Walking in the gardens of the Nymphenburg Castle in Munich Germany, the sunlight penetrates the yellow leaves giving the trees a brilliant gold halo. Fall has claimed the woods. The water in the giant rectangular pool is still and shallow. The ducks waddle through the mud and graze on the banks. Occasionally one takes flight and then lands creating a beautiful slow motion ripple behind it. The water is so reflective it is as if they are landing on a liquid mirror. Giant grey statues line the grounds watching, characters frozen in mid motion. Being in such a place, designed for nobility makes you feel noble yourself. I notice the visitors begin to walk ever so slightly more proud.
The familiar pain has found me again. My European friends who are more than friends, they are family, have had to say goodbye as I leave. My team has begun to disperse to the places where they live. My close protection agent for these tours has seen me off. We have nicknamed him the ‘harshmallow’ because he is such a caretaker at heart but that marshmallow inside is hidden beneath a brutal metallic guard like demeanor. When I find myself outside his watch, I feel un-contained again. I am carrying the ache of missing them all. Behind me, the members of my team that haven’t parted with me yet are smiling and taking. They are savoring these last hours that we have together. They are savoring the sweetness of belonging that we feel when we are together. It is some shade of wonderful to be around the familiarity of them, but exploring a place that is unknown to us all. We shed tears when we part. On the way to the airport, I can see the images from today like snapshots that move slowly in my mind. Everything about parting ways with people I love feels wrong.
The taxi moves through the streets of Munich, Germany, weaving in and out of clusters of bicycles. Munich is a city without a palpable energetic flavor. The dominant negative vibration of Munich is: Closed. Similar to the Scandinavian tendency, the emotional distance between people in Munich could be miles even if two people stand shoulder to shoulder with one another. It grants the emotional air of the city a grey chill. It is as if everyone is living their own life in their own reality and ‘other people’ are merely props in that reality. But there is a suppressed anger hidden somewhere in that distance between people. Occasionally that anger flares like a flash of lighting in a gesture someone makes or the way a car horn is honked or something that is said. And then the anger disappears again, under the disciplined control that is so inherent to the German culture. In that flash of anger, the distance is decreased for a half of a second. To generalize, the people in this city are not open people. They do not expose the contents of their inner world to anyone, perhaps not even to themselves. Their true feelings, true thoughts, true desires, true needs and true gifts are completely contained. But that closed way of being maintains the distance between people. It is impossible to really include someone in your life from this standpoint. It is impossible to merge. When I drive these streets, I see the pain that this way of being causes. But because the people have no idea what the alternative feels like, they move through their lives feeling as if something is missing, but not knowing what that something that they are missing even is.
The dominant positive vibration of Munich is: Un-Beholden. To be beholden is to be under obligation for something. It feels like being indebted. When we commit to them, relationships can make life complicated because if we love someone (and thus take them as part of ourselves) we then naturally have concern for the other person’s desires and needs. This pressure is a pressure that can feel like heaven. But if the relationship is lacking or is causing us to limit ourselves and to hold ourselves back from our true desires and needs, it feels more like being trapped behind invisible bars. We begin to feel as if by simply being in a relationship, we are in debt to the other person for being with us and are obliged as such to deny our desires and needs for their benefit.
Because of the way that people live their own individual lives in Munich, they are beholden to none. It is not that the people of Munich are free. In many ways the people in this city are not experiencing freedom. They are imprisoned by rules and ‘shoulds/shouldn’ts’ that they have internalized. But anyone who suffers from feeling trapped by and obligated to other people (especially family) would be served immensely by spending time in Munich.
I am on the plane again. We are headed to Nice, France to make a stop over for a day to visit Ale’s family before flying home. Stepping out on the balcony of the family apartment overlooking the old town village of Villefranche, the Mediterranean Sea shines. The water is Teal colored. A colossal cruise liner floats offshore. The local artisans set up their tents in the marketplace to seize the opportunity to sell their crafts to the boats full of passengers that arrive. The sunlight here is a gentle amber. The gulls and pigeons lie in it for hours. It is impossible not to be blissfully lazy in the sun of southern France.
