The WorkAway Journey

Short blurb

Borrowing from a friend’s perspective, I can say that I’ve lived many lives. Once, twice, or 7 times I was a farmer. In another life I was a plant scientist. One time an attempt was made to be a masseuse, but abandoned as I sensed slavery coming about. In this current life I’m picking up the torch of writing story. To some we live only one life, how about the view that our life takes on many phases, and each phase can be seen as a mini-life? Now as a participant on WorkAway each new host/guest relationship is either a new life or progress on a former life. Oh, how it all weaves into one.

Volunteer experience

“Our volunteers do the following: …” like there is already a slot made and expectations laid out.

Workaway experience

“What are your skills? Oh yeah, we can find a way to fit that in”, or “yeah we can use that”.

→ The environment can be a bit more receptive to applying my unique self. Also I take it more like a work position than a volunteer position, so maybe it is a psychological thing coming from me.

The takeaway

Experimenting with different work activities, different lifestyles, different interpersonal relationships, all to find what doesn’t suit me, and along the way finding a few nuggets of what does suit me.

The initial move

There was an obvious lack of invitation to remain in Canada within the paradigm that I was interested in: exploring plant medicine and spirituality. I felt alienated, even though welcomed by the community on the surface.

It can be a long journey finding our way to give back to the world. Even considering this statement “give back to the world” places such an insurmountable task on the to-do list. As in, the whole world has to receive what is being given. Wow. No wonder I spend so much energy noticing/observing/witnessing the lack of people’s ability to receive what is being given. ..and give back → Say you’re welcome, for F^%k’s Sake!…hahah…I give ‘Thank you’ and receive ‘You are welcome’. The reciprocal of appreciation is to know it is genuinely received.

Journey as an ‘anything goes’ volunteer

– In reflection, I see myself as feeling a bit robotic and without a unique self. Stripped of my ability to have a significant effect on the project as per the way I wished to express myself.

+ On the plus side, there was no self-imposed pressure, and there were no self-expectations. Rather I was simply fitting in with the program created by someone else.

Journey as one practicing massage and active listening

It doesn’t always go so well…

I had nowhere that I needed to go, and I was looking to get something rolling, so I broadcast a message to 6 workaway hosts, only one returned an invitation.

Broadcast Message:

“Subject: WorkAway seed scatter

Message:  Hello, Namaste,

                   In a way I’m scanning multiple options in WorkAway to find the right fit.

                   You as a host appear to hold fertile soil for myself, so I’ll spread this seed.

                   Please take a look at my profile and be in touch if you think I may be a good fit for you and your project.



6 hosts, 1 invitation

To be honest, this one that returned the invitation didn’t go so well. The experience was fine, but the person I was crafting myself to be did not emerge into reality. At this time I was looking to concentrate on developing some new skills. When I arrived I put my full attention into this, and the result was noticeably one of high quality work. What came of this was a practice round of how to navigate the successful result, and it is here where things went wrong. I was left with the conflict of being asked to perform these skills only as extra work, not as trade for food and living. The host also asked to receive this skill every day, so in short I was being taken advantage of, at least from my perspective. As I branched out to include other people, there was some repercussion and limitations were imposed on me. Shortly afterwards I was asked to leave as the host and I both knew the relationship wasn’t working out.

I tried to cheat my way into waiting for an invitation, as per the strategy recommended by the chart given by Human Design. The strategy was to ‘wait for an invitation’, not to cheat… just to make that clear… As we see from above, it clearly didn’t work out. Only 1 of 6 returned a message, and that one was a bogus attempt at achieving something lasting.

After this experience, I shifted toward pursuing an interest rather than developing a skill.

Destination: Spice Mountains

The interest I placed on my travel compass was to explore the spice plants of India in the mountain ranges of Kerala, the Western Ghats. Coffee, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, tea plant, vanilla, black pepper…oulala..

Along the way I stopped to rest and break up the train trip. I was fervently exploring the possibilities and looking to match this interest with a deeper purpose. Then something unexpected came along: an invitation. Not just any invitation! It was an invitation that I didn’t initiate in communication. This host actually searched out potential guests on WorkAway, found my profile, and was interested to host me. What a treat!

I then debated whether to go directly toward this invitation or to first check out the mountain area. You see, the invitation came from the other side of the mountain, along the beaches. Probing and asking questions to this host and one in the mountains, I found that a connection was starting with the host who invited, and that the other option was more about ‘being able to accomodate me’. So I thought first I’ll go to this invitation and see how it is, then to the spice mountains. Well as I write this, I’m at the house of the host who invited me. It’s been over 5 weeks now, and I’m in no hurry to follow the direction on my travel compass.

As a bonus to this I’ve been able to meet vanilla and cinnamon. I’ve also had much time to spend with coconut and have learned to climb the trees and discern the differences between young coconuts, mature coconuts, and the ones not worth eating or drinking. The last is an experience of hope followed by the body revolting.

