Hearing is involuntary but listening is a choice. You don’t have to listen to all the voices that you hear. Exercise control when it comes to who and what you authorize to influence your mind.
Yes, you are the gatekeeper of your mind.
The senses are mere receptacles. Your mind has the power to decide whether to push play or pause. What about the involuntary noises? Exercise control and selectivity. In order to do this effectively and consistently, one must come to the realization that the soul itself is the controller of your life.
The soul is not a control freak, it’s there for a purpose but it won’t execute that purpose without willingness. If the purpose of the soul is to create, it will wait till the vessel (you) are ready both in your mind and body. You hold the key to your soul, mind and body.
Perhaps we forget that we are not our body, we are not our mind, we are not our soul … we are but one and all. What you can comprehend is what you will perceive. From what you perceive you will derive your filtered version of comprehension and from that comprehension you will execute actions that will create your experiences. Not a single piece of the universe is out of place. If it was, life will not be sustainable. So, be selective. Life is infinite. Possibilities are endless.
“Make your dreams out of rubber balls, they won’t drown.
If you throw it away, it will bounce back!
Rubber balls are fun, not just for you but for others too.”
We live in a world full of connotations. The way you comb your hair to a metaphor you use when you write, will be interpreted by someone according to the lenses they wear when they view the world.
I enjoy poetry for this very reason!
Writing a poem gives you the freedom to express freely. How someone will interpret what you write is not really of concern, at least for me. As I mentioned above, we live in a world of connotations. So, it is expected that readers will interpret a line of poetry depending on what each word and image represent (to them) according to their worldview.
The poems come from my personal experiences. Some, are reactions to situations that I never expressed while others capture the feelings of fleeting moments. As readers flip through the pages, I hope they will be able to relate to certain feelings and appreciate varying perspectives.
When I started my backpacking trip to Nepal, I had no plan whatsoever. As my Instagram account states: “I have no agenda”, especially when it comes to traveling, music and writing. I decided to goto Nepal on the same day I took the flight. It was a decision I made on the spur of the moment. I was definitely not prepared to trek the Annapurna circuit when I packed my bags. If anything, I wanted to have spontaneous experiences.
And that’s exactly what I found for the next year!
The decision to collect various pieces of writing I had produced over the years came to mind when I was in Munnar, India. Even then, I wanted to stay true to my motto: “I have no agenda”. So I simply collected poems that were stacked away and put together a collection. Initially, I wanted the book to be a photo / poetry book. I thought it would be fitting to find images that compliment my writing. It was delightful to find a picture that resonated with a poem. Especially, since the images were taken at random without the intention of including in the book!
The digital version, which can be found here, has accompanying images that I captured from an iPhone 6s during my travels in South East Asia.
The paperback version is a poetry only version. You can get it here.
I hope you enjoy the poems and the accompanying images. Originally, I envisioned the book as something that will compliment one’s living room by taking the place of a coffee table book.
I recently published my first poetry book: Table Nomad: A Wanderer’s Collection on Amazon. Writing poetry is something very personal. Self-publishing, designing and creating the layout myself, made it a bit more intimate.
I learnt a lot of new skills and polished up on existing ones during this process. Adobe InDesign was completely new to me when I first started to layout my book. I was in Munnar, India at that time, taking a break from extensive traveling. While taking a few days to relax, I suddenly felt the urge to finally put together this book. I had most of the content written already. I also had over 10,000 images from my travels. So, it was a matter of putting it all together.
“It’s not about doing everything alone. It’s more about learning something new and applying that knowledge in the practical world.”
Here are three lessons I learned during the process:
Lesson 1: To make an idea come into reality, one must take action
I’ve thought about it. Talked about it. Dreamed about it. One day I finally realized that what’s left is, to simply do it. The hardest part of an extensive project is getting things going. Over the years, I’ve found that whenever I get myself to start something, I tend to follow through. There’s something in me that doesn’t want to back down once I start something. So, I started by subscribing to InDesign. Now it was serious, I have made an investment in a tool that I had no clue how to operate! My brain figured out what needed to happen next and soon I had gathered my pieces of writing that were stored on websites, Instagram and my notes.
