Serenading a transfixed alligator on the bansuri.

I know I’ve written a lot about alligators already, but that should only be further testimony of how much I’ve enjoyed my time among them fishing together.  I’ve really come to believe that alligators are on a similar level of intelligence and communication capacities as dogs.  In the past month I’ve really learned how to read their moods.  Sometimes they look quite tranquil, but they are nevertheless hunting and ready to pounce in a split second.  But sometimes they actually are tranquil, aren’t interested in hunting, and are just enjoying perfect equilibrium in their habitat, weightlesslessly suspended in the warm under the nourishing sun.  This was such a gator.  He swam over when I started playing music and floated near me listening the whole time.  During this serenade the gator and I locked eyes throughout the whole song.  He was calm and curious, intently listening, transfixed.  I held his gaze and played from my heart with an empty and silent mind.  We shared a true moment.  

There were many other gators listening at various distances.  At one time I gazed over the pond and every gator I saw, no matter how near or far, was pointed directly at me, floating, listening, watching.   The nearby heron too was mesmorized and didn’t take his eyes off me.  I had a better turnout by gators at this performance than I did by people at most of my professional gigs, sigh.  And I believe the whole pond enjoyed the Easter serenade.

Three new flute meditations w/ wildlife footage, played on Easter 2021 in the Everglades.

I wanted to do something special on Easter, both for spiritual devotional purposes, but also to give back to Nature for all the beauty and wondrous experiences I’ve absorbed during the past month in the Everglades.  This was my third day in a row returning to the same spot.  I had spent the past two days fishing with gators, but my soul really yearned for a day of silence, music, and meditation as well in this serene location.  So I left the fishing gear at camp made the long motorcyle rid and two mile hike back to the pond bringing only my flutes and camera gear… and maybe a little weed.   

I filmed these back to back from the late afternoon till just before sunset, and later mixed in wildlife footage I had filmed the previous two days.  I was in a sweet and mellow mood, feeling in close communion to Nature.  Please share any of the vids you enjoy.

Good Friday gator fishin’ in the Glades

I found a tranquil spot in the Everglades where the oscar fish were hitting on nearly every cast.  Oscars aren’t too big, but pound for pound they are great fighters, and a few in a pan makes a filling and tasty meal.  There was a dock jutting out into a pond that was filled with numerous alligators, some of the biggest I’ve seen in these parts.  Because I was catching so many fish, the gators really started to swarm and were trying to steal the fish off my line.  They were getting pretty worked up to the point they were fighting each other over the fish.  I stayed there all day fishing and filming, goofing around, and chatting with the occasional passerby.  It was a thrilling day to spend so much intimate time with the gators.  I witnessed a lot of intense action from these powerful, intelligent beasts, and I took home three good fish for my good Friday meal.  

One neat encounter I wasn’t able to film involved a hungry heron.  He kept coming around also attracted by all the fish I was catching.  I knew he wanted a fish but I didn’t know how to give it to him.  He didn’t trust me enough to take it out of my hand, and didn’t quite have the big crop of a pelican to catch it in.  Finally I noticed he was behind me on the dry land, and I figured maybe he wanted me to toss one on the ground.  I chucked one his way.  Startled at first, he jumped a few feet back, but once he saw the fish flopping on the ground he pounced with no hesitation.  He took quick steps forward, swayed his head while taking aim, and then boom, with a merciless and decisive thrust of his pointed beak he pierced the meaty fish all the way through with about 3 inches of his beak sticking out the other side.  Then he walked off into the woods to further deal with his pride.  After watching some of my videos people have commented how pretty and graceful the birds are while how ugly and scary the gators are.  All day long I watched gator after gator snap at fish with fierce and deadly intent, but seeing the heron deal such a swift and deadly blow as well, I realized the two animals aren’t really that different in their intent, despite the stark contrast of their appearances.  Later in the day, I too dealt three, swift, death blows to the fish I was taking home.  I found a sharp edged brick and smashed their brains so that they wouldn’t suffer any more and suffocate.  Killing to eat is part of Nature.  Nearly all mammals do it.  Pretty birds and polite humans are not above this primal instinct.  

Lastly I just wanted to say, I wasn’t feeding the gators directly, but for the fish they were able to steal off my line.  Nor did I have any intention to harass the gators.  I really love and respect them and I enjoy coexisting with them.  I felt like we just spent the afternoon fishing together and playing a game.  We got our fill and had our thrills.

Fun footage of fishing amongst aggressive gators trying to steal my fish!

In the Everglades of Florida, the more fish you catch, the more you draw gators. They try to steal them off your line, and the more they succeed, the more aggressive they get until they work themselves into a feeding frenzy. This particular spot is way back in the woods and seldom fished. I could pull out oscars on nearly every cast, and I’ve never seen so many big, old, gators in one pond. They came swarming! When I shot this, I didn’t have my good camera or a tripod with me, so I had to do what I could with my iPhone. I’m heading back out however this morning, however, properly equipped in hopes to capture better footage more professionally. Stay tuned!

