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International School of Kenya Newletter

I was recently honored with the opportunity to be featured in my high school’s newsletter.  While writing about myself I really got to relive some of the best years of my life.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi! My name is Aron Schuftan and I graduated from ISK in 1993. I spent some of the most amazing years of my life in Kenya (1986-1993) and to this day still consider those years to be my best youth years. I currently live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I moved here 6 years ago and am working as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. However, I have recently taken a sabbatical from work to pursue my passion as a fine arts photographer.

  • What was your most memorable moment about being an ISK student?

I can still smell the sweet dew-covered coffee fields on the way to school, still taste the samosas and bhajias from Mrs. Maini, still hear the echoes of the basketballs bouncing in the MPB and still, to this day, cover my food when walking out in the open to protect myself from the kites swooping down to grab my food. I remember listening, in fascination, to Dr. Hinz’ lectures in biology (whom I greatly credit for me becoming a doctor), Mr. Halverson’s billowing voice in the beautiful classroom bungalows, and the long sad bus rides back into town after RVA (once again) beat us.  But most vivid in my memory, are the late nights of rehearsing for plays with Mr. Pearson (Little Shop of Horrors, The Insect Play, The Boyfriend….) for whom I will forever be grateful for teaching me some of the most important life lessons that I still carry with me to this day.

 

  • Congratulations on launching your photography website! What was the inspiration behind coming up with this phenomenal passion project?

My growing up in Kenya actually played a large part on why I started this project. Like so many of you Third Culture Kids, I am sure you always cringe when you hear the question “where are you from?”. This website is now a way to show people the many places that I am “from” and was designed to be almost like a diary of my life.  The images I show, accompanied with the stories I write, are a tribute to my life story through 6 continents and 45 countries….

Also, being an only-child I have always felt a weight of responsibility and duty to pass along my history and the history of my ancestors. I can remember avidly listening to the stories of my heritage, during family dinners, trying to commit them to memory and being so frustrated by only finding a handful of tattered old photos of eras gone by. I longed to be able to see what they saw, to help tell the stories; to make them more real; more visceral. The experience created in me an urge to document my own life, to immortalize my life to others, through the lens and the images I create. It is my hope that it can bring future generations closer to me. It was this desire that led me to take my first class in photography at Tulane University in New Orleans in the mid-1990’s where I was getting my degree in pre-medicine and sociology.

I developed my skills and found that I was able to tell stories with my pictures and it was a great way for me, a self-proclaimed introvert, to interact with people. It empowered and lifted me in a way a gambler must feel as he or she watches a ball tumbling on a roulette wheel.

My photography is a heartfelt diary of what I see, the moments I experienced, traveling to other countries and immersing myself in the culture, anywhere. As a “street photographer”, it is important to me to capture a moment, the feeling –without manipulating my subject or the environment. I try to be “a fly on the wall” and capture exactly what I see.  But at the same time, I try to capture the unusual or the ordinary, but in a new way.

For me, the art lies in the capture, not the later enhancement of an image. Photoshop has revolutionized photography, but being a purist, I shy away from post-production of my work. What you see is what I saw, unfiltered, raw and grabbing the energy of that exact moment. It is through my images, that my viewers can see and experience cultures, faraway lands and the emotions captured by my lens.

For me, not only is the image important, but also the title. I have always believed that the title of a photograph adds another dimension to the image. At times the title of the shot comes to me before I take the picture.

When possible, I always strive to find a title that makes my viewer think one-step beyond the image.

Currently, I am working as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. Repeated I have been living in Vietnam since 2014, but have been coming to Vietnam since 1995 regularly since my parents moved here (and still live here). My mother is Vietnamese and my father was born and raised in Chile to German Jewish parents.  I spent my adolescence in Nairobi, Kenya, but have been fortunate to have lived all over the world including Cameroon, Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile and the US.

  • Any parting shot you’d like to share with current ISK students?

Here I am, almost 30 years later, reliving in full Technicolor, the amazing time I had at ISK. Yes, I’m sure ISK has changed a lot (the coffee plantation is gone?!?!), but the spirit of growing up and getting educated in such an environment surely lives on.  Many of you will go back to your home countries after graduation and undoubtedly feel “different” from your peers. But do not worry, this difference will only set you apart in a good way, make you more unique, more interesting, and more ready to conquer the world.

I hope going through my photos, especially the section on Africa, brings a bit of a smile to those who, like me, were touched so deeply by Kenya, and to those still there, I hope my photos makes you appreciate what you still get to experience daily.