Lesson 2: Getting different perspectives and opinions are good, but at the end you must decide
When I started arranging the poems and images, I asked a couple of friends for their opinions. It was good to know what others were seeing and understand whether your creation is communicating the right message. However, the ultimate decision to decide on which font to use and how to format an image was up to me. There were times that I doubted myself. It can be frustrating when you can’t decide on something. But, in order to make progress, we must make a decision and stick with it. Yes, sometimes it’s risky. Yes, we must live with the consequences of our decisions. But, it’s also all about your outlook. We can always learn from a mistake. The good thing in the digital age is that we can change things easily. Which leads to my next lesson …
Lesson 3: Be open to change and don’t settle
I first got a taste for making corrections and revisions during my master’s thesis. I am thankful for my thesis chair for pushing me to revise, re-write and redo. It can be extremely frustrating to find an error right when you think it’s ready to go live. But finding errors and having the ability to correct them is a blessing in disguise. Yes, it can take a toll on you after the 10th time, but it teaches you to become more careful and pay attention to detail. In the beginning, I wanted to publish around 50 poems and sayings with images. When I realized that the cost was too high to do color images, I was disappointed. I felt as if all my efforts had come to a standstill.
Determination is a fascinating quality. Couple that with the ability to make compromises, it’s not too hard to find win-wins. I had to change my book to meet the practical aspects of publishing. So, I made the photography and poetry (color) version available digitally and created a poetry only paperback version. I didn’t get everything I wanted. But then again, I did.
One of the workers on the diving boat was getting ready to have lunch. He smiled and invited me to join. His invitation was so sincere, that I couldn’t resist it. His eyes communicating nothing but friendship, that of a brother to his own. I opened up his newspaper-wrapped lunch packet. The smell of basmati and spices added to the spectacular view of the coast of Nusa Penida, a small island off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. I took one bite of his yellow rice and his buddy walked over and offered me another packet.
As I was unraveling his royal feast, wrapped in a common newspaper, I noticed that he was sitting at the back of the boat, with a smile, looking out into the clear blue ocean.
That’s when I realized that he has just offered me his lunch!
Then it hit me. I was in Asia. Where roots of hospitality has run in the hearts and veins of people for thousands of years. The experience made me realize that I cannot enjoy their land and its fruits without respecting their way of life and their sincere smiles.
Wealth in this part of the world is stored in the hearts and souls of the people. People’s hearts are made of gold there. They don’t have fancy cars and luxury suites. They eat their rice with bear fingers and don’t think twice about offering their meal to a total stranger.
The reality, today, is dominated by a materialistic ideology, enforced by imperialistic attitudes. In this system, these kind-hearted islanders can only be great hosts to tourists that work in the “developed world”.
A taxi driver in Asia cannot goto the west and afford to take a taxi to see the Eiffel Tower. But a taxi driver in the West can come to Asia and afford the luxuries only the wealthy in the East can afford. Even though they both do the same job, one is able to experience luxury, while the other has to deal with bargaining tourists all day to make a living.
Let’s not forget to look at the whole picture when discussing ideas. Equality is not only about gender, race or religion. Development is not only the measure of external possessions, but also the development of the mind and the heart.
Indonesians have hearts of gold. As I walk these streets, I see wealthy individuals that have no gold to show but smiles to offer.
At first, he thought, wow this is an amazing skill to have. So, he went into restaurants and started listening to conversations. It was quite entertaining at first. Then, he started using his skill for his advantage. He patted himself in the back when he got what he wanted. He thought, “Huh, they have no clue that I know what they think”.
A few years passed by. He had now gotten tired of using his skill for his benefit. Now he was simply observing others. He started diving deep into his interactions. He analyzed the thoughts that were going through someone’s head when they were speaking to him. He tried to give them what they wanted or what they wished for.