Ale’s mother spends the day cooking ratatouille. Each layer of flavor fills the house with a different succulent scent. She is preparing for a family reunion. We visit the streets of Nice to browse through the shops. Ale’s stepfather owns one of them, a little jewelry store full to the brim with metaphysical stones. On this trip, he makes me a custom fluorite necklace while I wait with him for Ale to return from an errand. In the background, as is so common in France, 1970s American music is playing. I watch him tap his foot and occasionally hum to it. I smile to myself thinking that it is funny how we, on opposite sides of the globe, could have such a different association with the same music. I can see the way it makes him feel. I sense his nostalgia. This music was the music that was playing in the background of the torment of my youth. But this time, the sheer fact that I am being reminded of that time, means I am not there anymore. I can see that I am so far away from it now. I am sitting in a shop in France. I am on a European tour. I am smiling to myself because when I was young, my mother used to tell me that she had an intuition that I wouldn’t find my husband in the United States. She said that she felt like he would be European and probably from France. It turns out that she was right.
The dominant negative vibration of Nice, France is: Discomfort. Most of the people in this city have never been miserable enough to really start searching within themselves for truth. The pain they carry is like a pebble in the shoe. It is simply nagging and uncomfortable. Not painful enough to really have to do anything about... Not too bad that it can’t be ignored with a good sunbath on the beach or a cigarette or a television show. The atmosphere in the city is one of mild annoyance and everyone loves to complain. Complaint is the way that people in Nice connect with one another. This dominant negative vibration is similar to what you often find in a retirement community.
The dominant positive vibration of Nice is: Precipice. It is a geographical vibration in fact. Nice is very, very odd energetically for an extrasensory because technically the city sprawls from beach to hills to mountains and there are many cliffs. But no matter where you are in the city, even when you’re nowhere near cliffs, it feels like you’re on the edge of a cliff somehow. This vibration also carries over internally. There is a feeling that is common when you’re on the verge of either drastic change or peril; it feels like you’re on an emotional precipice. Universally speaking, precipice is a positive thing because it is impossible to stay stuck forever if you’re on a precipice. Precipice also serves as a great vantage point. The views are absolutely gorgeous here. There is no doubt that due to this vibration, Nice would have been ideal for a maritime military fort and port city.
Later that night, as each family member comes through the door, they walk over to me and press their cheek to one side of my face and then to the other, making a kissing sound to each side. I love French greeting kisses. I love the softness and heat and intimacy of them. I have always resonated deeply with France and with the French people. Even so, I feel like a foreigner here. I don’t feel American until I leave America and then suddenly I realize I’m the loudest person in the room, the least politically correct, the most driven, the most colorfully dressed and the one that eats the most. All but four of Ale’s family members file past Ale and I to the balcony. The sun sets behind them and for hours upon hours, they sit there smoking and drinking wine and speaking fast amongst each other with a backdrop of orange sky turning black. Occasionally there is an uproar of laughter. Not speaking the language, I never know what the laughter is about. I have never been around a culture that is more identified with smoking. The French don’t simply smoke a cigarette. It is as if they invented the style with which a cigarette is to be smoked. The way they tilt their head and lift it to their lips is like a dance; a dance that makes you feel as if you are being told through body language that you’re not good enough for them. There is an edgy glamour to the way they smoke. I watch the angles of their faces as they dance this dance. I watch the smoke creep its way into the room.
