Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Jolly Trolley

I have a recurring nightmare. The theme is always around a lack of control over my life and environment; not feeling safe. Waking up from the latest nightmare a few days ago, I thought about how Gabriel Morris’ travel videos and books share the ways in which he puts himself in various situations and environments that require him to take a lot of calculated risks. I appreciate that he is telling people in his own style, that one can voluntarily put oneself in a challenging environment or life can put one there. Either way, one finds oneself in uncomfortable and scary situations now and then. But with some pre-knowledge of the unknown, one can navigate one's way relatively safely.

The Jolly Trolley is up and running. That would be the “kennel-on-wheels” I created for my latest rescue, Jolly Boy. That big baby was traumatized by the recent firecrackers and fireworks over 2 weeks of Chinese New Year celebrations. This year was the loudest it had ever been and I felt like I was in a war zone, nevermind the poor dogs who don’t know what the source of the “explosions” are. He was already a nervous wreck when I took him off the streets but he was coming along nicely and then had a setback over the Chinese New Year.

Walking him was dangerous for both of us. He would suddenly have a panic attack whenever he saw a male human or whenever he heard an unfamiliar sound. He would bolt and pull and I would be holding on to the leash for his dear life while endangering my own as he pulled me this way and that, over monsoon drains and what not. I had to break my fall while still hanging onto Jolly because if I had let him loose, that might have caused him to lose his life. The neighborhood durian plantation has packs of dogs that are allowed to roam freely and they would surely maul Jolly to death if he takes to the forests for cover. As well, some people in the neighborhood are known to leave poisoned meat on the streets to get rid of what they perceive are nuisance dogs, stray or not.

Anyway, necessity truly is the mother of invention. I had suffered along with the dogs for the last 20 years not knowing what I could do to exercise them in the outdoors while respecting the rights of non-dog lovers. Dog lovers or not, sometimes owners lose control of their large dogs and they are known to frighten people on the streets. With the Jolly Trolley, I have solved the following problems for myself. I like to believe I am also being an inspiration to other dog owners as we think of ways to live and let live peacefully in our multi-culture and multi-lifestyle world.

The benefits of the Jolly Trolley:

1. I can safely walk more than one dog at a time. For the size of my Jolly Trolley, I can only walk one big dog and one small dog but other Trolleys can be made bigger to fit in more dogs to suit the situation.

2. Caesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer aka Leader of the Pack says that dogs need Exercise, Discipline, and Affection – in that order. So my dogs get their daily exercise although I must share that they don’t start to pee and poo while in the Trolley until about Day 4 as they need some time to get used to the idea of not being able to sniff at trees and bushes during their exercise.

Today, Jolly peed and pooped while in the Trolley and as I was moving the Trolley along, I couldn't stop in time so the poo hit the back of the grill but that's ok. I picked up the poo and hung it on the side of the Trolley to be disposed of at home. Once home, it was simple enough to use the garden hose to spray the Trolley clean. Not a problem at all. If your dog doesn't poo during the first few times in the Trolley, it's ok. After their exercise, they should spend some time in the garden to do their potty thing which I appreciate is not what most dog owners would prefer. Most dog owners would prefer their dogs do their potty outside so they don’t have to clean up after their dogs but don’t forget, we are supposed to clean up after our dogs anyway. Whether they go potty outside or inside, we still have to clean up.

3. During the monsoon/rainy season, I no longer have to fit their walks around the weather. In the past, I had to wear a raincoat and I created little raincoats for the dogs who still managed to get wet as the raincoats flapped about in the wind. Now, all I have to do is to cover the top of the Jolly Trolley with a piece of cheap linoleum and we can take our exercise in the rain. I enjoy walking in the rain but not in a lightning storm of course. That one is a no-no!

4. Now I get to carry a large bottle of water and a bowl for the dogs to hydrate a couple times during the one hour walk. I hang a basket at the side of the Trolley so I can bring the items that I think are important for a successful outing. Other than water for me and the dogs -- (“A hydrated cell is a happy cell”) -- I also bring their leashes to walk them home the old way in the event the wheels drop off. I have no idea how long these wheels will stay in place and do their thing. I also bring a chain and a padlock to secure the Trolley in the event that I have to abandon it midway and walk the dogs home with their leashes. The welder who made the Trolley for me said the wear and tear depend on the terrain. Whatever, should the wheels come off the welder is only a call away. He will make house calls to replace the wheels when necessary. By the way, people have already started to stop me on the streets to ask how much I paid for the Trolley. It cost me about USD130.00 including transport to my house.