I hope you enjoy looking at my pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Once a Lion, always a Lion….

Best,

Aron

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Magazine d’Art De Saigon

A recent question and answer I did with Mads Monsen from Magazine d’Art De Saigon…

Could you share a little bit about your background and what you do for a living?

“MUTT”- My friends have called me this my whole life and to be honest- I don’t mind. My mother is Vietnamese and my father was born and raised in Chile to German parents. I spent my adolescence in Nairobi, Kenya, but have been fortunate to have lived all over the world including Cameroon, Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile and the US.  To be honest, these various clashing of cultures have never made me feel like an outsider- if anything, it made me feel always accepted wherever I went which I feel has translated into my life and my art.

I am a 44 years old doctor, specializing as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Family Medical Practice and American International Hospital.
I have been living in Vietnam for 5 years now, but have been coming to Vietnam regularly (first time I came here was 1986) since my parents relocated to Saigon from Kenya in 1995.  Besides photography, I love to travel, play
soccer with the Saigon Raiders, Saigon’s oldest expat team and I recently began playing the “Handpan”, a relative new instrument for me.

 How would you describe your Instagram wall?

My wall is an honest diary of what I see in my day-to-day, from the many countries/places I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in and visited. (@aron_schuftan_photography)

As a “street photographer”, it is important to me to capture a moment, a feeling –without manipulating my subject or environment. I try to be “a fly on the wall” and capture exactly what I see.  But at the same time, I try to capture the unusual or the ordinary but in a new way.

How did you start? What was your inspiration?

I started taking pictures at an early age to document my travels, but really started getting into it while in college in New Orleans, when I was gifted my father’s antique Zeiss Ikon camera… its been a love affair ever since.

What are your favorite elements to use in your visuals?

I love to find repeating patterns and use natural “frames” in my images.  I also try to use wide-angle lenses and incorporate “leading lines” into my shots. I find both to be great tools to pull the viewer in and to capture as much of the subject’s environment- which I believe makes a better visual story.

For me, not only is the image important, but also the title. Often I have the title of the shot before I even take the picture- in essence the title makes my image.  I think it stems from the first picture I ever saw that “moved” me. It was a black and white photograph of a pair of feet by Annie Leibowitz and the title was “Pele”.  As an image alone perhaps not so special but with the added title, a whole new meaning evolved- a portrait of arguably the world’s most famous feet.  Since then I always strive to find a title that makes my viewer think one-step beyond the image.

Do you see social media as a tool to inspire or the other way around?

I believe it’s a double-edged sword –yes, the mass, instant, dissemination of information and images can help and inspire, but at the same time, I do believe we have crossed the line: it has bred a new generation of completely self-absorbed narcissists and given fame (and a platform) to the ridiculous and menial.  I mean, really, do we care what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast? But I guess I may be the wrong person to ask; I am not exactly the social media demographic. Then again, social media got me this article so I guess it can’t be all bad, can it 🙂 ?

Who is your Instagram for?

Mostly for family and friends, but I do secretly admit that I enjoy getting likes from strangers around the world.

What do you hope viewers get from your work?

I hope my images allow my viewers to see and experience new places, a new culture and feel an emotion. This desire has often lead to me to capture moments that some of my audience find displeasing (eg:  my series of photos from a dog meat market in Hanoi). But to be honest, I appreciate the positive praise as much as negative comments. For me, the fact that my images cause a strong emotion (good or bad) is what I strive for as an artist.

What is challenging about Instagram?

Not only as relates to Instagram, but to social media in general: it is hard to get noticed as an artist and have your work really appreciated.  Today EVERYONE is a photographer and people’s attention span is shrinking. Also, with the advent of Photoshop, the nature of photography has changed –now it doesn’t matter so much how good you are at capturing a moment, but rather how good of a graphic designer you are. Some would say it is the “evolution of photography”, or “it’s what we used to do in the dark room”. But for me, as a purist, I try to do no post production of my work (no cropping, no Photoshop), so I don’t buy it. I believe, the art is in the capture, not later in front of a computer. What you see in my pictures is what I saw, when I saw it.  But then again, as this is a hobby for me, I have the benefit of making that decision. I totally understand (and sympathize) with my professional photographer friends whose clients want a perfect image and they don’t care if you got it on your first shot or after 10 hrs manipulating it on a computer screen.

Looking back at when you started, how much has your style evolved and how?