It’s quite a unique pleasure to hear a coconut crash down on a tin rooftop or smack down on the concrete roof of the house. Walking around the property amidst the trees is a comfortable walk through an aerial minefield. The risk is so small as to make it comfortable, but the results of being hit are potentially deadly.

What is keeping me here now? Tune into the ‘Journey as a Writer’.

Journey as a Writer

But sometimes it does!

My personal gain may be low from the perspective of the ‘echo-voice within’. However, as I learn to trust myself, I may gain the chance to see my inner-self giving praise for the personal gain that is directly benefiting this inner self.


→ In fact, this is occuring now as I praise my efforts of writing a story about an epic time in my life when I experienced acute psychosis. As I write and face a daunting task, I’ve found myself giving appreciation for taking on such a monumental piece of labour. Each day is a bit of progress as I add jelly to the donuts, fill the wells with water, or plant new seeds and harvest the ripe fruit. “Thanks Patrick, you are doing a great job!”. Sometimes I long for this statement, and I look outside to receive it from others. As I write the psychosis story, these words are being nurtured from inside. It is a promising shift.

Btw, the desire to do this work was a case of the right place at the right time. I saw the persistent need within to tell the story in its complete form, and the lack of a person on the outside who could hold such a capacity of attention. Now as I’m engaged as a writer, I’m in the flow of writing, so it’s like going on a hike and turning attention to the birds to continue an interest in bird watching/listening.


Ganges Nirvana

I’ve heard from others since university that I am a good writer. More than this, I believe people have been appreciating my ability to organize thought and find appropriate ways of expressing various things. Mostly this was technical writing, and largely outside of my interest-base, so I never felt inclined to pick up the mantle.

At my career as an engineer, again I found compliments in writing, and there was joy forming around the process of writing from a technical language. But, I was still distant from a genuine interest in the subject matter.

Now as a traveller I’m getting closer. In particular, I’ve had some interest in community-building for some length of time, and it has never been more than a side path in life. At Ganges Nirvana Community in Varanasi I was again recognized for my ability to write and given encouragement to do so for the community.

I actually began by taking notes of what the community organizer and visionary was speaking. As I collected notes I would converse with him to extract more specific details and find deeper meanings to what he was saying. I wanted to know what his vision was. Then the first time he witnessed me typing and was reading the content being generated, he implored that I explore writing for the community.

As a result of these efforts, we compiled several practical documents for the community.

It has since been useful for him to be able to send out explicit documents with clear guidelines for anyone new coming. Even when such things as ‘be yourself, and contribute how you want’ were some of the major themes or messages to deliver.

Consider checking out the website at: At the bottom of the main page you should find a section called ‘Downloads – Varanasi’ with the following resources:

  • Ganges Nirvana Community Standards PDF
  • What does my contribution cover PDF
  • Common Sense Tasks PDF
  • Ganges Nirvana Community Foods List PDF
  • Ganges Nirvana Community Mission PDF

The document titled ‘What does my contribution cover’ has a particular piece of joy attached to it for me, as well as a particular energy of despair.

Shortly after I arrived to the community another couple joined us. The male person within the couple had a serious issue with making payment to the community. His issue seemed to be about not knowing where the money was going, what exactly it was being used for, and a suspicion that the cost was too high for his actual uses.

I too had faced these suspicions, doubts, and questions. Eventually for me, after seeing the amount of work I was putting in, the community organizer said that I could pay as I wished. I aimed to cover my cost of living there, as I knew otherwise it was coming directly from his pocket and I didn’t wish to be a draining force on the community’s mission. As such, I chose to pay something a bit higher than food cost (I had an idea what food cost was as I was buying most of my own ingredients) and a bit lower than his suggestion.

This new person however wanted an immediate solution, and wasn’t gathering enough information to make an informed decision; at least from my perspective. It was escalating in hours-long conversations and debates about the community and this issue of money.

Here is where the despair came in, as I really thought the situation was hopeless, and I was wondering what form of explosion was on its way.

There was also some confusion in the communication of the project as he believed it to be a community-becoming-a-hostel, when really that was just a sideline idea at the time. Not all to blame on the newcomer, since it was called a hostel online.

I have a hard time with people complaining and not putting words into action, so I often insert my own efforts at these points, and this was no exception. I started detailing as much as I could find relevant to the cost of living and produced that document.

Once all the information was available, it was easy for the newcomer to choose an actual amount of money to contribute.

I’ve since asked for feedback from the community organizer, Shashwat, and he spoke of how people are responding with ease to the contribution amount. It seems like perhaps an understanding is reaching the community now where there was some gap before.

I’m personally quite proud of this collection of work, and I make sure to keep in touch with the community to watch it progress and evolve over time.

Hariom House

How did I get here? → I was invited.

Why does this matter? → Along the way, someone introduced me to some ideas from Human Design. Categorized as a Projector, I’ve been appointed with a strategy of “waiting for the invitation”. This has manifested as the difference between the freedom to express versus  being confined to a cage of expectations.