Update June 2017: I've since bought some spare wheels to change by myself in the comfort of my home. I no longer need the welder. The wheels cost about USD1.50 each. So far, I've changed 2 wheels and had to rotate them like we do with our motorcars.

5. The hilly area where I walk my dogs are not only home to the plantation dogs but also home to marauding monkeys. Sometimes the monkeys come to the roadside and my dogs get too excited. In the past, I’ve had dogs that went chasing after these monkeys and it was very difficult and dangerous for both the dogs and me so now with the Trolley, I can relax no matter what is coming at us during our walks. My friends joke that if there are too many attacking plantation dogs, I could take refuge in the Trolley as well. I don’t think so. It would be too risky for my dogs if I were to open the Trolley door to get in so I have 2 sticks in place on the Trolley for me to defend myself in such an event. These marauding dogs have scared other dog walkers and they have resorted to using taser flashlights to keep the dogs away but the sound of these tasers scare both my dogs so I don’t use them.

6. As I get older, I may suddenly collapse from a heart attack or something (who knows, better to be prepared for all eventualities!) and the Trolley will come in real handy to protect my dogs while I am being helped back home (by passersby) on top of the Trolley. You know … whatever. :D

7. My western foreign friends will not like the Jolly Trolley the way they also do not like that my house has window and door grills to keep intruders out. I’m told that in some parts of the western world people actually do not have to lock their doors and windows even when there is no one at home. That, I know, is not the case where I live and in most places of the world.

8. The Jolly Trolley is also good for rescuing dogs. I remember struggling with the few that I had to leash and bring to my home temporarily while awaiting transport to take them to the Vet’s for spaying and releasing after a weeks’ stay at the Vets. In Oreo’s case, before I was able to take him in, we would struggle to bring him to my house for a flea bath and skin treatment. We had to push and pull and sometimes even lift his hind legs and make him walk like a wheelbarrow. With the JT, we just have to guide-walk him to my house. Assuming we are small enough, we can even get inside the Trolley or sit at the entrance to bathe and treat the strays before releasing them or finding foster homes for them.  

9. Aura bolted and took off while on a walk with household members and went missing for a few days. His leash got entangled in the bushes and I heard him barking and whining while I was out walking my other dogs and keeping a look-out for him. He bolted again when a friend freed him from the bushes and returned on his own later that day but died the same night from suspected poisoning. Hard to say what poisoned him. Could have been a snake bite as other dogs have been known to die from snake bites in the neighborhood. With the JT, this need not happen again.

10. My neighbor had his arm broken when his dog pulled him on one of their walks. Some dogs are so nervous on the streets that they can run into traffic and pull their owners along with them.

11. Many of the big dogs in my neighborhood don’t get to exercise because the owners can’t keep up with them and are just too scared to risk losing control of their big dogs on the streets. With the JT, these big dogs can enjoy their exercise again at a pace that is comfortable for their owners.

12. Some of the neighborhood dogs are allowed to roam about freely even though the law says all dogs have to be leashed while outside their house compounds. Lovely as these free roaming dogs are, they can be a nuisance and a danger for me and my dogs while we’re minding our own business. So the Jolly Trolley meets our needs.

13. I get a real good workout each time I take the dogs out in the JT and I get to move at my own pace. I had gained about 4 kg since the photo in my profile taken about 3 years ago. Being in the Writing Zone to publish my 2 books resulted in the weight gain. Now I'm working it off. I also get to stop anywhere I like to take a water break or just to enjoy the view and/or a chat with passersby. Jolly is not so scared of people when he feels protected by the Trolley.

14. Standard crates in the homes are mostly too small for the dog’s comfort. The JT can be customized to fit the space available in individual homes.