As I look back through my photos I can see different phases that I went through. Abstract, architecture, fashion, nature- having only done photography as a hobby, I have had the freedom to take pictures of anything I want.  But I find that what currently inspires me is the people of Vietnam: I shoot mostly children and the elderly. I find “innocence” and  “wisdom” interesting subject matters.  In any case, I always try to incorporate visual elements in my shots that tell a story and are not just “pretty” pictures.

What are some of your favorite instagram accounts to follow? ?

I love National Geographic’s Instagram (and to be honest am jealous of it).  It would be my dream come true to work for them (if anyone can introduce me I would appreciate it!).  But I am also a big fan of Justin Mott’s work (@askmott) who was a fellow contestant/judge of mine in “Photo Face Off” –a photography reality show on History Channel that I was lucky to be a part of.

What can we expect to see on your Instagram in the future?

Hopefully more of the same, but better…

#AronSchuftanPhotography #NationalGeographic #StreetPhotography #Traveller #ThirdCultureKid

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THANK YOU!

Welcome to my website and thank you so much for taking the time to browse through it.  It has been my dream for the last 10-15 years to set up a “real” website but, alas, a certain apathy took the best of me until now. My new year’s resolution of 2019 was that this was the year I was going to do it and, well, I cut it down to the wire, but I did it.

I have loved taking pictures for as long as I can remember and, somehow, in my heart, I think it is what I was meant to do since childhood.  So much is my love for and conviction about photography that, in September 2019, I decided to take a sabbatical (career change?) from being a doctor to focus entirely on my career as a photographer.  I have no idea where this road will take me, but I look forward to the challenges ahead.

I wanted to build this site really for two reasons: first of all, I wanted to share my images in a more formal manner with all of you, I have collected and classified thousands of pictures linked to my life as a photographer. Until now, no one has ever seen them.  The website gives me a formal platform to sell my work to many of you that have asked me over the years to do so.  Secondly, I wanted to create a diary-like place where I could document my life, particularly my travels. As I get older, more and more, I feel the weight of being an only child. Whatever I do not share dies with me…A rather morbid view, but one that holds true.  With such a rich cultural, familial and personal heritage I must not let that happen.  As such, much of what you see and read in this site will be very personal and dear to me. I do not expect it to resonate with all of you, but those that know me personally, or those that would like to know more about me, will be interested, I want to think.

I would be in debt if I did not acknowledge a long list of people that have been instrumental in my development as a person and a photographer.  Allow me to do so here…

First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents Aviva and Claudio (Mami and Papi).  They have always been supportive of what started as a hobby and even nurtured it in the early days when I was gifted my father’s antique Zeiss Ikon camera that he got at his bar mitzvah when he was 13 years old.  I would also like to acknowledge not only the countless hours that my father spent driving me around on the back of his motorbike to shoot photos in surrounding neighborhoods, but also the hundreds of hours he (and my mother) spent looking through thousands of photos and old time negative rolls giving me their always honest opinions.

To my first teacher, the renown, Mr. Trong Thanh. He took me under his wing when I was just a young man, learning this new art form. Despite not sharing a common spoken language, we were able to communicate through our photos and his tutelage certainly taught me lessons that resonate with me every time I pick up my camera even 30 years later.

I would like to thank Etienne Bossot from Pics of Asia, who refined those early skills learned and really took my photography to the next level especially during my recent ten-day photo-tour to Bangladesh. He taught me to “chase the light” and “separate your layers!”.

Nico Greeve, my dear friend that lit the proverbial “fire under my ass” for me to finally stop talking about a website and actually start setting one up. Thank you for this energizing and all your advice.

To Gregory Beale and Mike Gebremedhin, my buddies who, despite having busy family lives, always made time to answer my endless questions about camera gear. You are both right, fixed lenses are better…

To Lee StarnesFred Wissink, and Quinn Mattingly, fellow Vietnam photographers, thank you for all your advice and your frequent “how the hell do I make my new camera do this?” inputs.

To Mads Monsen, so great to finally meet you in Hanoi and thank you for your help with the direction this website should take.

To Justin Mott, my fellow “co-star” on History Channel’s “Photo-Face Off”, thank you for making that experience so fun and amazing and allowing me to have a glimpse of what it is like to be a celebrity photographer.

I would also like to thank Rachel Menell and Ron Tan, some of my oldest friends, for being my early supporters and my early muses.

Lagan Gill, Hugh Mellert and Diana Rodriguez my title masters, thank you so much, your inputs were so valuable!