One day, he was hanging around some friends and felt extremely uncomfortable. He could no longer just enjoy life. He was constantly concerned about what someone else was thinking; what they were going to say to another person about him or someone else. His life was suddenly filled with other people’s thoughts. His own thoughts were now drowning.
For the first time since his realization, he felt burdened. What once felt like a blessing now weighed him down like a curse. He looked around him and saw thousands of people that couldn’t read minds. They were just happy to live based on what they saw and heard. They had no clue that sometimes their loved ones were not being honest.
Then he wished that he couldn’t read minds. He wanted to be normal. Years passed by. He found himself getting farther and farther away from civilization. He just couldn’t deal with the make believe comments and conversations anymore. One day, he met an old man. He asked him “Son, how are you?” He realized that this man was sincerely interested to know how he was doing. He shared his experience with the man and explained why he was living in the outskirts of civilization.
The old man smiled and said “I was like you once. I too got tired of reading other peoples’ minds.” The mind reader was excited. He wanted to know how to deal with it. The old man said that he simply decided to not read other peoples’ minds one day. He said that he realized even when he read someone’s mind; he still enjoyed listening to what the other person had to say. Words, he said have power. It still takes effort to make a thought into audible, comprehendible sounds. He left the man with the poem below and said “Go back to the city if you want. It’s not as bad as you think. You have two ears. Keep them clean. Don’t let what you don’t like stick in between. Listen from one and let it go from the other.”
This cute little thing came crashing down and fell on the couch right behind me at this quaint coffee house in Rishikesh India. I was having a cup of coffee with a sweet Brazilian couple I met at the yoga school I will attend next week, when Jeanie said “oh my I think she didn’t see the glass”.
I’ve always had a sweet spot for animals and have rescued a few as a kid. So naturally, I was drawn to do something for the poor bird. Jeanie is a very kind hearted person, she was right there with me as I grabbed a newspaper that was on the table to get the injured bird outside, in case it tries to fly inside the coffee house and run into more trouble.
It was apparent that it hurt its feet in the process of crashing into the window. They looked crooked and unusual. I asked the waiter to bring us some water. The bird had its mouth open, and a closer look made me feel as if it was in shock. So, I figured some water might help. Jeanie’s kindness was so admirable. She was holding a napkin over the bird to keep away the sunlight.
It was apparent that the bird didn’t have the senses to reach into the bowl to get water, so I let some water drop from my fingertip.
The bird was drinking the water!
It gave us both hope. We couldn’t help but have compassion for this beautiful creature as we caressed it gently with love, wishing for it to get better. Jeannie was constantly telling positive things to the bird and it was so pleasing to my ears as well. After a while, the bird closed its mouth, so I stopped offering it water. We got the waiter to bring us some rice hoping that it would eat it.
A few minutes passed as we both intensely stared at this beautiful bird with nothing but kindness and well wishes. Little by little, it appeared that the bird was regaining its senses. A feeling of utter joy entered my heart every second as I watched it turn its tiny head from one side to another. To me, it seemed like it was now observing us: two strangers staring at it, offering it water.
Jeanie said, “It’s amazing how this bird is trusting us”. I said, “I think animals can sense what we feel towards them”. A minute or two later, it attempted to fly. It wasn’t that successful as it landed a few inches from the table. We were very optimistic. We said “agh, its getting better, look! The feet doesn’t seem to be crooked anymore!”
The bird flew away with elegance a minute later and landed on a near by tree. We high five’d as Jeanie said, “yay, we did it”. Pure bliss and peace filled my mind. There’s so much joy in helping someone for in and of itself. There were no heroes in that moment. There was only that moment. That shared experience.
In this materialistic world, everything seems to be some sort of transaction. Sometimes happiness is doing something for someone that can never return the favor. I was the one that was blessed by the opportunity to experience that moment. To watch a beautiful bird fly again.