15. The JT works like a kennel too. These mobile kennels can be placed anywhere in or out of the house. My first 4 puppies (Boy, Plenty, Lady and Sharpei 1) had to be placed in a temporary wooden enclosure when in the house to manage them. When they grew into adulthood, Boy and Sharpei 1 would fight and I had to put them in separate houses to stop the ugliness and the trauma. With the JT, each dog could have had their “time out” in the same house. This would have been applied to all the dogs in our care over the past 20 years. Goo Goo would have benefited the most from the JT. Goo was the rescue that was so abused he couldn’t trust a human not to hurt him again. He would at times bite the hand that fed him and as a result, he was left in a large “igloo” of a kennel for all 10 years of his life. We wanted desperately to exercise him but couldn’t think of a safe way to do so. With the JT, it would have been a matter of guiding him around in the Trolley, in and out of his “igloo.”

16. Great for moving dogs when we are relocating. In the past, we had to carry the dogs upwards and into the back of lorries and leash the dogs to the backs of lorries for the long road journeys. With the JT, the dogs can be guided up a ramp at the back of lorries and just “parked” in place and then guided down the ramp at the destination without the usual fuss.  

Do let me know what you think about the Jolly Trolley. All comments are welcomed. Thank you for your interest in our stories. :)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: ‘Kundalini and The Art of Being’ by Gabriel Morris

This was Gabriel Morris’ first book but I read it as the fifth book of his creative accounts on the spiritual journey. I read the three travel books and the shorter version (49 pages) ‘Kundalini Power’ before this (183 pages).

I say the same thing about my books: “I am just someone sharing my perspectives and experiences.” I get that “kundalini power/energy” is another name for chi as well. I get that perspectives are everything. The difference between Gabriel’s journey and mine is I can’t say that I am basically the same person as I started out.

After reading his fifth book, I decided that he was being brave, not foolhardy. It’s not that he didn’t know the dangers out there, he did it anyway. He had to overcome a lot of fears while on his journeys. That said, he and all budget travelers place a lot of faith in “spirit,” “guiding light,” “Providence,” “fate,” and “destiny.” I could never do that with so much conviction that “somehow” I would be delivered safely.

One passage that got my particular attention was when he described how energy has to be used and directed or else it will just drag a person down. One has to align with the energy that is within and find expression without.

While reading the books, it occurred to me that homeless people are a depressed lot basically because humans need a safe place where we can get a good night’s sleep and rest when we are weary or wary. That is a basic necessity. One can’t work on life’s challenges without this basic need being met. Sleep is essential to mental, physical and spiritual health. The books reminded me that the times when I socialized the most in my life were when neither I nor the people I met had permanent addresses or phone numbers. As such, I couldn’t stay in touch through the Orbits 1-5. (Changing Orbits, now in revision, is my memoir.)

I found myself joining Gabriel in asking the questions: What was the point of all the wanderlust traveling, seeking and adventurous lifestyle? I decided by elimination, these travelers would get there. I wonder if Gabriel is “there,” yet. Where is “there?” “There” is where he had wanted to be when he started out on his quest. For most of us “there” is happiness and peace. For most of us, happiness and peace look like the same – financial and social security. For the rest of us, it might look somewhat different. Will we recognize when we get “there?” A personal question for each of us to answer, yes?

When one is on the road, it’s inevitable that one is not as in control of one’s environment as one would be when one is staying put. People who give in to their wanderlust essentially sacrifice this “control” in exchange for other stuff that can’t be found in a “safe” or “safer” environment. We make our choices and we have to deal with them.

Travelers like these go where “spirit” takes them. They usually come across as “commitment phobic” as they like to keep their schedules open and simple. They need the freedom to come and go as “spirit” takes them. I note there is no difference between the genders. Female adventure travelers are similarly brave and capable.

I wonder whether hitch-hikers get picked up nowadays. Not here in Malaysia, for sure. Such decision times can be fatal. These kinds of adventure travel are a kind of “yoga” (discipline) in its own way. As in other arenas of life, when pushed beyond the limits of endurance, something snaps within us and then it’s too convenient for society to think we are crazy. What is “crazy” anyway but the inability to understand another? Society doesn’t understand when a person no longer holds her/himself within normal social limits. Again, interpretation of experiences is everything.

