Middle way, climate change and my train trip from Prague to Gothenburg

Finally after a long time I wrote something again. This time not as spiritual, but more an experience I would like to share. But it has spiritual aspects to it too: the middle way, conscious choices and finding the right effort for oneself.

I made a commitment to fly as little as possible. Yes, me. A traveling freelance musician who tries to live in two countries at the same time.
I admire people who decided that they will just not fly at all anymore. But for now I choose the middle way – anytime it is at least a little possible, I will choose to go another way. My work as a musician includes a lot of traveling, so I’m aware that sometimes due to time pressure or due to the long distance there will be no other way but to fly. But I’m going to try to be aware of the thin line from where it becomes too much and I have to rather make changes in my life than finding excuses for why I had to fly this time again. And I’m going to make the effort to plan things in a way so that I have time for the longer journey and recovery from that and so that I stay for a longer time on one place once I’m there (avoid flying somewhere for one gig and back. Which actually maybe never happened to me, but it’s quite a common practice in the music industry). It’s the same with for example being vegan. I know that it would be a too hard task for me and every time I would break the rules I would just feel bad about myself. So I rather think I’m a vegetarian and every vegan meal I have is a plus. And maybe in the long run I will slowly change the habit, just by having it in mind, but not forcing it.
If you make a strict rule about something, it easily becomes this “all or nothing” thing. Once you break the rule it seems like you lost everything and you have to start from scratch, but that’s not the case! Every time you choose to take a train and not a flight, every time you choose to have a vegan/vegetarian meal and not meat, you saved some of the emissions and made a difference.
That’s the middle way. Finding what’s the right effort for you in a way that it’s motivating and you feel good about it rather than feeling pressed and struggling with guilt feelings. Or the other extreme – giving up completely.

I actually looked up how much emissions I saved by taking a train from Prague to Gothenburg yesterday, instead of flying. It depends on several factors, but most probably I saved more than 100 kg of CO2 emissions (around 30 kg by train and around 150 kg if I flew). 150 kilos! Per one passenger per one hour flight! This thing with emissions has always been hard to imagine for me. Well, it’s some kind of gas, invisible. But imagine hundred fifty kilos! Hundred fifty kilos of anything feels really a lot to be just thrown into the atmosphere. It’s more than I could lift or carry. And 150 kilos per each passenger on the flight. Imagine that amount!
Waking up at 4:30 and then 19 hours of traveling, where the last couple of hours I was really tired and at the end carrying the suitcase three floors up at 1 am, that was quite tough. I really needed a good rest after that. But I think it’s really worth it. This planet is our home and each choice we make matters.

Appart from that it takes time and is a bit tiring, it was actually quite fun and I did quite a bit office work and phone calls. If you’re curious how it all went, here is a little journal from the trip.

The alarm clock rang at 4:30. I’m walking to the train station in Říčany before sunrise to take a train to Prague at 5:25 and from there at 6:26 off to Germany. My journey starts. It feels oddly similar as in March: there is chaos in the Czech republic, covid is spreading, people are panicking (although in another way than in March. That time everyone was doing big food shopping and supermarkets were empty, do you remember?), social media are full of fear and hate and there is a slight atmosphere of a lockdown to come soon. And as in March, I’m leaving off to Sweden in a moment which feels like last minute. And to be honest, I feel relieved and just hope that they let me cross all the borders.
Everything is going well. I successfully cross the German border (they didn’t check anything) and change train in Berlin. The first train was a little late, but I have an hour for the switch so that was no problem. I feel full of energy and do some yoga on the platform while waiting for the next train to Hamburg. Even that one gets a little late, and again it’s ok because there is enough time to switch.
Hamburg Hauptbahnhof is full of staircases. It somehow doesn’t take into account people with heavy suitcases as one might expect from a train station 😀 The escalators to the platforms move all only in one direction. The best are the toilets. They are two floors downstairs. 😀 So if you travel alone like me, you have to carry all your luggage two floors down and then up again. 😀 I wish I hadn’t packed so much stuff. But what to do, if you go for six weeks and you need music pedals and other equipment which weights some kilos…

The next change is in a Danish town called Fredericia. Here it’s getting exciting, because there is only 8 minutes to switch and if I miss that, I’m spending a night in Denmark. There is control on the Danish border. If there are problems, the train might get late. Fortunately, everything goes quite smoothly and soon we start going. The officer looks at my ID so briefly, that she can probably only tell that it is an ID. Again, nobody is even asking if I’m coming from a risk zone. In Fredericia there is a crowd of people running to catch the train to Copenhagen. We are lucky.
Because I had time before this trip, I decided I will prepare a lot of food to take with me, including a lunch and dinner box and two liters of water so that I don’t have to buy stupid expensive food packed in plastic. I ran out of water and still had 4 hours trip to Gothenburg in front of me. In Copenhagen I went into the Joy & Juice cafe and asked if they could fill my bottle. The girl smiled and told me they are not allowed to do that. I said that that’s very sad. She smiled even more. I tried to beat her smile with even more smile and left quickly. Believe it or not, they helped me in 7/11. So I actually didn’t buy anything during this whole trip. Feeling pretty proud of myself.
At 20:27 I’m finally getting on the last train, Öresundståg from Copenhagen to Gothenburg. We’re having a skype call with my friends from Prague. Some of them are in quarantine because they have covid or they met someone who has covid. Even this skype call feels like a reminiscence to the spring. I was in Sweden, they were in Prague in quarantine and we used to have a beer online instead. Weird times. But the connection is not very good on the train and I don’t hear them very well. I’m also getting really tired after all the hours traveling and I’m looking forward to crossing the Swedish borded so that I can finally take off the face mask. It’s Saturday evening and there is a group of drunk middle aged men having a party. The train seems to stop in every little place and I’m really starting to long for a bed.
After 19 hours of travel I finally reach Gothenburg and I take my good old bus number 16 “home”. The bus is full of drunk youngsters wearing expensive clothes and someone vomited on the floor. #weekendinsweden.
It’s always an odd feeling to come to Sweden after some time in Czechia. And to come to Czechia after some time in Sweden. I guess that’s a usual expat syndrom. I absorbed the culture and every time I come, I feel like my personality changes literally within a couple of hours. The place, the language shapes me. I am someone else in Sweden and someone else in Czechia. There is a nostalgic feeling to it, when I arrive and observe the change happening in real time, asking “who am I?”. I start to recognise the things that annoy me in that place and the things that I love and apparently I identify with that. Which will be a good topic to reflect on another time in some next post.

