?

I spend two days alternating between Eckhart-Consciousness and Cycling/Running-Consciousness. I am learning what that means. I run steadily and lightly along the shoreline and in the dunes. I run into sweet seaside towns with boats and colorful houses and fresh-food markets. I ride up steep mountain roads and through fragrant cypress forests that are three hundred years old.

Today I had a great adventure – just me and my ‘skedonk’ bike – we have become friends. We ride through Spanish Bay, past the Ghost Tree and the Lone Cypress, over Spyglass hill. Through swanky Pebble Beach and into Carmel.
There I have my first encounter with the M word. A sweet marriage proposal has been elaborately planned and I watch as it unfolds. ‘Marry Me’ is written on the beach and he leads his sweetheart to a viewpoint where he has strategically placed a Go-Pro camera and about 30 expectant friends. The guy was clearly confident.

She said yes.

I ride along the scenic seaside drive and happen upon a wedding on the beach. From the vantage point above, I hear the demure tones of a violin played by a young girl – I watch, sentimentally hopeful for the couple’s future.

The next encounter is with a Catholic mission – a sign perhaps of my commitment to the unattached life (I never said abstinent!). This most beautiful church and mission station resonates with compassion and consciousness. Peculiar how I keep discovering this in California.

The afternoon and evening are spent in talks with Kim Eng and Eckhart. Many meditation sessions and great wisdom emanating from Merrill Hall as well as the profound and loving conversations with my fellow participants.

9I mentioned at the beginning of my journey that I might be here to discover my path. Possibly I know it less than I thought I did before. But certainly I have loved being with the wonderful people i have encountered. But I have loved being with myself even more. (ok, ok – with a bike).

The conclusion I am coming to is the following: If I should encounter marriage “wave your arms overhead and make plenty of noise to frighten it away”.

07 june
10When Eckhart left today, I had tears streaming down my face – peculiar. The strangest thing is that he has not had an emotional, spiritual or cerebral effect on me the entire week, but rather embarrassingly, an entirely soporific effect. While the others stay focused and conscious, all I do is fall asleep. He has a hypnotic voice and a vibration that puts me exactly where I am not supposed to be – asleep.

My new favorite sign: “This is a dangerous earthquake and tidal wave zone. Please head for higher ground as soon as possible if necessary”. Holy Guacamole – between Mountain Lions and Tidal Waves and Somnambulism – California is a scary place.

12The retreat is over, although I suspect it shall linger in my neural pathways for some time. I call upon my trusty steed – “Skedonk” and we set off together for the mountains and the shoreline and the exploration of the present moment. She creaks and changes gear at will – but somehow I have requested her every time I have ridden. We land up amongst ghostly pine forests in the mist and emerge in bright sunlight into Monterey – and ride again along the peninsular. The fauna and flora is spectacular.

I have not seen any mountain lions, but the cute sea otters playing in the waves are plentiful. I see harbor Seals and rabbits and squirrels. Small deer run across my path – in the town and on the trails! Sam called the deer ‘fawn’ – so sweet. I even saw a raccoon in the resort. The birdlife is abundant – Woodpeckers and seagulls and hawks and jays. I am impressed beyond words at the efforts made in the area to reintroduce the natural plant life into the dunes.

Tonight it is misty and cold. The sea and the dunes tell a new story.

I am settling down to another 10 hour sleep (every night – unbelievable). Tomorrow I shall re-enter the world of e mail and 2015. But first a small run through the dunes and the rocks and the beaches to feed my soul for the next voyage.

Goodbye from California

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