Perhaps nothing I did contributed to it. Perhaps it had everything to do with the love Jeanie and I showed it. But it’s not about that. It’s about that split second. That split second that we saw the bird fly again. That rush of bliss that entered our hearts. That … is worth everything. It was not forced, staged or had any sort of ulterior motive.
A trained eye knows the value when they find a gem in the rough, covered in mud. We all have gem like qualities, talents covered in mud, waiting to be found. Perhaps they have been found and are now getting polished. Maybe they are already found, polished and ready to be adorned by the person that’s truly seeking it.
Whatever phase we may be in, we shouldn’t get frustrated.
The caterpillar will eventually turn into a butterfly and fly away.
Life will look different then. Your perspectives will change and new possibilities will open up when you flutter your wings. The “oh no’s” will change to “oh my’s”. Then you will appreciate the time you spent in the mud even more.
There’s beauty in everything. If we remember to be mindful, we can appreciate each stage instead of drowning in hopelessness.
There’ll be enough hands along the way that will toss you around because they won’t see your value through the mud or the inclusions. Those tosses are not your failures. They are THEIR mistakes. Through that, harden yourself and embrace your natural tone. A gem’s value increases with its hardness. It’s also more fitting for it to be in the hands of someone that appreciates and knows what they have when they wear it.
Remember, a monkey won’t know the difference between a gem and an ordinary rock. But a princess does.
With a rainbow-colored Mohawk and numerous tattoos and body piercings, including on his tongue, just about everyone at the Mercyhurst Police Academy in Erie, PA figured Mark Rayman, fresh out of high school, would wash out quickly.
Though the unruly teenager learned to adapt –“Mark had to tone down his style and opinions enough to fit into police work,” says his wife, Melinda – the tobacco-chewing cop is still regarded as something of a rebel among his fellow officers at the Little Elm Police Department after three and a half years on the job.
“I don’t think he likes to ‘go along to get along’ if you know what I mean,” says Mark’s field training officer, Sgt. Drew Mitchell. “The good side of this is that he relates so very well to many walks of life that others can’t. There are segments of our society that Mark can communicate with that I could never.”
One night, for example, the two officers stopped a group of mischievous teenagers whom they thought “were up to no good.” But instead of hauling the juveniles down to the Little Elm police station for questioning, Patrol officer Rayman, who stands 6 foot four and weighs 210 pounds, jumped on one of their skateboards and performed a few tricks, dazzling the teenagers.
His methods of handling troubled teenagers, says Sgt. Mitchell, have earned Officer Rayman a reputation as “being honest, fair and someone they can trust.” It’s also earned him the respect of his fellow officers. His ability to relate to teenage crowd“ is very valuable in our business and can help us get information in critical times,” says Sgt. Mitchell.
Not that the patrol officer is a pussycat around teenagers. On a recent patrol in Little Elm, Officer Rayman spots a young female driver at a gas station, hip hop blasting from her car speakers. The driver and her passengers aren’t wearing seat belts and toddlers in the back seat aren’t strapped into their car seats. Officer Rayman wants to know why. But the young lady, exuding a haughty air, acts as if she can’t hear Officer Rayman. That triggers a stern lecture from the policeman.
“Why do I have to hear your music?” he growls. “You can’t hear what I am listening to from my car, do you?”
Officer Rayman calls her mother on the phone, and waits for her arrival. As soon as she arrives at the gas station, the mother realizes her daughter is out of line and may be on the brink of getting a citation and fine. She admonishes her daughter and assures Officer Rayman she’ll be wearing her seatbelt and her passengers will be wearing their seatbelts from now on.
Officer Rayman, persuaded the mother will keep her pledge, lets the daughter and her passengers drive home without a citation and fine. Making sure teenagers wear seat belts has become one of his missions, he says, ever since he witnessed a terrible accident that killed a North Texas teenager, an event that has haunted him ever since.