What is the point of being spiritual seekers when we spend much of our time in anxiety, sadness, deep fear, confusion, inner torment, and loneliness, from a lack of 3-dimensional structures and social connections? What is the point of the spiritual lifestyle?

Is it the “less is more” philosophy? Becoming homeless just to “facilitate personal and spiritual growth through the challenges the lifestyle would inevitably bring” is scary stuff. Hence I say such personalities are more brave than foolhardy because I can’t bear the thought of being homeless. I wouldn’t be able to thrive in that state. I would say such people are closer to enlightenment than the rest of us.

What I am taking away from all this reading: Energy must find expression. Otherwise, it’s trapped energy and it will drag you down.


Everyone Pays a Price For Being Who We Are

Of all the humans on the planet, I think free thinkers are the loneliest and get the least support from fellow humans. I mean Muslims generally enjoy support from the Muslim community and Christians generally enjoy support from the Christian community. The Buddhists way of offering support is through sharing their dharma and the free thinkers generally believe that everybody is expanding their consciousness each in their own way and each at their own pace and so they practice a kind of non-interference.

Recently, I had to treat a carbuncle at the site of my second chakra. Interacting with doctors, nurses and other medical staff is not an easy thing for a Germaphobe. I go for treatment because I need help to treat the ailment but I find myself having to defend my beliefs, values, and practices. I can accept that if I go to a Shaman or a Curandero for treatment, I would have to share their beliefs and values or else a cure or healing might not happen via that route.

However, when it comes to regular conventional treatment, I don’t expect medical personnel to challenge my preference to err on the side of caution when it comes to germs. I can’t understand how it hurts others that I choose to avoid unnecessarily contaminating myself with bacteria, fungus, and viruses. So what if I choose to purchase prescribed antibiotics that are manufactured by reputable companies rather that settle for the generic and cheaper drugs?

Anyway, the antibiotics have been making me groggy and less than my best for the past few weeks so I have been using February to catch up on reading Gabriel Morris’s two Kundalini Books. I am more or less familiar with his experiences told to me by dozens of seekers, each with their own filters, references, and interpretations. I was struck by how similar experiences can have such different explanations, perceptions, and interpretations. It seems like even when people have similar experiences in life, they can and often do interpret them differently. Similar experiences can have a broad spectrum of “creating different realities” depending on people’s personal filters, references, and belief systems. Truly, we are all simply experiencers and interpreters of our experiences.

I am familiar with the belief that there are no shortcuts to spiritual enlightenment. Shortcuts are dangerous routes and are counter-productive. The mind, heart, spirit and body are not ready to understand the process when it is taking place. Every part of an individual has to be ready for the experiences or else the point will be missed and the lessons of the experiences will fail to click into ascension.

“Kundalini energy” and the “Kundalini River” is another way of saying “Chi” and the “River Chi”. With all due respect to Gabriel Morris, I wouldn't say the root chakra is the “source” of chi. I would say it's where the ‘Earth chi’ begins the journey upwards, mixing with the atmosphere and the ‘Heaven chi’ at the cauldron (dantian) where the mix is then distributed throughout the body and out through the Crown chakra (‘Heavenly Gate’). In The Dance of the Chi, I offer the idea that the body is the conduit for the Earth, Atmosphere and Heaven chi to alchemize at the dantian. I more or less suggest that is the reason we need our physical bodies to evolve our soul consciousness. Although Author Gabriel Morris remarks here that he has no idea if the chakras have ever been scientifically proven to exist.

Page 21 of Gabriel’s Kundalini Power is a great way to remember the last two chakra colors. Indigo is a deep blue and Purple is a mix of this deep blue and the first Root chakra color, red. Sometimes the various spectrum of colors can be confusing as to the proper chakra colors. In The Dance of the Chi, I quote Quantum Physics a lot regarding the premise our thoughts create our realities. I imagine I get a lot of flak for that and for my other ideas but I am stoically holding my ground. It is what it is. I can’t help the way I think and feel any more than a gay or transgender person can help the way he/she thinks and feels. Ultimately, we all pay a price for who we are.