Unfortunately, I do not get to know them deeply. And most of them do not ask any questions. Ale is very different from his family. Being so different, he left to the United States to pursue career success 22 years ago and now he is a workaholic vegetarian who does not smoke or drink alcohol. In France, this is as good as being an extraterrestrial. The fact that he has brought home a wife who is an American celebrity that doesn’t speak French and who is a highly spiritual Vegan that doesn’t eat white flour or sugar, has only served to exaggerate that difference. I can tell there is discomfort in the family dynamic because of this gap caused by distance and differences. It is the discomfort of invalidation that so often piggybacks on differences between people. It is not an uncommon dynamic amongst families around the globe. This pain is visible, but it is like an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. If everyone had their way, this gap would go away. But no one knows how to make it go away and be really close and so the talk remains on the surface of things during the brief visits that are made once or twice each year. Some of them try to accommodate these differences that exist, as a gesture of love. I feel cozy in the warm, cotton fluff texture of the emotion and intention inherent in those gestures. Sitting in the room watching this family, I am smiling again. I think it is impossible to be more culturally French than this family. I am also smiling because it is hard to find a flavor that hugs you in as comforting a way as a really good plate of ratatouille.
The party ends. The house falls into the dark silence of sleep. The next morning we board a plane to Paris. I have one more interview to do; a segment for the provocateurs section of OZY. This interview marks the end of this European tour. I have five minutes to change my outfit before the camera is switched on in our hotel room. The style of this interview is not what I expected. There are two different styles of interview, one is supportive and the other is antagonistic. In a supportive style interview, you are already going into the interview being loved. The entire structure of the interview is set up to make you look good. In an antagonistic style interview, the majority of the focus is placed on challenging you. No one holds your hands in support in this type of interview. Instead, the interviewer gives you the opportunity to fight though the power of narration to earn people’s good opinion by putting you on the spot. The interview started off with this: “I have interviewed spiritual leaders from everywhere and many of them have been doing this for more than 30 years and to be honest, none of them have the amount of controversy, hatred and dedicated antagonists as you do. There is so much written against you out there in the world, they call you things like ‘the suicide catalyst’, why do you think that is?” In an antagonistic style interview, you spend your time trying to answer questions while simultaneously trying to caretake the vulnerable aspect of you that feels targeted and like hiding under a blanket while sucking its thumb. Sometimes the interviewer is already biased against you and is simply setting up the interview as a trap to make you look bad so their pre-conceived, concrete concept of you can then be shared by the world in order to make them feel personally validated. But if the interviewer is genuinely non-biased, the antagonistic style of interview often leads to the best content. Nonetheless, it is always awkward when this style of interview ends because everyone acts as if nothing just happened and everyone is really friends when in reality both you know and they know that it was an antagonistic interaction that made all parties involved socially uncomfortable. I decided to order minestrone soup after the interview was over to comfort myself and take a bath before I fell asleep.
What they don’t tell you before you have children is that they will smell better than anything in the world to you. In anticipation of my arrival back home, I can already smell my son. There is this perfect little spot right where the back of his neck meets his hairline. That spot is the smell of home for me. I can already hear the tiny noises our new puppy makes, the patter of his little paws on the kitchen floor. I can see Graciela’s laugh. I can feel what it will feel like to get into my own bed. I can already feel the exhale of all that. If it weren’t for missing people so much, if it weren’t for the ecstasy of home, there would be nothing that could keep me off of the tour. To be honest with you, there are aspects of my chosen purpose and subsequent career that are terrible… Things no one should have to face or contend with. But to be honest with you, I am also in love with it. I am one of those people who can honestly say that I am doing EXACTLY what I came here to do. I am doing the thing that I would be doing regardless of whether or not I made any money doing it. If suddenly I woke up a multi billionaire, I would still be doing exactly what I am doing today. My goals would simply be met much faster and I’d have to make fewer sacrifices along the way. I want all people to feel that way about their life. I believe that all people can, if they are authentic enough with themselves and then with the world. I can imagine sometimes how gorgeous the world would feel if everyone felt that way about their lives. I know that some people will think of me as an unrealistic optimist for this. But on this trans Atlantic flight headed home, I am clear about one thing… If we don’t dare to dream, we will never have a different life. We will never know what is truly possible.