“I-Don’t Wear A Seatbelt” Policy
The only person excluded from the officer’s “must-wear-a seatbelt” policy is Officer Rayman himself. “I don’t wear a seatbelt,” he tells a passenger while cruising on a dark and narrow road leading toward Little Elm one evening. “But I promise that we won’t be crashing tonight.”
His wife, Melinda, would say her husband’s “I-don’t-wear-a-seatbelt” declaration is a vestige of his rebellious youth. Though he’s now 41 and wears a well-ironed uniform and shiny shoes, “inside he is still the same old punk rock loving, fiercely independent, Pittsburgh boy,” she says.
Indeed, from the day he was born, Mark seemed to defy all manner of convention and conformity. He was born in a hospital hallway in Pittsburgh, not the maternity ward, because the staff didn’t believe Mark’s mother when she howled that her baby was coming out in the elevator. It wasn’t the first incidence of bad timing involving Mark’s birth. Mark’s mother vowed not to have any more children after her daughter was born with spina bifida. But she got pregnant just before Mark’s father had a vasectomy.
In school, Mark struggled, badly. Some of his teachers and many of his classmates thought he was either lazy or stupid. He frustrated his teachers with his poor reading skills and misspellings of even simple words. He’d reverse letters such as “d” for “b’, reverse the spelling of words such as “tip” for “pit” and invert letters such as “m” for “w” and “u’ for “n.” No one knew for sure what exactly was wrong with Mark, but everyone, including Mark, knew something was wrong with him. It wasn’t until years later that he would learn, from his future fiancé, that he suffered from a common learning disorder called dyslexia.
But outside the classroom, in the water, Mark was special. He could swim like a dolphin. At age five, he caught the attention of a coach who watched Mark propel himself across the pool like he was powered by a mercury engine. Before long, Mark was winning medals at the local, state and national levels. He was recruited by the swimming coach to attend Pine Crest Academy outside of Fort Lauderdale, FL, a prestigious high school well-known for developing Olympic caliber swimmers. His first year at Pine Crest, Mark set a record in the 100-meter backstroke.
But Mark left Florida and moved to North Huntington, PA after his father contracted stage 4 lung cancer. His father, a heavy smoker, died in December of 1997. At Norwin High School in North Huntingdon, Mark once again left his swimming coaches slack-jawed by his speed. During a state swim meet, Mark injured his right knee, strapped on a brace and still won first place. And he still holds the record in 100-meter backstroke at Norwin after 20 years.
Besides swimming, Mark loved music. Ever the maverick, Mark was attracted to the hard-edged, anti-establishment lyrics and the “I-don’t-care” attitude of punk rock. Mark taught himself to play drums and joined several punk bands, including Aus Rotten, that has since become an internationally famous punk rock band.
In 1993, Mark enrolled at Gannon University in Erie, PA. At Gannon, he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, spending most of his time partying, playing pranks, drinking and running afoul of school administrators for everything from fighting to smashing a pumpkin.
Then Melinda moved into an apartment next door to Mark’s fraternity house. She was 24, a pretty brunette that attracted Mark’s attention and held it – even after he learned she was engaged. They became fast friends. But as Melinda recalls, “it wasn’t long until I had dumped my fiancé and Mark (dumped his) and I started hanging out as more than friends.”
Melinda thought Mark was bright, and was puzzled why he seemed to struggle academically. At the time, she was studying to become a school psychologist and convinced Mark to let her administer some special tests. She discovered that Mark suffered from dyslexia.
Melinda says the dyslexia findings “seemed to reinvigorate his spirit for school and learning.” After struggling with the English language for years, Mark decided to learn a foreign language and began studying Spanish.
Five years after they began dating, Melinda and Mark married in 2000. Today, they have three children. Mark’s eldest son, Connor, 14, bears a striking resemblance to his dad, and even walks and talks like him. Mark’s second son, Seth, 9, inherited his father’s unruly personality. Melinda often needles Mark, “See, I told you I would have my revenge when you had a son just like you.” Their three-year-old daughter, Aliya, resembles Melinda.