To @sara_jjil, @jennyluu and @nyala_tours my number one instagram supporters, thank you for all the “likes”.

To Erik Hutchins and Anna Protasova, thank you for all the words of encouragement over the years. It really made the difference and kept me posting.

My immense thanks to my copy editors, Tien Nguyen and Rivka Lomarda, whom despite having English as a second language speak and write much better than I do.

To Mai Lam who, at the time of this writing, is a relatively new friend, but whose creative energy and inspiration is contagious and helped me cross the finish line.

To the Napit family, you adopted me, a total stranger in Nepal and showed me true kindness and love. Forever yours.

To Abhishek Kakran, for your hospitality in New Delhi. It left a lasting impression on me. I hope to one day return the favor.

To Rehan, although we have never met personally I have admired your work from afar.  Thank you for being an inspiration to me here in Vietnam by making photography a “fine art” and giving me a template to chase my dreams and also giving me an example of how to run this complicated business.

And last but not least, to Ste Bell, my web designer and friend. Thank you for tackling the huge project with me; a huge collaborative effort that I do think we both may have underestimated in the beginning.  Thank you for your real love and belief in my art. Thank you for allowing my dream to come to fruition. I am forever grateful for all your time, effort and patience.

Of course, I know that there have been many more that I have missed; I apologize. You know who you are and just know that I am so grateful for all that you have done.

Aron

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Dan

Dan Eldon was a friend of mine. We both went to the same high school- the International School of Kenya in the 1980s-90s.  Even at such a young age Dan’s creative talents were so apparent.  After graduation, Dan became a war photographer in Somalia for Reuters and it was there that he was killed in action on July 12, 1993 at the age of 22. He was the first person I knew that had ever died. His photography moved and inspired me and is one of the main reasons that I am a photographer today. You are missed……

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Eldon

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Titles

For me, as an artist, not only is the image important, but also the title. I have always believed that the title of a photograph is an added dimension to an image. Often I have the title of the shot before I even take the picture – in essence, the title makes my image. I think it stems from the first picture I ever saw that “moved” me.

 

It was a simple photograph of a pair of feet by Annie Leibovitz and the title was “Pele’s Feet”. The image alone is perhaps not so special but with the added title, a whole new meaning evolved – a portrait of arguably the world’s most famous feet. Since then I have always strived to find a title that makes my viewers think one-step beyond the image.

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One man’s experience in a seven-day silent meditation retreat….

At the end of 2014, I traveled for one month through Nepal. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (Click here to see photos).  Part of that journey involved a seven day silent meditation retreat. Read about my experience below.

 

One man’s experience in a seven-day silent meditation retreat….

“This will be your room for the next 7 days.  We ask that you keep it neat and tidy and remind you of the strict code of silence during your time here. Also no music, entertainment, sex, lying, stealing or leaving the premises. Enjoy!”

And with that, the androgynous portly monk spun around and waddled away leaving me and his/her sandalwood scent in the simple, poorly lit, barren room.  Three beds, a private bathroom, nothing fancy, but 5 stars in comparison with my last months’ accommodations.  A wooden bed frame with a very hard 2 inch mattress and an old blanket sat there invitingly with a shelf as a companion for my personal belongings.

I took a deep breath, taking it all in, hardly noticing the one other occupant in the room. He looked towards me, as if to say “RUN”, but instead nodded silently and continued to stare at the wall.  That was the only and last interaction I had with my roommate and the last eye contact I gave anyone for the remaining 7 days.

I came to the Panditarama Meditation Center in Lumbini after meeting 2 travelers during my one month journey through Nepal.  It had changed their lives, they said, and I thought I too would seek the meaning of life, become a Jedi knight or at the very least learn to levitate and perhaps figure out a new recipe for veggie lasagna. Lumbini is about 45 minutes from the Indian border and is an auspicious place since it is the birthplace of Buddha (yes, THAT Buddha). In fact, the monastery in which I stayed was a stone’s throw away from the actual birth SPOT (which can be seen behind bulletproof glass).

All I had been really told up to this point was that it was 16 hrs of meditation a day, alternating between walking and sitting meditation. Up at 4AM – breakfast at 7, lunch at 11, “juice” at 7PM, bed at 10PM. Up until now, my experience with meditation pretty much only involved a ritualistic 3 minutes of silent breathing (with half-assed attempts at crossing my legs “Indian style”) before every test I took in med-school- Yea, I was a complete novice.