New recording/video! Lots of original nature footage!

While on a meditation retreat at the ashram of Amma Sri Karunamayi in India during the winter of 2019-2020, I began spontaneously and frequently shouting out the name “Hanuman” during my meditation practices. I knew that Hanuman was the monkey-faced deity in Hinduism, but that was really all I knew. And so I prayed that I wanted to get to know Hanuman. During that same retreat, Amma mentioned the sacred epic poem the “Ramayana” in which Hanuman is a central character, saying that it is a great blessing to anyone who reads it. Just a couple weeks later while still in India visiting Arunachala, I went to see Anubodh the celebrated flute maker to purchase another bansuri. As Anubodh came to the gate to let me in, I heard him peacefully singing a beautiful song. Upon asking him what he was singing, he answered, “The Hanuman Chalisa”. Then immediately upon arriving back in the US, I started reading the Ramayana as Karunamayi had recommended. I was absolutely moved, inspired, comforted, and uplifted through reading the Ramayana, perhaps moreso than any other book I’ve read in my life time. Near the end of the book, with my heart brimming, I read the words: “And now you know Hanuman.” My prayer had been answered.

Full of gratitude and inspiration, I began memorizing the Hanuman Chalisa, which consists of forty verses and takes about 10-12 minutes to sing. I found many different sung versions with different rhythms and melodies on the internet, but felt particularly drawn to the version I found sung by Lata Mangeshkar. I liked both the chord changes and melody, and learning it seemed within grasp of my limited knowledge of Indian music. Since both the language and sense of melodic phrasing was foreign to me, I admittedly tried to copy every nuance of her articulation and phrasing. When it came to actually recording the song, I took liberties with the instrumental arrangement, both simplifying it and adding some of my own style and sensibilities. I finished memorizing the Chalisa in early July of 2020 on the very day I started living in my van as a nomad, and have sung it everyday since as part of my daily devotions. I recorded the song in January 2021 at my parent’s house in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania while home for the holidays.

But recording the song wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to make a video expressing my joy and love for God as an offering to both Lord Hanuman and to Amma Sri Karunamayi, Sita herself, whose grace is responsible for introducing me to her beloved Hanumanji, the protector of poets. I set back out on the road continuing my nomadic van life in late February 2021, and headed straight for the Everglades of south Florida, a place I have been coming to for many years that feels magical and sacred to me. This place is teeming with Life and is like Eden to me. However there are no monkeys here to film, nor are there Hindu temples and iconography. Yet throughout my whole life I’ve felt that nothing in the material world reflects the truth, beauty, and grace of God as much as Wilderness and Nature. So it felt quite fitting to make this video for Hanuman using footage of the natural world as the central subject.

I spent the whole month of March exploring and getting to know the Everglades more deeply while recording footage all the while. It was a learning process in many ways. I got to know the creatures and their habits more deeply, carefully contemplating them through the camera’s eye. I also had to learn how to use my new Lumix G85 camera that I bought myself for Christmas with this and other projects in mind. I spent of lot of my time bass fishing in these murky, gator and gar infested waters, always with a camera on my hip and a tripod tethered to the back of my dirtbike. I learned a lot about fishing these waters too, and went from catching very little to being very successful on the regular, often enjoying a bass dinner at the end of a day’s expedition.

All in all, it was a deeply fulfilling and enjoyable adventure making this video. It was also a healing journey. I feel much lighter, freer, and more empowered than when I begun, and in truth, this is only the beginning. As I continue vanlife, I intend to keep producing music and filming wildlife throughout different ecosystems all across America. This gives me a meaning and purpose, and saves me from the sorrow of feeling like an aimless and solitary drifter. I consider all these animals my friends and family, and I never feel lonesome among them. As well, being in Nature I always feel close to God, witnessing beauty, balance and grace all around me, and knowing that I am part of it. Jai Hanumanji! Jai Karunamayi! Jaya Shankara!

Words by Tuladasi. All instruments and vocals arranged and performed by Mateo Monk. All footage filmed and edited by Mateo Monk.

Live Performance of Ganesha Kirtan

I recorded this inside my van by the edge of a pond in the Everglades. Ganesha is special to my heart, and I believe that he has been helping me develop my music and transition into sacred Hindu music, especially in blessing me and helping me learn how to play the dholak. It’s a long story explaining why I believe this, but I’ll just say that is based off of genuine mystical experiences I had on a meditation retreat in India over the winter of 2019/2020. Ganesha loves the flute and tabla, and he loves to dance. I hope he is pleased with this humble offering. And you as well!

