WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY THE FRIDAY BEFORE YOM KIPPUR

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THE SOLO TRAVEL SOLUTION

A Way To Move Through Suffering Into Feeling Alive!

A Book written as Blog Posts. Introduction, Part 3

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Princeton UniversityI want to tell you a story.

Yom Kippur was coming. I knew another Solo Travel Journey was moving through me. If I could simply snatch a single day trip, if I allowed myself to practice this process, if I found a way to imagine that I was temporarily leaving everything in my life behind, then I was guaranteed to come into contact with a force of healing wisdom that always seems to meet me along the way.

Each trip is a story, and each trip I come back refreshed, rebooted, reawakened and alive! And by the way, so will you.  When you’re ready. I can help you with that.

So let’s keep it moving….

I decided to set forth on a one-day Solo Travel Journey to Princeton University. Something was calling me to visit a prestigious college.  Maybe it was the launch of The Zen of Solo Travel – my first published book.  Maybe it was a need to revisit the lost innocence of my college days now that my former marriage had finally moved through me.

On the drive, I let it all go. I imagined that everything was behind me – work, home, money, relationships and especially all the negative emotional energy I’d been carrying around. By thinking this way, and by following the clouds and by listening to the voice of the GPS lady, I arrived in the Central Jersey, Ivy League.

Thinking I’d explore for a few hours and then return home in time for one last pre-Yom Kippur meal before the twenty-five hour fast, I parked and wandered aimlessly about the campus.

Pristine. Precious. Princely. Twirling around mysterious corners of silvery stone. Hopping from castle to castle in some magical northern English town. Body brimming with new hope. Mind flooding with memories. College. Where every day was another perfect cocktail of dark depression shaken with the lemon ecstasy of learning.

Pretending to be part-professor, part-late blooming co-ed, part middle-aged campus creep (imagine Golem found his way into a Woody Allen movie — my precioussssss…), I let myself get lost just enough to join a tour of High School seniors and their proud and nervous parents.

Rothko at Princeton MuseumThe tour lures us into the third largest college cathedral in the world, stacked with tubes of sturdy stone curling upwards to the sky in perfect arches, adorned with the holy suspense of stained glass imagery, unfurling into an ancient and mystical space of prayer. Five minutes and we’re back outside with the tour. Five minutes after that, and I’m ordering a burger on the street somewhere.

I feel the urge to call my old college roommate. He was a tall, lanky, brown-haired revolutionary, the kind of guy that would wear a Che Guevara shirt at the protest rally he organized to free a wrongly accused prisoner. Googled him. High School teacher. California.

“Hey man, it’s Michael… I’ve been meaning to reach out to you… I’m actually right across the street from Princeton University right now… Hard to explain… Hey, call me back when you can…”

When the hamburger was done, a flood of sorrow poured through me. I was overcome. I experienced a state of sadness that gripped me like no other. I could not get myself to leave the table with my sandwich wrappings. Felt like the world was crying through me. Felt like losing something deeply precious. Or someone. I had to maintain.

For whatever reason, I was drawn back to the cathedral. There, I sobbed. I just sat on a pew and sobbed.  I sobbed more and more until it was finally gone. Released. Complete. Refreshed.

Alive!

After a strange jaunt through the Princeton University Art Museum tripping out on the delightful orange and pink fields of Mark Rothko, I find myself back in the car.  Wow. What a day. Go home and eat and get ready to fast like a good Jew.

No. Don’t. You must stay over.

Stay over?

Yes.  Keep it moving. To the beach.  

The Jersey shore. A distraction? No doubt. An expense? Absolutely. But I was called. “You-only-live-once” called. Ninety-minutes of driving and I’m checking in at the Seaside Motel, staring at the roaring waves of coastal New Jersey on a dark October evening. I prayed a little. I sang to myself. Then I slept.

In the morning, it was warm enough to put on a bathing suit and get into the water up to my thighs. It was a gray day, but a lovely one. I placed my clothes where they could not possibly get wet. My footprints were the only ones on the beach this morning. It was just me and the seagulls and the clouds.

Seaside HeightsI was happy. I was really, really happy. Happy to be alive. I was so proud and honored to be me. I’ve felt that feeling before, maybe a little, maybe here and there. But not like I did in this moment. Not like now. Not like the peace that surrounded me, like the power that poured through me.

Such blessed peace. Such blessed power.

Oh spirit that lives out there… you are moving through me now….

My heart sings in gratitude! My mind flies through the clouds!

I managed to make my way into the water, singing the Yom Kippur prayer that is repeated throughout the day, calling out the thirteen attributes of HaShem in one long bellyful of chant. And that’s when the big wave came. The one that knocked me down and got all my clothes soaking wet.

Crap. Oh well. Keep it moving. Go home. Fast all day. Be a good Jew.

Nothing special.

Except for everything.

I want you to know this everything. I want you to feel these feelings. I want you to learn how to keep it moving through a day or a week or a month of Solo Travel, and then come back home vibrating and humming and singing and grateful, so deeply, deeply grateful for being alive.  I want you to learn what I am starting to know.

You can have your own trip. I already have mine.

Thanks for reading.

– Samurabbi

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