I walked outside after getting “unpacked” (3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants – hardly seems worthy of the term), looked up and stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t know whether to run, laugh or cry.  ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES EVERYWHERE! Silent figures were shuffling along in a conga line in slow-motion with blank stares and glazed eyes.

You see, what had I failed to truly realize was that this was a Vipassana meditation center (Vipassana is the practice of MINDFUL meditation). The precept is that it is through being “mindful” of one’s actions that one purifies the mind, body and spirit and becomes enlightened.
More clearly, what being MINDFUL means in the case of Panditarama is that yogis are instructed to be consciously and CONSTANTLY thinking  of EVERY movement while  walking  and EVERY inhalation and exhalation when in sitting meditation -from the moment your eyes open in the morning till the moment you close them at night. EVERYDAY.

In fact, you are supposed to be so focused on these tasks that you are to ignore EVERY other thought or stimulus and ONLY FOCUS ON your walking and your breathing. Here’s an example: DON’T think of an apple. Can’t do it can you? Now, don’t think of ANYTHING…. For a WEEK!

Each step I took was to be divided into 3 parts: the lifting up of the foot, the moving forward of the foot, and the placing down of the foot. Each phase had to be mentally acknowledged, taken in and studied in minute detail: feel each muscle moving; feel the pressure on each part of your foot; the sensations; the temperature; each nerve ending.  This, in turn, makes EACH STEP last 3-4 seconds. Your gaze is to fall at your feet and you are not supposed to look around (so why did they spend all the money on making the place look so nice?). You get the picture, right?

I fell into line and started my slow zombie shuffle with the others. I thought I could feel them judging me behind silent eyes like Andy Dufrain from “Shawshank Redemption”. Was I gon’a be the first new “fish” to crack?

Right foot Up…..forward……down. Pressure on the heel. Ankle flexion.

Left foot Up…..forward……down. Activating calf muscle. Big toe flexing.

Right foot Up…..forward……down. Flexing the ankle. Knee extending.

Left foot Up…. forw…. Oh, I have to remember to confirm my ticket and …. STOP!

Right foot Up….forward…. down.

Oh look! SQUIRREL ! Ha ha! That was a great movie! Wonder what movies are out now…… SHUT UP!

Left foot Up…..forward……down.

My nose itches- ARON!

Right foot Up…..forward……down

Again …. And again…. And again….

What I quickly and sadly realized is that, without the distractions of modern day life, my mind is a constant agitated story teller -with ADHD- and separation anxiety. AND IT WON’T SHUT UP!  No matter how many times I tried to quiet my mind -no matter how many times I implored. I kept going on mental tangents. Non-stop -for days. It was a constant mental battle and it was EXHAUSTING!

We shuffled into the meditation hall and assumed our “positions”. The room was fairly non-descriptive with a 3 foot golden statue of Buddha in the corner (which honestly looked like it could have been bought in any Costco ornament section -Aisle 5. Above each sitting area was a personal mosquito net which made the scene look like something out of “The Matrix”. Wordlessly, we all took our spots (I actually mistakenly sat in someone else’s spot the first session without knowing (way to make new friends “newbie”!) and started to meditate – now focusing on our breath.

Innnnnnn……. Outttttt……..

Innnnnn…… Outtttt…….

Innnnn…… I’m bored…… Outtttttt

Innnnnn……wonder what’s for lunch….. Outtttt….

Innn ……. God I want a steak….. STOP!!! Outttttt….

And so it went. My mental schizoid warfare continued over and over… and over again.

And then, the pain started to set in. First the neck pain from staring constantly at my feet (God, I need a pedicure!), then back pain (over-doing my gait causing the activation of different under-used muscles) and then, worst of all, my leg started to fall asleep. Here’s the rub: in Vipassana meditation, you are supposed to embrace the pain. As all of life is suffering (as per the Buddha), you are supposed to acknowledge it, understand its “nature” (?!?) and then ignore it. Shifting positions was a sign of weakness (and could be heard in the dead silence) and I wasn’t gonn’a be that “fish”. It was excruciating! After the hours-long sessions, if the zombies found humor in me dragging my cold dead leg behind me, they sure hid it well (Oh! but I found humor in the irony as I now looked even more like a zombie than they did).

In general, food was pretty good. Breakfast was muesli, yogurt and apples; homemade bread with cheese, peanut butter and jelly. Lunch was a variety of veggie dishes all delicious and in abundance (and grown on the premises). Juice was -get this- HOT Tang… (Didn’t they stop making Tang with the Apollo missions??!). And a piece of hard candy….