Bass fishing in the Everglades

I spent much of my youth bass fishing.  I grew up across the street from a lake, and as soon as I got my drivers license, everyday after school I would drive to Bull Run River fishing till dark, always wading in the river.  Fishing brought me so much peace, joy, and discovery, and really helped cement my connection to nature at an early age.  And then I became a vegetarian and convinced myself that I should quit fishing.  It wasn’t until 25 years later that I took up the pole again, first trout fishing last year in the high mountain streams and lakes out west, and now finally bass fishing again in the gator-filled ponds and canals of Florida.  It was actually the dawning of this White Wolf energy that got me back into eating fish.  I swear, I feel like the White Wolf lives inside me; he is a very real presence in my life and consciousness.  And he DEMANDS fish.  No joke.  That is the sole reason I took up fishing again.  

But oh boy, I did not expect the level of peace and fulfillment that fishing would bring me, and I can now understand why I spent so much of my youth waste deep in a river with a pole in my hand.  As a man who has been practicing silent meditation for 29 years, I see now just how effectively fishing quiets and focuses my mind, and it’s exactly this that I was addicted to as a youth, and perhaps what set the stage for me taking up such interest and commitment to meditation.  For example, some of you know that I had been fulfilling a vow that required me to chant a rather lengthy mantra 11 times a day for 121 consecutive days, called a Maha Rudram.  It took about three hours to complete everyday, so naturally I would be chanting during the midst of many activities to get it all done.  I would chant as I drove, did yard work, cleaned the house, etc…  I was still fulfilling the vow when I arrived here in Florida at the beginning of March, and I assumed that chanting softly while fishing would be a pleasant way to get my chanting done.  But everytime I picked up that pole and cast it out, my focus would become so extreme and my mind so quiet that I would instantly forget about the chanting.  Hours would go by, and then I’d realize I had neglected my chanting and have to quit fishing to get it done.  No other activity derailed my chanting like that.  No other activity could make me forget the world, myself, my duties, and my worries to such a degree.  Now that I’ve taken back up the sport, it’s actually become one of the cornerstones of my nomadic, van-dwelling lifestyle.  I really only focus on a few things as I drift around: fishing, yoga and meditation, reading and writing, photographing and filming wildlife, healthy cooking, and of course, writing and producing music.  These things are all my life consists of now.  This is what I love and how I choose to spend my time.  This is why I sold my house and walked away from my friends and career.  I’ve elimated all distractions that come between me and the things I love or that bring me meaning.

When I arrived in the Everglades, since I hadn’t bass fished in 25 years, I did have a bit of a learning curve to get over; there is so much I had forgotten.  But there’s plenty of fishermen and bait and tackle shops around here to squeeze for insight and information, and I wasn’t shy at all about instigating conversations, asking questions, and seeking tips.  I got up to speed fast and and actually soon found myself more knowledgeable and capable than I was even as a youth.  As a youth, I just wanted to jump right in, and throw whatever I had to work with at the fish, learning by trial and error.  Now being a bit more mature and having the advantage of the internet, I really did my research, watched a lot of fishing videos, read a lot of blogs, and educated myself as best I good.  I learned about different lures, when to use them, and how to work them properly.  I learned about best times of day to fish, feeding habits of bass, and the best places to look for them.  And I got some decent tips about good local fishing spots.  Within a couple weeks I went from having very little luck, to being quite confident in being able to catch and take home a good meal whenever I wanted, only using artificial lures.  But everything in nature is cyclical and changing as well.  Fishing spots dry up.  Techniques that worked yesterday don’t work today.  So I also learned how to experiment, shift up my strategies, and continually read the waters for changing conditions.  All in all, I’m pretty proud of myself for what I’ve learned and accomplished over the past month, and I’m deeply grateful that fishing is back in my life.  I can’t wait to get back out west and apply the same effort to trout fishing.  I did pretty well last year as it is, but them trout better watch out this year!

And for the record, I only use lures when I fish.  I do still harbor a bit of an ethical hiccup in regards to catching and slaughtering fish, but I remind myself, that even time I catch a fish with a lure, that fish too was in the process of hunting and killing.  It’s the classic “the hunter becomes the prey” scenario.  There seems a certain fairness in that.  But fishing with live bait is a whole other story.  It sacrifices the life of an innocent middleman to hook the fish.  It’s like saying, “Hey there little worm or minnnow, I’m going to kill you and sacrifice your life, so I can kill and sacrifice this guy too!”  It’s just one more ugly step.  I like to keep it pure and keep a little art in the sport.  Still, I don’t exactly enjoy killing the fish, but I must say, I find fileting the fish to be oddly peaceful.  I enjoy it quite a bit, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, able to pull nice, boneless filets off a bass or trout.  And I certainly enjoy eating the freshest of fish.  I’m convinced that when you eat a wild mountain trout or a strong-fighting bass, you receive a degree of its vigor and wildness, far more so than when eating a farmed, or store-bought fish.  This lifestyle is making me strong and virile.  As a balding 47 year old, it feels good, man.  

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