For now I get off the bus and enjoy the clean air which here in Gothenburg already smells autumn. Carrying my heavy suitcase three floors up feels like torture. But I manage and fall straight into bed. I’m in Gothenburg again. It’s 2 am. By the morning my Swedish mind will be back.

I’m starting a blog!

Since the corona times in the spring 2020 I’ve been diving into ashtanga yoga and practicing flute much more intensively than normally. The two practices started to blend into each other more and more. I take what I know from one to the other. The breath, the presence, the non-judgemental attitude and much more. On my journey I have a lot of small and big “aha” moments. Some forgotten and recollected, some new, some seen from a new light. I’m undergoing some kind of transformation which is both joyful and painful. I feel that all is one and I feel the need to integrate the values not only in the interplay of music and yoga but in the way I’m living in general.

I thought maybe this could be inspiring for others. So I’d like to start a blog and write about my process. Describe my “aha” moments, my way through struggles, connections of music practice with buddhist/yoga wisdom. Both simple everyday stuff and deep shit. Thoughts on lifestyle and even climate change, as everything is interconnected anyway. Probably mostly short posts, because I’m not a big writer, maybe video posts sometimes, short demonstrations, maybe even a podcast? We’ll see where it develops!

I’m diving into the topic of PRACTICE in general. On the example of an ashtanga yoga practitioner a flute player and a buddhist, but most often these are principles applicable on whatever else you might be practicing. Even practicing just life.

Some of the key words I’m observing: yoga, flute, breath, meditation, thoughts on (non)discipline, time planning, routines, body awareness, wholesome lifestyle, climate change, teaching wind instruments.

One breath at a time

Today after the yoga class my teacher told me I have a very good presence and concentration. “You don’t see all that inner battle which is happening inside me”, I answered with laughter. Sometimes we don’t see other people’s inner battles. Maybe someone looks very calm and peaceful, but you never know what’s happening inside them!

When I was walking to the shala* today, I had a small crisis and I felt a lack of motivation. I was tired, my muscles were still aching from yesterday’s practice, the weather was nice and all I wanted was just to lay in the sun and be lazy. I thought I just don’t want to do this anymore, it’s too hard. Quite typical chain of thoughts, right? We all know that. But after all, I went all the way to the shala…so better just do the practice anyway, right**? So there I stand on the mat, with quite a lot of negativity in my mind and I think: “Ok, I’m just gonna get through this. Take it easy, no big achievements needed, just get through the (damn) series and then you can go out and eat ice cream!”

And there I’m, taking one posture at a time, one breath at a time – not saying that there were no tough moments or thoughts of giving up – but it was alright. Of course. Just take it one breath at a time.

Afterwards I remembered the teaching of Ajahn Brahm***: the present moment is good enough. If we are just present here and now things are alright. We often suffer because we think of the past or future. We think of something bad which happened to us in the past, or something wrong we have done or said. Or we think how horrible is something going to be in the future and with that thought we suffer for that already now, when nothing has yet happened. I was feeling so negative on my way to the shala just because I thought about how hard it is going to be to do my practice. The walk itself was no suffering. As well as the practice later on. It’s just this breath and this movement. And then this breath and this movement. And then this one… The present moment here and now is just alright. It’s good enough.

Once (or probably many times) Ajahn Brahm told a story of a man in the monastery who decided to pull out his sick tooth by himself. “God, that must have hurt!?” they asked, frightened just at the thought of it. He answered: “When I decided to do that, that didn’t hurt. When I went to the workshop and picked the tools, that didn’t hurt. When I put the pliers on my tooth, that didn’t hurt either. When I pulled it out, hell, that hurt! But it was just a short moment!” How often do we unnecessary suffer just because of a thought of something happening in the future? I think this is applicable on serious life issues, but also on small things like overcoming the struggle of doing a practice every day.

*a shala is a place to practice/study yoga. These days I’m practicing 4-5 times a week.
**ashtanga yoga is practiced so called “Mysore style”. The teacher is not leading the class. Everybody is doing their practice in their own tempo and level while the teacher goes around and helps here and there.
***an Australian buddhist monk and a famous and awesome teacher. Through his talks I was introduced to Buddhism and I was lucky to meet him during my trip to Australia