Every evening at 5:30, the head monk (German, but grew up in Kenya!) would give a Dharma talk -a lecture on Buddha’s teachings. It was here, on the first day, that I realized I was a Boy Scout in a Green Beret boot camp; that I had jumped head first into the deep waters of an advanced meditation retreat. All of my fellow zombies were Buddhist scholars! I mean I should have guessed this by the perfectly erect unflinching posture of their meditation poses, the perfect execution of zombie gait. But in the lectures it was clear that I was WAY outranked and outnumbered.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of Buddha -something about a middle path and rubbing his belly for good luck. I even knew what he looked like (he’s the guy always next to the plastic waving cat at the Chinese restaurants). But these people even knew his favorite color! (Phyllo green). It sucks knowing you are the dumbest person in the room (sadly not the first time I’d felt it).

I sat there STRAINING to hear as the head monk spoke in hushed-holy tones that the mere sound of a mouse’s swelling hemorrhoid would easily outdo. And for the first 2 days I thought he had a stutter only to realize that he was speaking in an ancient Sanskrit language -“panini”- which has words 32 letters long, half of which are “ps”.

The early morning mist brought the sounds of gongs and guttural ancient chanting from the dozens or so surrounding temples. This was truly quite mesmerizing but, of course, you had to block it out and get back to your practice.

Up…..forward……down

Up…..forward……down

Innnnnn…..ouuuttttt

Innnnnn……ouuutttt

As the days went by, I too started to judge the new-comers, relishing the fact that I had less days left than them and making mental bets on which fish wouldn’t make it. But I knew this negative mindset was surfacing, because I was feeling quite demoralized. The solitude was absolute -not even your own mind to talk to- and was surely getting to me.  I had already received “hate mail” from the Meditation Mafia. One note for wearing clothes that were “too noisy” and another (quite a mean one or was I overly sensitive?) for having too many pillows during my sitting meditation. (Further forensic analysis narrowed the last letter down to a Mrs Lesley L., 69 years old, staying for 84 days. Cross-referenced, the handwriting of the “anonymous” note in the sign-in log book has a P.O. Box in Ohio -guess who’s getting a lump of dog shit in the mail for Christmas…).

Everyone around me looked and felt more holy than me and really seemed to be getting a lot out of the breathing and the walking. All I was getting was more aches and pains and frustration for not being able to quiet my mind.  I questioned whether I belonged there and if, quite frankly, I was getting anything out of it. All I wanted to do was  “Up…..forward……down” my ass to the front gate and scream “YOU CAN’T TOUCH THIS! ” at the top of my lungs and dance the “Running Man” down the street.

So in a feeble (desperate?) moment, on one particularly cloudless night (day 3?), I looked up at the sky and asked for a sign that I was on the right path, that I was meant to be there and, sure enough, hand-on-heart, a shooting star crossed the sky right at that moment (I then quickly wished for Sofia Vergara and a Red Rider BB gun). It was the sign (or a coincidence) that I needed to keep me going.

The next day I was charged by a monkey (HUGE f&cker!) as if to remind me to stop looking around and keep looking at my feet and found a leech having me for lunch, but I was undeterred as I was now on a mission to get on with my task to the end.

As the days went by SLOWLY, I realized that there were people there with major life crises and even some with terminal illnesses. Some were staying as long as 6 months and many had been there before. This opened my eyes and made me not feel so “dumb” and also take things seriously (and also forgive Mrs. Lesley). It was then that I was able to really better focus and concentrate so that what I finally realized is this: EVERYTHING around us is “noise”, distractions of our consciousness. These external stimuli keep us from being PRESENT, in the moment. The practice of Vipassana is meant to hone our skills of focusing and concentrating and to accept that life is suffering. It is only through these practices that one can see past the noise and really see the true nature of things and ultimately become Enlightened.

Was it life changing for me? Well, that is yet to be seen. But for now, yes the air seems a bit sweeter.  I do know though that I am a quarter turn sharper in the “pencil sharpener of life”  and it was a MONUMENTAL personal achievement for me.

Now, on that note, STOP!!!! HAMMERTIME!

See you in Zihuatenejo.

Zenfully yours,

Aron

PS: Private message me if you want that lasagna recipe.

#hardtobeholy

*Disclaimer- this post was not intended to offend. Just a humorous portrayal of MY experience.

** It is not known by the writer if rodents actually get hemorrhoids.