It took being recognized and given the direction to do some writing coupled with the encouragement to write for a reason. In the community Ganges Nirvana in Varanasi I first found that my writing could be worth more than a technical report, more than a story about self, something that was meaningful to write about and had a practical application for a vision that I also believed in.

While staying in a village close to Udupi in Karnataka, in what seems like the closing chapter of this Indian journey, I’ve been enlisted to publish story. What better way to cap this adventure and inner journey than to collect memories and distill them into engaging stories? It houses the qualities of being engaging for myself to work on, engaging for my host to read, and engaging for an interested audience. If all works out as we hope, this will draw in some attention to the websites where they are published and perhaps connect some people to this space so that they too can come to give and receive in mutual benefit. A day or two after publishing the first article I’ve authored for the Hariom blog, Ganesh got a call from a friend who had visited before. He was calling about the Shaktidarshan Yogashram, saying he might visit as a result of reading the article. Then and there the mission of that article was complete. It achieved the function of being a promotional tool for the ashram. Good enough. Anything more is pure cream on top.

Still I have hopes for what might come, just as I might hope for that cream to be thick and sweet, or to become a beautiful vanilla ice cream!

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On being told what to do

While here I endeavor to (1) laugh when I’m being told what to do, and to (2) generally avoid working with the people who typically do this, and (3) at all costs to avoid agreeing to do the suggested thing.

Recently in a conversation with Ganesh I summed it up as the following:

  1. Someone is telling me what to do → they don’t see what I am already doing. This hurts as I get the sense that I am not seen.

Perhaps they do see what I’m doing and have been doing, and perhaps they believe their own agenda to be more important than mine. This is usually fine because they are aware of what’s happening, and the suggestion may arise to do their thing now and continue mine later, or perhaps appreciation of what I’m doing or have done comes out into the open.

At this point in my self-development, it is important for me to find value in my contributions to the world and the people around me. Currently, this value is being searched for outside of myself, coming from other people.

  1. Someone is telling me how to do something → they don’t believe in me to figure this thing out on my own. This hurts for the same reason as above: I get the sense that I am not seen in my ability to figure things out.

In truth, I have the skills either to directly figure this out, or enough humility to ask for specific guidance or direction if I need it. Either way, some progress will be made in what I’m doing as long as the motivation has come from me.

Other experiences

At this time, there is little motivation to keep this story going and outline the other places I’ve visited. Yet enough to write a few words of each.

Buddha Garden

A case of fitting in to the volunteer mould and receiving very little satisfaction from the work itself. It was a pleasant place for me to simply interact with other travellers and a good place to be for a short time with little commitment and a tiny amount of personal investment in the project and my impact on it.

Auroville Bamboo Center

Approached with a specific interest to learn how to build massage tables from bamboo, as I was just then learning how to perform a type of massage. Instead, I was redirected to apply my former skills as a research scientist. It was rewarding to pursue this option, but I was always kind of bitter about the little things along the way.

A worthwhile adventure, though full of many small challenges.

Here I adapted to being barefoot most days and began venturing outside of the property and into the streets of Auroville without shoes. I remember with a certain kind of humour how I would get ahead of myself when excited about a certain research prospect, and running into the kitchen/laboratory to try it out. The kitchen hut had an elevated concrete hump at the front entrance, and because I was distracted by the excitement in my mind it happened 2 or 3 times that my big toe caught the edge of this hump. Blood was everywhere! Since then I haven’t encountered the same thing, and maybe my skin has become stronger. 🙂

Navdanya Earth University

An experience of working in a community of volunteers, with regularly scheduled morning meetings. The work was easy, the food was good, and the accommodation was well within the western standards of comfort and privacy. What was most memorable and appealing were the people: the other guests in particular. It was a welcome respite in intellectual conversation with people who were also self-explorers and could dive in with their own insights.

This place also happens to be highly-admired for their work in seed saving and preserving the natural abundance of diversity in Indian plants. From what I learnt they are doing very important and meaningful work with small farmers around a few places in India and spreading the message of the Organic and Traditional ways of farming.

Champa Christian Hospital

On the train from Navdanya to other journeys I met a man who invited me to participate in a training presentation in Champa. He was an affiliate of Navdanya, and I had actually requested to the universe to meet such a person, so I was quite excited to see that manifestation take place.

There I spent 1 day touring the local farms and collecting stories, another day drafting a presentation, and the 3rd day presenting to a group of locals about the merits of Permaculture and some wonderful things happening in their local area (that I was just learning about).

Nepali family farm

Here is the case where I started as a committed worker and then became a casual worker / non-worker. I recognized how much impact my financial contribution was having that I no longer felt the need to contribute physically. I also recognized my deeper interest in contributing from an intellectual and social perspective, so this is what I put out there. Overall I saw it not being received, which caused me to retreat into my private room as though into a cave.

Take a risk. Take a chance. Make a change.

Or don’t: it’s your journey 🙂

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