Monday Oct. 20, The Furkepass
Onto my third continent in over a week. Even though I am going from the most organized country in the world to perhaps the most disorganized, taking the advice of an old friend to break up the trip`to India seems to be paying off. Though I am battling a cold or flu from eating too much dairy products, due to a quick turn of the weather on our last day in Switzerland, I feel strong: ready for the touts, the scams, the chaos, the unexpected changes. I am ready to put on my New Yawk face, not willing to take any crap from anyone (but in a nice way!).
The last full day in Switzerland we tried to outrun the clouds in our Audi stationwagen by driving a loop east of Interlaaken that includes driving over three mountain passes. This was almost as stressful as working. The Furkepass is the highest of the passes on this loop, outside of the town of Gretsch, about 7800 feet high. It isn't as high as other passes I've driven through in the Sierras and Rocky Mtns. of the US, but this is the most hair-raising set of cutbacks, hairpin turns and frightening near misses with opposing cars that I've ever encountered. Add to that a complete whiteout in the clouds, and this makes for sweaty palms - Anne had to close her eyes several times from the stress of it all.
The Furkepass is being remodeled (in fact it seems most roads are being reworked right now in Switzerland, probably in preparation for winter), and I am impressed by the quality of work that Switzerland has done with its roadways - it sure puts Caltrans to shame!)
The main problem was that there was no guardrails or insufficent guardrail on many of the cutbacks, and being in the clouds, you can only imagine that it is a several thousand foot drop over the edge, a mere 3 feet or so from the right tire. Anne had the privelege of being on that side, and it seemed we were always on the outside edge of the road. To make it more interesting, the road at points is just barely wide enough for two cars, and the moment of truth comes when an oncoming car passes you right at the moment the road is the narrowest. Yow.
But we made it to the top of the Furkepass, and were treated to an amazing view of snow-capped peaks leading down to a green valley thousands of feet below. Additionally, you can drive right up to a huge glacier that saddles two mountain peaks.
Coming down is harder than going up, with the necessity of using the brake quite often. And once down to the valley way below, we ended up in one of the oldest towns in Switzerland called Andermatt, with one lane wide cobblestone streets and medieval second floor overhangs to the buildings (from which I am told, people would throw their slop out the window, and a man would alway be on the correct side of his Frau so that he would get hit with the slop, being the gentleman that he is).
From Andermatt, we ended up in a town called Meiringval, famous for being the town where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes killed by the evil Dr. Moriarty, only to have to revive him from the resulting uproar of all the Dr. Holmes fans out there in turn of the century England. Meringval is where meringue was invented, as in lemon meringue pie. Apparently, one day they were throwing a party for the emperor Napolean, and the cook had a whole mess of egg-whites left over, so he added a little sugar and whipped them up for a new dessert treat. Napolean loved it and a new dessert was born.
Spent most of the day getting ready and then departing the wonderful little town of Interlaaken. Transferred money into good old US greenbacks (have you seen the new 20's and 100's with the big faces? real classy, IMO). In the interest of lightening my load, mailed a bunch of things back home and found the only working internet machine for public use in the Hotel Metropol (and it was for free!), from which I sent my previous posting. It's great to keep in contact with people at home, pay bills, and conduct other electronic transactions from anywhere in the world.
Anyway, leaving Switzerland was a sad occasion. It is such a remarkably beautiful and together country - Switzerland seems to a macrocosm of its most famous export, the Swiss watch - beautiful, small, pricey and works with great precision most regularly. And it's funny going over the border into Germany, you can feel that it's a different country, with a very different psychic worldspace - Switzerland seems like a special island amidst its big neighbors.
But I have to say that it won't be soon enough that Europe adopts the new EU monetary system. Think about having different currency in all the 50 US states. It's not that much of a hassle, but it would be an improvement.
So we drove to Frankfurt, found a decent hotel (immediately appreciating the lower cost of things in Germany). I said my goodbyes to Anne with a overflowing heart full of love for her, and watched her get whisked away by Lufthansa on the way to Boston. Damn, it will be such a loss for me not having her with me to share my immediate experiences of India!
Meditating in Hotels Rooms
In my spiritual career, I've noticed a curious effect that other people have also experienced. Ordinarily, you would think that hotels are about the last place that one could perform an effective spiritual practice, since it is the antithesis of "sacred space", more like a hetergenous mix of people's transiting psychic energies.
But then again, people don't stay that long in hotel rooms to make that much of a psychic or energetic impression.
So when you try to meditate in a hotel room, you would expect that it will not be very full or rewarding, since it is not a necessarily conducive environment to spirituality. However, often some very dramatic experiences have occurred for me in hotel rooms, and this has also been reported by other people.
Outside from the randomness of "grace" bopping you on the head with some peak experience, I believe that hotel environments can be positive for the following reasons:
1. In that you are transiting from one place to another, the patterns of your life are being disrupted, and this shake-up of one's "comfortable" and potentially rut-like or button-downed patterns can loosen up energies to create some deep or profound movement (or stillness) in meditation.
Even a very disciplined spiritual practice can be co-opted by ego for its own sake of familiarity and comfort, and any change in environment can "pop" one out of the lock-down that repetitive ritual can sometimes create. I remember distinctly reading for the first time in 1975 a book by Bubba Free John called Method of the Siddhas. Part of the book he describes his method as "creating crises" in devotees lives for the very reason of breaking down the knots and armor of ego, even in the midst of a spiritual environment (of course, my person experience and observation of Da Free John was that he was so good a creating crises that crisis became its own norm with its own particular signature, and it actually made people more armored and cynical, and certainly battled scarred in the Free Daist Communion).
But the pricinple of crisis does apply relative to the need for shake-up. Going to India for me, and for a lot of people, will definitely shake things up, to one degree or another.
2. The very reason that one may be in a hotel room is often for spiritual reasons - going on retreat, seeing one's guru or teacher, etc. For me, the only reason why I travelled in my 20s was for spiritual reasons, for darshan "festivals" with one Guru Maharaji. So being in a hotel room often represented a time of getting prepared or returning from darshan, and this, of course, sets up a very positive engram for hotel rooms!
Now, onto India!