Melinda believes she knows Mark better than he knows himself. She says Mark tries to portray himself “as an unemotional, detached military type of guy, but underneath is a man with a very big heart.”
Showing Mercy to a Thief
Officer Rayman’s “big heart” was exposed in a recent encounter with a resident of Little Elm whom he suspected of selling stolen hockey and gym equipment. Officer Rayman drove to the thief’s house to confront him.
“So, this stuff isn’t stolen, right?”
“No way,” replied the thief.
“Well, that is interesting you say that because I think you are lying.”
The thief, rattled by Mark’s accusation, admitted to everything.
But instead of arresting the thief and charging him with selling stolen merchandise, Officer Rayman told him to stop stealing, handed him $20 and encouraged him to straighten out his life. The thief “thanked him profusely,” says Melinda.
Working in Pittsburgh, Officer Rayman also gave a boxer a break once. Melinda says he caught him stealing – a crime that, if found guilty, would have landed him in jail and ended his career. But Officer Rayman gave him a chance to redeem himself, and he did. “He’s now a pretty successful boxer from what Mark says,” according to Melinda. “He told Mark that he changed his life.”
Sgt. Mitchell, Mark’s field-training officer, agrees with Melinda. “Mark is one of the more genuinely caring people on this department. He doesn’t want or need praise but just does what he thinks needs to be done.”
Even though Officer Rayman may not seek praise, he’s earned high honors and distinction in all the police departments he’s been associated with during his 13-year career. Officer Rayman’s first job doing police work was in the McKeesport, PA. Police Department, where he worked for 10 years and was honored as a member of Allegheny County Narcotics Team. He is also a Certified Mountain Bike officer, SWAT certified, and Water Rescue Certified.
Officer Rayman has been with The Little Elm Police Department since July 2009. The department is made up of 36 sworn officers and around 10 civilian officers. The department deals with everything from family violence to sexual assault to drug-related offenses. Officers say they have their hands full dealing with calls from residents for every type of crime. From February 2012 to April 2012 (the latest period for which figures are available), all calls for service rose 17% and total arrests rose 59%.
But traffic citations dropped 39% during the same period, which may explain why Officer Rayman seems to relish nabbing speeders in his town. He pulls over to the side of the road and points to his radar screen, hoping it will light up with drivers ignoring the 45 mph speed limit on the street. “Come on! Do a 55,” he says, the 10-mile-over-the-limit threshold he’s set tonight for pulling over speeders.
Officer Rayman turns his radar on as vehicles draw closer to his patrol car. This ensures that even drivers with radar detectors do not have enough time to slow down before they’re caught on radar speeding. But as time speeds by sitting on the side of the road, the cars don’t. Finally, Officer Rayman spots a car roaring past the 55 mph threshold the officer has established for earning a ticket.
His lights flashing, Officer Rayman pulls over the car. It’s a Dallas Police officer. They exchange pleasantries and wave good bye. The officer says he’s not about to give a ticket to one of his own. A few minutes later, he chases down another speeder. He gets out of his patrol car with a citation in hand. Unfortunately, it’s a fireman and Officer Rayman feels obliged to let him go, too.
Tonight’s speed trap hasn’t caught any drivers, which disappoints Officer Rayman’s ride-along passenger. Overall, it was a rather dull night of patrol work. But there are other ways to see Officer Rayman’s devilish ways on display. The officer’s Facebook profile shows Jesus with a gun in his right hand and a bottle of wine on his left.
Does Officer Rayman’s Facebook page fairly represent a cop who can’t conform to the conservative, buttoned-down persona of a policeman? His wife certainly thinks so. “He is a tiger who loves his stripes and sees no need to change them for anyone,” she says. “He has always been a skateboarding, Vans wearing, ball cap wearing type of guy and that has never changed.”
Special Contributor to The Denton Record-Chronicle (Getschow edited).